In the moody 2009 drama The Wrestler, actor Mickey Rourke plays once-respected wrestler Randy 'The Ram' Robinson, who later in life resorts to wrestling in small-scale, often violent weekend events in grimy venues.

Throughout the film, it's clear Robinson still has fight left in him. But, as the world moves on, he's steadily squeezed into a corner, removed from where he imagined he'd end up.

It would be overly melodramatic to say John Campbell has descended to the lows of The Ram. That would be more apt if he launched a motivational speaking tour – or, even worse, made a desperate plea to watch his newly launched web series.

A slot on a popular breakfast show certainly doesn't qualify for inclusion in media purgatory. Campbell's perfect hairline and sartorial elegance will very much remain in the limelight – but it's no longer on his terms. Like The Ram, Campbell is going to have to endure a bit of pain to keep doing what he loves.

Actor Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler. Photo/File.
Actor Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler. Photo/File.

In the decade he spent on Campbell Live between 2005 and 2015, the broadcaster carefully constructed a reputation for tough journalism that never veered away from confrontation and always dared to ask the difficult questions. He was able to further consolidate this image during his two-year stint as the host of RNZ's hard-hitting afternoon news show Checkpoint.

His somewhat unexpected arrival at TVNZ last year carried the promise that Campbell was doubling down on the gritty journalism that had defined his career. The PR described his new role as a "roving reporter" – essentially an opportunity to get among the people and cover the stories most important to him.

As Campbell said at the time: "After 20 years of sitting in a studio five nights a week, I'm really excited by the prospect of spending more time in the field."

Taking on the Breakfast role is entirely at odds with this. If anything, it feels a bit like a once-proud lion being dragged from the savannah into the circus tent to jump through hoops and roar when instructed.

That said, perhaps this is just a changing of the guard. As Campbell moves into the Breakfast team, rising star Jack Tame departs to take over the Q+A segment previously hosted by Corin Dann.

While Tame has in the past been compared to a future Mike Hosking, he is perhaps better compared to Campbell – from a political perspective at least.

After years of cutting his teeth covering everything from soft yarns to breaking world news, Tame has grown into a broadcaster adept at both the soft and hard sides of the news world. This versatility is perhaps best indicated by him holding dual roles on TVNZ Breakfast and a slot at Newstalk ZB simultaneously.

His move to Q+A sees him go all-in on the news side of repertoire and could potentially set him up nicely to become one of the nation's leading political broadcasters in the future. Meanwhile, Campbell is going the other way, becoming a little softer with age – much like Rourke's character.


It's anyone's guess how this will play out.

As the end of The Wrestler reminds us, the entertainment world is unpredictable at best and brutish at worst. As the film rolls to its tragic conclusion, The Ram enters the ring one last time and jumps to what the audience presumes is his death as a few fans cheer on the sidelines.

So the question then is whether this dive into the strange world of breakfast TV will be the last hurrah for a man who has been nothing less than a downright marvellous broadcaster.