No, The Rock isn’t going to make it on this list, at least not for his role in Doom (and he’s a huge movie star now so we don’t really consider him a wrestler anymore). Lots of wrestlers try to make the transition from the ring to the silver screen, but very few are successful. Most of the time, they end up embarassing themselves with terrible acting or playing a role in an atrocious movie. Or, in the case of John Cena, they do both – which I can point out behind the safety of relative anonymity. Everyone’s a tough guy on the Interwebs! Anyway, here’s a salute to the wrestlers who were actually held their own on the big screen. I sure hope you aren’t expecting to see Kane.
Andre the Giant – The Princess Bride
Andre was a gentle giant if there ever was one. A legendary drinker (what he would drink to get a slight buzz would kill most people), Andre the Giant played the role of Fezzik in The Princess Bride. Keeping in mind that English wasn’t Andre’s first language and it wasn’t always easy to understand what the heck he was saying, Andre’s presence on screen was unmatched. Overall, Andre turned in a great performace, but I still prefer the times when he pretended to be absolutely terrified of Damien, the python carried around by Jake “The Snake” Roberts. R.I.P. Andre; you are missed.
Hulk Hogan – Rocky III
Hogan appeared in quite a few (crappy) movies throughout his acting career, but no roles even touched that of Thunderlips in Rocky III. Like my man Nattyb, I’ve seen Rocky III about a hundred times, and one of the best parts is when Rocky fights Thunderlips at a charity event. Sure, it’s not a stretch for Hogan to play a wrestler, but at the time, in the wrestling world, Hogan was the All-American good guy. Seeing him as a pompous heel was refreshing and fun. I’m guessing that the schticks of later wrestlers like Ravishing Rick Rude and Kevin “Big Sexy” Nash were based at least in part on the character of Thunderlips. “The ultimate male versus…the ultimate meatball.”
Jesse “The Body” Ventura – Predator
Like his co-star Arnie, Jesse Ventura would go on to become a state Governor, but not before unleashing the coolest effin gun ever on some unfortunate guerillas. As Blaine, Ventura chewed and spit tobacco, questioned the sexuality of his fellow team members, and eventually got a bowling ball-sized hole blown through his chest thanks to the Predator’s plasma cannon. Blaine is way more bad ass than the roles Ventura played in The Running Man and Demolition Man, if only for – after his teammates refuse an offer of tobacco – delivering the line, “Bunch of slack-jawed f*ggots around here. This stuff’ll make you a Goddamned sexual Tyrannosaurus…just like me.”
Jerry “The King” Lawler – Man on the Moon
Look, I know that Lawler played himself in the Andy Kaufman biopic, but he deserves a spot on this list simply for helping re-create his hilarious feud with Kaufman, right down to the bitch-slap on Letterman. The movie does a decent job of portraying the feud and Kaufman’s reign as the World Inter-gender Wrestling Champion, and a lot of that is due to Lawler helping relive those moments.
The Rock – The Rundown
Like Hogan, The Rock has appeared in a pretty decent amount of movies, although The Rock’s are a bit better. I actually liked The Rock as the lead in Southland Tales, but the movie was an absolute mess. I plan to write a apology review at some point. Anyhow, The Rundown wasn’t a terrible flick, and The Rock does a good job playing Beck, a guy who is hired to retrieve his boss’ son (played by Sean William Scott) from the Amazon. The best scene in this movie, unfortunately, is the opening sequence when Beck beats the hell out of the local professional football team in a club while a Missy Elliot-AC/DC mashup blares over the club’s speakers. After that, it’s downhill, but still enjoyable: it’s tough to not be entertained by The Rock (and Christopher Walken).
Kevin Nash – The Punisher
Nash played an assassin known simply as “The Russian,” a behemoth hired to kill Frank Castle in the 2004 version of The Punisher. As he’s used to selling punches and slams in the squared circle (by the way: 99% of the time you hear the phrase “squared circle” or, especially, the word “pandemonium,” it’s in the context of wrestling.), Nash does a great job of creating an intense brawl with Thomas Jane’s Punisher. This role was a huge leap forward from Nash’s role as Super Shredder from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II. Thomas Jane is certainly a more reputable co-star than Vanilla Ice and a bunch of dudes in turtle suits.
Triple H – Blade: Trinity
In the third Blade film, Triple H plays Jarko Grimwood, a gigantic, menacing vampire. It’s easy for Triple H to play the intimidating meathead type, but his surprising chemisty with Ryan Reynolds and willingness to be the butt of several jokes throughout the movie (including those that reference the size of his dong) make his performance memorable. And not in a bad, Randy Savage-in-Spider-Man type of way.
Stone Cold Steve Austin – The Longest Yard
Austin is one scary redneck. I wonder if he even knew the cameras were rolling when he’d mess with Nelly in scenes that were saturated with subtle racism. “Hey, boy…” Kevin Nash and Bill Goldberg also had roles in this movie. It’s not as good as the original, but it’s also a very different type of movie.
Rowdy Roddy Piper – They Live
We saved the best for last: Rowdy Roddy Piper as John Nada in John Carpenter’s classic They Live. If you’ve seen this movie, then you know that Piper’s performance speaks for itself. He delivers one of my favorite tough guy lines (“I have come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass, and I’m all out of bubble gum”) and participates in an over-the-top fight scene filled with nut shots. View the clip below for a fight that started simply because Nada’s friend Frank won’t try on a certain pair of sunglasses: