Can “The Wrestler” Save Wrestling?

Kevin Kelly

With significant buzz, Darren Aronofsky’s “The Wrestler”, starring Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei, opens soon and I had the pleasure of lending my voice to the film. Viewing the trailer earlier on, I see why so many critics laud this physical, emotional drama that from all accounts, accurately portrays life within the wrestling business.

With ratings on the decline, Vince McMahon’s “WWE”, starring Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, has stagnated and I had the pleasure of lending my voice to the product several years ago when it was good. Seeing recent episodes of Raw against my will, I see why so many fans have turned away in droves from this tepid, soulless shell of a formerly good show that from all accounts, will continue to suffer until Vince dies.

So, can a movie that may be honored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences revive a fanbase? If “The Wrestler” is successful, will it bring about a resurgence in fans to the WWE?

If a movie about animals does well, pet stores are flooded by kids wanting the penguin, wallaby, etc. With Marisa Tomei naked (hopefully) and a blood-soaked “R” rating, kids won’t be wanting a Randy “The Ram” Robinson action figure so therefore, no boost there.

Movie-goes who will see “The Wrestler” may throw up in the aisles during the garbage-wrestling sequences that see Mickey Rourke’s character carved up by glass and fans will have to endure spending more than five seconds looking at the nauseating Necro Butcher. No boost there.

Former wrestling fans who are captivated by the subtle drama and touching story of Mickey Rourke’s portrayal of a broken-down wrestler, seeking to renew a relationship with a long-lost daughter may go back watch the WWE for a second but Vince wouldn’t know subtle if it gently caressed his face. Vince sucked all the soul out of his show a long time ago and the casual fan brought back to wrestling by “The Wrestler” will quickly go away again.

No boost there… sorry…

No, the fact is that while a movie about fast cars means sales of fast cars, a movie about wrestling will do nothing for the WWE because the WWE stopped being wrestling a while ago.

During my hiatus from Wrestlezone, I watched a lot of Youtube clips of classic wrestling storylines. From Magnum TA/Tully Blanchard to the Rock/Austin build for WrestleMania 17, it wasn’t too long ago that wrestling fans could watch wrestling. Now, the only place fans can get wrestling is on a 3″ x 3″ Youtube screen on their computers or WWE 24/7. But even that is sterilized by going cheap on music licenses and that godforsaken blurring of the WWF logo.

During my hiatus from Wrestlezone, I realized that fans of wrestling don’t need the WWE to be good to be entertained. I know I don’t.

The genre of pro wrestling is dead and can only be viewed in a historical perspective through highlights and memories. But I get more enjoyment out of watching matches from 20 years ago than I do from live Raw featuring a cavalcade of sameness, an enormous roster of young men and women “playing” wrestlers but with no drama or direction.

I know Mickey Rourke is not a wrestler but the fact that he plays a character that has heart, soul and frailities makes you care. For that reason, critics say that Rourke’s career is back and he may be handed an Oscar. Imagine how good the WWE could be if they remembered that fans have to care about the characters in order to want to pay to see them. Fans cared about Steve Austin. He tried his best to hide it but Austin was always best when he looked vulnerable. He “needed” to beat the Rock at WrestleMania 17 and he sold his soul and sided with Mr. McMahon to do it.

I know Mickey Rourke is not a wrestler but I will suspend my disbelief and pay money to see “The Wrestler”.

Will Vince see “The Wrestler”? Not on your life because he didn’t create it. Will he learn from it and change the course of his empty product?

You’ll see John Cena win an Oscar before that would ever happen.

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