The Wrestler (1974 film)

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The Wrestler
TheWrestler 1974 Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jim Westerman
Produced by W.R. Frank
Verne Gagne
Written by Eugene Gump
Starring Ed Asner
Elaine Giftos
Verne Gagne
Billy Robinson
Music by William Loose
Cinematography Gil Hubbs
Edited by Neal Chastain
Release date
  • February 1, 1974 (1974-02-01) (USA)
Running time
1 hr 35 min (95 min)
Country United States of America
Language English

The Wrestler is a 1974 independent film produced by professional wrestler Verne Gagne and W.R. Frank, starring Ed Asner as Frank Bass, a wrestling promoter. Verne Gagne also stars in the movie as Mike Bullard, the current wrestling champion of his "league." After a long reign as champion, Bullard is getting older and feeling pressure from all sides, including his wife and wrestling promoters, to pass the championship to Billy Taylor and retire. Bullard's resistance to their requests that he step aside is the central conflict in the film. The movie presents professional wrestling as a truly competitive sport, always maintaining the illusion that matches are a result of athletic combat and not pre-determined outcomes decided before the matches.

At one point during the movie they mention a number of wrestlers who had died from wrestling, either during a match or as a result of injuries suffering from the ring, that list of names was not fictional but taken from the history of professional wrestling.


Professional wrestling promoter Frank Bass (Ed Asner) has to deal with the pressures of running a professional wrestling promotion, facing the pressures of constantly finding new wrestlers to pull in the crowds, keeping the wrestlers he has under contract under control and especially dealing with the fact that the top man, the champion of "the League" Mike Bullard (Verne Gagne) is getting old and there is pressure to replace him with a younger wrestler. One such possible replacement is the latest challenger Billy Taylor (Billy Robinson). At one point Bass meets with a number of other wrestling promoters (played by real life wrestling promoters from the National Wrestling Alliance, including Vincent J. McMahon) to possibly create a "Super Bowl of Wrestling." Facing pressure Frank Bass decides to back Bullard as he faces the challenger Billy Taylor in the climax of the movie.


The movie featured a number of actual wrestlers in the role of the various wrestlers throughout the movie, most of them worked for Verne Gagne's American Wrestling Association at the time the movie was filmed. The movie also mixed in footage from actual wrestling shows, creating the setting for the film while not being important to the actual plot of the movie.

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