Wrestling stopped being fun, edgy, or cool. Instead it became anathema to me, something too Hollywood-ish, no pun intended if you know wrestling, and I lost interest in it for years. I did not watch wrestling even once while attending high school and reconnected with it only during the summer before my junior year of college. Living with my brothers that summer I was exposed to a great many interesting things. Humorously enough, the most PG-13 thing was wrestling. My brother David turned on WCW, World Championship Wrestling at 9:00 on Monday night. The announcers mentioned that Hulk Hogan had returned from surgery to challenge the Macho Man Randy Savage for the title. I thought "Holy shit, they are still wrestling?" I have always rooted for the underdog and remain a fan for life and therefore did not have the normal reaction that those guys were washed up old has-beens. Instead I remain a fan until this day and I always will be. A sixty year old Hogan may come out of retirement and beat up Kurt Angle or Triple H for the title and I will tune in riveted the whole time. Now, gone are the days of the classic 30 minute T.V. matches and the lower titles which superstars gave their blood, sweat and tears to earn. Instead today we have a plethora of soap opera storylines, metrosexual wrestlers on overdoses of sterazole, HGH, and other steroidal mass augmenting medications, and choreographed dancing rather than real wrestling. Everything has been whittled down to a very specific formula from which there is no deviation. Nothing is exciting anymore. The only news since the merger of the two biggest wrestling companies in the world has been lesser promotions. TNA is doing well but not stellar, and there are local Indi wrestling promotions across the United States.
The movie The Wrestler is about the underbelly of wrestling, local independent promotions often featuring aspiring stars and washed up wrestlers barely hanging on at any cost. Mickey Rourke is a great choice for the character Randy "the Ram". He portrays an older wrestler losing his edge due to a sudden heart condition brought on by the enlargement of his heart from years of steroid abuse. We the public hear and read about the bullshit Wellness Program and testing policies of major wrestling brands. Anyone who can take bumps, hits, bruises and scars 300 days a year every year and maintain a picture perfect hulking body is either on steroids or at the very least prescription medications to relieve the pain. The problem is the pain is a result of serious injuries, not merely the result of a few bumps and bruises. ¾ of the year these Adonises put their bodies in harm’s way for the entertainment of a crowd. For any wrestler it does not matter if the crowd is 100 people in a gym, 5,000 people at a house show, or 50,000 screaming fans at the biggest show of the year. Hearing the approval or disapproving reactions of the crowds is what makes their bodies tick. Without the fans wrestlers would be nothing.
The problem as portrayed by/in this film is the fame goes to wrestlers' heads and they cannot survive in the real world working real jobs. Who wants to be a cashier or a construction worker or a bank teller after having thousands cheering your name begging for more? Who would willingly walk away from the spotlight no matter what the consequences? Once a real wrestler, a man is a wrestler for life. They live the lifestyle, they breath the move sets, they eat, sleep, think, and dream of that squared circled 24-7 indefatigably. This leads to pain killer and drug abuse, and possibly to steroid abuse. Many wrestlers have died prematurely as a result of the drugs abused and the concussions suffered. Christ Benoit murdered his wife and son while overdosing on steroids. He would have won the championship the following night but not on the brand he wanted due to his age and declining popularity. Curt Hennig a.k.a. "Mr. Perfect" died at the young age of 44. Eddie Guerrero died the week of his soon to be second world heavyweight title reign, in his sleep due to heart failure brought on by years of steroid abuse. Recently Andrew Martin a.k.a. "Test" died from the same causes.
The movie The Wrestler is intended to be a sad portrayal of a man’s life. He is made out to be pathetic but in the sincerest way possible. The directors are not seeking to demonize wrestling, but consequently the portrayal of what happens to this man’s life when his stamina and fame have withered is truly gut-wrenching and just plain sickening. Should I or anybody else stop watching the show? Are we to blame? Do we not decide who will be a star and who will rot as a failure? Do we not cheer twice as hard when these gladiators return from neck injuries, torn quads, ripped bicep tendons? So the question I end this review with is who is the victim, and who is the victimizer?
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