Professional wrestling by definition is professional acting. Wrestlers follow loose scripts, constructed story lines, and provide “entertainment” for thousands of fans week in and week out. Wrestlers on the WWE roster have been so historically good at playing their parts that fans actually lose themselves in their stories and cheer or boo them accordingly, as if those stories were real. The growing trend for wrestlers seems to be that, perhaps due to the physical toll that wrestling takes on one’s body, or maybe to be taken more seriously, or possibly just to expand one’s horizons, there have been many professional wrestlers that have made the attempt to transition from the ring to the big screen, albeit with little success.
Whether you like his acting or not, only Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has truly conquered Hollywood. The breath of The Rock’s work in film is quite remarkable to say the least. In the film industry he has proven himself to be an actor that takes risks, works on improving his skills, and is a huge box office draw, currently among the highest paid actors. However, other than The Rock, the list of wrestlers who are actually good actors is very sparse to say the least. That said, there are some particularly good wrestler/actor performances that do stand out. Jesse Ventura, for example, was extremely well suited for his role as Captain Freedom in The Running Man. It wasn't remarkable acting, but The Body was believable and well suited for his part. In Predator, Ventura again found himself with a good cast and an action driven plot, accompanied with a script containing lines that weren’t embarrassing. Another memorable acting performance was Andre the Giant’s role as Fezzik in The Princess Bride, a critically acclaimed film that continues to be watched a generation after it was made. Again, there just isn’t a large volume of good wrestler to actor examples to cite.
Below is a sampler of the not so good ones, The Top 15 Wrestlers Who Had Embarrassing Acting Careers.
15 Dan Severn
Tetherball: The Movie was a film that was undoubtedly made on a budget. In this film, using the film Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story as a guide, Dan “The Beast” Severn finds himself alongside Ron Jeremy and Dustin Diamond. The premise? Three best buds decide to start a Tetherball league in a film that checks all the boxes for explicit content. In short, Severn always looked awkward as a wrestling personality and even more so as an actor. If you’re not an “every minute counts” type of person, watch Severn in Tetherball.
14 Ken Shamrock
Like “The Beast,” the “World’s Most Dangerous Man” also was never really believable as a wresting personalit and, his marketability was largely driven by the fact that fans knew that he could actually fight. Check out Shamrock in the film Scarecrow Gone Wild, which IMDB gives a rating of 3.0, where he fights and loses to a homicidal Scarecrow. It’s just plain embarrassing.
13 Diamond Dallas Page
DDP was a great wrestling personality, coupled with one of the more famous match finishers, the “Diamond Cutter.” Page has actually gone on to do some pretty significant work in his post wrestling days. If you remember the portrayal of Jake “the Snake” Roberts in Beyond the Mat, you were witness to one of the saddest narratives in the wresting business, yet with the aid of DDP, Roberts is now a new man. Diamond Dallas and his DDP Yoga program literally cleaned up and reinvented Roberts (along with countless others) and is a highly successful enterprise. As an actor appearing in many films, DDP’s most embarrassing role came in the film Hood of Horror alongside Snoop Dogg. The story of what happens to inner-city evildoers in the afterlife got an IMDB rating of 4.1.
12 Rob Van Dam
A very accomplished wrestler with every company he worked for, Rob Van Dam held a title of some sort on 21 occasions. And as an actor he has worked on numerous projects as well – he has 16 film credits on IMDB. However, any project taken on where Dave Bautista receives top billing is doomed for embarrassment, as in the case of Wrong Side of Town. Van Dam’s performance is almost bearable as a former Navy Seal who, after a bar fight gone bad, ends up with just about everyone in Louisiana gunning for him. Embarrassing? Yes – the film’s IMDB rating is a 3.9.
11 Bob Backlund
Prior to Hulk Hogan’s role as “Thunderlips” in Rocky III, and professional wrestling exploded in popularity as a result, Bob Backlund was at the top of the profession. Backlund, in short, could wrestle; he was an All American in both wresting and football in high school and an NCAA Wrestling Champion at North Dakota State University, where he also graduated with a degree. Mr. Backlund though couldn’t act to save his life. His wrestling personas, once survival in the WWE demanded it, were both odd and uncomfortable to watch at times. Of particular note is Backlund’s role in In the Land of the Merry Misfits where he and other misfits fittingly search for the “Grail of Popularity” because they’ve missed the social mark. Pretty much sums up Backlund.
10 Terry Funk
Terry Funk wrestled professionally for over half a century – a remarkable achievement on its own merit. Funk has also had a number of acting gigs over the years, both in front of the camera and behind the scenes as a “fall guy.” However, if you like comic relief in films, look no further than Terry Funk’s character, Morgan, in the film Road House; especially when Swayze suggests that “there’s always barber college,” after firing Morgan from The Double Deuce. To his credit, Terry Funk has been very outspoken on the Road House remake starring Ronda Rousey. Despite Funk’s embarrassing performance, Road House is a classic and shouldn’t be touched.
9 Kevin Nash
The film Magic Mike was definitely eye candy for the ladies, but also a film with a believable plot, which earned $167 million dollars at the box office on a $7 million dollar budget. The film was so successful that woman wanted to watch Channing Tatum and his entourage dance a second time in Magic Mike XXL. In that entourage is Kevin Nash (who was also in the first), who plays a character called Tarzan, who may actually be the most awkward looking dancer in the world. In preparation for this role, Nash should have taken dancing lessons in addition to acting lessons – which he clearly did not. It’s hard to watch.
8 The Undertaker
Mark Calaway has assumed the persona of The Undertaker in the WWE for over 25 years now and the gimmick hasn’t lost its luster. For The Undertaker, that luster hasn’t transcended to the big screen. Suburban Commando was a truly awful film and it’s even unwatchable for a good laugh. Calaway would have done himself a great service in sitting out of this Hulk Hogan film.
7 George Steele
With respect to Tim Burton and his filmmaking, you either appreciate his vision for filmmaking, as Johnny Depp clearly does, or consider his work artsy nonsense, earmarked for film critics only – who praise his work in an effort to seem highbrow. George “The Animal” Steele allowed himself to be a victim of Burton’s vision in Ed Wood, where he played the character of Tor Johnson, a Swedish wrestler turned actor.
6 Bam Bam Bigelow
The “Beast of the East” was the most agile big man in the history of professional wrestling, cart wheeling his 390lb frame across the ring during a successful and lengthy career. Bigelow did experiment with acting on a couple of occasions, one of which was the dreadful Joe’s Apartment, which chronicles the story of a guy named Joe who has to live with a bunch of singing cockroaches in his New York City apartment. In the unlikely even that you watch Joe’s Apartment, look for Scott Bigelow in the role of Boss Construction.
5 Steve Austin
Undoubtedly Steve Austin is one of the most popular and profitable wrestlers in the history of the WWE, due to his persona of working class hero, beer drinker and wrestling on his own terms. As both hero and villain, Stone Cold was adored by wrestling fans, so it seems odd that his acting career has largely been a collection of forgettable “straight to video” films where he plays a static character. His most noticeable role came in The Expendables, which wasn’t a bad film, but depicts Austin in his familiar role as tough guy. The truly embarrassing part is when Stone Cold fights Randy Couture, where Austin loses after Couture lights him on fire.
4 Triple H
Triple H or Paul Levesque is the most successful wrestler who is also the worst orator. In his earlier days, he actually wasn’t that bad playing the upper class Tom Buchannan type as Hunter Hurst Helmsley, prior to becoming Triple H. Generally though, whether in the wresting ring or in motion pictures, Triple H embarrasses himself nearly every time he speaks. Check him out in Blade Trinity, where he has his fangs punched out by Ryan Reynolds.
3 Roddy Piper
Rowdy Roddy, with his Scottish bagpipes, kilt, and a demeanor that approached madness, was so much fun to watch. Piper’s Pit had so many classic and politically incorrect moments that simply wouldn’t work in today’s WWE or society in general, but, back in the day, it was pure hilarity. Piper acted in many film and television projects, easily the most on this list. And, although it would be wrong to dub his entire acting career as embarrassing, certain projects do fall into the disconcerting category. For example, not only is Tough and Deadly a film that lives up to its embarrassingly child-like title, it is one of Piper’s worst lead roles on his resume, where he plays a P.I. named Elmo Freech, who is not only tough, but also deadly.
All the avid followers of The Sportster, already know that Dave Bautista isn’t a nice person. And those that have seen his films also know that he can’t act either. Despite being given multiple opportunities on the big screen in both lead and supporting roles, Bautista just isn’t a box office draw at all, with the one exception being his role as Drax in Guardians of the Galaxy. If his approach to acting at all mirrors his approach to wrestling, he thinks he’s really good, so good in fact that he shouldn’t be approached by fans for photos or autographs while on his own time.
1 John Cena
Unlike Batista, John Cena is generally considered to be a nice guy: down to Earth, funny, approachable, humble, etc. As a wrestler, his popularity rivals The Rock, but as an actor, he’s more like Stone Cold. On the big screen Cena comes off like a soft spoken Mark Wahlburg, except it’s in the body of someone who looks like he ate Mark Wahlburg for breakfast. The Marine and 12 Rounds are both particularly poor films.