“There’s a lot of glare comin’ off of that dome of yours, SQUIRREL NUTS!”
With a $24 million budget and whopping $12.5 million box office tally, you must wonder why I am writing about READY TO RUMBLE 20 years later. This cult classic appeals to a very specific audience. The kind of audience that spent days creating the perfect roster in WrestleMania 2000. The kind of audience that waited for each Monday to see how many tables the Dudley Boyz would break. Not the most stable audience, but loyal if nothing else.
READY TO RUMBLE was unquestionably WCW’s shot in the dark at climbing back on top of the ratings war with WWE (formerly WWF). After pulling top talent from WWE for most of the ’90s, WWE seemed to finally come up with a response in the form of risqué story lines and gimmicks from the mind of WWE head writer, Vince Russo. WWE had entered the Attitude Era and WCW was quickly falling behind. WCW took WWE superstars Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart, Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Papa Shango (not really), “Macho Man” Randy Savage, and more but still couldn’t seem to get the one, two, three against the new era of WWE superstars. WCW even went as far as luring Vince Russo from WWE to spark the same insanity that arguably buried them. So where do you go from there?
Obviously, you get David Arquette and Scott Caan to save their beloved Jimmy King (Oliver Platt) from the twisted machinations of the evil WCW CEO Titus Sinclair. Sinclair played by Joe Pantoliano from the classics we all know and love—BABY’S DAY OUT, RUNNING SCARED, THE ADVENTURES OF PLUTO NASH, a smattering of BAD BOYS, a hint of MATRIX…the list is endless. Throw in the top stars of Monday Night Nitro (WCW’s flagship TV show) and surely this will bring the beleaguered wrestling promotion back on track, right? Hey why not even tie in the film’s characters into your weekly show involving a match with the Triple Cage that leads to Arquette winning the World Heavyweight Championship? It’s safe to say WCW’s plans flopped as hard as READY TO RUMBLE‘s box office numbers. Not even a year later and WWE acquired the would-be-usurpers, ending WCW’s 13 years of being a top wrestling promotion.
So, again, why am I writing about READY TO RUMBLE? As a child of the ’80s and ’90s, I was one of those nut jobs taping over family videos and old reruns of Martin to make sure I could watch this week’s latest entry in the saga of professional wrestling. Regardless of your promotion of choice, READY TO RUMBLE peeled back the curtain a little and let you see some of your favorite wrestlers on the big screen. The cheesy storyline speaks to the 10-year-old version of yourself that believed The Undertaker was really from Death Valley and Kane was born in Parts Unknown. Plus who isn’t a sucker for a goofy road trip movie with a predictable happy ending?
After re-visiting, I can see why so many others didn’t have the same love for READY TO RUMBLE. I wouldn’t completely blame the film’s writer, Steven Brill (THE MIGHTY DUCKS, LITTLE NICKY), or its director, Brian Robbins (NORBIT, GOOD BURGER, lead actor in CHUD II: BUD THE CHUD). The film relied on slapstick comedy, juvenile humor and heavily on the audience’s interest in gigantic 300-pound men made of pure muscle throwing each other around a canvas square. Perfect for the diehard wrestling fan, but certainly not the type of movie that will take down future cinematic classic RULES OF ENGAGEMENT on opening weekend.
Dramatic scenes are peppered in as Gordie (Arquette) gets his heart broken and ultimately looks for validation from his overbearing lawman father (Richard Lineman). Sean (Caan) realizes he has been looking for love in all the wrong places. King becomes the role model his adoring fans believed him to be as he dispatches Sinclair’s minions, including Diamond Dallas Page. This movie may have just been about six years late and $22 million over budget. Slight research into the previous filmography of Terry Bollea may have done the producers some good prior to spending $24 million.
Ultimately, I look back on READY TO RUMBLE and am glad they took the gamble on this one. It still takes me back to the days where I thought wrestling was real and that Bret Hart really got beat in Montreal. There’s still a charm to it that makes me completely shut my brain off and cheer for Jimmy King at the end as he wins back his title. 20 years later and I still love this one.
And if this trailer for documentary YOU CANNOT KILL DAVID ARQUETTE is any indication…READY TO RUMBLE may still hold a very important spot in the actor’s heart.
Tags: Bam Bam Bigelow, Bill Goldberg, Brian Robbins, Curt Hennig, David Arquette, Diamond Dallas Page, Joe Pantoliano, Martin Landau, Oliver Platt, Professional Wrestling, Randy Savage, Rey Mysterio, Richard Lineman, Rose McGowan, Scott Caan, Steven Brill, WCW, WWE, WWF