Without a doubt, the thrilling world of professional wrestling has been a launchpad for many performers to leap into the glitzy arena of Hollywood. The physical prowess, charisma, and larger-than-life presence required in the wrestling ring have often translated brilliantly to the silver screen. So, who better than these warriors to make an impact in movies? Here’s a rundown of the “Top 10 Acting Performances By Pro Wrestlers in Movies”, where their theatrical abilities were just as powerful as their in-ring prowess.
Top 10 Acting Performances By Pro Wrestlers in Movies
John Cena – Peacemaker
Cena’s evolution from a WWE legend to a refined actor is nothing short of astonishing. Once underestimated after his 2009 performance in “12 Rounds,” Cena has silenced critics with his powerful portrayal of Christopher Smith, aka Peacemaker, in “The Suicide Squad.” Even James Gunn, the renowned filmmaker, has hailed Cena as one of the most talented actors he’s worked with.
Cena’s success as Peacemaker showcases his remarkable ability to transition from uproarious humor to heart-wrenching emotion seamlessly. His performance, examining real masculinity and overturning expectations, has solidified his spot not only as one of the greatest wrestlers but also as a compelling actor who leaves an indelible impact on the audience.
Dave Bautista – Drax the Destroyer
Dave Bautista, known to WWE fans as six-time World Champion “The Animal” Batista, and to MCU fans as Drax The Destroyer, truly shined in his portrayal of Sapper Morton, a Replicant in “Blade Runner 2049.” This role may not showcase his charm and humor, as seen in the recent Netflix hit “Glass Onion,” or the physicality of his part as a Bond henchman in “Spectre.”
Yet, it’s his understated, raw emotion in “Blade Runner 2049” that leaves an indelible mark. His brief time on-screen is etched in the minds of viewers, thanks to a soliloquy about miracles that stands as one of the best monologues in film history. In a career filled with memorable roles, Bautista’s nuanced performance in this particular part emphasizes his incredible range and ability to captivate audiences.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson – Black Adam
Johnson’s transition from WWE icon to global acting superstar is unparalleled, even if he has been often criticized for playing monotonous and similar roles that resemble his own persona. His dynamic performances range from the self-aware comedy in “Pain & Gain” to the action-packed role of Luke Hobbs in the “Fast & Furious” series. While not every performance has been acclaimed, and though he may not be considered the best actor out there, his charismatic presence and unmistakable force at the box office make him an apex entertainer.
However, Johnson’s success in diverse roles has not only shattered box office records but also solidified his status as one of Hollywood’s most recognizable faces. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson ability to transcend his wrestling persona and create memorable characters has cemented his place as a leading actor, making the “People’s Champion” a champion on the big screen as well.
Andre the Giant – Fezzig
The legendary Andre the Giant, referred to as the Eighth Wonder of the World during his time with the WWF, is undeniably wrestling’s biggest attraction. Though his role as Fezzig in “The Princess Bride” may not have seemed like a stretch for the giant wrestler, Andre’s performance was anything but predictable. He infused the part of the rhyme-loving giant with humor and charm, creating a character that was impossible not to adore.
Andre’s larger-than-life persona on the wrestling mat seamlessly translated to the big screen, and his charismatic and heartwarming portrayal in one of the most cherished adventure movies of all time continues to resonate with audiences today. It’s a testament to his innate ability to entertain, both inside the ring and out.
Roddy Piper – George Nada
Piper’s performance in John Carpenter’s horror satire “They Live” is a standout example of a wrestler making a lasting impression in the world of film. Piper’s appearance in movies may have been limited compared to some contemporary wrestlers-turned-actors, but his portrayal in “They Live” was nothing short of iconic. With Carpenter, one of the best genre filmmakers at the helm, Piper’s portrayal was magnetic, effortlessly exuding coolness.
His fight scenes were exceptional, reflecting his wrestling background, and his lines were delivered with a confidence that made audiences hang on his every word. Piper’s role in “They Live” transcended his wrestling persona, establishing him as a badass in both the ring and on screen, and his performance continues to resonate with fans of the genre.
Stone Cold Steve Austin – Jack Conrad
Austin’s wrestling prowess in the late 1990s was eclipsed only by the likes of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Though he made his mark in supporting roles in films like “The Longest Yard,” it was in 2007’s “The Condemned” where Austin truly took the spotlight. Far from a cinematic masterpiece, “The Condemned” is a quintessential B-movie, revolving around an island of convicts forced to eliminate each other for a brutal reality show.
While Austin’s debut in the B-movie realm didn’t create the kind of waves that other actors achieved, he wholly embraced the film’s over-the-top premise. His delightfully hammy performance adds to the charm of this underrated action flick, cementing Austin’s place not only in the ring but also on the silver screen.
Kevin Nash – Tarzan
Nash, also known by his ring name “Diesel,” is a surprisingly talented actor who has consistently proven his abilities in diverse roles. While he’s shined in comedies like “The Longest Yard” and character-driven films like “Dog,” Nash’s standout performance came as Tarzan, the middle-aged stripper in the “Magic Mike” series.
In “Magic Mike XXL,” not only does he deliver his career-best work, but he also stands out in a cast that all brought their A-game. Nash’s ability to bring depth and charisma to his roles makes him an underappreciated gem in the realm of wrestlers-turned-actors, and his performance as Tarzan showcases his unexpected range and flair for the theatrical.
Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler
Pro wrestler Jerry “The King” Lawler’s role in “Man on the Moon” is indeed a standout as he authentically portrayed himself in the recounting of his infamous rivalry with comedian Andy Kaufman. Mirrored by Jim Carrey’s remarkable portrayal of Kaufman, Lawler’s performance brought to life events such as the notorious punch on “David Letterman” and the coffee-throwing incident. The film paints a complex picture, suggesting that what appeared to be real animosity was actually a staged feud, a theatrical blend of reality and entertainment.
While behind the scenes, the relationship between Lawler and Kaufman was even more nuanced, portrayed in the film as a surprising friendship, although some have contested the authenticity of this bond. Whether true companions or merely shrewd entertainers, their collaboration offers a fascinating glimpse into wrestling theatrics, blurring the lines between rivalry and friendship, and leaves an enduring question mark over one of entertainment history’s most intriguing partnerships.
Randy Savage – Bonesaw McGraw
In Sam Raimi’s 2002 adaptation of “Spider-Man,” the legendary “Macho Man” Randy Savage perfectly encapsulated a crucial part of Spider-Man’s origin story as a wrestler. Playing the role of “Bonesaw McGraw,” he faced Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker in the ring, delivering a memorable and intense performance.
Even years after his last nationwide exposure in World Championship Wrestling, Savage’s distinctive persona and time as a pitch-man for Slim Jim made him recognizable to a wide audience. His appearance in “Spider-Man” not only provided a nostalgic nod to wrestling fans but also contributed an unforgettable scene and meme that continues to resonate with audiences to this day.
Hulk Hogan – Thunderlips
Last on our list, but certainly not least, is pro wrestling’s poster boy and the embodiment of “Hulkamania” – Hulk Hogan. As the most recognizable professional wrestler in the world, his debut performance as Thunderlips in “Rocky III” had a significant impact. Towering over Sylvester Stallone’s Italian Stallion, Thunderlips unleashed his wrestling prowess, throwing Rocky around the ring like a ragdoll.
Unrestrained by referees or security guards, Thunderlips was a force to be reckoned with. However, in true Rocky spirit, the Italian Stallion never backed down and challenged the wrestling machine. This memorable scene not only showcased Hogan’s in-ring abilities but also his magnetic screen presence. It’s a fitting tribute to a legend, and a significant moment for wrestlers transitioning to acting, all wrapped up in the unforgettable phenomenon of “Hulkamania”.