Chokeslam Blu-ray Review: A Pro Wrestling Rom-Com

Chokeslam (2016), written and directed by Robert Cuffley, is an entertaining little romantic comedy with a pro-wrestling twist. Stars Amanda Crew and Christopher Marquette play awkwardly well with one another as they work alongside a couple of genre vets in Gwynyth Walsh and Niall Matter. Pro-wrestling legend Mick Foley also has some screen time and is always a hoot to watch outside the squared circle. 

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Sheena DeWilde (Crew), a pro wrestler whose anger issues have caused her to be suspended from her big league contract, is headed home for her 10-year high-school reunion. Her high-school sweetheart Corey (Marquette) learns this valuable information from former classmate Luke (Michael Eklund) after Luke’s failed attempt to rob the deli Corey works at. Sheena’s return brings up the embarrassing memory of the last time Corey saw her, when she turned down his proposal of marriage. Corey still fans the flame for “Smasheena” and this deeply concerns his overprotective mother (Walsh), who fears he may do something drastic.

After a heart-to-heart, catch-up chat, Sheena reveals she may no longer have the drive to remain a pro and is reconsidering a life spent on the road so Corey decides to do something drastic. With Luke along to help, he goes about setting up one final match for “Smasheena” in their hometown arena run by local hero Patrick (Mick Foley). This of course sets up all kinds of silly wrestling-inspired antics as Corey tries to win her heart away from her manger/boyfriend, Tab (Matter), who of course is a complete jerk. Tab sees her retirement bout as a way to get her back into the spotlight and possibly signed with a prominent Japanese organization for big money. It all boils over royal rumble style as Corey dons a Lucha Libre mask and scuffles in the stands as he fights his way back into the heart of his true love. Sheena has to choose if she wants to stay with Tab and head to Japan or pack up Corey, then head to Japan with him in tow. 

Chokeslam is loaded with standard rom-com tropes as is to be expected but it’s the pro-wrestling angle that hooks in a different fanbase. The (dormant) pro-wrestling nerd in me appreciates that Cuffley weaves aspects of pro-wrestling history into his movie. I enjoy how he works in the Japanese pro league and has a character that mentions the territorial era and names off some old school legends like Frank Gotch, Lou Thesz, Killer Kowalski, and even the “quite stunning” Gorgeous George. The wrestling aspect is what piqued my interest and though Chokeslam is very much a Hallmark holiday type “work up,” it “imposed its will” on me for a full 102 minutes. Truth be told, every now and then I find myself watching one of those damned Hallmark movies when I notice some old favorite actor is involved somehow and this one has Mick Foley going for it. 

I dig Cuffley’s choice of the name DeWilde and its possible nod to and play on Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. Even though I find Smasheena’s entrance gimmick as a robot corny, it’s totallly par for the course. What I find a major whiff for Cuffley is that he does not mention Japanese superstar Akira Hokuto, which I think would have been a perfect reference and hero for “Smasheena”. (Hey, Joe! Your nerd is showing.)

Chokeslam is a standard rom-com in many ways but its pro-wrestling gimmick makes it fun for a wider audience, myself included. Its acting is also of the standard genre fare but like B horror movies it’s what one expects from these affairs. This one I’d highly recommend as a suggestion for those guys with significant others who love to make them curl up on the couch for those Hallmark month-long rom-com torture/death matches. 

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Joe Garcia III

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