Disclosure: This review and interview was written in partnership with Netflix, opinions expressed are 100% our own.
We may not get to cheer on our fave WWE superstars live in any arena till the corona pandemic is under control but we can stay home and make it a movie night! No judgments but for some reason watching wrestling is one way our family likes to just chill and relax. Well, that's until we have to play referee & stop the boys from tossing each other around and flipping from couch to couch while choreographing their matches. The moment the bell rings you'll find them awkwardly twisting their bodies into submission holds in the midst of half laughing and crying before someone taps out.
Thanks to Netflix we had the chance to screen The Main Event early and my future WWE tag team boys Chris and Tristan joined me in our NYC apartment for a fun zoom interview with two of the stars of the movie, Tichina Arnold (Everybody Hates Chris, Martin) who we didn't realize was originally from our hometown of Queens, NY and young actor Seth Carr who's known for his role as young Killmonger in Marvel's Black Panther.
Directed by Jeff Karas, 'The Main Event' highlights the ups and downs of being a tween as we step into the ring of life with 11-year-old Leo (Seth Carr) who faces the obstacles of troublesome school bullies, finding self-confidence and mending relationships with his father and friends - all while dreaming of one day becoming a WWE superstar. To be honest this movie was instantly appealing, not only because we're fans of the sport but because it featured a family, where two of the main characters were black.
We've always got our eye out for how networks choose to highlight their strong black leads and with swirling conversations and controversy on inclusion and diversity within the WWE it was nice to see a character like Leo that looked like my own kids that they could so easily relate to. Note though that Leo's father Steve (Adam Pally) in the movie isn't black, and we're never introduced to his mother who has moved on to start a new life without them. Mike and I agreed that this was an interesting plot twist on broken families.
From the opening scene, my kids could instantly relate to the dream sequence of Leo walking across the top ropes of the wrestling ring with chanting cheers from a hyped crowd in the background, to him waking up surrounded by plastered posters and figurines of WWE's elite talents. I swear we must have over 100 action figures between them both and they've been practicing their entrance swag for years. Unfortunately, we're all too familiar with instances of bullying that Chris and Tristan each experienced in grade school and middle school and over the years we've supported WWE's Be a S.T.A.R program.
After running through the neighborhood to escape the kids from school who'd been tormenting him, Leo finds himself hiding out in a room of a neighboring home that's for sale and filled with some really cool sports memorabilia. We personally had our eye on the legendary 16x champion, Ric Flair's flashy robe but Leo ends up finding a hidden, authentic Lucha libre mask covered in decades worth of sweaty odors and surprisingly, some magic.
When we first filmed our trailer reaction video for The Main Event, the blue mask in the movie reminded us of our kids' free trip to Mexico and surprising Tristan, CJ and our nephew with Lucha Libra masks as souvenirs. They were such fans of wrestling high flyers: Sin Cara, Rey Mysterio and Kalisto, there was no way we could return home without them.
Every time he held his breath to put that stinky mask on, my boys questioned why Leo didn't just wash it, Lol. Beyond the stench, whenever the mask was worn, it transformed Leo into his alter ego "Kid Chaos" who had unbelievable super strength. The storyline of an object giving magical powers is far from new and in this case, seemed kinda similar to the 90's classic Jim Carrey comedy "The Mask". When Leo would put on the mask he instantly exuded coolness and charm as he spoke in a deeper voice that my two boys found quite comical while watching him try to impress a girl he crushed on.
With the ability to now pull off crazy high-flying stunts Leo was going to need all the help he could get if he hoped to win a $50,000 prize in an NXT wrestling competition that could help ease some family tension and help out his dad. This scenario also reminded the boys and I of the Spiderman movie where Peter Parker ends up in a wrestling match against some really burly guys to win prize money for his dream car.
Tichina Arnold played Leo's grandmother Denise who moved in with him and his dad, to help out now that her daughter was no longer in the home to care for her son and husband. I've got to say she was so fun to watch even though most of us agree she's too young to play anyone's granny. We all know black don't crack but we sure did crack up at her love for posting on social media and her crushing on last year's Wrestlemania champ, and one of our favorite wrestler Kofi Kingston in the movie. Having met him last year, we can only imagine how awesome it was to have him, The Miz, Keith Lee and Sheamus on set.
Like any good family-friendly movie there's some great messaging for kids to learn from! With help from his grandmother, he discovers that inner strength is what's really important and that he doesn't need a mask to hide who he really is or to be confident.
Interview with the Cast
It was a lot of fun chatting with both actress Tichina Arnold and Seth Carr about the film, how it was working with the wrestlers on the set and the positive messages provided in the story. You can watch some parts of the interview above and read parts of the conversation below.
Danielle (Me): Mrs Arnold, I didn't know you were a Queens girl, we're from Queens too (Tichina cheers "hey!!") and I know that you went to LaGuardia which is a really hard school to attend. Did you have someone in your corner, as a support system while you were going through the arts program?
Tichina: yes, I used to drive my mother crazy. So my mother said, we've got to do something with you, we've got to find a way to exert this energy somehow. My uncle told my mom to get the Backstage newspaper for auditions, so by the time I got into high school I was already prepped. I started singing once I got to that school, I was in school for singing first, not acting. So I learned how to sing classical music and gospel music and being in a school for the arts it taught me I didn't have to be by myself, it showed me that there were other kids who loved to perform just as much as I did.
Blogger: Why do you think it's important to have inner strength as well as physical strength?
Tichina: Because the inner strength is what keeps you grounded. Let's just say you don't feel when and you can't physically get out of the bed in the morning but your inner strength is still there. I always equate inner strength with confidence, love, empathy, understanding. These are all attributes that you need to have to have inner strength. When you physically feel weak, you can still pull strength from somewhere. I always say the strongest muscle in your body is your brain. You can do and be anything you want to be if you set your mind to it.
Tristan (my 9 yr. old): What advice would you give to kids who are being bullied?
Seth: Avoid bullies! Stick with your close friends and talk to your family about any incidences. People that do that want to bring others down and bullying is not ok. Always know that there are always people out there that love and respect you, that you can talk to.
Tichina: I remember I used to tell my daughter all of the time when she started school, whenever you feel uncomfortable, if anyone ever makes you feel uncomfortable, you always tell an adult. Tell somebody and express it to somebody else, so that you don't have to carry that burden all by yourself.
There are a lot of people out there that will give you good advice, we must always make sure to talk to our parents, or grandparents and let them know whenever we feel uncomfortable. Because that's how we can stop bullying, your parents and people that love you and your family members are there so that you don't feel alone. You have a big team of people that love you, like Seth said.
When asked about their favorite wrestlers and experience in the ring with these larger than life athletes, here's how they responded:
Blogger: What was it like in the ring with all of the wrestlers and did you do all of your own stunts?
Seth: No, I had a stunt double do some of the bigger things that were full of action. I did have to work out and do a lot of training every day. They put me on a harness and had me doing flips and stuff, and it was a crazy experience where I had to get prepared mentally.
Filming the wrestling scenes were so much fun, like jumping off ropes and me doing these backflips. Everyone's like 6 ft. tall and standing over me and I'm fighting these big wrestler guys.
Blogger: In that big final wrestling scene, how did it feel getting in the ring?
Tichina: I loved getting in the ring! At the moment I loved doing the physical stuff, but ask me how I felt when I went back to my hotel room. That was a different kind of feeling. but it was very electric. You know at the end in that very big scene with Seth and I, it was electrifying you had wrestlers that really make a living doing this physical stuff as a profession and we get to be a part of it. It's a bit nostalgic for me because when I was all of your ages (to the kids), I used to wake up on Saturday morning and I'd watch wrestling, I'd watch Kung Fu and then Soul train. It was a lot of fun.
Blogger: Watching the movie brought back so many memories of watching the WWF. Who was your favorite wrestler in this movie?
Tichina: Well Kofi was my favorite wrestler, as you may know, if you watched the movie.
Seth: My favorite wrestler from the movie was probably the Smooth Operator (played by Keith Lee).
Tichina: I loved him, he really had a nice voice, you guys. We were in the ring filming and were all like, wow you can really sing! So that wasn't fake it was pretty cool.
Blogger: What was your favorite scene in the movie?
Seth: My favorite scene in the movie was fighting Sampson in that cage, it was huge. Everyone was just screaming "chaos, chaos" it was just crazy. And I was in the harness and climbing the cage to go get my mask and then looking down and seeing how high up I was and thinking whoa thank goodness I have this harness on.
Tichina: Being in that cage, it was scary. I don't have a favorite scene from the movie, it's just so enjoyable and it was so impressive to watch everyone working.
The Main Event is a great watch with the kids, especially since real-life has been so tough these days. It's not over the top cheesy and highlights the importance of dreaming Big even when the world around you feels a bit defeating. You can stream it on Netflix starting today, April 10th.
Are their wrestling fans in your house, do you have a favorite WWF/ WWE superstar?