"The Wrestler and Sports Movie Clichés"
I just wanted to second Scott Lemieux on this point:
One thing I do want to address, though, is the idiotic argument (sometimes made by defenders of the film) in some quarters that it’s just a Rocky clone with better acting/direction. I can’t imagine missing the point more. Pro wrestling makes such a great subject for a movie — and avoids the sports movie cliches that mar this year’s Best Picture winner — precisely because there can be not heroic triumph (or near-triumph) when there’s nothing to win. Neither the pre-destined winner nor the loser in wrestling are permitted the dignity of competition that made Rocky seem like a winner even when he lost, and the implications of this are explored with great effect. And there are lots of other nice touches — for example, the amazing scenes of the washed-up wrestlers hawking VHS tapes at the American Legion hall, the parallels between pro wrestling that are never belabored or (so rarely in the age in which Aaron Sorkin is considerd a genius) theorized about by the characters.
Right. The transportation of certain “fight”/”sports” tropes into the context of a fake sport plays with the genres and enormously complicated our understanding of what’s happening.