Wrestlers and movies. Since the dawn of time (well, since I was awarded the keys to the back door of TJR Towers) I’ve wanted to write this column as much as wrestlers want to appear in the next straight to DVD action epic. There’s something about seeing wrestlers in films that fills me with glee (no, not that glee). From Kane hunting down stupid teenagers in See No Evil to Adam Sandler casting every wrestler he can in The Longest Yard to ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper wanting to ‘kick butt and chew bubble gum’ the wrestler/movie combo is as classic as fish & chips or gin & tonic. Also, the columns that drew me to this site as a reader were not ‘The Raw Deal’ but ‘Disasterpiece Theatre’ by Jacob Lindsey where he reviewed all of these films. Check them out, they’re great.
What’s really exciting to me though is when you’re watching a ‘normal’ movie and one of our guys pops up for no real reason other than to put a secret smile on our face as we remember that match against Raven at ‘Barely Legal’ and nod and say to our friends and say, ‘oh, I think he’s a fighter or something’. They’re the ‘wrestlers in movie’ moments I like.
So, to that end, here is my cleverly titled ‘Ultimate Top Ten Wrestlers in Movies’. It is completely biased. They are my choices and I don’t apologise for them. You’ll have another ten. But mine has Terry Funk, so I win. To be honest, I did stay away from WWE Movie productions because, apart from being awful, they’re not kitsch enough for this list. Also, I stayed away from movies starring wrestlers primarily because, again, they’re not much cop and the only one that came close to my list was Roddy Piper. Okay, I know The Rock has made some pretty good ones but it’d ruin my list if I put his in because they’re, like, real films with a budget and that.
Before we get going, as an ‘honourable mention’, I’m going with Roddy Piper in They Live. He’s good in it and it also has the best fight scene EVER EVER EVER in it. Actually, sod it. I’m changing it to the ‘Ultimate Top Eleven Wrestlers in Movies’ because that was legen...wait for it...
The Great Khali – Get Smart
Now, let me get this straight. Yes, I know Dwayne Johnson is in this film but I’m not picking him and it’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to. It was between this or Kurt Angle in Warrior but Angle doesn’t attack Joel Edgerton at 15,000ft so he lost out. The Great Khali (or ‘The’ to his friends) has actually been utilised pretty well in movies, far better than in the ring in fact. In The Longest Yard he played a warden-hating psychopath and in MacGruber he played a character called Tug Phelps. I’ve never seen MacGruber or have any inclination to, but it’s a cool name. In Get Smart though, he is an evil KAOS agent working for (what a surprise) an English villain in Terrence Stamp’s ‘Siegfried’. The film is generally okay, largely in part to Steve Carell and some top cameos (I’m looking at you Bill Murray). It is our mate ‘The’ however, who gets to have some good scenes attacking Carell and Anne Hathaway as they fall from a plane. It’s not quite as good as Roddy though, so I’m moving They Live up to number 10 and this is now the ‘honourable mention’.
Triple H – Blade: Trinity
I was going to go for Tyler Mane in the first X-Men movie but thought this would be better for business. Paul hasn’t had a great movie career. To be honest, he could have won an Oscar but the fact that The Chaperone is on his CV nullifies everything else. His cameo in Blade: Trinity though is pretty good. It ticks all the boxes for a wrestler film appearance in that he gets to look big and has a fight scene which, to all intents and purposes, is Ryan Reynolds’ extended audition for a future career in the squared circle. In what was an awful film (seriously, Wesley, your recent prison stint wasn’t for tax evasion, it was for this movie) this was the highlight. Triple H doesn’t chew gum though so, I’m moving They Live up to number 9.
The Big Show – Jingle All the Way
I know what you’re all thinking. If I was going to go for The Big Show in a film, why not The Waterboy and the Hulk Hogan parodying Captain Insano? Why not? Because it’s too good and this ain’t that sort of list. I’ve gone for an awful film that celebrates consumerism at Christmas and that the love between a father and his son can only be confirmed by the presence of a Turbo-Man figure. In a movie sub-genre that includes It’s A Wonderful Life, Love Actually and Christmas Evil, this is perhaps the worst festive film ever made. It does however have ‘The Big’ playing a huge Santa Claus who beats up Arnold Schwarzenegger with the help of a ‘little’ Santa and a taser to the family jewels. I’m not even going to mention Roddy Piper for at least seven more entries. You all know where this is heading.
Randy Savage – Spiderman
This is great. I know it’s a big Hollywood blockbuster and it grossed millions but it’s also Randy Savage as Bonesaw McGraw. He’s nasty. He’s violent. And he’s also part of the best scene in the film. Seriously. It has the stipulatory Bruce Campbell cameo. It has a masked luchador on a stretcher. It has a cage. And it has Tobey Maguire getting a bit of a beating with some nice chair shots. The fact that Randy agreed to such a fan cameo says a lot about the man he was. Also, any wrestling crowd that shouts ‘KILL’ whilst gesticulating with cardboard saws gets my vote.
Lenny Montana - The Godfather
Wow. My rules are being bent all out of shape now. Now we have a modern classic and Oscar winner. Lenny Montana was 6ft 6in and weighed 320lbs. He was an NWA Southern Heavyweight Champion and later a tag-team champion. He even worked with Gorilla Monsoon towards the end of his career. After retirement, he fell in with the Colombo mob family and became an enforcer and arsonist for the feared group. Interestingly, it was this mob link that got Montana the role as the inimitable Luca Brasi. Joe Colombo was opposing the making of the film along with Frank Sinatra due to the portrayal of Italian Americans. At one meeting between the Mafia head and Francis Ford Coppola, the huge Montana was present and was immediately cast. He became ‘The Godfather’ for all future wrestlers in films and, although his death scene is very famous, I’ve gone for his scene with Marlon Brando because this is both a family site and also, it’s Marlon bloody Brando.
Jesse Ventura – The Running Man
I could have gone for Ventura in Predator, one of my favourite action films, but how could I not go for a film that has Arnold in a figure-hugging gold jumpsuit and Ventura as Captain Freedom? He ticks all the boxes for a wrestling cameo in that he is pumped up, sports a cracking moustache and has a fight scene with our hero. What is great about Captain Freedom though is not only the fact that he has morals and won’t fight Schwarzenegger but that he has a cracking line in fitness videos. Add the fact that the film, and therefore said fitness video, was directed by Detective David Starsky and we have B-Movie kitsch heaven.
Kevin Nash – The Punisher
I was so tempted to put Nash in his thong-tastic role in Magic Mike here but I’ve gone for the box-ticking route. Pumped up character? Check. Bad guy role? Check. Cracking fight scene? Double check. I’ve always been a fan of the Punisher character (I like my revenge films) and although Frank Castle has never had the best movie career, this 2004 film is the best version and, sorry Dolph, Thomas Jane is the best iteration of the character (I won’t put a link on here due to excessive violence, but if you’ve not seen Jane’s self-financed short The Punisher: Dirty Laundry, YouTube it). To be fair, Nash is perfectly cast as ‘The Russian’ and for all that talk of ego through the years, he so wanted this cameo that he even cut his hair short for it. And that, dear readers, is as close to a humble Kevin Nash as we’ll ever get.
The Fabulous Freebirds – Highlander
This is a great cameo because it is literally Connor McLeod (of the Clan McLeod) sitting watching a match at Madison Square Garden. Yes, he’s waiting for another immortal, Iman Fasil, but, at the end of the day he’s just kicking back and watching The Fabulous Freebirds go at it in the ring with Michael Hayes all ‘tongue-out fury’ and some cheeky moves in the squared circle. Of course, there is a deep underlying subtext to the scene. The battle for immortality in a ring of our own making and, er, stuff like that. Whatever. It’s the Highlander watching the Freebirds. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the scene anywhere on the internet (apart from some annoying fan commentary stuff) so I’ve recreated it for you. Press play on the Queen video, then do the same on The Fabulous Freebirds video and every thirty seconds look at that picture of Christopher Lambert. Job done.
Hulk Hogan – Rocky III
This was such a tough battle. I grew up on the Rocky films and still watch and love them today. To all intents and purposes, this is the best appearance by a wrestler in any film ever. It has everything. It has Rocky for a start (obviously) but it plays like a full film in five minutes. It starts happy. Turns nasty. Then Rocky fights back for the redemptive win. It’s actually the plot of Rocky III but just played out at the start of the film instead. To be fair, similar to Nash, any positive or negative feelings about Hogan can be put aside here because, as Thunderlips ‘The Ultimate Object of Desire’ or, indeed, ‘The Mountain of Molten Lust’, he is brilliant. He shows right there why he would go on to become a great heel in WCW and, for a short moment, is Rocky’s greatest opponent.
Terry Funk – Over the Top
And the only man who could beat Thunderlips? Only, Terry Funk as ‘Ruker’ (seriously, is that even a name?). He does everything asked of him. He wears a suit. He protects Robert Loggia. He pushes Stallone and then, well, gets punched through a glass door by said Hollywood hero. He even has a line that has every...word...stressed. It is the perfect ‘wrestler in film’ moment for me because it sums up my reaction whenever I see one of these guys in a movie. I smile, I laugh, I think, ‘bloody hell, is that Terry Funk?!’ and then it becomes a drinking game. Down a shot for every appearance he makes or line he has. It’s a great game. I play it every summer. So, here is Terry Funk doing what he does best.
So, there’s my list. Complete. Comprehensive. And you will all probably disagree completely. I have to tidy two things up though. Yep. You guessed it. ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper has made his way to number one on my list purely by default and because, if you haven’t seen the fight in ‘They Live’, this is my gift to you.
THE REAL NUMBER ONE OF THE BEST WRESTLER IN ANY MOVIE EVER –
‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper – They Live
And, to complete my final thought on that scene from the start of this article...
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Ta ta for now and hopefully see you next week.