American ring

Indiewrestling in Ohio
PerSo Award

By Stefano Casertano
Italy, 2021, 84′

Tuesday, Oct. 04, Zenith Cinema, Via Benedetto Bonfligli 5, 9:30 p.m.
(Repeat) Wednesday, Oct. 05, Zenith Cinema, Via Benedetto Bonfligli 5, 3 p.m.

Director and DOP: Stefano Casertano

Production: Rean Mazzone, Ila Palma and Daring House

Editing: Edoardo Morabito


A trip into the independent wrestling circuit from the city of Dayton, Ohio, where this form of popular theater attracts the working class from across the region. It is a context of evasion which reflects the real nature of deep America, made up of a clear clash between “good” and “evil”.

But wrestling is also a very tough world, where physical abuse and machismo are the norm. Head coach Dave Crist fully represents this dark side and doesn’t mind mistreating his athletes.

But among the wrestlers there are also dreamers, like the young Ace, who hopes for a future in Hollywood, and the  family man Dustin, who would like to turn his career even if it has now come to an end.

And there is also space for women, like Samantha and Lindsey, who are looking for a painful opportunity to emancipate themselves – despite strong resistance from the whole context.

Director’s statement

American Ring is a feature documentary about independent wrestling in the American Midwest. Shot through real-life observation moments and interviews, this film describes the culture and the values of the central US states – and wrestling serves as allegory of the existential and political concept of good versus evil. There is no doubt: reality is in black and white, as wrestling heroes are either good or bad.

Working class fans support local wrestling heroes as a means of personal liberation. American Ring is a travel in the depth of America: a testimony of a subculture that is defining the destiny of the world. American Ring is not only a portrait of a sub-culture, but also a story of passion and abnegation, in pursue of that “American Dream” that we call the contemporary USA.

Among the athletes, there is Ace Austin, a young man giving up everything for his wrestling dream; Samantha Heights, a girl that solved her anger problems through the sport; and Joey Ryan, a hero who fights using his super-powerful penis. There is also Dustin Rayz, a heel with a beautiful family, a passion for semi-automatic rifles and a staunch belief in the existence of the Bigfoot.

And then there are the fans: true representatives of the working class from all genders, including a young woman running a wrestling podcast from Columbus, Ohio; Tony Dunlap, a man who at the end of shows asks wrestling stars to slap his bare chest (a practice called “chopping”); and Stephen Morris, a robust aficionado who attends all matches with his dear wife. Not to mention the Miami University Wrestling Club, an association of around 50 self-defined “nerds” and wrestling fans.

The fights are somehow scripted, but at least half of the action is improvised through some sort of “psychological warfare” between the contestants. As such, wrestling is a form of martial art where athletes truly sacrifice their bodies. The secret for not feeling pain after hits and bumps? “Not minding the pain”, claims head coach and local wrestling star Dave Crist.

Our cameras had access to the ringside and the backstage, and the crew resided in the “Wrestler House” in Dayton, Ohio, together with 10 Wrestlers, four dogs and a single bathroom, gaining further access to the life of the athletes.

Stefano Casertano

Director, producer and screenwriter. He was born in Rome and began working in film during his university studies in economics, which he completed in 2002. In 2011 he founded the production company “Daring House” based in Berlin.

As a co-producer, he won a Silver Lion in the official competition at the Venice Film Festival (Special Jury Prize) for Franco Maresco’s “La Mafia non è più quello di una volta.” He also produced the animated short film “The Ballad of the Homeless” (2014), which won a Silver Ribbon and the LA Short Fest, qualifying for the Academy Awards short-list. 

As a director, he won the Eindhoven DocFeed and the Jury Prize at the Rome Independent Film Festival, with “People of Love and Anger” (2017), a documentary film about the Corviale building in Rome, shot without interviews and following the protagonists for a year. 

His 2013 “The Last Days of Tacheles” is a documentary dedicated to the last remaining artists at Berlin’s “Tacheles” social center, the city’s oldest. 

Also in production is “Tales of the March,” an immersive fiction short about the Shoah co-produced by Titanus and supported by the Venice Biennale and Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg. 

Also coming out for Cinecittà Luce and Dream Film are the historical documentary “The Poet Who Wanted to Make Himself King,” about Gabriele d’Annunzio’s Fiume Enterprise; and “American Ring,” about independent wrestling in the American Midwest. 

Stephen is passionate about history and has a doctorate “Magna cum Laude” in politics from the German University of Potsdam, on the theory of nationalisms. The thesis is published by Springer.



The Ballad of the Homeless (2014)

La mafia non è più quella di una volta (2019)


The Last Days of Tacheles (2013)

People of Love and Anger (2014)

American Ring (2021)

The Poet Who Wanted to Make Himself King (2022)