Fans of wrestling are loyal and passionate. But even the biggest wrestling fan will admit that along with the brute force and seemingly dangerous moves, wrestling is, by and large, all about acting. So, it comes as no surprise that many professional wrestlers eventually pivot into acting. And some of them have done pretty well at it, carving out a viable second career after retiring from the ring.
That said, while some pro wrestlers have gone on to become successful movie actors in Hollywood, others appeared in films that weren’t exactly box office successes. But these ten did pretty well for themselves in their top roles.
10 “Rowdy” Roddy Piper: They Live
He passed away in 2015, but the professional wrestler known as “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, who always entered the ring in a kilt while playing bagpipes, branched out into acting after enjoying a really successful career in the ring.
Real name Roderick George Toombs, he appeared in dozens of B movies throughout his career and most recently had a surprising cameo on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. But his defining role was in a little 1988 sci-fi movie called They Live. Directed by John Carpenter, the movie wasn’t a huge box office success, yet it somehow made Piper a cult icon.
9 “Macho Man” Randy Savage: Spider-Man
The “Macho Man” himself, Savage, real name Randy Poffo, is considered among the best professional wrestlers ever, thanks to his flamboyant style and deep voice, both qualities that he was able to translate to an acting career as well.
The first movie he appeared in was as himself in Ready to Rumble. But his defining on-screen role was as Bonesaw McGraw, a fictional wrestler, in the 2002 movie Spider-Man, which starred Tobey Maguire as the teen superhero. McGraw was based on the comic book character Crusher Hogan.
8 Hulk Hogan: Hogan Knows Best
Arguably one of the best professional wrestlers ever to grace the ring, Hulk Hogan, real name Terry Eugene Bollea, has long since retired. But at the height of his fame, he shifted not only into acting but also music and business ventures.
On the acting front, he appeared in movies and TV series both during the time he was wrestling and after, starting with Rocky III all the way up to that puzzling comedy Mr. Nanny that saw him don a pink tutu. And he had some terrible acting roles along the way, like in 3 Ninjas: High Noon At Mega Mountain. But his reality show Hogan Knows Best gave Bollea the most recognition on television. Sure, he wasn’t necessarily playing a character, but the fact the show aired for four seasons back in 2005 and even spawned a spin-off centered around his daughter called Brooke Knows Best, ranks it as his best.
7 “Stone Cold” Steve Austin: The Expendables
Steven James Anderson made a name for himself in the ring, but he has also had a pretty successful movie career outside of it as well. Now retired, he has had guest roles on TV shows, hosted events, and appeared in a series of movies, including his feature film debut in the 2005 remake of The Longest Yard.
His best, however, was arguably his role as Dan Paine, the right-hand man to Eric Roberts’ villain character James Munroe in 2010’s The Expendables. He reunited with both Roberts and Gary Daniels, who played The Brit (for whom Austin’s character was also a bodyguard) in the movie Hunt to Kill.
6 Kevin Nash: Magic Mike XXL
Going by a variety of names in the ring, including his own as well as Master Blaster Steel and Vinnie Vegas, Nash was one of the founding members of the New World Order (nWo) in wrestling, along with Hogan and Scott Hall.
Now retired, he went on to explore acting and has racked up a resume of movies that date all the way back to his role as Super Shredder in the live-action movie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, and even a cameo in the 2004 movie The Punisher. On television, he has appeared in episodes of shows like Swamp Thing: The Series, Nikki, and Living the Dream, His biggest and most hilarious role, however, was probably that stint on Magic Mike XXL in 2015 where he played a stripper named Tarzan.
5 Jesse “The Body” Ventura: Predator
He has since moved on to working in politics, including stints as mayor of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, and governor of Minnesota. But Ventura has also dabbled in acting, even starring in his own TruTV show about conspiracy theories called Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura, which aired from 2009-2012.
But for the man known simply as “The Body,” Ventura’s best role remains his very first one as Blain Cooper in Predator back in 1987, right after his wrestling career began winding down. He continued to appear in small roles in movies through the ’90s and 2000s.
4 Andre the Giant: The Princess Bride
Known for his massive size at a towering 7’4″ and 520 lbs., the late Andre the Giant, real name Andre Rene Roussimoff, was pretty much made for wrestling. But it was one particularly notable acting role that garnered him an entirely new legion of fans outside of the ring.
His role as the gentle giant Fezzik in the 1987 movie The Princess Bride has gone down in history as one of the best professional wrestler roles in a film, ever, and made him a bona fide pop culture icon.
3 Dave Bautista: Guardians of the Galaxy
Known in the ring simply as “Batista,” the now-retired professional wrestler and bodybuilder has made an even bigger name for himself as a movie star. He has appeared in a number of high-profile action films since 2006, including The Man with the Iron Fists, Riddick, Spectre, and Blade Runner 2049.
But what catapults Bautista to near the top of this list is the fact that he scored a role within the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) as Drax the Destroyer. He has appeared in a number of MCU movies in this role, most notably Guardians of the Galaxy in 2014 and its 2017 sequel, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
2 John Cena: Bumblebee
At the peak of his career, Cena, known in the ring as Mr. P, has enjoyed a really successful run in films. Interestingly, while he has appeared in many action films, he seems to get the most accolades when he takes a comedic route.
From The Marine to 12 Rounds, Ferdinand to Trainwreck (where Cena’s small role was lauded as a scene-stealer), and Blockers, https://screenrant.com/top-movies-starring-wrestlers/ the pro wrestler has come a long way from the days of shaking his open hand over his face and declaring “you can’t see me!” But his most notable role might very well be in the sci-fi action movie Bumblebee, the sixth installment in the Transformers series.
1 Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
Apparently, Hollywood does indeed smell what the Rock is cooking and they want second and third helpings. Without a doubt, Johnson ranks tops on this list thanks to having been in movies that have grossed more than $3.5 billion in North America and $10.5 billion worldwide. Not only that but he is one of the highest-grossing actors of all time, not just among professional wrestlers, but anyone.
From action movies to comedies, TV series to voice roles in animated flicks – even ones where he sings! – Johnson has done it all. According to RottenTomatoes, his highest-rated film is 2009’s Racing Dreams. But his biggest box office successes have been in the Jumanji and Fast & Furious franchises. And the biggest, according to box office numbers, was Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, in which he played fan-favorite character Dr. Xander “Smolder” Bravestone.
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