Wrestlers On TV & Film
For more on this topic and other wrestling related videos, check out my YouTube.
For more on this topic and other wrestling related videos, check out my YouTube.
WRESTLERS IN FILM
Film, television, and pro wrestling, may have more in common that you realise. Larger than life characters, living through over-the-top situations whilst maintaining perfect hair and makeup, action packed scenes where the hero overcomes the villains whilst still maintaining their cool, enough to deliver snappy one-liners as they conquer evil on their way to saving the world. Did I just describe a classic Arnold Schwarzenegger action movie, or an episode of pro wrestling?
This level of similarity between television, film and pro wrestling means that over the years many classic episodes of your favourite sitcoms have featured storylines which see some of movie and tv’s much beloved characters entering a squared circle for a memorable moment or two.
Naturally, opposing our main characters is often a large hulking and particularly hairy adversary set to put an end to their feel-good rise to the top. When the makers of said television show or film comes to casting the roles of this opposition, where better to look for a fictional wrestler than the fictional world of pro wrestling.
Thus, has led to many instances where top wrestling stars have had to stretch their acting muscles in some fondly remembered moments as well as some which fans would rather just forget. That will be the topic of this video, so join me now as I look back on some of the well-known cameos and some more obscure features from pro wrestlers in classic television shows and in movies.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, just some examples which I’ve found and enjoyed whilst researching for this video. If enjoy this content, then let me know below as I’ve had an absolute blast going back and reliving all of these moments.
Ed Wood George The Animal Steele 1994
Ed Wood is Tim Burton’s love letter to one of Hollywood’s most notoriously terrible directors. Following the story from upstart playwright, through the trials and tribulations of creating some of cinema’s most infamously bad films – we see Ed Wood’s passion and determination become endearing, pulling in a rag tag group of actors and showbiz personalities as his personal entourage, including a cross-dressing Bill Murray and a Swedish professional wrestler.
In this heart-warming tale, William James Myers, better known as George the Animal Steel plays the role of Tor Johnson a long-time collaborator of Ed Wood. The Animal, a hulking brute of a man, grew to notoriety amongst wrestling fans for his bald head, monosyllabic promos, and bright green tongue. We are introduced to Tor when Ed attends a wrestling show with a few of his friends and immediately falls in love with the idea that this man mountain would make a perfect monster for his upcoming horror epic.
As Ed Wood makes his way backstage to address the lumbering behemoth, we are treated to a close-up glimpse of Tor Johnson receiving a rather oily massage. Even in black and white, the amount of hair on this man’s back will haunt me for the rest of my life. It’s no wonder Ed Wood wanted to cast him as a monster.
Sabrina Teenage Witch Kevin Nash / Billy Gunn / Chyna
In 1996 Mellissa Joan Hart had become a sensation and hit star of 90s kid’s television. She is also a long-time fan of pro wrestling. As her stock rose in the entertainment industry, she gained the ability to make requests for the shows she was the starring role of. For instance, when filming the first series of Sabrina the Teenage Witch and the script called for a large male character for the plot, Hart personally requested that Kevin Nash should be the one to fill the spot.
Nash who was no stranger to acting in films and television by this point gladly accepted the role to which he brought a sense of comedic timing which he would go on to regularly show throughout his wrestling promos.
Kevin Nash’s character bursts through the magical portal inside of Sabrina’s house hell-bent on causing destruction to the world in which he now finds himself in. However, it soon becomes clear that the chaotic warrior clan who sent him to Sabrina’s aunt’s house had done so accidentally via a simple clerical error. Nash quickly goes from imposing giant to become apologetic and with his tail between his legs quickly exits back through the portal to never be heard from again.
By the year 2000, both Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Pro Wrestling had reached new heights of popularity. If you’ve ever seen the show, you’ll know that the titular witch’s feline familiar is a sentient cat whose personality comes from the fact that the cat has a human soul etrapt within it. Okay, I know that sounds a little convoluted, but it’s a needed explanation in order to understand our next wrestling appearance. When the cat, known as Salem is informed of it’s human daughter’s wedding, he implores Sabrina to attend the event in his place and fulfil the duties of the father of the bride. Sabrina, being the kindly witch agrees and travels to another realm in order to commit to the favour of her furry friend.
However, what she doesn’t realise is that the father of the bride in Salem’s community has tasks to undergo during the wedding which are radically different to those back on earth. The main point of which revolves around a fight for the honour of the bride against a chosen opponent. Which leads us to this classic moment, where Billy Gunn is introduced, rips of his tuxedo and proceeds to enter into a wrestling ring in an attempt to annihilate Sabrina.
The match has many funny moments including seeing Gunn perform a submission move on a young girl who is approximately one half of his size.
The bout is ended with Sabrina’s success due to the use of some clever magic and stands out as a fond memory for me when I used to obsessively watch the show when I was a kid.
The last wrestler to appear in Sabrina The Teenage Witch came in 2002. In an episode which sees Sabrina accidentally driving her car into the car of a woman in front of her, we are treated to some terrible yet entertaining acting from iconic female wrestler Chyna, who as you can imagine is just as physically imposing during the episode as she was in the wrestling ring.
The episode Driving Mr. Goodman revolves around Chyna attempting to fraudulently claim insurance money from Sabrina following their automotive crash. Chyna over emphasises her injuries in order to sue Sabrina and is only caught out when the witch uses a spell to give herself a muscular body akin to her new foe, after which she challenges the ninth wonder of the world to a weight lifting competition. Not able to bare being outdone as the strongest women in the gym, Chyna forgets her injuries in order to compete and thus, the episode concludes with Sabrina avoiding the lawsuit and continuing on with her witchy ways, whilst her muscled adversary gets charged with fraud.
That 70s Show 1999
Long before the formation of the Soul Patrol alongside Jake atlas in WWF, Rocky Johnson was busy making his name alongside Terry Funk, Harley Race and Jerry Lawler as one of the NWA’s biggest stars.
When classic 90s sitcom That 70s show entered into a programme called that Wrestling Show, it only made sense to feature one of the 1970s biggest wrestling attractions. However, having Rocky Johnson play a much younger version of himself was seemingly too ridiculous, even for a show based mainly on comedy.
Thus Rocky Johnson’s son, Dwayne was cast in the role. Before Dwayne The Rock Johnson became the biggest action star in American cinema, he cut his teeth alongside fellow wrestlers Matt and Jeff Hardy in a memorable episode where the cast of That 70s show attended a wrestling extravaganza.
The writers even wrote in a subtle nod to the convoluted casting situation in the script.
"You know, it's really nice bringing your kid to a wrestling match," Johnson says on the show. "You know, I've got a son, and one day he's going to become the most electrifying man in sports-entertainment."
Star Trek Voyager 2000 The Rock
The next year in 2000 The Rock continued his assent to silver screen stardom when he played the role of the Pendari Champion in season six of Star Trek Voyager.
When fan favourite character Seven of Nine is kidnapped from her ship, she is forced to fight for her life in a gladiatorial arena for the entertainment of her captors. In her very first battle, she is presented with a muscle clad Pendari warrior clad in glittering silver spandex played by The Rock.
With a prosthetic forehead and bulging muscles Dwayne Johnson certainly looks the part as a character whose sole purpose was to fight for the entertainment of the fans, much like his then onscreen role as The Rock within a WWE ring.
Although at the time, his co-stars had no idea who he was and when presented with The Rock’s classic catchphrase were caught completely off-guard.
“No, I had no idea,” co-star Jeri Ryan admitted in an interview. “It was his first or maybe second acting job ever. I didn’t know who he was. I didn’t watch wrestling. I wasn’t aware of his character of ‘The Rock’. So the first time I met him was a fight rehearsal and he came in and he was just a super sweet, unassuming gentle guy named Dwayne. When I got to my trailer he had left a signed picture in character as The Rock – and it said ‘The Rock smells what you’re cooking’. Like, what?! It’s the weirdest thing I’d ever seen somebody write. The makeup guys in the prosthetic trailer were like, ‘Dude, it’s The Rock, that’s his thing! He smells what you’re cooking!”.
Dexter’s Lab Dial M for Monkey Rasslor – Macho Man
If you are writing a show which features an inter-galactic warrior who travels from planet to planet challenging their greatest fighters to prove who is the best hero of all-time, with an over-the-top personality and a desire to show just how macho they are. You couldn’t look any further than the legendary Macho Man Randy Savage.
During the episode of Dexter’s Laboratory, Dial M For Monkey this is exactly what happened. And boy am I glad it did.
A classic scene from a classic cartoon, Randy Savage brings life to Rasslor, with his Herculean physique and iconic gruff voice. It’s fair to say that the Macho Man is an exaggerated for of entertainer, even by wrestling standards and with his role of Rasslor being an even more exaggerated version of himself, you can see how this character could capture the hearts of cartoon fans at the time.
With such a unique performance style, Cartoon Network were seemingly impressed with Randy Savage and enjoyed the wrestling audience which he brought with him to their programming. His appearance as the voice of Rasslor lead to a partnership between the two, which saw the Macho Man promoting other cartoons such as SWAT Kats through the mid-nineties and even led to another vocal role for the wrestling superstar as the biker boss in Whatever Happened To Robot Jones.
Macho Man appears once again in a classic Cartoon Network show, Space Ghost in 1997 when he appears as the hilarious grandpa of the titular Space Ghost known as Grandpa Ghostal, lending his iconic gruff voice to a whole host of well-written jokes in an episode aptly titled Piledriver. Which sees the deep voiced Grandpa face off against the diabolical villain of the show Zorak. Even with the episode featuring guest stars Raven Simone and Rob Zombie, Randy Savage’s excellent reading of the lines far overshadows them both and of all the voice acting the Macho Man ever performed, this is certainly my favourite. I highly recommend going out of your way to find the episode and give it a watch. As a fan of either classic 90s cartoons or pro wrestling, you surely won’t be disappointed.
If you ever want to make the argument that pro wrestling during this time-period was cartoonish, here would be your exhibit A.
Macho Man didn’t stop there when it came to lending his voice to animated programming however. In a season 11 episode of King Of The Hill titled Bill, Bulk and the Body Buddies, Randy Savage played the role of Gorilla a personal trainer for Hank’s friend Bill. Who is invited to help the group train in return for use of their exercise equipment, alongside his deranged group of steroid abusing friends.
Muscle clad, with a large chain necklace and bandana, Gorilla was clearly illustrated as a direct reference to the real-life appearance of Savage, the wrestler’s voice fitting so perfectly into the story that it was impossible to leave off of this list.
The highlight for me is when Gorilla is showing Luanne how to perfect her weightlifting technique his pulsating biceps cause alarm, with Luanne shouting “His arm is having a heart attack!”
As an added bonus, during one scene the song Macho Man by the village people plays, further solidifying Randy Savage’s place amongst the annuls of King Of The Hill history.
Psych The Miz, John Cena, Big Show and Mickie James 2012
In a season 6 episode of the USA show Psych, Mike The Miz Mizanin played Mario a close parody of his real-life, seeing him as a contestant on a fictional dating reality TV show Paths Of Love.
In a murder mystery which sees the shows main cast investigating the contestants of Paths Of Love, The Miz stands out as a hot-headed aggressor who quickly becomes the prime suspect, even going as far as to attack the detectives, shouting “Bros before Hoes” and smashing a flower pot over his own head, before delivering his finishing move, the skull crushing finale.
I tried my best to be impartial, but this programme took me a long time to hunt down and boy can I confidently say that it wasn’t worth it. I could barely pay attention enough to note down my thoughts on the Miz’s appearance and I was desperate for the episode to end. However, I will say that Mizanin’s enthusiasm does shine in what would otherwise have been a complete waking nightmare to sit through.
Peanut Butter Falcon Jake “The Snake” Roberts / Mick Foley
When a young man with downs syndrome makes a grand escape from his care home in order to fulfil his dreams of becoming a pro wrestler, The Peanut Butter Falcon is born.
Mick Foley appears as a guest referee during one of Zach’s matches and explained how proud he was to be a part of such a heart-warming and well-received production;
“On the set The Peanut Butter Falcon with film star (and my pal) Zach Gottsagen. The peanut butter falcon is getting AMAZING reviews. I’m so proud to be part of this movie!”
The film is funny, charming, and respectful of the lead actor’s condition, thus when the cliché storyline plays out through several wrestling matches to a triumphant end, it doesn’t hurt the overall experience of the film whatsoever.
One such wrestling match sees the Peanut Butter Falcon facing off against a washed-up wrestling character called Sam played by the legendary Jake The Snake Roberts, whom, having lived the life of his character as a washed up and kind of gross looking indy star does an excellent job in the role. Jake had by this time gone through a complete metamorphosis within his own life, gotten sober and learned to love life again. I’d doubt he’d be able to give such an expert performance in such a role had he still been dealing with his drug and alcohol demons.
During the match Jake plays the classic heel role, using brute force and evil tactics to beat down the Falcon before the tables are turned and in a standout moment from the film, Jake’s character Sam is picked up about the Peanut Butter Falcon’s head and slung outside the ring.
Boy Meets World Vader 1995
Boy Meets World was about as popular as it was possible to get for a kids television show in the 1990s. Coinciding with arguably the most popular time in pro wrestling’s history, it was no coincidence that these 2 much beloved forms of entertainment’s paths would collide.
The storyline of Boy Meets World would often play out as the title implies. With each week, the protagonist Corey coming up against and overcoming unsurmountable odds. One such instance saw Corey entered into his high school wrestling team, only to have to fight for his place on the squad about his class bully Francis Stecchino, junior.
When Corey and his opponent arrive at the ring for their match, it quickly becomes clear that Francis’ father is none other than in Universe World Wrestling Champion the Mastodon, whose real name is Francis Stecchino Senior, played by Vader.
The imposing big man challenging long running protagonist and high school principal Mr Feeney to a Loser Leaves Town, Texas Death Match, which due to the way the episode plays out, never has a chance to happen.
Creators of the show Michael Jacobs said on casting the iconic Vader; “We wanted a character who is just this loving father who moonlighted as a villainous wrestler. It was this oddball, very funny, very loving blue-collar relationship.”
The episode and Vader’s appearance proved so popular with both fans of the show and wrestling fanatics that the character was written into two subsequent episodes. The first of which saw The Mastodon called into the principal’s office and outfitted in a barely sizeable suit. The comedy of the scene coming from the idea that such a big and imposing character was just an ordinary guy outside of the ring, his wife, a tiny quiet woman only adding to this juxtaposition.
“His persona on television struck a little fear into the hearts of the kids on the show for about six seconds,” said Michael Jacobs in that same WWE.com interview. “But kids are the first to see right through you. They realized that this was a very good guy, and there was a lot of clowning around.” Jacob’s explained.
The third appearance of Vader in Boy Meets World is certainly the most widely remembered and for good reason. For a kid at the time like me who loved both wrestling and this tv programme, seeing the it play out at the time damn near blew my mind.
In a match which was filmed with WWE’s production team, we see Vader go up against Jake the Snake Roberts for a chance at the WWF Champion. The episode was filmed during a real house show, with the cast at ringside to aid Vader in his conquest. Brother Love Bruce Pritchard features as ring announcer and match commentator to really connect the two worlds and the episode goes off-air with a cheesy but heart-warming moment shared between Corey and long-term love Topanga. Overall, a good example of how a cross-over between television and pro wrestling can be handled to entertain both sides of the audience.
Married With Children King Kong Bundy 1987 &1995
Married With Children is a classic late 80s and early 90s comedy revolving around the trials and tribulations of working-class icon Al Bundy. As was common with blue-collared men at the time, Bundy in the show was a big fan of the in-ring antics of the pro wrestling industry and thus the two worlds collided on more than one occasion.
In season 2, Al Bundy’s weekend plans are ruined when his unusual family members come to stay. One of which, his brother in law is a bone headed egg of a man, played by legendary WWF wrestler King Kong Bundy. Playing closely to the perception which most would have when presented with the bald headed beast of a man, Bundy played a character who was big on strength but rather lacking in intelligence. His nephew is excited to see Bundy smash things around the house using nothing but his enormous cranium, which drives Al Bundy slowly more and more aggravated with his wife’s brother, sending him to breaking point where Bundy threatens to kill the large wrestler with a gun, before awaking to realise that the entire weekend was only a bad nightmare. However, the show ends when King Kong Bundy does in fact turn up at Al’s house and makes notice of his arrival by smashing the front door with his face.
Years later, King Kong Bundy would appear again on the show. This time as himself in the role of a pro wrestler, in town to fight at the upcoming WrestlePalooza event. When Bundy’s opponent doesn’t show for the match he faces off against a show regular and tiny man, Bud. Bud is dressed as a bumble bee and although King Kong Bundy initially promises to go easy on the man due to his minute stature, when Bud bounces into Bundy accidentally, a miscommunication leads to a full force attack. This leaves Bud with several injuries, most notably the loss of a tooth.
Big Show Captain Insano Waterboy 1998
Say what you will about the current state of Adam Sandler films in 2021. But there is a reason that he became one of the most popular and well recognised faces of the late 90s and early 2000s, on his way to earning hundreds of millions of dollars.
When Adam Sandler released Waterboy in 1998, his portrayal of a simple man with a simple, yet burning passion for American football captured the hearts of the masses around the world.
One key part of the success of Waterboy is the sympathy which fans feel towards the lead character played by Sandler as he has the world around him tread on him time and time again.
There is no stronger point of sympathy for the titular waterboy throughout the movies runtime, especially as a fan of pro wrestling, than when Sandler’s character is caught up in the emotion of watching his favourite wrestler battling it out on television and decides to call in to the show to voice his support.
Played by Paul Wight, better known as The Big Show, Captain Insano answers the waterboy’s call only to laugh at him, ridiculing the simpleton for being a grown man who enjoys watching pro wrestling from his bedroom at his mom’s house.
Sometimes, art imitates life a little too closely!
Back in the late 90s, the character was such a success that wrestling figurehead Hulk Hogan was even said to be jealous of the over-the-top persona of Captain Insano. It is even rumoured that Adam Sandler’s creation gave inspiration for another larger than life wrestling persona we saw on WWE television:
“The funny thing is when I did that Waterboy years ago, Hogan actually goes ‘Brother, you should get back into that, that gimmick is money. Captain Insano, that’s money brother. I think the whole reason he did Mr. America is because he was infatuated with Captain Insano.”
Now in the modern day, with Paul Wight taking his place amongst the AEW roster, we could even see a return for the much beloved Captain Insano on our screens sometime soon.
“I just found out today that AEW applied for the trademark for Captain Insano. So yeah, I might bring back Captain Insano.”
Kaiju Mono – Kota Ibushi & Minoru Suzuki 2016
Do you like the cheap effects and silly storylines of old school Godzilla films? Do you enjoy the megazord fights in Power Rangers where the action clearly features two men in rubber suits battling it out inside of a miniature city? Do you enjoy your action performed by athletes with ripped abs in tiny spandex pants? If you answered yes to all three of these questions. Then Kaiju Mono is a must-see for you.
Featuring the likes of Kota Ibushi and Minoru Suzuki, 2 of Japan’s all-time great pro wrestlers, grown to giant size by a mad scientist in order to defend the city against a giant lizards monster who is desperate to retreave it’s lost eggs, the premise of this film is as outrageous as it needs to be in order to make this ridiculous movie worth watching. Full of silly humour and countless nods to the beloved Kaiju genre, this film certainly isn’t for everyone. But getting to witness Minoru Suzuki deliver a gorgeous piledriver and perfect dropkick to an oversized dinosaur beast is worth the price of the Blu-ray alone.
John Huber/ Brodie Lee/Luke Harper "Damnation" 2017
The late John Huber brought an ethereal and demonic presence to his roles within both WWE and All Elite Wrestling as Luke Harper and Brodie Lee respectfully. Before his death, Huber’s eery acting performances were noticed by writers of the USA programme Damnation. A role known as Pitchfork Perry a hillbilly wrestler at a local carnival was written specifically for Huber whose deep voice and unique look brought a real death to the character with a small yet impactful performance. It was clear that acting on television would have been a clear next step for the man who rose to fame within the Wyatt Family in WWE, before his untimely death even commenting; “I did 'Damnation' on USA, and hopefully I keep picking up smaller roles and learn the craft.”
This isn’t the usually documentary style wrestling video which I’ve been focused on making lately, but I think this light-hearted look at these nostalgic shows and films has really been a blast. I have absolutely loved rewatching some shows from my childhood which I loved at the time and I’ve had a great time watching new things which I hadn’t seen until now. A welcome break which I hope you’ve enjoyed.
I had to split my list in half as there are just far too many instances of wrestlers playing wrestlers in tv and films for me to include in this video and I fully intent to make another looking at a whole host of others.
What is your favourite appearance by a wrestler outside of the ring from this list, or have I missed it out? Let me know down below and thanks for watching.