This review WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS for the episode to be discussed, if you do not want certain plot points or story spoilt, please do not read further.
Before this episode aired I saw the promo and my heart sank a little. I don't like wrestling and have never really found it my kind of entertainment, and was a little worried that the episode would have a heavy focus on wrestling to the point where I would find it off putting. Luckily, the episode was less about wrestling, but about exploring a part of Sam and Dean's childhood we haven't seen much of in he past, their positive and happy memories.
Every now and then the show offers us a glimpse into the childhood of our heroes, and it's usually an unpleasant one, with their unhappy upbringing and John's absence as the the thing that brings the brothers close. 'Beyond The Mat' gives us a different type of back story as it shows us that John used to take his sons to travelling wrestling shows, and was even a fan himself.
It helps to humanise John more, which is something the show has sometimes had trouble doing in the past due to his extreme views and desire to hunt no matter the cost to his son's upbringings. It also gave us a pair of Winchesters who were happy, and actually having the time of their lives watching their childhood heroes and crushes again, recapturing those happy times.
The main story of the episode, of mysterious murders following the travelling wrestling show and their possible supernatural connection is fairly standard, and fairly dull. Thankfully the episode is so well acted and has so many great little moments in it to keep it feeling fresh and entertaining.
Dean is at his comedic best in this episode as he's reduced to almost childlike hero worship of the wrestlers he used to watch with his father, and watching him trying to live out his fantasy of being a wrestler in the ring is awesome, with his not so graceful fall out of the ring being a genuine laugh out loud moment.
Elsewhere the episode is packed with great guest actors, who really sell themselves as performers entering the final years of their careers doing the only thing they know how to do. In a lot of ways, despite being one of the villains of the piece, Gunner Lawless is one of the most sympathetic and relatable characters in the episode, and his final scene is a bittersweet one.
The episode also featured the guest appearance on The Miz (who I understand is an actual famous wrestler), and if I wasn't looking into the episode after I would not have known he wasn't an actor. The whole cliche of being a wrestler means that you can't act certainly wasn't present during his performance as he played his part just as well as any other actor on the screen.
Whilst the main story didn't add much to the season arc we also got a chance to catch up with Lucifer and Crowley, which did move things forward a little.
Lucifer seems to finally be doing something as the king of Hell now, using his hordes of minions to search the globe for more Hand of God artifacts to use against Amara. It's during all of this that Crowley is approached by Simmons, and is told that there are still demons who support Crowley and want him back on the throne.
Simmons and Crowley engineer an escape and head off to one of Crowley's secret storehouses. It's full of useful artifacts and weapons (along with copies of the Supernatural books), including another Hand of God artifact, the Rod of Aaron.
In a shock turn of events (or rather something completely expected) Crowley is betrayed by Simmons as it turns out the whole thing was a plot by Lucifer to find out what Crowley would do. In a scene dripping with sexual innuendos and phallic jokes ('I don't think you can handle my rod') Crowley uses the power of the weapon to try and kill Lucifer, unfortunately Simmons gets in the way and the one-shot weapon gets wasted.
It's not much, but these scenes not only get Crowley away from Lucifer and free (hopefully to go and team up with the Winchesters) but also confirms that there are definitely more Hand of God artifacts that can be (hopefully) used against Amara in future episodes.
A fun episode that takes the time to build on Sam and Deans childhoods, giving us something new and interesting about the two of them eleven years into the shows life.