By Sean Thomas
Professional wrestling is a weird beast. Always teetering on the edge of straight athletic competition and pre-determined spectacle, it’s not surprising that some of the men and women who make wrestling happen have lived some petty interesting lives.
Here are a list of eight wrestlers whose lives, filled with drama, tragedy and resurrection, would make for great Hollywood films.
8. Bobo Brazil
We’ve already gotten stories of African American’s breaking the color barrier in pretty much every other sport, it’s only a matter of decency that we get to see the story of the first true African-American professional wrestling star, Bobo Brazil, on the silver screen.
Real name Houston Harris, Brazil has been called the Jackie Robinson of professional wrestling, and for good reason. Lacing up his boots during the throws of the Civil Rights Movement, Brazil helped to bridge the gaps between the color lines, competing in some of the first interracial title matches in professional wrestling history. Brazil helped to pave the way for other African-American performers like Koko B. Ware, and Ron Simmons.
A Bobo Brazil movie could help pay tribute to a true trailblazer of the industry in a story of raw talent and star power over the bigotry of the time.
7. George Hackenshidmt
With physical fitness becoming all the rage in recent years, I think it’s time that weight lifters and movie goers got to see a film chronicling the life of one of the biggest god fathers of the re-emerging sport, George Hackenshidmt.
Nicknamed the Russian Lion, Hackenshidmt set the standard of what it truly meant to be physically fit during the turn of the 20th century. Traveling the world,competing against the top catch-as-catch-can grapplers of the time, Hackenshidmt quickly became the man to beat during a time when wrestling matches were contested honesty.
An inductee into the legacy wing of the WWE Hall of Fame in 2016, George Hackenshidmt is heralded as Professional Wrestling’s first World Heavyweight Champion. His rivalry with Frank Gotch would be the big hook of the film, showing the origins of the business that would go on to be called sports entertainment. Hollywood loves their period pieces, making a Hackenshidmt biopic one of the more likely choices on this list.
6. Bruiser Brody
Mentioned as an entry of our “Top 8 possible 2017 hall of fame candidates” list, Bruiser Brody is a far too overlooked legend of the professional wrestling, and deserves a little bit of recognition. A film chronicling his time as one of professional wrestling true superstars would do just that.
Brusier Brody was a big star during the territory period of professional wrestling. Traveling across the globe to compete, Brody, and his then unique brawling style became a huge draw during the Sammartino glory days of professional wrestling. A unique look, and a genuinely terrifying aura, Brody’s story could help show an era of wrestling when Kayfabe was taken with the highest regard, and the action in the ring was treated as just as real as the item you’re reading this on.
The big defining moment of Brody’s time on this planet sadly, was the scandalous and heart wrenching way that he left. Murdered over a dispute with another wrestler, Brody was taken from this Earth far too soon.
5. Miss Elizabeth
During the heyday of the WWF, Macho Man and Miss Elizabeth were the inseparable it-couple of the company. Their real-life marriage behind the scenes made the on-screen act feel genuine, and their relationship became one of the more heavily invested angles in WWF during their tenure with the company.
Elizabeth and Macho Man were painted as the perfect on-screen couple, despite the horrific treatment Elizabeth was experiencing at home. Elizabeth’s home life was miserable, leading to the drug addiction that would ultimately take her life in 1999.
The only female on this list, Miss Elizabeth’s story would be perfect for a Hollywood picture, as the themes almost write themselves.
A tumultuous home life was hidden by their seemingly perfect romance showed on-screen.
4. New Jack
Look up some of the biggest controversies in professional wrestling in the last 30 years, and i’m sure you’ll come across the hard-hitting, gangsta reppin’, legend of hardcore wrestling, New Jack.
New Jack was a mainstay during ECW’s run of prominence in the mid 90’s, and made popular the controversial “Gangsta Gimmick,” that has been attached to other black wrestlers in various forms. A main player in two of the biggest controversies to hit the hyper violent ECW, The Mass Transit Incident and the Danbury Fall, New Jack has built a legacy as one of the most dangerous, legitimately scary wrestlers left in the business.
A case of a guy giving his entire body to the business, New Jack is as compelling a personality as they come in wrestling. His in-ring persona is almost indivisible from his everyday personality, and a film on his wrestling career would only raise questions as to whether the damage in the ring was showmanship, or catharsis.
3. Dino Bravo
Hollywood loves a mob movie, so what would be better than a biopic that not only combines the world of underground crime, but the weird and strange world of professional wrestling.
Dino Bravo might not still be the household name that he was in the 80s and 90s, but at a time Bravo was locking elbows with mountains of the professional wrestling world. Beginning his career in his native Montreal, Quebec, Bravo would spring his success up north into a contract with the WWF.
Sadly, Dino Bravo was murder in 1993 with people close to Bravo suggesting that the murder was due to his involvement with members of the Italian mafia. A nephew to Vic Cotroni, it was believed that Bravo had worked with the mafia for various years, using his popularity as a professional wrestler to create connections.
2. The Von Erich Family
Okay, I cheated with this entry. The Von Erich family are royalty of the wrestling business, completely dominated the Texas territories before moving on to WCCW and NWA. Their feud with the Fabulous Freebirds is legendary, as noted by Kevin Von Erich’s speech on The Freebirds during the 2016 Hall of Fame induction.
The Von Erich’s story is one of tragedy and heartache. Once one of the brightest stars in wrestling, the Von Erichs suffered unexpected death after unexpected death, leading some to claim that the talented family was cursed. Suicides, overdoses, and accidents plagued the Von Erich brothers. During their induction to the WWE Hall of Fame, Kevin Von Erich was the lone representative of family that at one point housed four of the biggest stars in their region.
1. Jake “The Snake” Roberts
Jake “The Snake” Roberts was a big star for the WWF during the early 90s using his cryptic promos to get over with the fans.
A member on the long list of wrestling stars to suffer from substance abuse, Jake “The Snake” Roberts hit rock bottom following his time in the WWE, falling into alcohol and drug abuse. The pinnacle of his drug use came when he was feature in the “Beyond the mat,” documentary in which he allegedly smokes crack cocaine off camera. Fearing a crash or overdose, members of the wrestling community reached out to Roberts with goals of helping the former star get his life on track.
The WWE and Hollywood love a feel good story, and few former wrestlers have the fortune of turning their lives around after a crash as strong as Jake the Snake has. His work with DDP Yoga seemed to be the turning point, and his return appearance on the “old school” episode of Raw would make the perfect ending to a Hollywood story.
Wrestling can be a nasty business. It’d be nice to a story come out with a happy ending every once in a while.