Q&A: David Arquette on seeking redemption, acceptance in wrestling world


Still image from "You Cannot Kill David Arquette" (Photo credit: Elevation Pictures)

To an outsider, the involvement and subsequent banishment of David Arquette in the world of professional wrestling is puzzling.

In case you’re in need of a refresher: in April of 2000, Arquette starred in a movie called “Ready to Rumble,” which portrayed Arquette as a professional wrestling super fan who ends up helping his favourite wrestler get revenge on a dastardly promotor. The film was based loosely on, and used wrestlers from, the now defunct World Championship Wrestling promotion, which featured stars such as Goldberg, Diamond Dallas Page and Sting.

As a way to promote the movie, Arquette was written into some storylines on the WCW television shows. One such storyline included Arquette winning the WCW World Heavyweight Championship, a move that was universally disliked by wrestling fans, and even fellow WCW wrestlers. Arquette’s crowning as champion was viewed as a slap in the face to all those who had won the championship before him; to those who had travelled up and down the road paying their dues in the wrestling business.

This wasn’t just an issue for fans and wrestlers. This was also an issue for Arquette. It’s been noted many times that Arquette loudly questioned the championship storyline, voicing his concerns to WCW wrestlers and executives. After all, Arquette grew up as a wrestling fan, with enormous respect for the profession.

The storyline went ahead as scripted, though, and Arquette was vilified, and not in the traditional wrestling sense. Rather, Arquette was met with disdain and disgust from fans who were already growing weary of a downtrodden WCW product. Arquette, it appears, was the straw that broke the camel’s back among fans looking for an outlet on which to take out their frustrations.

Twenty years later, Arquette is seeking redemption with his new documentary, “You Cannot Kill David Arquette.”

The documentary features Arquette on a road towards gaining acceptance within the world of professional wrestling. The former “Scream” star is very aware of the stigma attached to his name in wrestling, and this documentary seeks to erase that.

Viewers follow Arquette through his wrestling journey, which includes travelling to a backyard wrestling event where he was subsequently taken advantage of financially and physically. The cameras also follow Arquette as he participated in a “death match” that resulted in a real-life near-death experience in the ring and, afterwards, his good friend Luke Perry had to help him to the hospital.

The documentary also offers a glimpse into Arquette’s personal life, including interviews with his ex-wife Courtney Cox, who mentions she felt “embarrassed” with Arquette’s run in WCW.

Sportsnet recently had the chance to chat with Arquette about the documentary, his love of wrestling and what may be next for him in the world of professional wrestling.

Sportsnet: It’s now been more than 20 years since you won the WCW World Championship (wrestling fans didn’t like that). It’s apparent early in the documentary that this is about redemption, with quotes like “I’m just sick of being the joke.” How long had you been thinking like that?

David Arquette: I’d been thinking, I’d been feeling that for a long time, (but) I’m not blaming wrestling necessarily, it’s more complicated than that. Just, I live my life in a certain way, so I understand how people kind of don’t get me all the time, but yeah it stuck with me, the way the fans took it, being a laughing stock, almost, being the low bar. Everyone would say, “That’s a worse idea than making David Arquette the champion.” So, it really was something that I couldn’t shake.

When I got two stents put in my heart, they put me under and when I came out of surgery, I told my wife, “I’ve really been thinking about wrestling a lot.” And she was like, “What? What are you talking about?” It came so out of left field for her. But I explained what I wanted to do. She at first didn’t believe in me (laughing). I had to go to a guy named Bryn Mooser at XTR (a documentary studio) and he thought that would be a really interesting documentary, and then she came on board after that, she was all in, and she gave it everything. She single-handily produced this whole thing and was just tremendous. I can’t thank her enough for what she did on it.”

Still image from “You Cannot Kill David Arquette” (Photo credit: Elevation Pictures)

SN: Your wife, Christina McLarty, having worked in television before (at Entertainment Tonight), must have been a big asset for the film. It’s great that she came on board to help with the production.

DA: She did have to put up with a lot. It’s a tough business, it’s a tough world and I was going through some really hard things at the time. It was crazy, I mean, I had a lot of fun doing it, I learned a lot from people like (wrestlers) RJ City and Peter Avalon, who was my trainer. I got to tour the indie circuit and really understand a lot of what goes on in wrestling. It’s such a complex world.

SN: Did you look at this documentary as an opportunity to explain the complex world of wrestling to those who may not necessarily understand the professional wrestling business?

DA: I did want to make a love letter to wrestling. I wanted to honour wrestling and show the world … a lot of people write wrestling off. “It’s for kids, it’s not real” or whatever they want to say about it. It’s a lot more complex than that. It’s really one of our oldest forms of entertainment. It came from its circus roots and just has become this incredible sport. By the way, there’s a lot carny elements in it. That part, I love about it. It’s crazy, I mean you really have to know what you’re doing, you learn lessons on the way. I mean, there were hotel rooms that weren’t there that were promised for me, not getting paid for certain things, people taking certain anger out on you or trying to teach you a lesson. There’s all kinds of stuff that you learn along the way that you have to put up with. … There’s lessons all along the road. It’s a type of thing that you can only really understand the wrestling business if you get involved in it.

SN: In the documentary, you said that, “I’m an actor, I want to become a wrestler.” Do you think you accomplished that?

DA: I do. It took a lot out of me – I nearly lost my life – but I do feel like I accomplished that. One of the best parts is Brian Knobbs of The Nasty Boys really loved the film and he was sort in the camp of “not on my side” to start with, and through the whole process and through the training, I gained his respect and gained a lot of the respect of the guys in the locker room and that’s really what I wanted. As crazy as the death match (was), and as much as some people in wrestling frown on the type of wrestling, it did kind of accomplish what I was after. I walked into the match, just people hating me, booing me, saying horrible things to me. Then by the end they were cheering me and just sort of on my side. You kind of have to push yourself and take chances in life. You can’t let people push you around, that was part of the whole story. But I learned, ultimately, that it was about myself, me not beating myself up anymore. As corny as it sounds, I had to learn how to love myself. I think that’s an important lesson just in general if you’re kind of down on yourself.

Still image from “You Cannot Kill David Arquette” (Photo credit: Elevation Pictures)

SN: One of the most noteworthy scenes in the movie surrounds the “death match” against Nick Gage. You suffer a very serious injury in the ring, and afterwards need to be helped to the hospital by your good friend Luke Perry (who passed away soon after the match) and his son (All Elite Wrestling star) “Jungle Boy” Jack Perry. What is your relationship like with Jungle Boy?

DA: He’s just the coolest kid, and I don’t mean to even call him a kid. He’s like Jungle Man, now. He’s got such a good head on his shoulders. He doesn’t smoke, he doesn’t drink. He dealt with his father’s death in such an honourable way. I was really impressed by that because when I lost my mom and dad it just tore me up. I just became super self-destructive. To see the way him and Sophie, his sister, went through that, I was really impressed by it. I just think the kid’s a superstar. I think he’s going to be a huge actor at some point. We get along really well, and I don’t know if he wants (everyone) to know, but… he has the wrestling ring that used to be in my backyard.

SN: Now that you don’t have a wrestling ring anymore, how are you staying in wrestling shape? Or are you in wrestling shape?

DA: I’m sort of in wrestling shape. I’d have to do a lot more rolls and take some bumps just to… shake off the ring rust and get ready for anything. I don’t know if I’ll wrestle again. I really love wrestling with RJ City as a tag team, that’s a lot of fun. I also enjoy managing. I managed him and Colt Cabana a couple times. That was really fun.

SN: That leads to the question that plenty of wrestling fans will be asking after watching the documentary: considering your relationship with AEW wrestlers Jungle Boy and Peter Avalon, is there a possibility of seeing you in All Elite Wrestling? Or would you be interested in an elongated run in WWE?

DA: Yeah, I mean that would be (great)… See, I’ve never had the opportunity to train with the top (trainers). I mean, Peter Avalon was an incredible trainer, but that was just in my backyard. If I were to be able to go to a performance centre, I think I could really impress people, just with a significant amount of training. The kind of guidance you get there from the legends that work at those places, you can’t quantify how important that is. I once saw Jimmy Hart talking to Stacy Keibler while she was walking on a treadmill. He was like, “Yeah, you just gotta get your cardio in, you gotta stay in shape, it’s part of the business.” It was just so funny to see him doing that with her. It was just amazing. And to think that guys like that would be around giving you pointers…”

“You Cannot Kill David Arquette” will be available across all digital and on-demand platforms on Aug. 28, 2020.

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