Hmmm, what could possibly have inspired this mini-list?
It used to be a cliche that wrestlers were terrible actors, but that was before wrestling shows started featuring a lot more behind-the-scenes skits to go along with the physical stuff. Nowadays, with Both Dwayne Johnson and Roddy Piper having had credible onscreen careers, we don’t dismiss grapplers automatically when they decide to struggle with dialogue rather than opponents.
In fact, some wrestlers are actually better as actors than they ever were in the ring…and should stay that way. Here are the top 5…
Honorable Non-Mention: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
Nobody’s taking anything away from the Rock’s Hollywood career – as the first wrestler to find even bigger stardom onscreen than at the top of WWE, he’s clearly got the goods. But as he was one of the best in-ring performers ever, you can’t really say he’s better in the movies, because he was guaran-damn-teed greatness when he was the People’s Champ.
5. Tyler Mane.
To be fair, one of the reasons Mane makes this list is that he didn’t have much of a wrestling career. In perhaps his biggest role, in WCW as Woman’s bodyguard Nitron, my memory somehow retconned him into being Kevin Nash. And as he rarely speaks onscreen, it’s hard to know how far his thespian skills go. Still, he imbued both Sabretooth and Michael Myers with the requisite menace and physicality…and retroactively looks a lot scarier since we saw Liev Schreiber trying to crib his style.
4. John Cena.
Let’s go Cena! Let’s go far away from the wrestling arena, where your character has become deathly stale!
As the star of The Marine and 12 Rounds, John Cena was a believable combination of toughness and vulnerability, while on Raw he simply smirks his way through catchphrases and the same power moves. Then again, in the movies, he actually has a director who can say, “Cut! Let’s try that again, but be less douchey, because we actually want people to like you.”
3. Kevin Nash.
Nash very clearly always preferred the acting side of wrestling, be it skits involving the nWo, or acting to maneuver himself into a strong position backstage. After several comebacks that led to insta-injuries, the seven-footer finally seems ready to stay away from physical danger, making the fake fights in stuff like The Punisher feel more real than they otherwise might.
2. Dave Bautista.
Under the simplified name of “Batista,” he always seemed to be the beneficiary of Vince McMahon’s love for super-muscular heroes. He sometimes would excel, as with his long feud against mentor Triple-H, which was allowed a nice, long slow-burn before they finally laid hands on one another. But Vince jumped the gun on his comeback push, forcing Batista into the main event right away, BEFORE fans had a reason to love him again as Drax the Destroyer.
Now that he’s shown a flair for comedy as the over-literal green-and-red behemoth, I fear Vince will try to give him a jokey persona that could backfire just as quickly. Let’s keep him in the movies for a while, where he’s still fun.
1. Andre the Giant.
Andre was an icon in the business, but let’s be honest…he was never what you’d call a good wrestler. His interviews were incoherent, and his moveset relied on his size and power rather than any grappling skill.
And yet somehow, some way, he charmed his way into our hearts and held the screen opposite the likes of Wallace Shawn and Mandy Patinkin in The Princess Bride. Who knows if he’d have done as well in any other role – but it alone was a finer thing than any of his matches.
As always, feel free to talk back about tonight’s Raw below.