THE TOP MOVIE PERFORMANCES BY PRO WRESTLERS
by Noel Wood
Over time, I've revealed a lot of deep, dark secrets while composing articles for this here web site. Recently, I admitted an unfortunate bout with addiction to teen movies that ocurred a few years back. For those who have sent your support, I greatly appreciate it. In case you're wondering, I have indeed kicked that addiction and am back on the wagon.
Another secret I once revealed was of my love of professional wrestling. And unlike the teen movie addiction, this one has not been easy to conquer. In fact, I have no desire at all to stop partaking in this exasperating section of the entertainment industry. Why, just last night I subjected myself to two whole hours of the WWE's Monday Night RAW on TNN, while my girlfriend made convenient excuses to be out of the room as often as possible. Anyway, while observing the culture that comes from watching the nefarious Lance Storm and Chief Morely try and swindle the World Tag Team titles away from popular champions Kane and Rob Van Dam, I began waxing philosophical on the many times these larger-than-life superstars have entered the mainstream entertainment field, and most notably, their entry into feature films.
A lot of wrestlers have tried their hand at making it in Hollywood, and, well, the results haven't really been pretty. There have been a few performances here and there that have been praised by people outside of the general pro wrestling fan base, but not too many career-making thespian efforts, if you catch my drift. But there have been some pretty notable performances over the years that deserve mention, and today, in typical MCFTR fashion, I'm gonna count down the top ten performances in motion pictures by pro wrestlers.
Oh, pictures courtesy of Dean's Planet. Don't worry, Dean, I'm not hotlinking 'em.
10. Kevin Nash, TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES II: SECRET OF THE OOZE
Pro Wrestling fans know Kevin Nash as "Big Sexy", "Big Daddy Cool", or "Diesel". Smart wresling fans know Kevin Nash as "Oz", "Vinnie Vegas", or "That over the hill lazy piece of injury-prone politicking shit who can't work his way out of a paper bag". But before he was anyone worth mentioning, he played the role of The Super Shredder in the second of the TMNT films. He was hired for the role purely because of his size, not because of any sort of ability or name recognition. It's a very small role, appearing only at the film's climax, but it's worth a mention considering the star he eventually became in the squared circle. Nash was apparently also considered for the role of Sabretooth in X-MEN before it was offered to Tyler Mane.
9. Terry Funk, ROAD HOUSE
Terry Funk, one of the most reckless men to ever make his living between the ropes, appeared in a few films during his career. It sure beats getting blown up in Japanese death matches and having his flesh torn by barbed wire. Many may remember his appearance alongside Sly Stallone in 1987's OVER THE TOP, but perhaps his most notable role is in the 1989 Patrick Swayze vehicle ROAD HOUSE. Here he portrays Morgan, who serves as the bouncer at the Double Deuce, the bar that the title refers to. It's a small role, but a memorable one. He gets to interact with Swayze and everything, that lucky devil.
8. Bill Goldberg, UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: THE RETURN
Bill Goldberg, a big scary bald guy who used to play football and became one of the hottest stars in the history of the ill-fated World Championship Wrestling, was cast in this sequel to the Van Damme hit UNIVERSAL SOLDIER. Goldberg was cast as a cyborg warrior named Romeo. It's a very small role, but that didn't stop WCW from hyping the role in a way that would have you thinking that Goldberg was the actual leading man and that Van Damme guy was just there as background filler. In a result that suprised nobody, the movie tanked horribly at the box office, and Goldberg's aspiring film career was quickly a fading memory.
7. Jerry "The King" Lawler, MAN ON THE MOON
Back in the early 1980's in Memphis, comedian Andy Kaufman became one of the biggest villains in the history of professional wrestling when his intergender wrestling championship status was challenged by Memphis legend Jerry Lawler. Their feud was one of the most believable in wrestling history, and led to the 1992 documentary I'M FROM HOLLYWOOD. When Jim Carrey was chosen to play Kaufman in his biopic MAN ON THE MOON, Lawler reprised his role as himself for the epic confrontation. Sure, he'd aged a good 20 years or so since the original altercation, but the movies are all about suspension of disbelief, right?
6. Hulk Hogan, ROCKY III
When Stallone was casting his third installment in the ROCKY series, he sought a pro wrestler to fill the role of "Thunderlips, the Ultimate Male", one of the obstacles in Mr. Balboa's way. What he got was a rising blonde-haired golden-skinned star recently acquired by Vince McMahon's WWF from the AWA, and the rest is history. This role, while a small one, is notable for many reasons; primarily because it helped make Hulk Hogan a household name and helped spawn the wrestling boom of the mid-'80s, and secondly because it launched the film career of Hogan. Unfortunately for the Hulkster, he never found another role that was this successful, and led himself down a long role of b-movie hell.
5. Jesse "The Body" Ventura, PREDATOR
Before he was the most powerful man in Minnesota, Jesse Ventura had a lot of other ventures in life: Navy SEAL, Disc Jockey, Pro wrestler, and professional Schwartzenegger lackey Actor. Ventura appeared in films like THE RUNNING MAN and BATMAN AND ROBIN with buddy Ah-nuld, as well as his most memorable role: as Blain, one of the tough Marines in PREDATOR. Oh, he's also one of the first ones to buy the farm in the movie as well. The role is definately memorable, and appears in a film that American Movie Classics shows on a regular basis, thus ensuring its place in the annals of cinema history.
4. George "The Animal" Steele, ED WOOD
George Steele made his wrestling career as a hairy, barely lingual ape of a man who had a green tongue, ate the foam from the turnbuckles, and obsessed over lovely valet Miss Elizabeth. Imagine the shock to those of us who grew up knowing him as that guy
when he turned in a terrific performance as pro wrestler and actor Tor Johnson in Tim Burton's tribute to the master of the B-movie. Nothing screams "Oscar Moment!" like George the Animal telling a masseuse to "Do my toes" after a grueling wrestling match. It was a great performance, and I'd hoped to see Steele in more films after viewing him in this one.
3. "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, THEY LIVE
Rowdy Roddy first "retired" from the wrestling biz following his match at WrestleMania III in 1997, in order to pursue a Hollywood acting career. After his first starring role in HELL COMES TO FROGTOWN was ignored, he appeared in his most prominent role, as Nada in John Carpenter's Sci-Fi thriller THEY LIVE. Unfortunately, he was unable to use his exposure here into a solid film career, his roles mainly limited to straight-to-video and cable B-level action flicks. THEY LIVE is memorable for many reasons, one being the fact that it harbors the most boring fight scene ever. It's like 5 minutes long and has no music. Just Piper, Keith David, an alley, and lots of foley work.
2. The Rock, THE SCORPION KING
It took years to pull off, but in the year 2002, a wrestler finally landed the lead role in a bona fide hit movie. Duane "The Rock" Johnson, who had been cast in a small role in THE MUMMY RETURNS, had that role expanded into a spinoff movie of its own, that raked in 90M stateside and boasted some big dollars across the globe as well. THis Prequel to the MUMMY films shows the rise of this warrior before his turn to villany. Rock's star is still rising, and his name has been tossed around for a lot of high-profile roles, including the role of Venom in a sequel to SPIDER-MAN. The real test of his mettle will come when WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE (formerly titled HELLDORADO) is released later this year.
1. Andre the Giant, THE PRINCESS BRIDE
The man who holds the top spot on this list is the larger-than-life Frenchman who brought to life Fezzik, Vizzini's hired muscle in Rob Reiner's family adventure THE PRINCESS BRIDE. Andre, who at that time was the most hated wrestler in the world, did a great job of portraying the good-hearted behemoth and did his part to make this film a timeless classic. Billy Crystal was inspired by his work with Andre to make the film MY GIANT a decade later. While Fezzik wasn't the largest role on our list, it was definitely the most memorable.
There are some other performances that just fell short of the list here, just being inched out by the grapplers listed above. Some of those perfoamances include Randy "Macho Man" Savage's portrayal of Bonesaw McGraw in Sam Raimi's SPIDER-MAN, King Kong Bundy's role in the Richard Pryor comedy MOVING, and Edge's appearance in 2000's HIGHLANDER: ENDGAME. Other notable wrestlers who have appeared in disqualified material (made-for-cable and/or video movies and television shows) include Bret "Hitman" Hart, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, Sting, and Buff Bagwell.
I purposely omitted films where wrestling was the key plot point in the film, partly because I intend to run down the top movies about wrestling in the near future. So those of you waiting for your fix of Dirk Benedict in BODY SLAM and Hulk Hogan's big battle with Zeus in NO HOLDS BARRED will just have to wait.