Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Brown picked “Ready To Rumble.”
The Movie: “Ready to Rumble”
Starring: David Arquette, Oliver Platt, Scott Caan
Director: Brian Robbins
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) Two slacker wrestling fans are devastated by the ousting of their favorite character by an unscrupulous promoter.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 23 percent
Brown: So at this juncture in life, I’m an unapologetic wrestling fan. It took a while to get there, but I’m comfortable with it now.
If I’m wearing a button-up shirt, underneath is likely a pro wrestling shirt I got on either WWE Shop or Pro Wrestling Tees.
It’s this strange art form (yes, art form) that caters to the lowest common denominator but when done right, is enthralling.
And then things like “Ready to Rumble” come out and I revert to that old closeted wrestling fan who would turn the channel as soon as someone came into the room.
Continuing with the fictionalized violence we started Sports Month off with “Goon” last week, I wanted to review a movie with a complicated fandom.
It got wrestlers on the silver screen, with the movie taking place in World Championship Wrestling, then the No. 2 wrestling company in the world.
But, it was a flop and it also led to perhaps the lowest scripted point in pro wrestling: David Arquette becoming the World Heavyweight Champion (a decision even he thought was a bad idea).
Eleven months later, WCW was bought by the World Wrestling Federation (now WWE) for $3 million. Not Arquette’s fault, more of a indictment of how (REDACTED) WCW was at the end.
While I let the readers digest how David (REDACTED) Arquette became a wrestling champion, what were you thoughts heading into this one, Froemming?
Froemming: I cannot, and will not, sanction David Arquette’s buffoonery in this movie. The man is the embodiment of fingernails on a chalkboard, a man who had no right to be in movies, but he had a famous last name, so here we are.
Now that is out of the way, while this movie certainly is really, really stupid, it does have its charms. Like, I was shocked to realize that pro wrestler Mr. Perfect was still alive in 2000. The wrestling cameos in this are fun. The plot, the acting and the fact this movie wanted me to boo Diamond Dallas Page makes it a pile of hot garbage.
As I go tell a bunch of young wrestling fans it is all fake, Brown why don’t you kick this off.
Brown: A couple problems right off the bat.
The opening credits is a montage with a bunch of bloody wrestlers like you would see in the pro wrestling magazines at your local Snyder’s Drug store. That’s cool. Then they start rattling off all these all-time wrestling greats. Guys like Bruno Sammartino, Hulk Hogan, Lou Thesz and so on. The problem with that? Most of the guys they listed were legends in WWF, not so much WCW. And this is a movie that takes place in WCW. So way to stay on brand, guys.
Then, we get our two “heroes,” Sean (Caan) and Gordie (Arquette) loitering in front of a Wyoming gas station like they’re Beavis and Butt-Head, warping some little kids’ minds about how there is only one king in pro wrestling: Jimmy King.
Umm, there are many kings in wrestling, pal. Let’s list them off: Jerry Lawler, Haku, Harley Race, Randy Savage, Bret Hart, Owen Hart, Mabel, Booker T, Sheamus and Bad News Barrett just to name a few. Though to be fair, Jimmy King remained a king later in life when he became the Supermarket King of Minnesota in the first season of the “Fargo” TV series.
Froemming: Having worked retail a number of years, I sympathized with the clerk here who hates these two 30-year-olds loitering about, not buying anything and being generally annoying.
After wowing teens with tales of scripted wrestling moments, we get Gordie having wild visions from his slurpee, and as you mentioned Brown when you were watching this, it was just like the time Bart and Milhouse on “The Simpsons” drank the all-syrup Squishy and tripped their damn balls off. I really wanted Gordie to wake up the next day and find out he joined the Cub Scouts.
Instead, he wrestles Macho Man Randy Savage! Ooooohhh Yeaaahhhhh!
Brown: Yeah, that was cool. But it wasn’t the Macho Man we’ve all come to know and love, droppin’ elbows and snappin’ Slim Jims. This was late-career Randy Savage, where he slicked his hair back and wrote diss tracks about Hulk Hogan.
After this Squishy bender, we see Sean and Gordie at their job as sewage workers, cleaning out portable toilets. Playing a prank on Sean that saw him almost get sucked through the toilet, Sean tells Gordie that Jimmy King will get injured as a curse when they see their favorite wrestler later that night at Monday Nitro.
This movie calls it Monday Night Nitro because, again, they can’t stay on brand. I get Monday Nitro is not exactly a good pun, but that was the name of the show. This movie also calls it “the WCW” which drove me nuts.
I need to be less invested in this (REDACTED).
Froemming: I like how that was what bothered you, but Sean and Gordie eating their sandwiches while poop is oozing from their work truck that they are right next to didn’t cause you to bat an eye.
Brown: Oh no, that bothered me because I figured one of them would accidentally eat a poop burger. In a buddy comedy with an Arquette and Sonny Corleone’s kid, I expect high levels of stupid.
Froemming: There is also a sorta-love story that is peppered in for no reason. Sean likes this girl who works at the burger place where, as I mentioned above, they ate next to raw sewage. She doesn’t like him, but this other woman, Wendy, does.
Wendy likes wrestling and is one of the guys, so Sean says he can’t date her because that would be “gay.”
This is the material we are working with, people.
Brown: This movie stole the stinkpalm from “Mallrats,” features dudes working on a poop truck and has a soundtrack featuring Lit and Kid Rock. Let’s just go ahead and inform everyone that we are not watching a masterpiece, let alone a passable movie.
Froemming: It is time to get to the wrestling, and where I chuckled way too hard at Joe Pantoliano as Titus Sinclair, the manager or whatever of WCW. He looks like a lost member of the Grateful Dead or your friend’s dad who is going through a mid-life crisis.
And Titus is plotting with heel (?) Diamond Dallas Page to take the title from Jimmy King (at a non-PPV event even!) because he is late all the time or something.
I kept writing in my notes: This is not how it works! THIS IS NOT HOW ANY OF THIS WORKS!
And I have only a casual fandom of pro wrestling.
Brown: See, this is a scene that could actually happen. Basically, Sinclair runs things behind the scenes and while popular, King is a major pain in the ass. He’s late, he’s drunk, he doesn’t look like he gives a crap about how he looks and he doesn’t want to lose the title. So, Sinclair uses DDP as a pawn in a screwjob.
For the most famous example of this, Google “Montreal Screwjob.”
Froemming: I am on my work computer, and that sounds slightly pornographic, so — hard pass.
Brown: Fine. Whatever. Google “Bret Hart Shawn Michaels.” You’ll run into it.
Froemming: Look, by 2000, with wrestling being super popular, I can only imagine the mountains of lawsuits if any of these guys broke any part of any contract, probably because of that Montreal Screwjob. The 1970s-mid 90s must have been the Wild West for the sport.
So Jimmy King shows up, and frankly, Oliver Platt is the least impressive wrestler I have seen since X-Pac.
Brown: Oh man, I wish I could show you the wrestlers I’d see on public access in the Cities. Jimmy King would be Schwarzenegger compared to those jabronis.
Now, more nitpicky stuff from me. So, DDP/King for the world title… should have ended several times with King retaining the title.
King hits DDP with a chair. That’s a disqualification. Jimmy King hits a low blow. DQ, King retains because the title can only change hands via pin or submission. Then when DDP’s hired goons attack Jimmy King, that’s a DQ. King retains.
But because the movie demands it, King is pinned, loses the title and apparently he can never wrestle again. Which is bogus because 2000 was around the time independent wrestling was starting its rebirth. Jimmy would have fit right in with the troves of chubby guys wearing shirts and performing death matches to tens of people.
Froemming: From that standpoint, this movie implies King isn’t even good enough for the WWF, making WCW the lesser already. Great job, movie promoting WCW!
Gordie and Sean are crushed, crying even, about King’s fall from grace. And they crash their poop truck on their drive back, probably from weeping like little wimps. And to make things worse, another truck jackknifes and crashes into the poop truck. What was that one carrying? Toilet paper.
This movie is so stupid.
Brown: I was crying of laughter from this scene, but not because of the movie. This movie sucks.
It’s because I had a friend reduced to tears while watching WCW back in the day because Goldberg lost both the WCW title and his undefeated streak after being zapped with a cattle prod by Scott Hall, allowing Kevin Nash to win. So the thought of my friend weeping, saying “they cheated” was fresh in my head.
Froemming: I just want to reiterate THIS IS ALL FAKE! Sure they take their beatings, but damnit, minus WWF’s middle finger to Hart in 1997, the end results are known!
We haven’t mentioned the B-plot of this movie (when you can’t get the A-plot right, you tend to forget these things). Gordie comes from a family line of cops that have itchy trigger fingers, to the point where his dad, mom and sister are filled with child-like glee when the sister shoots her first perp. All I can say for that is if this movie were made in 2018, much different connotation involved there.
Their hearts broken and now without work, Sean and Gordie all of a sudden get a goal in life: Find Jimmy King and help him become world champion once again. So they head to Atlanta and we get the first real laugh this movie gave me.
They get picked up by a van full of nuns (of course) and after singing church hymns for hours, Sean asks if they know any Van Halen.
And sure enough, we get a pack of penguins singing “Runnin’ With the Devil.” It’s an easy joke, but I’ll admit, I laughed.
Froemming: Two idiots being picked up by nuns also happened in “Beavis and Butthead Do America.” There is literally nothing original in this movie!
So our two bumbling morons find a hacker to track down Jimmy King in Atlanta. I had to laugh because the hacking website was a crappy old GeoCities looking site and again I wrote, in regard to the internet in 2000 and how that site operated: This is not how it works! THIS IS NOT HOW ANY OF THIS WORKS!
Brown: THE SITE IS CALLED HACKER’S PLANET! IT’S THAT EASY!
So, the hunt begins, and in something that is unfortunately kind of true about older wrestlers, they find out Jimmy King is a scumbag. They go to his wife’s house, where he left them two years ago. They go to Jimmy’s parents, which he wrote in his “authorized” autobiography they had died in a plane crash. Finding out he took his parents’ RV, Sean and Gordie find a drunk, cross-dressing Jimmy King passed out in the camper.
Quick aside, Froemming: Being Minnesotans, did it shock you how all the beer in this movie is Grain Belt? Do they even sell that in Georgia?
Froemming: At the time this was made, I would probably say no. In 2018? Maybe.
Brown: After being pestered by these fanboys who are kind of giving off a Mark David Chapman vibe, Jimmy gives them five minutes of his time for $30. A true carnie wrestler; I love it. And because the plot needs to chug along, Jimmy is inspired to get back to WCW so he can kick DDP and Sinclair’s ass.
This is the part where I remind you that DDP is actually one of the best guys in wrestling, both as WCW’s “people’s champ” and in real life, where he’s helped guys like Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Scott Hall from killing themselves early with alcohol and Somas.
Froemming: Sean and Gordie know how to get the King into the next venue where WCW is hosting an event: Sneak him in via Porta-Potty. Yeah, (REDACTED) this movie.
Well, they get in all right, and what does the King do to get back his title? He (REDACTED) sucker punches DDP backstage, which is now somehow a legitimate place any stranger off the street can get the heavyweight title as long as they pin the champ, because remember, the King is no longer under contract with the company.
This is not how it works! THIS IS NOT HOW ANY OF THIS WORKS!
Brown: King also hangs out with a couple guys who apparently don’t know what a naked woman looks like.
While sneaking King in, the boys sneak a peek at the Nitro Girls’ dressing room, where they’re all walking around in underwear. And they keep saying “naked.” THAT IS NOT NAKED.
It’s really just a way to sneak Nitro Girl Sasha, played by Rose McGowan, into this (REDACTED) sandwich of a movie.
I’ll get her role out of the way now because it’s not that important: She gets a crush on Gordie, sleeps with him but is revealed as a spy for Sinclair. And she gets assaulted in the movie. A lot. Like, as a form of foreplay for Gordie. And with a ladder.
I don’t think McGowan puts this role on her resume. Wouldn’t blame her.
Froemming: Well, this results in Sinclair giving King one last shot: A Triple Cage match for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. Which, I guess sounds wicked and whatnot, but King is a little nervous since, you know, he’s pretty much past his prime. So he needs to do some training!
Do we get a training montage? Nope. We get tryouts for his posse in Wyoming. It was at this point I wanted to turn my TV off and call it a night.
Brown: Hold on now, at least King trains. And it’s with, for my money, the most interesting character in this movie: Sal Bandini. Bandini is an old-school shooter played by Martin Landau. A guy who worked with Hitchcock and won an Academy Award for being Bela Lugosi in “Ed Wood” was in this dumpster fire of a movie!
I would watch a movie on the Sal Bandini character. All he does is make Jimmy King cry with just a grab of the wrist. Also, apparently, he beats up a high school wrestling team in his spare time?
Froemming: Sal gets beat up and hospitalized by some of Sinclair’s wrestling goons.
Brown: The goons are Perry Saturn and Sid Vicious. Vicious is too perfect for this role since he, in real life, allegedly almost killed Arn Anderson after stabbing him with a pair of scissors.
Froemming: And it is here we find out Sasha is working with the enemy and MY GOD THIS MOVIE IS STILL GOING!
Back to Wyoming and the tryouts for the posse. King pretty much gets the Mystery Men as his crew, a bunch of yokels who backyard wrestle while listening to ICP. See, he blew his friendship with Goldberg because they were tag partners and King drunkenly vomited on him in the ring. So he has to go to meth country to get people to watch his back during the match.
Brown: You mentioned the cameos in this movie being a plus. It’s funny because the most successful wrestler that appears in this movie never, ever wrestled for WCW.
Right before Sean, Gordie and Jimmy go talk to Goldberg, on one of the exercise machines is young-ass John Cena. Eventually, he became a 16-time world champion who has sold more tacky T-shirts than anyone in existence and is now a hot commodity in Hollywood. That guy was just in the background, working on his triceps for all of three seconds of screen time.
After Sal’s assault, Goldberg’s refusal to help and gathering up a posse that features a dude who spits tobacco and a woman who took her clothes off immediately, Jimmy King is reborn.
He tells his ex-wife, after several kicks to the testicles (this movie has so many low blows there’s a gag reel of them during the closing credits), that he’ll be a better father to their son.
Froemming: Here is what I thought with the gag reel.
Brown: However, Gordie won’t be joining them because his overbearing father demands he take a police exam and give up on his wrestling dream. As his dad puts it, just because you have a dream doesn’t mean it’s a noble thing to follow. His list of people that shouldn’t have followed their dreams: Charlie Manson, Joseph Stalin and Michael Bolton.
One of these things is not like the others. … Stalin wasn’t a musician.
Froemming: With this movie finally giving it a rest with Gordie, I was briefly able to enjoy what time I had with this film without the grating buffoonery of Arquette. And the crew heads to the big match between the hero King and the heel (?) DDP!
Brown: It’s at the Royal Bash, which is A. Not a real pay-per-view, and B. is so close to WWE’s Royal Rumble that surely someone got sued.
Froemming: When I saw the Triple Cage used here, I immediately wondered if Mankind and The Undertaker had fought in this thing, would old Mick Foley be alive today?
Brown: The fact that Mick Foley is alive today is a credit to modern medicine.
Before the match, Sinclair has a chat with Sting, who was WCW for me as a child. Full disclosure: The first wrestling event I went to, the main event was Sting vs. Big Van Vader. RIP Vader.
Froemming: How was Sting not sued by the creator of “The Crow?”
Brown: Back then, you’d be getting into a lawsuit with Ted (REDACTED) Turner, then owner of WCW. They’d get bled dry.
So, we get a brawl moreso than a wrestling match and eventually, the locker room comes out and gets involved in the match. DDP has his goons, including a personal favorite in Bam Bam Bigelow. And King has his backstage posse, led by Goldberg. Eventually, Gordie returns dressed as a state trooper to sway the fight.
This all leads to King and DDP fighting atop the triple cage and into what I can only imagine would be the death of DDP. Dude got body slammed through three (!!!) cages before crashing onto the wrestling ring.
Just for those who are unfamiliar, wrestling rings are constructed with steel beams, wood planks and a little bit of foam padding underneath a canvas.
Jimmy King committed murder. At least involuntary manslaughter.
Froemming: Thanks for the tech talk, captain buzzkill.
So atop of the three cages, before DDP was murdered at the hands of Jimmy King, Sting breaks with Sinclair and zips in through the heavens and knocks down DDP, giving the advantage to our homicidal hero. Look, if I am going to see a wrestler with a painted face, it better be Doink the Clown, not the King of Hot Topic Sting.
Brown: After the match is over, Sean and Gordie send Sinclair in the crowd so the people of Las Vegas can vent their frustrations about losing the family savings into some good ol’ mob justice. One of the featured extras is wearing an Insane Clown Posse shirt and I was all sorts of bummed over that.
Froemming: What, you never watched Juggalo Championship Wrestling? Are you too good for that?
Brown: Yeah, JCW isn’t my cup of tea. I remember watching WWF when ICP was on there and feeling embarrassed for everyone involved.
Now that King is champion again, we return to Wyoming, where Sean tells the kids from before about he and Gordie’s exploits. Then all of a sudden, Ahmet Zappa comes crashing through the gas station door thanks to Goldberg (who apparently wears his wrestling trunks at gas stations) and everyone rides off into the sunset.
Or to take Jimmy King to jail for attempted murder of Diamond Dallas Page.
Now that the familiar feeling of being an embarrassed wrestling fan is back, let’s go to recommendations before I start weeping like Gordie and Sean.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Brown: Oh, sweet salty Christ no. David Arquette somehow is the worst actor in a movie featuring pro wrestlers. Sorry for making you spend money on Amazon Prime for this, Froemming.
Froemming: Nope. This movie is terrible. It is to wrestling what “Fuller House” is to sitcoms: The worst.