This past week on UK television, John Cena has been on our screens in his smart suits and impressive hairstyle as part of the press tour for the latest offering from the Transformers franchise, Bumblebee. Cena spoke eloquently about the movie and how much he enjoyed being a part of it, but most interviewers wanted to talk to him about his WWE career. He did a great little bit with the audience on the Graham Norton Show on BBC, where the crowd chanted ‘John Cena sucks’ as he made his entrance. During his peak WWE days, it seemed a no-brainer that someone as good looking and enthusiastic as Cena would easily make it in Hollywood and follow in the footsteps of the Rock, Dwayne Johnson, but his career hasn’t hit the heady heights I thought it would. Sure, he’s had moderate success in Daddy’s Home One and Two, Trainwreck and the WWE-funded The Marine, 12 Rounds, Legendary and The Reunion.
Many fans fully understand why Cena has tried his arm at acting, seeing as how successful others have been, but we also understand that partnerships with movie studios outside of the WWE ones, are profitable for both parties. On the Graham Norton Show, Cena even managed to get a brief plug in for his January return to the WWE, and likely Wrestlemania match – always the pro. But it symbolizes just how hand in hand WWE stars and the movies go. They mutually benefit from one another – depending on how big the star is. It helps that WWE tend to have good relationships with their top talent, especially those who are successful in big movies. The only problem is that sometimes the big paychecks and bright lights of Tinseltown can turn the head of a top superstar and they may seek their fame and fortune by working in LA where a stunt double can take a bump for them, rather than risk their own safety. That doesn’t mean their love for wrestling diminishes; it just means that some may prefer a different lifestyle for a while.
The crossover between professional wrestling and the movie/sports world in the past usually went one way only. Top names from outside of wrestling would be brought into the WWF/WWE to build hype, draw mainstream media attention or try to entice new fans to the product. It tended to work too, with unquestionable success stories like Cyndi Lauper, Mike Tyson, Arnold Schwarzenegger and the current President of the United States, Donald Trump. Each brought publicity, excitement and more eyes to the product. In recent years the WWE stars themselves have begun to return that success back to Hollywood, by bringing their fame and name to the movie biz. Slow to start with at first, perhaps, but Dwayne Johnson and Dave Bautista are bonafide stars in their own right and their names are well known outside of the WWE.
This isn’t a new fad, as wrestlers have achieved success on the silver screen outside of the squared circle. Hulk Hogan achieved notoriety for his leading role in Suburban Commando, as well as a small part in Rocky III as the superstar Thunderlips – which was a funny moment in the movie. Then there was Andre the Giant who played Fezzik in the eternally-popular The Princess Bride. Rowdy Roddy Piper also led the line in the 1988 cult classic They Live, delivering his iconic line; “I have come here to chew bubble-gum and kick ass…and I’m all out of bubble-gum.” Sometimes there’s an unexpected success and positive reviews from a WWE star in a movie, like when Kane played a killer/maniac in See No Evil and the sequel titled (unsurprisingly) See No Evil 2 – which has a 60% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
But for every success like The Rock, there are those who haven’t quite set the movie world alight. Stone Cold Steve Austin may have had a supporting role in The Expendables, but his movie career never really went further than that. Perhaps it’s down to typecasting. The big, burly wrestlers are pigeon-holed into similar roles and it can be difficult for them to break out of that. Credit then must be given to Rocky and Dave Bautista who have added more variety to their roles, especially comedy. Drax the Destroyer has some great lines in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, as well as Avengers – Infinity War and Dwayne Johnson has certainly benefited from taking on more comedic roles and moving away from just flexing and raising a terrible CGI eyebrow as he did in The Mummy Returns. Cena is now turning his hand to more comedic roles, and I hope it helps him going forward.
Hopefully more of the current WWE stars will get their chance to shine in Hollywood in the coming years, although let’s hope not too many as it’ll leave WWE without their top stars for a while. If the bright lights, glitz and glamour of the movies beckons, then I wish them every success as them doing well will only raise the profile of professional wrestling and bring it into the mainstream, drawing more eyes onto the product and hopefully making it better.
Before I go, who wants a quick movie/WWE quiz?
- Name the Scottish actress who has appeared in blockbuster movies alongside both Dwayne Johnson and Dave Bautista in recent years?
- Shawn Michaels played Michael Shane for 2 episodes in what US TV series in 1998?
- What WWF star purchased Mr Burns’ home in a 1997 episode of The Simpsons?
- What Hollywood star ‘punched’ Dolph Ziggler on a Monday Night Raw in 2011?
- Hulk Hogan played Shep Ramsay in Suburban Commando. Who played Hutch?
Answers below the Suburban Commando trailer.
- Karen Gillan (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle & Guardians of the Galaxy)
- Pacific Blue – Triple H and Chyna also appeared in an episode.
- Bret Hart (John Canton will definitely get this right)
- Hugh Jackman
- The Undertaker