WrestleMania is the biggest show of the year for World Wrestling Entertainment. The company does more promotio for their superstars for this show than any other. They also pull out all the stops, not only with their superstars, but with people from outside the wrestling industry for the event. Since the first WrestleMania in 1985, the company has brought in celebrities to enhance the event even more. Some of the celebrities have truly helped make the event even more special, and some were an odd fit for anything to do with WWE.
The first two WrestleMania’s saw an influx of outside stars try to get some exposure at the event. WrestleMania II, spread among three different cities, saw more than 20 different celebrities be involved with the event in some form or fashion.
Finally, the following year, Vince McMahon realized that having that many outside celebrities was a bad idea and instead decided to build the event around the true money makers of the company – the wrestlers.
Sure you would still see a star or two here and there, but for the most part, having more than two or three celebs at a WrestleMania is about the limit.
From getting in the ring to wrestle or signing the National Anthem, celebrities have lined up for the biggest event of the year in the wrestling word, and today we take a look back, counting down the ‘20 Most Memorable Celebrity Appearances at WrestleMania .”
20 Ray Charles
One of the great musical artists of all-time, Charles kicked off WrestleMania 2 with a great rendition of “America the Beautiful” that brought the crowd at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York to its feet. It was a great moment to open WrestleMania and Charles was the first big name artist to sing at WrestleMania, paving the way for the likes of Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, Little Richard and John Legend. It’s not uncommon to see Charles’ singing as part of the many highlight packages kicking off the biggest event of the year.
19 Morton Downey Jr.
The chain-smoking Downey Jr. was a guest during ‘Piper’s Pit’ at WrestleMania V. It was a memorable segment, as first Piper had it out with Bruce Prichard, aka ‘Brother Love,’ and then turned his attention to Downey Jr., who had a syndicated talk show that some say was Jerry Springer before Jerry Springer. Downey pushed Piper’s buttons by blowing smoke into his face and eventually Piper struck back, taking a fire extinguisher and spraying Downey with it, sending him down in a heap that made for a memorable Mania moment.
One might think that Liberace and a wrestling ring go together like fire and water, but oddly enough it was a great match for the first WrestleMania at Madison Square Garden. The flamboyant piano player was the ‘guest time keeper’ for the main event featuring Hulk Hogan and Mr.T vs Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff. Liberace first came out and strutted his stuff in the ring doing kicks with The Rockettes, who escorted him to the ring, and then in true WrestleMania form, he held up and rang a glass crystal bell to officially start the main event. Like a lot to do with the first Mania, it was a sight to behold.
Yes, as much as you may have hated the TV show ‘Jersey Shore’ on MTV, and more so the character “Snooki,” Nicole Polizzi deserves her spot on the list. She was involved in a mixed six-person tag at WrestleMania XXVII, and wound up getting the pin after doing a surprisingly good cartwheel splash on Michelle McCool. There’s never a doubt in these types of matches with celebs that they are going to get the win, but what was somewhat surprising was the athletic ability of Polizzi during the bout.
16 Alice Cooper
Alice Cooper was a bit of a ‘fish out of water’ for WrestleMania III, but it made for some memorable moments during the match between Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts and The Honky Tonk Man. Cooper was in the corner for Roberts, and while Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura spent most of the match making fun of Cooper’s rather small frame, the rocker got the last laugh, using Roberts’ snake to terrorize Honky’s manager, Jimmy Hart, after the match.
The metal band has a pretty big influence on some of WWE's music, as they have been part of two WrestleMania events, performing the song “The Game” for Triple H. They have done the last few Triple H songs, including “King of Kings,” “Line in the Sand,” and “The Game.” They are a perfect fit for Triple H and their performances to get HHH to the ring at WrestleMania X-Seven and WrestleMania 21 were memorable and they deserve kudos for their involvement.
14 Mickey Rourke
The star of the movie “The Wrestler” was in the crowd at WrestleMania XXV, and wound up in the ring with Chris Jericho. The original concept was that Jericho and Rourke were going to have a match, but weeks before the event that went out the window and the company instead decided on a three vs one match with legends Ricky Steamboat, Jimmy Snuka and Roddy Piper taking on Jericho. Y2J won the match and taunted Rourke to get in the ring, which the actor did, and laid out Jericho with a rather weak looking punch. This is a case of the appearance being memorably for the wrong reasons.
13 Billy Martin
The late fiery manager of the New York Yankees was part of the first WrestleMania, being the guest ring announcer for the main event. One funny story on the DVD ‘The True Story of WrestleMania’ was how WWE interviewer Gene Okerlund went to Florida to speak to Martin on camera about the event, and the always controversial Martin had a few too many drinks, leading to an interview that Okerlund said was a bit tough to navigate. Martin was a perfect fit with the New York crowd and he did a fine job as the ring announcer for the mega match involving Roddy Piper, Paul Orndorff, Hulk Hogan and Mr.T.
12 Regis Philbin
The former co-host of ‘Regis and Kathie Lee’ had a big part in WrestleMania VII, not only doing backstage interviews, but also being the third commentator with Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby Heenan during the main event between Sgt. Slaughter and Hulk Hogan. It’s interesting that Vince McMahon and the company would allow the commentary for that match to turn into a comedy act with Heenan and Philbin, but that’s no fault of Regis, who did what he was told at the event and was easy to work with according to backstage stories.
11 Bill Fralic
Many probably don’t remember the name ‘Bill Fralic,’ but he actually had a pretty big role in the battle royal for WrestleMania 2. Fralic was the second overall pick of the Atlanta Falcons in the 1985 NFL Draft, coming out of the University of Pitt playing offensive guard. The reason he was memorable for Mania was the simple fact he had no fear or issues on the mic, going after huge entertainers like Big John Studd and Andre The Giant among others, proclaiming that he was going to win the massive battle royal. It never happened, as he was thrown out mid-way through the match.
10 Aretha Franklin
When you talk about singers that opened WrestleMania with ‘America the Beautiful,’ it starts with the ‘Queen of Soul,’ Aretha Franklin. She did it for the biggest WrestleMania of all-time in 1987 at the Silverdome in WrestleMania III, and again 20 years later in Ford Field for WrestleMania 23. Oddly enough, it's reported that she was stuck in traffic and almost didn’t make the opening for the third Mania, but was able to get to the venue just in time to to belt out the greatest musical performance in Mania history.
9 William Perry
During the Chicago Bears Super Bowl run in 1985, there was no bigger sports celebrity than William ‘The Refrigerator’ Perry, and fans in Chicago were hysterical when he was announced for an appearance during the 20-man battle royal at WrestleMania 2. Perry got into a feud with Big John Studd, who was convinced that football players shouldn’t be in the ring. Perry and Studd found themselves alone for a few moments in the ring during the match, with The Fridge getting thrown out by Studd. He got his revenge a moment later, offering a handshake to Studd and pulling him out. Perry deserves credit for a solid job during the battle royal.
8 Lawrence Taylor
Bringing a non-wrestler in and putting him in the main event of WrestleMania is a risky bet, but Taylor did a decent job at WrestleMania XI. He was put in a program with Bam Bam Bigelow, and both pulled it off, making for a passable main event that lasted 11:42. Taylor is a Hall of Fame football player, but you could tell that he struggled and had to reach dig deep before blowing out in the final minutes of the main event. Taylor was so blown out he wasn’t even able to lift his arm in victory after the match, and had to be carried out by his fellow football players that were with him at ringside.
7 Donald Trump
The man behind "The Apprentice” was front and center for WrestleMania on a number of occasions, hosting a couple of WrestleMania events at Trump Plaza, and having a memorable program with Vince McMahon for WrestleMania 23. Trump and McMahon never got in the ring, but had wrestlers fight for them in a ‘Hair vs Hair’ match that, of course, was won by Trump's man, Umaga, saving his locks. Trump always has had a soft spot for the wrestling business, and he and McMahon have always worked well together.
6 Bob Uecker
‘Mr.Baseball’ was a big part of WrestleMania III as well as IV, as a ring announcer as well as doing a solid job bringing humor to the event in the announcer booth. His most memorable scene was getting choked by Andre the Giant in a hysterical scene during a backstage interview at WrestleMania IV. His ring announcing during the main event of WrestleMania III still ranks high as a memorable moment in the event's history. Uecker was another celeb that simply ‘got it,’ and was worthy of a spot going into the celebrity wing of the WWE Hall of Fame.
5 Cyndi Lauper
Cyndi Lauper had done a music video with late manager Capt. Lou Albano and suddenly was showing up at events at Madison Square Garden. Then an angle was put together where Roddy Piper attacked her and her manager, David Wolff. The feud led to the first WrestleMania, and while she was part of the main event feud, she also took on an up and coming female star, Wendi Richter. Her protégé won the women’s title at the event, beating Leilani Kai. As involved as she was with the formation of the first Mania, she doesn’t get the credit she deserves.
4 Floyd Mayweather Jr.
If there’s one thing that Floyd Mayweather Jr. knows about, it’s entertaining people and making money. At WrestleMania XXIV, he did both, going into a memorable program with Big Show that led to a no-DQ match in Orlando at Mania. For all the stories about Mayweather’s ego, everyone in the company talked about how much they enjoyed working with the boxer as well as his professionalism in his stint with the company. The bout was somewhat of a ‘David vs Goliath’ situation, but Show and Mayweather both sold it well and it was a fun part of the event.
3 Pete Rose
One wouldn't naturally assume that one of the most controversial baseball players of all-time would embrace the wrestling world easily, but Rose did it better than most. He showed up for the first time in Boston at WrestleMania XIV as a ring announcer, ripping on the city and eventually taking a tombstone from Kane. The following year he attacked Kane dressed as the “San Diego Chicken” and again took a beating from The Big Red Monster. The next year, Rose tried one last time to get over on Kane, and this time at WrestleMania 2000 took a nasty ‘stinkface’ from Rikishi. Rose was a natural in the ring and rightfully got a place in the celeb wing of the WWE Hall of Fame for it.
2 Mike Tyson
In 1998, wrestling was still not at its peak in popularity, but with the rise of one superstar and one memorable appearance from a former boxer, the rise was closing in. That star was ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin and that boxer was Mike Tyson, who was still coming out of the dark times of a suspension for biting the ear of Evander Holyfield during a boxing match. Vince McMahon paid to get Tyson to come in as an ‘enforcer’ for the main event between Austin and champion Shawn Michaels. Tyson came in and played the heel role well, joining forces with ‘D-X’ (Triple H, Michaels and Chyna) all the way until the closing seconds of the main event at WrestleMania XIV. In the end, Tyson turned on D-X, made the count and awarded the title to Austin. It was an appearance that helped make the event great.
1 Mr. T
This WWE Hall of Famer has the most memorable appearance at a Mania, making not just one appearance, but two very big ones. He was involved in two main events in the first two WrestleManias, and some say that if it were not for him, Mania might not have been as big as it is today. He and Roddy Piper had a classic feud for two years, and a lot of it was built off a real life feud, as Piper was not a fan of bringing an ‘outsider’ into the wrestling ring. The first Mania main event is what got the ball rolling and then fought Piper in a rather forgettable ‘boxing’ match the following year. Even with a rather lackluster match at WM 2, Mr.T tops the list of memorable celebrity appearance at WrestleMania.