Top 10 Film Performances by Professional Wrestlers
The inspiration for this list came from a few different sources. Somewhere between wondering what I could write about to further my geek cred and wondering how the recently announced remake of The Princess Bride would be able to top the iconic performance of Andre the Giant as Fezzik, the haze started to lift. What exactly are the top ten performances by professional wrestlers in film? Is creating a “top ten” list for this very specific sub-category an oxymoron? Potentially, but off I went. For the record, top ten doesn’t necessarily imply the best. All of these performances could be completely horrible (they’re not though – just some of them), but they are in my top ten (what does that tell you about the quality of the other performances?). Before I set off on my quest, I set a few ground rules:
Rule #1: Only one movie from Hulk Hogan and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson were allowed (good thing they haven’t been in a movie together or else I would have been screwed).
Rule #2: Cameos couldn’t be considered. Sure, Kevin Nash makes a great Russian bad guy in The Punisher, but he’s only in one scene. Yes, “Macho Man” Randy Savage was the perfect casting as “Bonesaw” McGraw, but again…he was only in one scene.
Rule #3: No WWE Films-sanctioned documentaries. Those are all fluff pieces as a rule.
So, with my three rules in mind and my television pointed to Monday Night RAW, I was all set to come up with the list of the top ten film performances by professional wrestlers that you are about to read.
10. See No Evil with Kane
See No Evil is the perfect vehicle for a character like Kane. The WWE have billed him as the epitome of evil for years, so it just makes sense to put the man who used to be a psychotic dentist in the role of a villain in a B-movie slasher/serial killer/horror flick. If you’re looking for a good movie, look elsewhere, but See No Evil is a passable by-the-numbers horror movie. Kane (real name Glenn Jacobs) has the presence to have a film career similar to Kane Hodder if he ever decides to. The wrestling mark in me hopes he does, because his character is getting pretty stale these days.
9. Santa’s Slay with Goldberg
I found out about this movie completely on accident. A promo copy of it came across my desk one day and I just had to watch it. I love horror novels and movies, but when it comes to movies, I like my horror completely realistic or completely campy. The idea of Bill Goldberg starring as a demonic Santa was just right up my alley. In Santa’s Slay (which includes opening scene cameos oddly enough by Rebecca Gayheart, Fran Drescher, Chris Kattan, and James Caan), former WCW standout Bill Goldberg stars in a role that I would never picture him in since he was a babyface for most of his wrestling career. As the story goes, a demon lost a bet with an angel and as terms of the bet, the demon was forced to give out presents to the children of the world. Turns out, that demon was actually Satan’s son (Satan…Santa…get it?) and when the terms of the bet expire, Santa gets back to killing. Lots of gore and cheesy one-liners ensue.
8. The Condemned with Stone Cold
The story is simple enough – put an island of killers and assorted convicts on an island, give them all the weapons they could dream of, promise one of them freedom, and film all the hijinx for a reality show. Vinnie Jones plays “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s chief rival. Austin has the charisma needed to be a major player in the action genre, but for some reason he’s been demoted to mainly straight-to-DVD fare. Hopefully, his role in The Expendables will help with future work.
7. Suburban Commando with Hulk Hogan
I think the obvious pick for most people when it comes to a movie starring Hulk Hogan is Suburban Commando. Don’t get me wrong, I like Mr. Nanny, Santa with Muscles, and Thunder in Paradise as much as the next guy (prepare to judge me – I’ve seen all three of those), but when I think of Hulk Hogan, I think of Suburban Commando. What about Rocky III you ask? Well, in my opinion, his role as Thunderlips was just a glorified cameo. Besides, Shep Ramsey rules. Suburban Commando is your classic fish out of water tale. In it, Hogan stars as the aforementioned Ramsey, who is a hero from another world who crash lands on another planet and befriends Christopher Lloyd. It just so happens that while Shep is trying to fix his ship, he also teaches Lloyd how to be a man and fights off intergalactic bounty hunters (one being the WWE’s own Undertaker).
6. Blade: Trinity with Triple H
I almost called this a cameo but, after thinking some more about it, I decided that Triple H is in this movie enough to count it. I enjoyed all three Blade flicks, but Trinity is definitely the weakest of the bunch. What stands out about Triple H’s vampire guardian character Jarko Grimwood (besides his hell spawn of a Pomeranian) is the wrestler’s sense of comedic timing. I actually enjoyed his screen time and wanted more of him. His fight scenes with Ryan Reynolds were also pretty good. Sadly, Triple H has been reduced to WWE-funded schlock like The Chaperone since his motion picture debut in Blade: Trinity.
5. Beyond the Mat with Jake Roberts, Foley, and Funk
I wasn’t originally going to include this in my list because it’s a documentary, but it’s a grim and chilling portrayal of professional wrestling that I think everyone should see. The documentary focuses mainly on Mick Foley, Terry Funk, and Jake “The Snake” Roberts. Through their eyes, you see the extremes these men will take to impress the fans. And specifically, through Jake “The Snake’s” eyes you see a cautionary tale that shows what happens when you go off the deep end. It’s even rumored that Jake was the inspiration for Mickey Rourke’s resurgence as Randy “The Ram” in Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler.
4. Predator with Jesse Ventura
Is it a coincidence that Jesse “The Body” Ventura’s best roles have come in Arnold Schwarzenegger movies? I prefer Jesse’s portrayal of Blain in Predator way better than his portrayal of Captain Freedom in The Running Man. While both are enjoyable in their own right, as Blain, Jesse chews up every single scene he’s in. Director John McTiernan (Die Hard) knows exactly how to create a very explosive action flick and cast them with actors who can make the characters engaging. Sure, Predator is most well-known for the creepy alien and Arnie beating the hell out of each other, but I’ll always remember Blain’s one liners and mini gun.
3. Faster with The Rock
Based on how popular The Rock was during his years as a full-time wrestler, it was a no-brainer that he would make the leap to the silver screen. He was completely wasted in his first movie (2001’s The Mummy Returns), but it didn’t take Hollywood long to realize the potential he had as an actor. Better roles started coming and he was able to show his range (action, comedy, family film). He is this generation’s Hulk Hogan – and I would argue he’s even better than Hogan as an actor. While I like most of the movies The Rock…er, I mean Dwayne Johnson…has done, the one that stands out the most to me is Faster (2010). In it, he plays the nameless Driver, an ex-con out for revenge. This is action revenge at its best and The Rock’s most solid performance to date.
2. The Princess Bride with Andre the Giant
This is the movie you’ve all been waiting for since this list started. I’m sure most of you would put it number one because of how classic and well loved the movie is. Without this movie, this top ten has no credibility. In fact, this movie is so iconic, I’m not even going to bother summarizing it. Just know that it’s great, and that Andre the Giant’s portrayal of Fezzik will not be bested by some lame remake.
1. They Live with Roddy Piper
As much as I love The Princess Bride, I just couldn’t bring myself to make it number one when a movie like They Live exists. Directed by John Carpenter, They Live feels like a perfect Kurt Russell vehicle, but instead of Kurt, we get “Rowdy” Roddy Piper playing a character that feels like a homogenized version of Snake Plissken and Jack Burton. That doesn’t matter though because with They Live, Piper gets to have one of the best fight scenes I’ve ever seen in a movie (an alley brawl with Keith David) and gets to say one of the most iconic lines in cinema history – “I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass…and I’m all out of bubblegum.” So, if you want to see the best movie starring a wrestler, put on your bad 1980s shades, grab some bubblegum and get to watching. You won’t regret it.