Some people may think it’s easy for professional wrestlers, with all their experience cutting promos on live television and in front of audiences, to transition into the world of acting. It takes great confidence and great timing to cut a fantastic promo, and these tools, in theory, could help one deliver their lines flawlessly when appearing in a TV show or movie. But that’s not always the case. Some, such as The Rock, take to acting like a fish takes to water. Others, and there are too many to mention, tend to come about as wooden and awkward, and are best limiting their celebrity status to the wacky world of wrasslin’. Or are best used as one-shot guest stars, or in roles that only require a few minutes of screen time.
Earlier this month, we gave you a list of 15 wrestler cameos in movies you may have missed. Now we’re moving on to the world of television, and since TV series can cover a lot more ground and a lot more time than movies do, we’re going to be using the term “cameo” a bit loosely, and also including onetime (or even two-time, in rare cases) guest appearances. That means substantial recurring characters, such as Vader playing Frankie’s dad in Boy Meets World, won’t be included, but one-shot guest appearances of his on other shows (spoiler alert) may be.
15. Roddy Piper (Adventure Time)
In the world of live-action TV, the late “Rowdy” Roddy Piper had a memorable role in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, as a jaded old grappler who helps the gang promote their own wrestling show for the troops. You saw him, you heard him, you knew it was Hot Rod channeling his best Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler. But you might not have been aware of Piper’s animated guest role in Adventure Time – while it wouldn’t have been too hard for wrestling fans to recognize his distinctive voice, he was not playing himself, but rather a character called Don John, the Flame Lord.
At the risk of spoiling the ending of the episode “The Red Throne,” the “heelish” Don John was defeated and imprisoned. Sadly, we probably won’t see the character make a return, as Piper tragically passed away in 2015, about a year after the episode was aired.
14. Sid Vicious (Big Brother)
This may be half the cameo most of the other entries are, but we have half the brain he does. No, that did NOT sound right, but we’re mentioning this because the 14th season of the U.S. version of Big Brother featured a young man from Arkansas by the name of Frank Eudy. And while he tried to keep a low profile about his family at first, he eventually admitted that his dad was a “big deal” in the world of professional wrestling, known in WWE as Sid Justice/Sycho Sid, but arguably best known for his time in WCW as Sid Vicious.
Introducing himself by his real name, Sid Eudy, the “Master and Ruler of the World” cut a short interview for Big Brother, explaining how Frank may have gotten his competitive nature from him. We just hope Frank didn’t take after his dad in terms of putting his foot in his mouth on live television.
13. Rob Van Dam (City Guys)
The NBC sitcom City Guys is largely forgotten these days, but for five seasons, it was a grittier, inner-city themed take on Saved by the Bell that centered on the adventures and misadventures of two high school transferees from contrasting backgrounds. Oh, and Very Special Episodes too, considering the show’s grittier nature.
As City Guys ran from 1997 to 2001, it was fairly popular at a time when professional wrestling was the “in” thing, thanks to the rise of the nWo in WCW and the Attitude Era in the WWE. But instead of having wrestlers from those two companies make guest appearances on the show, the folks behind City Guys went with someone who was “The Whole F@!#ing Show” on ECW — Rob Van Dam. It was major exposure for RVD, who had yet to join WWE full-time, but unless you religiously followed City Guys or ECW, chances are you would have missed his cameo appearance.
12. Terry Funk (Quantum Leap)
The early 1990s TV series, Quantum Leap, starred Scott Bakula as Sam Beckett, a brilliant scientist forced by a failed experiment to keep “leaping” into the bodies of people from the past, while trying to change their future for the better. In the show’s wrestling episode “Heart of a Champion,” Sam leapt into the body of an evil Russian wrestler from the ’50s…who was actually played by a good ol’ boy from the South. And yes, that’s how a man with an IQ of 267 (yes, seriously) found out the truth about wrestling.
The episode focused on Sam tying to prevent the brother of his “leapee” (and fellow kayfabe Russian) from dying in the ring from a heart attack, but the subplot featured the brothers’ real-life feud against the promotion’s top babyface, Carl Shiloh, who was actually a drunken, nasty womanizer away from the ring. Shiloh was played by none other than Terry Funk, who brought a lot of fire to his role, despite his wrestling experience far outweighing his acting experience.
11. Vader (Baywatch)
You’re probably far more familiar with Vader’s recurring role in Boy Meets World, where he basically played himself, but replaced his birth name of Leon White with the fictional name of Francis Stecchino Sr., as he was reformed bully Frankie’s dad. But the Mastodon also had a less-distinguished guest spot of his own back when he was still Big Van Vader in WCW, appearing in a 1996 episode of Baywatch that was shot some time before he left the company.
That episode’s top-billed guests included Hulk Hogan (or Terry “Hulk” Hogan, as seen in the credits) and “Macho Man” Randy Savage as fictionalized versions of their WCW selves, but what’s odd is that it featured Ric Flair, Kevin Sullivan, and Vader as themselves, albeit with the Nature Boy playing a crooked real estate developer, and the latter two playing his heavies! All along, I thought it was only WWE that cared for occupational gimmicks.
That said, you’ll still want to check this episode (“Bash At the Beach,” just like the WCW pay-per-view) out on YouTube, if only to watch Vader do one better than Ted DiBiase by deflating a kid’s basketball with his bare hands.
10. King Kong Bundy (Married With Children, 1988)
We’ve helpfully included the year of King Kong Bundy’s Married with Children guest appearance, because he actually played two separate characters in the controversial series. But we’re not including the time he played himself and got himself more over than he ever did during his concurrent WWE run as part of Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Corporation. We’re talking about a guest spot that took place some time after his first WWE run, where he played Peggy Bundy’s brother Irwin.
Compared to the average wrestler making a cameo or guest appearance on TV and movies, Bundy wasn’t all that bad, probably owing to his interest and experience in stand-up comedy. And, as an additional bit of trivia, we might as well add that the creators of Married with Children were wrestling fans, and derived the Bundy surname from King Kong himself, and not serial killer Ted Bundy, as many have mistakenly thought.
9. The Hardy Boyz And Ken Shamrock (That ’70s Show)
Even cranky old Red Forman from That ’70s Show knew the deal with pro wrestling in the 1970s, and was definitely not a fan of it, but that didn’t stop him from bonding with his son Eric, and the rest of his goofy gang of friends as they went to watch Eric’s favorite wrestler, Rocky Johnson, compete at a local show. Now you may have recognized The Rock as a featured guest, playing his father and wearing a fake Afro, while making sly references to having a son who would one day grow up to be the “most electrifying man in sports entertainment.” But what about the guys who made up the rest of the card?
They may be wearing wigs to make their already-long hair look more in step with the decade’s fashion, but if you look closely, you would have recognized Matt and Jeff Hardy wrestling each other after The Rock, as his dad, did a number on a couple of midget wrestlers. And that other wig-wearing grappler snapping on Eric? That’s The World’s Most Dangerous Man, Ken Shamrock, though if you really wanted to see him snap, you would have still been better watching him on WWE TV.
8. Ernie Ladd And Gene LeBell (That ’70s Show)
Yes, we know we’re referencing the same TV series and the same episode twice on the same list. But while The Hardy Boyz and Ken Shamrock represented WWE’s active roster with The Rock on the That ’70s Show episode entitled “That Wrestling Show,” there were also a couple wrestling legends who were at Point Place, Wisconsin as young Eric Forman (Topher Grace) somehow turned his curmudgeonly dad Red (Kurtwood Smith) into a fan.
In the locker room scene where Red tries to get Rocky Johnson’s autograph for his teenage son “Red” (see, we told you Eric turned him into a fan), you’ll see The Big Cat, Ernie Ladd, playing the role of Rocky’s manager/agent. And while he’s not as recognizable as Ladd may be to old-school wrestling and pro football fans, judo expert/former wrestler/promoter Gene LeBell also makes an appearance in this episode, playing the referee.
7. The Miz (Sirens)
Okay, so it’s not just ’90s and early 2000s TV series we’re featuring in this list. Pro wrestling might not be the pop culture phenomenon it used to be in the days of the Attitude Era, but wrestlers still make for good special guests on TV series. For this example, we’ve got The Miz, who, as we all know, made his TV debut using his real name, Mike Mizanin, on the MTV teen/young adult reality series, The Real World. He’s showcased his acting chops more than a few times, may it be in hit-or-miss action movies (The Marine series) or bad, similarly WWE-produced Christmas movies. But he’s also done his share of acting outside of the WWE Universe.
In the second season of the USA Network’s Sirens, The Miz had a one-off guest appearance as a gym-obsessed character named Lance. Sounds pretty accurate, considering he works best as an arrogant heel, and sounds much better than what the “A-Lister” got in storyline before his big resurgence last year – a spot in that damned “Niagara” commercial.
6. Kevin Nash (Nikki)
Quick, who even remembers this early 2000s sitcom? The WB series Nikki ran from 2000 to 2002, starring Nikki Cox in the titular role, as a Las Vegas showgirl married to a struggling young wrestler. It clearly didn’t do well in the ratings wars, considering how quickly it was cancelled, but it did feature a main character who took part in scripted fights for a living, which was, and still is, a rarity in the world of television.
As Nikki’s husband Dwight made his living in the squared circle, it was inevitable for the show to feature an actual wrestler in a guest role. Enter Kevin Nash, who appeared in two episodes as an ostensibly womanizing wrestler called The Big Easy. In his first, and most notable appearance, Nikki is apprehensive about hanging out with The Big Easy, due to his purported history with ring rats, until he drops the big bombshell – he’s actually gay.
It was an interesting characterization, to be sure, though as we said above, it’s a shame not too many people (at least based on the ratings) were able to watch Nash play a stereotype-breaking character on TV.
5. Triple H (Pacific Blue)
As you may notice in this list, a lot of these forgotten wrestler cameos/small guest spots are from 1990s television shows, or shows that were at the peak of their popularity in the ‘90s. These shows include Pacific Blue, which was essentially “Baywatch on bikes,” or a beach version of CHIPs where the cops rode on bicycles, and not motorcycles. And since this show, like many others, ran alongside the WWE’s Attitude Era, they had to have one of the company’s biggest stars make a special guest appearance.
More fans may be aware of Triple H’s role as pro wrestler “The Disciplinarian” on The Drew Carey Show, but his Pacific Blue guest spot had him playing himself, albeit with a twist — his job away from the ring, apparently, was as a bodyguard to a creator of adult films starring underage girls. Considering the vile nature of his employers, Pacific Blue’s makers probably should have had The Game play a completely different, fictional wrestler.
4. Billy Gunn (Sabrina, The Teenage Witch)
Until the uncalled-for social media backlash that followed her Twitter “feud” with Kevin Owens in late 2015, it appeared as if Melissa Joan Hart was one of the proudest celebrity wrestling fans out there. And it must have been that wrestling fandom that allowed the creators of Sabrina, The Teenage Witch to invite a couple of wrestlers who were close to Shawn Michaels, one in real life (Kevin Nash), and the other in a storyline faction (Billy Gunn).
As Nash’s guest appearance on Sabrina is arguably the better-known one (to say little of his own entry in the list), we’re going to focus on Billy Gunn’s appearance in the Season 4 episode, “Salem’s Daughter,” where he played a character named Xavier “The Avenger” Prescott. As the name suggests, he was playing a wrestler on this episode, and one who got into a little inter-gender competition with Sabrina. Of course, he ended up doing the job, but it was a fun little guest spot for someone you wouldn’t exactly expect guesting on a kid-friendly sitcom.
3. Christopher Daniels And Frankie Kazarian (G.L.O.W.)
It’s impossible not to miss most of the wrestler cameos on the Netflix series G.L.O.W. The likes of John Morrison, Brodus Clay, Carlito, Alex Riley, and even Joey Ryan all stood out in the show’s first season, while Awesome Kong/Kharma was actually included in the main cast, playing heel wrestler Tamme “Welfare Queen” Dawson. Sure, the show turned out to depict a fictionalized version of the actual G.L.O.W. promotion, but the story was engaging, and the wrestler cameos were a whole lot of fun; if you weren’t checking on IMDB, you never knew who’d show up next.
While the aforementioned wrestlers all had their share of lines, that wasn’t the case for Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian, whom you may or may not have noticed in the episode where erstwhile soap opera actress Debbie, aka Liberty Belle, has her epiphany and finally becomes a wrestling fan. Daniels and Kazarian, who currently team up with each other on Ring of Honor, were the wrestlers who took part in the match right before Mr. Monopoly (Ryan) took on Steel Horse (Riley).
2. Brooke Hogan (G.L.O.W.)
Again, we’re bending things a bit by including two cameos from the same series. While Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian represent the unheralded male wrestler cameos, there was one female cameo whose presence might have eluded G.L.O.W. viewers who aren’t too familiar with TNA…or the wrestler/wrestling personality in question’s lackluster pop music and reality TV careers. Of course, we’re talking about the Hulkster’s daughter, Brooke Hogan, who rocked her best ’80s hair as a woman who helped Alison Brie and Marc Maron’s characters find a venue for the fictionalized G.L.O.W.’s next event.
If you come to think of it, it’s ironic that Brooke had a small part in the first season of G.L.O.W. Last year, she was reported to be working on her own all-female wrestling promotion, alongside the likes of fellow wrestling daughters Brittany Page and Lacey Von Erich. Wonder how that’s turned out, considering how women’s wrestling has since become much bigger (if not always well-booked) in the WWE?
1. Bret Hart (The Simpsons)
Although this is a fairly well-known guest appearance, it took place more than two decades ago, and not everyone may have been convinced at first that it was indeed Bret Hart voicing himself on an episode of The Simpsons. Using a much lower, gruffer speaking voice than usual, the Hitman made a brief appearance in animated form, purchasing the nefarious Mr. Burns’ mansion, then telling the evil old man that he wouldn’t want a “picture of a pitiful, pencil-necked geek” when Burns asked him if he can keep his self-portrait.
In a recent interview, Hart explained the reason why he didn’t quite sound like himself during his Simpsons guest spot, saying that the show’s writers originally wanted him to voice a fictional, made-up wrestler, but were forced to compromise when the writers, who may have been clueless about wrestling, realized that he was a huge star in the WWE.
Un-Hitman-like voice work aside, “The Old Man and the Lisa” was a great Simpsons episode from the series’ “Golden Era.” Too bad Bret would likely give a big, fat “4/10” to most of the long-running show’s newer episodes and seasons.
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