Sunday, 25 January 2009

The Wrestler: The Reality Of The Fiction

As a self professed wrestling fan, I was very eager to see The Wrestler. I thought the film was quite magnificent, and was quite bowled over by Mickey Rourke’s performance as Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson. One of the things that stood out to me from the film though, was the reality that Darren Aronofsky produced when it came to referencing the truth behind the professional wrestling business.

There were several moments in the film that I had seen previously in wrestling rings, documentaries and films that I wanted to highlight. I feel that knowing about these truthful situations gives an extra dimension to the film, and to the viewer’s appreciation of Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson and what he’s going through (it also leads a further wow factor to Mickey Rourke’s performance, as it is amazing to see how truthfully he captured the real lives of the men that have become his character).

1: The Daughter

Taken from the excellent documentary Beyond The Mat. Randy’s whole relationship with his daughter is a direct take off Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts’ ongoing trials and tribulations with his daughter. The true sadness of this clip (and Randy’s journey with this in the film) is that it is not fiction, it is real.

Points of particular: 1:42 – 2:35 / 3:17 – 4:13 / 5:00 – 6:00

2: The Injured Horse That Won’t Quit

The denouement of The Wrestler is of course, Randy’s rematch with old rival The Ayatohlla (a feud that seems cribbed from the Hulk Hogan/Iron Sheik rivalry in early 1984). Randy chooses to wrestle the match, despite the knowledge that a doing so might kill him. In 2003 Kurt Angle wrestled in the main event of Wrestlemania (against the current UFC champion Brock Lesnar), despite having a broken neck that desperately required surgery. One bad bump could have paralyzed or even killed him, yet he still went out and worked anyway. The excerpt is from the 2004 documentary ‘The Mania Of Wrestlemania’.

Points of interest: 0:00 – 0:38 / 1:10 – 1:45 / 2:40 – 3:00 / 6:35 – 7:47

3: The One Trick Pony Out Of His Depth

The scene where The Ram has to face off against Necro Butcher in a hardcore bout is particularly interesting. It is a very clear example of how the business has changed since the hey day of The Ram in the ‘80s, where wrestling was punching and kicking and bodyslamming. No longer. We now see tables, ladders, chairs, barbed wire, glass, fire and all manner of other things (who could ever forget the staple gun) being used to take the craft to new extremes. The above clip is a collection of highlights from a Tables, Ladders and Chairs match held in 2006 between Edge and Ric Flair. Flair, much like The Ram, was a wrestler from the ‘80s, who had never, ever been in any kind of match like this, but went out there and tried his best to keep up, despite the punishment his 56 year old body had to go through to keep up. The video is a collection of highlights from the match. Just imagine your father going doing that to get some idea of what the Old Dog might be going through. (And ignore the crappy music on the video).

4: Doing It For The Fans

The speech that Randy gives prior to his final match with The Ayatollah is a combination of a lot of teary eyed speeches given by wrestlers to the fans in the past, but I am pretty sure that this speech, given by Ric Flair after Raw went off the air in 2003 was probably the main body of the source material. It encapsulates why so many of these wrestlers cannot quit, why they can’t give it up and why even in the face of injury (or in The Ram’s case) death, they still go out to perform.

Point of interest: 7:00 – 9:05

These are just a few examples of the real life scenarios that went into making The Wrestler such a believable film. Props should go to Aronofsky for his research, to Rourke for his amazing performance, and to the wrestlers themselves who live these lives for the entertainment of others.

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