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(Then you've seen me) I come and stand at every door
—from the title song, written and performed by Bruce Springsteen
Randy: The only place I get hurt is out there. (points away from the ring) The world don't give a shit about me.
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 peak, 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 reliving his past is worth the risk to his life.
The film was well-received by critics and audiences alike, as well as many in the professional wrestling business. The matches themselves were filmed in front of actual wrestling crowds at actual wrestling events (notably, during CZW and ROH events), and Rourke himself trained to perform 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 with whom she clearly has a close friendship at least. Randy suspects that she's 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.
- Bittersweet Ending:
- Randy loses his only friend, his job, his daughter and his health by the end of the movie. But he winds up finishing the movie in the ring, where he belongs.
- Could also be seen as a pure Downer Ending, since some interpret it as Randy dying in the last scene, throwing his life away needlessly due to his inability to live outside the ring.
- Butt Monkey: Subverted to a degree. Randy is certainly this trope in almost every aspect of his life, except when he's performing, at which point he becomes a god among men for ten minutes.
- Career Resurrection: The movie is credited with resuscitating Mickey Rourke's film career.
- Character as Himself: All of the wrestlers in the film are playing themselves and their real gimmicks, aside from Rourke and The Ayatollah.
- Daddy Didn't Show: Randy is quite absent from his daughter's life. And when he sets up dinner trying to reunite...
- Do Not Call Me Paul: Randy "The Ram" Robinson doesn't like being called Robin Ramzinski, his real name.
- Driven to Suicide: It's pretty obvious Randy wants to die in the ring once it becomes clear there's no chance his daughter will ever be able to love him again.
- Dyeing for Your Art: That scene where Randy cuts himself with the razor? That's a real injury, known in the business as "blading".
- Not to mention the thumbtacks, the barbed wire, getting stapled in the ring...
- Ending Theme: A heartbreaker written for the movie by Bruce Springsteen.
- Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory: Played with in-universe. Cassidy explicitly compares Randy to Jesus Christ, and even quotes the Bible... then it's revealed she knows it all from a movie, namely The Passion of the Christ.
- Expy: While Randy has elements of various wrestlers about him (Hulk Hogan, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, etc.), the Ayatollah is a straight up expy of The Iron Sheik (though is nowhere near as insane as the Real Life Sheik).
- Fallen-On-Hard-Times Job: Randy, working the deli counter.
- Firemen Are Hot: At least to the one-night stand Randy picks up.
- Foreign Wrestling Heel: The Ayatollah character is this trope to a T, but Bob, the man behind the gimmick, is a much nicer guy.
- Foreshadowing: Randy's match with The Ayatollah is foreshadowed by the video game he was playing.
- Fridge Brilliance: Obviously, Randy and the Ayatollah are the opposite of one another. This actually extends out of the ring when viewing the "real people" as well. Randy was popular in The Eighties as the All-American Face hero. The Ayatollah was hated as the Foreign Wrestling Heel. Later, Randy is down on his luck and in horrible shape while the wrestler playing the Ayatollah has done quite well for himself and seems fit.
- 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.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Fans of Aronofsky's work will recognize Mark Margolis (who plays Lenny) as Max's neighbor Sol from Pi, old Mr. Rabinowitz from Requiem for a Dream, and Franciscan monk Father Avila from The Fountain.
- Marv falls for Danika, tries to rekindle his relationship with his daughter Lucy and signs things at Frank's rec center.
- Hollywood Heart Attack: Averted. Randy suddenly gets dizzy, 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.
- Kayfabe: The movie portrays wrestling as a form of entertainment made of fakery, smoke and mirrors. However, the injuries and human tragedies are so very real.
- Man Child: And in a very negative light.
- 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.
- Meta Casting: Mickey Rourke, who himself experienced a serious career decline and later resurged to the spotlight.
- Never Trust a Trailer: The movie is actually a Deconstruction of the type of films the trailer makes it out to be. It's a LOT more heavy and a Tear Jerker than is implied.
- 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.
- Oscar Bait: Mickey Rourke's performance, in light of his personal life especially. Of course, he still didn't win.
- Pac-Man Fever: Averted; they even created a fully working NES game for the movie.
- Reality Subtext: Randy's wrestling career is a fairly close mirror to Rourke's acting career.
- 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.
- Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll: Randy presumably blew all of his earnings from his stardom on this type of living.
- Single Mom Stripper: Cassidy.
- Super Slave Market: 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 raise an objection to the way Randy works a hardcore deathmatch, as former stars will rarely do such a thing, but Randy is clearly uncomfortable and out of his element in the match, showing his participation as a sign of extreme desperation.
- What Could Have Been: Originally, Nicolas Cage was cast as Randy. He willingly stepped down in favor of Rourke, who was Aronofsky's original choice.
- 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.