Back in 2017, David Arquette noticed that his breathing was more labored than it should’ve been. When his condition worsened to severe chest pains, he got a stress test that led to doctors placing two stents in his heart.
“Before I went into surgery, I was looking over my life like, ‘My family loves me. My wife loves me. I have a decent career,'” Arquette says. “But I really started thinking about the wrestling thing. I wish that hadn’t gone down that way.”
As a way to promote his 2000 film Ready to Rumble, Arquette had entered the world of professional wrestling for a brief story arc that led to him winning the WCW World Heavyweight Championship that year.
Wrestling fans were irate.
Not only did Arquette not pay his dues before claiming the highest honor in the sport; his wrestling persona was mainly used for comic effect, which many felt made a mockery of wrestling. Some people in Arquette’s position may have dismissed the backlash as just a ham-fisted marketing ploy, but Arquette, who’s actually a hard-core wrestling fan, took it very personally.
“I’d been telling myself all these stories: You’re not good enough. You’re stupid. I always had a problem reading as a kid, so I just beat myself up all the time,” Arquette says. “So when you read it or somebody says it to you, it starts confirming what you are telling yourself.”
He decided to try wrestling one more time, doing it the right way. He brought the idea to the team at documentary studio XTR, and soon after You Cannot Kill David Arquette was in motion.
The documentary follows Arquette as he starts from scratch, training and competing in local wrestling circuits, backyard matches, and even with luchadores in Mexico.
“I wanted to make a love letter to wrestling, to wrestling fans, almost like an apology in a sense to show them that I’d never done the work before. I didn’t deserve to be where I was,” Arquette says. “After going through it and paying my dues, it started becoming a lot clearer to me where they were coming from.”
While on the path to right his wrongs with the wrestling world, Arquette says the experience was also a catalyst for him to fully process his own issues.
In the doc, Arquette often pushed himself past any reasonable limits. Case in point: the 2018 death match that almost was just that. Arquette suffered a severe cut on his neck after his opponent struck him over the head with a light tube.
— Jonathan Stauffer (@Stauffy) November 17, 2018
“After the death match, my wife was like, ‘Do you want to die?’ And I was like, ‘No, I don’t,’ but it occurred to me that I had been super self-destructive my whole life and really just abusive to myself,” Arquette says. “I had to come to terms with that and face it. Even though I’d been doing tons of therapy, it all kind of came to a point during this film. It ends up that it’s all just about self-love and self-confidence to not destroy yourself and reinforce a positive look at yourself rather than a negative one.”
As personal a project as You Cannot Kill David Arquette was, Arquette ultimately wants the doc to be of service to everyone.
“It’s something that’s to inspire people to not let people push you around or define who you are,” Arquette says. “That’s what I want people to take from it: That they’re the greatest. You’re the champion of your world. I’m the champion of mine. Once we can start having that self-esteem and pride in ourselves, then we can start treating each other like we all have greatness in us.”