Review: ‘The Main Event’ (2020), starring Seth Carr, Adam Pally, Tichina Arnold, Ken Marino, Aryan Simhadri, Glen Gordon and Momona Tamada

April 10, 2020

by Carla Hay

Nikola Bogojevic, Eric Bugenhagen, Mia Yim, Mike “The Miz” Mizanin, Seth Carr, Keith Lee, Babatunde Aiyegbusi and Erik Tuzinsky in “The Main Event” (Photo by Bettina Strauss/Netflix)

“The Main Event” (2020)

Directed by Jay Karas

Culture Representation: Taking place in a fictional American city called Fall Bridge, this children-oriented action movie has a racially diverse cast (African American, white and Asian) and is about a middle-class 11-year-old boy who makes his World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) dreams come true, thanks to a magical wrestling mask.

Culture Clash: The boy keeps it a secret from most people in his life that he has a mask with magical powers, and his sudden fame causes unexpected problems.

Culture Audience: “The Main Event” will appeal mostly to WWE fans and children under the age of 10.

Aryan Simhadri, Momona Tamada, Seth Carr and Glen Gordon in “The Main Event” (Photo by Bettina Strauss/Netflix)

WWE Studios (the film-production arm of World Wrestling Entertainment) isn’t known for making quality movies. One of the few exceptions is the 2019 biopic “Fighting With My Family,” starring Florence Pugh as wrestling star Paige. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that WWE Studios’ “The Main Event”—which should definitely not be confused with the 1979 Barbra Streisand/Ryan O’Neal boxing movie of the same name—is as cheesy and mindless as you might expect it to be. The main saving grace for the film is that it’s harmless, family-friendly entertainment, even though it’s ultimately very forgettable.

“The Main Event” screenplay was written by four people (Larry Postel, Zach Lewis and Jim Mahoney and Peter Hoareplot), but the plot is very simple: An 11-year-old boy named Leo Thompson (played by Seth Carr) is a passionate wrestling fan, especially of (not surprisingly) WWE wrestlers, and he finds a magical wrestling mask that gives him superpowers. Leo has posters of WWE Superstars all over his bedroom walls and watching WWE matches with his sassy grandmother Denise (played by Tichina Arnold) is among the highlights of his life.

Leo and his best schoolmate friends Riyaz (played by Aryan Sumhadri) and Caleb (played by Glen Gordon) spend a lot of time predicting and dissecting the outcome of WWE matches. All three of the boys are nerdy social outcasts who are sometimes bullied at their school. Riyaz is an aspiring filmmaker, while Caleb has a hidden talent that is revealed toward the end of the film. Leo dreams of becoming a WWE Superstar, but that goal seems very out of reach, given that he’s scrawny and not very athletic at all.

Leo is also experiencing problems at home. A few months ago, his mother left Leo and his father Steve (played by Adam Pally) for another man and moved to New York City. Steve is working two jobs to make ends meet (he’s a mechanic by day and a Lyft driver by night), so he barely has time to spend with Leo. When Leo tries to talk to Steve about why Leo’s mother left the family, Steve avoids the topic and asks Leo if he wants to help him work on some cars. Leo isn’t interested in cars because he’s obsessed with wrestling.

Leo’s single grandmother Denise (played by Tichina Arnold), who runs a thrift shop, has temporarily moved in to help raise Leo. “The Main Event” has Denise as a garishly dressed woman with multicolored hair who tries to act like she’s “hip” to modern youth culture, since Denise takes selfies and says she’s an Instagram influencer. Her desperation to look and act younger than her real age is meant to be humorous, but it’s kind of cringeworthy to watch. Denise also has a celebrity crush on Kofi Kingston, a WWE Superstar who has a cameo in the film.

One day, while Leo is chased by bullies at his school, he manages to hide from them by running into a real-estate open house. He goes into a room upstairs that happens to be filled with WWE memorabilia. (“The Main Event” is absolutely shameless in the over-abundance of WWE promotion.) In a secret compartment, Leo finds a very smelly, spiderweb-covered mask.

Suddenly, an old man, who appears to be the owner of the house, comes into the room and is surprised to find Leo there, but he doesn’t get upset since he can see that Leo is in awe of all the memorabilia. They have a brief conversation and the man lets Leo keep the mask.

When Leo gets home, he tries on the mask, some mystical mumbo jumbo happens, and he finds out that he’s developed magical superstrength where can lift hundreds of pounds and do things like crush furniture with his bare hands. He also has supernatural speed and gymnastic abilities. When he’s wearing the mask, Leo finds out that his voice has gotten deeper and he sounds like an adult. However, this movie makes his voice sound like a weird audio-manipulated version of a child’s voice.

By doing some research on the Internet, Leo finds out that mask used to be owned by an old-time wrestler who was rumored to have super powers that came from the mask. According to legend, the powers only work on those who are worthy of wearing the mask and have good intentions. Of course, Leo brings the mask with him to school. And it isn’t long before he uses his newfound superpowers to defend himself from the three kids who are his bullying tormentors: chief bully Trevor (played by Josh Zaharia) and his followers Mason (played by Dallas Young) and Luke (played by Bodhi Sabongui).

When the bullies come after Leo again in the school hallway, he secretly puts on the mask, turns off the lights in his superspeed, and the next thing you know, the three bullies are strung up on their lockers, like humiliated scarecrows. Because this defense attack happened so quickly and mostly in the dark, the students who witnessed it aren’t sure what happened. However, they do know that Leo stood up to the bullies, and they now see Leo differently and have newfound respect for him.

One of those students is popular kid Erica (played by Momona Tamada), who’s been Leo’s secret crush from afar. He tentatively asks her out on a study date. And to Leo’s surprise, Erica says yes, and she ends up hanging out with Leo, Riyaz and Caleb. Eventually, Riyaz, Caleb and Erica all find out about the mask’s superpowers, and so does Leo’s grandmother Denise.

One night, Leo overhears Denise and Steve talking about Steve’s financial problems. Steve owes the bank $20,000, and he’s in danger of losing the house. Later, while watching a WWE match on TV, Leo and his grandmother find out the WWE is coming to their city for a tournament to find a WWE NXT Superstar. The winner gets to join WWE NXT and earns a grand prize of $50,000.

Leo immediately wants to enter the tournament to win the money for his father. At first, Denise is reluctant, but Leo convinces her to enter the tournament if he promises not to get hurt. And when Leo goes to sign up for the tournament, he’s easily approved, without showing any identification. It’s one of the many things about the movie that put it in the “fantasy” category. Leo decides that his wrestling alter ego name will be Kid Chaos.

Needless to say, Kid Chaos slays the competition. His most formidable opponent is a 6’9″ hulk named Samson (played by real-life WWE star Babatunde Aiyebusi), who doesn’t speak but communicates with growls, snarls and grunts. Of course, the faceoff between Kid Chaos and Samson doesn’t come until near the end of the film. Meanwhile, Samson’s sleazy manager Frankie (played by Ken Marino) will do whatever it takes for Samson to win.

As Kid Chaos advances to the finals, he continues to use his superpowers outside of the wrestling ring, including stopping a robbery at a diner. Meanwhile, Leo and Erica get closer. He helps her overcome her shyness about dancing in public and encourages her to enter the school’s talent contest. He promises that he will dance with her at the contest, which wouldn’t you know, happens to be on the same day as one of his tournament matches. (You can probably guess what happens.)

“The Main Event” has a lot of over-the-top stunts that are kind of amusing to watch, but the stunts and visual effects definitely won’t be nominated for any awards. The acting is what you would expect (mostly mediocre or subpar), but one of the standouts is Gordon as Leo’s wisecracking pal Caleb. Despite some of the badly written lines that the actors have to deliver, Gordon makes his supporting character a bit of a scene-stealer.

There are also several of cameos from WWE stars that should satisfy WWE fans. They include the aforementioned Kingston, Mike “The Miz” Mizanin, Sheamus, Renee Young and Corey Graves, who play versions of themselves.

Most of the tournament opponents who face off against Kid Chaos are also from the WWE stable. They include Eric Bugenhagen as Big Billy Beavers; Mia Yim as Lights Out Leslie; and Otis Dozovic as Stinkface, who adds some gross-out elements to the story because he uses his sweat and farting abilities as weapons in the ring. Keith Lee plays Smooth Operator, a mild-mannered and friendly opponent who befriends Leo/Kid Chaos. The matches themselves have little suspense, since viewers already know that Kid Chaos has superpowers that he definitely uses in the ring.

“The Main Event” is the kind of movie that parents will put on for their young children to keep them entertained or distracted. Anyone older than the age of 10 might not enjoy the film as much, since the acting and the dialogue are very simple-minded and very much geared toward children. “The Main Event” has some heavy-handed preachy messages, but that’s nothing compared to the relentless plugging of WWE in the movie. After all, that’s what a WWE Studios movie is supposed to be: one big WWE commercial.

Netflix premiered “The Main Event” on April 10, 2020.