5. Hulk Hogan
The first true wrestling megastar Hulk Hogan was a pop culture icon, so it was only a matter of time before Hollywood came knocking.
Interestingly, Hulk’s most iconic silver screen role – as the villain in Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky 3 – came in 1982, when Hogan hadn’t even stepped foot in the WWF; but the peak of his acting fame came hand in hand with his “eat your vitamins and say your prayers” Hulkamania wrestling gimmick, with seemingly every other word of his totally in-character movie career being “brother!”
It’s not that Hogan was good at acting, because he wasn’t, but he was certainly memorable and, more importantly as far as Hollywood is concerned, marketable.
In the late 80s and 90s especially, Hogan filled spots in action movies usually reserved for the likes of Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude Van Damme or Steven Segal, headlining clueless, gun-heavy fare almost all of the time, but racking up “so bad they’re good” titles like No Holds Barred, Suburban Commando and Santa With Muscles along the way.
He has long been a breed unto his own and easily the biggest wrestler-turned-mainstream-actor until fairly recently, but is top of what is a pretty underwhelming bunch that improves rapidly from here on out…
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4. Roddy Piper
Rowdy Roddy Piper may not have been as prolific as Hulk Hogan when it came to acting gigs, but he sure was better.
Piper has undoubtedly been best remembered for his starring role in the 1988 sci-fi/horror cult classic They Live, in which he performed the now iconic line, “I have come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass – and I’m all out of bubblegum”.
It was a starring turn that made the most of his oozing charisma and proved that if any wrestler of the era could have made it as an actual actor, it would have been Piper.
Being directed by Halloween director John Carpenter was always going to help, but the fact that the WWE’s most beloved anti-hero made such an impression in a non-wrestling capacity was huge for wrestling and particularly Piper, who all-but guaranteed himself an avenue outside of wrestling upon his retirement.
Unfortunately for Hollywood, he never really took advantage of this in the prime of his wrestling career – instead focusing on being a wrestler and on-air personality for the WWF and WCW through the late 80s and 90s – but he did go on to make lots of B movies in the 90s and 2000s, as well as make memorable appearances in TV series such as ‘Zorro’ and ‘Highlander’, most recently recently appearing as a retired wrestler in ‘It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’.
Piper was a cheeky chappy who always looked like he had a trick up his sleeve and a smile that could get him out of anything, which worked tremendously both in the ring and on the big screen.
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3. John Cena
A 16-time world champion with a body that looks like it’s made from stone and the sort of buzz-cut you’d find in the Marines (the actual vocation, not the terrible WWE movies – though he did star in those), it seemed like John Cena was destined for a Hollywood presence as a meaty, muscular bodyguard type, but to his credit he’s found his own little corner of the playground to play in… comedy.
First truly illustrating his comedic talents in the Amy Schumer written and directed semi-autobiographical comedy Trainwreck – in which he played one of her boyfriends and produced a hilarious portrayal of terrible sex as well as a somewhat iconic expletive-laden rant in a cinema – and then solidifying his comedic timing in the underrated comedy of 2018 Blockers (in which he played an up-tight and naive Dad trying to stop his daughter from losing her virginity in a film that is much better than it sounds), John Cena has become something close to Hollywood’s new kid on the block; that being one of those guys everyone seems to want to work with at the moment.
With his appearance in the multi-billion-dollar franchise Transformers spin-off Bumblebee, and his place among the stars of the Fast & Furious franchise for the upcoming 9th movie, Cena is all-but confirmed to have made it as a Hollywood star.