WWE '80s Boom Inspires Pilot Sold by The Rock & Jerry Bruckheimer to NBC

David Bixenspan@davidbixFeatured ColumnistAugust 23, 2011

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson

Nellie Andreeva of Deadline.com is reporting that Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and TV super-producer Jerry Bruckheimer have sold a pilot based on the '80s pro wrestling (more so WWF/WWE) boom to NBC. 

Johnson, Bruckheimer and Jonathan Littman (who produced CSI for Bruckheimer) will executive produce the pilot for the proposed drama series, which is a departure from Bruckheimer's usual procedural crime dramas.

The pilot will be written by Brent Fletcher (most recently a writer and story editor for the Spartacus shows on Starz) and Seamus Kevin Fahey (who has been working with Fletcher on Spartacus: Gods of the Arena). They will serve as co-executive producers along with KristieAnne Reed, who produced a number of short-lived shows, such as Justice for Fox.

This is the first serious attempt at a wrestling drama that is making it to production in some form. While a pilot being ordered doesn't mean that they will get a season picked up by the network, this is still a pretty big deal, especially with Bruckheimer behind it.

I'm curious to see exactly what aspects of the boom period they mine for ideas, as there are plenty of fascinating things that went down back then. They can focus on the WWF (now WWE) expending nationally and/or on one of the regional promotions hurting in the face of the expansion. Plus, there are a ton of interesting characters who could be adapted into the show.

Legendary sitcom creator Norman Lear made a deal in 2008 with HBO to develop a series about pro wrestling in New York in the '70s (presumably based on the WWWF/WWF/WWE as well).  Presumably, it's been stuck in development hell since then, as there hasn't been a peep about it since the original reports about the show in Fall 2008.

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There have been a handful of TV shows in the past about pro wrestling, none of which really took it seriously and all of which treated it was a legitimate sport. To the best of my knowledge, none were dramas.

Canadian production Learning The Ropes starred football player Lyle Alzado as a school teacher who moonlighted as a masked preliminary wrestler for WCW. It ran in syndication during the '88-'89 season and is best remembered for some odd wrestler cameos.

BBC1 in the UK aired Rumble in the early '90s. This show has largely been forgotten other than occasionally showing up on the lists of tape and DVD traders. The only details I can find about the show are in the form of a couple columns written by John Lister for The Fight Network's website.  The columns are no longer there, but Lister pasted them in a thread on the UK Fan Forum that is gone from that site as well (but currently cached by Google).

I suspect that this new show will be better than what has come before it, but that won't be hard to do. If it gets picked up and does well, could Norman Lear's HBO show come back to life?

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