I want to say straight away that we never held what happened in 2000 against you, and I hope you know that. We all know that it wasn’t your idea, and the person whose idea it was is, as you’re probably aware, not so highly regarded anymore. But you were always one of us, acting the exact way any of us would have acted in that situation. Who could possibly turn down the chance to be World Heavyweight Champion, under any circumstances? And not all of us would have spent the money we earned from our stint atop the mountain in the selfless way you did. Your name might have been a punchline, but you as a person never were. You were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The truth is, and you’ll know this too, a lot of us are pretty insecure about this geeky little interest of ours. I know I am. I still don’t tell an awful lot of people that I like pro wrestling, and when I do bring it up, it tends to be in a self-deprecating kind of way. It honestly means a lot when anyone mainstream embraces our subculture, particularly when they really, really don’t need to. I suppose it’s a pretty lame form of validation, but knowing that you were part of our tribe was validation nonetheless.
So, what I’m getting round to, as the release date for your documentary You Cannot Kill David Arquette approaches, is that you really didn’t need to do any of the things that you were captured doing in said film.
You were already regarded well enough in our community. You didn’t need to get back in the ring. You certainly didn’t need to get back in grimy little underground rings, so that only the hardest of the hardcore would know you were doing it. And, sweet Jesus, you really, really, really, to the moon and back, didn’t need to get in the ring with Nick fucking Gage.
The curious thing is, there’s a weird symmetry as to why you and Gage are both so beloved by wrestling fans, even if your backgrounds couldn’t be any more different. Both of you radiate authenticity, in a bizarre quasi-sport that by its very nature shouldn’t prize such a virtue. You are David Arquette. You were in the Scream films, and you’re a very charismatic guy, and you were married to Courtney Cox. Had you wanted to get back in the wrestling ring for the purposes of your own ego, because you’re a wrestling fan and you couldn’t stand the idea that your name was associated with one of the business’ lowest artistic moments, then there was a much easier way to do it.
I’m sure WWE would have got a kick out of having you around, for a while, or perhaps Impact. You didn’t even have to wrestle. You could just turn up in backstage segments from time to time, making self-aware nods and winks to the camera, playing up to your reputation and, by acknowledging it, apologizing over and over again.
But you didn’t do that, because you’re too fucking real. You took a needlessly difficult path because you knew it was the honest thing to do. You decided to scrap around on the independent scene with the Nick Gages of the world, because you don’t have any ego at all, because you don’t see yourself as any different from them. You decided to gain redemption in the exact same way that any indie wrestler looks for redemption. Nick Gage’s fuck ups in his personal life are well documented, but he goes to the ring and puts his body on the line for our entertainment, and seems to genuinely love that we’re willing to treat him as a hero, when so many would dismiss him as a villain. Nick Gage appreciates us, and we return that appreciation ten times over. Because Nick Gage may not be a world-class athlete, or a world-class human being, but he’s achingly sincere, if nothing else. And so are you. And it’s impossible not to take people like that to heart.
Of course, you might have mixed feelings about this love letter for you diverging into a bit of a love letter for Nick Gage as well, because, well, we all know what happened when you and him stepped in the ring with each other. I say this in the full knowledge that it is a terrible thing to say, and I want to assert in the strongest possible terms that the rational part of my brain regards what happened to you in that match as horrifying. The irrational part of my brain, unfortunately, thinks that there was a certain magic to it. I remember a while back there was some sort of tedious Twitter controversy (as there always is among wrestling fans) about the infamous Kazuchika Okada-Katsuyori Shibata match from April 2017, an all-time classic in spite of the fact that Shibata took such a hellacious amount of punishment that it ended his career. Or was it ‘in spite of?’ Was it, in fact, ‘because of?’ That was the controversy because a lot of people thought it obviously abhorrent to see any kind of artistic merit in the suffering that Shibata incurred in that match, and the effect it had on his career and life going forward. But whether or not something is ‘art’ isn’t measurable by any reasonable scale. You either see something as art, or you don’t. And if you saw a poetic beauty in Shibata’s heroic last stand manifesting itself in reality as well as in the confines of an extraordinarily well-worked pro wrestling match, well, it’s not like you chose to.
None of us wanted to see any magic in your horror movie level of blood loss in that match with Gage. None of us wanted that to happen to you. None of us were happy to see you so consumed by fear, so badly wanting to escape, your desperation visible even to those of us watching hunched over laptop screens. But that you and Gage, even accidentally, created magic in that match was for some of us, kind of undeniable. And it was your extraordinary courage that created it, the level of resilience to find a way to finish that match, the breathtaking audacity to put yourself in that position in the first place. I may have mentioned this once or twice, but it bears repeating. You didn’t need to be there at all. You put yourself there when no one else in your shoes would have done, because you’re not like anyone else.
You’re David Arquette. You live your life with an honesty that many of us could only aspire to. And I love you for it, David.
We all love you.
Wrestling loves you.
It has been well established that your ongoing romance with professional wrestling may not have been the best thing for your day job. It might not have been the best thing for your personal life either. Only you will know how much you gave up to pursue an absolutely demented dream. From the outside looking in, it sure looks like a lot. But you gained integrity that can be acquired no other way than by living truthfully, no matter the cost. We all want to find that integrity one day. I hope I do. In fact, I’m going to say something extraordinarily silly and saccharine to close this little letter, but hey, fuck it, this whole letter has been an exercise in being as effusive about you as anyone on the internet has surely ever been. So. Here it goes.
If on my deathbed, I can say to myself that I lived my life like David Arquette lived his, I’ll know I made the most of my time.