Wrestling is fake. That is the first thing that any non-wrestling fan will tell you upon hearing you like wrestling. Whilst this is an incredibly arrogant thing to say (wrestling is as real and dangerous as any other fighting sport. Come at me, Conor), there is some truth to this statement. Yes, wrestling is predetermined and a lot of it does come down to how convincing wrestlers’ performances are to the audience. A good wrestling feud can be like a Hollywood movie: two characters, good vs evil, with various twists and turns until an epic conclusion is reached, usually with good triumphing over the evil (unless you’re Triple H in 2004).
So, in theory, wrestlers should be able to turn their talents to the big screen and be good at it. Well, that isn’t always the case. Yes, some stars in the ring have gone on to have relatively successful careers in the movie industry and even some of those who didn’t still put in good performances. Equally, some guys who really had it between the ropes really didn’t when they were put in front of a camera. Whilst some of the wrestlers on the good section of this list made their appearances in some pretty bad films, we’re only counting the actual performances themselves, so the overall quality of the movie isn’t a factor. This is good, because, believe me, there are some real shockers on this list.
So, grab your popcorn, dim the lights and stop your damn talking, because we’re all going to the movies for a look at eight great and seven terrible performances by wrestlers in movies. Some spoilers ahead, sorry.
15. BEST: Batista in Guardians Of The Galaxy
We start with one of the more recent wrestling additions to the world of Hollywood, Dave Bautista, known to WWE audiences as ‘The Animal’ Batista. The former WWE Champion made his film debut in 2006, with a cameo role alongside Triple H (who will be turning up again on this list for sure) in a Danny DeVito movie, Relative Strangers. After roles in The Man With The Iron Fists and Riddick, Batista landed the role of a lifetime as Drax The Destroyer in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy.
Alongside Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana and CGI Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper, Batista fought the evil forces of Ronan The Accuser, portraying the powerful, but literal Drax to a great reception from the Marvel fanbase. Casting a relatively unknown actor in a relatively unknown role could have been a catastrophe for Marvel as they attempted to launch a brand new franchise for their Cinematic Universe, but Dave did a great job and it’s hard to see anyone else playing the role.
Thanks to the massive success of the film, Batista landed numerous other high profile roles, including the James Bond film, Spectre, and the upcoming Blade Runner sequel. These roles, combined with a scheduled appearance in the Guardians Of The Galaxy sequel puts Batista in a very, very promising position, especially for a man who was always open about his desire to be an actor. Batista could be the next big thing in Hollywood and Guardians was definitely the place that this journey started. Fun fact: Batista also starred in the third Scorpion King movie. Yep, there are three Scorpion King movies. Try not to cry.
14. WORST: Edge in Bending The Rules
It hurts me to put Adam Copeland on this list; he’s a really good actor and his work on the TV show Haven is excellent. But he doesn’t prove any of this in Bending The Rules. Edge’s first film appearance was in Highlander: Endgame as an unconvincing Scotsman who gets stabbed in the privates. Can’t ask for a better debut really.
His second appearance was Bending The Rules, a WWE produced movie that saw Edge star as a corrupt cop who teams up with District Attorney, Jamie Kennedy (Randy from the Scream films), to track down a murderer before he finds them. Whilst the film is ok for a WWE Studios effort, Edge and Kennedy have precisely zero chemistry and what could have been an interesting concept falls flat on its face as the two men just don’t connect enough to really make the enemies-who-become-friends angle work well. WWE clearly wanted to give Edge something to do in 2012 (when the film was released) following his tragic retirement, but it’s a shame that this film just wasn’t the right vehicle for the Rated-R Superstar.
In all honesty, the film probably would have been ok had Christian been cast in Kennedy’s role; the two have tones of chemistry together and would have played off each other much better than the two actual stars. WWE will rue the day they didn’t read all my suggestions, they will. Honest.
13. BEST: “Stone Cold” Steve Austin in The Expendables
I liked The Expendables, ok. I love nostalgia and I love old men beating people up. This was like a dream come true for me. The movie, which boasts such stars as Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis and many more, features a team of mercenaries attempting to take down a corrupt dictator who is funded by a rogue CIA agent. One of the rouge agent’s henchmen, a man named Paine, is played by none other than the Texas Rattlesnake himself; ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin.
In the film, Austin waterboards a woman, exchanges some top banter with Sly Stallone and has a great battle with Randy Couture (which is the ultimate dream match for any combat sport fan) that ends with the Rattlesnake being set on fire. As JR would say – Good God Almighty! Austin plays a great menacing brute in this film, a role that really compliments Stone Cold and allows him to give his best performance. Whilst the rest of Austin’s filmography doesn’t read too well, The Expendables is a high-profile movie that featured some top stars and sees the Bionic Redneck portray one of his best characters.
For anyone who knocks this film, I’d seriously recommend going back to watch it again, even if it’s just for the Austin-Couture segment. Don’t expect any Stunners though. That would have been freaking awesome.
12. WORST: Kevin Nash in Magic Mike
No one wanted to see a 53-year old Diesel play a stripper. He may have been called Big Sexy back in the day, but let’s just say only one of those words is appropriate anymore. Still, Nash was cast to play Tarzan in the Channing Tatum abs-fest, Magic Mike. The film centres around Tatum’s character, Mike, as he attempts to make a living in the world of male stripping. Ok, the film actually centres around a bunch of shirtless men grinding, but your girlfriend will tell you the first one when she tried to get you to watch it. Don’t do it. You’ll feel awful.
Nash’s character is, umm, tall. That’s it really. He’s a tall man who dresses up as Tarzan and strips. He doesn’t really do a lot in the movie; he’s just sort of there. It’s not Nash’s finest hour, but neither are his other films really. The man played “Super Shredder” in his motion picture debut, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret Of The Ooze. Great job, Kev. To give him some credit, alongside Magic Mike, Nash has appeared in some pretty high profile films, including Rock of Ages, The Punisher and John Wick. Also, he was in an episode of Sabrina The Teenage Witch. Fun fact.
Despite his high-profile appearances, Nash has never really dazzled and his lacklustre presence in Magic Mike is probably the worst. Failing to add anything to the already paper thin plot, Nash’s performance is pretty forgettable, much like his WWE Championship reign. Sorry for the burn, Diesel, but you deserved it for taking your clothes off. I still have nightmares.
11. BEST: Kurt Angle in Warrior
Remember Tom Hardy? Remember how much of a monster he is? Well, this is the film that made him that monster. Hardy plays a cage fighter struggling to make ends meet, whilst also attempting to make up with his estranged brother, played by Joel Edgerton, who is also a fighter. On the way to the two brothers facing one another in the film’s climax, Edgerton’s character faces off against an undefeated Russian fighter named Koba, played expertly by American Olympic medallist, Kurt Angle.
Essentially a wrestling match, Angle does a great job in portraying Koba’s dominance inside the cage and works well with Edgerton to create a great story; Edgerton’s character, Brendan, is determined to defeat Koba to fight his brother and must dig deep to do so, eventually securing a submission to get the job done. Whilst this may have just been an extension of Angle’s wrestling abilities, it’s obvious that Angle is not just playing himself and the Olympic Hero is able to create a great character with the little screen time he is given.
For playing such a pivotal role in the film’s plot and for being a part of one of the best fighting movies ever made, Angle deserves some real recognition for his work on this project. I’m still gonna chant “You Suck” to his theme though. Force of habit.
10. WORST: Paige in Santa’s Little Helper
Wrestlers cannot do Christmas movies. You’ll see some more evidence of this a bit later on, but for now, let’s look at WW’s most recent venture into the holiday film franchise – 2015’s Santa’s Little Helper. The film centres around Dax, played by The Miz, a greedy businessman who attempts is offered a chance of redemption by Santa Claus, who offers him a job as his Ho-Ho-Ho. That does stand for something, but I don’t have the willpower to rewatch the movie to find out what. Sorry.
Anyway, the film is bland and boring with stupid bits of dialogue and a dumb romance subplot between Miz and Billie, Santa’s personal trainer (no, seriously, that’s what she is). Paige plays Eleanor, the daughter of the former Ho-Ho-Ho who challenges Dax for the position. There’s a weird gap between the start and end of the movie that Paige isn’t in at all and when she does reappear, most of the plot has already happened. Paige’s character kinda feels like an afterthought and her boring delivery and forgetful performance does nothing to help this. The film as a whole is pretty bad, but it’s Paige’s dreary turn as the palest elf at the North Pole is the bad frosting on this particularly terrible Christmas Cake.
Paige shouldn’t be blamed too much for this I suppose; it’s not like she had Spielberg to work with on this production and this was her motion picture debut. I think this probably edges out her Awesome co-star’s first appearance – a cameo as himself in the Will Ferrell movie, The Campaign.
9. BEST: Kane in See No Evil
See No Evil, the debut production from WWE Studios, is not a great film. However, it’s one redeeming feature is the extremely creepy performance from Glenn Jacobs, known to WWE fans as the Big Red Machine, Kane. The film is your cliche slasher, centred around a group of teenage delinquents trapped in a creepy old house, all while being stalked by a silent serial killer named Jacob Goodnight (Kane). The film doesn’t really bring anything new to table in terms of plot or story, but Kane puts in a stellar shift as the silent, stalking killer, armed with a trademark weapon (a hook on a chain) that makes him look like an absolute badass.
The character of Goodnight isn’t too dissimilar to Kane’s original gimmick; the silent, brooding monster who is able to appear menacing without the use of words. However, this time Kane is able to use his facial expressions to convey a deeper character, especially when his tragic backstory is revealed. The mixture of pain, power and psychopathy displayed by Kane in the film makes for a memorable villain – or at least it would, were the rest of the film not so god damn terrible. Kane’s filmography doesn’t exactly read like an Oscar winner, including a pretty disappointing return to the character of Jacob Goodnight in See No Evil 2 (nope, I don’t know why they did it either).
Anyway, at least he’s good in the first one, so he’s going on the list. If you’re wondering why the movie’s called See No Evil, it’s because Kane’s character’s MO was removing his victim’s eyes. This is also why the film was original entitled Eye Scream Man. Eye. Scream. Man. That is almost so bad it’s good. Almost.
8. WORST: Goldberg in Santa’s Slay
Tis the season, again! The season of crappy seasonal films! From cheesy family garbage to full blown horror awfulness, it’s the man with the second most revered streak in wrestling history, Bill Goldberg, playing… Santa Claus? Santa Claus who murders people? Right. Let’s get to the bottom of this. The film portrays Santa as the spawn of Satan himself, forced to deliver presents for 1000 years after losing a curling match to an angel. No, I’m not making any of this up. After his time runs out, Santa is free to do what he loves to do – killing – and targets mainly Jewish people (which is kinda odd, because Goldberg is Jewish himself). Still not making any of this up.
Eventually, Santa tried to kill the film’s two heroes with a Zamboni, before the angel who imprisoned him, who is actually the main protagonist’s grandfather, returns to fend off Santa, before his sleigh of “hell-deer” are blown out of the sky by a man with a bazooka. Didn’t make a single bit of that up, honest. Yes, the film is meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but the tongue is so far into the cheek of this movie that it’s close to tearing straight through it. It’s pretty much impossible to put in a good performance as a murderous Kris Kringle, so it’s not really Goldberg’s fault he’s on this list. Except, he did take the role and he did agree to try and end the movie with a Zamboni chase. So, yeah, it was entirely his own fault. Shame on you, Bill.
7. BEST: Andre The Giant in The Princess Bride
There’s a reason the WWE created the Hall of Fame just to put Andre in it when he passed away. He wasn’t just a professional wrestling mega star, but an outright pop culture icon; he was a real life giant and everyone knew his name, which meant that, when Rob Reiner was looking for someone to play the giant, Fezzik, in his 1987 movie, The Princess Bride, there was only really one person he could call. Well, maybe Big John Studd, but he must have been busy.
Andre’s character is one of the three henchmen sent to kidnap the eponymous princess, Buttercup, but eventually turns good, teaming up with hero, Westley, to reclaim the stolen princess and plays a pivotal role in the film’s climax. Andre’s lovability shines through in this movie; it would have been impossible not to turn him face, whoops, I mean make him a hero (force of habit, sorry), because the man just exudes likability.
The Princess Bride is a classic movie and having a wrestler in it almost makes me proud. Andre made a little piece of cinematic history with this film and its ongoing success only serves to heighten the legacy of a man who left so much good behind in this world when he was sadly taken from it. If you haven’t seen it, watch it, it’s an immortal movie that will always be popular, no matter how much times passes. Kinda like the Eighth Wonder himself.
6. WORST: Big Show in Knucklehead
It’s a shame Andre’s kayfabe son didn’t inherit any of his acting ability. Big Show will go down in history as one of the most successful wrestlers of all time; he’s a multiple time world champion, the only person to hold the WWE, WCW and ECW Championships in his career and has headlined competed for the world championship at WrestleMania multiple times. However, all of these achievements did nothing to help his acting career.
Show’s filmography is pretty bad, but perhaps the worst addition to it is 2010’s Knucklehead, which sees Show portray Walter Krunk, a 35-year old orphan who becomes an MMA fighter in order to save his orphanage from closure. It’s kinda like Warrior mixed with The Blues Brothers with a little bit of Buster Keaton for the slapstick, only it’s not like that because all of these things are actually good. The film is the lowest of lowbrow humour and the jokes – sorry, “jokes” – are childish, pathetic and just plain unfunny. The movie slumped hard in the box office and co-star, Dennis Farina, called it the most embarrassing thing he’d ever done and he was What Happens In Vegas. That’s not a great comparison.
Show’s performance as the bumbling, clumsy giant is so stale and is pretty hard to view at some points. Show has often stated that he wants to take more roles not based on his size, but when you can’t even pull of the giant roles very well, what hope is he going to have with any others? It’s a bad film with bad acting that will make you feel bad. Watch The Princess Bride instead. That’ll make you feel better.
5. BEST: The Rock in The Fast And The Furious series
No professional wrestler in history has had more success outside of the ring than Dwayne Johnson. A mega star in the Attitude Era and one of the reasons the WWE won the Monday Night Wars, The Rock’s talents obviously caught the eyes of Hollywood bigwigs, who cast the great one as The Scorpion King in the 2001 blockbuster, The Mummy Returns. Whilst this role didn’t really allow The Great One to show off his acting abilities and the CGI used to bring The Scorpion King to life is the stuff of nightmares, this was to be the little snowflake that would lead to the avalanche of success that followed for Rock. After being given a chance to shine in 2002’s The Scorpion King (a spin-off of The Mummy series), The Rock began to gain real traction as a legitimate actor, appearing in big name films such as Be Cool, Get Smart, Race To Witch Mountain, and, of course, Tooth Fairy.
However, his biggest role came in 2011, when Rocky landed the role of Luke Hobbs in the fifth instalment of the Fast and Furious series. Rock’s performance in the movie earned him huge praise from fans and critics alike, audiences warming to the no nonsense government agent as he ruthlessly hunted down Vin Diesel and his team of car-loving hooligans across Rio De Janeiro. The People’s Champion proved to be just that as his appearance in the movie made such an impact, the character has returned for two more movies since then, becoming a protagonist and taking a central role in the plots of Fast 6 and 7.
With Fast 8 on the horizon, who knows just how many more times we’ll see Luke Hobbs earn The Rock a couple more million dollars. A real success story and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. Shame we have to sit through all those terrible Fast and Furious movies though. I only watch them for The Rock.
4. WORST: Triple H in The Chaperone
Triple H and The Rock have had very similar careers inside the ring. Both rose up the ranks at the same time, both multiple time world champions, both are main event legends who continue to perform sporadically today. There can be no denying that these two men have taken very similar paths when it comes to wrestling. It’s a shame the same can’t be said for their film careers, because Triple H can’t act. At all.
Aside for a few Scooby-Doo cameos and a few roles as himself, Triple H has only really had three major film roles. One was in Blade: Trinity (which was Marvel before Marvel was good), one was in a film called Inside Out (which was bleugh), but his worst came in 2011 and it was called The Chaperone. The film stars The King of Kings as a former getaway driver who ditches a bank robbery to chaperone his daughter’s field trip (his daughter is played by Alex from Modern Family, by the way). After the robbers come after Triple H and his daughter, leading to The Game balancing fighting off the mobsters with looking after a bus full of children. I’d add something like “with hilarious results!” or something like that, but I don’t want to lie to you.
Triple H is to comedy what his sledgehammer is to a glass window; the film s desperately unfunny and the plot is hardly original. There’s a reason this movie is the last serious (and I use that word very lightly) entry on Triple H’s filmography and what a downer to end on. Thankfully, Triple H seems to have learned his lesson though. At least that’s something.
3. BEST: Roddy Piper in They Live
He came here to kick ass and chew bubble gum. And he’s all out of bubble gum. One of the greatest lines in action movie history comes from this very movie and it was uttered by one of the greatest pro wrestlers ever – “Rowdy” Roddy Piper.
Piper plays John Nada, a drifter who makes the startling discovery about the upper classes of the world; they are all shape-shifting aliens secretly manipulating humanity into furthering their own needs. Nada discovers a pair of glasses that allow the wearer to see through the aliens’ disguise and makes it his mission to rid the Earth of the intergalactic imposters, as well as attempting to prove to the rest of the world that the aliens exist. Piper plays an incredible hero in this film; not your typical clean cut good guy, Piper’s anti-hero, loner take on the traditional action hero is a really refreshing idea and makes the film easy to watch as you know you won’t have seen the same thing a million times before.
Piper is a real badass in this film and proves himself to be one of the most talented actors in the world of wrestling, which hardly comes as a surprise to anyone who watched his energetic, passionate promos during his run with the WWE. Piper is a real legend and his tragic passing in 2015 was made slightly more bearable with the knowledge that he leaves behind a legacy, both in and outside of the ring, that will last forever. God bless you, Hot Rod.
2. WORST: Hulk Hogan in No Holds Barred
I didn’t really want to put a wrestling film on this list, but you can’t talk about bad performances by wrestlers in films and not mention this absolute stinker. It was hard to decide which of Hogan’s dreadful movies to include. Mr. Nanny, Suburban Commando, Santa With Muscles, all steaming piles of horse manure, but the one that’s really, really hard to watch is Hogan’s theatrical debut, No Holds Barred.
The movie stars Hogan as Rip Thomas, a wrestling champion and superstar, who does battle with an evil TV executive and his googly-eyed henchman, Zeus. The film has numerous, ahem, memorable moments including a bedroom scene in which Hogan falls onto his love interest, another bedroom scene where Hogan’s oiled up backside can be seen in shot for at least ten seconds and the infamous “dookie” scene, where Hogan makes a limo driver, umm, relieve himself in his pants.
The acting is truly awful and Hogan’s is the absolute worst; delivering dialogue no human being would ever utter, being awkward in every single scene with anyone else and downright creepy when attempting to “seduce” his love interest, Samantha. Whilst the film has become almost a classic due to its awfulness, it’s still a truly abysmal piece of cinema and it is incredible that Hogan didn’t give up the ghost when it came to acting after this shocking debut. But, thanks to ego and a healthy dose of ignorance, the Hulkster went on to have one of the worst film careers of all time. You can thank No Holds Barred for that. Also, you can thank it for that awful storyline with Zeus and Hulk Hogan at SummerSlam 1989. Jesus, this film just gets worst and worst.
1. BEST: Jesse Ventura in Predator
What a life Jesse Ventura has lead. Not only a former pro-wrestler turned colour commentator, but the man also served as governor of Minnesota from 1999 to 2003 and was a member of the US Navy during the Vietnam war. Add in his numerous books on the subject of conspiracy theories and the fact he’s a WWE Hall of Famer, you’d find it hard to believe that The Body had the time to act, let alone perform in one of the most iconic sci-fi movies ever.
Ventura (in his debut film role, no less) was cast as Blain Cooper in 1987’s now-iconic Predator. The movie, which stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as the leader of a special forces unit hunting down a mysterious alien being, made nearly one billion dollars worldwide and has since gone on to become one of sci-fi’s most respected and loved franchises, with two sequels and several crossover movies with the equally-popular Alien series. Ventura’s character doesn’t appear in the movie for too long before the Predator kills him, but he does have enough time to utter one of the most iconic lines in all of film history. When told by a fellow soldier that’s been hit and is bleeding, Ventura, face straight and eyes focused, says “I ain’t got time to bleed”. Beautiful. Ventura is an incredible actor and is severely undervalued for it; the sad thing is that most people who’ve seen Predator, which is most people, probably don’t even know he was a wrestler and are robbing themselves of one of the most enriching life stories of any human being ever to have lived.
For his now iconic performance, legendary quotes and lasting impact on film history, my nod for best performance by a wrestler in a film of all time has gotta go to Jesse “The Body” Ventura. I wonder what old Gorilla would have made of that.
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