Professional wrestling inhabits a unique space in both sports and entertainment, as a wrestler’s success isn’t simply based on athletics but also an ability to act and perform for both a live crowd and for television. As a result, it’s not uncommon to see wrestlers make the transition to acting, with notable examples like The Rock and John Cena becoming legitimate movie stars.
Along with those two are loads of wrestlers who have rarely if ever received top billing in their movies efforts, but have portrayed unforgettable characters regardless. Let’s take a look at 10 of those characters, only a couple of whom are wrestlers.
Paul Wight as Captain Insano In The Waterboy (1998)
Otherwise known as The Giant or The Big Show, Paul Wight is one of the better actors in pro wrestling and since his 1995 debut has acted in a number of projects, including his own sitcom on Netflix. But one of his earliest roles was in the Adam Sandler comedy The Waterboy, playing a pro wrestler named Captain Insano who mocks Sandler’s character Bobby Boucher on live television when he offers to be Insano’s personal waterboy.
Batista As Drax The Destroyer In Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014)
Not the most high-profile or beloved property in the Marvel Universe, Marvel Studios’ space adventure Guardians of the Galaxy took viewers by surprise with its colorful cosmic visuals and goofy sense of humor. One of the biggest surprises in the film was the performance of Batista (or Dave Bautista) as Drax the Destroyer, an alien warrior obsessed with revenge and an inability to understand the simplest metaphor who might also have invisibility powers. Batista’s portrayal proved to be a highlight of a movie that also included a talking tree and a raccoon with a gun.
Kevin Nash As Tarzan In Magic Mike & Magic Mike XXL (2012, 2015)
Based on star Channing Tatum’s real-life background as a stripper in Tampa, Magic Mike and Magic Mike XXL follow the trials, tribulations, and general hijinx of a cadre of male strippers. While most of the strippers are relatively young, rounding out the group is Big Sexy himself, Kevin Nash.
The older veteran of the gang, Tarzan isn’t a principal character by any stretch, but his performances in the film are memorable due to Nash doing very little actual dancing.
George “The Animal” Steele As Tor Johnson In Ed Wood (1994)
Given that George “The Animal” Steele is an iconic wrestler with a great look, one might expect him to play goons and henchmen in loads of movies. Surprisingly, Steele has done very little acting, with his biggest role being in the Tim Burton feature Ed Wood where he played Tor Johnson, who acted in Wood’s classic “so bad it’s good” picture Plan 9 From Outer Space. Steele is perfectly cast as Johnson, who was actually a pro wrestler himself in the 1930s and 1940s who wrestled as both Tor Johnson and under the name The Swedish Angel.
Jesse Ventura As Blain Cooper In Predator (1987)
Directed by John McTiernan, Predator is a sci-fi action movie with a bit of a horror streak as a paramilitary group finds themselves hunted down by an alien. Arnold Schwarzenegger is the star, obviously, but WWE Hall of Famer Jesse Ventura plays Blain Cooper, a gunner with a huge minigun and a sense of overconfidence to match. Not only does Ventura utter the iconic line “I ain’t got time to bleed,” but he also gets one of the more gnarly deaths in the film.
Tosh Togo As Oddjob In Goldfinger (1964)
One of the most iconic James Bond villains is Goldfinger’s Oddjob, an Asian man who kills people by throwing a steel-tipped bowler hat and is incredibly annoying to play against in Goldeneye’s multiplayer mode. Portraying Oddjob in the film is Harold Sakata, an Olympic Silver medalist for the US in weightlifting who wrestled under the name Tosh Togo. The kayfabe brother of groundbreaking Japanese-American wrestler The Great Togo, Sakata was a major heel in the West Coast, Texas, and Hawaii territories.
Hulk Hogan as Thunderlips in Rocky III (1982)
The illustrious film career of Hulk Hogan — star of Mr. Nanny and Three Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain — began on a high note with Rocky III, where he portrayed pro wrestler Thunderlips, who Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa fights in a wrestler vs. boxer exhibition match. One might think that this film role was the result of the ever-growing phenomenon of Hulkamania, but that’s not the case.
Hogan took the role during his initial heel run in WWE and owner Vince McMahon Sr. ended up firing him over it, believing that wrestlers should not act. The Hulkster would work for the American Wrestling Association after that, and his role in Rocky III would actually help make him popular.
Wilhelm Von Homburg As Vigo The Carpathian In Ghostbusters II (1989)
Far less beloved than its predecessor, the plot of Ghostbusters II involves slime that reacts to the negative energy of New Yorkers and a painting of a 16th-century tyrant named Vigo the Carpathian. Playing Vigo is boxer turned actor Norbert Grupe, who adopted the stage name Wilhelm von Homburg when he was a pro wrestler in the early 1960s. Movie fans may recognize Homburg from one other notable movie role, as he played the henchman James in Die Hard.
Andre The Giant As Fezzik In The Princess Bride (1987)
Andre The Giant was a major attraction in the world of pro wrestling, but in the 1980s, he transcended the sport to become a pop culture icon. Part of it is due to his larger-than-life WrestleMania III bout with Hulk Hogan alongside Shepard Fairey’s use of his likeness for his “Andre the Giant Has a Posse” street art, but on top of that is his role as the loveable giant Fezzik in the cult favorite film The Princess Bride. Andre’s behind-the-scenes antics during the film are the stuff of legend, and the friendship he struck with costar Billy Crystal inspired Crystal’s 1998 film My Giant.
Macho Man Randy Savage As Bonesaw McGraw In Spider-Man (2002)
Pro wrestling is crucial to the origin of Spider-Man, as Peter Parker first uses his newfound strength and agility to make money in the squared circle, where he trounces a wrestler named Crusher Hogan — 17 years before The Hulkster got his ring name. For Sam Raimi’s landmark 2002 adaptation, the wrestler Toby Maguire’s Spider-Man takes on is named Bonesaw McGraw, played by the iconic Macho Man Randy Savage. Savage is, of course, perfectly cast as Bonesaw, who battles Spidey in a steel cage.
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