While wrestling waned in popularity in the past decade, it’s experienced a slow comeback with the introduction of new wrestlers, new angles, and new federations like the AEW. The new Wrestlemania show premiered last weekend to mixed reaction from fans, meanwhile WWE has been making its mark on Netflix. They premiered the family sitcom “The Big Show” about the life of the former wrestler, and today released “The Main Event,” a kids’ sports comedy about a kid who enters a wrestling competition in the WWE to become the next superstar.
As an on again, off again fan of the sport since I was old enough to walk, I thought I’d list five great wrestling movies. These are of course fictional Wrestling films, as we have enough exploitative documentaries about the rise and fall of various superstars.
What are your favorites?
5. Tie: The Wrestlers: Fighting with My Family (2012)/Fighting With My Family (2019)
“The Wrestlers: Fighting with My Family” is a wonderful British documentary about the rise of wrestler Britani Knight (aka Paige), as she went from performing with her wrestling fanatic family, to becoming a WWE superstar. The documentary was turned in to a charming, fun and raucous biopic starring Florence Pugh as young Britani Knight. Guided by Stephen Merchant, she’s an aspiring wrestler who is given a chance at the big time by the WWE while her brother is forced to stay home and face not realizing his dreams. Pugh is great in her breakout role, and the movie is a bold mix of drama, comedy, action, and a glimpse in to the cinematic powerhouse Pugh would become.
4. Ready to Rumble (2000)
If you were ever interested in seeing what WCW looked like at the height of their popularity before folding in 2001, look no further than 2000’s “Ready to Rumble.” This sport comedy features David Arquette and Scott Caan as two hardcore wrestling fans anxious to help their wrestling hero “The King” reclaim his glory from then heel wrestler Diamond Dallas Page. Fun and speedily paces, “Ready to Rumble” is a huge tribute to WCW with appearances from Sting, DDP, Bill Goldberg, and many more.
3. No Holds Barred (1989)
Avoiding any and all copyright infringements while marketing on the mega popularity of Hulk Hogan, Hogan plays himself but named Rip Thomas. Rip is a world famous wrestler who, along with his little brother, is trying to maintain his image as a wholesome fighter while an evil corporate executive named Brell tries to exploit him. When Rip refuses, Brell tries to hurt him, but then hires an equally powerful underground fighter named Zeus. With Zeus anxious to take the throne from Rip and mortally wound him, Rip has to fight for honor in the ring. All while romancing Joan Severence.
2. BodySlam (1986)
Another childhood favorite, this sports action comedy features Dirk Benedict trying to promote up and coming wrestlers on the pro circuit while also introducing the rock and roll element in the process. This is a bang up and fun action film with some great appearances from all stars of the WWF, including Lou Albano, Ric Flair, Freddie Blassie, Adnan Al-Kaissie, Bruno Sammartino and Alexis Smirnoff, and is headlined with a starring role by the late Roddy Piper as protagonist and wrestler “Quick” Rick Roberts.
1. The Wrestler (2008)
Considered one of the greatest movies about wrestling and the passion of the sport that causes many athletes to sacrifice everything for the show, “The Wrestler” is an arguable masterpiece that’s been lauded by fans and wrestlers alike since its debut. Darren Aronofsky casts Mickey Rourke as Randy “The Ram” Robinson, a past his prime wrestler aching for a comeback while coming to grips with his past. Rourke’s performance is heartbreaking and the movie struck such a chord, even the late Roddy Piper couldn’t help note the irony during one of the last speeches he ever gave during a WWE broadcast. It’s considered a standard to even twelve years later.