Feature: Steve Anderson on The Wrestler and The Wrestler


The other day, I gladly and sarcastically jumped the gun in reviewing Hulk Hoganâ<80><99>s Celebrity Rock-n-Wrestling program on CMT.

Allow me to jump the gun again.

The Wrestler is a Darren Aronofsky film starring Mickey Rourke in the title role. The initial buzz on the movie is strong for a so-called â<80><9c>wrestling movie.â<80> This is not the ridiculously bad Ready to Rumble or No Holds Barred. Well, unless the main character weepsâ<80>¦poorly.

Hey, any movie that shows a level of respect to the business, co-stars Ernest â<80><9c>The Catâ<80> Miller (a guilty pleasure), and contains a scene that involves an old school Nintendo wrestling game gets my vote of approval. The word on the street is that The Wrestler may not only be the best pro wrestling movie ever made, but a true Oscar contender.

When I first heard about this flick, I thought we were looking at a remake of the 1974 version of the same name. Remake of The Wrestler? Thatâ<80><99>s like re-doing Citizen Kane, Casablanca or The Three Amigos.

If you havenâ<80><99>t seen it, run to your local Dollar Store and pick it up. I believe its still in the public domain realm. The quality is not good, but the graininess of the film only enhances the seventies feel of it.

Ed Asner plays Frank Bass, a wrestling promoter who is fighting the evil element in pro wrestling while gently coaxing his aged world champ Mike Bullard (Verne Gagne) into retirement. There is a sexual â<80><9c>will they/wonâ<80><99>t theyâ<80> undercurrent between Bass and his female assistant. He almost gets it on with his hot secretary in the most seventies-looking apartment Iâ<80><99>ve seen since I was a kid in the seventies.

Alas, Lou Grant c**k-blocks himself. He prefers the news producer-type.

While Bullard ponders retirement, Billy Taylor (Billy Robinson) is moving up the ranks to challenge the champ. They finally face off at the end of the show, but I wonâ<80><99>t spoil the what-I-think-is-a-plot for you.

Wrestlers make various cameo appearances. â<80><9c>Superstarâ<80> Billy Graham, Dusty Rhodes, Dick Murdoch, The Bruiser, Dory Funk, Jr., Ray Stevens, Pedro Morales, Ken Patera, Nick Bockwinkel, Dan Gable, Eddie Graham, Jim Brunzell, and a brown-haired â<80><9c>Nature Boyâ<80> Ric Flair are featured in the ring and at Gagneâ<80><99>s famed training â<80><9c>barn.â<80> Real life promoters play themselves. Vince McMahon, Sr. and Junior even drop on by.

The story is mediocre. The budget is painfully low. The acting is, well, judge for yourself. But I wouldnâ<80><99>t be too hard on it. For me, the film should not be considered good or bad. It is a true slice of wrestling history in the early seventies. You see future stars, past stars and deceased stars. Even though another movie shares the name, it cannot replicate the original.

Maybe Iâ<80><99>ll watch it tonight. Cook up a strip steak, light a cigar and enjoy it while paging through the New Yorker.

Hmmm. Anyone else smell an eBay auction?

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