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The Wrestler (1974) Review

Posted in In My Head by Jack at 03:20, Aug 31 2009

by Vann

My day-job has the habit of giving these little tokens of appreciation to their employees for doing the work that they were actually hired to do.  A strange custom to me, but whatever? Anyway, it just so happens I was the recipient of one of these ?Certificates of Appreciation? for ? once again ? DOING THE JOB I WAS HIRED TO DO!  But hey, I?m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, so I took it from my department manager with a smile on my face.  This particular award was a $25 gift certificate to giftcertificates.com which I, in turn, cashed in over at overstock.com.  I had wanted the latest season of Reno 911 anyway, but once that transaction was complete I was left with a whole $4 left over.  Never one to waste free money, I used the sort by price feature for ?wrestling DVDs?, and what did my eyes behold?  None other than a copy of the 1974 film ?The Wrestler? for only $3.99.
Now, this version of ?The Wrestler? is one of the few wrestling-themed movies I?d never seen.  For some reason ? unknown to me ? none of the local video stores I?ve ever visited had it in stock.  (My guess is that whenever any store ordered it, it was immediately rented and never returned due to its greatness.)  Thinking that this was the perfect opportunity, I immediately placed my order? What I found in my mailbox a full nine days later (free shipping, mind you) worried me at first?
Here?s what I knew (or thought I knew) about ?The Wrestler? prior to seeing it? It was a 70?s independent wrestling movie produced and starring legendary AWA promoter, Verne Gagne.  Ed Asner was also in it, (in a role I?ve heard he was none too proud of) playing the promoter, but I never believed for an instant that Ed was the ?star? of a Verne Gagne, masturbatory exercise in celluloid.  I also knew it was pretty widely panned, but hey? I loved ?Body Slam?, so what do I know?...
Back to what I found in my mailbox? Yes, the DVD case did say ?The Wrestler?, but the cover was more than a little confusing.  There was a large picture of an obvious stock photo of Ed Asner from his ?Lou Grant? days, two collegiate wrestlers (with headgear) in a lock-up at the bottom, a large image of a somewhat sweaty young man reminiscent in looks to the guy who played ?Billy? in ?Midnight Express?, and a boxing ring (four, count ?em, FOUR ropes in all) in the background.  Now, I spent many years in college working at video stores, so I was aware that some production companies ? when they bought the rights to what they thought were flops but had an appealing star in them ? would change the title and the box art for their release of the film.  For example, I remember stacking $10 VHS copies of ?Rebel Dreams? starring Nicholas Cage (the feature inside was actually ?Valley Girls?, but apparently the distributors either weren?t aware of Valley Girl?s cult status, or they didn?t feel any title with ?Girls? in it would appeal to the male demographic).  Equally moronic were the tapes of ?A Brother?s Justice? that I had to continually convince young posers were actually copies of the re-christened ?Gleaming the Cube? with Christian Slater.
Luckily the cover I had in my hands did list the names Ed Asner, Lord James Blears, ?Superstar? Billy Graham, Dick Murdoch, Dusty Rhodes, and Verne Gagne, so I at least felt comfortable in the fact that Overstock hadn?t screwed things up?
?The Wrestler?? So, the movie opens with a shot of a TV Studio where Larry ?Pretty Boy? Hennig walks on set to conduct a promo on the area?s world champion, Mike Bullard (Verne Gagne).  Boy, Larry really looks like his son without that beard.  Apparently, he?s been waiting ?too long? to face the ?pot-bellied, spindly-legged, bald-headed, toothless Mike Bullard?.  Remember when no one was allowed to call Hulk Hogan bald?  Anyway, we immediately go to the finish of the Hennig-Bullard battle? Dropkick, sleeperhold, that?s all she wrote.  In an odd twist, we cut to Ed Asner, breaking the fourth wall and announcing himself as ?wrestling promoter Sam Bass?.  I say it?s an odd twist because for the remainder of the film, no other characters ever talk directly into the camera and break the fourth wall.  Anyway, Bass goes on to list Bullard?s (Gagne?s) various accomplishments in wrestling, most of which I think were legit ? except for the Olympic Gold Medal, of course? I?m sure ol? Verne didn?t mind people thinking that one was a shoot at the time.  Back to the film, more of the same for a younger, slightly heavier Nick Bockwinkel? Flying dropkick, sleeperhold (executed correctly I might add? None of this garbage where the aggressor's arm is around the chin and jawline of his victim and it looks like there?s enough light for the ref to put his arm through), and it's goodnight for young Nick?
Time for the credits?  Apparently it?s a ?Gagne-Frank Production? featuring Vern Gagne and Billy Robinson, executive produced by Verne Gagne and screenwritten by Eugene Gump.  Unfortunately, on all of the major filmography databases, this was Mr. Gump?s only work ever.  I wouldn?t be surprised if ?Eugene Gump? was actually the nom de plume of Verne, maybe feeling that his own name was already well enough represented in the credits? The director is Jim Westman.  While this was Westman?s one and only director?s credit, it does seem as if he had a pretty lengthy career in Hollywood as either a 1st A.D. or Unit Production Manager.  I?m sure he felt he reached his apex with this film?
We cut to a secretary (later to be identified as "Debbie" sitting behind a typewriter in a downtown Minneapolis office building.  In what is one of this movie?s first bits of awesomeness, she answers the phone by saying ?Wrestling office.?  She?s immediately interrupted by The Crusher and Dick the Bruiser who go about flirting with her by picking her up like a baby and blowing cigar smoke in her face? and we know she digs this because she gives them both a kiss on the cheek.  Also, in one of the first odes to reality in the movie, the call taken was from ?Jim Barnett in Australia? for our promoter, Frank Bass (Asner).  At first I thought that Asner was just going through the motions with his acting.  Turns out his character has a bit of a cold, which explains his lack of enthusiasm.  Debbie proceeds to hand the boys an envelope containing everything they?ll need for their next wrestling trip ?except for your jockstraps?.  As a side note, it wasn't until recently that I fully realized that wrestlers don?t normally wear cups.  Alex Wright should have been my first clue, but oh well? Bass agrees to meet Crusher and the Bruiser for a steam bath later.  Some subtle flirting between Bass and Debbie is interrupted by a phone call from Betty, who we learn is the champion Mike Bullard?s wife.  She?s worried and wants Bass to come to her home immediately.
A bad cut later and we?re in the home of the champ ? who is apparently away in Munich (probably working for Otto Wanz).  She?s worried because of the recent death of Ray Gunkel (the famous Georgia promoter who legitimately died at the age of 52 the year before this film was made) as a result of Ox Baker?s deadly Heart Punch (actually it was from undiagnosed arteriosclerosis, but ya gotta fill those seats, daddy...)  She? scared to death because Mike?s the same age as Ray and wrestles more against the top guys? This is true as Verne was actually 50 at around the time of Ray?s death.  I?m finding it more and more interesting that there are so many references to this old, bald man.  I was really expecting them to at least not point out Verne's age in this film.  Bass isn?t worried because Mike keeps himself in such great shape, but Betty shows film of Mike?s ?homework? ? clips of ?Eastern Regional Champion? Pedro Morales and Dory Funk, the ?Western Regional Champion?.  ?And he?s young? is Betty?s worried response to both clips.  Bass admits that there is a ?Superbowl thing? in the works for all the regional champions to prove who is the true champion, but she shouldn?t worry because Mike?s the best in the business and loves to prove it.  This does nothing for Betty?s state of mind, so Bass concedes that ?Okay. We?ll work on it.  We?ll work on it?.  Well, what the hell does that mean?
Cut to a topless Ed Asner, lying prostrate in a steam room with nothing but a towel.  Nice.  A shady looking tough guy named ?Joe? comes in and we get the oddest 30 seconds of film I?ve ever seen in my life.  Joe sits down by Bass? head, giving us a close-up shot of his rather large belly and a giant man-boob that basically hovers over Bass while Joe propositions him to fix a match.  If Bass doesn?t agree, Joe's boys will lock Bass in the steam room.  Luckily the Bruiser and the Crusher were hanging out off camera (also in towels ? not sure how Joe could have missed them) and Joe backs off?
Lord James Blears visits Bass in his office.  Blears just got back from Hawaii apparently - another ode to reality.  He?s got just the man for Bass and begins to show reels of ?Billy Taylor?, the most scientific wrestler and ?world?s fastest human."  This is, of course, our introduction to the character played by Billy Robinson.  It?s funny; Robinson and Gagne are two of the only wrestlers in the entire film that don?t go by their own names.  Anyway, to say Bass is impressed would be an understatement.  ?He?s a combination of Gotch and Nagurski if I ever saw one!?  Bass believes he?s found the man that can take Bullard?s belt, so they both go to the "Athletic Club" to see Billy work out.  Billy just decimates some dude on a floor mat ? hip tosses, throws, whathaveyou.  A near 300-pound, brunette Ric Flair can be seen working out in the background.  He must have been training at Gagne?s camp at the time.  Billy agrees to fly out to Chicago to see ?Ray Stevens in the main event?.  Bass is now convinced that Billy will take Mike and cleanup the Superbowl of Champions thing.  Bass feels that he ?needs? a new champion.  Interesting the way they walk the line between kayfabe and shoot?
We get a promo by ?The Superstar? Billy Graham on Wahoo McDaniel, who he?s gonna send away on a ?pain boat?.  Awesome.  Cut to Graham and McDaniel (McDaniels?  I?ve never heard someone say it the same way twice... which one is it?) beating the shit out of each other in an Indian Strap Match.  Wahoo won, but I?m not sure how.  We go to a scene involving "Joe Cutter" (Ray Stevens? opponent for the night) being checked out by the arena doctor.  Not a whole lot of info on Joe Scarpello, the man who played Cutter, but he is listed in obsessedwithwrestling?s database.  Anyway, a furious and forehead-bleeding Billy Graham walks in to the locker room and exclaims to the doctor ?I can?t believe what they did to me. Look at this cut, doctor!  Look at this cut!  I?m gonna need stitches tonight!?  Awesome.  Bass starts randomly talking about Cutter?s "cute little kids."  FORESHADOWING!.. Stevens and Cutter in the ring.  Back and forth action until Stevens comes off the top rope with his illegal ?Bomb?s Away? knee drop, causing an immediate DQ.  The doctor is now in the ring.  ?This man is dead.?  Dun-Dun-DUN!  The announcer actually gets in the ring and announces to the audience that Jack Cutter ? now laying alone in the ring ? is dead.  No EMTs.  That?s old school.  George Carlin once suggested an improvement to football would be leaving the injured and dead on the field... An interesting idea for wrestling as well...
It?s Bass? job now to speak with the media ? which consists of only three guys (the worst actors in the movie, by the way) ? so that he can field any questions about the tragedy.  This is actually one of the greatest scenes in the movie because we get to hear Bass? ?big speech?.  Admittedly, I laughed quite a bit through the first half-hour.  I mean, it?s kind of awkward to see wrestling being treated so seriously when we all know what?s really going on.  But man, Bass' speech ? no doubt something that Gagne had said a million times before ? was actually a logical argument for the legitimacy of wrestling.  Bass is disappointed that these guys are the only press present (Vince Jr. likely would have been thrilled with the same turnout in the same situation).  Reporter A is ?Sorry he died, but who really cares??  This sets Bass off, noting that all the fans around the world deserve to read about their favorite wrestlers in their papers.

Reporter A:  Pro wrestling belongs on the theater page.  It?s entertainment!  Strictly entertainment, that?s all it is!
Bass:  Why!  Cause these guys are colorful?  Show me a professional athlete that doesn?t have to be a crowd-pleaser to stay in the game.  Picture the Green Bay Packers fielding a team dressed in sweatshirts and Levis.
Reporter A:  That?s not the type of entertainment I?m talking about.  What I?m talking about is the type where the actor gets up and goes home after he?s been killed off in the movie.
Bass:  Ohhhh. (sarcastically)  That type of actor.  You?d have a tough time selling that to guys like Gunkel, Giarabaldi, Zaharich and Romano.  Haiti, Lindsey, DiBiase, and a hell of a lot of other guys.
Reporter A:  Oh.  Who are they?
Bass:  Wrestlers who have died in the ring.  Guys like Cutter who didn?t get up and go home.  Wrestling is one of the oldest sports in the world, and it bugs me that so many of you guys don?t understand what exciting copy it is.  It?s as rough as football.  Takes the stamina of basketball.  These guys have to train harder and longer than any other athlete.
Reporter B:  (with some concern) Frank, how did Cutter die?
Bass:  (exhausted) Stevens hit him with a knee drop off the top rope.
Reporter C:  On purpose?  You mean he killed him intentionally?
Bass:  Nah, no, he didn?t kill him intentionally.  But that?s one of the risks of a violent professional sport when the stakes are high.
Reporter A:  Stakes high!  What?d he get?  75 bucks a night?
Bass:  (smiles) Oh, boy.  You, you really do your homework, dontcha?  Huh?  (wink)  That?s somethin?.  It may interest you to know, my friend, that the championship belt alone is worth 250 grand a year to Bullard.  That?s what Cutter was fighting for!
Reporter B:  Well that?ll give Stevens a clear shot at the title?
Bass:  I don?t know.  He was disqualified for using the top rope.
Reporter B:  Well, who?s left to go after Bullard?
Bass:  I have another contender.  But I?m here to talk about Cutter.
Reporter A:  Well, I don?t know about you (motioning to Reporter B) but I?ve got enough.
Bass:  You?ve got enough?  You?re really something.  Because you don?t understand the sport, you don?t wanna write about it.
Reporter A:  Understand!  What?s there to understand?  Has it occurred to you that millions of people may not be interested?
Bass:  Maybe so.  But there are 40 million fans in this country alone who ARE interested.  Those are the people that make this sport!  They make it the colorful sport it is to watch and read about!
Reporter A:  Yeah, whether their man wins or loses, he still gets the fringe benefits.
Bass:  Fringe benefit!?!  This is strictly free enterprise, Buddy!  These guys are loners!  They book their own matches!  They don?t have owners.  They don?t have managers.  They don?t have coaches.  Just themselves!  And when they go to the hospital, they?re the ones who pay the bills.  The only fringe benefit they got, is a crack at the title.  And to get that crack they have to win.  Cutter died while tryin? to win.

Have I used the term ?awesome? too much already?
Bass is met at the airport back in Minneapolis by tough guy Joe, who continues to try to muscle him into guaranteeing Taylor?s win against Bullard.  Bass ain?t down with it, but Joe?s henchmen make him think otherwise.
Back at the office, Debbie updates Frank on the Cutter situation.  She also lets him know that "Sam Muchnick" called to confirm the ?Promoter?s Meeting? next week in St. Louis.  We get the idea that Bass had wanted to keep the Billy Taylor arrival a secret from Bullard, but turns out, Debbie had spilled the beans.  Not quite sure why he?d want to keep this news from Mike.  I mean, I get the feeling that Bass wants Billy to beat Mike so that he can have a younger champ, but unless Billy?s gonna show up in a hood, what?s the point of keeping the news from the champ?  We do, however, start to get the feeling that there's some sort of connection between Debbie and Bass.
Dusty Rhodes calls Frank Bass!  Bass is angry.  ?You?re not with Murdoch, are ya!?  Turns out Dusty is indeed with Captain Redneck in some seedy bar.  Bass is sick of these two ?jackasses? causing trouble out of town.  Apparently beating up motorcycle gangs is bad for business (it is evident here that Bill Watts did NOT write this script).  Once off the phone, Dusty goes back to Dick and tells him they have to cool it or they might never work for Bass again.  It should be noted that Dusty and Dick are totally playing it for laughs ? and in a good way.  I could easily see these guys in some sort of buddy comedy.  They start getting hassled by some mark that thinks he can take Dick.  Murdoch has to play it cool.  ?Man, it?s gonna be hard for us? says Dusty.  Dick doesn?t even do anything when the drunken mark spills his beer in his lap.  Then ? for some reason totally unknown to me - two Asian fellows in derby hats come in and start shit with the Outlaws (I know the big one was Harold Sakata who played "Odd Job" in "Goldfinger", but I'm not familiar with the other fella).  ?Karate very strong.  Wrestlers very week? says Sakata.  Karate chop to the table Dusty and Dick are sitting at and it's completely destroyed.  More of the same at the next table they sit at.  ?Sorry, Frank? they say in unison, and proceed to show that Karate ain?t shit compared to some West Texas ass-whoopin?.  MMA's first true test... Tremendous!
In his first real scene in the movie, we find Bullard beating Bass in a tennis match.  When they begin to discuss wrestling, Bullard?s not showing his cards (remember, he already knows about Billy's arrival), and Mike makes Bass uncomfortable as he announces that he?ll be attending the public workout between Billy Taylor and Nick Bockwinkel.
The public workout is joined in progress (apparently this movie was edited by Coliseum Video).  Starts out scientific, but Bockwinkel plays dirty.  Bass warns him, but belly-to-back suplex into backbreaker (Robinson?s finisher) and it?s over.  Apparently, the purpose of the public workout was to promote the benefits of wrestling as a career for the youths in attendance.
In the locker room we find Bullard congratulating Billy on his work.  In the far background you can see Bockwinkel drying off with a towel.  When he overhears Bullard compliment Billy on the exhibition, the look of disdain on Bockwinkel?s face as he turns and walks out is priceless?  Mike wants to take Billy out to his farm to look at the new recruits he trains there and have some dinner.  There?s a gleam in Mike?s eye.  Heeeeyyyy... What?s his angle?
Mike's watching films of Billy in his basement now.  His wife, Betty, comes down to join him.  ?He wrestled Bockwinkel tonight and was unbelievable.?  Mike?s confident he can beat Billy, but Betty wants him to retire.  It?s all about the ?Superbowl? for Mike.   He wants to beat Morales and Funk and be the lone champion, and then he?ll retire.  Wifey ain?t buying it and talks him into retiring after the next match he loses.  Gagne?s acting has been pretty good up until this point, but his overacting here is ridiculous.  The sad thing is, it's not nearly as bad as that of the actress who was hired to play his wife.
Training Seminar out at Bullards farm? Lots of potential wrestlers here.  They?re given a slideshow of wrestlers they could face in the future including: Fritz Von Erich, Mad Dog Vachon, Johnny Weaver, The Sheik, Danny Hodge, Bruno Sammartino, Victor Rivera, and Bob Geigel.    Bullard introduces Dan Gable to demonstrate some amateur stuff with none other than Mike Graham.  Gable owns Graham on the mat.  This is all an excuse for Gagne to show some amateur wresting love.  Bullard then moves on to examples of pro wrestling by having Billy Taylor beat the holy hell out of poor Jim Brunzell.  The voiceover by Gagne allows him to give some of the basic philosophical differences between pro and amateur wrestling.  ?A beautiful hiplock by Billy Taylor.  It puts Brunzell high in the air and he falls wrong.  You people will learn (how) to fall as you progress.?  Wow.  Exposing the business without really exposing the business.  I am convinced now that had Verne Gagne narrated ?Tough Enough?, it would still be on MTV today.  Billy nearly rips Brunzell?s arm off with some sort of standing submission.  ?Careful, Billy.  He?s only a rookie.?  That hold would be way more effective than the arm bars we see today where they hold a guys arm out at an angle it would naturally go anyway.  Brunzell is in awesome shape by the way.  Verne?s description of these moves, they?re effectiveness and logical use in the ring is phenomenal.  Apparently King Henry of England used some of these same exact holds on the King of France.  I did not know that? Another demonstration is presented between Wilbur Snyder and Eddie Graham.  I think nearly every territory from this time period has now been accounted for.
We cut to the dinner table where Billy is telling some old road stories.  Ric Flair is sitting next to him and even gets a line of dialogue (?What happened??).
Cut to St. Louis and the big promoter?s meeting.  Apparently it?s being poolside, and half of the promoters are shirtless.  Bass is yelling at Vince McMahon and Joe Dusek, as well as four other promoters (not sure who they are, but I am convinced at this point that they?re all the real deals and not just extras).  You know, I?ve never heard Vince Sr. talk.  Not what I expected, but he doesn?t do a bad job.  Anyway, the other promoters are all trying to convince Bass that Mike is too old and not the image they want for the ?Superbowl?.  ?Image?? says Frank.  ?What about your other league champions?  Dory Funk is bald, man!?  ?Yes,? replies one of the nameless promoters, ?but he?s only 32 years old.?  Frank?s in a pickle.  Either he has to ?perform? (not clear on the use of this term), or the association will have to run the Superbowl without him.  Whatever will he do about it?  Oh wait? he answered the question? begrudgingly...  ?Billy Taylor?s what I?m gonna do about it?.  I smell a swerve.
Promo by Stevens on his match with Billy gives way to the match itself.  Looks like good stuff, which is not surprising given the two in the ring.  A few minutes of action ends with the same backbreaker finish he gave to Bockwinkel.
Hey, look!  Bass and his secretary are out at a restaurant eating dinner.  Debbie thinks that Mike might not want to be forced in a match with Billy.  Bass explains that he?ll make the date, promote the match, and if Mike doesn?t show up he loses.  I know Verne must have had his pen on this script now because the attention to detail is such that it would have to have come from a wrestler.  Upon hearing Bass? plan, Debbie asks if that means that Billy would become the champ.  ?Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah.  That isn?t the way it happens.  Mike would lose the belt, then we?d have to start qualifications all over again.  It would be the same as if Mike would retire.?  THIS MOVIE DOES NOT MAKE ME FEEL STUPID!  Things are going well between the two, but tough guy Joe and his thugs ruin the evening by reminding Bass what he must do? or else!  He ?plays dirty? ya know.
Back to Debbie?s house for ?coffee?.  Bass recaps the trouble he?s having with setting up the Taylor/Bullard match, but is steadfast in that he?s gonna play things straight.  Things move to the couch.  Debbie is coming on strong but cool.  She?s obviously the aggressor, but Bass has never been lucky in love.  He admits his feelings, but then leaves.  Outside the door he stops short and rings the bell again.  Yes, the older promoter is gonna get it on with the much younger secretary.  Still? I must say that this was handled rather sweetly.
Back to the office.  Billy is worried that the match won?t happen.  A bit of dialogue to remember here? Bass asks ?Can you keep Mike away from the ropes?  Because if he gets that dropkick on ya, you?ve had it!?  ?Nobody?s ever hit me with the dropkick?, replies Billy indignantly.  "Nobody!"? FORESHADOWING!... Mike enters and Billy asks for the match.  Mike says ?no way? because there's a long list of top contenders and Billy?s name isn?t on the list.  It is at this time I expect Billy to suckerpunch Mike and piledrive him through Frank?s table.  Sadly, this does not occur.  Instead, Mike explains that while Billy?s a great wrestler, the people don?t know it, and if the people don?t know how great he is then they?re not going to buy tickets.  Bullard, you see, makes his living on the number of tickets sold.  Bass tries to make his case, but Mike?s having none of it.  He?s already in the Superbowl and doesn?t need Billy.  He wants to wrestle him, but he?s got this ankle injury.  Mike limps out of the room.  ?Was he limping when he came in?? asks Billy.  No.  No he was not.
Dick and Dusty promo!  They?re gonna wrestle Crusher and the Bruiser.  Why did the old AWA announcer always wear dark sunglasses?  Was he blind?  Anyone know?  Anyway, the announcer calls out Bass who proceeds to announce the Bullard/Taylor match, saying that Mike had refused the match and "that is wrong", but he's booking it anyway.  Mike is watching this at home as it airs on TV.  Bass is using his promoter's prerogative and forcing the match.  Mike's wife is confused as to why he would refuse a match when Mike ? apparently ? had already intended on wrestling Billy.  ?Well, you see? says Mike, ??Billy is too unknown.  That (pointing to the screen) will make him known.?  Okay.  That?s a pretty brilliant way of shooting an angle in the ?real? world of pro wrestling this movie lives in?
Bass visits Mike at his house.  It's at this point that Bass finally figures out that Mike has swerved him.  He?s actually kind of tickled by this turn of events.  Things might turn out well for ol? Frank Bass just yet.
The Night of the Big Event...  Frank gets ambushed in the locker room by tough guy Joe and his thugs.  Frank makes a move on Joe, but THEY?VE GOT DEBBIE!  Joe gives him one last chance, but Frank refuses, so it?s stick-time for our buddy Bass.   ?You go to Bullard and tell him that Billy wins or you die.?  The baddies are about to provide some extra motivation by doing the same to Betty, but we got a Crusher/Bruiser run-in, and they don?t job to nobody!  Especially not in Chicago!
If by chance you've read this far and you find that you actually want to watch this film but don't want to know the dramatic finish, then please stop reading here.  And if you did make it this far, go ahead and PM me to tell me as much.  There?s some Karma coming your way.  Lord, knows you deserve it?
The Main Event?  Ring introductions, ref rules, and we?re on.  The ref explains everything here.  I appreciate the fact that they didn?t assume that only wrestling fans would be seeing this movie.  I forgot to mention that there?s no commentary during these match clips.  Maybe it would?ve helped, maybe not.  Billy takes advantage with a couple of full nelsons, but Mike gets the chicken wing.  A test of strength leads to a bunch of good reversals.  Abdominal stretch by Billy, but Mike gets the ropes.  Here?s where the dramatic music starts to kick in.  Drop toehold and leglock by Billy.  Mike does not look comfy, but manages to kick Billy off him.  Butterfly suplex into a pin attempt by Billy.  Gut-wrench suplex and pin attempt by Billy.  Hip toss and pin attempt by Bill, but Mike gets a Beal throw and a couple of shoulderblocks.  Uh oh? Billy let Mike "get to the ropes"...  Slow-mo as Mike goes up for the dropkick.  Billy makes the ?oh, shit? face at half-speed as we get a flashback to when he said that nobody?s ever hit him with a dropkick... Slow-mo of foot...  ?Oh, shit? face...  Slow-mo of foot... ?Oh, shit? face...  Audio of Billy emphasizing ?Nobody!?...  Slow-mo of foot... ?SPLAT!?  Cut to black.  Credits.  Awesome.
Don ?Moraco? and ?Rick? Flair were thanked in the credits, but I swear I never saw The Magnificent One.  And where the fuck was Greg Gagne?  You got a film by Verne and Greg doesn?t have a prominent role?  Maybe the film-making committee Verne had to answer to didn?t think moviegoers would buy Greg as a legitimate actor?...
Seriously, though.  I can?t believe I?ve gone as long as I have without seeing this movie.  My attitude going into this film was that I was finally going to see this terribly embarrassing film about pro wrestling, which really affected my perception of the first third of the film.  Sure, there was some laughable stuff but - truth-be-told - this is without a doubt the greatest kayfabe-era wrestling movie ever made.    And not just by default, mind you.  The acting and script were totally acceptable, and there was nothing that was really insulting to your intelligence.  The effectiveness of the film was actually in the attention to detail to all the little things that make sense to fans of wrestling, which I can really only attribute to Verne Gagne's involvement.  If you are an old school wrestling fan, you really need to see it.  And if you?re a newer to wrestling, have an open mind, and are willing to put yourself into the mindset of a pre-internet wrestling fan, you might learn a lot about what once made wrestling real to a lot of folks.

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