wrestling / Columns

The Magnificent Seven: The Top 7 Most Surprising Celebrity Fans

May 15, 2017 | Posted by Mike Chin

A lot of wrestling fans play their fanhood close to the chest. After all, pro wrestling tends to have a stigma for non-fans, for playing to the lowest common denominator and portraying fixed violence in a way that some fans might actually accept to be real.

Then there are celebrities. There’s a reason WWE tends to play up its celebrity supporters—they legitimize wrestling and make it feel more mainstream. While there are some people whom it’s no surprise like wrestling—purveyors of sophomoric humor like Adam Sandler and David Arquette—there are plenty of others who come as a greater surprise, whether it’s because the populace would think they’re too high-brow to appreciate wrestling, or they’re too invested in unscripted fighting to seem like they’d take wrestling seriously.

So, this week I’m looking at seven instances of celebrity fanship that were particularly surprising when they came out.

#7. The Four Horsewomen of MMA

While, to an outsider, it might not seem like a leap for professional fighters to like professional wrestling, there’s a deep-seated divide between the two worlds. In particular, there are plenty of people in real combat sports who look to wrestling for disdain for not being real fighting, while some wrestlers like Bret Hart have spoken out about the nobility of pro wrestling over real fighting for entertaining an audience without the performers really hurting one another.

The Four Horsewomen, however—Ronda Rousey, Shayna Baszler, Marina Shafir, and Jessamyn Duke—are established wrestling fans. They discussed their interest on Chris Jericho’s podcast, getting drawn in while three of them were involved with The Ultimate Fighter and got hooked on watching Raw every week. Since then, they’ve been seen live at SummerSlam as well as PWG shows in LA. Rousey, in particular, has grown more actively connected with the wrestling world, getting Roddy Piper’s blessing before she started using the “Rowdy” moniker, getting physical with Stephanie McMahon and Triple H at WrestleMania 31, and since becoming a source of perpetual rumors that she might get involved in WWE programming again.

#6. Billy Corgan

In the 1990s, Billy Corgan was at the fore of cutting edge music as the front man of Smashing Pumpkins—alternative, cool, dark, and basically everything everything mainstream American wrestling wasn’t when Corgan’s band was in its prime.

As his music career got a little less high profile, Corgan became increasingly prominent about his fanhood until he became actively involved in the business, first instrumental in launching Chicago-based Resistance Pro Wrestling, then starting his infamous involvement with TNA, and most recently purchasing the NWA brand. However Corgans continues his involvement in wrestling moving forward, he’s made it clear he’s a devout fan, much to the surprise of his fans as they learned it.

#5. Freddie Prinze Jr.

While older fans might know Freddie Prinze Jr. by his father, for fans my age or younger, he’s best-known as the heartthrob in teen movies like She’s All That and I Know What You Did Last Summer (or maybe, for fans who are younger yet, Scooby-Doo). Years after he’d broken through to celebrity status in his own right, it came out that Prinze was a huge wrestling fan—a pastime not exactly synonymous with his big screen identity, but nonetheless marking him as someone people who balked at his movies could still get behind him on.

Prinze eventually did become involved with WWE’s creative process as a writer and go-between for creative staff and on-air talent. Moreover, he’s also spoken in interviews about taking over acting classes for the roster. Prinze finally realized a dream of getting involved in the action as a guest host of Raw, in which case he got pummeled by Randy Orton only to come back at the end of the show and stick it to the Viper.

#4. Hugh Jackman

Though he’s had his share of parts in action and super hero movies, Hugh Jackman is generally looked at as a more distinguished actor—a classically trained singer who has performed on Broadway, and earned an academy award nomination for his part in the motion picture adaptation of Les Miserables. He had a guest spot on Raw backing Zack Ryder against Dolph Ziggler, and surprised a lot of us when he got physically involved, decking Ziggler.

In interviews afterward, Jackman revealed that he had loved wrestling since he was a kid—not exactly what fans might expect from the serious actor who had played this part of his identity close to the vest up to that point.

#3. Maria Menounos

Maria Menounos rose to fame as a reporter for celebrity gossip shows like Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood, and Extra. Her persona seemed altogether too polished for her to have any interest in the wrestling world. Lo and behold, it turned out she was a real-life fan and the unlikely close friend of legend Bob Backlund.

The Menounos-WWE love affair has led to all sorts of collaboration, most prominently including Menounos working the red carpet for Hall of Fame events and stepping into the ring on an episode of Raw, a Tribute to the Troops special, and most memorably of all in a tag match where she got right in the thick of the action, ultimately pinning Beth Phoenix at WrestleMania 28.

#2. Jon Stewart

If there are two things Jon Stewart is known for, they are being a liberal media pundit and being quirky comic figure. Regardless of how you feel about Stewart’s politics or his comedy, there’s little expectation that these attributes would lend themselves to being a big wrestling fan.

While Stewart could occasionally be seen in the crowd at live events, Stewart was not well-known to be a wrestling fan for years. In time, the picture took shape. Mick Foley appeared on The Daily Show. Then Stewart guest hosted a Raw. Finally, Stewart was fully established as not just a fan, but a participant, when he became overtly involved in SummerSlam 2015 costing John Cena the US Championship, and then at SummerSlam 2016 with The New Day. While I’d argue that Stewart’s insertion into major storylines at a top-tier PPV is deeply problematic, he’s nonetheless gone from a surprising wrestling fan to a legit part of the WWE family.

#1. Melissa Joan Hart

It was with tremendous incredulity that I read the news in fall 2016 about Melissa Joan Hart being involved in a Twitter beef with Kevin Owens. After all, Hart is best known as the star of Sabrina The Teenage Witch and Clarissa Explains It All–entertainment properties about as far removed from wrestling as anyone could imagine.

And yet here we were—Hart tweeting insults at Owens and Owens blocking Hart. Things took another turn when it Hart clarified her stance—that she wasn’t so much anti-Owens as she was a big fan of his work as Kevin Steen in ROH and challenging him to be more like him old self. So, the former teen idol was not only a wrestling fan, but a hardcore fan who not only watched WWE, but enough of the indies to have a sense of who Owens was before he came to WWE.

What?

So, Hart lands in the number one spot as not just a fan, but a fan who defies our general preconceptions about gender and overlapping interests. She affirms that however different people and their personas may be, there’s always room to appreciate pro wrestling. I’d say that’s pretty cool.

Which celebrities would you add to the list and how would you order them? Let us know what you think in the comments.

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