Everyone is falling over The Wrestler, with Mickey Rourke as washed-up and battered Randy "The Ram" Robinson, who can't pull himself out of the ring. But for professional wrestler Jerry Lynn, the film really hit home.
"When I saw the trailer I nearly fell out of my chair," says Lynn, who's been wrestling for 20 years and is considered an old-timer just like The Ram. From the looks of things Lynn and Rourke's character share a lot of things in common. They both sport long bleached-blonde manes, have more scars and injuries than they can remember, live paycheck to paycheck, and have strained relationships with their daughters.
Rourke will move on to his next acting gig, and so will Lynn. This Saturday at the Hammerstein Ballroom, the pro-wrestling circuit Ring of Honor is staging "Final Battle 2008." Lynn will be featured in a four-corner survival match. But win or lose, he's a survivor. Last year, director Darren Aronofsky and Nicholas Cage (who was originally on board to play the film's lead) visited a Ring of Honor match to get a sense of what the real independent wrestling circuit is like. The last twelve minutes of The Wrestler, where The Ram gets his final minutes of fame with a much hyped re-match fight was filmed at a live ROH show in at the Baker Theatre in Dover, NJ.
"I'm in pain everyday," Lynn says from his home in Nashville, "especially when it's cold or going to rain." As he tells it, the list of damage to his body is long: broken feet, broken ankles, broken pelvis, knee surger, torn rotator cuff, permanently damaged right arm. How many times has his nose been broken? Too many to count, he says.
Rourke looked pretty damaged in the film, and the parallels between his character and Lynn continue: In the film, Rourke falls for Marisa Tomei — you guessed it — a stripper. In real life, Lynn has a stripper in his past, but he doesn't care to go into that subject.
"Jerry Lynn is the real life Randy Robinson, but without all the drugs," says Ring of Honor president Cary Silkin.
The way Lynn describes his life, he's a responsible guy. In his third marriage, he owns a house and is a "stay-at-home mom" during the week, watching his 2½-year-old daughter while his wife works. On the weekends he hits the road. For the past 13 years this is been his full-time and only job. Wrestling has allowed him to sustain a modest living. But the entertainment business has other rewards.
"You think about all the injuries and the political bull in this business," says Lynn. "I missed seeing half of my first daughter's life growing up. I passed on good job opportunities. But when you see how the crowd is in the palm of your hands, you can't turn your back on it."
Sat., Dec. 27, 7:30 p.m., 2008