The Wrestler is a 2008 American sports drama film directed by Darren Aronofsky, written by Robert D. Siegel, and starring Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, and Evan Rachel Wood. Production began in January 2008 and 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. It was released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on April 21, 2009, in the United States. It was released in the United Kingdom on June 1, 2009.
Rourke plays an aging professional wrestler who, despite his failing health and waning fame, continues to wrestle in an attempt to cling to the success of his 1980s heyday. He also tries to mend his relationship with his estranged daughter and to find romance with a woman who works as a stripper.
The film received universal critical acclaim and won the Golden Lion Award in the 2008 Venice Film Festival in August, where it premiered. Film critic Roger Ebert called it one of the year's best films, while Rotten Tomatoes reported that 98% of critics gave the film positive reviews. The success of the film revitalized the career of Rourke, who went on to receive a BAFTA award, a Golden Globe award, an Independent Spirit Award and an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. Tomei also received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
- Mickey Rourke as Robin Ramzinski / Randy "The Ram" Robinson
- Marisa Tomei as Pam / Cassidy
- Evan Rachel Wood as Stephanie Ramzinski
- Mark Margolis as Lenny
- Todd Barry as Wayne
- Judah Friedlander as Scott
- Ernest Miller as Bob / "The Ayatollah"
- Ajay Naidu as Medic
- Wass Stevens as Nick
- John D'Leo as Adam
- Gregg Bello as Larry
Professional wrestlers who appeared in the film include: Andrew Anderson, Robbie E, Necro Butcher, Nick Berk, The Blue Meanie, Sabian, Nate Hatred, Ron Killings, L.A. Smooth, Jay Lethal, Jim Powers, Claudio Castagnoli, Larry Sweeney, Romeo Roselli, John Zandig, Chuck Taylor, Nigel McGuinness, DJ Hyde, Havoc (Kit Cope), Pappadon, and Jay Santana.
WWE helped promote it through an on-screen angle (a fictional storyline used in wrestling). 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 WWE WrestleMania 25, 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 2009 WWE Hall of Fame 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 Flair and challenged Rourke, who finally entered the ring and punched him out. Flair then congratulated Rourke.