The only place I get hurt is out there. (points away from the ring) The world don't give a shit about me.
— Randy "The Ram" Robinson
The Wrestler is a 2008 film written by Robert D. Siegel and directed by Darren Aronofsky. The story follows Randy "The Ram" Robinson (Mickey Rourke), a professional wrestler 20 years past his prime, working match to match and part-time at a supermarket to pay his bills. After a violent hardcore match, Randy has a heart attack and is forced to retire from wrestling and tries to find something meaningful in his life beyond wrestling; his friendship with a stripper named Cassidy (Marisa Tomei) and a new reason to attempt reconciliation with his daughter Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood). When his old wrestling nemesis "The Ayatollah" (played by former WCW wrestler Ernest "The Cat" Miller) proposes a rematch on the anniversary of their biggest match, Randy has to decide if his life in the ring is worth the risk of death.The film was well-received by critics, audiences, and many in the professional wrestling industry. The matches themselves were filmed in front of actual wrestling crowds at actual wrestling events (notably, during CZW and ROH events), and Rourke trained and performed in the ring himself. It also marked a major comeback and a career-best performance for Rourke, who received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor and numerous critical accolades.
This film includes examples of:
All American Face: Check out Randy's entrance for the climactic match, with Old Glory hanging down and all.
Ambiguously Gay: Stephanie lives with another woman whom she clearly has a close friendship with. Randy suspects that she's a lesbian, but it's never confirmed either way.
Banned in China: The Iranian Government has condemned it as "Western propaganda" (due to the Ayatollah character).
Body Horror: Randy vs. Necro Butcher. Try to watch through that scene without wincing.
Bolivian Army Ending: The end credits roll right before the audience finds out if Randy died performing his signature move, or if he survived another heart attack like he did earlier in the movie.
Foreshadowing: Randy's match with the Ayatollah is foreshadowed by the video game he was playing.
Garbage Wrestler: CZW and ROH regular Necro Butcher makes an appearance in the film, and puts Randy through hell in a hardcore match.
Gentle Giant: Despite his towering appearance, Randy's an incredibly nice guy.
Getting Crap Past the Radar: A promotional shot taken from the CZW match, has a sign in the background that clearly reads "NECRO SUCKS A FAT ONE". It appeared (unedited) in an article for MSN.
Glory Days: The main thrust of the film. Randy is unable to live outside of the glow of his glory days. He shares a common bond with Cassidy, who is also in the twilight of her profession. Their conversation about '80s cock-rock shows how they both prefer the old days.
The Hero Dies: Whether or not Randy himself dies from his second heart attack at the end is left up in the air.
Hollywood Heart Attack: Averted. Randy suddenly gets dizzy, has pains in his arm, throws up, and collapses, waking up later in the hospital after surgery.
Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Cassidy is an aging stripper, but she's got a good head on her shoulders and is ready to redeem Randy if he's willing.
Irony: Randy's dislike for Kurt Cobain. Randy thought Cobain was ultimately responsible for killing off the fun, party-centric rock era of the '80s, and hates '90s rock because of him alone. Considering that Randy probably died during the movie's ending, this comes off as a not so differentforeshadowing and an in-universe funny aneurysm moment, all in one.
Mean Character, Nice Actor / Friendly Enemy: The film shows the behind the scenes interactions between wrestlers, who are all friendly and respectful to each other in spite of their kayfabe rivalries. Randy's old rival the Ayatollah, in particular, is a very nice guy offstage. This is further exemplified when he tries to end the match early when Randy is in pain.
Meta Casting: Rourke, who himself experienced a serious career decline and later resurged to the spotlight.
No Hero to His Valet: Inverted. Randy's fans and the public at large have largely moved on and forgotten about his glory days in the ring, seeing him as a former great and present day has-been. However, all the wrestlers that he interacts with, who know about most of his personal warts and less than glamorous lifestyle, still treat him with the utmost respect and sincere affection. After their hardcore match, Necro Butcher tells him that was an honor to wrestle him, while another wrestler, knowing full well about Randy's limited income, provides him with steroids and other meds and takes Randy at his word that he'll pay him back eventually.
Pet the Dog: The first thing we see Randy do when he's off the clock is horse around with some kids at his trailer park.
Reality Subtext: Randy's wrestling career is a fairly close mirror to Rourke's acting career.
The conversation about how the '90s sucked can serve as this for Tomei as well as Rourke; while she won an Academy Award for My Cousin Vinny, many people sniped that she didn't really win or didn't deserve to win because she won for a comic performance, and her career suffered for a while as a result.
Redemption Quest: Deconstructed; what would be the subject of such a quest in most other sport movies (his big reunion fight with the Ayatollah) in fact isn't; his real quest is to patch up things with Stephanie and hook up with Cassidy. He ultimately fails at both, and his decision to go ahead with the bout even if it kills him is a symbol of his failure to make a life for himself in the world outside the ring.
Soul-Sucking Retail Job: Randy's day job, which he treats as unbearable drudgery. He starts to actually enjoy himself when he's allowed to work with customers, but he still turns his back on a normal day-to-day job in pursuit of stardom.
Truth in Television: The film is an amazingly accurate portrayal of life as a wrestler in the smaller promotions / independent circuit. That said, the only major difference in the big leagues is the miles travelled, size of the crowds and quality of the drugs. Some wrestling fans have raise an objection to the way Randy works a hardcore deathmatch, as former stars will rarely do such a thing. Randy, however, is clearly uncomfortable and out of his element in the match, showing his participation as a sign of extreme desperation.
Wrestling Doesn't Pay, The Movie: Even though he also works full-time, Randy can barely afford the rent on his trailer and doesn't even have a phone. With the amount of money he pays for tanning, hair styling, steroids and so forth, he probably spends more money on his wrestling than he earns from it.