The sport/entertainment industry that is professional wrestling is filled to the brim with larger-than-life characters of imposing physical appearance who are taught to learn lines and deliver them in front of crowds of thousands (sometimes tens of thousands) of people on a nightly basis. It is perhaps obvious then that Hollywood would come knocking sooner or later for some of the industry’s biggest and most recognisable stars, but as history has proven time and time again, the transition from the exposition-heavy dialogue and over-the-top characterisation in wrestling to the more subtle techniques required for acting on film make for a difficult transition that only a special few performers have managed to achieve in the history of both wrestling and cinema.
Often, the most famous and popular stars of the world’s premiere wrestling organisation WWE – whether they be The Miz, Randy Orton, Big Show or Triple H – take movie roles in their employers’ own straight-to-DVD B-movie action shooters, gaining much needed material for their portfolios but rarely getting the chance to break out into something more dramatic and/or comedic; their lives as movie stars therefore dictated by their wrestling personas, making a transition away from wrestling and into Hollywood an even greater task.
However, there are wrestlers who take a leap of faith into an acting career and make it work; and of those who have, some have been involved in the most iconic films of their generation or have at least made themselves a memorable presence in a film or two. These actors, who’ve somehow broken into acting against the odds (and historical precedence), are the focus of this: the 10 Best Wrestlers Turned Actors.
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10. Adam “Edge” Copeland
Edge was always a good looking hunk of a man, so it wasn’t a surprise to see him transition into the world of acting once his wrestling career was sadly cut short.
In the interim of his career hiatus (caused by a severe neck injury), Edge became a regular on the TV shows ‘Haven’ and ‘Vikings’, and has even appeared in the DC TV adaptation ‘The Flash’.
He has that tall, blonde, attractive star vibe going for him, so it’s easy to see why they lumped him in old fashioned Scandinavian clothing and threw him on the set of ‘Vikings’ in particular, but his forray into TV remains impressive nonetheless. Unlike most other wrestlers – including the majority still to come on this list – Edge can say he’s been in some of the most popular TV shows in modern times, and while that doesn’t quite equate to a breakthrough film career, it is impressive nonetheless.
9. Kevin Nash
Kevin Nash is a former professional wrestler who, at the age of 53, earned a supporting role in Magic Mike. Now there’s proof of an impressive physique!
He was pretty good in it too.
Come to think of it, he has been pretty good in everything he’s been in… even a random ‘Sabrina the Teenage Witch’ episode when he hopped out of a closet and got lambasted by the ever-sarcastic Salem (who was a cat, for those unfamiliar).
As well as the odd notable role, he’s also had countless background roles in major films like John Wick, Rock of Ages and The Longest Yard, making a decent career for himself as a lower tier film and television actor in the wake of his in-ring retirement.
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8. Steve Austin
With over 30 TV and film acting credits to his name (not including shows for the WWE obviously), “Stone Cold” Steve Austin has made quite the challenge for a mainstream Hollywood career over the years.
He’s had roles in big action movies like The Expendables, roles in comedies like Grown Ups 2 and roles in the movies you could consider “in between the two” like the 2005 version of The Longest Yard. Yet, despite being possibly the most popular wrestler of all time, it’s never really worked out for him as a leading man, with The Condemned being the closest he ever seemed to get to the top of the acting ladder.
Austin is as iconic of a wrestler as they come and an almost universally recognised figure to this day, and his acting career has hardly been one to sniff at, but it seems he should have been so much more.