After Watching The Iron Claw, I Need More Wrestling Movies. Here's Why

 Zac Efron in The Iron Claw.
Credit: A24

I love professional wrestling. I grew up watching it as a kid, kind of fell off watching it in the PG era of WWE, and got back into it again with AEW.

The thing is, I also love movies, and you would think there would be tons of flicks about professional wrestling, but, well, there aren’t. In fact, in our list of the top 25 sports movies, there wasn’t a single movie about professional wrestling on there (Foxcatcher, however, which is about “real” wrestling, was on that list). And, look. I get it. Most people don’t even consider professional wrestling a sport. It’s more often considered “entertainment.”

That said, I’d still love to see more movies about the “sport” of pro wrestling, and here’s why.

Florence Pugh in Fighting with My Family
Florence Pugh in Fighting with My Family

Most Of These End In Tragedy, And I'd Love To See More Uplifting Stories In The Medium

Not to brag, but I’m kind of starring in the 2008 film, The Wrestler (Okay, maybe “starring” isn’t the right word, but you can definitely see me wearing a green sweatshirt during Mickey Rourke’s emotional last speech). While that movie is a masterpiece (and arguably Darren Aronofsky’s best movie), one thing I have always held against it is that it’s such a downer.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind tragic movies. But, when we have so few serious professional wrestling flicks, I kind of wish The Wrestler was a bit more hopeful.

The same goes for the recent The Iron Claw, which is even more depressing, if that can be believed. It was definitely a great movie, and like my colleague Philip Sledge, I admire it for its deeply powerful moments. At the same time, though, it put tears in my eyes, and not the kind I like for triumphant stories, but rather, the kind I don’t like since it left me an emotional wreck.

Why is this? Why do we have such demoralizing stories concerning professional wrestling? One of the most popular series documenting wrestling’s history is Vice’s Dark Side of the Ring, where we hear a bunch of horror stories about the business at large.

Yes, we’ve gotten silly wrestling movies like No Holds Barred, Ready to Rumble, and one of my favorite Jack Black movies, Nacho Libre, but how come we so rarely get inspirational wrestling movies like Fighting with My Family, which we gave a good review to at the time?

In that way, I feel like we still haven’t quite gotten our Rocky of professional wrestling movies yet. What I mean by that is, I want a prestige film about pro wrestling, but also one that is inspirational, sort of like what Rocky did for boxing. 2023’s Cassandro, which is a biopic about a gay wrestler, is a good step, but I want more of them. As a lifelong wrestling fan, I definitely feel we’re due.

Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler
Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler

Wrestling Movies Also Teach Me More About The Sport Itself, And As A Fan, I Love That

There’s a great scene in The Iron Claw where Zac Efron’s character, Kevin Von Erich, goes on his first date with the woman he would eventually marry, played by Lily James. In the scene, James’ character, Pam, talks to Kevin about the business, jokingly asking him if wrestling is fake, to which Kevin looks like he’s having an existential moment before he answers.

Ultimately, he does admit that pro wrestling is scripted, but he also talks about how the title belt is basically a prize for all of the hard work and dedication put into the craft. He talks about how the belt is earned by connecting with the audience, and how it essentially goes to the wrestler who is the most over with the fans because the fans want them to have the belt.

You know what? I never thought of it that way. I mean, I did subconsciously understand the idea, like when Daniel Bryan (a.k.a. Bryan Danielson) eventually won the World Heavyweight Championship after his “Yes!” movement, as he was just so over with the fans that the powers that be basically had to give him the belt. But, I didn’t truly understand it until it was articulated in such a manner for this movie.

Which is another reason why I would love to see more wrestling flicks, since it teaches me so much more about the business. Yes, I know about kayfabe, and I have an idea of how things operate in the locker room. But, movies like The Iron Claw illuminate subjects for me that I never even imagined, so I’d like to see more wrestling movies, please. I love to learn.

Mickey Rourke getting hit in The Wrestler
Mickey Rourke getting hit in The Wrestler

I Also Love Seeing One Of My Favorite Sports Actually Taken Seriously For What It Is - Hard Work

In a lot of ways, the Aronofsky movies Black Swan and The Wrestler have a lot in common. I’m not just making that up, either, as Aronofsky himself sees the two films as “companion pieces.”

Which makes sense, because both films are about what people will put their bodies through for their art. We see this in The Iron Claw as well. I won’t spoil it, but one of the Von Erich brothers has something tragic happen to him (actually, all of them have something tragic happen to them, but this one concerns surviving through it), and yet, he still wrestles, even though he’s lucky that he’s even still able to walk.

This is evidence that even though most people will snidely remark that “wrestling’s fake,” there is still so much grit and sacrifice that goes into the sport that so many people just tend to dismiss because the matches are scripted.

However, movies like The Iron Claw, and The Wrestler show what hard work professional wrestling actually is, and it makes me proud that I’m invested in wrestlers like CM Punk, and Drew McIntyre, who have both wrestled through injuries due to their undying love for the sport. Pro wrestling often puts people’s bodies through even more hell than “real” sports, and I’d love to see more movies tackle that idea.

CM Punk holding up two fingers to Drew McIntyre with a smirk on his face.
CM Punk holding up two fingers to Drew McIntyre with a smirk on his face.

More Wrestling Movies Hopefully Opens Up More People To Becoming Fans Of The Sport

Lastly, I love the attention that wrestling movies can bring to one of my favorite sports. When Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei were up for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress, respectively, at the 2009 Academy Awards, it likely brought more eyes to the sport itself, since this was a movie about pro wrestling.

And, when Zac Efron got snubbed for an Academy Award nomination, fans were not happy, which surely brought more attention to The Iron Claw. This is a good thing, because it likely interested people who probably wouldn’t have given this kind of movie the time of day. Like, isn’t that the guy from High School Musical? Why does he look like that? What’s this movie even about, anyway? You know, that sort of thing.

Because that’s what more wrestling movies can do for the sport. People who would never be caught dead watching pro wrestling, might be clicking one night, and, rather than just passing it over, they might actually watch an episode because they really liked what they saw in The Iron Claw, or The Wrestler.

That’s why I want there to be even more wrestling movies. It affords wrestling the opportunity to be taken more seriously by the general public, which would be a great thing for the sport as a whole.

But, what do you think? Do you feel we already have enough heavy hitting pro-wrestling movies? Or, do you feel like there could be even more of them?