Hollywood is currently in a unique position, and it’s not because we’re getting female versions of Ghostbusters and Ocean’s or because superheroes are ruling cinema. No, it’s because current and former pro wrestling champions are sweeping up roles on the big screen! Once upon a time, wrestlers were laughing stocks in Hollywood. With the exception of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, the industry did not welcome them. Not only has that situation changed in 2018, but every other major release seems to feature a current or former WWE superstar.
Today, The Rock is viewed by many as the biggest star in the world. However, he’s no longer the only success story when it comes to wrestlers making the transition to acting. John Cena is regularly rubbing shoulders with the A-list of Hollywood as his upcoming projects have him starring alongside Robert Downey Jr. and Jackie Chan. Dave Bautista has found success in the superhero world, while also working with stars like Daniel Craig and Ryan Gosling. Bautista has even eclipsed The Rock with Avengers: Infinity War becoming the fourth highest grossing film of all time.
This wrestling trend continues with WWE superstar Braun Strowman joining Will Ferrell’s upcoming Holmes and Watson, and John Cena starring in Bumblebee. It’s a time wrestling fans could not have imagined ten years ago, and whether producers want to admit it or not, they are having fun bringing the Wrestlemania star cast to the big screen. So this is the perfect opportunity to list the five greatest films starring professional wrestlers. Who knows, you might find something to add to your list of Saturday night viewings.
1. Avengers: Infinity War
The Marvel spectacular not only brought together our favourite superheroes such as Iron Man and the Guardians of the Galaxy, but it also came after a ten year build up. The amount of time and money Marvel spent getting to this point, and the sea of acting talent that came together for this one film made this the biggest experience in cinematic history. Fortunately, a compelling narrative and a villain worthy of taking on our favourite heroes helped this film excel critically and financially.
You would think someone like Dave Bautista, a man many thought was destined for failure in Hollywood, would be grateful for a cameo in Infinity War. But not only is he one of the many, many stars, he is also a scene-stealer. Bautista’s Drax ‘The Destroyer’ has become a favourite of Marvel fans, and in this blockbuster, instead of getting lost in the shuffle, he added to his list of laugh out loud moments.
“I’ve mastered the ability of standing so incredibly still… That I become invisible to the eye.” That line coming from another actor might have fallen flat. However, Bautista has proven he is a special performer when channelling his inner Drax. Infinity War’s significance and Drax’s hilarious moments make this our number one film.
2. The Princess Bride
Long before The Rock and John Cena, hell, even before Hulk Hogan tried to become the next Arnold Schwarzenegger, Andre The Giant starred in a classic that audiences love to this day. The Princess Bride was a modern take on the classic fairy tale; it featured castles, princesses, knights in shining armours, and a giant.
Not only was Andre the perfect casting because he was the world’s most famous giant at the time, but the film also had a significant impact in showing the world a glimpse of the ‘real’ Andre. His character Fezzik was not the standard giant, as he possessed a heart that was bigger than him. It was different, and it fit with Andre’s fun-loving personality that wrestling and non-wrestling fans have become more aware of today.
A great cast that included Billy Crystal, Mandy Patinkin, and Cary Elwes also helped accentuate Andre’s strengths as an actor as they took on the brunt of scenes while letting WWE’s legend chime in with one-liners like “Anybody want a peanut?”
The modern tweaks to the typical fairy tale story mixed with ingredients we have all grown up watching have ensured The Princess Bride still remains in the hearts of audiences. Also, Andre’s performance was so heart-warming and entertaining that it became one of the most memorable and cherished parts of the film.
Wrestling fans are well aware of The Rock’s ability to carry a tune. He even had several concerts on WWE’s flagship show RAW. Considering his longstanding relationship with Disney, one wonders why sixteen years passed before he took part in a musical. Moana is not just Rock’s first musical, but it’s arguably the greatest film of his career.
Success has definitely followed ‘The Great One’ from the ring to the big screen. However, he didn’t manage to star in a truly great film that received universal critical acclaim and box office success until 2016. The Disney musical had a great script that mixed Rock’s beloved charisma with a heart-warming story about a young girl’s journey to save her island. Also, who can forget the catchiest song since Frozen’s ‘Let it go’, ‘You’re welcome’. If you have not listened it more than one-hundred times, you are most certainly not human.
Selecting a bunch of films starring The Rock would have been an easy way to approach this list, but it certainly would not have been an honest approach. When looking at quality, his past projects have always relied on his personality instead of focusing on creating a great script. So for this reason, Moana is his one and only entry into this very prestigious list.
4. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
After Guardians of the Galaxy swept the world off its feet in 2014 with what many were calling the funniest Marvel film yet, expectations for the sequel were incredibly high. Luckily, it did not disappoint. While there was no clear narrative in the second instalment, it delved deep into developing our character’s stories even more which led to an emotionally charged climax that far surpasses the original.
“Guardians Two, man, you stole the movie.”
In a recent video documenting Bautista’s return to WWE, wrestling legend Triple H echoed the sentiment of most fans and critics by saying Bautista ‘stole the movie’. As an actor, the former wrestling champion had clearly grown in confidence, and his performance in the sequel blew everybody away. His comedic timing was impeccable as every scene he was a part of left audiences in stitches. Bautista’s Drax also found a partner in crime with Mantis’ character, who was as entertaining as the ‘Destroyer’.
5. They Live
When discussing the history of cinema, as well as the history of wrestlers in film, They Live seems to be a forgotten part of history. Rowdy Roddy Piper’s acting career wasn’t particularly memorable and does not compare to the stars of today, yet there is one film worth mentioning, They Live. It was unique because it had a wrestler in the lead role, and it tackled political issues in a not so subtle manner.
Similar to Andre’s role in The Princess Bride, They Live was the perfect role for Piper as it brought out his real-life personality. He is the hardworking loner, who battles through the struggles of life. His working-class character discovers glasses that allow him to spot the evil aliens of the world (the upper-class). The glasses also expose the media as just another way of keeping upper-class people rich.
It’s a strange precursor to the world we live in today. However, while the film is a political statement, it’s also highly entertaining. It features the longest fight scene ever at six minutes plus, and one of the most popular phrases to ever enter pop culture, “I came here to chew bubblegum and kick ass, and I’m all outta bubblegum.”
John Carpenter’s story is a treat for film and wrestling buffs.