DARK SIDE OF THE RING S1E5
THE MYSTERIOUS DEATH OF GORGEOUS GINO
Starring: Dutch Mantell (Narrator), Jake Roberts, Kevin Von Erich, Patrice Aguirre, Jeannie Clark, David Manning
Producer: Ed Hatton
Episode five of Viceland’s Dark Side of the Ring covers the most obscure story from the series so far. The Mysterious Death of Gorgeous Gino tells the story of an up-and-coming star Gino Hernandez and the mystery surrounding his death in 1986. Unlike many of the other episodes, this story may not be as familiar or even known by many current-day wrestling fans.
Gino Hernandez was an up-and-coming star within WCCW (World Class Championship Wrestling) in the mid-’80s. He was the Ric Flair of WCCW before Ric Flair was a worldwide phenomenon. His character was rich, braggadocious, and confident. He was known to like fast cars and beautiful women and was not afraid to show off. Unfortunately for Gino, according to many, his in-ring persona started to bleed into his real-life actions. Rumors of drug-crazed parties and shady companions made many question if Hernadez’s death was a simple overdose, or if it revenge for crossing the wrong person.
Dark Side of the Ring starts by introducing us to the young Gino and how he came into the wrestling world. Several of the talking heads bring up the natural talent and charisma that Hernandez possessed. Plenty of time is spent discussing his various feuds within WCCW, including with the Von Erichs and his longtime partner Chris Adams. One of the themes visited several times is Hernandez’s descent into paranoia. Examples of checking locks, windows, and doors are brought up time and again. David Manning goes as far as to tell a story of Gino asking about buying a gun for protection.
While about half of the show is spent talking about Hernandez’s career and descent into oblivion, the other half is spent setting up the mystery and explanation of his death. Central to the story is the group of people that he had begun hanging out with. The 1980s was the height of the cocaine scene. But instead of being happy just partying and using drugs, Gino and several of the people he regularly hung with decided to get into the drug trafficking business.
Trips on days off in which he would fly to Miami and then drive back to Dallas became more of the norm. The people he associated with become even more questionable. As his mother tells the story of his deadbolt being found unlocked, the viewer is left to believe the idea that Hernandez was murdered is more likely than not. On the opposite side, stories of John Royal paying for the funeral and then making threats towards the family all more convincing.
By the end of the episode, we are given a convincing answer as to what happened to Gino Hernandez that fateful night. The end results are rather anti-climatic and seem as if the answer could have been found long ago. And for her part, it feels like his mother accepted the answers much too quickly. Especially for someone who has been in fear for her life for the past 30 years. Even with all of that aside, the story of Gino Hernandez’s death is one that is interesting. It serves as a reminder of how quickly unchecked fame and partying can lead to disastrous results.