July 11, 2011
A different world, to be sure. For one thing, people actually had jobs back then, and among them where thousands of employees for this thing called World Championship Wrestling. Perhaps you’ve heard of it a time or two, more than likely in a WWE produced DVD that tells you that “Black Saturday” was a rousing success and that the only reason Nitro beat Raw in the ratings was because Eric Bischoff sent personal checks to everybody at home watching the program. If you’re one of those wee ones that grew up during the Cena era, the only thing you really know about WCW was that in 2000, it sort of sucked, and that, I assure you, is anything but a retroactive creation of the Vince McMahon wehrmacht.
In its last full year of operation, WCW was basically an asylum being run by the inmates. Granted, they were inmates with MBAs, but inmates all the same. The AOL-Time Warner deal was slowly falling apart, and since World Championship Wrestling was losing money like Adele’s caterers are running out of buffet space, pretty much everybody in the company was sweating it. Administration was a nightmare, and just about everyone with common gumption was high tailing it out of the promotion. Thusly, the suits at WCW decided to attempt just about EVERYTHING to give the brand some outside appeal, and by now, we all know how those endeavors went.
Master P. Kiss. The Misfits. At one point, WCW was even musing a Saturday morning cartoon program - long story short, the powers-that-were in WCW were liable to try just about ANYTHING to get people to tune into their product, and financing a lackluster motion picture wasn’t one of the ideas they left on the drawing board.
By now, you’ve probably heard a thing or two about “Ready to Rumble.” This movie is a cinematic turd that’s been reviewed and analyzed by just about everybody in the pro wrestling world, but I think it’s worth revisiting YET AGAIN for several reasons.
For starters, I remember seeing this thing in theaters on opening night, so it has some personal nostalgic value for me. The funny thing is, I hadn’t watched a full episode of Nitro since the Owen tribute show, and my interest in the product was practically nil. The thing is, I lived in a small backwoods town where NOTHING was happening, and being fourteen, the only thing I could do to preoccupy myself was sneaking into the local multiplex to catch whatever. And to think, that night I almost caught a screening of “High Fidelity” - story of my life, really.
Secondly, it’s pretty hard to sit through just about anything WCW put on during its 2000 run, so recapping this movie is probably the easiest way to showcase the suck that was deathbed World Championship Wrestling without having to recap a hyper-boring three hour PPV, which I think is a fate unfit for even the cruelest of souls. And lastly, this thing has some morbid intrigue, since about half the cast has died since the film was originally released. Honestly, there are more dead wrestlers here than there are at the Von Erich family plot, so if nothing else, it does give you a chance to say farewell to the dearly departed at least one last time.
Dead wrestlers co-starring alongside actors with dead careers in a movie about a dead promotion - yeah, it really doesn’t get anymore wistful than that, huh? So how about we kick back, dim the lights and wax poetic about what once was with the Rocktagon Recap of “Ready to Rumble?”
Our movie begins with a montage of old school ‘rassling pictures while the narrator goes on and on about how people like Hulk Hogan and George “The Animal” Steele are among the greatest athletes that have ever lived. After the credits (which, by the way, are probably the shortest in the history of the motion picture) roll, we’re introduced to the two main characters, who apparently spend their off hours drinking slush drinks, reading kayfabe magazines and giving lectures about pro wrestling to grade school children.
So yeah, right from the start, you know that the people that made this movie have a HIGH regard for them there “wrestling fans.”
This leads us into a “dream sequence” in which David Arquette has an impromptu wrestling match with one of Frank Zappa’s kids in a rural-looking convenience store. At about three minutes into the film, we have our FIRST official corpse appearance as “Macho Man” Randy Savage makes a cameo as. . .uh, “Macho Man” Randy Savage. This scene introduces us to the “hero” of the film, a character by the name of Jimmy King, who’s played by Oliver Platt. . .and I assure you, he isn’t the only RESPECTABLE actor seen slumming it up in this picture. For bonus nostalgia points, the scenes also includes an appearance by ex-valet Gorgeous George and a number of former Nitro Girls, so if you REALLY feel whimsical about your old fapping-it-to-TNT days, well, there you go.
After a HILARIOUS scene in which David Arquette’s character makes Dweezil Zappa smell his anus-scented finger in order to score a free Slurpee, we’re introduced to the first of about 12 billion subplots that serve as the frail, frail backbone of the movie. You see, although Arquette’s character loves him some pro wrestling, his father is an overbearing highway trooper that wants him to follow into in his footsteps. I guess you could say that this movie is sort of like “The Graduate” in the fact that it’s also about generational dissonance and finding meaning outside your parents definitions of value, but yeah, you’d probably be considered a mongoloid for even thinking of such.
(ABSOLUTELY WORTHLESS BONUS TRIVIA NOTE: According to the DVD commentary of the film, Arquette used a piece of limburger cheese to create the illusion f a sphincter-scented fountain drink cup. The next time you’re in dire need of a birth control device, try dropping that tidbit in casual conversation and watch the danger of sudden nookie fly out the window altogether.)
So, the movie has painted pro wrestling fans in such a GLORIOUS light already, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise to the movie going masses that our protagonists are actually sanitation truck drivers. In less pretentious wording, they suck dookie out of outhouses for a living. At this point, I’d like to warn you that if you have an aversion to scatological humor, you may want to skip out on reading the rest of this article, as approximately 90 percent of the jokes on the film relate to excretion, farts and genital diseases.
Following a scene in which the two wrestle in a pile of crap outside the port-a-potties at a carnival (look, I wasn’t kidding about the excess scat content of this movie), we FINALLY get our first glimpse of actual WCW content. Well, that’s AFTER a scene which introduces another subplot about a tomboyish burger joint girl that has a crush on one of the main characters, and AFTER another scene in which human excrement plays a pivotal role - you know, because watching two guys eat sandwiches on the back of a leaking septic truck is Carlin / Pryor levels of funny. Oh, and after that, there’s MORE stuff about Arquette’s dad wanting him to be a cop, because that point really wasn’t made hard enough the first time around.
I guess for reasons of simplicity, we should start referring to the characters by their canonical names, huh? Arquette is playing “Gordie”, and Scott Caan (you know, that one dude from The Ocean’s [insert number here] movies) is playing Sean. Huh, a man-child like wrestling fan named “Sean”. . .yeah, doesn’t ring a bell at all, does it?
So, Sean and Gordie end up catching a taping of Nitro in Cheyenne, Wyoming. After a Rey Mysterio, Jr. and Billy Kidman match that concludes in about three seconds (meaning they were actually given MORE time in this movie than they were normally allowed on WCW TV), they stop and ogle the Nitro Girls, led by Rose McGowan, who, yeah, was pretty fine back in the day, even if she was getting tapped by Marilyn Manson and whoever was around the set on “Charmed” at the time.
Hey, this movie sure is lacking enough subplots, so here comes another one: backstage, a shady booker named Sinclair that sort of looks like a cross between Don Imus and Cyrus the Virus of ECW fame (played by, of all people, Joe Pantoliano) convinces Diamond Dallas Page to “shoot” on the world champion during his title shot tonight.
(ABSOLUTELY WORTHLESS BONUS TRIVIA NOTE: The director of this film, Brian Robbins, also directed the 1997 film “Goodburger,” as well as 1998’s “Varsity Blues.” He also helmed the Eddie Murphy mega-disaster “Norbit”, which means, believe it or not, this film is FAR from being the worst thing he’s done as a filmmaker.)
Just to prove how awesome I am, I actually saw this film TWICE during its theatrical run. I have a legitimate excuse, though, because the film broke during the first screening. Or at least, that’s what I tell everyone. Let me tell you, NOTHING was as bizarre as being in a crowded multiplex with a twenty foot tall Mike Tenay overlooking you, which, to this day, remains one of the most surreal experiences I’ve ever had in a movie theater.
DDP comes out to his actual, Teen-Spirit smelling WCW theme, as Mean Gene introduces “The King.” Oh, and an appearance by Bam Bam Bigelow brings our official corpse count to “2”.
Jimmy King is the idol of our two heroes, and for the life of me, I can’t figure out who he’s supposed to represent. Is it some sort of super-veiled potshot at Steve Austin or something? If so, it’s got to be the most subtle jab this side of a punch from Pee Wee Herman. His promo consists of rapping along to “The Kings of Rock”, which means that in a twenty minute period, our ears have had to suffer through overplayed songs by Lit, Motley Crue AND Run-DMC. Jeez, they might as well throw in some old school Van Halen and Britney Spears while they’re at it. . .
Hey, is that Mr. Perfect? That makes it “3” on the Corpse List, then.
And so, the match transpires, and sure enough, DDP “shoots” on Jimmy King. Half of the promotion runs in, and King receives a non-kayfabe beat down of epic proportions. As I said earlier, the absolute surrealism of watching Sid Vicious and Prince Iaukea in the same building that was screening “Gladiator” and “American Psycho” is pretty darned high here. The scene culminates with one of the few legitimately funny lines in the entire movie, when Gordie screams “This isn’t even a PPV!” before King gets pinned.
It’s abundantly clear that the makers of this movie had ZERO understanding of pro wrestling culture. Not only do the characters erroneously address the company as “The WCW,” the scriptwriter basically says that all wrestling fans are borderline mentally challenged underachievers incapable of telling reality from fantasy. Even though the movie breaks kayfabe numerous times, the main characters remain totally oblivious to the fact that the “sport” is fake. . . So yeah, much like the ACTUAL WCW product of the timeframe, there’s a surplus of intelligence insulting mish-mashes of “works” and “shoots” going on here en masse.
Following a HIGH-LARIOUS scene in which a toilet paper truck collides with the protagonists’ septic truck (thirty minutes in, and we have more scat going on here than a lifetime of watching Japanese BitTorrent files), Gordie and Sean decide to hunt down their fallen idol and whip him back into fighting shape. Of course, Jimmy King could have, I don’t know, sued the ever-loving hell out of WCW for breach of contract, intentional infliction of harm and, yeah, THE FACT THAT HE WAS THE VICTIM OF AN ARRANGED ACT OF FELONIOUS ASSAULT AND BATTERY, but what kind of movie would that make? (Answer: A far better one.)
After the two hitch a ride to Atlanta with a bus full of nuns (whom Gordie accuses of being “the farting nuns”), the two run into that kid that played “The Sherminator” in the first American Pie movie, whom uses the Intraweb to track down King’s residence. Gordie and Sean find themselves at “King’s Castle”, which happens to be a dilapidated shack in the middle of nowhere. As it turns out, King has an estranged wife (played by Caroline Rhea, who brags about having crabs and wishes her husband’s “diddly turns black and falls into the crapper“) and an illegitimate son with teeth like a James Bond villain. After a run-in with King’s parents, Sean and Gordie end up finding Jimmy in a motor park home, where he is inexplicably dressed in drag. After its revealed that King has a serious drug and alcohol problem (LOL! Because life-destroying substance dependencies ARE FUNNY!), Sean and Gordie ultimately convince King to seek revenge on Sinclair and DDP. . .because, apparently, this film takes place in an alternate reality where things like “restraining orders” and “assault charges” simply do not exist.
The triumvirate decide to stage a sneak attack on DDP and Sinclair by rolling a port-a-potty into Madison Square Garden. Sheesh, I hope the Taliban doesn’t see this movie. King attacks Page with a toilet lid (Jeez, maybe Freud really WAS right about some people being unable to escape the anal stage of development), and Jimmy drops this greatest quote of all-time contender: “I just made you my shit-house bitch!” How that line kept from becoming an Internet meme is simply beyond me. . .
So in the fallout of King’s ambush, Sinclair has the three arrested for criminal trespassing and first degree battery. Actually, he books an impromptu steel cage SHOOT match at an upcoming PPV, with a one million dollar prize on the line. So the next time you are at a WWE show, feel free to hop over the guardrail and assault the first person you see with a blunt object, and you too can have the opportunity to headline a major pro wrestling card.
In the next scene, the trio have a kegger in an abandoned parking lot in Soho, which includes a brief bit of homoerotic chatter between Mean Gene and Jimmy King. Since King is having second thoughts about his upcoming bout, Sean and Gordie enlist the aid of an elderly amateur wrestling coach, played by. . .
Martin freaking Landau. As in, the Academy Award winning Martin freaking Landau. No doubt taking this role to pay off some back taxes or something, he plays a very Stu Hart-like old-timer that prides himself on a shoot-style wrestling background. Although he’s in the movie for all but ten minutes, he’s probably the best thing about the film - but again, that ain’t exactly saying a whole lot for Marty.
After King’s first training session with Landau’s character (named Sal Bandini, if you were curious), we’re graced with a lengthy scene in which Rose McGowan’s Nitro Girl Sasha attempts to seduce Gordie. Sasha flashes him, and Gordie responds by shouting “foreign objects!” and slapping her. Ahh. . .Woody Allen ain’t got nothing on this sexual humor, I tell you what.
Now, the next scene is very interesting. Well, not as for as plot goes, but because according to the unfounded rumors circulating around the IWC, it features a young John Cena playing a bit background character. Of course, it’s probably a bunch of hearsay, and all it takes is five seconds of Internet research to disprove it, but what the hell? We need as much stuff to keep our interest in this thing as we can get, so let the hypothesizing begin. . .
Up next, Sid Vicious and Perry Saturn break into Bandini’s apartment and rough him up. And trust me, seeing Sycho Sid in the same frame as an Academy Award winner is every bit as weird as it sounds. Our second legitimate LOL moment occurs when King asks Sean for a Butterfinger in the hospital waiting room. Eh, you’ll just have to hear him say it to understand why it’s actually funny. On that fateful trip to the vending machine, however, Gordie finds out that Sasha is actually a double agent for Sinclair. The scene concludes with probably the best line of dialogue in the entire film, as a bed-confined Bandini laments “My balls are in my throat, my prostate is the size of a melon and I’m crapping Tapioca. . .I feel like a kid again.”
At the behest of Bandini, our three heroes decide to “get back to basics” and move their camp to rural Wyoming. Before then, King decides to pay his wife and son a visit. . .not surprisingly, multiple kicks to the groin ensue.
As soon as the boys get back to Wyoming, Gordie’s dad apprehends his son and tells him to give up on the whole wrestling shtick. His pop drops a pretty funny line when he says that Michael Bolton, alongside Charles Manson and Joseph Stalin, was following his dream, too. After Gordie announces that he’s going to become a cop instead, Sean and Jimmy hold a try-out for new members of their posse, which draws a Jim Herd-like crowd of gimmicky wrestlers.
So Sean ends up scoring a quick shag from the burger joint girl from earlier in the movie, and Jimmy gets a going-away celebration from the locals fit for a. . .person that is very popular in a specified community. We cut to a mega-PPV in Vegas called “Royal Bash”, where Sinclair commands Sting to shoot on King, even dropping the dreaded “F-bomb” to get his point across. As it turns out, the World Championship bout is no ordinary steel cage match. Oh no, this bout involves THREE steel cages stacked atop one another like a wedding cake, which, I know, is the most masculine analogy fathomable.
The match begins, and Sean tricks DDP by handcuffing him to the cage. After telling Page that a diamond upside down does indeed resemble the female anatomy, King grabs a ladder and starts a’ climbing his way to the belt. This leads to a run-in by Juventud Guerrera(!) and a masked grappler that turns out to be Jimmy’s lovechild. Now, how Tony Schiavone was able to know that the kid was Jimmy’s son, I can’t tell you. . .apparently, in addition to being able to turn into a child-eating monster at will (see my recap of Halloween Havoc 93), he also has the mutant power of telepathy.
Half the WCW locker room comes out to whoop on King, until the fearsome foursome of Goldberg, Billy Kidman, Booker T and The Disco Inferno make the save. Unfortunately, they can’t get through the cage until Gordie makes his triumphant return to the film, via driving a highway patrol cycle through the chain link barrier. And because this isn’t white trashy enough, the entire time, Kid Rock is playing in the background.
DDP is un-handcuffed, and he and King throw down in the second tier of the “Triple Cage.” Showing just how much the industry has changed over the last ten years, DDP tries to gain an advantage on his adversary by making an impromptu noose and trying to hang his opponent. Yeah, you probably won’t be seeing that one in the next WWE video game. . .
Before DDP can retrieve the belt, Sting swoops in and knocks him down a peg. Following a sort of homophobic moment with Gordie and Sean, the bloodied, beaten Page and King slowly begin inching their way back up the cage. King hits Page in the cojones, scoops him up and body slams him through the top perforation in the cage, resulting in DDP falling a good thirty feet to his probable demise. As it turns out, the stuntman in this scene was actually Chris Kanyon, which means that we can technically throw another one atop the corpse list.
Of course, King ends up reclaiming his title, and in the post-bout interview, he announces that Gordie is his new tag team partner. We quickly cut to a scene with the convenience store from earlier in the movie, where Goldberg, King, Sean, Gordie, Bandini and a couple of generic Nitro Girls drive off into the moonlight in a huge-ass jeep.
And yeah, that’s it. Credits roll, we get a couple of outtakes, a few crappy pop-rock songs, and it’s a done deal. One of the peculiar things about the picture is that it was written by the same guy that wrote “Heavyweights” (one of my all time favorite guilty pleasure movies) and all three “Mighty Ducks” movies. Also, this is probably the only time you’ll ever get to see the name “Van Hammer” listed in the end credits of anything, so I’d advise gutting it out to catch the cast list for this one.
So, that’s about it. By now, we all know that the movie tanked at the box office, and ended up giving us one of the worst storylines in WCW history as a marketing tie-in.
Although “Ready to Rumble” didn’t necessarily destroy World Championship Wrestling, you have to think that all of the money they spent on the feature could have been better spent on things like seeking out alternate TV deals and exploring new ownership possibilities. You know, things that a non-mongo would muse, but as fate would have it, reasonable heads weren’t exactly common place around the company back then.I think it should go without ANY sort of saying that this isn’t a great movie. It really isn’t an utterly horrible one, but then again, I do have a pretty high threshold for cinematic suck, so your mileage may vary. That said, is this movie worth a gander? I think it depends
on how high your nostalgia for the early ‘00s were. I really have a hard time believing anyone would WANT to revisit WCW circa 2000, but if you have a lot of nostalgia for your middle school years, this probably isn’t too bad of a means of squandering an afternoon.
Yeah, “Citizen Kane” this ain’t. . .but it’s still worlds better than watching Triple H play a bus driver, that’s for damned sure.
Send feedback to James Swift
James Swift is a freelance writer and author of two books, “How I Survived Three Years at a Two-Year Community College: A Junior Memoir of Epic Proportions” and “Mascara Contra Mascara: A Tale of Two Masks“. Follow him on Twitter at JSwiftMedia, or subscribe to his YouTube channel at http://youtube.com/user/JSwiftMedia.
THE TWF "MENTAL WELLNESS TEST!"
With Christmas just around the corner, what better way to spend your few remaining dollars (left over after the seemingly infinite line-up of fucking pay-per-views ) then on the following "quality WWE merchandise!" After all, if they don't move this stuff, and fast, stockholders just might get time to figure out what "plummeting domestic buyrates" means!... and well, I don't think they need to tell you what that means! (Seriously. They're not telling you. Everything is fine! Ahem.).