It appears as if the Mickey Rourke-Chris Jericho match at WrestleMania 25 is off. Rourke's publicist told The Associated Press last night that Rourke will not wrestle at the event in Houston an April 5 and that "he is focusing entirely on his acting career."
If this is to be taken at face value, I would suspect that Rourke is giving in to pressure from the Hollywood community not to do the match for fear that it could hurt his chances of winning the Best Actor Oscar.
After The Wrestler star initially said that he was going to appear at WrestleMania earlier this week, I raised that very point in a conversation with Michael Sragow, The Baltimore Sun's esteemed movie critic. On Monday, I wrote: "I have a feeling that the Motion Pictures Academy of Arts and Sciences is going to turn its nose up at Rourke's decision to participate in a wrestling match, but I doubt that matters much to him. Rourke has always been a free spirit." Apparently, even a rebel such as Rourke will conform when an Oscar is on the line.
Looking back at Rourke's appearance with Jericho on Larry King Live Tuesday night, it did seem as if Rourke was backing out of the match. He said that he "put his foot in his mouth" when mentioning Jericho at the SAG awards and that he wouldn't face Jericho in a wrestling match because "that's [Jericho's] world." Jericho tried several times to goad Rourke, but the actor wouldn't take the bait, which is why the segment to me kind of fell flat.
However, before we write this angle off and start speculating on what Jericho's new role will be at WrestleMania, let's not forget that this is pro wrestling, and things are not always as they seem.
Maybe Rourke really does think that appearing at WrestleMania will jeopardize his shot at an Oscar, and that's why he had his publicist say that he won't do it. Is it possible that he is just saying that for the benefit of academy voters? WrestleMania takes place six weeks after the Oscars, which would still give WWE plenty of time to build up the match, and Rourke wouldn't have to worry about whether the voters will hold it against him.
I also wouldn't be surprised if Rourke backing out of the match after his bold pronouncement that he wanted Jericho at WresteMania isn't all part of the story line. It wouldn't be the first time WWE worked the mainstream media to further an angle. I hate to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but like I said, when it comes to pro wrestling, it's usually not out of line to question whether something – no matter how real it might seem – is a work.
The story line could go something like this: Jericho calls Rourke a coward for talking tough and then backing down. This goes on for several weeks, and then Roarke shows up out of nowhere to confront Jericho and they have a pull-apart brawl. Rourke then challenges Jericho to face him at WrestleMania.
Even better yet, what if Jericho and Rourke got into a shoving match at an Oscar after party? The publicity for WWE would be unprecedented. And the stuffy academy would really have something to turn their noses up at.