Beyond The Iron Claw: Here’s 8 Wrestling Movies that Need to Be Made
December’s release of The Iron Claw, director Sean Durbin’s prestige telling of the story of the Von Erich family, raises the possibility of a new kind of pro wrestling movie. It comes from the respected studio A24 and marries the storytelling styles of both indie movies and indie wrestling.
It’s as far away as possible from what we’ve seen in the past from WWE Studios; sure, there was the decent Fighting For My Family, but has mostly focused on star vehicles that happen to star WWE talent, and more recently on documentary partnerships.
Meanwhile, authorized biopics of both Hulk Hogan and Vince McMahon have been announced in recent years without ever moving forward.
Here are some ideas of movies about wrestling that I’d love to see:
This one seems like a natural; a movie laying out the rise and fall of Extreme Championship Wrestling, the Philadelphia-based federation that changed wrestling forever, including providing much of the blueprint for WWE’s Attitude Era. It has a clear, cinematic arc, plus plum parts for the likes of Paul Heyman, Shane Douglas, and Mick Foley.
This probably can’t happen while he’s still alive, but how about an honest biopic of Vince McMahon, possibly based on Abraham Josephine Reisman’s great biography Ringmaster? The film would show him rising from poverty, building WWF/WWE into what it is today, and narrowly avoiding career-ending calamities about ten different times.
The WWE/A&E Biography episode about Bill Goldberg was the best wrestling documentary of the last decade, showing how the man-of-few-words ex-football player came out of nowhere to dominate WCW in 1998. Also, he was Jewish, went by his unchanged last name, and was the 1990s answer to Sandy Koufax for a generation of Jewish kids.
The Undertaker/Kane Horror Saga
This was bandied about years ago but never moved forward, but how about a horror movie, based on the backstory of feuding “brothers” The Undertaker and Kane? About how Kane was disfigured in a fire, Paul Bearer was his father, and then they battled in the ring, while occasionally becoming tag team partners as well. Nothing like this has ever happened, but I’d love to see WWE try to produce it.
Andy Kaufman vs. Jerry Lawler
The early 1980s saga in which the comedian went to Memphis and challenged Jerry “The King” Lawler was one of the greatest wrestling storylines of all time, and was later told in both the 1989 documentary I’m From Hollywood and the Kaufman biopic Man on the Moon. But the latter film, in its wrestling segment, made no attempts at period detail, including having Lawler play his 15-years-younger self, and making no attempt to make, say, the David Letterman set look like its 1980s version. How about a full biopic, that rectifies all that?
The Ultimate Warrior
The life of the Warrior was the subject of documentaries in both the WWE A&E series and Dark Side of the Ring the same week (each featuring a different ex-wife), and its arc is very cinematic as well: The artist formerly known as Jim Hellwig rose, won the championship over Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania VI and then had a series of bad departures from WWE. Then, he tried to become a conservative pundit who dabbled in occasional bigotry, returned for his Hall of Fame induction, and died, literally, two days later. The film could even use the Walk Hard ending, “The Warrior died three minutes after this appearance.”
Not every Dark Side of the Ring episode would make a great feature film — please, never, ever adapt the Chris Benoit story — but the one about Dino Bravo absolutely could. He was the “Canadian strongman” WWE heel in the 1980s who quit wrestling, returned to his hometown of Montreal, got involved with mob-run cigarette smuggling, and was murdered in his home under mysterious circumstances. The biggest challenge, for sure, would be finding an actor who looks like him.
Bret Hart Biopic
This one could have another great dramatic arc, incorporating everything from the Montreal Screwjob to the death of his brother Owen Hart to his unlikely return to WWE many years later. Perhaps it could use the Hitman Hart: Wrestling With Shadows documentary as a template.
What wrestling movie do you want to see after The Iron Claw?
CULTURE (counter, pop, and otherwise) and the people who shape it.