The common opinion on professional wrestling is that it is just a soap opera for the male population. And the performers in this “sport” all are called upon to act out some truly ludicrous story lines in front of live crowds week in and week out. So it is kinda shocking that so many wrestlers end up being so bad when they are put in an actual film role. John Cena and HHH may be able to captivate a crowd with their performance in the squared circle but neither guy can act their way out of a soggy paper bag. But there are a few rasslers who have proven to have “The Stuff” when it comes to acting outside of the ring and I have decide to list my top 6 sports entertainers who made the transition to the big screen successfully.
6. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin as Conrad in THE CONDEMNED
In the straight-to-DVD action film THE CONDEMNED, six-time WWE World Champion “Stone Cold” Steve Austin portrays Jack Conrad, a prisoner in a corrupt Salvadoran prison who is awaiting execution. Luckily (or unluckily depending on your viewpoint) Conrad is liberated from the prison by an evil TV producer who wants to enter Conrad into a BATTLE ROYALE style game of death against 9 other freed prisoners.
This is my favorite Austin performance mostly because this is the my favorite Austin movie. Most of Austin’s other films are really terrible and while THE CONDEMNED is not an Oscar caliber film by any stretch of the imagination, it does provide some well done action/fight scenes, its plot is interesting and Austin is fits in this premise so much better than he does in his other starring vehicles. He does one of those quiet but deadly turns that I used to love in my 80s action movie heroes.
5. Andre The Giant as Fezzik in THE PRINCESS BRIDE
Aside from his turn as Bigfoot in a couple episodes of THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN TV series, Andre the Giant didn’t really do much acting that I cared about but his role as Fezzik in THE PRINCESS BRIDE was different. Usually Andre was cast as some sort of monster (he was even credited as “Monster” in an episode of THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO) or as himself. With Fezzik we just got Andre the Actor. Admittedly Andre the Actor was pretty much identical to Andre the Wrestler but it was nice to see the big guy not have to wear a furry suit or a mask. Plus Fezzik was a cool character and Andre clicked in scenes with Wallace Shawn (Vizzini) and Mandy Patinkin (Inigo Montoya).
4. Hulk Hogan as Thunderlips in ROCKY III
I know what you are thinking….why pick a brief part in a Rocky sequel and not one of Hogan’s many classic starring vehicles like NO HOLDS BARRED, SUBURBAN COMMANDO or MR. NANNY? Well its because those movies were scarily crappy while Hogan’s few scenes as Thunderlips in ROCKY III were fun and oh so memorable. His flamboyant entrance and ring attire was great but the best thing about his scenes were the lines he was saying. From calling Rocky a meatball to referring to himself in the third person at all times to the fact that the guy was basically doing his own color commentary while beating Rocky to a pulp. That takes talent.
3. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Beck in THE RUNDOWN
The People’s Champ has cobbled together quite an impressive filmography but the one role that I have enjoyed him in the most is as Beck in THE RUNDOWN. The premise of the film is that Beck is a bounty hunter who is sent on one last job to retrieve his employer’s son from the Amazon jungle. The Rock’s chemistry with co-star Seann William Scott was pitch perfect which is what any buddy action/comedy needs. I also enjoyed the little quirks that the character had. He was a bounty hunter who did not like to use guns and who had hopes of retiring from the bounty hunter business to live his dream of being a chef in his own restaurant. He was funny and believable in the action scenes. THE RUNDOWN is Johnson’s best part as well as his best movie.
2. Jesse “The Body” Ventura as Blain in PREDATOR
The mixture of Jesse’s delivery, the hat, the attitude, the constant lump of chewing tobacco and that kick ass gatlin gun served to make Blain my favorite character in PREDATOR. And that is saying something considering all the cool actors who were portraying equally cool characters in this film. The Body only went on to appear in a few more films and TV series before packing it all in to enter politics but his small role in PREDATOR made a huge impression.
1. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper as Nada in THEY LIVE
If you have not seen THEY LIVE I implore you to stop what you are doing, acquire this film through whatever means are at your disposal and watch it immediately. In my book this is one of the top 5 or 6 films that John Carpenter has directed. The premise is that alien invaders are surreptitiously invading our planet and the only person that knows is a drifter who stumbles upon the conspiracy thanks to a pair of special sunglasses that allows its wearer to see the aliens true faces. As that drifter “Rowdy” Roddy Piper does a pretty sweet Kurt Russell impersonation and carries the bulk of the film on his shoulders. And that epic fight scene between Piper and co-star Keith David is one of the most enjoyable things to be put on film in the 1980s. This character’s quotables are insanely good too:
“Brother, life’s a bitch… and she’s back in heat.”
“You see, I take these glasses off, she looks like a regular person, doesn’t she? Put ’em back on…formaldehyde-face!”
“I’m giving you a choice: either put on these glasses or start eatin’ that trash can.”
“I got news for ’em. There’s gonna be hell to pay. ‘Cause I ain’t Daddy’s little boy no more.”
“I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass… and I’m all out of bubblegum.”
That is quality stuff, compadres.