At last, it’s finally here! My long awaited discussion on The Wrestler has made it to The Film Queue! I’ve been meaning to write about this movie for a while now, dating all the way back to January. If you are wondering about my excitement, allow me to give you guys a fun fact about myself. I am a huge (HUGE) pro wrestling fan! Watching it on T.V. for the first time was a magical experience for my friends and I. As my friends grew out of the sport, I became more and more obsessed with the product, to the point where I will check wrestling news sites twenty times a day and keep up with the shows every week. You may say that wrestling has consumed me, just like it did a fellow character in this film (but I will get to that later). This article is not necessarily a review of The Wrestler but a discussion on the film’s final moments and what I think it brings to the overall message behind the story. Hope you guys have as much fun reading as I will writing about it. Let’s begin!
The final scene of The Wrestler is one of those endings where the viewer gets to interpret the fate of a character for themselves. Just before the movie fades to black, we witness Randy “The Ram” Robinson, played by Mickey Rourke, jumping off the padded turnbuckle, using his signature finishing move onto his opponent. As he jumps off, Randy leaps over the camera shot, leaving us with just the sound of him hitting the mat while the crowd goes nuts. For any one who didn’t watch this film yet, you may think that the ending I described is an appropriate ending to a sports film (i.e. a boxer throws his final punch or a wide receiver catching the football during the final play). But what makes this ending different from most sports movies is that, in other films, you often see the athletes triumph in victory or suffer in defeat, whereas The Wrestler has no definite conclusion to the main character’s journey. With that being said, I think there are significant reasons as to why The Wrestler ended the way it did.
Let’s back track for a moment. Throughout the film, Randy, for lack of a better term, has gone through some shit. We see him at his highs, his lows, and his lowest of lows. Personally it was hard for me to watch him drown himself in defeat, and I’m not talking about a wrestling match. Just to name a few difficulties, Randy struggles with paying rent, working at a crappy part-time job, damaging his relationships, competing in extreme hardcore matches, taking pain medications (illegal drugs), and having a heart attack. Randy just can’t seem to catch a break, no matter how hard he tries to do better. Interesting enough, you can gather all of these “situations” and place them within the appropriate seven stages of grief.
The seven stages of grief is important to discuss in this film because the overall theme lies within the final stage. Randy accepts the fact that society is not meant for him to be a part of. In the outside world, he feels lonely and left to defend himself from his struggles. In the “wrestling world”, he feels respected, free, and alive. After failing to repair his health and mend his relationships, Randy acknowledges that his mistakes are far from fixing and that there is no point to live in a world where he is lost as a human being and as a member of society.
How does this tie back to the final scene? Well, Darren Aronofsky’s message to the viewers is that addiction is difficult to overcome. Why dread over your faults in a world where you’re not accepted? Instead, you can go into a place where you’re beloved and feel happy. Aronofsky is not saying to just give up on overcoming your addiction, but see your addiction in another perspective as a haven for your happiness. You only have one life to live and Randy is up there in age and health so why discontinue his peace?
Keeping this controversial theme in mind, we contradict ourselves as an audience. In the final scene, we see an already damaged Randy enter the ring again while being aware of his health. Yet, after he cut a promo on the crowd thanking them for the support, I can’t help but root for the guy to give us one more great performance. In a twisted way, we are witnessing Randy at peace, approaching the devil’s hand as we cheer and clap, pushing him from behind to his downfall. What made it even more terrifying was that midway through the match, he started to feel heart attack-like symptoms. Instead of calling off the match, he proceeds to finish.
His final jump off the top rope symbolizes many things. For starters, it could mean him entering the beginning of a new life; that life being an improved version of a world he craves, or just simply an afterlife. Secondly, we don’t know if he pinned his opponent or not. His fate in terms of winning or losing is up in the air. Thirdly, we see tears in his eyes. This could indicate that he is overwhelmed from the support of the cheering fans watching him, he is in pain from the heart attack-like symptoms, or he knows this could be his final moment in a wrestling ring. Lastly, his final jump off screen tells us that he is either no longer with us, or it is the start of a downward journey to face his demons (ironically, jumping down onto the mat/hell).
As a die-hard wrestling fan, I failed to mention at the beginning of this post that this is the first time I completed watching The Wrestler. Why it took me eight years to finish it, I have no clue. But I do know this, I was pleasantly surprised with the realistic portrayal of a wrestler’s life. The ending left me questioning many theories as to what happened to “The Ram” and also how addiction in itself can consume you. Hopefully, my addiction to watch wrestling will never lead me down that path. Anyways, I cannot wait to watch this film over and over again.