Today, I watched The Wrestler for the first time since it came out nearly 11 years ago. It is still a fantastic movie. It’s very much the pro wrestling version of Rocky Balboa, an equally fabulous piece of cinema that is gritty, authentic, and overflowing with emotion.
In his podcast 83 Weeks, Erich Bischoff confirmed that Hulk Hogan was originally approached for the starring role in this movie. He turned it down because he didn’t want to bother being a wrestler in a film. After all, that’s his job outside of Hollywood. The role went to Mickey Rourke, and the rest is history. The movie won the Golden Lion at the 65th Venice International Film Festival, and was nominated for two Academy Awards. The Wrestler was also nominated for three Golden Globe Awards, winning two. While it would have been a blast to see Hulk Hogan as Randy “The Ram,” Mickey Rourke was the best choice. He provided us with an unadulterated look at the trials and tribulations of a professional wrestler in the latter stages of his career. I don’t think Hulk Hogan would have been brave enough to appear this vulnerable in the movie, so I’m glad he turned down the role as his inclusion would have diminished the quality of the movie.
One of the special features on the Blu-ray version of The Wrestler is a roundtable discussion of pro wrestling legends, including my buddy Diamond Dallas Page. All of the guys in the room agreed that this film is excellent. They talked about how it legitimizes what they do and will help fans and non-fans have a greater level of respect for their art form. The best line came from Roddy Piper who said, “Acting is implosion. Wrestling is explosion.” What an insightful way to illustrate the differences between these two occupations.
If you haven’t seen The Wrestler, go watch it now. It is emotionally gripping, real as can be, and a wonderful tribute to an amalgamation of athleticism and art that is too often misunderstand.