5.3/10
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17 user 3 critic

The Wrestler (1974)

PG | | Action, Crime, Drama | February 1974 (USA)
Promoting the world of professional wrestling at the expense of the plot itself, Frank Bass (Ed Asner) takes a stand and defends what he thinks is right. Gamblers, mobsters, unscrupulous ... See full summary »

Director:

James A. Westman (as Jim Westman)

Writer:

Eugene Gump
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Edward Asner ... Frank Bass
Elaine Giftos ... Debbie
Verne Gagne Verne Gagne ... Mike Bullard
Billy Robinson Billy Robinson ... Billy Taylor
Jerry Wade Jerry Wade ... Self
Don Muraco ... Self (as Don Moraco)
Lord James Blears Lord James Blears ... Self
Danny Hodge ... Self (as Dan Hodge)
Joe Scarpello Joe Scarpello ... Self
Dick Afflis Dick Afflis ... Self (as The Bruiser)
Dan Gable ... Self
Vincent McMahon Vincent McMahon ... Self
Reginald Lisowski Reginald Lisowski ... The Crusher (as The Crusher)
Dusty Rhodes ... Self
Ed McDaniel ... Self (as Wahoo McDaniels)
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Storyline

Promoting the world of professional wrestling at the expense of the plot itself, Frank Bass (Ed Asner) takes a stand and defends what he thinks is right. Gamblers, mobsters, unscrupulous wrestlers, money-grubbing promoters, and fixers conspire to corrupt the industry, but Frank tries to make the game as honest and fair as it is his idealized vision. Frank's efforts climax as he promotes an over-the-hill champion in the final matches of his career. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Karate Killers vs Wrestling Champs See more »

Genres:

Action | Crime | Drama | Sport

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

In addition to having real professional wrestlers playing the wrestlers in the film, "The Mobster" was played by professional wrestler Sammy Menacker. He was formerly known as "Slammin' Sam Menacker." By the time this film was made, Menacker had retired from the ring but was still in the business as a host/commentator. See more »

Crazy Credits

Professional wrestling legend Ric Flair is listed in the credits as "Rick Flair." This was made during the beginning years of Flair's career and he was trained by executive producer/star Verne Gagne. See more »

Soundtracks

I See Them
Written by Howard Arthur
Sung by Mona Brandt, Pat McKee
See more »

User Reviews

 
Very Strange
26 March 2013 | by wrstone3-643-78845See all my reviews

This is a really strange movie. As an old-school pro wrestling fan who grew up in AWA territory, I'd heard of this movie, but never seen it. Now there's a poor copy at http://www.matineeclassics.com/movies/1974/the_wrestler/.

Imagine you're Verne Gagne:

It's 1974. It's the height of the pro wrestling territories. It's all kayfabe: everyone pretends that the match outcomes aren't worked.

You're part owner of the AWA, one of the largest, most successful territories. You're the heavyweight champion basically any time you want to be.

There's some back story here, too: Gagne's split from the NWA and formation of the AWA was because the NWA didn't want Gagne as their champion. The NWA champion went all over the US, defending the title against the most popular local wrestler in a given territory. The NWA thought Gagne wasn't appropriate as that kind of champion. Gagne disagreed and formed the AWA, with himself as champion.

Now it's 1974 and you make a movie in which you co-star as a pro wrestler. It's the story of how one might imagine a promoter operating in 1974 -- if pro wrestling was really a sport.

You get Ed Asner to star. He was doing Mary Tyler Moore at the time, and was a good pick for the role. He's entirely believable as sort of a Wally Karbo-style promoter. But it's very strange seeing a guy with Asner's credentials in a movie like this.

So it's weird on that level. Then there are all the cameos from famous pro wrestlers: the Crusher, the Bruiser, Dusty Rhodes, Dick Murdock, even Ric Flair, albeit briefly. I was a bit surprised that Verne's son Greg wasn't in the film.

Beyond that weirdness, there's the soundtrack. It's really ... 1970s. I can't figure out what was going through the composer's mind during the big bar fight. It's almost like watching a fight while listening to the Benny Hill theme.

Unfortunately, it's also an unsatisfying movie. Rather astonishingly, they build up to a match between Gagne and Billy Robinson -- and then end the film mid-kick, before the match even ends. There's no payoff whatsoever: did Billy or Verne win? Which of them gets to go to the super bowl of wrestling? Did Verne win, forcing the other promoters to allow him? Did Billy, and Verne learns that it's time to ride off into the sunset?

I have no idea what they were trying to do, but the result is very surreal.

The unfortunate thing is that with a little better script, it could have been a decent movie. Gagne is entirely believable as an aging champion, and there would've been a neat story if the writers had simply chosen a direction. Either Gagne learns that it's time to hang up his hat or that Robinson beats the "unbeatable" champion. The gangsters looking for a win by betting on the matches seems out of place -- particularly now that we know that the matches were worked.

It should have been a character piece. It tried to be, but just never got there.

Definitely worth a watch, but don't expect Rocky.


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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

February 1974 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Wrestler: The Main Event See more »

Filming Locations:

Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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