‘The Main Event’ review: Netflix family film about wrestling is more bellyflop than powerslam

While 'Fighting With My Family' hit viewers with an emotional piledriver, Netflix's new WWE flick will have them snoozing at the bell

About half an hour into The Main Event, a big wrestling match ends with one guy farting so powerfully that visible waves of super stink blow his opponent out of the ring in slow motion. It’s an odd set piece to hang a film off, but it’s also the point you realise exactly what’s going on here – it might look like a regular kids’ movie, but it’s actually just one big, weird, slightly smelly advert designed to make WWE look more exciting than it actually is.

Blame Dwayne Johnson. In fact, if The Rock didn’t help launch WWE Studios back in 2002 with The Scorpion King, the World Wrestling Entertainment company wouldn’t have branched out into making movies at all. Realising then that it could do more with its roster of marketable meatheads than just staging fights, the bosses behind Wrestlemania started financing their own films.

Some were okay, most were awful, but last year’s Fighting With My Family was legitimately great enough to land WWE a deal with Netflix – now signed-up to produce a string of new family-friendly wrestling movies, starting with The Main Event.

11-year-old Leo Thompson (Seth Carr, young Killmonger in Black Panther and young Holt in Brooklyn Nine-Nine) dreams of one day being a pro wrestler but he’s too geeky to take on the school bullies. Things change when he finds a magical luchador mask and discovers the powers of superhuman strength and super-annoying stage presence, giving him the confidence to try out for the WWE.

Much like 1993’s Rookie Of The Year (kid breaks his arm, becomes a professional baseball player) and 2002’s Like Mike (kid finds magic shoes, becomes a professional basketball player), The Main Event builds from a decent enough premise for a family movie, but it doesn’t pay off nearly as well as either.

The Main Event
Seth Carr in ‘The Main Event’. Credit: Netflix

There should be plenty of fun to be found in watching a little kid beat up a load of massive beardy men, but director Jay Karas (mostly known for sitcoms) barely tries to make any of it look real – with clunky stunts and obvious wirework ruining all the big fights, and clunky dialogue ruining all the rest.

Worst still, even very young viewers will probably find it jarring that the film exists in a world where everyone is obsessed with WWE. Wrestling is all anyone can talk about in The Main Event – including the adults, who can’t wait to rush home from work and watch Raw. Fighting With My Family worked because it acknowledged that wrestling is a bit weird (and that people who love it are usually even weirder), but it also didn’t feel like it was selling you anything.

Fans will appreciate the long list of cameos from stars like The Miz, Sheamus, Keith Lee, Bray Wyatt, Mauro Ranallo, Otis, Babatunde Aiyegbus, Mia Yim, Otis Dozovic, Corey Graves and Kofi Kingston, and anyone who recognises any of those names will likely also be able to overlook the WWE’s try-hard approach to backdoor marketing, but anyone else expecting a fun Friday night sports movie will be a lot less impressed.

Details

  • Director: Jay Karas
  • Starring: Seth Carr, Tichina Arnold, Adam Pally
  • Release date: April 10
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