Review: Body Slam (1986)

A music promoter (Dirk Benedict) who manages a wrestler (Roddy Piper) puts a rock group with a mat card and starts a fad.”

I was browsing on Tubi for a flick to watch when my eyes stumbled across the listing for Body Slam. The funny thing is, I was just looking at purchasing it from Amazon a few days ago. It’s probably been at least 15 years since I last watched it, and it had been on my brain for a while. Back in the day, you could almost always find it playing on one of the pay cable channels, and probably on a few episodes of USA’s Up All Night. But in the streaming era, I feel like there’s not a lot of services engaged in bidding wars to see who gets the rights to show it.

The plot

The summary at the top doesn’t do much justice to the plotline. Scumbag manager Harry Smilack normally promotes music groups, but all of a sudden finds himself managing a professional wrestler after inserting himself into a meeting he had no business being at. He eventually signs another wrestler and finds himself managing a tag team. his brashness rubs another manager in the sport the wrong way, so his tag team, The Cannibals, brutalize Smilack’s team of “Quick” Roberts and Tonga Tom, leaving them injured and unable to compete. At the same time, the band that Harry manages, Kick, is without some gigs. After some soul searching, Harry combines his two acts…rock AND wrestling…and takes the show on the road. It’s kind of his way of getting back to his roots. After success with the venture, his tag team earns a match with The Cannibals in the main event, and the stage is set for a grudge match for the ages, with the winners taking all. There are various other hijinks involving other scams of Harry’s along the way, but I think that pretty much sums up the movie.

The acting

This was a low-budget film with a thin premise, so it’s no surprise that there wasn’t any “A-list” talent involved. And that pains me to say since Dirk Benedict was a favorite of mine from The A-Team days. But Benedict played his part really well as the sorta slimy and underhanded manager and then pulls off the 180 to a good guy that you root for.

The wrestlers, played by stalwarts such as “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, The Tonga Kid, The Barbarian, Teijo Khan, and Capt. Lou Albano all performed their roles well as you would expect. For them, it was just another day at the office. Tanya Roberts was serviceable in the role of Smilack’s love interest too. But my favorite character and acting job came from Billy Barty who plays a diminutive wrestler manager. For such a minor role, he stole the scene every time he was on the screen.

The cinematography

Eh, this was filmed in some local L.A. locations with nothing to write home about. One of the wrestling sequences took place at the San Bernardino arena, which was a legendary venue for mat wars, as well as rock concerts in the late ’70s and early ’80s. I give this movie a point for that, but I’m an old-school wrestling fan who knows the arena’s history. It won’t mean very much at all to many other people.

Best scene

The climactic final battle at the end of the movie takes home the honors, and there’s not really any other scene in the movie that can even challenge it.

The verdict

You’re not going to find Body Slam on any list of great movies. Hell, you probably won’t even find it on any list of good wrestling movies. But it’s an easy 90-minute popcorn flick that has enough comedy, and a fun enough story for me to give it a slight recommendation. As for a star rating though, I can’t go above 1 star. As I said, it’s a mildly fun and breezy 90s minutes, and that’s enough to keep it out of negative star territory.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.0 stars