Hitting the Ropes with Joey Arizona
Detective Joey Arizona is a big wrestling mark, and loves grappling with wrestling movies.
Body Slam (1986)
Face from The A-Team plays a talent agent down on his luck who unwittingly takes on wrestler 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper as his latest client, then it's 89 minutes of slams, cross-dressing and casual racism until the credits roll, with plenty of wrestler cameos for the die-hard fans.
There are good movies, and there are bad movies...and Body Slam is a good bad movie.
Rewatch: 3 Doughnuts.
Walk Like a Panther (2018)
A bunch of aged wrestlers who all live in the same village put on a show to save their local pub. It's difficult to understand who this film's for, it flip-flops between comedy and drama doing neither well, and any actual wrestling fans will point at it and say 'This is why people think wrestling's a joke'.
First Watch: 1.5 Doughnuts
Fighting with my Family (2019)
Based on the documentary of the same name following the Knight family and their wrestling promotion, and daughter Saraya's rise to the top of the WWE as superstar Paige.
I'm a total wrestling nerd, and even though I didn't follow WWE during this time I was still very excited to see this movie, and dare I say I was looking forward to it more than Avengers: Endgame.
What makes Fighting with my Family work so well is it's written/directed by someone who by their own omission had no knowledge of wrestling before the project. It means we get a very accessible wrestling story which non-fans can also get a kick out of.
First watch: 4 Doughnuts
Monster Brawl (2011)
Eight of the world's 'most famous' monsters Duke it out to see who's numbero uno.
Two things I loved growing-up were monsters and wrestling, and the prospect of a film combining the two was quite exciting, particularly as it featured wrestling legends Kevin Nash and Jimmy 'Mouth of the South' Hart (who I've actually met). Unfortunately the film is pretty bad, the main set looks fantastic, the commentators are the only real actors and it shows, and Jimmy Hart steals the show. But the actual fights are pretty dull. There's also a real missed opportunity here, the commentators keep breaking for commercials but there's nothing there, some spoof ads could have given it some real variety.
First watch: 2 Undead Doughnuts.
The Wrestling Women vs The Aztec Mummy (1964)
A non-distinct 'oriental' crime lord is after a codex which will help him find an ancient Aztec power, which he doesn't want for himself but to bestow on his two Judo expert sisters. Unfortunately one of the scientists standing in the way has a nephew...who has a fiancé...who is part of a wrestling tag team. But it's all back and forth, hypnotised double agents and sanctioned exhibition matches to decide the fate of the universe...and not so much as a mention of a mummy Aztec or otherwise for the first hour.
First watch: 2 Doughnuts
Santo vs The Vampire Women (1962)
Mexican wrestling legend El Santo saves the world from a coven of lady vampires.
These Santo movies are terrible, although this was better than Santo vs the Blob, perhaps because Santo was barely in it bar for a couple of wrestling matches and the dramatic finale. Most of the time it plays out like a more traditional monster movie...just not a very good one.
First watch: 1 Doughnut
The Price of Fame (2017)
Documentary about wrestling legend 'The Million Dollar Man' Ted DeBiase presented by his son, and fellow former wrestler, Ted DeBiase Jr.
The first half was great, covering DeBiase's early life and wrestling career, with input from plenty of legends of the business (several who have actually passed away since this was made), the second half however is all about how he was 'saved' and his post-wrestling life which would be interesting for ten minutes...not forty five.
First watch: 2.5 Doughnuts
350 Days (2019)
Ever wondered what life is like as a pro wrestler, on the road all year round, well fear not your curiosity can be quenched. Here more legends than you can shake a steel chair at chronicle life on the road, featuring the likes of Bret 'The Hitman' Hart, Superstar Billy Graham, 'Superfly' Jimmy Snuka, Lex Luger, and George 'The Animal' Steele.
350 Days is definitely a documentary only for wrestling fans, with little appeal to wider audiences. you're also likely to get more out of it if you're American, as even a wrestling nerd like me didn't know who a number of these 'legends' were.
The different sections of the doc are separated by slow photo montages which honestly start to get a little tedious, it would have been better to see more archive match footage in it's place (though this is undoubtedly a much cheaper option).
Also if you've watched this you have no need to watch The Price of Fame as 'The Million Dollar Man' Ted DeBiase recounts everything that film has to say in the 5-10 minutes he appears here
First watch: 3 Doughnuts
The Sheik (2014)
Documentary spanning the life and career of Khosrow Vaziri, better known as wrestler The Iron Sheik. From growing up in Iran to him spiralling out of control following the murder of his daughter to becoming a social media sensation....and some wrestling.
The Sheik feels like it was made in two parts, the first half covering his early years and wrestling career is well constructed, informative, and more importantly easy to follow. The second half following his drug addiction and social media activity seems more erratic, one of the talking heads is now a part of the story, and the film becomes as much about their relationship as anything else.
One thing The Sheik also has over other wrestling documentaries (not produced by WWE) is that the talking heads include big names like Hulk Hogan, Mick Foley, and Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson as opposed to the normal parade of faded stars, as well as non-wrestling personalities like Jack Black and Seth Green.
First watch: 3.5 Doughnuts
Santo vs Los Lobas a.k.a. Santo vs the She-wolves (1976)
Mexican wrestling legend Santo takes on a cult of werewolves plaguing the countryside.
So far I've watched Santo fight vampires and an alien blob, so a cult of werewolves wasn't too farfetched, but unlike those previous adventures this was pretty good. Some great artistic flourishes, silhouetted fights and POV shots, and Santo wrestling an Alsatian.
First watch: 3 Doughnuts
Diamond Dallas Page became a professional wrestler when he was 35, unheard of in the industry. When he got injured in the ring he did yoga as part of his rehabilitation, and a lifelong passion was created. Page then poured his heart and soul into his obsession, and DDPY was born.
The documentary starts pretty much when Page discovers the benefits of yoga, and follows all the trials and tribulations it took to build an empire, ending with a photo shoot for the films DVD cover (can't get more up-to-date than that)
If you've followed any of Page's post-wrestling career you'll be familiar with a lot of the stuff here, including how he helped rehabilitate Jake the Snake Roberts, and appearing on Shark Tank (the US version of Dragon's Den), but there's still plenty of stuff to keep it interesting.
I only have two real complaints, firstly I'd have liked to see a bit more background on Page at the beginning, there's very little mention of his life pre-wrestling. The second is Stone Cold Steve Austin says something along the lines of 'he saved Jake's life, Scott's too', but there isn't any other reference to Scott Hall (Razor Ramon) anywhere else. If you know, you know, but if you don't it doesn't make sense.
First watch: 4 Doughnuts
You Cannot Kill David Arquette (2020)
Twenty years ago, at the height of the Monday Night Wars actor David Arquette made a WCW financd movie called Ready to Rumble. As a promotional gimmick Arquette appeared numerous times on WCW's Nitro, and in one of the most hated storylines in wrestling history was crowned World Champion. Tired of the hate David decides to redeem himself in the eyes of the industry and fans alike, stepping back in the ring and prove he has what it takes.
As a wrestling fan I know the backstory pretty well, and likewise knew Arquette had made a return. But because his ring appearances are all on the American independent circuit I've not been able to see the new and improved Arquette. It was also pretty cool to see a lot of then indie wrestlers, who now appear regularly on AEW, the fastest rising promotion on the planet right now. What makes the film though is Arquette, his heart and heartbreak make it a compelling 90 minutes. Definitely up there with Beyond the Mat as one of the best wrestling documentaries out there.
First watch: 4 Doughnuts
Are a grappling fan? What's your favourite wrestling movie? Let us know in the comments below.