The Wrestling Episode is our cleverly-named feature wherein we watch non-wrestling shows with wrestling episodes and try to figure out what the hell’s going on in them. You’d be surprised how many there are. You can watch the episode on Hulu here. If you have any suggestions on shows that need to be featured in The Wrestling Episode, let us know in our comments section below.
I’ve Never Heard Of Rugrats. What Is It?
Have you ever wondered what babies do when adults aren’t around? The actual answer is “cry and shit themselves,” but the world of Rugrats asks, “what if they could do more?”
In 1987, James L. Brooks approached husband and wife animation team Klasky Csupo — producer Arlene Klasky and animator Gábor Csupó — about creating an intro for his new project, The Tracy Ullman Show. He also asked them to animate a series of one-minute shorts about the family of the cartoonist from Life In Hell. That turned out to be The Simpsons, which ended up being the most influential (and, for 1/3 of its total run, the best) shows in television history. They ended up producing every episode in the show’s first three seasons, as well as the ‘Do The Bartman’ video, which belongs in a museum.
In 1991, shortly before they were replaced at The Simpsons by Film Roman (note: you always have to make Film Roman look strong), Clasky and Csupó developed a show about talking babies for Nickelodeon as one of the three original “Nicktoons.” It was so popular that it won four Emmys, got its own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, led to three feature length movies and ran for 13 years, tying it with King of the Hill as the eighth longest-running American animated television series ever.
What’s A ‘Nicktoon?’
An original cartoon created for Nickelodeon. Rugrats was one of the original three Nicktoons, alongside ironic cat and dog fartstravaganza Ren & Stimpy, which we’ve already covered in this column, and Doug, a show about what would happen if Buster from Arthur was an 11-year old boy you wanted to beat up.
And There’s A Wrestling Episode?
Yes, there’s a wrestling essipode! Look, I’m a Rugrats writer!
Make sure you play this noise in the background while you look at the title card.
Season 6 episode ‘Wrestling Grandpa’ starts with the kids playing with super hero toys, calling them “stupor heroes,” because they are babies. Rugrats never really explains how the gurgling baby noises and screams from its main characters translate into the babies clearly communicating with each other in fluent English and how some of the words are soundalikes and homonyms even though they are baby squeals but whatever, I didn’t have a problem with two muscular wrestlers beating the shit out of a dog and cat, so I’m not gonna die on that hill.
Oh, I should probably tell you who the kids are. We’ve got:
- Tommy, the protagonist who stays the same amount of baby for several years before, a year during, and several years after the birth of his little brother
- Tommy’s little brother Dil (short for “Dylan,” because the family’s last name is “Pickles”), who is just a smaller baby
- identical twins Phil and Lil, who are Scooter and Skeeter from Muppet Babies if they were people and not weird corn monsters, or whatever
- Chuckie, a murderous doll
The kids notice that Tommy and Dil’s grandfather, Lou, is watching a “show about stupor heroes,” which turns out to be pro wrestling. Well, kind of. Remember when Step By Step didn’t know how wrestling worked and gave it rounds, like in boxing, with a scoreboard to keep track of points? Well, while Ren & Stimpy could break out the flying butt-pliers or have a character bite another in the toe warts, Rugrats can’t suddenly be like, “watch these characters punch each other.” So the show’s idea of “wrestling” is that two ridiculous characters dance around in place, one of them charges at the other, misses, and falls down. And then he loses by pinfall somehow.
Here, see for yourself:
The closest thing they get to physical violence in the entire episode is that brief clip of a guy dressed like an 8-ball and a guy dressed as a bumblebee taking turns bopping each other on the top of the head.
Anyway, a couple of the babies’ mothers enter the room, and Tommy’s mother buries her dad for watching wrestling. Phil and Lil’s mom loves it, though, even if she doesn’t know what the moves are called. Example:
I dunno, Betty, it looks like he’s going for the Chikara Special. There isn’t such a thing as an “upside down gorilla press,” but if there were, wouldn’t it just be a guy lying on his back with his opponent doing a handstand on his chest and crotch? She explains that she used that move to get her husband to propose to her, which creates a great backstory for Phil and Lil. Also, are you aware that Phil and Lil’s full names are “Phil Bill DeVille” and “Lil Jill Deville?” Does that make you as irrationally furious as it does me?
The moms ask Grandpa Lou if he’ll watch the kids while they go see a movie. What they don’t know is that Lou has plans for the evening: he’s going down to the wrestling arena to prevent a man from cheating his way to the Senior Division Championship, because he’s a former wrestler known as “Pretzel-Maker Pickles.” Man, leave it up to a pro wrestling promoter to take a guy whose shoot name is “Pickles” and call him a different kind of food. Lou’s solution to the dilemma of having to watch babies and stretch another old man? Bring the notoriously curious babies who get into everything when they aren’t supposed to to the wrestling show.
Oh God, Do The Babies Wrestle?
Hey man, don’t spoil yourself.
Problems arise immediately when Lou asks two of his female fans to watch the children. They agree, then immediately stop watching the children. Lou cracks his back handing Tommy to the women, so the babies decide they need to help him “get more power” and wander away. The very next scene is four babies wandering into a pro wrestling locker room by themselves. GREAT WORK, LADIES.
Chuckie remembers that he gave his Stupor Hero action figure more power by holding it next to a lightbulb, so Tommy steals a flashlight from what appears to be a wrestling police officer, stands in the middle of the locker room full of people and shines it directly in his grandpa’s eyes. Nobody sees this, not even when Grandpa falls over and trips up another wrestler. The babies decide this means he’s powered up, because Tommy still wears a diaper, which means he’s not smart enough to figure out how not to shit his pants. This kid was inadvertently the cause of everything that happened to everyone in his family and friend group for the equivalent of like nine years.
The match at WRESTLING CHAMPIONSHIP SENIOR DIVISION is Pretzel-Maker Pickles, easily identifiable thanks to the pretzel on his chest, versus his nemesis Conan ‘The Crusher’ McNulty. They make a point to show Grandpa just arriving at the arena and signing up to wrestle in the middle of the show. There’s an amazing amount of TV content about people thinking pro wrestlers happen when strangers show up to a public gathering and fight each other for real.
It’s Rugrats fighting though, so the beginning of the match is just two old men doing ballerina moves in place. They keep starting and stopping because newborn baby Dil’s stroller has rolled up to the bell somehow and he won’t stop ringing it, and nobody will stop him, and those women aren’t doing anything, AND EVERYONE IN THE ARENA IS JUST LETTING THIS HAPPEN. Honestly I think this episode is about Tommy’s grandpa going to an underground fight club or like, a cock fight, and the babies just thinking it’s about super heroes.
When the kids see Grandpa Lou twirling around instead of throwing big fuckin’ lariats, they decide he’s like Phil and Lil’s stupor hero action figure and needs to eat to gain strength. They climb up onto the stop of the ring steps — all four of them, mind you, and everyone’s totally fine with this — and start pushing concessions they found in the garbage can into the ring. The crowd thinks this is hilarious and starts throwing THEIR garbage into the ring, meaning yes, the Rugrats invented WCW Monday Nitro.
Grandpa decides to get serious and grabs the Crusher, but gets quickly taken down and put in … an upside down gorilla press, I guess, with a tickling feather added to make the ankle lock more punishing. Realizing that Grandpa is in serious trouble, the children decide to get in the ring and fight the old man themselves. Yes, because they’ve invented Nitro, the babies have to do a run-in. The women who were supposed to be watching them are like, “don’t those little wrestlers look familiar?” THEY AREN’T EVEN IN WRESTLING COSTUMES, COME ON.
Tommy and Lil grab the Crusher’s legs, Chuckie hangs onto his cape for some reason, and Phil stops, sits down in the ring and starts eating the garbage. Phil is the Vincent of this nWo.
When Grandpa comes to from the dangerous “tickle my feet” spot, he sees the babies in the ring and immediately forfeits the match. Pretzel-Maker Pickles has given up, and The Crusher is the new Wrestling Champion Senior Division. Part of me seriously wishes the episode ended here, and the stinger was just Lou delivering a message directly to the camera about how you should never have kids.
Also this is the part in the episode where the children also accidentally create Monday Night Raw.
How DOES It End, Then?
During the Crusher’s celebration, a can of motor oil falls out of his shorts — imagine if Jim Duggan replaced the Office Max in his drawers with a Jiffy Lube — and Pretzel-Maker reveals that he’d been CHEATING. THAT’S why he couldn’t get a hold on him. The referee reverse the decision because of the cheating, Grandpa Lou is the new Wrestling Champion Senior Division, and the Crusher’s not like, “how am I the one who cheated when four random babies just attacked me?” But I guess the ref doesn’t understand you need to have someone on their back with their shoulders on the mat before you can pin them, and also that you need someone DOING THE PINNING to count a pin, so what do you expect?
On the drive home, Grandpa gets across the moral of the episode: It’s good that children can’t talk, because then they’d tell your family what you did to them.
So, What Did We Learn?
- Pro wrestling as a sport is real, but the people performing it are just really old or bad at fighting
- Don’t leave your children with strangers at wrestling shows
- Oiling up your body before you wrestle is cheating, but having four people attack your opponent for you is not
- Phil Bill DeVille is a garbage baby