Being a professional wrestler requires not just athleticism and strength but also the ability to play a character convincingly. Show of hands, how many people reading this actually thought the Undertaker was some kind of zombie when they were kids? Yeah, us too.
Since such a large part of sports entertainment involves dressing up and pretending to be someone else, it only makes sense that so many wrestlers have tried to make a name for themselves in Hollywood. These are some of the ones that were able to piledrive Tinsel Town and pin the box office for a 3-count.
Best known for his time in the WWE as Diesel, the 6-foot-10-inch, 300lb Kevin Nash dwarfed many of his fellow wrestlers.
While Nash is perhaps best known for playing exotic dancer Tarzan in the Magic Mike movies, as well as countless heavies in films such as 2004’s The Punisher and 2014’s John Wick, there’s one particular role that cemented Nash’s place on this list: Super Shredder.
Any Teenage Mutant Nina Turtles fan worth their ooze remembers Nash as the mutated form of the Turtle’s foe, Shredder, who appears at the end of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze.
It wasn’t a big part, and there weren’t any lines, but the image of an overly muscled Shredder destroying a pier with his bare hands is forever burnt into the brains of ’90s kids everywhere.
Jesse Ventura might have the most impressive resume of all the wrestlers on this list. From Navy Seal to professional wrestler, to actor, and finally to Governor of Minnesota, Ventura has worn many hats. But there’s one hat in particular that Jesse is best known for: the Aussie slouch hat he wore as Blain in Predator.
Truth be told, Jesse Ventura hasn’t had a ton of memorable roles, but the one people do remember, they remember hard. Ventura’s iconic delivery of the line “I ain’t got time to bleed,” makes Predator the only Arnold Schwarzenegger movie where the best one-liner doesn’t come from Arnie himself.
Rowdy” Roddy Piper’s biggest claim to fame outside of the WWE might be the protagonist of the ’80s sci-fi classic They Live, but that’s far from all he was known for.
Piper proved to be the king of late-night cable schlock with movies like 1988’s Hell Comes to Frogtown, where he played Sam Hell, a man charged with rescuing a group of women from a gang of mutant humanoid frogs.
Add to that a couple of unhinged appearances on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and it’s clear why Roddy Piper was one of the few wrestlers able to make their way in Hollywood just by taking the craziest roles available.
Andre the Giant
Andre the Giant wasn’t just one of the biggest wrestlers in the history of the sport but also one of the nicest. Andre’s gentle nature shows in his breakout role as Fezzik in The Princess Bride.
A rhyming giant—anybody want a peanut?—Fezzik was a mercenary hired for his brute strength but quickly became the heart of a trio that included a drunken swordsman and a former farmboy-turned-pirate.
Andre didn’t get to do much in terms of acting but what he did do was great. The French Wrestler would no doubt have had a much larger filmography had he not died at 46 due to complications brought on by his gigantism.
Instead, fans of The Princess Bride are cursed to wonder forever what other delightful performances could have been coaxed out of the gentle giant had he lived.
Whoever said that quality counts over quantity never met Hulk Hogan. None of Hogan’s Hollywood endeavors are particularly good, but the guy has done so many movies and shows at this point that it’s hard not to give him a spot on the list just from his output alone.
With over 189 acting roles to his name, according to IMDb, Hogan is easily the most prolific wrestler on this list.
Not all of Hogan’s roles are stinkers, either. No Holds Barred from 1989 features Hogan delivering the line, “What’s that smell? Dookie!” in the funniest way possible.
Suburban Commando, the 1991 sci-fi action comedy co-starring Christopher Lloyd, is also worth a look if you’re looking for a goofy, braindead comedy to enjoy with some adult beverages.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
We’re finally getting to the good ones—the guys who have been successful enough in Hollywood that more people know them as actors than wrestlers.
Dwayne Johnson, for instance, has been so popular as an actor that he was able to drop “The Rock” part of his name almost entirely, something Hulk “Terry Bollea” Hogan was never able to do.
Sticking mostly to action comedies, Johnson is best known for his roles in the Fast and the Furious series, the Jumanji franchise, and one-offs like Disney’s Jungle Cruise and the video game-inspired Rampage.
Johnson has become such a pop culture icon that NBC made a show based on his early life called Young Rock that ran for three seasons.
When John Cena first made the leap from the ring to the screen, it looked like he was going to be stuck making generic action-thrillers like so many other wrestlers before him.
But then something happened. Hollywood found out how funny he was. Starting with 2015’s Trainwreck, where he played Amy Schumer’s roided out, potentially closeted boyfriend, John Cena showed fans that he was so much more than a bunch of muscles and cool stunts.
Cena continued to stretch his comedic muscles with movies like 2018’s Blockers, and as a voice on the criminally underrated YouTube original series Dallas & Robo.
By the time 2021’s The Suicide Squad came around, as well as the 2022 spinoff series Peacemaker, John Cena had cemented himself as one of the biggest action-comedy stars in Hollywood.
Dave Bautista’s role as Drax the Destroyer in 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy proved that he was just as adept at playing a musclebound funnyman as John Cena and Dwayne Johnson. What catapults him beyond those two former wrestlers, however, is his dramatic range.
It’s entirely possible that Cena and The Rock are just as good in serious roles, but so far, neither of them has proven it onscreen the way Dave Bautista has.
While Drax is the kind of role that seems tailor-made for a wrestler-turned-actor, Sapper Morton, the quiet, reserved character Bautista played in 2017’s Blade Runner 2049 does not. Nor does the role Dave played as doomsday prophet Leonard in Knock at the Cabin earlier this year.
When watching Dwayne Johnson or John Cena, it’s hard not to see them as wrestlers who became pretty good actors. Dave Bautista, on the other hand, comes off as a phenomenal actor who also happened to be a wrestler once upon a time.