The Wrestler – Starring Mickey Rourke

January 28, 2009 |

I cannot readily admit to being a pro wrestling fan – in it’s current environment.  In fact, I couldn’t rattle off the names of current champions or many primetime stars.  Perhaps, I’ve just matured beyond the bounds of choreographed competition and a lawless profession.


However, I haven’t always been such a prude.  As a kid, I recall heading to the Civic Center to witness the firsthand antics of Bruno Sammartino, Ivan Kohloff, Tony Garea, Haystacks Calhoun, BoBo Brazil and Waldo Von Erich.  


There are plenty more ….. I recall my great-grandmother, a native of Poland, rooting aloud for Ivan Putski.  And, I hated ….. as kids have the potential to despise ….. the strutting of Superstar Billy Graham, as he mimicked a beaten Bruno, in the squared-circle.


As I look back on those times, and view old videos/photographs, I am astounded at the staggering changes in the bodies of wrestlers through the progression of eras.  From the 60’s and 70’s – when wrestlers were household figures, to the 80’s when their bodies grew with the creation of Wrestlemania, to the 90’s and today – where the same bodies seem to grow and shrink, as if they’re inflatable ….. there has been one constant.


That’s right, as I sat in an Arundel Mills movie theatre, Sunday, and watched Mickey Rourke NAIL the role of a downtrodden pro wrestler, I couldn’t help but think of Vincent Kennedy McMahon.  And, my thoughts were far from positive …..


Vince McMahon is the ultimate snakeoil salesman.  He’s a purveyor of human flesh and has made millions upon the bulked up physiques and personas of Hulk Hogan, HHH, The Rock, Jimmy Snuka and countless others. 


Yet, if you take a look in McMahon’s own backyard, or the dingiest crevices of his cellar, you’ll find the corpses of Rick McGraw, Curt Hennig, Rick Rude, Bossman, Davey Smith, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit and many, many more.


While I absorbed the realities of Mickey Rourke’s character, Randy “The Ram” Robinson, I wished directors/producers could’ve given some credence to those who enable and really empower the culture that ultimately “breaks” the lives of so many young men.


I don’t directly blame Vince McMahon, Ted Turner or any other “owner” of wrestling empires, if another man knowingly sticks a syringe in his buttocks.  However, I do think these same tycoons have a responsibility and ultimate burden for managing a business that exceeds a simply blinked, blind-eye to obvious self-destructive behavior.


And, lets be brutally honest ….. Vince McMahon has profited off his army of ‘roided-up rangers.  Everyone knows the dirty ‘lil secret – there is no job security and there are no real measures of drug interdiction or prevention.  Heck, have you looked at McMahon, himself?


Pro wrestling is not just a compromised entertainment arm.  It’s a filthy business, with squalid and unethical practices.  Its performers thrive and die in a lawless existence, where profit is the only THING of consideration to those with a stake.  And, this same profit is merely managed in the short-term.


You don’t really think Vince McMahon cares whether John Cena ultimately becomes the next Dwayne Johnson, or even Jesse Ventura, do you?  Just keep filling the seats, boys – and pop those painkillers – and shoot the liquid mass into your muscles – and perform through injury – and …… you get the picture.


Does McMahon and his WWE empire offer a deferred compensation plan?  How about health care and pension benefits?  Is there a Don Fehr or Gene Upshaw looking out for wrestlers’ best interests?


Or, is the sad truth a sobering admission that most ex-wrestling stars are likely to be working alongside a Randy “The Ram” in the local Acme deli ….. rather than starring in a “Hogan Knows Best” episode?  Once, again, we all know the answer.


Each time I see the likes of a Mark Teixeira or Terrell Owens profiting from their over-inflated salaries, I’ll be reminded that it could be much worse.  At least, they’re not being exploited like cheap whores ….. and virtually left for dead, when there is little remaining of their abilities.


“The Wrestler” is a GREAT movie and I hope Mickey Rourke wins an Oscar.  Knowing him, he would be just the guy to tell a few million viewers the truth about Vince McMahon and everyone else in his shoes ….. “THEY ARE SCUMBAGS.”