At times, it’s surprising that more wrestlers haven’t made the move to Hollywood celeb status; buff, attractive, and used to playing characters, it seems that this would be the perfect fit. Some have managed the crossover; Hulk Hogan was well-known for his films in the ’80s and ’90s (before he came well-known for other, less savory reasons), Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has become a successful member of the Fast and the Furious franchise, and Dave Bautista wowed audiences with his comedic skills in summer blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy.
However, these roles, which we’ve catalogued here before, represent the exception rather than the rule. Perhaps it’s because wrestlers just don’t get a shot at many roles beyond the big dumb brute, maybe it’s because they can’t bridge the gap between the live crowds and the silent camera, but there are an impressive number of terrible movies starring the champions of the ring.
That’s why we’ve compiled this list of the 10 Worst Acting Performances By Wrestlers; some good movies with bad roles, some great roles ruined by the movie, and others that just aren’t really performances, just the wrestler making an appearance as themselves.
Trish Stratus – Bounty Hunters (2011)
Not to be confused with the 2010 Jennifer Aniston film The Bounty Hunter, which was vaguely fun in a predictable rom-com sort of way, Bounty Hunters managed to hit a new low for bad action B-movies. The film follows three bounty hunters (Stratus, Christian Bako and Boomer Phillips) forced to choose between bringing a criminal in for the $100,000 reward, or selling him off to the mob for a million (and the knowledge that he will die). After choosing the legal option, they then have to flee the clutches of the angry mob (and a range of other amusing characters), leading to plenty of ridiculous fights.
This was Trish Stratus’ first role in a feature length film, and sadly, it didn’t bring the offers rolling in. Her acting was stilted and wooden, although she obviously came into her own during the fight scenes. The script itself didn’t do her any favors, clearly based around the idea that a woman kicking ass (and occasionally up against other women for the obligatory “chick fight” that you knew would happen) was enough to carry the film. Sadly, it isn’t.
Andre the Giant – Conan The Destroyer (1984)
In this 1984 follow up to Schwartzenegger’s famous Conan the Barbarian, Conan is back, and setting out to try and find a treasure and save a princess (Olivia D’Abo) from the clutches of the monstrous Dagoth, played by none other than Andre the Giant.
Much of this casting has to be because these were the days before CGI was king, and it has to be difficult to find another actor who could make Arnie look small! While Andre succeeds in dwarfing Schwarzenegger (and delivering some powerful wallops), it’s not much of a part, and the costuming is so bad that it’s funny. His enormous Dagoth suit looks like a horned swamp-shrimp, and manages to be frightening in size only. The terrible effects can definitely take most of the blame for this one, as Andre was quite charming in other films, such as The Princess Bride.
“Rowdy” Roddy Piper – Hell Comes To Frogtown (1988)
Rowdy Roddie Piper stars as Hell in this ridiculous B-movie from the ’80s, set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland where frog-mutants run rampant and humanity is on the verge of extinction. Hell is sent on a government mission to rescue a group of fertile women who were kidnapped by the mutant frogman, bring them home, and impregnate them. (You can’t make this stuff up).
Hell Comes To Frogtown has become something of a cult classic, with its hilarious one-liners and general ridiculousness. This definitely falls into the so-bad-it’s-good category, but that doesn’t cancel out the terrible acting here. Of course, it’s not just Roddie Piper who is doing a truly awful job – it’s pretty much everyone in this sex-obsessed ‘80s flick. Perhaps that’s the point…
Paul “The Big Show” Wight – Knucklehead (2010)
This sweet-but-simple comedy follows a con artist and a nice-but-dumb orphan on a-get rich-quick scheme chaperoned by a nun… and it’s about as ridiculous as it sounds. Eddie Sullivan (Mark Feuerstein) convinces the sheltered adult orphan, Wayne Krunk (Wight) to come on a fighting tour around the country to raise money. He plans to keep it, but Wayne believes it’s going to go to the orphanage.
The film is full of plot holes (despite being a grown man, Wayne has never left the orphanage, for some reason) and potty humor (so many fart jokes), and thus fails to deliver on what could have been a sweet story of friendship. While many believed that Wight’s acting was actually one of the better elements of the film, he basically becomes his wrestling persona The Big Show in the film. He’s not taking on a new role, just playing the same character that he does every night in the ring. Despite his skills as a gentle giant, this is more of an in-character cameo than a separate role.
Dave Bautista – The Man With The Iron Fists (2012)
Dave Bautista wowed audiences as part of the Marvel family when he took on the role of Drax the Destroyer in Guardians of the Galaxy, but this offering from a few years prior doesn’t quite hold up.
Despite a star-studded cast and a surprisingly decent budget, The Man With The Iron Fists received a mediocre reception. This retelling of classic martial arts films, directed by kung-fu nut and Wu-Tang Clan leader RZA, takes place in a village in China, where various factions battle it out over treasure. Bautista is Brass Body, a mercenary with skin that can turn to brass to protect him. While his fight scenes are impressive, his character is forgettable.
John Cena – The Marine (2006)
One of the best known names in the WWE, John Cena stars as John Triton in this action/drama about an ex-marine hunting down his wife’s kidnappers. Slammed by critics and fans alike as a plotless flick designed entirely to show off explosions and Cena himself, it’s no wonder that The Marine wasn’t a hit.
As John Triton, Cena definitely didn’t garner any acclaim, and while some of the other actors were relatively well-received, Cena’s wooden portrayal of an ex-marine was hard to buy. Cena’s appearance in Amy Schumer’s recent Trainwreck was a highlight, but films like this one may be why he didn’t become a huge name as an actor.
Kevin Nash – The Punisher (2004)
In this 2004 adaptation of the comic book character Frank Castle (Thomas Jane), Kevin Nash makes an appearance so short that you would be forgiven for missing it entirely. He comes into play as The Russian, a hulking blonde brute out to murder Castle. Their scene, though short, is actually a fairly hilarious fight, set to opera music and involving lots of the kind of ridiculousness you would expect: grenades batted into bathrooms, flattened gun muzzles, boiling spaghetti as a weapon. It’s actually a pretty impressive scene, and if you happen to enjoy this incarnation of the Punisher, you are probably wondering why it’s on this list.
The issue, of course, is that there is really no acting going on here. Despite Kevin Nash having appeared in many other films that show off his acting ability, in this action flick he lacks a single spoken line in his big scene. He also lacks facial expression, seeming to have only two: smiling and not smiling. This scene, while fun, is primarily just a wrestling match on screen, rather than a true performance.
Bill Goldberg – Santa’s Slay (2005)
This is definitely one of those situations where even the best actor in the world might be unable to save the film. A Christmas-themed horror comedy, Santa’s Slay is based on the concept that Santa is actually a demon who lost a bet to an angel, forcing him to be kind and give gifts. But now, all bets are off and he wreaks havoc on the unsuspecting world at Christmas.
Goldberg stars as the demonic Santa, and while there are some fans who truly appreciate demonic-biker-Santa and the black, slaughter-based humor, this will not be going down in history as a great performance by any means.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson – The Scorpion King (2002)
While Dwayne Johnson is actually carving himself out quite a successful film career, his first big screen role was definitely not up to his more recent acting standards. The third film in the Mummy franchise, The Scorpion King saw The Rock return as Mathayus the Scorpion King, an ancient evil stopped by daring archaeologists. After the 2002 film, there were straight-to-DVD continuations of the story, but Johnson (wisely) decided against starring in those.
The franchise as a whole is definitely a winner when it comes to corny characters and poor dialogue, and although it’s still definitely got the fun-factor to it (if you aren’t trying to take the films seriously), this role as the angry-evil-mercenary just doesn’t show off the talents that Dwayne Johnson has.
Hulk Hogan – 3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain (1998)
The fourth installment of the 3 Ninjas movie franchise (about a trio of pre-teen brothers trained in martial arts and getting into unrealistic situations), High Noon at Mega Mountain is barely even pretending to be a movie to take seriously.
Hulk Hogan swings into action in a non-performance as (wait for it), a pro wrestler from a TV show! He’s making an appearance at an amusement park that is taken over by an army of ninjas, and he and the 3 ninjas must fight to defeat them. Much of his time on-screen is silent, just obviously-choreographed fight scene after obviously-choreographed fight scene, but he does get one or two lines to throw out along the line of “come at me bro”. This is about as close to a WWE match as you can get in a movie.
How do you feel about wrestlers breaching the divide between movies and matches? There are many more fighters and wrestlers trying to make it to actor status (like Rhonda Rousey, MMA fighter who has been very vocal about wanting to join the Marvelverse), but of those, there’s no doubt that some of them are going to find their way to the walk of fame, and others, to the walk of shame.