Turns Out WWE Wrestlers Make Great Actors
By Ben Spaeth
Photo: WWE – Source
For the longest time, WWE wrestlers have been relegated to B movie action films. With some exceptions like Andre the Giant in Princess Bride or Mr. T in Rocky III. Producers simply were not taking the acting abilities of professional wrestlers seriously because of their time in the WWE. However, to be one of the most successful wrestlers in the WWE, it’s more than just looking the part. You have to walk the walk and talk the talk. WWE wrestlers are first and foremost actors. They have to give a realistic looking fight using complex choreography, while also being able to stir up emotions in a crowd of people with their words alone. Often the legacy of great wrestlers is determined by their heel turn.
In a wrestling match there are usually two categories of fighters. The babyface and the heel. The babyface is who the crowd is behind or has been made out to be the good guy. The heel on the other hand, is the bad guy. The best heels can gardener boos from the crowd without even saying a word on the stage. Turning heel is a big moment in a wrestler’s career. The audience needs to truly believe that the wrestler they’ve been rooting for and watched get their shot at the title is now the bad guy. Thus the character’s actions and reasoning for turning bad must be believable otherwise no one will take the heel seriously.
It’s no wonder that given the high stakes of WWE wrestling that eventually there would be some quality acting talent that comes from the league. Especially with the popularity of action heavy franchises like Fast & Furious and Marvel. WWE wrestlers are often very in shape and can bring a natural athleticism to a film. The Rock is the premier example of a wrestler turned actor. The Rock has been the highest paid actor for three years in a row and deservingly so. He’s been in seemingly every big non-marvel action movie for nearly a decade with more on the way like Black Adam, Red One, and a Big Trouble in Little China remake. On top of that his production company Seven Bucks Productions has been behind most of his films and shows since Baywatch.
Another wrestler who's been making strides in the acting space is John Cena. Cena, like the Rock, has icon status in the WWE space. Cena, unlike most wrestlers, never turned heel. Although his reasoning behind it is fairly noble. Kids genuinely look up to Cena and Cena has said in several interviews how much he loves doing it for the kids and participating in programs like Make-A-Wish. Simply put, kids don’t look up to bad guys. Surely Cena has the capability to turn heel and we might eventually see it as Cena’s acting career begins to overshadow his wrestling one. Cena has been blowing up in the entertainment scene as of late. He co-starred in The Suicide Squad got his own HBO Max spinoff, and was the villain in the latest Fast & Furious movie.
Dave Bautista has also quietly been making a name for himself as an action star. The two time WWE Champion has a steady role as Drax the Destroyer in the Marvel films, starred in Zach Snyder’s Army of the Dead, and was in Dune and will likely be in the sequels. Bautista made a name for himself as Drax, but has quickly diversified into other franchises and action films. Bautista is likely to continue to make waves as he has several big projects coming up. He’ll be in the newest Guardians of the Galaxy, Knives Out 2, and will be in an upcoming Army of the Dead TV series. How that show is going to work is a bit of a mystery considering his character pretty definitively bites the bullet at the end of the movie.
It’s been nice seeing some of the most iconic wrestlers transition into mainstream entertainment. Although I wish that female wrestlers were given similar chances to fulfill action roles. The closest WWE has got is Ronda Rousey, but even there, Rousey’s fame mostly comes from her time in the UFC where she dominated the competition. Aside from a few small roles in action films, Rousey hasn’t been nearly as present in the media as her male counterparts. Female wrestlers are just as deserving of big action roles as male wrestlers. They are just as fit and capable. Especially with the modern era of women’s professional wrestling. The WWE has transitioned women’s matches from being filler to main event worthy. With the rise in popularity of female wrestlers, we may see some try and make the leap into acting.