There are few sports or sport-adjacent activities that have nearly as much geek overlap as pro wrestling. Costumed characters with long-running stories and decades of lore—sound like any other medium you know? Pro wrestling is the closest thing to actual superheroes fighting it out on live TV.
At least, that’s what I assume. Sadly, my knowledge of pro wrestling is relatively scant. I know a few names, the fact that “heels” are bad guys and “faces” are good guys and both can turn, and not a heck of a lot else. Fortunately for me, there are not one, not two, but three WWE cartoon crossover movies for me to learn from.
Are your favorite grapplers getting into the ring with the Justice League? Spider-Man? Not exactly. They’re meeting a modern stone age family, a squad of teen investigators, and George Jetson himself in a series of animated films by Hanna-Barbera.
Today’s busy audiences don’t have the time to read up on wrestling history and feuds—and that’s where these films come in. In the past, you’d have to scour Wikipedia and take in years of matches to get up to speed on the sport. But now? Now you can just watch John Cena suplex Barney Rubble.
Scooby-Doo! and WWE: Curse of the Speed Demon
This 2016 feature-length film is actually the second time the Scooby Gang has teamed up with the WWE, so I may have missed some important lore here. Even so, the story—in which wrestling stars hit the racetrack in a full-on Wacky Races scenario—had an easy-to-follow plot. This new WWE ratings gimmick, overseen by the McMahon family, is crashed by the Speed Demon: the ghost of a 1930s racer who didn’t survive his trip around the aptly-named Dead Man’s Curve. With the final race just around the bend and The Undertaker’s car and partner out of commission, the gang team up to win the race and unmask the monster.
So, what did I learn?
The Undertaker likes puppets.
There’s a million-dollar pot for the winner of this no-holds-barred auto race. This is likely small change for big-name wrestlers, but in the world of Scooby-Doo!, it’s worth risking your neck over. Everyone has their own plans for the money, ranging from altruistic to fully self-serving.
The Undertaker reveals that, should he win the cash, he’ll be using it to start a children’s puppet theater and bring the joy of puppetry to all his Creatures of the Night. The reason? “I like puppets.” Fair enough, dude.
Wrestling is a family affair for Dusty Rhodes.
Curse of the Speed Demon is one of the last things Dusty Rhodes (a.k.a. “The American Dream”) ever did in his capacity as a pro wrestler. Released in 2016, the film is dedicated to Rhodes, who died the previous year. But he’s not the only member of his family to make an appearance.
Dustin and Cody Runnels, a.k.a. Goldust and Stardust, appear all throughout, though newbies to wrestling may be equally ready to write the pair off as OCs for the movie… because, well, they’re just that weird. Sure enough, the two are quite real (though Stardust now wrestles as Cody Rhodes), and the magical space alien shtick was also quite real.
This also explains why the two stuck so close to Dusty during the movie: it’s a family thing. If nothing else, it’s sweet that one of Dusty’s last projects got him in the recording studio with his kids.
Flintstones & WWE: Stone Age Smackdown
It’s your typical day in Bedrock: Fred Flintstone has gotten himself into another one of his classic hijinks, and he has to fix things before Wilma finds out. In this case, he’s ticked off his boss one too many times and lost his chance at an early paycheck. No money means no vacation with the family.
So does he square up, tell his life partner he messed up, and work with her on other options? Of course not, this is Fred Flintstone. He hatches a scheme to build a wrestling league and make tons of money, all while making sure Wilma never finds out—even though it’s going to be broadcast on live television, which in Bedrock is presumably some kind of bird. It’s a living!
Normally this would be a ridiculous task. Fortunately, his new coworker John Cenastone can bench-press a dinosaur and has a certain caliber of friends. And no, they don’t include The Rock—the aptly-named superstar is criminally absent from this special. Maybe it’d just be too on the nose.
So what did I learn?
Fred Flintstone invented pro wrestling.
A sports entertainment event where friends beat each other up for money? Honestly, it’s shocking we didn’t realize this sooner.
Fred’s latest harebrained scheme comes about after seeing Barney defend his pet hoparoo against CM Punkrock, an especially aggressive attendee at a charity event. People apparently love seeing people beat the crap out of each other, and barely a day has gone by before Fred creates the FFE (Fred Flintstone Entertainment) League and begins recruiting wrestlers to entertain the masses.
Fortunately for all of us, a certain Mr. McMagma is nearby at all times. So when Fred inevitably drops the project after learning yet again that friends and family are more important than money, someone can pick up the slack.
Don’t try kayfabe if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Kayfabe—the willingness to stick hard to a character’s fictional storylines and relationships—is a major part of the fun of pro wrestling. Deep down, we are well aware that this is all staged, and that the people we see slamming each other into the floor on Pay-Per-View are actually highly-trained coworkers who have to trust each other in order for the show to go off as planned. In the moment, though, we’re invested in the story.
Fred knows the audience wants a show, and sends John Cenastone and his buddy Rey Mysteriopal out into the ring to pile-drive each other. But, bless their hearts, they’re friends and they don’t want to hurt each other. Unfortunately, Fred’s idea of kayfabe—albeit not by that name—doesn’t go well, and real grudge matches end up going down in the ring.
The format is nothing without trust and professionalism, and even the awesomest, toughest heel is going to be nothing but trouble if things aren’t planned out.
Jetsons & WWE: Robo-Wrestlemania!
Never let anyone tell you that wrestling isn’t a sport for the ages, because it’s apparently going to survive for at least another century.
When George Jetson is sent to oversee a dig on the Earth’s surface—where the Flintstones may be eking out a stone age life in a post-apocalyptic world—he discovers WWE star Big Show frozen in ice. Thawing him out turns out to be a mistake, though—he was on his way to a match against his rival Sheamus when his plane crashed in a blizzard, and now he’s forced to witness the state of wrestling 100 years later—like all other back-breaking labour in the future, it’s been taken over by robots. Plus, there’s the whole everyone he ever knew and loved being dead thing.
Naturally, Big Show does what anyone in his situation would do: mobilize a robot army to overthrow humanity and name himself “World Champion of the World.” Now it’s up to the Jetsons—and Elroy’s time travel science project—to go back in time, bring back an army of WWE superstars, and end Big Show’s reign of terror.
So what did I learn?
Wrestling will be on the final.
Prime your descendants now, because if The Jetsons is to be believed, Wrestlemania will end up in high school history textbooks 100 years from now.
Judy Jetson’s history test seems like nothing more than a pain at first, but it coincides conveniently with the arrival of Big Show. The textbooks of tomorrow have an entire unit on the exploits of the stars of WWE, educating space-age youth on a time when humans—not robots—ruled the Squared Circle. Judy’s knowledge and her brother’s time travel theory enable the family to locate Big Show’s ultimate rival and bring him back to the future.
Ignore Mr. McMahon at your own peril.
The CEO of WWE is as famous as any of his superstars—so famous, in fact, that he shows up as versions of himself four times in these three specials. You don’t get to where he is without at least a little intelligence. So when he tells you to do something, your best bet is to do it.
Big Show breaks this rule right off the bat when Mr. McMahon forbids him from traveling cross-country for a championship match due to inclement weather. But the superstar is so invested in taking down Sheamus that he not only attempts to fly himself to the destination through heavy snow, he shouts violent challenges at gravity while his plane is crashing. As you might expect, gravity wins, kicking off this whole nasty mess in the first place.
I’m just saying. If he’d listened to his boss, we could have avoided an entire robot uprising.
Above all else, though, I learned the most important fact of all: wrestlers should always, under all circumstances, get as many guest spots as possible on cartoons because it’s pretty much the greatest thing ever.