Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published May 7th 2020
They really are decent films
In this time of being locked down, there are many strange and wonderful things to be watching when you find yourself just wanting to escape from the current reality. And even if that was not the case, how many times can you binge-watch Game Of Thrones before all the local shops run out of Doritos?
My person weakness is watching professional wrestling. Considering the WWE pro wrestling company has somehow been considered an essential service in Florida (*cough*politicaldodginess*cough*… allegedly), there is always "sports entertainment" to watch. Now, I am not going to give you a list of the ten PPVs of the WWE Network you should watch because (a) Weekend Notes is not renowned for fans of the history of pro wrestling, and (b) my tastes are very different from nearly everyone else when it comes to wrestling.
However, many pro wrestlers have appeared in movies. Now, I'm not saying I have seen every film featuring a wrestler, but… yeah. I have seen an awful lot. And so, for something different in your movie viewing, may I present the 10 films I like most featuring professional wrestlers.
Some rules, though. The wrestler has to have a major role in the film. Not a brief scene or two, not a cameo, but be integral to the plot. Second, only one film per wrestler, or else Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson and 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper would feature way too prominently. Third, no documentaries. Finally, I have to have seen the wrestler actually wrestle, so The Godfather featuring Lenny Montana doesn't make it. Sorry.
Now, I am not going to go for films that it is clear only I like in maybe the whole world, and you will find not one film featuring Hulk Hogan here (in fact, he is the star of the worst film I have ever seen and I watch a lot of bad movies). With all that in mind, here are the 10 films featuring pro wrestlers that I think everyone will enjoy.
Two honourable mentions: The Wrestler (2008) – many wrestlers have cameos in this film, but it is Mickey Rourke the actor who carries it; I reckon I'll have to do a DVD review of this because it is a magnificent movie; and Highlander (1986) – a heap of wrestlers are in this in small roles, but, like The Wrestler above, everything is overshadowed by Christopher Lambert's lead role.
Now, my list of 10!
Wrestler: Jesse 'the Body' Ventura. This is probably one of my two favourite Arnold Schwarzenegger films (the other being the original The Terminator), but Jesse Ventura stands out amongst the supporting cast. Armed with a machine gun that looks like it has been ripped from an attack helicopter, he is the back-up Arnie needs. And when he dies you think that maybe this is not going to go well. He plays the tobacco-chewing badass almost perfectly. And he gets the best line in the whole film:
"I ain't got time to bleed."
The Princess Bride (1987)
Wrestler: Andre the Giant
Yes, along with the previous entry, I have written about this film before, so regular readers knew it had to be here. Andre the Giant plays Fezzik the Giant in a role that seems to have been written for him and him alone. No-one else could have done it without CGI or effects, and he inhabits the role perfectly. In a film of amazing performances, his is just one amongst many, but it is still quite a wonderful performance. And then there's:
"It's not my fault being the biggest and the strongest. I don't even exercise."
They Live (1988)
Wrestler: 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper The greatest film ever starring a wrestler in the lead role, and another one I've mentioned before. Sorry, Rock, but Roddy's got you here. Playing Nada who finds a pair of sunglasses that allows him to see the alien conspiracy all around us, his acting is wonderful. He starts confused and disbelieving and then becomes more and more sure of what he has to do until he finally lays down his life for mankind. This is one of the very best films on this list, and is one of the reasons why director John Carpenter is looked at so fondly today by those of us who grew up with his work. And Piper gets the best line ever from a film featuring a wrestler:
"I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass… and I'm all out of bubblegum."
Ed Wood (1994)
Wrestler: George 'The Animal' Steele Steele was known for being the barely comprehensible, turnbuckle eating, green-tongued moron in (the then)WWF. But he was actually a school teacher, and quite an accomplished one as well. In this biopic film about the famed "worst director ever" Ed Wood Jr, he played Tor Johnson, and he looks almost exactly like Tor. Tor, for what it's worth, was also a wrestler, but I never saw him in the ring. Steele plays the role almost perfectly; this film is under-rated and really rather enjoyable. And he has the best line, in response to Ed Wood introducing himself as a movie director:
"Movies? You mean like the Mickey Mouse?"
Man On The Moon (1999)
Wrestler: Jerry 'The King' Lawler
Maybe this is a slight cheat, as Lawler plays himself, albeit a younger self, in this biopic of Andy Kaufman (based possibly on the R.E.M. song). Originally the role was going to go Glenn Gilberti (known to fans as WCW wrestler The Disco Inferno) but Lawler played the role. In real-life, Kaufman and Lawler engaged in a staged feud that was very realistic, and this is played out in the film almost exactly as in reality. Hardly stretching his acting chops, but Lawler plays it almost 20 years on quite well. This, I will say, is one of my favourite Jim Carrey films. Lawler did get a weird line in, though, which was possibly funny when it was originally said:
"…did you come here to wrestle or act like an ass?"
Wrestler: Randy 'Macho Man' Savage
Yes, he has a small role as Bonesaw McGraw, fighting Tobey Maguire's Spiderman when he first gets his powers, but it sets up the film's premise that he might be small, but he's strong and wily… and also sets up the killer of Uncle Ben This would be a mere cameo if he didn't almost steal the film. Yes, Savage is one of my favourite wrestlers of all time, and he plays a wrestler in the film, but despite that, he plays it well, going up against and losing convincingly to a much smaller opponent. And tell me this taunt wouldn't make you wet yourself if growled at you by The Macho Man:
"Hey freak show! You're going nowhere. I got you for three minutes. Three minutes of playtime!"
The Devil's Rejects (2005)
Wrestler: 'Diamond' Dallas Page
Page plays a bounty hunter in a small role, but, much like Savage, he completely stole the movie. The film itself is one of the better Rob Zombie movies, and has a nice sense of creeping dread if you're into your horror films. For a Zombie film, it is surprisingly subdued, but it is still a Zombie film, so be ready for nastiness. I don't mind a good horror film. Sadly, Page was not slated for the sequel.
Unfortunately, his best line from the film (in fact, all his quotable lines from the film) is so not family friendly I cannot put it here. But it did make me laugh.
The Condemned (2007)
Wrestler: 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin
This is a standard action film trope – a bunch of prisoners are on an island and have to kill each other so there is one survivor after for thirty hours. Austin is there under false pretences, is presumed dead at one point, but then saves the day. Of course. What lifts this film above the ordinary of this ilk is the intensity of the performances because, really, at its core, it is just a standard action, kill-em-all film. Critics hated it at the time, which was one reason I went to the cinema to see it, and I was entertained. Turn your brain off and enjoy some mindless violence. And it is certainly better than a lot of the mindless violence films I have watched in my lifetime. Oh, and the film also features wrestler (and in this case, the term is used loosely) Nathan Jones. Best exchange:
Austin: "Sounds like you've had a hard life."
Vinnie Jones: "Yeah"
Austin: "Good thing it's over."
Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014)
Wrestler: Batista (as Dave Bautista)
I have mentioned a Batista film previously (Man With The Iron Fists), and I can see him having a great film career. In this ensemble cast MCU movie – one of the better MCU movies, in my opinion – he plays Drax the Destroyer and his formidable natural size and the excellent delivery of his character's naïveté makes his portrayal so wonderful. He actually matches the Drax from the comics surprisingly well. And that closing scene with him and the dancing baby Groot makes me laugh every time. And this classic exchange:
Quill: "I'll have to agree with the walking thesaurus on that one."
Drax: "Do not ever call me a thesaurus."
Quill: "It's just a metaphor, dude."
Rocket Raccoon: "His people are completely literal. Metaphors go over his head."
Drax: "Nothing goes over my head! My reflexes are too fast. I would catch it."
Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle (2017)
Wrestler: Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson
It was tough to pick my favourite film featuring The Rock. While he has had a few duds, most of his films are quite good, and he is proving himself to be one of the best movie stars today. The reason I went for this one is that it not only shows his action-man persona, but his comedy skills and his acting ability, actually playing a character, are probably the best I have seen them coming from him. Of course, with Jack Black, Kevin Hart and Karen Gillan (who, remember, is also in Guardians Of The Galaxy, showing that maybe she is a perfect foil for a wrestler-actor), he has some great actors to play off and this film just delivers in spades. And his delivery of this line is so incredible:
"Don't cry. Don't cry. Don't cry, it's going to be okay."
Yes, The Rock, telling himself not to cry.
So, ten films featuring professional wrestlers that are actually good to watch. There is something here for everyone, I think. Okay, no out-and-out comedies, but the comedies that wrestlers have appeared in that I have seen tend to be… not funny. Action and adventure seem fine, but comedies, not so much. Okay, Dwayne Johnson has delivered a few decent comedies, but, really, Jumanji is a far better film than any of those.
And, looking through the list, no John Cena films appear. Well, there is a reason for that – I am yet to see a good one. I have been told Bumblebee and Blockers are worth catching, but I now avoid the Transformers films and Blockers passed me by. So, sorry for Cena fans.
Still, I dare say I have forgotten some films that people like. Rocky 3 with Hulk Hogan? Hell Comes To Frogtown with Roddy Piper? The Expendables with Steve Austin? Feel free to let me know in the comments section below.