The Main Event is the latest film produced by WWE Studios, a small part of the sporting behemoth that is World Wrestling Entertainment. In the grand tradition of its films, The Main Event features several members of its talent either as themselves or in supporting roles alongside the main cast. The selection this time around includes Mike ‘The Miz’ Mizanin (a regular feature of WWE films), Keith Lee, Otis Dozavic, and Kofi Kingston to name but a few. The difference is that this time, perhaps in an attempt to ape the mild success of their previous film Fighting With My Family, WWE have seen fit to make a film entirely about wrestling. This venture is not a successful one and the result feels like a drab attempt to make a 101-minute advertisement for its own product.
The Main Event follows 11-year-old Leo, a nerdy WWE superfan who finds a magical wrestling mask that imbues him with superhuman strength, speed, and confidence. Naturally then, and in order to ease the burden of his family’s debts, he enters a wrestling competition with the possibility of winning $50,000 and a contract with NXT (WWE’s former developmental brand, which awkwardly shows how dated the film is, despite being released a little over a week ago). The rest leaves very little to the imagination, as the film hits the expected beats that one would anticipate from a family sports comedy, doing very little to even attempt to distinguish itself, aside from a horrifying amount of branding by the company (counting how many times characters say ‘WWE’ soon becomes an exhausting endeavour).
It’s inherently unclear who the intended audience is for this film. At its core, it is a family comedy, and it certainly makes swipes at having an inspiring message about inner strength, confidence, and family bonds. However, it never seems to explore them with any real depth, and potentially emotional moments are swiftly wrapped up or swept over. Likewise, the film is fully committed to both radically unfunny, and often puerile, humour – see the scene in which Otis’ character, Stinkface, unleashes a supersonic fart for a full thirty seconds (an eternity in this film) – as well as over-the-top superheroic shenanigans in the wrestling ring. As such, the film is clearly not intended for wrestling fans either, even young ones, and hardcore fans (this writer included) can only be simultaneously insulted and embarrassed by what unfolds.
There is a bold attempt to mix genres in a new and interesting way; for example, the components of superhero films a la Marvel mixed with the narrative structure of an underdog sports film like Dodgeball. Unfortunately this combination, simply put, does not work. It’s hard to perceive Leo (or his wrestling alter ego ‘Kid Chaos’) as an underdog when he can knock down a tree with a single blow. As a result, it’s impossible to believe that there is any real sense of threat or peril whatsoever. Perhaps this is nitpicking in a film primarily intended for children, but it ultimately makes the film an incredibly dull affair and it’s hard to see it grasping the attention of even the most devoted young wrestling fan.
The majority of the cast try desperately to hold the film together, and make valiant efforts in the process. Seth Carr does a fine job as Leo, balancing the insecurities of Leo and the excessive charisma of Kid Chaos well for an actor his age. Similarly, Tichina Arnold gives her all as Leo’s grandmother, despite being burdened with a bizarre obsession with Instagram fame and uncomfortable horniness for Kofi Kingston – character traits that it is disheartening to think someone thought would be funny. Even the WWE talent do their part; The Miz is as charismatic as anyone who has seen him wield a microphone is already aware he can be, and it may be impossible for Keith Lee to not be endearing even while crooning as ‘Smooth Operator’.
Rather, the bulk of the issues lie squarely in the unoriginal plot that is laden with cliches and genre conventions. This could be fine, if they were tackled in a remotely knowing way. Instead, they are treated with far too much seriousness, none of which is aided by incredibly ropy special effects, poor editing, and cinematography that overuses quick zooms in its tracking shots to nauseating results.
To be blunt, The Main Event is an unprecedented shambles. It is a film that should never have been made; a shallow, self-indulgent effort by a company to generate advertising for its own product and merchandise. Despite the best efforts of the cast, the only championship that could be awarded to this film is in commendation of its ability to alienate every facet of its intended audiences.