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The Wrestler is a drama film directed by Darren Aronofsky, written by Robert D. Siegel, and starring Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood, and Ernest Miller. Production began in January 2008, and the film premiered at the 2008 Venice Film Festival in August, winning the Golden Lion Award. Fox Searchlight Pictures acquired rights to distribute the film in the U.S.; it was released in a limited capacity on December 17, 2008 and was released nationwide on January 23, 2009.

The Wrestler was released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on April 21, 2009 in the United Statesmarker. It was released in the United Kingdommarker on June 1, 2009.

Plot summary

Randy "The Ram" Robinson (Mickey Rourke), is a professional wrestler who was a celebrity in the 1980s, however, by the 1990's his popularity had declined. He is now past his prime and wrestling on the weekends for various independent promotions in the Elizabeth, New Jerseymarker, area. After a show, a promoter proposes a 20th anniversary rematch with his most notable opponent, the Ayatollah (Ernest Miller), who now owns a used car dealership in Arizonamarker. Their last match sold out Madison Square Gardenmarker, and Randy agrees to the rematch.

Randy goes home and is locked out of his trailer for not paying the rent; we learn that he loads boxes at a supermarket and that his boss, Wayne (Todd Barry), does not hold him in high esteem. He frequents a strip club where he has befriended a faded stripper named Pam, stage-named Cassidy (Marisa Tomei). He continues the training rituals for his wrestling appearance, including steroid use and tanning. At his next show, Randy wrestles a brutal hardcore match with Necro Butcher (Dylan Summers). Post-match, Randy is treated for his wounds backstage, but he suffers a heart attack soon after and collapses.

Randy ultimately receives a coronary artery bypass and he is warned by the doctor that his weakened heart cannot stand the stresses of steroids or wrestling. Randy cancels his upcoming matches and begins working as a deli counter operator at the supermarket. He tells Cassidy about his heart attack and tries to woo her while out for a drink. She warms to him at first and tells him about her son, but when Randy gets too close she leaves.

At Cassidy's suggestion, Randy visits his estranged daughter, Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood), whom he had left years before. She curses him and tells him to leave her alone. Randy returns later with a gift suggested to him by Cassidy, and apologizes for being a bad father. The two bond over a visit to an abandoned beachfront boardwalk, and they agree to meet for dinner on that coming Saturday.

Randy goes to Cassidy's strip club to thank her; she once more rejects his overtures. Dejected, Randy attends a wrestling match as a spectator and receives the attention he was seeking from Cassidy from his fans and fellow wrestlers. After watching the match, Randy gets drunk with his friends, snorts cocaine, and has sex with a woman he meets at a bar, sleeping the entire next day and missing his dinner date with Stephanie. He goes to her house in the middle of the night, but she tells him that she never wants to see or hear from him again.

Randy goes to work at the supermarket deli counter, where a fan recognizes him. Embarrassed by his job, Randy cuts himself in the deli meat slicer, screams at his boss, and quits.

Randy calls the promoter to reschedule the previously canceled Ayatollah match and sets out for the venue, despite his doctor's warnings. Before the match, Cassidy unexpectedly arrives after walking off the stage in the middle of her strip club show to go see Randy. She apologizes, urging him not to wrestle for the sake of his health. She tells him, "I'm here. I'm really here", showing that he is no longer alone. Randy explains that the real world is where he gets hurt, and the only place he belongs is in the ring.

Randy enters the ring and gives an emotional speech to the crowd before the fight begins. During the physical exertion of the match, Randy begins to feel angina, but continues despite the Ayatollah's pleas for Randy to pin him. Randy pushes through the pain and climbs to the top turnbuckle. As he does so, he notices that Cassidy is not there. Randy prepares to dive off and deliver his signature finishing move, a diving headbutt called the "Ram Jam." Brought to tears, he salutes the cheering crowd and leaps from the ropes as the screen cuts to black.


Also appearing in the film are actual professional wrestlers: Kevin Matthews, Johnny Valiant, Ref Hanson, Tommy Rotten, Andrew Anderson, Brolly, Danny Inferno, Necro Butcher, Mike "RAGE" Miller, Paul E. Normus (who died in early 2009), Wrestler "Paul E. Normus" Passes Away At 33 Nick Berk, DJ Hyde, Havoc, Johnny Mangus, Billy Dream, Eric Cobian, Sabian, Nate Hatred, Sugga, L.A. Smooth, Whacks, Devon Moore, The Funky Samoans, Jay Lethal, Jim Powers, Kid USA (as Randy's stunt double), R-Truth, Claudio Castagnoli, Bobby Dempsey, Mike Mongoose, Bobby Cruise, Romeo Roselli, John Zandig, Chuck Taylor and Nigel McGuinness.


The Wrestler was scripted by Robert D. Siegel, a former writer for The Onion and entered development at director Darren Aronofsky's Protozoa Pictures. Actor Nicolas Cage entered negotiations in October 2007 to star as Randy. The following month, Cage left the project after attending a Ring of Honor show in New York Citymarker, and Mickey Rourke replaced the actor in the lead role. According to Aronofsky, Cage pulled out of the movie because Aronofsky wanted Rourke as the lead character. Aronofsky stated that Cage was "a complete gentleman, and he understood that my heart was with Mickey and he stepped aside. I have so much respect for Nic Cage as an actor and I think it really could have worked with Nic but, you know, Nic was incredibly supportive of Mickey and he is old friends with Mickey and really wanted to help with this opportunity, so he pulled himself out of the race."

The roughly 40-day shoot began in January 2008, with filming taking place throughout New Jersey in Elizabethmarker, Hasbrouck Heights,Asbury Parkmarker, Lindenmarker, Rahwaymarker, Roselle Parkmarker, Dover, a supermarket in Bayonnemarker where Rourke served and improvised with real customers, and in New Yorkmarker. Scenes were also shot at The Arenamarker in Philadelphiamarker.

Afa Anoa'i, a former professional wrestler, was hired to train Rourke for his role. Anoa'i brought his two main trainers, Jon Trosky and Tom Farra, to work with Rourke for eight weeks. Both trainers also have parts in the movie.

A scene in the film features a fictional Nintendo Entertainment System video game called Wrestle Jam '88, starring the characters of Robinson and The Ayatollah. Aronofsky requested a fully functioning game for the actors to play with, with programmer Randall Furino and the film's title designer Kristyn Hume creating a playable demo with a working interface and AI routines that also featured 1980s era-appropriate graphics and music.

To add more realism, the locker room scenes were improvised for Rourke and others to look as if they were actually socializing. Some of the deli scenes were improvised because Rourke actually had to serve customers as Aronofsky recorded the footage.


Clint Mansell, the composer for Aronofsky's previous films, π, Requiem for a Dream, and The Fountain, reprised his role as composer for The Wrestler. Slash played the guitars on the score. A new Bruce Springsteen song, also titled "The Wrestler", plays over the film's closing credits. Springsteen wrote the song while on Tour in Europe after receiving a letter and a copy of the script from Rourke.

The Guns N' Roses song "Sweet Child o' Mine" is played during Randy's ring entrance at the end of the film. In his Golden Globe acceptance speech, Mickey Rourke mentioned that Axl Rose donated the song for free due to the budget, and the film's closing credits thank Rose for this. Rourke had used the same song as his intro music during his stint as a boxer in the mid-90s.

Also featured in the film are two Ratt songs ("Round and Round" and "I'm Insane"), the Quiet Riot song "Metal Health" (which is Randy's entrance song except for the last match), the FireHouse song "Dont Walk Away", the Slaughter song "Dangerous", the Scorpions song "Animal Magnetism", "Balls to the Wall" by Accept, "Soundtrack to a War" by Rhino Bucket and the Cinderella song "Don't Know What You Got ." The two Ratt tunes are actually recordings by Rat Attack, a project featuring Ratt lead singer Stephen Pearcy and guitarists George Lynch (Dokken) and Tracii Guns (L.A. Guns). The Madonna song "Jump" is played in the bar scene. The Birdman and Lil Wayne song "Stuntin' Like My Daddy" can be heard in the strip club.

In the Toronto International Film Festivalmarker interview conducted by James Rocchi, Aronofsky credited the 1957 Charles Mingus song "The Clown," an instrumental piece with a poem read over the music about a clown who accidentally discovers the bloodlust of the crowds and eventually kills himself in performance, as a major source of inspiration for the movie. Aronofsky also said the brief reprise of Senator and Presidential-candidate John McCain's "Bomb bomb Iranmarker" to the tune of The Beach Boys' "Barbara Ann" in the movie evolved as improvisation on the set. The Ayatollah wrestling character's persona had developed more than 20 years before but, in part through this musical moment and its connection with the character, came to still feel appropriate to Aronofsky in 2008.


World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) helped promote the film through an on-screen angle. This involved the heel Chris Jericho criticizing legendary retired wrestlers such as Ric Flair, whom he felt were embarrassing themselves, as well as Mickey Rourke for his portrayal in The Wrestler. At the 15th Screen Actors Guild Awards, Rourke announced he would be competing at WrestleMania XXV, specifically targeting Jericho. The announcement led to a confrontation between the two on Larry King Live, which showed signs of second thoughts from Rourke. On January 28, it was announced through Rourke's spokesperson that the actor would not compete at the event, and he was soon after announced instead as a guest.

Rourke was also invited to the WWE Hall of Fame 2009 induction ceremony the night before WrestleMania. The angle culminated the following night where Jericho faced Ricky Steamboat, Roddy Piper, and Jimmy Snuka in a handicap match. After his victory, Jericho dismantled Ric Flair and challenged Rourke, who finally entered the ring and punched him out. Flair then congratulated Rourke.


The Wrestler has received overwhelmingly strong critical acclaim. Rotten Tomatoes reported that 98% of critics gave the film positive write-ups based upon a sample of 200, with an average score of 8.3/10, and gave it a golden tomato for best drama of 2008. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film has received an average score of 81, based on 27 reviews. Alonso Duralde, of MSNBC, said, "Rourke's work transcends mere stunt-casting; his performance is a howl of pain that seems to come from a very real place." Todd McCarthy, of Variety, said, "Rourke creates a galvanizing, humorous, deeply moving portrait that instantly takes its place among the great, iconic screen performances." Ben Mankiewicz, from At the Movies, said, "To put it simply, this is the best film I've seen this year." Although The Wrestler was not technically in Roger Ebert's "Best Films" list, he includes a note at the bottom of his review: "'The Wrestler' is one of the year's best films. It wasn't on my 'best films' list for complicated and boring reasons."

Prominent wrestling industry figures have commented on the movie. Aronofsky remarked during an NPR interview on WWE chairman Vince McMahon's feelings on The Wrestler:

WWE Hall of Famer Bret "Hit Man" Hart, who was a multi-time world heavyweight champion in both WWE and WCW, applauded Rourke's "clairvoyant" performance, but called the film a "dark misinterpretation" of the business. He asserted: "Randy “The Ram” Robinson was a main-eventer who sold out Madison Square Garden. So was I... Although the film speaks superbly to the speed bumps all pro wrestlers navigate, I’m happy to report most of us don’t swerve off the road quite so severely." WWE play-by-play commentator Jim Ross called it a "really strong, dramatic film that depicts how people who are obsessed with their own lives and their careers can self-destruct". Former WWE and TNA world heavyweight champion Mick Foley enjoyed the film, saying: "Within five [minutes], I had completely forgotten I was looking at Mickey Rourke. That guy on the screen simply was Randy "the Ram" Robinson." WWE Hall of Famer "Rowdy" Roddy Piper was said to have been highly emotional after watching a screening of the movie. Aronofsky said of Piper: "He loved it. He broke down and cried in Mickey's arms, so he was psyched that this story was finally told." Insights on the film from Roddy Piper and other former pro wrestlers can be seen in Fox Searchlight Pictures's "Wrestler Round Table", which was included in the Blu-ray release from the film, yet it was omitted for the DVD release.Former WWE wrestlers Diamond Dallas Page and Lex Luger also attended the premiere of the film and gave it a positive review.


The Wrestler has been condemned as an "anti-Iranianmarker" film in many Iran newspapers and websites, in response to a scene in which Mickey Rourke violently breaks a pole bearing an Iranian flag in half across his knee. Borna News, a state-run newspaper, also criticized the heel wrestler character the Ayatollah, who is portrayed as a villain in the wrestling ring and wears a skimpy leotard in the pattern of an Iranian flag with the alef character, representing the first letter of the word Allah; other Iranian newspapers avoided mentioning the character, presumably to avoid offending Iran clerical rulers. In March 2009, Javad Shamaqdari, cultural adviser to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, demanded an apology from a delegation of Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences actors and producers visiting Iran for what he characterized as negative and unfair portrayals of the Islamic republic in The Wrestler and other Hollywood films.Many critics and wrestling insiders however have pointed out that the Iranian gimmick is a reference to the now legendary rivalry between Hulk Hogan and The Iron Sheik during the mid-1980's.

Top ten lists

The film appeared on many critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2008.

Awards and nominations

Award Category Winner/Nominee Won
Academy Awards Best Actor in a Leading Role Mickey Rourke No
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role Marisa Tomei
BAFTA Film Awards Best Leading Actor Mickey Rourke Yes
Best Supporting Actress Marisa Tomei No
Boston Society of Film Critics Best Actor Mickey Rourke Yes
Broadcast Film Critics Association Best Song Bruce Springsteen Yes
Best Picture No
Best Actor Mickey Rourke
Best Supporting Actress Marisa Tomei
Central Ohio Film Critics Best Actor Mickey Rourke Yes
Best Supporting Actress Marisa Tomei
Chicago Film Critics Association Best Actor Mickey Rourke Yes
Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Best Actor Mickey Rourke 2nd
Best Supporting Actress Marisa Tomei 3rd
David di Donatello Awards Best Foreign Film Darren Aronofsky No
Detroit Film Critics Society Best Actor Mickey Rourke Yes
Best Supporting Actress Marisa Tomei
Best Film No
Best Director Darren Aronofsky
ESPY Awards Best Sports Movie Darren Aronofsky No
Florida Film Critics Circle Best Actor Mickey Rourke Yes
Best Supporting Actress Marisa Tomei
Golden Globes Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama Mickey Rourke Yes
Best Original Song - Motion Picture Bruce Springsteen
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture Marisa Tomei No
Independent Spirit Awards Best Feature Darren Aronofsky
Scott Franklin
Best Male Lead Mickey Rourke
Best Cinematography Maryse Alberti
International Cinephile Society Best Actor Mickey Rourke Yes
Best Supporting Actress Marisa Tomei No
Iowa Film Critics Awards Best Actor Mickey Rourke Yes
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Best Director Darren Aronofsky Yes
Best Actor Mickey Rourke
Best Original Screenplay Robert D. Siegel
Las Vegas Film Critics Society Best Supporting Actress Marisa Tomei No
London Film Critics Circle Film of the Year Yes
Actor of the Year Mickey Rourke
Director of the Year Darren Aronofsky No
MTV Movie Awards Best Song from a Movie Bruce Springsteen No
National Society of Film Critics Best Actor Mickey Rourke 2nd
Oklahoma Film Critics Circle Best Actor Mickey Rourke Yes
Best Supporting Actress Marisa Tomei
Best Original Screenplay Robert D. Siegel
Online Film Critics Society Best Actor Mickey Rourke Yes
Best Supporting Actress Marisa Tomei
Best Picture No
Best Director Darren Aronofsky
Best Original Screenplay Robert D. Siegel
Phoenix Film Critics Society Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role Marisa Tomei Yes
Best Original Song Bruce Springsteen
San Diego Film Critics Society Best Actor Mickey Rourke Yes
Best Supporting Actress Marisa Tomei
San Francisco Film Critics Society Best Actor Mickey Rourke Yes
Best Supporting Actress Marisa Tomei
Satellite Awards Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama Mickey Rourke No
Best Original Song Bruce Springsteen
Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role Mickey Rourke No
Toronto Film Critics Association Best Performance, Male Mickey Rourke Yes
Utah Film Critics Association Best Actor Mickey Rourke Yes
Best Supporting Actress Evan Rachel Wood 2nd
Venice Film Festival Golden Lion Darren Aronofsky Yes
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Best Actor Mickey Rourke Yes
Writers Guild of America Best Original Screenplay Robert D. Siegel No


  3. The Wrestler To Be Released on DVD April 21
  4. Paul E. Normus Autopsy Results Pending
  5. "'The Wrestler' Director Darren Aronofsky" downloaded interview/no transcript "TIFF Interview" by James Rocchi,, 9 September 2008. Retrieved 1-26-09.
  8. "'The Wrestler' Director Darren Aronofsky" downloaded interview/no transcript "TIFF Interview" by James Rocchi,, Sep 9th 2008 10:02PM. Retrieved 1-26-09.
  9. place."
  16. The Wrestler DVD Features

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