Movies & TV / Columns

Favorite Movie Performances By WWE Superstars

April 11, 2022 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
They Live Roddy Piper Image Credit: Universal Pictures

Well, Wrestlemania has come and gone so I figured what better way to celebrate the event than a column that features WWE Superstars mixed with movies?

The WWE has a long and colorful history with the movie industry. From Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Steve Austin, a number of top stars have found varying levels of success on the big screen. While I won’t be covering direct to video releases, you can find even more familiar faces there.

I’ll start right off the bat by saying Terry Funk in Roadhouse is a treasure.

I believe my first exposure to a wrestler in a movie was Rocky III and Hulk Hogan’s turn as “Thunderlips”. Hogan’s Method Acting wasn’t a stretch, the appearance played well to audiences, and helped bring attention to the momentum the WWF (as it was known by at the time) had and its appeal to mainstream audiences. Also, it led to Hogan and Mr. T to team up and find popularity that was featured in the very first Wrestlemania. Continuity!

Hogan went onto a number of other roles like No Holds Barred, Suburban Commando, Mr. Nanny, and Santa With Muscles, but the less said about those the better. While not a movie, his Thunder in Paradise TV series is surprisingly enjoyable. I agree with critics who called it “stupid, sexist, and embarrassing” but a lot of “fun”.

Hogan’s rival for Wrestlemania, Rowdy Roddy Piper, made his own mark on Hollywood and it’s one that still holds up today in They Live. The 1988 sci-fi horror movies was written and directed by John Carpenter and starred Piper, He plays a drifter who discovers that the ruling class are aliens who disguise their appearance and manipulate people to spend money, breed, and accept the status quo with subliminal messages in mass media. Ring any bells? The movie still holds true and Piper’s acting is perfect for the role. Carpenter had met Piper at WrestleMania III and the director said it was an easy choice: “Unlike most Hollywood actors, Roddy has life written all over him.” I watched They Live not too long ago and it holds up well today, maybe even more so given the political culture we find ourselves in.

Piper was also in the cult classic Hell Comes to Frogtown. I don’t remember much about it but if you find yourself stuck inside for a long period, it’s worth searching out.

When it comes to who has had the best career in Hollywood, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson owns that title, hands down. While his career started out a little bumpy, he’s gone on to revitalize a couple of franchises and carve out his own niche with a number of legitimate blockbusters in several genres. Be Cool, Central Intelligence, The Gridiron Gang, Moana, Skyscraper, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle/The Next Level, Jungle Cruise, and The Fast and Furious franchise and spin-off all stand as an example of the charisma Johnson brings to his roles. Even his HBO Ballers was a cool ride. With Black Adam looking like another franchise hit, Johnson’s place at the head of the table is secure. 

By the way, I even found his Tooth Fairy a fun time with the family.

Dave Bautista (Batista) is another modern day Superstar who is slowly but surely making his mark in Hollywood. His most famous role is Drax the Destroyer in the Marvel Studios mega hit Guardians of the Galaxy but he’s also held his own as Mr. Hinx in the James Bond film, Spectre, Blade Runner 2049 as Sapper Morton, and portrayed Glossu Rabban Harkonnen in Dune. Looking at his upcoming acting calendar, Bautista is one to watch.
John Cena is slowly putting together a decent resume with turns in Bumblebee, Blockers, Daddy’s Home, Trainwreck, Suicide Squad, and a slew of voice acting. HBO’s Peacemaker (again, not a movie) was an absolute delight.

Jesse Ventura has worn many hats over the years but he had a brief but notable wrestling career and an even better one as a wrestling announcer. He also was able to snag some cool roles in such 80s action movies like Predator, The Running Man, and Demolition Man. His role in Predator is best remembered for his macho lines, especially when he’s told he’s bleeding and he responds, “I ain’t got time to bleed.” 80s manliness at its finest.

Remember the Big Show as Captain Insano in Waterboy? I’d give Paul a special nod for being so memorable in such a short timeframe. 

Kevin Nash gets some love as well. He’s had some notable turns in Magic Mike, Grandma’s Boy, The Punisher, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, The Longest Yard, among others. 

If I had to choose a personal favorite, it would go to Andre the Giant in The Princess Bride. More and more has come out about his time doing the movie and it only endears him even more. Rob Reiner’s classic is masterfully told and Andre’s performance as the friendly giant Fezzik always stands out as the heart of the film. The HBO documentary about the life of Andre shined even more light behind the scenes of this movie and makes you love him even more.

Those are some of my favorites, what are yours?