No one is perfect. Some of us try to be. Some others do everything in their power to be the exact opposite. Most of us fall somewhere in between. But we all – all of us – live very imperfect lives. We try to do our best, but often we fail. That’s just life, isn’t it?
Still though, sometimes the mistakes we make seem to define us. They follow us around forever like lingering shadows in a world where the sun never sets – haunting us for eternity. The irony existing in this reality is baffling really. None of us are immune to this, yet we clamor to expose those around us who slip up even only barely. Maybe it makes us feel better about ourselves, or maybe we’re trying to fill an otherwise moment of bleakness with some levity. Who knows? But it’s sad.
The toll these mistakes truly take vary. Some people push them down and others let them hang over their heads. There is no wrong way to cope, but the effects on one’s life can be significant. Often, when facing backlash, we look inward and blame ourselves. We may not admit that to others, but we do. We look into the mirror in the morning and despise what we see, or we lay in bed at night staring at the ceiling doubting every decision we’ve ever made – replaying moments in our minds that we wish we could have back to do over again, even just once.
Most times, when we stumble, we learn and try to do better. Rarely, we are allowed a chance to redeem ourselves. What is rare isn’t that second chances are few and far between. Some are and some others don’t exist at all, granted, but what IS rare is that someone has the courage and confidence to allow themselves a second chance when the first resulted in such failure. I believe that we all have it in us, but we remain largely our own worst critics. In examining the incredibly emotional journey in wrestling of David Arquette, I’m reminded of how beautiful a thing life is and how redemption can help to heal a broken heart.
I was a little girl in 2000, when WCW decided amazingly to give David Arquette the World Heavyweight Championship. The same title held previously by Ric Flair, Sting, Randy Savage, and more…legends of professional wrestling. Titles weren’t awarded; they were earned. Men sacrificed more than can be sometimes comprehended for the opportunity to call themselves champions. So, when Arquette touched that big gold belt after a pinfall in a title match…the wrestling world was legitimately and rightfully stunned.
I don’t have a recollection of these moments, or any of Arquette’s in WCW. I’ve seen them since on replay, but the live consumption apparently didn’t warrant a significant impact. I’m glad. I understand the push back he received then and has since, though twenty years is a long time to hold a grudge for a moment he had very little control over. He was a lifelong pro wrestling fan who was presented with a chance to live a dream. How was he to know any of what we know now? What would you have done in his shoes?
You can save me the holier than thou dramatics. We all know what we would have done.
“Slap that title on me, Vince. Run me all the way to Starrcade! Give me Goldberg in the main event!!!”
Kidding aside, what followed for David was a time of regret and struggle that only served to widen the hole in his heart for his role in what helped to tear down the thing he loved most. The fans hated him. Like real putrid stinking hate. We know this hate. In a business that allows us as adults to feel like kids again – to feel joy again most have long forgotten – it’s crazy how much hate we have to juggle and toss when we see fit. Hearing how these experiences have impacted him since the WCW days breaks my heart to pieces.
In his brilliant documentary, You Cannot Kill David Arquette, he claims, “I’m just kind of sick of being a joke…if you’re part of the joke, it’s not as painful as if you ARE the joke.”
Directly into the heart, right? It’s easy enough to look at him as just an actor who dipped his toes into the wrestling business because he thought it might be fun and killed it because it didn’t matter to him at the end of the day. That’s easy. But the reality is the exact opposite. It killed him that his influence was perceived so negatively and that he was thought of as having disrespected something he had loved since childhood – his whole life. It pained him to live with the past, so he set out to not change it but redeem it. He called it simply, “something I have to do.”
There is a beautifully sad scene in the documentary in which David is sitting on a stage with puppets beside him. He playfully begins to chat up one of the puppets with an eerie likeness to himself and asks it a question that burst down the dam walls of tears that had already been building in my eyes from the jump.
“Why do you think they hate me so much?” he asks.
He’s a kid at heart, that much is certain. The joy in his eyes when around his beautiful children or when he talks about wrestling is noticeable. His feelings, innocent as they may be, haunt him and push him to pursue something most would never consider. To gain the respect of the business that he took advantage of, even though he was but a pawn in the game of others, and to gain the admiration of the fans who he believes he let down, he nearly kills himself. Very literally.
I don’t think I can rightly describe the respect I feel in my heart for his decision to do what he did, in the way that he did it. I’ve seen some actual wrestlers make comebacks and put in a mere fraction of the work that Arquette did. Wrestling fans are a difficult crowd to win over, let alone win back after being let down. He went into his journey with the understanding that he had an Everest to climb, that his chances were minimal at best, but he put in the work anyway. He risked his body, his relationships, his sobriety, and his mental health to right a perceived wrong.
How many of us would have done the same? Before you answer, it’s one thing to say and another to act. David Arquette did the deal. All the way and then some.
The thing that makes me admire him on the highest level though, is his heart. He is so visibly thankful to all who helped him and to all who supported him. Amazingly, he still loves professional wrestling…even though wrestling had literally hated him for nearly two decades. It’s the most innocently beautiful thing I’ve ever witnessed. You don’t receive the kind of support David does unless the heart matches the human in which it resides. It’s clear he’s a good one, no matter what his past dictates he might be.
My favorite moments of the documentary take place near the end and all include his peers finally recognizing him as a legitimate asset to professional wrestling. One hits home especially, in which his daughter is showing her mother a video of his match with such heartwarming pride. Another when his wife accompanies him to the ring in a match against Mr. Anderson, an entrance almost identical to that of Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth, two of his favorites from years past, is moving beyond words. But more than any other, listening to the fans embrace him while he smiles such a smile of accomplishment, is a joy. Watching him revel in the majesty he holds in such high regard is just such a beautiful experience.
Redemption stories are special. He didn’t need to redeem himself for me. He didn’t need to redeem himself for any of the fans. In all reality, he didn’t need to redeem himself for the wrestling business either. This was about a man who felt a need to prove something to himself. Sure, he felt like a joke. He felt like he helped to make a mockery of something he loved. But you can’t undo the past. You can only pursue a future worth living proudly in. He did just that.
None of it would mean a thing without the heart driving all of it, and his is a unique one. His journey took a special soul, and out of it I wish him clarity and peace. I hope he carries with him memories of majesty deserving of his childhood love. He deserves all of that and more.
David Arquette the wrestler proved himself to all of us. But David Arquette the man proved himself to himself, and there is no greater feeling that that.