Tuesday, August 25, 2020


by Rob DiCristino
“If you’re part of the joke, it’s not as painful as if you are the joke.”

I doubt that I’m the most qualified member of the F This Movie! family to review You Cannot Kill David Arquette. Despite coming of age during professional wrestling’s heyday, it never captured my attention the way it did for Patrick and some of the others. Most of what I know about the sport comes from Stephen Merchant’s Fighting with My Family and a summer in middle school spent playing WWF War Zone for the Playstation. I have no frame of reference for any of the competitions or festivals featured in David Darg and Price James’ new documentary, nor can I identify most of the featured wrestling luminaries. Perhaps most damning of all, I had no idea that — as part of the promotion for his 2000 film Ready to Rumble — actor David Arquette briefly became WCW Heavyweight Champion of the World. I’m sorry! I can do little else but plead ignorance, and those looking for a lengthy rumination on wrestling’s history, legacy, and culture might find more of what they’re looking for from another writer.
What I do know, though, is the importance of storytelling. I know the power of legends, archetypes, and heroes. I know how important it is for human beings to craft their ideologies and defend their sources of inspiration. I know that we’re wired to create meaning for our lives that transcends the physical or biological. I know how badly we need affirmation, especially when we’re at our worst. And so, despite not knowing a brainbuster from a piledriver, despite not knowing Randy Orton from Chris Jericho (Thank you, Google), I can appreciate David Arquette’s need to atone for a twenty-year-old sin and finally earn the title that so many wrestling fans felt he was awarded unjustly. I can see why the middle-aged son of a Hollywood dynasty would subject himself to months of tortuous training, public humiliation, and life-threatening physical damage in pursuit of closure. What matters isn’t whether or not wrestling is important to me. What matters is that it’s very, very important to David Arquette.

We join You Cannot Kill David Arquette years into one of the actor’s many career slumps. Despite numbering among Hollywood’s brightest new faces in the late ‘90s, a series of questionable project choices coupled with periods of substance abuse stalled his career for much of the 21st century. Moviegoers remember him as Dewey from the Scream franchise and as Courtney Cox’s ex-husband (“We met on Scream 1, hated each other on Scream 2, got married on Scream 3, and got divorced on Scream 4,” says Cox), but most agree that he never fulfilled the promise of his youth or achieved the critical acclaim of siblings like Patricia or Rosanna. He’s in a liminal space when the film begins, mugging for the documentary cameras while barely masking the obvious weight of his troubled past. It’s clear that the kid-at-heart family man still has his share of demons. David’s wife, journalist-turned-producer Christina McLarty Arquette, laments that her husband’s brief stint in the WCW was career suicide: Wrestling fans felt he was mocking their sport, while Hollywood tastemakers took it as proof that he was not the serious young thespian he originally seemed to be. Why, then, would he pursue wrestling again?
Maybe it’s because he thinks wrestling needs healing, too. While many of its ardent fans would rank Arquette’s championship among the sport’s most embarrassing moments, those behind the curtain express a fair amount of regret for his plight. Former WCW President Eric Bischoff takes responsibility for the misguided publicity stunt, though he credits former head writer Vince Russo with the idea to break wrestling’s sacred barrier against outsiders. Wrestling legend Diamond Dallas Page defends the actor: “The last thing [he] wanted to do was become a world champion. He actually respected this sport.” He says Arquette was a victim of circumstance, a kid just hoping for adulation and love from a captive audience. Regardless of who’s to blame, the film does not shy away from the vitriol spewed at Arquette by fans, media, and even other wrestlers. Like Hollywood, wrestling is a temperamental beast. By choosing to finally slay it, though, Arquette is embarking on more than a personal redemption quest: He’s showing wrestling the respect it deserves. He’s forgiving it for its sins.
And so, we follow David. We follow him to wrestling school. To lucha libre showdowns. To backyard bouts in Hicksville, USA. We follow him to his cardiologist, his endocrinologist, and, in one terrifying moment, to the emergency room. We stand with him on mountaintops and keep him company at empty convention appearances. We laugh, cry, and relapse with him. Against all odds, we watch him become a professional wrestler. We know that, deep down, David is probably using wrestling as a coping mechanism. We know there are emotional holes and psychological gaps that nothing will permanently fill. But, you know what? Get off his back. He’s trying. So are you. So am I. Fleeting victories are no less victorious. Very few of us have endured David Arquette-level disasters, so why not let him enjoy the win? He’s just doing what we all wake up hoping to do: He’s living a meaningful life. He’s fighting for what he believes in. He’s setting right that which long ago went wrong. He’s ranked Top 500 in the world. Are you?

You Cannot Kill David Arquette is available on streaming platforms Friday, August 28th.


  1. Wow, you sold me on this one. I don't know much/care much about wrestling but I will definitely be watching this.

    Great piece, as always.

  2. Seriously though, nice article as always. Your piece on Fighting With My Family was why I saw that film, and was glad I did.