Celebrities have been getting involved with pro wrestling virtually since the sport has been invented, exploding in prominence when Vince McMahon started using the concept to bring his WWE to international fame. While fans tend to complain when there are more celebrities on a given wrestling show than regular WWE superstars, a select few famous wrestling fans have managed to immensely add to the sport simply by making regular appearances near the squared circle.
Much like with pro wrestlers themselves, there are many diverse factors to consider when deciding on the importance of celebrities who got involved with sports entertainment. Although only a select few celebrities have proven particularly adept at performing headlocks, many were nonetheless able to provide something special to their every appearance. Others, however, were closer to outright embarrassments, having nothing of note to add other than the shame of desperation and McMahon’s neediness with public attention.
The one thing these celebrities all had in common was that their star power always brought new eyes to the WWE Universe—which could actually be a very bad thing if their performance went especially poorly. Keep reading to learn about 8 celebrity wrestlers who should be in the WWE Hall Of Fame, and 7 who disgraced the sport.
15. POTENTIAL HALL OF FAMER: Floyd Mayweather
Solidifying his nickname “Money,” Floyd Mayweather probably earned more than any other celebrity wrestler on our list for his one match in WWE, and yet he more than earned it by starring in the hype machine surrounding the most purchased WrestleMania of all time (up until that point). Mayweather maintained his undefeated streak in all contact sports by defeating The Big show in a No Disqualification match at WrestleMania XXIV, having originally started his beef with the giant over comments the World’s Largest Athlete made about the more normal sized Rey Mysterio, Jr. Standing up for smaller athletes everywhere, Mayweather knocked Big Show out and broke his nose, later defeating him in front of some 74,000 fans to earn his ultimate revenge. Mayweather would later make one more appearance in WWE during the guest host era of Raw, interacting with the superstars far more naturally than most and cementing his status as one of the better celebrities to get involved with the industry.
14. DISGRACED THE SPORT: Leslie Nielsen and George Kennedy
Wrestling and comedy actually mix pretty well, as long as the comedy is grounded within the reality of sports entertainment. If that comedy is instead based on the real world, it might not translate. The third option is for that comedy to be based on a movie world, which absolutely never works. In an early example, Leslie Nielson and George Kennedy made a number of WWE appearances leading up to SummerSlam 1994, searching for The Undertaker as their characters in The Naked Gun series. As if it wasn’t confusing enough that film characters were appearing in wrestling, the actors went by their real names while referencing their characters’ tropes and relationships. There’s a reason they didn’t call The Undertaker “Mark” when they found him at the end of the show—it takes fans out of kayfabe and makes the industry look fake. By appearing out of their usual Police Squad, Nielson and Kennedy were doing the exact same thing.
13. POTENTIAL HALL OF FAMER: Lawrence Taylor
While certain other celebrities have earned more money or competed in higher profile matches, only one has achieved the highest honor in the business, competing in the main event of WrestleMania. Lawrence Taylor achieved the rare feat in 1995 when he defeated Bam Bam Bigelow at the eleventh version of the event, and he gave a better performance than anyone could have expected when he did so. That said, of all the wrestlers on this half of our list, LT has the least chance of actually earning induction due to issues in his personal life. His status as a sex offender doesn’t necessarily preclude him, however, considering Mike Tyson was inducted despite the same unfortunate distinction. Should WWE decide that the controversy has died down enough to honor LT’s efforts, wrestling fans would have to admit he’s no less deserving than any of the other celebrity inductees.
12. DISGRACED THE SPORT: Jay Leno
His political reputation might be right in line with the main event scene at WCW, but simply being a politician wasn’t enough to prepare Jay Leno for a top level feud against Hollywood Hogan and Eric Bischoff throughout late 1998. The Tonight Show host started his problems with Hogan on his talk show, leading to a tag team match at Road Wild with “Diamond” Dallas Page as his partner. To give credit where it’s due, Leno at least tried to learn the basics of wrestling for his match, but that didn’t help quell the ridiculousness of seeing Hogan wince in pain at his weak-looking wristlocks. Adding to his farce of a match, Leno’s bandleader Kevin Eubanks played a major role, also regularly getting the one up on the nWo leader. You don’t need to be on Team Coco to realize Leno shouldn’t be an undefeated wrestler, and the fact he is explains why WCW is out of business.
11. POTENTIAL HALL OF FAMER: Dennis Rodman
In many respects, there wasn’t much difference between Dennis Rodman’s handful of WCW matches and those of Jay Leno. More overhyped and less prepared than the talk show host due to his reputation in basketball, losing to Rodman could even be argued as a bigger embarrassment for Lex Luger and The Giant than losing to Leno was for the Hulkster. What puts him on the positive half of this list anyway is his attitude and his reputation, genuinely one of the biggest stars in sports when he made his WCW appearance. Rodman’s time in wrestling came concurrent to his tenure as a member of the multiple NBA Championship winning Chicago Bulls, bringing incredible media attention everywhere he went and making the nWo truly seem like a worldwide affair. He’s another persona who’s personal life might preclude him more than anything else, but with controversy one of Rodman’s trademarks, he may just overcome the haters and make his way into another Hall of Fame before long.
10. DISGRACED THE SPORT: Master P
Despite his reputation as one of the most successful rappers of the late 1990s, the biggest problem about Master P appearing in WCW was that most fans had no idea who the hell he was. Thanks to having been birthed out of the NWA, there had always been a prevailing Southern mentality amongst WCW fans, and this meant they didn’t care much about the burgeoning rap scene. When wrestling legend Curt Hennig wrote a country song about how rap was crap, the WCW audience by and large agreed, and yet the company nonetheless tried to get them to cheer Master P when he stood up for hip hop fans everywhere. WCW tried to fix things by aligning him with established faces Konnan and Rey Mysterio, but P’s natural bullying personality made it hard for fans to accept him, and he was gone from the company in a manner of weeks, having barely done anything while he was there.
9. POTENTIAL HALL OF FAMER: Muhammad Ali
Floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee, Muhammad Ali defined the concept of sports entertainment long before he ever met Vince McMahon. Inspired by the legendary wrestler Gorgeous George, Ali would revolutionize trash talk in boxing, leading to the same thing happening in wrestling during the era of loudmouths like “Superstar” Billy Graham. At the same time he was dominating legitimate pugilism, Ali made a handful of appearances inside the wrestling ring as well, competing in a high profile match against Antonio Inoki. Earlier in the same month he challenged Inoki, Ali also had an altercation with WWE legend Gorilla Monsoon. Though the battle with Inoki was negatively plagued with controversy, Ali deserves recognition from WWE for his innovative personality alone, creating an entire class of showman simply by admitting he was The Greatest.
8. DISGRACED THE SPORT: Jimmy Savile
More than just a disgrace to professional wrestling, longtime BBC children’s show host Jimmy Savile was revealed as a blight to the entire human race shortly after his 2011 death. Using his prominence on shows like Jim’ll Fix It and Top of the Pops, Savile was able to become what the NSPCC has described as one of the most prolific pedophiles in British history. Though he spent most of his career as a talk show host and DJ, Savile also occasionally wrestled on the British independent scene, usually losing to top babyfaces. One notable opponent was “Exotic” Adrian Street, who revealed after Savile’s death that he happily worked stiff against the British DJ due to disgusting comments made about his young female fans. Street also admitted that he would have given Savile an even worse beating had he known the full extent of his crimes, which might have justified his time in sports entertainment after all.
7. POTENTIAL HALL OF FAMER: Regis Philbin
Considering he has recognition in the Guinness Book of World Records as the man who has spent more time on television than anyone else, it makes sense Regis Philbin would have made his way in front of a WWE camera on a handful of occasions. The thing about Philbin that separates him from your average TV personality is that he gives 100% to the ethos of whatever program he happens to be appearing on. This was most definitely the case when he appeared at WrestleMania VII to offer his thoughts on the main event between Hulk Hogan and Sgt. Slaughter, not to mention the dozens if not hundreds of times Regis welcomed wrestlers onto his own morning shows. More than any other talk show host, Regis regularly allowed himself to get just as ridiculous as his wrestling guests whenever they stopped by, which would have made him an entertainer worthy of wrestling history even if he had never met a McMahon.
6. DISGRACED THE SPORT: Robocop
In a simpler world, we could simply present that picture of Robocop and Sting side by side and call it a day. Out of all the fictional characters to make their way into a wrestling ring, Robocop is almost without any question the worst, considering his very nature as a literal crime fighting machine should have instantly disqualified him from the squared circle. He made his lone wrestling appearance at NWA Capitol Combat in 1990, saving Sting from an attack at the hands of The Four Horsemen before mercifully disappearing from the sport. The worst thing about Robocop is that he came at a time when virtually any babyface wrestler would have faired much better in his place, creating a new star and no trivializing the business by introducing a cyborg police officer to beat up Ric Flair and his friends.
5. POTENTIAL HALL OF FAMER: William Shatner
Thanks to his time on the U.S.S. Enterprise, William Shatner will forever be recognized as someone unafraid to traverse strange and unique universes, so it makes sense the WWE Universe would be a regular stop on his travels. Shatner first started associating with the McMahon family in 1995, when he appeared on The King’s Court to promote his new series TekWars. The interview lead to a second appearance managing Bret Hart against Jeff Jarrett, at which point it seemed like Shatner abruptly stopped his association with the company. He has since returned to wrestling for a short video that parodied his music career by having him sing superstar entrance themes, later signing a longer term deal with the company to host the WWE Network series Breaking Ground. Shatner hasn’t always been warmly welcomed by WWE fans, but his willingness to fit whatever role the McMahon’s gave him made him a natural fit for wrestling regardless of his reputation.
4. DISGRACED THE SPORT: Robert Wuhl
How do we even begin to discuss the bizarre situation that was Robert Wuhl in WCW? First, the distinction needs to be made that Robert Wuhl, the actual human, never technically made an appearance for the company, at least in kayfabe terms. Instead, Wuhl appeared as his best known character Arliss Michaels, as seen on the HBO TV show Arli$$. Ignoring the fact Michaels wasn’t a real person, it almost made sense in that his character was a sports agent, and a few wrestlers were going to appear on his show in a traditional crossover. Unfortunately, Wuhl apparently didn’t get the memo that wrestlers would be on his show, because when asked by Scott Hudson who he came to see, Wuhl claimed Dennis Rodman was better than any of the wrestlers. Earlier in this very least, we were positive about Rodman’s time in WCW because he actually added to the product, but having a second semi-celebrity come in to put a pin on that almost makes us want to take it all back.
3. POTENTIAL HALL OF FAMER: Cyndi Lauper
Arguably equal in importance to the Rock and Wrestling Connection as any given WWE superstar, it’s downright baffling how Cyndi Lauper’s name has escaped Hall Of Fame consideration for this long. She seconded Wendi Richter in her battles against The Fabulous Moolah, making their program popular enough to deserve its own MTV special in 1984. Lauper stuck with Richter until the first WrestleMania, where she won the Women’s Championship from Leilani Kai. She also had her own feud with Captain Lou Albano, using Richter as her main avatar to prove Lou’s misogynistic views were unfair and inaccurate. Strangely, Cyndi’s most recent WWE appearance acknowledged all of her former accomplishments while also insulting her, calling into question how exactly WWE views her legacy. Once they stop muddying the waters, they’ll no doubt realize she was a deserving Hall of Famer all along.
2. DISGRACED THE SPORT: David Arquette
In a contradiction that could only happen in pro wrestling, the main thing keeping David Arquette out of the WWE Hall Of Fame is the fact he won the WCW World Championship. Had he simply been a moderately high profile actor who starred in a movie about wrestling and competed in a handful of main events, Arquette would probably be viewed in a much different light by wrestling fans (especially since he donated all the money he earned in the sport to the families of deceased superstars). However, by winning the WCW Championship, Arquette’s dalliance in the squared circle went from a fun distraction to a joke where WCW history was the punch line. How could a serious wrestler work their whole lives to win a vanity title some comedian won in a total fluke? Truth be told, Arquette could still deserve entry into the Hall Of Fame on significance alone, but the fact remains inducting him could cause the sort of fan backlash WWE usually reserves for Roman Reigns.
1. POTENTIAL HALL OF FAMER: Andy Kaufman
From the second he entered show business, Andy Kaufman was determined to be unlike anyone who had ever come before him. After coming to fame through his one-of-a-kind standup comedy and supporting role on Taxi, Kaufman expanded his comedy act to include challenging women to wrestling matches. More than just a misogynist, Kaufman’s character was one of the best heels wrestling had ever seen, soon catching the attention of Jerry “The King” Lawler and leading to an epic feud. The two took their war to national attention by appearing on Late Night with David Letterman, where Lawler slapped Kaufman and caused him to go on a profanity laced rant. The incident was staged, of course, but occurred at an era where fans were unsure about wrestling’s legitimacy, and they could never tell with Kaufman, either. In a certain sense, Kaufman was better suited for wrestling than any other form of entertainment he conquered, making him the best celebrity wrestler of all time and a should-be lock for the Hall Of Fame.
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