There are few fans as passionate as wrestling fans, and it’s this passion that the story of the Indiegogo-funded Powerbomb homes in on. Focusing on the notoriously gruelling independent wrestling circuit, Powerbomb tells the story of indie wrestler Matt Cross, a fictionalised version of Lucha Underground and WWE Tough Enough’s Matt Cross. Matt is on the verge of breaking into the big-time. Unfortunately, he’s also on the verge of packing it all in, much to the disappointment of his biggest fan Paul. Paul takes it upon himself to kidnap Matt and torture him until he sees that wrestling is the most important thing life has to offer.
Promising to be sports entertainment’s answer to Misery, Powerbomb is undoubtedly a film made for wrestling fans by wrestling fans. The film boasts an impressive roster of independent wrestlers, from Matt Cross to backyard wrestler Gregory Iron. Britt Baker of AEW fame even has a starring role. The script is equally littered with the wrestling world’s lingo, opening with a Mick Foley quote about the ‘illusion of disaster’.
Powerbomb knows its audience and uses every trick in the book to try and keep them on board, relying on recognisable aspects of this very weird world to do so. Paul is the archetypal super-fan – merch-hungry, a bit gross, and living with his elderly mother. It’s a stereotype most fans wouldn’t want to be stuck with, but it is also one that anyone who has been to a live wrestling show will have mentally applied to a stranger. It’s used effectively in Powerbomb to highlight the kind of maniac Matt has to deal with.
Wrestlers make their living by delivering the most overblown performances possible. However, those familiar with WWE studios’ films will agree that this does not always translate to cinema well. Fortunately for Powerbomb, many of the wrestlers involved give refreshingly naturalistic performances, with only a few wooden offerings slipping through the cracks.
Sadly, one of these slips is Britt Baker’s performance as Kelsi Roxx. Baker is given several scenes where she has to deal with the emotional turmoil of leaving the business due to injury, requiring emotional depth Baker is not able to deliver in her performance.
Some of the least convincing portrayals come from those whose backgrounds are outside of the ring. Both antagonists of the film, Paul (Wes Allen) and Matt’s sleazebag manager Solomon (Aaron Sechrist), are very one-dimensional archetypes. This is an effective way to let the audience know what these characters are about, but with unconvincing performances from both actors, the characters receive no additional depth. This ends up just meaning they’re not that fun to watch.
Powerbomb’s biggest issues stem from Paul as a villain. Going into the film, we’re promised scenes of torture that dive into how far a fan will go to keep their favourite performer in the business. Powerbomb delivers none of this and is instead 80 minutes of Paul monologuing about how wrestling isn’t fake and describing his own backstory and motivations in far too much detail. Ultimately, nothing happens, the only torture Matt Cross is subjected to is having to listen to yet another monologue about why Paul acts the way he does, with no actual torture to break these scenes up or move the story forward.
Perhaps Powerbomb’s failings are a result of its own extremely low budget. The sound editing is noticeably clunky, and the cinematography looks cheap. This would usually be fine, or at least salvageable by a good script. Unfortunately, because nothing really happens in the film, it just makes the entire viewing experience a slog.
Powerbomb may not be the thrill ride that was promised, but it is definitely a love letter to the world of professional wrestling, and the way it shoots the opening in-ring bouts is better than what quite a few other wrestling promotions can offer. If you’re already a fan of wrestling, the film is worth checking out to see what some of the biggest indie darlings on the circuit are up to outside of the ring, but just don’t go in with high expectations.