Back in the late 1990s, professional wrestling was all the rage. Every Monday night, World Championship Wrestling, or WCW, would fight for ratings against the World Wrestling Federation, or WWF (later WWE). It seemed like any and everyone was watching wrestling. So to capitalize on the immense popularity of the business at the time, Warner Bros. collaborated with WCW to produce the 2000 movie Ready to Rumble, which just passed its 18th anniversary mark earlier this month!
The film features a fictionalized version of WCW, albeit with many real wrestlers. Sewage workers and big wrestling fans Gordie (David Arquette) and Sean (Scott Caan) attend a WCW event to see their favorite wrestler Jimmy King (Oliver Platt) perform in the main event. Unfortunately for them — and more so for King — opponent Diamond Dallas Page (playing himself) cheats King out of his championship belt. Defeated, King winds up leaving the company in the aftermath of losing his title. Heartbroken, Gordie and Sean make it their mission to once again make King the World Champion.
It’s humorous that Oliver Platt was the actor chosen to portray disgraced grappler Jimmy King. Though talented at his craft, Platt is about as far removed from the look of a pro wrestling champion as you can possibly get. Because the tone of the movie is goofy in nature, however, it oddly works for the film. And wrestling fans still get to see many of their real life favorites in the movie, such as Sting, Goldberg, Booker T, and even the Nitro Girls.
Together, Gordie and Sean work with a reluctant Jimmy King to get him back into the WCW main event. They sneak King into an arena where he proceeds to attack the man who beat him, DDP. Outraged, WCW CEO Titus Sinclair (Joe Pantoliano) declares a Triple Cage match for the belt, but if King loses, he can never wrestle again. The wacky adventure culminates with what you could consider to be a happy ending with King winning the title – and an epilogue with Gordie and Sean beating up a mean store clerk.
In no way could you ever call Ready to Rumble a “smart” comedy. Its lead characters are ridiculously dumb and the humor is intentionally juvenile. But despite how it might look on paper, the film is pretty funny, even if that scene of Sean dancing and lip-syncing to Britney Spears goes on just a tad too long.
Even crazier than the movie itself is the way the real WCW tried to capitalize on its publicity. After its release, the film’s star and non-wrestler David Arquette appeared on WCW programming to promote the movie and actually won the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. Wrestling fans were livid at the time, and the storyline is widely regarded as one of the worst in the history of the business.
Ready to Rumble was not a hit with critics at the time, and carries a measly 23% on Rotten Tomatoes. However, for retro wrestling fans — or even just people who miss those juvenile, old-school comedies — the film is very amusing. It’s hard to believe that it’s already been 18 years since the film hit theaters, and watching it these days can be a fun trip down memory lane.
Take a peek at the film’s trailer below and courtesy revisiting it by renting it on YouTube!
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