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5 Wrestlers Who Made It in Movies and 5 Who Didn't
Wrestlers turned actors sometimes work out.
By Chad Derdowski
August 24, 2009
It makes perfect sense when you think about it. Pro wrestlers are sort of a combination of actor, stuntman and gymnast, so when a member of the sports entertainment elite decides to branch out into the world of thespianism, it should come as a surprise to few. But just because you’ve won a few World Championships does not mean you’re going to win an Oscar. Some wrestlers make the transition better than others. Today Mania takes a look at 5 professional wrestlers who successfully made the leap from the top rope to the silver screen and a few who didn’t quite land that finishing move and ended up down for the count.
1. Andre the Giant
When it comes to pro wrestlers successfully making the transition from ring to screen, the first person that comes to mind is André René Roussimoff, better known as Andre the Giant.
Andre may not have been featured in a lot of films and he may not have won a lot of titles either, but the reason he tops the list is because he wasn’t some second-rate grappler who can’t act his way out of a paper bag featured in a third rate direct-to-video film; he was a bigger-than-life superstar who delivered one of the most memorable performances in a film that deserves to be called a modern classic. Andre stole the show as Fezzik in Rob Reiner’s The Princess Bride. It’s a pretty big feat when you consider that the film also featured the likes of Mandy Patinkin, Christopher Guest and Billy Crystal.
André had smaller roles in television series’ like The Six Million Dollar Man, B.J. and the Bear and The Fall Guy, but outside of the squared circle he will always be remembered as the gentle giant Fezzik.
2. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper
Roddy Piper began his pro wrestling career at the tender age of 16 and has been raising hell ever since. He’s respected and feared both inside and outside the ring, especially after his performance in John Carpenter’s corporate-conspiracy homage to Orwell and H.P. Lovecraft, They Live. The film might not have been a commercial success but it is the true definition of a cult classic due in no small part to the “Hot Rod”.
Roddy has also appeared in episodes of Walker, Texas Ranger, The Outer Limits and MADtv as well as having his own G.I. Joe figure, but by and large, he will be remembered not only as a legend of pro wrestling but for having starred in one of the coolest B-movies ever made. And who can forget that ridiculously long fight scene with Keith David in the alley?
3. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
Dwayne Johnson’s career has been so successful that he doesn’t even go by his in-ring moniker anymore. Okay, that’s probably because the WWE owns the rights to the name “The Rock”, but it’s not like the guy isn’t talented enough to drop the wrestling credentials and get by on his own merits.
Johnson earned 5.5 million dollars for his role in 2001’s The Scorpion King, receiving the highest salary for an actor in his first leading role. He has also been featured in Get Smart, Be Cool, The Rundown, Walking Tall, Gridiron Gang and Race to Witch Mountain. Though these films haven’t all been big hits, the simple fact that he remains a working actor is enough to put him on the list. And it’s hard to deny that Johnson is both talented and extremely likable in every role he takes on, facts which should ensure that he’ll continue to lay the smack down on theatergoers for years to come.
4. Hulk Hogan
When it comes to mainstream recognition, there probably isn’t a better known wrestler than Hulk Hogan: he’s a household name and is synonymous with the rock n’ wrestling era of the 1980’s. In fact, it could be said that Hogan’s brief performance as “Thunderlips” in Rocky III was the real kick-off of Hulkamania and the ‘80s wrestling boom. He followed that up with a starring role in No Holds Barred, a landmark film that introduced the world to the legend that is Tiny Lister.
Hogan was also in a slew of television shows, including appearance on the A-Team , Robot Chicken, Suddenly Susan and Walker, Texas Ranger, although we’re pretty sure that every wrestler to have set foot in an auditorium has guest-starred on Walker, Texas Ranger, so we’re not sure that one really counts. And who could forget Hulk’s performances in Muppets from Space, Suburban Commando, Mr. Nanny, and 3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain? Well… okay, odds are you never even knew about those in the first place. But Hulk Hogan deserves a spot on this list not so much for his string of blockbuster box office hits but for spearheading the whole wrestler-to-actor movement in the first place.
5. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
Based solely on the box office performance of The Condemned, the Texas Rattlesnake wouldn’t have made it anywhere near this list, but the fact that he has a role in The Expendables has bumped him up from a “not quite” to a “made it!”
Seriously, who isn’t geeked about the upcoming action flick written and directed by Sylvester Stallone and starring the likes of Stallone, Mickey Rourke, Eric Roberts and Jason Statham? It’s a throwback to the glory days of the mind-numblingly violent action movies of the ‘80s and it’s got the internet buzzing. Even though Autin’s role is small, the mere fact that he’s connected to this movie (and is one of the most popular pro wrestlers in the history of the business) adds weight to his acting resume and is more than enough to put him on the made it list. “Stone Cold” is probably never going to be a leading man but the cool factor of The Expendables, coupled with the fact that he’s the toughest S.O.B. to ever lace boots, makes him a big screen success in our book.
And there weren’t a whole lot of successful wrestler/actors to put on the list either.
There were a couple of names that could’ve been added to this list but they didn’t quite meet our extensive criteria. For example, the previously mentioned Tommy “Tiny” Lister has had memorable roles in a million movies, from Friday to The Dark Knight, as well as a brief stint in the WWF; but in reality, he wasn’t a wrestler-turned-actor, he was an actor who learned how to wrestle in order to promote a film. And anyone who saw the guy in the ring might argue with that statement. “Macho Man” Randy Savage had an awesome cameo in the first Spider-Man movie as well as a string of successful Slim Jim commercials, but he failed to capitalize on the momentum and didn’t quite make the cut either.
Though they didn’t make our “made it” list, at least they didn’t end up on the other side of the fence:
Top 5 Pro Wrestlers Who Couldn’t Cut it in Hollywood
1. John Cena
Adored by 10-year old boys and teenage girls in trailer parks around the world, John Cena wasn’t able to translate his triumphs in the human game of chess to box office gold. It might be because he makes movies aimed at 18 to 30-year-old men, the very same people who boo him on Monday Night Raw, but the more likely reason is that even a blind and deaf man can tell he can’t act and that his movies are giant steaming turds captured on film.
2006’s The Marine set a new standard for failure and cast a stain on the armed forces and this year’s 12 Rounds… well, I think it sold maybe one ticket, and that was to John’s mom. With any luck, Mr. Cena will find a home on the direct-to-DVD shelf because Hollywood has not been kind to that man and that doesn’t seem like it’s going to change any time soon.
2. Mr. Kennedy
Speaking of direct-to-DVD, former WWE superstar Mr. Kennedy had a star turn in Behind Enemy Lines: Colombia, the WWE co-produced follow up to the 2001 film Behind Enemy Lines that went directly to Wal-Mart shelves across the country and has been sitting there ever since, besmirching whatever good name the original film might have had.
However, Mr. Kennedy was able to accomplish a fairly impressive feat: he managed to translate a complete lack of box office success to a complete lack of success in the wrestling business, having been fired from the WWE just a few days after returning from a lingering injury. He currently warms a La-Z-Boy somewhere in America, waiting for a call from another wrestling promoter or filmmaker looking for a monumental flop.
In the world of pro wrestling, he is the Undertaker’s brother and the sole denizen of a dark and scary place that few can imagine. He’s been depicted as a burn victim, a World Champion and a sympathetic mute fan favorite, but on the silver screen, Kane played the role of Jacob Goodnight in the most uninspired slasher film ever made.
After months of hype, See No Evil was released to overwhelmingly negative reviews in May of 2006. TV Guide’s review actually said that Kane (Glen Jacobs) had “all the acting skills of a fire hydrant”. Do we really need to go any further with this one? It might seem like a no-brainer to cast a big, scary wrestler as a big scary killer but when the movie’s plot is actually worse than a pro wrestling plotline, you know you’re in for trouble.
4. Kevin Nash
Kevin Nash, formerly known as Diesel, was given the nickname “Big Daddy Cool” for a reason. He’s a really cool dude! And standing at 7’ tall, he’s a pretty imposing dude too. But being smooth with the ladies and looking tough doesn’t necessarily make you the next James Dean.
Unlike some of the other grapplers on this list, Nash has actually been in more than one movie, but none of them offered him a chance at winning any awards. Okay, we thought he was pretty sweet as The Russian in 2004’s The Punisher, but he was pretty much the only good thing about that movie, so that one doesn’t count as a success. Small roles in crappy films like Grandma’s Boy and DOA: Dead or Alive didn’t gain him any points either and a cameo on The Love Boat: The Next Wave is just embarrassing. The one shining moment in Kevin Nash’s film career was his big moment as Super Shredder in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Secret of the Ooze, hence his placement on this list.
5. Hulk Hogan
What? Didn’t we put Hogan on the other list? The good one?
Yeah, we did, but only because of his star power and the fact that he was in a Rocky movie and made Stallone look like a chump. But have any of you actually seen Hulk Hogan’s other movies? And for the five of you who have: can you honestly tell us you thought he was any good? Exactly. Beyond that, the man made a complete fool of himself with Hogan Knows Best, a television series seemingly created for the sole purpose of pimping his talentless daughter’s train wreck of a singing career.
Some of the other actor/wrestlers on this list have made some stinkers but Hulk Hogan has undoubtedly made the worst. It is often said that art imitates life and this article imitates the world of pro wrestling, with Hulk Hogan playing a role in the two most successful boom periods of pro wrestling: as a good guy in the 1980’s and as a despicable heel in the 1990’s, and finding his place on both lists.
They may be champions or curtain-jerkers or somewhere in between, but the folks on this list are unlikely to ever be referred to as “the winner of Best Actor”. Most of the movies on this list fall into either the “guilty pleasure” or “so bad it’s good” category, but a few can actually be called “pretty good” or at the very least, “decent”.
Nevertheless, we salute them: these grapplers who’ve attempted to break out of the world of pro wrestling and into the world of acting. Though the odds are stacked against them, they continue to strive to be held in the same regard as the Paris Hilton, Keanu Reeves and Madonna in the upper echelon of bad acting.