Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s latest action blockbuster Skyscraper hits screens this week. It looks epic, with the sort of massive explosions, ridiculous stunts and badass one-liners you’ve come to expect from Hollywood’s coolest man.
The Rock is the biggest Hollywood star ever to come from the wonderful, and completely bonkers, world of wrestling. But he’s not the only one to switch the theatrics of the ring for the drama of movies and television. Many have had a go, with very mixed results.
Warning: Contains bad acting and awful hair.
Rob van Dam — City Guys
Rob van Dam is no relation to Jean-Claude Van Damme, despite looking like him, and having amazing martial arts skills like him. He popped up in a ’90s sitcom called City Guys, which was described as a “grittier” version of Saved By the Bell and featured an urban setting and more diverse cast than its better-known forerunner.
He was wrestling in Extreme Championship Wrestling at the time, an underground federation that super-keen wrestling fans might have caught buried in a late-night TV slot. Chances are most people watching City Guys wouldn’t have known who Rob van Dam was.
The episode in which he starred as himself is called “El-Trainmania” and features an attempt by El-Train, one of the main characters, to become a pro-wrestler.
Almost Every Wrestler Ever — Baywatch
Big van Vader was a big man. A 458-pound (that’s 32 stones if you’re British) behemoth who displayed freakish athleticism and was genuinely terrifying to small children in the 1990s. He actually sadly passed away recently at the age of 63.
Vader starred alongside fellow World Championship Wrestling stars Ric Flair, Randy “Macho Man” Savage and Hulk Hogan in an episode of Baywatch called “Bash at the Beach”. Highlights include Vader popping a basketball with his bare hands.
And then there’s Shawn Michaels, aka The Showstopper and The Icon. He also insists on calling himself The Heartbreak Kid even though he’s 52. Like the WCW stars above, this WWE legend also appeared in the long-running lifeguard series. The episode was called “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” and Michaels played a brainless Mafia thug who eventually gets beaten up by a middle-aged woman.
King Kong Bundy – Married with Children
King Kong Bundy was an enormous, totally immobile wrestler of the 1980s who has been repeatedly described as looking like a massive thumb.
The 6ft 5ins, 468-pound wrestler made a cameo in an episode of Married with Children as Uncle Irwin in 1985, and again as his wrestling character in 1995.
Interesting fact –- the family were called Bundy after King Kong himself and, reassuringly, not the serial killer Ted Bundy.
Bret “The Hitman” Hart — The Simpsons
The Hitman, another WWE legend, makes a brief appearance in The Simpsons, where he’s interested in buying Mr Burns’s mansion. He refers to the evil billionaire as a “pitiful pencil-necked geek”. Hart, one of the best speakers in the history of the business, puts on an exaggerated “wrestler voice” in the clip.
Apparently, the producers didn’t realise Hart was actually really famous.
The Rock — Hannah Montana/That 70s Show/Star Trek Voyager
Everyone has to start somewhere — including Dwayne Johnson.
In Miley Cyrus vehicle, Hannah Montana, Johnson plays himself, and is victim of a cunning plan to get an embarrassing photo of the most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment.
And we think you’ll agree, young Hannah succeeds. But it is more embarrassing than this?
The Great One also appeared sporting a huge afro in That 70s Show, playing his own father, Rocky Johnson who was also a professional wrestler. He appeared alongside legendary pro-footballer turned wrestler Ernie Ladd — otherwise known as The Big Cat — and The World’s Most Dangerous Man, wrestler and MMA star, Ken Shamrock.
Jesse “The Body” Ventura — Predator
Jesse Ventura has had a pretty decent career on screen away from wrestling. But one of his earliest roles was opposite Schwarzenegger in 1987 alien-invasion horror, Predator. And he gets to utter the classic line: “This stuff will make you a goddamn sexual Tyrannosaurus, just like me”.
He later became Governor of Minnesota, and may well have inspired his former Mr Universe co-star to make his own mark in politics as the Governor of California.
Kevin Nash — Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze
Kevin Nash is a 7ft superstar who found fame as Diesel in WWE, and as the Big Sexy Kevin Nash when he headed up the infamous New World Order (NWO) in WCW in the ’90s.
Vader — Boy Meets World
The Mastodon, otherwise called the Rocky Mountain Monster or any number of aliases, played a character called Francis Stecchino, Sr in Boy Meets World. His character was a pro-wrestler and father, who’s deeply upset that his more sensitive son wants to be a poet and not a wrestler.
In a fashion typical of the coming-of-age comedy, his character learns the error of his ways and becomes a better dad.