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When I first heard that there were plans to make a movie titled The Wrestler a little more than a year ago, I was skeptical to say the least. I thought Nicholas Cage, who was in talks at the time to star in the film, was miscast as a pro wrestler, and the plot came across as clichéd. More than anything, I just didn't think Hollywood was capable of making a good movie about professional wrestling.

Obviously, I couldn't have been more wrong. As I'm sure nearly everyone reading this knows, The Wrestler – starring Mickey Rourke, who landed the role after Cage bowed out – has received rave reviews, won Golden Globe awards and is expected to land some Oscar nominations when they are announced Thursday morning.

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I finally saw the movie earlier this week, and you can add my name to the long list of people who were blown away by it. I'm no Roger Ebert, but I thought the script was terrific and director Darren Aronofsky did a great job of creating the realistically gritty world of lead character Randy "The Ram" Robinson, a broken-down wrestling has-been trying to adjust to life outside the ring after health problems force him to hang up the tights. What makes The Wrestler truly special, however, is Rourke's brilliant performance as Randy. With all due respect to Cage, it just wouldn't be the same movie without Rourke.

Some who have seen The Wrestler probably consider it to be a downer, but if I were to use one word to describe the movie, it would be "honest." The wrestling industry is accurately portrayed as unforgiving, but I didn't get the sense that it is a condemnation of the business. Nor does it glorify it.

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The fact is that Randy's life is typical of a number of down-on-their-luck, past-their-prime wrestlers with battered bodies and dysfunctional lives. Randy just can't walk away – or, in his case, limp away – from the business even when it is painfully obvious that he should. The rush that he gets from the roar of the crowd is an addiction he can't kick.

His life is a dichotomy in that he still has some level of fame – fans who will shell out money to get his autograph or have pictures taken with him – yet outside that bubble he is just another guy living in a trailer and taking orders for potato salad behind a deli counter. All the while, he hangs on to the delusion that he's just one phone call away from getting another shot at the big time.

Of course, there are guys who do make successful adjustments to life after wrestling, and that is acknowledged in the movie in the form of Randy's story line rival, The Ayatollah (played by former WCW star Ernest Miller), who runs a profitable used car business.

What I like most about the film is that viewers who aren't fans will come away with a better understanding of what professional wrestlers put their bodies through in the name of entertainment. In graphic detail, The Wrestler demonstrates the distinct difference between the terms "scripted" and "fake."

Here are some more observations I made about the film:

Any knowledgeable, longtime wrestling fan will be impressed with the authenticity and attention to detail. In the opening sequence, for example, the magazines that Randy appears in are all real wrestling magazines from the 1980s. The scenes that take place backstage at independent shows – with the exception of the one in which a steroid transaction takes place – are spot-on based on my experiences. As a side note, among the independent wrestlers shown in the background are Maryland Championship Wrestling's Cobian and DJ Hyde. …

Randy's estranged relationship with his daughter reminds me a lot of the scenes with Jake Roberts and his daughter in the documentary Beyond The Mat. Actually, there are a few similarities between Randy and Roberts. ...

There are some things about Randy's plight that don't totally add up for me. For one thing, he maintains a ripped physique, and I would think that a guy who was once a big star and still looks great would be at least a mid-carder in a major promotion. I certainly don't think he would mutilate himself in barbaric weapons matches for little money in high school gyms, as Randy does. Also, while there are a few hints, it is never made clear why exactly Randy has fallen from grace. He certainly doesn't come off as disruptive or unreliable. ...

I loved the scene in which Randy assaults his opponent with a fan's artificial leg. Something like that actually happened at a WWE pay-per-view in 1996, when Shawn Michaels and Diesel beat each other with the artificial leg of the legendary Mad Dog Vachon, who was seated at ringside. ...

I think one thing missing from the movie was a scene that showed the contrast in lifestyles between those at Randy's level and major stars in a big promotion. ...

If you're a fan of '80s metal music like I am, you'll be thrilled with the soundtrack, which includes songs by Quiet Riot, Cinderella, Ratt, Guns N' Roses and Accept among others.

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