Just look at what the McMahons did. First they brought wrestling out of the darkened venues of the territories to the bright lights of WrestleMania. They survived a steroid scandal and the lean times of 1994-95 to ride the second boom of the Attitude Era. They suffered yet another down period only to build themselves up to be stronger than ever before. They're now worth over a billion dollars, with an industry-leading Network service and their very own Film Production company. A wacky wrestling promotion making its own Hollywood films, who would have thunk it?
Sure WCW made their own films too; who could forget Beach Blast? No one! It’s actually impossible to get that film out of your soul once you’ve seen it. It’s wrestling’s version of The Ring.
But WWE is not interested in cheesy movies that only promote the upcoming PPV. That’s what the near-ten hours or television programming are for. The movies they’re interested in making are the real deal (or as close as they can get). They not only create starring vehicles for their wrestling superstars, but they even produce films that cast those boring, regular actors that have never bladed and don't even have a theme song.
Their role as a production company can be vague. It could mean they’re a part of the film from the ground up, or perhaps just distribution and/or marketing. But whatever their role, that shiny W symbol is consistently finding it’s way on upwards of seven movies per year. Then, now, and forever?
And not all of them suck! After naturally starting out with action, they’ve found an interesting niche with horror and have even extended their range to make movies with actual feelings and icky stuff like that. Are you ready for a tear-jerking Randy Orton monologue?
As of this writing, WWE already has 12 more films in the pipeline with such titles as: Rampage, Temple, Eliminators, Interrogation, (and my favorite) Killing Hasselhoff. This machine has gained some serious momentum and shows no signs of slowing down.
Expansion is great for the company if it's this successful (sorry XFL), as more profit means more security for the wrestling side of things. Maybe this will mean that WWE can save all of the cheesy acting and storylines for their films, and let the wrestlers get back to what they do best: WRESTLE.
Starring zero wrestlers, this isn’t your typical WWE film. In fact, the nature of what a ‘producer’ actually does for each film can be difficult to discern. For this particular production WWE was mostly responsible for marketing, something any wrestling promotion should be fantastic at. After all, 90% of a wrestling show is about hyping the upcoming big matches and getting butts in the seats. Could you imagine if The Rock was delivering promos for this? Although Bray Wyatt would fit the horror theme much better.
Oculus scored great (for a horror film) with the critics and earned nearly nine times its modest budget.
A bonus for fans of Battlestar Galactica, this film also stars Katee ‘Starbuck’ Sackhoff.
9 The Scorpion King
As it stars The Rock, one might think it’s obvious that WWE had a hand in the production, but remember Dwayne Johnson had already played the role in the previous Mummy film and this was WWE’s first production.
Their first foray was a biggie. The Rock set a Guinness World Record for highest debut salary ever at $5.5 million. It paid off however as the picture grossed twice that in its opening day and stayed no.1 for two weekends. It finished with $163 million, a nice debut success for The Rock and WWE. The Rock has since grown to be Hollywood's biggest box office attraction.
It only got 41% on Rotten Tomatoes but who cares... it made money
8 Road to Paloma
Before Jason Momoa got on the Game of Thrones gravy train, he wrote, directed, and starred in this interesting film. Almost single-handedly creating this project and casting his real-life wife (Lisa Bonet) meant the film could be made for just $600,000. The WWE got involved to provide distribution for this modern day Easy Rider.
It received mixed reviews. Some loved its loose and natural throwback to 1970s cinema, calling it a fun journey. While others just saw a vanity project obsessed with motorcycles.
Now that they're good buddies with Momoa, could we have a Game of Thrones promotion on RAW instead of Entourage?
7 No One Lives
Like a mediocre wrestling show, this film features some mindless action that is best enjoyed with your brain turned off. The lead character is known only as "Driver" and I'm sure it's not a coincidence this came out the year after Ryan Gosling's Drive. If you put your critic hat on you can tear this movie to shreds. But if you are a fan of the genre and accept it for what it is, there is plenty of fun to be had. Blood, horror, and action abound in this video game of a flick.
With the intense horror theme and Brodus Clay the only wrestler cast, this one certainly doesn't scream WWE.
6 The Rundown/Walking Tall
Many WWE productions have that straight-to-dvd feel to them, and that's because many of them are. Hornswoggle in a horrible Leprechauns movie, Big Show in a comedy, or The Miz as an action hero. It all has a lower-tier, bargain-bin feel to it.
WWE's first three films however, all starred The Rock, and his incredible star power elevated those movies into something that felt much more legitimate.
The Rundown performed quite well with the critics, but unfortunately didn't make its money back. Conversely, Walking Tall was panned by the critics, but the crowds ate it up, forking out the cash to see bad guys get beat with a stick.
Rumor: Vince Russo was fired from the Walking Tall writing team when he suggested they put the 2x4 on a pole.
5 The Day
Shannyn Sossamon is an exotic beauty who rarely finds her way into major releases. In fact, over half of her career has been short films, limited theatrical releases, or straight-to-video. It’s a shame we don’t see more of this Hawaiian bombshell.
After The Day debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival, WWE picked up the American distribution rights. The film had some incredibly modest numbers: 12 theaters, 16 days, and only grossing $20,984. But hey, it’s one more film with Sossamon.
4 Dead Man Down
The title could be used to describe WrestleMania XXX (can we un-break the streak?).
Ditching wrestling superstars for an actual acting superstar Colin Farrell made this film feel like a true Hollywood production. It even had the director of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and co-starred Terrence Howard.
All of that star power didn’t help though as the critics hated it, and I mean HATED it. The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw called it “intensely pointless and silly….violent and boring nonsense” (was he reviewing Smackdown?). He also hilariously described Farrell as “facially immobile” (watch out Keanu!).
For a movie this bad, it’s fitting that the tagline was “revenge is coming”.
The money lost on this one was revenge enough.
Dealing with Grace for all of those years finally made Will snap!
Eric McCormack plays way against type in this very mediocre horror. In fact, his performance is one of the ‘bright’ spots in a film that is terribly written and features even worse lighting. This was the first film produced entirely by WWE to not use any wrestlers. Perhaps the poor result scared them off as they switched gears and used wrestlers in their next seven straight films.
Fans of the Attitude Era can rightfully say that a PG rating ruined yet another WWE product.
2 That’s What I Am
Coming of age comedy-dramas starring Ed Harris aren’t what you would normally associate with WWE.
It’s most notable to wrestling fans for the film-debut of Randy Orton. There isn’t much else to write home about as the film only saw a few theaters and made less than 10 grand.
Not much is written about this film but IMDb poster Starduster bothered to write a few paragraphs about it. He (or she) describes seeing it advertised at a Wal-Mart. After visiting another Wal-Mart they bought it and enjoyed it very much. Starduster finished by saying ‘The messages of this movie are needed now more than ever’.
To the world this was an insignificant film that lost a lot of money . But to one Wal-mart shopper, this film meant the world.
1 The Call
A WWE film starring Oscar Winner Halle Berry? I’m surprised Vince didn’t institute any script changes where her character has to make out with an older gentlemen played by himself.
This is WWE’s most successful movie yet, taking in over $68 million. This blew away their modest projections of $17 million or so. The film’s R-rating and Berry’s lack of box-office success at the time were thought to limit the appeal. How wrong they were. A sequel was hinted at but there are no further plans.
It’s too bad Berry didn’t cross-promote this film with a Bra & Panties match.