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Can I Kill David Arquette?

I’ve never thought about killing David Arquette, but I am not letting a documentary tell me who I can and cannot kill!

Before I can share my plans for killing one-time lower-alphabet-list celebrity David Arquette, I should tell you about this documentary.

You Cannot Kill David Arquette

In August 2020, directors David Darg and Price James released a documentary about out-of-work actor David Arquette getting back into professional wrestling despite his health issues. That sentence may need to be unpacked.

Professional Wrestler

In 2000, David Arquette starred in Ready to Rumble, a Warner Brother’s feature film about wrestling fans getting caught up in wrestling’s tendency to incorporate behind the scenes politics into on-screen storylines.

The wrestlers in the film work for World Championship Wrestling, a then real pro wrestling company. Many WCW wrestlers play themselves in the film, both as background characters and in featured roles.

In April of that year, Arquette appeared on WCW programing to promote the film. So they put the belt on him.

David Arquette – WCW Champion

This decision showed a key difference between how WCW and the more famous WWE (or WWF) used celebrities. Some celebrities have wrestled WWE wrestlers. Mr. T and Lawrence Taylor both main evented Wrestlemanias. But usually celebrities played secondary roles, like quest referees and managers. The only celebrities who touched the wrestlers had some kind of athletic credibility, like Chuck Norris kicking a wrestler who tried to interfere in a match.

David Arquette lacked that credibility. And not only did he beat wrestlers, he won the promotion’s supposedly top prize.

So What If It’s Fake?

You might be not understand why it’s such a big deal. Wrestling is fake, celebrities bring attention to the business (Arquette’s then wife Courtney Cox starred in the highest rated sitcom at the time, and she appeared in a WCW segment), it’s all for fun, right?

Everything about the above is true except your tone, which I don’t appreciate. Wrestling is fake, but so are the Avengers movies. You remember the Endgame memes about Ant-Man going up Thanos’ butt and reverting to full size?

David Arquette winning the world title is like if that meme was the actual end to Endgame.

The Fallout

Not long before Arquette won the world title, WCW boasted an 83 week streak of higher ratings than the WWE. No other wrestling promotion ever beat WWE in the US, but a combination of innovative storytelling and nostalgia hires made WCW the wrestling to watch in the 90s. WWE responded by making Steve Austin, The Rock, and Mick Foley household names, retaking the lead in the ratings war. WCW responded with David Arquette.

The Wrestlecrap article I linked to above concludes by saying “WCW proceeded to go out of business… Coincidence?” This echoes the sentiment of many wrestling fans, that David Arquette killed WCW. Furthermore, without the competition, the WWE rested on its laurels, leading to a downturn in quality. To many, David Arquette ruined professional wrestling.

Out of Work Actor

I called Arquette a lower-alphabet-list celebrity earlier. However, it’s important to remember that most actors don’t shift letter grades, like a B student who really applied himself on semester. Every celebrity is an experiment. Someone with money and influences decides X would fit Y role, be it a great opening act, the face of the stunt-coordinator-as-film-lead genre, or reliable one-liner actor. There’s an investment in that person fitting that bill.

In David Arquette’s case, the gamble placed him as a quirky lead. When that didn’t work, no one put their chips back on David Arquette table but on a different number. They took their chips to another table. So David Arquette played leads in several movies over a 5 year period, then didn’t.

Health Issues

Arquette went from celebrating his celebrity with drugs and alcohol to self-medicated his loss of celebrity with drugs and alcohol. As tends to happen, his cure became his disease. His mental and physical health deteriorated, and he reached a low point in his life.

The Documentary

That’s where the documentary kicks off. David Arquette, pushing 50. No longer a famous actor. Hated for the couple of months he spent as a professional wrestler. Out of shape and abusing alcohol.

So he decides to get back into wrestling.

Back to Wrestling?

The documentary does an amazing job of depicting David Arquette as a lifelong wrestling fan. Having contributed to and then ruined his favourite past time. The documentary acknowledges that putting the belt on him was a mistake, but frames it in a way that makes it seem Arquette suffered the worst for it. It’s easy to sympathize with him.

Assuming any of it is true.

Can the Documentary Be Trusted?

Through interviews early on, the doc establishes that Arquette’s biggest sin was “exposing the business”. As we discussed when we went over Ant-Man in Thanos’ butthole, wrestling fans know wrestling is fake (even if they word it differently, like ‘predetermined’), but the world needs internal consistency to remain entertaining. No matter how WCW orchestrated Arquette winning the title, “WCW Champion David Arquette” still hurts the perception that this could be real.

As David Arquette goes on his journey to redeem himself in the eyes of wrestling fans, I got the sense that this documentary was part of the journey. The first steps of his journey on screen feel like a parody of how David Arquette would try to get back into wrestling. He creates a magician persona, complete with 8x10s of him in wrestling gear for a character he never played.

When that goes predictably badly, he journeys to Mexico. While this section includes my favourite scene in the movie -luchadores panhandling by putting on short matches on the street at red lights- David Arquette goes from hopeless to hero’s journey suspiciously quickly on this trip.

So What If It’s Fake?

Even if they staged and exaggerated parts of the documentary for dramatic purposes, I found it compelling. In fact, it took me back to my days as a wrestling fan when they could fool me that for all the fake elements, some of it was real. Or maybe I’m so used to questioning anything related to wrestling that I’m seeing predetermination where none exists.

I have a friend who says wrestling doesn’t entertain him but the meta around wrestling fascinates him. This movie embraces the journeymen artist story of wrestlers breaking into the business, even though it follows a millionaire former world champion. It looks at the psychological impact of the Hollywood equivalent of being a one-hit-wonder. And it shows how passion can help overcome obstacles like age, addiction, and personal history.

But they don’t make you unkillable. I’m coming for you, David Arquette!