Fighters Turned Actors: Who Is To Blame?

Published 4 years ago by , Updated August 15th, 2013 at 11:56 pm,

The Rock MMA Wrestler1.jpg1 Fighters Turned Actors: Who Is To Blame?

A growing trend in Hollywood has set some movie lovers to DEFCON 2 and there is no sign of slowing. The blame can be spread in a number of directions, but this onslaught of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters getting lead gigs as actors in big-budget movies is a bit disconcerting.

So far, we have yet to see any truly worthy fighters-turned-actors in these career crossovers. I’m not asking for Oscar-winning performances, but can we at least pretend like we care about our audiences? There are plenty of people out there who simply won’t go to a movie because it is starring some MMA superstar – and who knows, maybe it was a film that deserved an experienced actor in the role.

I understand the appeal: There are fan bases already in place and putting fighters in films should guarantee a certain audience. But is that really enough to warrant a theatrical release these days? It’s not like they break the bank by appealing to a niche audience or demographic. After all, it’s one thing to hire the men of ring entertainment for direct-to-DVD action flicks like Never Surrender or The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior – but when you look at performances like Cung Le in Pandorum or Randy Couture in Redbelt, it becomes embarrassing.

Never Surrender.jpg Fighters Turned Actors: Who Is To Blame?

This year, the presence of MMA fighters in movies will be unprecedented. Gina Carano is starring in the Steven Soderbergh-directed Knockout, Quentin ‘Rampage’ Jackson will be a lead character in the upcoming A-Team remake, and Randy Couture will appear in The Expendables. There’s also the recent casting of Bob Sapp in Conan, which is coming in 2011.

The only real hope of the bunch is Carano, considering her director already worked with “non-actor” porn star Sasha Grey on The Girlfriend Experience and got an adequate enough performance out of her. Despite the slim prospects, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight for the MMA fighters.

However, you can’t only look in one corner of the bathroom to find the smell. You have look to where it all began and that’s the world of professional wrestling.

Continue to wrestlers on film…

–~~~~~~~~~~~~–

Not long ago, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson finally gave entertainers outside of music a path to follow as the original Scorpion King in The Mummy Returns. His continuous string of roles proved that he could bring in audiences and had what it took to last in the industry.

But ever since The Rock, what evidence can the sporting world really hold up to prove its stars have the acting chops? Just look at the state of The Rock’s career right now, with flop after flop and bizarre roles like Tooth Fairy. Somebody is at least looking out for him, considering Superhero Hype‘s report about The Rock possibly doing a superhero movie in the near future.

After The Rock, other wrestlers like John Cena (The Marine), ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin (Condemned), and Kane (See No Evil) were given shots at movie stardom, with little success. If anything, this should be proof that ready-made stars don’t automatically equal crossover success.

stone cold steve austin expendables Fighters Turned Actors: Who Is To Blame?

Movie stardom isn’t about niche audiences, it’s about mass appeal, and The Rock has the looks and charm to get women in theaters. Frankly, most films with male-specific audiences just don’t do well. I know some have, but it’s not a trend studios should be banking on (pun intended).

Maybe putting the burden on The Rock is a little rough, when Hulk Hogan (Rocky III), ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper (They Live), and Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura (Predator) preceded him with some embarrassing work. I mean, come on, Mr. Nanny!? Lest we forget this gem from Roddy Piper:

In the end, it’s really not the performers’ collective fault. A lot of them broke into wrestling or fighting as a stepping-stone to bigger things. So, in a sense, they have been successful and they deserve praise for working hard. But we have yet to find a ‘real actor’ in the bunch. Will the day ever come when a former wrestler or martial arts athlete wins an Oscar? I find it hard to believe.

Ultimately, I blame the studios. Those businessmen with no creativity and a lazy attitude who choose hard-working athletes with no shame to fill in roles that shouldn’t exist in the first place. The blame can be spread equally to all, but somebody needs to step up and be held accountable for the wasted time of viewers whenever filmmakers stop caring about quality.

Hulk Hogan Mr. Nanny.jpg Fighters Turned Actors: Who Is To Blame?

I’m sure some of you want to put Arnold Schwarzenegger in this discussion. The man went from body-builder to highly successful actor to governator. Total anomaly. I’ll leave it to you guys to hash-out”The Schwarzenegger Conumdrum” out in the comments section…

Does the growing number of fighters-turned-actors bother you? Who do you think is to blame? Sound off in the comments section below.

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TAGS: conan, knockout, the a-team, the expendables

29 Comments

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  1. As far as the Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson goes…. His movies were never great… but they weren't bad either…. until Disney got a hold of him.

  2. Actually, this is far from a new trend. many years ago, there was one martial arts champion who went into the movies business and enjoyed quite a successful film career. You might have heard of him. His name is Chuck Norris.

    Others include Dolph Lundgren (Rocky 4, etc), Bill 'Superfoot' Wallace, Jim Kelly (Enter the Dragon), etc, etc. Even boxers like Muhammad Ali, Ken Norton (Mandingo) and Marvin Hagler had a go at the movies.

    So today's MMA fighters are just continuing an old tradition. With the popularity of MMA, it makes sense that they would be the ones doing the crossover from combat sports to film.

  3. lol so true. But its all Hollywood i suppose

  4. I'm a huge fan of MMA and follow the sport religiously but I cringe everytime these guys announce the have acting roles. Not one of them showed any promise yet. Sure, someone will come along that will go into acting and do fairly well, just not right now. I feel bad for the A-Team movie because Rampage could not act his way out of a paper back. Same thing for Expendables, where Randy Couture might as well have been replaced by a wooden post.

  5. I so agree with this Article,get rid of this craziness,MMA fighters belong in MMA rings and Wrestlers belong in wrestling rings,I want to see ACTORS ACT,you hear that NISPEL !!

  6. I'm not saying that MMA fighters can't be good actors. We just have not seen one yet. But I have no porblem with them trying to give it a go. I just wish they would try and act on a smaller direct to DVD movie before they go and give them sumber blockbuster parts. That just seams Crazy to me.

  7. The problem is that they keep giving them stupid roles based on their wrestling persona. They are big in the wrestling world so they do stuff like See No Evil. Which wasn't bad but wasn't all that great either. They would do better casting them in roles that are not written just for them. Like the Marine. Why not John Cena as Captain America? He fits the bill perfectly and him being a wrestling phenom would put more butts in the seats when it comes Movie time. How about the Undertaker as Lobo? The fact that WWE films hasn't threw their hat in the ring for Lobo is just insane. Lobo has just the right amount of cheese in it to make it a great mix with the WWE. HHH as He-man or maybe Conan? Randy Orton could be Skeletor. The biggest one that I can't believe they haven't cast is Big Show as Rhino in one of the Spider-man movies. They don't have to spend 2 hrs on back story for him and him standing next to someone like Tobey Mcguire… He would look enormous. The fact is that type casting is not a bad thing with these wrestlers. Just quit writing scripts for stupid movies just to get them on screen and put them in roles that people already like. You mix the fanboy's with people who watch wrestling and Captain America is gonna make a lot more money.

  8. Out of all the names you mentioned (except the Governator), The Rock is the best chance for a wrestler to be an exceptional actor. Sure, his latest movies have been bombs but when he is not doing kid-friendly stuff, he truly entertains.

    I don't know the name of the fighter but in the direct-to-DVD movie Undisputed 2, I thought the bad guy was pretty good. I think his last role was as a ninja in another direct-to-DVD movie.

  9. Great point Etrigan…I'm sure this trend dates back quite a ways. These are problems that may never end, and just evolve to the latest trend. But there seemed to be some kind of redeeming qualities about the older crossovers. Now, we just have flat out bad actors in not so bad movies (not counting direct-to-DVD), so it stands out even more than usual.

  10. I liked The Rock in Rundown. Thought he did great. But I don't think he is cut out for the drama roles like gridiron gang and walking tall. Also, I think he has said that he does the kid roles so his own kids can watch his movies.

    As for the MMA guys, they are just getting the roles off their names, not acting ability which sucks considering Rampage is starring in the A-Team. Which looks pretty good and a good cast.

  11. +1. actually, i would say it started with bruce lee. also another thing to think about is. your average actor isn't gonna be that experienced in martial arts, physically fit or have that build of a fighter/warrior.

  12. I used to be a huge Pro Wrestling fan. Let's just say that I've moved on…within good reason. In my time, I've seen the end of the Hogan era and the entire wrestling career of The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin. If any of them had made a valiant return, I have no idea. Here's my thing with fighters in acting: at least if you were a wrestler, you're somewhat used to acting. Acting like what, is for you to judge.

    In Hogan's case, he always appealed to the kids. So pitting the most famous wrestler of all time in a few movies isn't the stupidest thing to do. He may or may not have lost a few battles with his pride, but everybody loved him regardless. It was his move into reality TV that made me lose all respect for him: possibly the worst career killer of all time. (We call that pulling an Osbourne back at the office.)

    “Stone Cold” had his chance. I actually haven't seen the movie Condemned, but it looked about as one dimensional as his character in wrestling is. He can make an appearance on Mad TV or 2. He'll make you laugh, but don't ask him to play Hamlet.

    The Rock surpasses all athletes turned actor. If you were a fan of wrestling, you could tell that he was too big for wrestling (as much as you hated to admit it). He was all personality without a whole lot of wrestling moves in his arsenal. I haven't seen anybody control an entire arena like he could. Pretty crazy stuff. And he was right for the most part: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson can act. He will always be The Rock to us, but he has to use that to his advantage. He was hilarious in “Be Cool” as a gay body guard/ wannabe actor. He plays mostly comedic rolls, and now family comedic rolls. Right now he's pulling a Hogan by putting on a tutu for giggles. As for his entire acting career he could be going for the Tom Hanks rout and maybe when he's a little more seasoned, we will be able to accept him in his version of Forest Gump. I’m probably stretching too far on that one.

    In any case, unless it's The Rock, my response to all athletes in films is usually “Goddamnit,” especially when it's John Cena. Usually the way the wrestling championship works is like an employee of the month club. Ever since The Rock, people see it as a candidacy for the next most entertaining actor. Depending on the type of movie they want to use him for, they could have a winner. But instead they make movies that take themselves way too seriously, then they just come off as douchey. This is why The Rock and Hogan have had the success that they did. They never really had to overstep their bounds too much. Every entertainer should play to their strengths. And if you’re an athlete, and your strength is your strength, stick to your day job.

  13. Seriously? The Rock's career is one flop after another? Dude…Tooth Fairy may not be Terminator 2 but it's made over $100 million worldwide. Get your facts straight.

    And you HAVE to blame Schwarzenegger. Once he got old…and Stallone got old…there was absolutely NOBODY to fill the “muscular action hero” role until Johnson came along.

    And the other names you threw out there from wrestling (with the exception of Hogan) were never expected to be big-time stars. And as much as it might pain you to realize, almost every movie starring Cena and Austin have at least made their money back.

    There are a couple of movies out there featuring some MMA stars, no different than the NFL-filled movies of the 80's. Studios are simply testing the waters in the hopes of seeing the next big action movie superstar. One prominent role here and there won't cost them anything and could potentially pay big dividends.

  14. how can you possibly write a completely hipocritical article like this, after writing an artical about the new ong bak 3 trailer and how awesome it looks? A fighter turned actor. This just calls attention to the fact that your opinion is worthless, because you have no idea what you are talking about.

  15. They aren't really doing anything that great in their crossover films. If Stone Cold was kicking faces in on the tusks of an elephant, I'd call that awesome. But just seeing him as a persona isn't that interesting. I refer to these people in the context of not being on a film in their respective sport. If anything, at least Knockout has her as a professional fighter. Otherwise, it's putting these people in situations they can't perform. Besides, Tony Jaa started off as a stuntman, not a professional fighter.

  16. awk do you guys remember the rocks acting in Doom
    That was preety awful
    B.F.G

  17. http://hphotos-snc3.fbcdn.net/hs462.snc3/25381_

  18. Aw man…I hate to admit it, but I kinda like “They Live” Call it a guilty pleasure. One of those movies that I know is just BAD…but I enjoy it anyway.

  19. There are a few issues I have…

    The main being if you don't like it don't see it. Your (and everyone else for that matter) view on what passes as entertainment (that is all movies are) is yours.

    Some people see movies/buy products based on the person hawking it. Regardless if it is shampoo, a car, or movie.

    Me it just depends on the state of mind im in at the time, what the movie is about and so on.

    As for the movies themselves and the acting sometimes it cant be helped. It is written as crap, directed as crap so regardless who is acting the part it still comes out as crap.

    Before his death I was actually rooting for Chris Benoit (Canadian) to be Wolverine. He was the right size all around and just needed some “hair” and teeth. I still think to this day given time he would have been better (character wise) then Jackman.

    To ask for stuff like this to cease is like asking for crappy movies to disappear. It aint going to happen.

    (bah didnt mean to reply to you AT sorry)

  20. As far as action stars go, I happen to like the Dwayne Johnson. Especially once they stopped billing him as “The Rock”.

    Infact, I don't mind other wrestlers or what ever getting acting jobs, if they can act or at least pull off what ever character they are portraying, then go for it. What always ruins the movie for me however is when they have them play as their wrestling persona instead of the character in the movie.

  21. No worries brother! I did read the response in my e-mail first though, and was thinking..”Oh crap! What the heck did I say?” LOL I agree with you on the mood I'm in dictating what movies I enjoy at the time., And I'll watch any Zombie movie any time and be completely happy, regardless of quality.
    Chris Benoit as Wolverine? Interesting….had never even considered that before. Thanks for the thought..now I'll be wondering about that forever! LOL

  22. :D Well he was known as “The Rabid Wolverine”.

  23. Only very strong films …….

  24. If I remember Correctly didn't DOn the Dragon Wilson also have a part in this mess with His BloodFist movies? And yes Blood Fist did open in theaters before being on cable.

  25. It didnt start out with Bruce Lee or Chuck Norris. Nor was Wrestling where it started. It actually started with Boxing. Back when you had moving pictures you had Boxing champions doing bit parts. I can remember Jack Dempsey doing some roles himself. It's apart of film history. There are so many movies out there, its not like they are all over every movie. The writer of this article needs to stop being so anal and take the stick out his butt really. Some of those roles you mentioned like Hulk Hogan in Rocky 3 wasn't bad at all- it was great! Many thought that was cool. Roddy Piper in They Live was pretty good too, I loved that movie. Jesse Ventura was a wrestler playing a tough, testosterone laden bad ass character in Predator, what you rather have Tom Cruise play that role? “I don't got time to bleed.” Hilarious! That's a tough mo fo! I think there is a place for it. I understand you have to earn your spot, instead of just being handed the main role to a big budget movie. But I don't think that's happening either. Even if it is. Go see another movie. There's more movies and tv shows being created today then ever before. Don't worry about it. I dont think the objective of every movie created is to win an oscar either. Gimme a break. Pretentious nonsense.

  26. Wepz, I didn't mean to come off pretentious. I know the intention is to entertain, and some characters are just built to be played by badass guys like Jesse Ventura. There's a difference between something being funny cool and actually cool. I mean, we love lines like “I don't got time to bleed” because it's ridiculous. Having said that, this article isn't specifically aimed at guys like him. Would you actually compare The Body in Predators to anything any MMA fighter has done lately?

  27. Johnny Weismuller as Tarzan, this is not a new trend, nor a bad one. Honestly who should have starred in the Scorpion King, Russell Crowe, why Quinton “Rampage” Jackson for the A-team, we could have Denzel Washington or Morgan Freeman, Randy Couture in the Expandables, what did Sean Penn turn it down?

  28. Just to add a few names:

    Jean-Claude Van Damme
    Stephen Segal

    Neither are good actors, but they have put out so many movies and definitely made a name and a bucket load of money for themselves.

    Also of note is Michael Jai White (Spawn, Universal Soldier The Return, Blood and Bone). He holds black belts in, I believe, 6 martial arts. If you DO like the action films, then definitely check out Blood and Bone, it's one of the most technically correct fighting movies I've seen.

    Which then brings us to two of the masters of action films. Jacki Chan and Jet Li. What needs to be said about them? Both crossing over from other countries and facing language barriers, yet both still make excellent martial arts based films, and with Jackie, some of the most impressive (self performed) stunts and physical comedy on the big screen.

    Part of the problem is that these guys are typecast because of their skill set. It's like Michael Jordan's trip down acting lane… He played Michael Jordan! How are they supposed to really act? So, then do we bring up Kareem Abdul Jabar, who acted against Bruce Lee, but also appeared in the comedy Flying High? Wilt Chamberlain, who was in Conan? It's not just MMA fighters who are crossing stages, it's also sports and often music personalities. LL Cool J, DMX, Lauren Hill, Beyonce, Ja Rule, Jennifer Lopez. I don't expect many of them to be nominated any time soon either.

    Lets face it, there are so many actors out there who aren't going to be nominated any time soon either. Personally, in the case of The Marine, and The Condemned, it was great to see two wrestlers (a sport known for being mostly acting) show their technical skills in movies that were actually not that bad.

  29. Whatever lack of cool scenes today (like the Body had in the Predator) has more to do with the writing or dialogue than the fact that the actor himself came from WWE, Boxing, or MMA.

    Like I said, I don't think they are taking the spots of the big actors like Deniro or Johnny Depp that's for sure. When you want to go to the theater and see a wild action movie– lots of guns, blood, guts and one liners I don't think its a problem seeing a Quinton Jackson (who has proven Marketability at that) over some Joe Smoe.

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