Professional wrestling is having a moment right now. Between GLOW and Fighting with My Family, we’ve seen some critically acclaimed shows and movies explore the strange and fascinating world of sports entertainment of late. And the trend doesn’t appear to be stopping any time soon.
According to Deadline, Stephen Amell is set to star in Heels, an upcoming Starz series about the trials and tribulations of independent wrestling. In the show, the Arrow star will play Jack Spade, a villainous wrestler from Georgia who’s at war with his brother over their deceased father’s legacy. Loki’s Michael Waldron will write the series, with producer Mike O’Malley (Survivor’s Remorse) serving as the showrunner.
Inside of the ring, Amell’s character is a cocky, extravagant personality who knows how to work a crowd. Outside of the squared circle, however, he’s a hard-working business owner and family man. He’s also adamant about turning his independent wrestling promotion into a force, which causes some problems in his personal life. How will he keep his family together while chasing a seemingly impossible dream?
Heels will explore the more interesting side of pro wrestling. Forget about the big leagues, forget about Dwayne Johnson. The independent scene rarely receives any mainstream attention, but it’s where some of the best real-life wrestling stories are forged. It’s populated with performers like the character Jack Spade who are willing to sacrifice everything to make their dreams come true.
The tales of those who’ve ascended from the minor leagues and sold out stadiums in WWE are well documented. These rags-to-riches stories tend to be more accessible when they’re adapted for the screen, as well. For instance, Fighting with My Family follows the inspiring true story of Paige, a working-class underdog from England who went on to become the youngest Women’s Champion in WWE history.
Heels sounds more like The Wrestler, though, albeit more optimistic. Jack Spade is just like the thousands of indie wrestlers out there who haven’t given up hope of making it to the top someday, as opposed to a washed-up veteran who’s forced to take bumps just to make enough bucks to scrape by. That’s a whole other side of the profession that deserves a series in its own right.
Interestingly, Amell also invited Cody Rhodes to work with him on the series. He accepted. In case you don’t know, Rhodes is a professional wrestler who became friends with the actor after appearing in Arrow as a guest star. On top of that, he also introduced Amell to the world of pro wrestling by competing against him in a tag team match at WWE’s Summerslam 2015 pay-per-view event.
Since then, Amell has continued to make some in-ring appearances here and there. He was a part of 2018’s historic All In event, a massive indie show — spearheaded by Rhodes and a group of wrestlers known as The Elite — that marked the spiritual birth of All Elite Wrestling, a new mainstream company whose weekly show is debuting on TNT this fall. Rhodes has said that Amell is welcome to join the promotion any time.
What makes Rhodes’ involvement particularly interesting, however, is the fact the plot sort of mirrors his own wrestling journey. He’s the son of the legendary Dusty Rhodes and the younger brother of Dustin Rhodes, whose Goldust character is one of the most unique personalities to ever don some spandex. When he became a wrestler, he had two huge familial shadows to step out from behind.
Rhodes and his brother are close, but in the past, there’s been some rivalry between the pair in regards to their own father’s legacy. Recently, the duo squared off at AEW’s inaugural Double or Nothing pay-per-view event and the meat of their storyline revolved around a sibling rivalry that mined inspiration from reality.
The Rhodes family are a prime example of a wrestling legacy where every performer has managed to make a name for themselves as individuals. Still, their story boasts plenty of competition with each other that could make Cody’s input invaluable to the show. On top of that, he also co-founded a massive company after being told it was impossible to do so. If anyone can relate to Jack Spade’s passion, it’s him.
Rhodes’ part in the show remains to be seen. Maybe he’ll just show up to act, as he’s rather good at that as well. But at least the show is bringing in people who understand the business, and with Amell on board, Heels has a lead star who’s an experienced grappler. Expect the actual wrestling in this show to be the real deal.
That said, non-wrestling fans should give Heels a chance when it arrives on Starz. Regardless of your thoughts on the sport itself as a form of entertainment, the stories of the people who dedicate their lives to it are often compelling. GLOW has already proven this, and with the talent involved in Heels, the show has the potential to be just as good as the Netflix drama.