10 Best Movie Roles for Professional Wrestlers

Tuesday, September 15, 2009 at 5:11 am
By Shane Rivers

Race to Witch Mountain opens on March 13th, and the film stars former professional wrestler Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. This got me to thinking about other members of the “sports entertainment” business who’ve tried their hand at acting, so I decided to put together a list of the 10 best movie roles for professional wrestlers.

Surprisingly, the list doesn’t look as bad as you might initially think. Once you get rid of awful actors like Hulk Hogan and John Cena, you’re actually left with some pretty decent performances (or at least entertaining ones). So the next time you’re watching grown men grapple with one another on television or pay-per-view, don’t forget that today’s professional wrestler might be tomorrow’s movie star.

Instantly watch unlimited TV episodes & movies over the Internet right on your TV, computer and various mobile devices. Watch instantly on your TV via your Wii™ console, PS3™ system, Xbox 360, network connected Blu-ray players, HDTVs and more. Watch as much as you want, as often as you want for only $7.99 a month. Start your free trial today!

10. Ox Baker as Slag (Escape From New York)

Once he’s captured by the Duke’s men, Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) quickly finds himself being thrown into a boxing ring and armed with a trash can lid and baseball bat. His opponent is a man named Slag, and the role is played with appropriate menace by former wrestler Ox Baker.

Although he has no speaking lines, Baker does a fine job in the physical role, and most people who’ve seen Escape From New York remember his striking bald head and wild facial hair. They also remember his death scene, as Plissken stuns the onlookers by driving a spiked club into the back of Slag’s shiny dome.

9. “Macho Man” Randy Savage as Bonesaw McGraw (Spider-Man)

10 Best Movie Roles For Professional WrestlersWhen it comes to having a distinctive voice and look, nobody can rival “Macho Man” Randy Savage. While these special skills were a large part of his success during runs in the WWF and WCW, they also served him equally well as Bonesaw McGraw in the first Spider-Man movie.

Peter Parker needs $3000 in order to buy a car and impress Mary Jane Watson. All he has to do to earn the money is last three minutes in the ring with Bonesaw. What follows is short but memorable, as Savage (complete with a gigantic beard and obscene muscles) pummels “The Human Spider” for a few minutes before finally getting knocked out.

Sure, he’s basically playing himself, but the Macho Man really shines in this scene. One can only wonder what was being said between takes when Macho Man, Bruce Campbell and Tobey Maguire were standing in the ring together.

8. Tyler Mane as Ajax (Troy)

Tyler Mane has played a number of memorable roles in recent years, including Michael Meyers in the Halloween reboot and Sabretooth in the first X-Men film. His finest role, however, came as Ajax, the gigantic Greek hero helping to conquer Troy in the movie of the same name.

In Troy, Mane not only gets to swing around a gigantic war club, but he also gets to do a little acting. As Ajax, Mane is full-blown testosterone, even throwing a slave oarsman aside so he can help row his ship into battle with greater haste.

The role of Ajax culminates in a brutal one-on-one battle with the Trojan hero Hector (Eric Bana). While he comes out on the losing end, Ajax demonstrates his toughness and animalistic strength one final time.

7. George “The Animal” Steele as Tor Johnson (Ed Wood)

While attending a professional wrestling match, hack director Ed Wood (Johnny Depp) becomes fascinated with the burly appearance of competitor Tor Johnson. Going backstage after the match, the director offers Johnson a role in his latest movie. Johnson, receiving a massage while devouring an entire skinned chicken, happily accepts.

Steele isn’t asked to say much, and some of what he does say can hardly be understood. He’s mainly required to look like a dim-witted behemoth, and that’s something he’s able to pull off in his sleep. The performance has a certain sadness to it, however, as Tor becomes the latest in Ed Wood’s menagerie of likable social misfits.

6. Andre the Giant as Fezzik (The Princess Bride)

Speaking of actors who are difficult to understand, Andre the Giant stands above all others (both literally and figuratively). As the gentle giant Fezzik, he first fights – and then teams up with – the Dread Pirate Roberts (Cary Elwes) in order to save the beautiful Princess Buttercup.

While his acting isn’t exactly masterful, Andre the Giant is just so damned huge that he somehow wins you over. He also manages to convey a sense of childlike innocence, even while talking about bashing in our hero’s head with a rock.

I defy you to watch The Princess Bride and not remember Andre’s part as Fezzik for years to come. Ultimately, that’s the mark of a really great role.

5. Jerry “The King” Lawler as Himself (Man on the Moon)

Jerry Lawler, a legend in Memphis wrestling, made national headlines when he challenged comedian Andy Kaufman to a “real” wrestling match. Prior to this challenge, Kaufman had been drawing boos from wrestling fans across the country by calling himself the Inter-Gender Wrestling Champion and fighting female volunteers from the crowd.

When the two men finally met in the ring, things went poorly for Kaufman. The pair then showed up on Late Night With David Letterman and got into a heated exchange. Of course, as any fan of Kaufman’s knows, the whole thing was a set-up, and both Lawler and Kaufman were in on the joke.

In Man on the Moon, the biopic about Kaufman’s life, Jerry Lawler does a nice job of playing himself from two decades earlier. He effortlessly switches between menacing and likeable, and it’s immediately obvious as to why he’s still popular with fans of the WWE.

4. Jesse “The Body” Ventura as Blain Cooper (Predator)

It’s hard to not like a guy who refers to himself as a “goddamn sexual tyrannosaurus.” In Predator, Jesse Ventura does just that, plus he chews tobacco, fires a mini-gun and even tells a fellow soldier “I ain‘t got time to bleed.” The character of Blain Cooper is truly a god among men.

Ventura, the former governor of Minnesota and ex-star of the WWF, really sinks his teeth into this role. As a walking caricature of a man’s man, he more than holds his own while on-screen with action legends Arnold Schwarzenegger and Carl Weathers.

Although he sadly dies at the hands of the Predator during the first half of the film, it’s impossible not to remember his performance. Ventura would later portray Captain Freedom in Schwarzenegger’s The Running Man.

3. Jake “The Snake” Roberts as Himself (Beyond the Mat)

The most demented Hollywood screenwriter would have a hard time coming up with a character as complex and just all-around bizarre as Jake “The Snake” Roberts. In this documentary about professional wrestling, Jake talks openly about his demons, serving up a cautionary tale of the ages.

Jake “The Snake” was my favorite wrestler growing up, so it was difficult to see him in this kind of state. It was, however, a fascinating look at one man’s excesses, and it’s a role too dangerous for even the most dedicated method actor to attempt.

2. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper as George Nada (They Live)

When he teamed up with director John Carpenter in They Live, Roddy Piper was given the opportunity to utter one of the greatest lines in cinematic history – “I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass. And I’m all out of bubblegum.” That line still brings a smile to my face, and They Live has been in circulation for over 20 years.

As George Nada, a homeless laborer, Piper is a far cry from the manic Scotsman he portrayed during his years in the WWF and WCW. He does an excellent job of playing an unlikely blue-collar hero who discovers that aliens are living among us.

Piper’s role also stands out for the bone-jarring fight scene between Nada and Frank Armitage (Keith David). Lasting for 5 ½ minutes, it’s filled with nut shots, haymakers and even a suplex. And it’s all over whether or not Frank Armitage will put on a pair of sunglasses. Classic.

1. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Beck (The Rundown)

In The Rundown, Dwayne Johnson gets to show off his natural charisma, something which he possesses in spades. In the role of Beck, a retrieval expert who’s looking to pay off his debts to the mob and open his own restaurant, Johnson gets to face down Christopher Walken, beat up fictitious members of the defending Super Bowl champions and even get humped by a crazed baboon.

It was the first movie role for The Rock, and it’s still his finest. He gets to show character depth not usually present in this genre, but there’s still plenty of opportunity for balls-to-the-wall action. And when he finally takes up a gun – something he’s been avoiding throughout the entire film – I always get a little choked up.