To say David Arquette has a controversial history in pro wrestling is like saying Vince McMahon has an appreciation for muscles. But while I hit “Play” on You Cannot Kill David Arquette with a simple appreciation for what Arquette has done in his career — and a serious memory stuck in my head from the night I saw him fight Nick Gage live in Los Angeles — I left with a serious fandom for the guy. I’m even looking at his PWTees store right now.
To be aware of David Arquette in wrestling is to only know half of the picture. Unless you’ve been really tied into seeing him work and train on the independents, you’ve probably mostly seen him get surprisingly big bookings, against the likes of Gage, Timothy Thatcher and others, which — at least to me — always seemed to play off of his history in WCW. And if it helps you get motivation to watch, know that this film has a who’s who of the independent wrestling world in it. And if you want to skip Joey Ryan, know he appears for a worthless interview at 1 hour and 3 minutes, and you can either mute or advance forward about 15 or 30 seconds.
But to see Arquette in this behind the scenes-style film, that documents the troubles we didn’t see, is a process that will make you question what you’re seeing.
From the opening scene of the movie, where Ken Anderson (yes, Mr. Anderson... ANDERSON!) rags on Arquette for being given too much and being a fake, the film blurs the lines of kayfabe and reality. Because unbeknownst to most audiences, that monologue is a promo for a match. It works, though, as it efficiently establishes Arquette as one of the most hated humans in pro wrestling.
Soon, though, we learn the villainous Arquette that WCW die-hards despise is mostly a creation of Vince Russo. The real Arquette just wanted to be loved by pro wrestling. David Arquette the human gets praise early in the film by no less a wrestling deity than Ric Flair, a moment that could make some fans give Arquette a chance. Of course, Flair’s appreciation is for Arquette as a person, but not as a wrestler.
We then slowly meet the people in our troubled hero’s life, including his current wife, Christina McLarty Arquette (who is unfortunately somewhat easily mistaken for a younger Courtney Cox, David’s ex-wife, who we also meet in the movie). Don’t worry about the film becoming a family drama/reality TV affair, we spend just enough time with the Arquettes and their kids to get a good line about David being one of the children, and to see that David’s got a home that’s filled with toys, almost to the point where you worry the phrase “man child” will be thrown around.
My favorite moment in the film with regard to Arquette’s family comes when Courtney Cox looks at his wardrobe and says “Oh he’s a wizard,” before one of his daughters says he’s not. When Cox asks “What happens if you break your neck?” His daughter replies, “I don’t know,” and there’s a faint understanding of how much is at risk, and what wrestlers put on the line night in and night out. Arquette himself also puts the hard work of wrestlers over, both to the camera, and with his family.
Here we get a seed planted that Arquette was once put alongside the now-kings of Hollywood, leaving many (himself included) to wonder if his moment as a pro wrestler ruined his chance as a big time actor. But as YCKDA proceeds, we feel for Arquette because his time in wrestling has basically become the thing he’s never going to stop thinking about, which I’ll bet is relatable to many fans (myself, again, included) who get asked why they never “gave up” being into pro wrestling.
Arquette, we learn, is chasing a major redemption in pro wrestling, possibly because that’s the industry that he’s got a better shot of creating a career in. The shriek of “wrestling is not fake!” (his line in Ready to Rumble) rings out before he reveals that he’s been rejected in every audition he’s gone on, for a decade. It’s humbling, it’s human, and it makes you want to root for him. You know how WWE loves a losing streak storyline? David Arquette has been living the king of all losing streak stories for longer than we’ve been aware. Arquette is a true blue wrestling fan, we discover, making Courtney Cox embarrassed and confused when they attended shows, and when she saw his routine.
Your mileage may vary with how much you root for Arquette, but the looks we get at his attempts to get booked and his training in Tijuana, push him down further and further, making him a serious underdog. The scenes in the actual wrestling rings and streets of Mexico will have you both shaking your head and then jumping in joy at a move off a ladder.
One of my best behind the scenes of wrestling moments in the film comes as Arquette and RJ City plan out the spots of a match, and it’s amazingly presented for audiences watching at home, slicing together their conversation and footage from the movie.
YCKDA, of course, brings the cameras to the most newsworthy event of Mr. Arquette’s wrestling career, his match against Nick Gage at GCW: Escape From Los Angeles. Because there’s a chance some people didn’t see the footage of that match, or hear about its results, I won’t spoil the event. But watching it was the biggest personal horror movie moment, as you wait for the insanity that you know is coming. It’s filmed in a wide array of angles, including a backstage moment involving an injury from a different match on the card, and it’s completely worth your time.
An ultimate redemption tale, which shows you David Arquette as some of his lowest lows, You Cannot Kill David Arquette is not just one of the best movies I’ve watched during quarantine (and I’ve been watching a lot of films, what with SmackDown often being less-than-great), but it’s the best $15 I’ve spent in this period of time.