With a title that sounds like a new Oscar category, we're ringing in Wrestlemania weekend looking at the best instances when wrestlers popped up in major movies as supporting roles.
So why is this limited to supporting roles? Simple, they just don't get the love and attention that the leading work of guys like Dwayne Johnson, Hulk Hogan, and Roddy Piper did with their movies. Most lists of wrestlers in movies tend to focus on Piper's classic 'They Live', Hogan's terrible yet enjoyable work in 'No Holds Barred' and 'Suburban Commando', and The Rock's work over the past 10 years. But in many instances of wrestlers in major motion pictures, its the supporting work that ends up being the most memorable. So we will not be including movies where the wrestler is the main star or an equal part of a leading ensemble (So no Batista in the "Guardians of the Galaxy" movies).
Some videos could contain NSFW language!
Kevin Nash in 'The Longest Yard'
While several wrestlers could be given kudos for their work in 'The Longest Yard', featuring the likes of Steve Austin, Bill Goldberg, Bob Sapp (wrestled in Japan), and Dalip Singh, its Kevin Nash that stole the movie with his portrayal of Engleheart, the guard whose steroids are replaced with estrogen, causing the macho guard to slowly embrace his feminine side.
Terry Funk in 'Road House'
Widely considered the greatest bad movie of all time, 'Road House' is so full of memorable lines and characters that people tend to forget that the "middle-aged and crazy" Terry Funk appears as Morgan, a bouncer at the Double Deuce who is fired by Dalton and later gets the crap beat out of him by Sam Elliot.
Lenny Montana in 'The Godfather'
Many people know Montana as Luca Brasi due to the acclaim and recognition regularly bestowed upon 'The Godfather', but very few recognize him as a professional wrestler. Before getting into acting, Lenny 'The Bull' Montana wrestled in the 50s and 60s, capturing the NWA Texas Tag Team Championship. His physical presence, and rumored history as a legit mob hit man, man him a prime contender for the role of Brasi, someone so evil that he forced an old woman to throw his newborn daughter into a furnace (A part of the book that didn't make it to the movie).
Hulk Hogan in 'Rocky III'
There's no way we can do a list like this and not include Hogan's role as Thunderlips from 'Rocky III'. This was the movie that made casting wrestlers a viable option for major Hollywood movies. And keep in mind, this was before Hulkamania hit the WWF, so this not only was a precursor to the future of wrestlers in movies, but to what Hogan's crossover appeal would do for WWF and the business of pro wrestling.
Jesse Ventura in 'Predator'
The success and lasting appeal of 'Predator' is due in no small part to Jesse Ventura, playing the sexual Tyrannosaurus Blane. When you think back to the memorable moments and lines from the movie, odds are your're going to think about the sexual Tyrannosaurus line, Ventura shooting the mini-gun, and the ever iconic line "I ain't got time to bleed." Seeing Ventura in this makes the fact that he's actually a former Navy SEAL no surprise.
Professor Toru Tanaka in 'The Running Man'
While 'The Running Man' is another standout performance by wrestler-turned-actor-turned-governor-turned-conspiracy nut Jesse Ventura, not enough credit is given to Processor Toru Tanaka as the stalker Sub Zero. Tanaka is a former 3-time WWF tag team champion, teaming with the WWE Hall of Famer Mr. Fuji.
Andre the Giant in 'The Princess Bride'
As great as 'The Princess Bride' is overall, there's room to argue that Andre the Giant and Mandy Patinkin are the greatest parts of the movie. People that knew him knew Andre to truly be a gentle giant, but now the image of Andre as the gentle giant Fezzik is burned into the memories of every child of the 80s. And due to his charm and delivery, no one who likes the movie can ever hear "Anybody want a peanut?" and not start laughing.
Sgt. Slaughter in 'G.I. Joe: The Movie'
Sgt. Slaughter is ultimately the most recognizable and beloved character from the original G.I. Joe cartoon. And with the over-the-top performances and characters associated with pro wrestling, its not a shock that one would become an iconic cartoon character. Its sad that we've had two crappy G.I. Joe live action movies and neither bothered to bring in Slaughter for a cameo.
Kevin Nash in 'The Punisher'
Kevin Nash makes the list again, and for the last time because I'll be damned if I include the 'Magic Mike' movies here.
Its strange to see the charismatic Nash take on a role where he doesn't use his personality, but his other traits, specifically being a 7-foot mound of muscles, is what was needed here. Playing "The Russian" in the horrible 'Punisher' reboot starring Thomas Jane, Nash's fight with Jane is quite possibly the highlight of the film. Filming this scene was so intense that Nash was legitimately stabbed filming the bit where the Castle stabs the Russian in the chest.
Chris Jericho, Mark Henry, MVP, Dalip Singh, Kane, and Big Show in 'MacGruber'
If you can get past the shock of Big Show making out with a guy small enough to fit into his pocket, the collection of WWE cameos in 'MacGruber' is definitely the highlight of this otherwise lackluster comedy. The best joke in the film, not shown in the video, is after the time and attention in putting together his team, MacGruber watches as the van carrying his team unexpectedly blows up.
Dwayne Johnson in 'Get Smart'
This is another one that could have gone either way, with Dalip Singh playing a great character as the evil henchmen turned ally of Max (I laugh every time he cries on Max's shoulder), but Dwayne Johnson as Agent 23 is truly one of the best roles The Rock has ever had. He plays Agent 23 with all the swagger and charm that would understandably intimidate Max and be the example of what Max wants to be.
Harold Sakata in 'Goldfinger'
As the often imitated but never duplicated Oddjob, Harold Sakata set the bar for villainous henchmen in movies. As a wrestler, 'Tosh Togo' set the bar for the villainous Japanese wrestler that was so successful in post-WWII America. While he may not have invented the it, Sakata is regularly credited with popularizing the wrestling spot of throwing "salt" into the eyes of the opponent, blinding them.
Peter Maivia in 'You Only Live Twice'
Its a bit part, but a memorable one in Sean Connery's last run at Bond before handing the Walther PPK and Aston Martin over to George Lazenby. In 'You Only Live Twice', High Chief Peter Maivia lays claim to being a nameless character (credited only as "Car Driver") and still kicking the crap out of James Bond. And with his quick role, his only credited part outside of wrestling, Maivia has achieved an honor not yet be matched by his far more successful grandson, being a Bond villain.
And in case you didn't know... his grandson is The Rock.
The Undertaker in 'Suburban Commando'
While Hogan won't get credit for this cheesy film as he was the lead, we cannot forget the part played by a young Mark Calaway, better known as "The Undertaker". At this point in his career, most wrestling fans were not used to seeing Taker not wearing his gear with wet hair covering his face, so a lot of people failed to recognize him as the bounty hunter trying to track down Ramsey. And who doesn't laugh when they finally hear his character talk?
Stan Hansen in 'No Holds Barred'
Is 'No Holds Barred' a good movie? Not in the least. Is it fun to watch? Oh hell yeah! The movie has its enjoyable moments, and Hogan actually does a pretty good job basically playing himself. But Stan "The Lariat" Hansen deserves mounds of credit for playing "Neaderthal", the bar owner who made "Teeny Wangers" a memorable line from the movie.