80 minutes into Pro Wrestlers vs. Zombies, a horror/comedy written and directed by Cody Knotts (Lucifer’s Unholy Desire), wrestling icon “Rowdy” Roddy Piper kills a zombie with a crowbar and sighs, “This is f*cking ridiculous.” There is no better description of Pro Wrestlers vs. Zombies, and I mean that with sincerity. The movie is the absurd, low-budget Troma-style collision that the title implies.
Backstage at a poorly attended independent wrestling show, “The Franchise” Shane Douglas (himself) spots his opponent that evening, Billy, making out with Penthouse Pet Taya Parker (herself). During their match later in the evening Billy is killed by a botched piledriver done by Douglas out of jealousy. Later, a mysterious promoter named Angus (Ashton Amherst) puts together a wrestling show at an abandoned prison featuring Douglas, Parker, a number of other wrestling legends and rookies, and a new promotion executive Sarah (Adrienne Fischer), who accompanies them. However, unbeknownst to Douglas and his fellow wrestlers, the show is a smokescreen for Angus’ revenge — because Angus is Billy’s satanic brother, and he is pitting the wrestlers against a horde of hungry zombies, including Douglas’ zombiefied family. The wrestlers have to battle their way out of the prison, and only a few will survive.
The fun here is in the nostalgia of seeing wrestling greats like Piper, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, Douglas, and Kurt Angle (though Angle is only in the film for a few minutes) fighting off hordes of zombies. Because of that, part of the humor is knowing who these guys are from seeing them in the ring. It would be a tough sell to get a non-wrestling fan to see this, but even those who were diehard fans in the 1980s or 1990s and haven’t watched wrestling since will enjoy seeing Piper and the gang smashing zombie heads.
The premise is just an excuse to get the action going because it doesn’t make a lot of sense, so Knotts doesn’t dwell on it much. After all, there are innumerable ways that Angus could have offed Douglas instead of setting up the elaborate zombie prison trap, especially when he sends his zombies after Douglas’ family when Douglas is out on the lawn. But again, any nonsensical plot issues are forgivable once zombies start getting suplexed.
Logical flaws aside, it’s fair to say that this is a low-budget movie, and it shows. The lighting and sound are rough, so it would do the film a lot of good if a distributor was willing to do some high-quality mastering before it gets released. There are also some blatant continuity errors that are noticeable, like Douglas’s footwear switching from wrestling boots in the prison scenes to sneakers in the climatic outdoor scenes. But what the movie lacks in those areas is made up in fun and humor. I mean, the movie isn’t aimed toward anyone who would expect a movie titled Pro Wrestlers vs. Zombies to have multimillion dollar production values.
Though Douglas begins the film as the central character (and is one of the producers), he and Knotts were wise enough to make Piper the real star. Piper is not just a wrestling star, but movie fans will recognize him from a number of action films, including the all-time classic They Live. He has the best scenes in the film, including a brawl in the kitchen in which he uses a very familiar weapon against the zombies. He’s also the best at delivering the movie’s campy one-liners.
Wrestling fans will find a lot to like in this horror/comedy, and while non-fans won’t likely be won over this movie suggests that Knotts is well on his way of becoming an accomplished horror/comedy filmmaker. I’m interested in what he will be able to do with a bigger budget and a better crew, because the sense of fun he brings to Pro Wrestlers vs. Zombies is something money can’t buy.
Rating: If you’re a wrestling fan now or were one in the 1980s, you’ll enjoy seeing some former wrestling stars break zombie necks (5.5/10).