Pro Wrestlers vs. Zombies is an acquired taste. There will be a ton of people who will hate the movie and even more who won’t get why people love it. If you are familiar with Troma films, and appreciate that low brow indie filmmaking, you will probably love the movie. While not made as a Troma movie, it fits in so well with the company that Lloyd Kauffman’s distribution company picked up Pro Wrestlers vs. Zombies to release and it should find a nice long life thanks to that partnership.
Director Cody Knotts had an in when he wanted to get this movie made. He went to the same college as former ECW champion “The Franchise” Shane Douglas. He approached Douglas at a convention, mentioned their connection and asked it Douglas would be interested in making a movie with him. Douglas and Knotts exchanged info and the rest is history. In a Renegade Cinema interview with Shane Douglas, he said that Knotts had a complete respect for the sport of wrestling and the wrestlers themselves, and that is what sold him on the script.
In Pro Wrestlers vs. Zombies, the wrestlers play exaggerated versions of themselves. Actually, it might be more realistic to say the wrestlers played their wrestling characters in the movie. The film starts off with Shane Douglas walking in and seeing his woman (former centerfold model Taya Parker) making out with his next opponent. As a result, Douglas hits a piledriver on his opponent in the match that breaks his neck and kills the man.
Cut to a few years later and the dead wrestler’s brother is planning his revenge on Douglas and the woman. He kidnaps a nurse who is leaving the hospital, kills her and eats her heart in an offering to an evil being, effectively turning her into a subservient zombie. He then sends her out to turn some more zombies until he has an army raised. Then he books a wrestling show at an old abandoned penitentiary and sets his zombies loose on the wrestlers.
Douglas is a perfect jerk in the movie, playing off his character well. He is joined by Rowdy Roddy Piper as an older, trusting veteran, Hacksaw Jim Duggan as the friendly family man, Matt Hardy and his wife Reby Sky as two horny newlyweds, and Kurt Angle in what amounts to a glorified cameo. Actually, Angle gets one of the best lines in the movie when he references George Romero’s legacy in Pittsburgh filmmaking.
The first quarter of the movie is a little tough to get through. There are some sound problems, but that is expected from what amounts to an exploitation film. There is some setup to show that Douglas isn’t always a jerk and has a family he cares about. There is also a female love interest added in the character of Sarah (Adrienne Fischer) that seems a confusing addition to the story. She is pretty much the co-lead when it comes to the heroes, but she bounces from being a slut who does what she needs to get ahead to a good girl and romantic interest for Piper. It was nice to have a female bad ass (and she was more bad ass than anyone outside of Piper and Angle), but her role as the good girl was confusing.
However, once the zombies attack, the movie races non-stop to the final conclusion. Everyone gets what is coming to them, there are a couple of moments where people die that the audience might have been holding out hope for, and it all ends with Rowdy Roddy Piper facing the evil zombies head on with an American flag flying in the background. That is what kind of movie this is.
For zombie lovers and gore hounds, there is something here to like, but it doesn’t really match up to the zombie apocalyptic action they might be used to. For professional wrestling fans, there is a lot here to like as the famous wrestlers play fantastic over-the-top versions of their characters and there are a lot of smark moments in the movie. For fans of both, and especially those who love Troma movies, this is one that can’t be missed.
When it comes to the movie as a whole, the cinematography is very low rent and the sound kind of holds the movie down some. The soundtrack however is fantastic with the metal songs playing well over the carnage of the movie. At the end of the day, this is the kind of movie that Troma looks for and might be a midnight favorite for wrestling fans for years to come.