Shrek Gets Pro Wrestling Right
For the video on this topic & more pro wrestling content: Wrestle Pod - YouTube
Based on the popular 1990s children’s book, Shrek! Written by William Steig.
Shrek the movie was released in 2001 and stars Mike Myers as the personality behind our lead character. Eddie Murphy plays his noble steed Donkey, Cameron Diaz bring charm to her role as Princess Fiona and John Lithgow as classic fairy-tale villain Lord Farquaad.
Directed by Andrew Adamson, Vicky Jenson then brought to life by the incredibly talented and relatively new animation team at the time over in Glendale California. DreamWorks animation as it was known at the time wanted to create an answer to Pixar’s success in Toy Story and build a world which was influenced just as much by modern popular media as it was from the land of fairy-tale and folklore.
Grossing a respectable $42 Million on it’s opening weekend. However, Shrek’s longevity, broad appeal and ability to penetrate the zeitgeist of pop culture – is what really makes it stand out.
Since 2001 the film has spawned numerous spin-offs, with varying degree of success including several more films and video games as well as vast swathes of memorabilia and merchandise.
Meaning that to date the first Shrek film has earned a whopping $487 Million. The Shrek series as a whole has made well over a billion dollars and stands as by far Dreamworks most financially successful franchise.
The development of the Shrek film started in 1991 a whole decade before it’s release, due to the time in took to animate each scene with the available processing power of their computers at the time aswell as the fact that Shrek was somewhat of a trailblazer in the world of animated movie design, from it’s complex action sequences to it’s more realistic textures and lighting effects.
The films development through most of the 1990s coincided with a boom period for one of America’s most over the top and action-packed forms of entertainment.
Pro Wrestling was going through it’s most popular and explosive phase and had made it’s way into the mainstream as the creators of Shrek were still thinking of ways to include more current references into their story.
It clicked and thus the wrestling scene in the first Shrek film was born.
Something which blew my mind as a kid when I first saw it. I couldn’t believe that pro wrestling, the thing I loved more than anything else as a chubby little 9-year-old was being shown in a fantasy film with a giant green ogre and a talking donkey.
So, in this video – I wanted to look back on this specific part of the Shrek film and see why the wrestling scene stood out to me in such a powerful was as a child, how close is the wrestling featured in the film to the live-action we see on our television screens in WWE, AEW and beyond and, if indeed it can give me some sort of enjoyment in the modern day.
As the scene opens, we see Shrek and Donkey making their way into Lord Farquaad’s castle in order to settle a dispute with the local villagers causing issues in his swamp.
This is where we get the first look at our arena of battle.
This ring here, like many other aspects of the Shrek film is cleverly integrated into the medieval setting. At this moment, it is simply an elaborate pen to keep the royal horses, one that which also happens to closely resemble the squared circle, ropes, and corner posts of a pro wrestling ring.
It is here we are first confronted with the villain of the piece. Lord Farquaad in all his regal majesty, surrounded by grandeur and finery. He is addressing the crowd and with a little help from the studio supervisors, gets the response his ego craves from his self-aggrandising rhetoric.
In this moment we see Shrek and Donkey remain at the back of the pack, listening to the Lord continue on with his speech. As soon as the pair are spotted, the guards, knights and personal army of Farquaad become alarmed at the sight of such a gruesome pair of ne’er-do-wells, daring to set foot within their castle walls.
As in all great conflict, it is here were we see the protagonist and antagonist come metaphorically face to face, sizing one another up and declaring their intentions.
This is something which any great moment of conflict, whether it be in film or indeed in pro wrestling strives to replicate. A moment where the villain can introduce themselves and their motives and give us as the audience a chance to be drawn to them, or indeed push away from their ideals if they do not align with or own.
Farquaad is physically weak, he is small and feeble. However, in most other ways he is powerful. In WWE, the iconic owner Vincent McMahon was once an extremely well trained bodybuilder, with a ripped physique, regularly training in the early hours of the morning to maintain his other-worldly stature, however unfortunately, time catches up to all of us and as we age we grow weaker, more frail.
Nowadays Mr. McMahon’s physical attributes are not what they once were, and he relies as he always has done throughout his legendary and unmatched career, on his wits, cunning and verbal tenacity.
Farquaad is powerful in many of the same ways in which Vince McMahon is powerful. They are rich, successful, they own huge buildings and control large groups of people. They also usually get someone else to do their bidding, as is the case as Farquaad sets his men on Shrek and Donkey.
One of the earliest written recipes still in existence today, is for beer. An age-old constant, beer was as popular in the 90s during the development as it ever had been. People of a certain age will almost be able to hear this image, from a famous Bud Light advert, most people could name Homer Simpson’s favourite brand of beer which he could not get enough of.
So, as we see Shrek back away from the oncoming attackers, we begin to see perhaps a direct reference between the way in which Shrek proceeds to swig his beer and then soak the knights and a famous moment which occurred in WWF.
Dwayne The Rock Johnson and Vince McMahon were in the ring and Stone-Cold Steve Austin had heard enough. In one of the most memorable moments of the era, Steve Austin made his way down the ramp atop a Coors Light truck in a moment of marketing genius.
These images of Steve Austin, just like in Shrek unloading beer onto the unfortunate soaked recipients will go down in history. And although it is not confirmed, I wouldn’t be surprised to have seen a direct reference to this classic WWE beer-soaked moment, in a film which cared so much about being culturally significant.
We see Donkey on top of a giant rolling beer keg and as he squashed all those who stand in his way, we see Shrek making his way towards the aforementioned horse pen, the one that looks so perfectly fitting to perform a couple of quick slams in.
GETTING IN THE RING
This is where the real wrestling action begins as we see Shrek leap over the top rope with agility and grace. A moment which is the reveal, it’s clear now that the horses have moved that Shrek is standing within a combat ring. In pro wrestling the moment of entry through the ropes has the same exciting feel, often preceded by a moment to really build up anticipation before the athlete steps into the ring.
However, in Shrek, we see the fast-paced action only just getting started, so it’s straight to the fighting.
As two guards attempt to apprehend Shrek in the ring, we see the momentum Shrek built up from his jump over the ropes allow his to springboard off the other side of the ring and fly back with a double lariat or two-armed clothesline.
Our first look at a move directly taken from the world of pro wrestling. The lariat and clothesline are similar in their use of the outstretched arm brought forward with the body, towards the opponent’s head, neck or upper chest.
The T pose with both Shrek’s arms stretched out looks the same as we seen when the double lariat is performed in a wrestling ring.
When re-watching this segment, this lariat made me think that perhaps the upcoming fight would be closer to the real thing than I had initially remembered, a fact which as the following will reveal is true.
We then see Shrek deliver a beautiful version of a head scissors take down a move developed partly in Mexico as part of the Lucha Libre school of wrestling and partly from the real-world amateur wrestling performed for centuries around the world.
This move is perhaps more spectacle than function, but nevertheless having an enormous man or indeed ogre taking you to the ground, squeezing you with their meaty legs. Not a position I’d like to find myself in.
During Shrek’s encounter with his attackers, we see them using several foreign objects within the ring. This really makes me laugh and works on a couple of levels.
In this medieval setting, the guards would indeed use every weapon available to them in order to protect themselves and their land, the pikes and spears are historically fairly accurate, however, in this children’s film about a fairy-tale ogre, we are in the middle of a unofficial wrestling parody and thus weapons aren’t part of the usual fight within the squared circle, but that’s not to say that chairs, poles and even sometimes more brutal and dangerous objects are brought into a match to raise the stakes.
The varied use of weapons in this scene and the way we start with a real-life use for a pike and transition into Shrek using a foldable wooden chair is a stroke of genius.
When smashing your opponents head in with a steer bar just wont do, you’ll need to copy Shrek and head to the dizzying heights of the top turnbuckle.
As we see Shrek come crashing from a great height down onto his opponent he see the resemblance between wrestling once again.
Perhaps the world of pro wrestling has seen more flashy slips and reckless rotations than Shrek’s simple flat body press, but the force of this great weight coming down on you is undeniably effective and a great nod to the high-flyers of lucha and the wider history of wrestling.
If you’ve ever been caught up in a full nelson submission you will know it’s debilitating effects. As we see Shrek grab his opponent’s arms and pull them up above their head, we are reminded of the simple function of this classic pro wrestling hold.
In any situation, the poor person who finds themselves succumbing to the full-nelson will be finding it hard to full oxygen into their lungs effectively, their arms will have blood flowing from them feeling weak and powerless. The head can be slung from side to side, causing the brain to rattle around in the skull inflicting unconsciousness.
Shrek’s version is rather child friendly given the context and the full-nelson is used as a hold in order to position the opponent toward Shrek’s partner and allow Donkey to involve himself in the match.
TAG TEAM & HEADBUTT
A fundamental part of pro wrestling, this nod to tag teams is quick and effective. Tag team double moves are ridiculous, often non-sensicle but more importantly they are fun and exciting.
We see Shrek restraining the opponent and moving him towards Donkey who is out on the ropes ready for another favourite of the pro wrestling world the headbutt.
Now a headbutt is a headbutt is a headbutt is a headbutt. Pro wrestling cannot claim to have invented this simple attack which has existed before humans even evolved into our modern-day form.
They are horrific in the real-world, brutal in a wrestling match and hilarious in the context of a Shrek film.
We also see Donkey deliver a wicked head kick to a cornered foe, one which in real life could surely kill you, if not leave you irreparably scarred. Kicks like this are often seen in pro wrestling, and some such as Randy Orton’s punt kick was temporarily banned in WWE for it’s potential to cause serious harm.
This falling attack, using Shrek’s weight and rear-end may seem a bit silly. But we’ve seen performers using their bums to take down enemies in pro wrestling as well.
Admittedly not a one-for-one replication, we’ve seen Naomi in WWE use a form of jumping attack known as the rear-view to win matches throughout her career, where she would jump from the mat leaping to smash her opponent with her rear-end and with Shrek’s added mass and from the top rope, you know that sticky bum could do some real damage.
Like the headbutt before, people have been kicking one another since we first evolved to have legs. However there is something special about the way in which an athlete can leap to such tremendous heights, bring their long legs all the way up with such poise and elegance and hoof their feet, smashing into their opponents head.
This is animated perfectly in Shrek, with our titular hero diving through the air and landing a beautiful dropkick, one which the great Kuzichika Okada would be proud to call his own. It was great to see a wrestling move which I am so fond of being done justice by the Dreamworks animators, the rebound irish whip off the ropes is a great touch too.
A mainstay of any pro wrestling match, the suplex has evolved in the modern day into numerous weird and wonderful forms. In Shrek we see him deliver a standing vertical or front standing suplex to a man in full plated armour, showing off his strength and technical skills.
As a person is held upside down in this position in pro wrestling aswell as in this film, the blood rushes quickly to the head which if sustained for long enough can cause serious momentary and long term issues, but as the man begins to be slammed down from on Shrek’s shoulder, blood in his head is the last thing he has to worry about. As in pro wrestling, the damage of the suplex mainly comes from the hard crash landing and the effects which that has on ones body.
In many other videos, I’ve stated that Kurt Angle is one of my favourite pro wrestlers of all-time. His devastating use of the Ankle lock, or Angle Lock put to use his combination of Olympic level wrestling ability and brutal take on what a pro wrestler could be.
To see Shrek clinch in an ankle lock was a real highlight for me. It’s an iconic move, one that’s effects are easy to understand. If you can’t use your ankle you can’t walk. And if you can’t walk then you can’t fight to your full potential.
Shrek’s version looks just as painful as any ankle lock I’ve seen in a pro wrestling ring.
The piledriver has been banned for parts of pro wrestling history due to it’s genuine chance of causing serious neck injuries and even death.
Owen Hart famously broke Stone Cold Steve Austin’s neck using the piledriver, amongst other instances where the move was performed wrong by one or both wrestlers involved leading to horrific outcomes.
At the point of Shrek’s release and during it’s development the piledriver was still widely used, throughout the wrestling world in the 90s.
It’s another classic move which as well as being visually impactful, may be recognised by those who are not a fan of pro wrestling in the wider audience.
The Shrek wrestling match is ended with a move which would be almost impossible if not improbable for most wrestlers to perform, especially considering the speed in which Shrek is able to lift his opponent and begin to violently rotate him.
The closest example I could think of in pro wrestling would be the airplane spin, which although still an over-the-top move, is nowhere near as impressive as what Shrek manages.
A huge part of watching most forms of entertainment, is the desire to see your favourite hero overcome the odds and succeed in the face of adversity.
When the good guy wins, we want a moment to soak it all in. A brief period of jubilation and celebration, where the triumphant performer can posture and gyrate, receiving the adulation of fans in the crowd and creating memories for everyone involved.
This important part of any victory is captured perfectly by the animators of Shrek, a direct reference to Hulk Hogan one of the most pop culturally significant wrestlers ever and a victory lap for Shrek and Donkey after a hard fought battle, just like we see in pro wrestling.
PLAYING TO CROWD
Playing to the crowd, for the good guy, after all is said and done, is a fundamental and key reason to keep watching whether it be for the few minutes that this fight takes place during the feature length Shrek film, or over the months and years of a pro wrestlers career as they fail and calapse, rebuild and eventually succeed.
The way in which Shrek started the scene as a clear enemy and physical threat to the people, won them over with showman ship and an excellent display of physical prowess.
I appreciate that I’ve just spent this entire video explaining a rather niche subject and I appreciate it if you’ve stayed through this whole over-analysis.
The topic of this video came to me as I sat on the sofa one Sunday afternoon and as I flicked on the television, was greeted with the opening credits of Shrek. I hadn’t seen it for some years and had it on in the background as I did other things.
As soon as the scene which is the topic of this video today came up I got a sense that I remembered it very fondly and got a hit of nostalgia.
That feeling as I previously mentioned came from my initial watch of this film in the cinema, which for one reason or another I remember very vividly. The mixture of at the time watching the new, exciting animated film and then being almost overwhelmed when the wrestling portion happened still puts a smile on my face to this day.
I cannot overstate how much I appreciate the unthinkable work which went into making the entire Shrek film, nor can I exclaim how much of an impact Dreamworks and the pure geniuses which developed this technology and abilkity to create an entire genre of films which would have been unthinkable in the years prior to it’s inception.
The long hours and dedication to create not only the whole film and all that goes into that, but also the clear love that one of the writers had for pro wrestling. To take it one step further and add in animation which so closely resembles real pro wrestling moves just shows how above and beyond everyone who worked on this fantastic project was willing to go.
And now coming full circle, we’ve see Shrek now go from a film aiming to parody and replicate important moments from film and television to now firmly in the annuls of pop culture.
For the video on this topic & more pro wrestling content: Wrestle Pod - YouTube