The Essentials: WrestleMania Action Part 1
Exactly 28 days from today, the WWE will present WrestleMania 31 from Levi Stadium. WrestleMania is the biggest night of the year in the world of sports entertainment (aka professional wrestling).
The number of performers who have been a part of wrestling’s biggest extravaganza and have crossed over into the world of action entertainment is staggering. In fact, the number is so great I could not cover all of them in a single post, that is why every Sunday in the month of March I will be taking a look at some of the men and women who have performed on WWE’s grandest stage of them all and were featured in an action movie or TV show and a few who should have.
In the first of this five part series, I’ll cover those wrestlers who participated in WrestleMania I – WrestleMania VI.
THE MAIN EVENT
HULK HOGAN: “The Hulkster” was in some of the most memorable main events in WrestleMania history with opponents like Andre The Giant, The Ultimate Warrior and “Macho Man” Randy Savage. And one of the reasons Hogan was such a huge draw in the world of wrestling was due to his portrayal of Thunderlips in Rocky III. But after becoming one of the biggest superstars in professional wrestling history, Hogan did his best to become Hollywood Hogan with starring roles in movies like No Holds Barred and Suburban Commando. He even had his own action adventure TV series in the 90’s called Thunder in Paradise.
“ROWDY” RODDY PIPER: “The Hot Rod” may have peaked early where his WrestleMania and movie career were concerned. Piper main evented the very first WrestleMania at Madison Square Garden and his most memorable movie role came after his “retirement match at WrestleMania III when he starred in John Carpenter’s They Live and uttered the famous phrase “I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass… and I’m all out of bubblegum”. While he never surpassed what he did in They Live, Roddy continued to make movies like Hell Comes to Frogtown, Sci Fighters, Marked Man and Jungleground. He also had guest roles in the Robocop and Highlander TV series as well as Walker, Texas Ranger.
MR. T: Having starred opposite of Sylvester Stallone in Rocky III and becoming a household name as B.A. Baracus on The A-Team, Mr. T was the first established action entertainment star to make his way into the wrestling ring. T teamed up with Hulk Hogan to battle “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and Paul “Mr. Wonderful” Orndorff in the main event of the first WrestleMania. The following year he and Piper would square off again, but this time in a boxing match. The WWE inducted Mr. T into the celebrity wing of their Hall of Fame last year for his involvement in those early WrestleManias and the mainstream attention he helped bring to the WWE in the mid-80’s.
JESSE “THE BODY” VENTURA: While he never competed at a WrestleMania, Ventura provided color commentary for the first six WrestleMania events. Ventura had the good fortune of starring in not one but two of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s classic films from the 1980’s, Predator and The Running Man. He starred in Abraxus, Guardian of the Universe and did a TV pilot with Roddy Piper called Tagteam where two former professional wrestlers become cops.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN
RICK “THE MODEL” MARTEL: Rick Martel never made it to the world of action entertainment, but he should have. With his class, sophistication and French Canadian accent he would have been the perfect bad guy in an action movie. After years of being a “white meat babyface” Martel turned on his Strike Force tag team partner, Tito Santana at WrestleMania V in Atlantic City and it wasn’t long after that that he adopted his new arrogant Model persona. Hollywood missed the boat with The Model.
- ANDRE THE GIANT: “The Eighth Wonder of the World” battled Hulk Hogan in two consecutive WrestleManias, but he also played Bigfoot in a special two part episode of The Six Million Dollar Man starring Lee Majors.
- BIG JOHN STUDD: Studd, who challenged Andre The Giant to a Bodyslam Match at the first WrestleMania and then found himself outsmarted by William “The Refrigetor” Perry in Chicago at WrestleMania 2, also had a role in the Mickey Rourke/Don Johnson movie, Harley Davidson & The Marlboro Man and in The Protector starring Jackie Chan.
- RANDY “MACHO MAN” SAVAGE: Savage’s greatest WrestleMania moment was no doubt winning the tournament to crown a new undisputed WWE Champion at WrestleMania IV. His biggest claim to fame in Hollywood was his appearance as Bone Saw McGraw in the 2002 version of Spider-Man.
- TERRY FUNK: Direct from the Double Cross Ranch in Amarillo, Texas… Terry Funk teamed with his brother Dory at WrestleMania 2 in Los Angeles to take on the tandem of Junkyard Dog and Tito Santana. But Funk got thrown through a door by Sylvester Stallone in Over the Top and he also appeared with Patrick Swayze in Roadhouse.
- HAITI KID: One of the most famous midget wrestlers of the 1980’s, Haiti Kid was in the corner of Mr. T during his boxing match with Roddy Piper at WrestleMania 2. He also was involved in a unique match, where he and fellow midget wrestler, Little Beaver teamed up with Hillbilly Jim to take on the massive King Kong Bundy and two other midget wrestlers, Lord Littlebrook and Little Tokyo. Kid has an uncredited role in Penitentiary III.
- DAN SPIVEY: Spivey was one of the wrestlers who competed in the battle royal at WrestleMania 2 that also featured some NFL football players. This was Spivey’s one and only WrestleMania appearance. He also was uncredited for his role in the spy action movie, Unmasking the Idol.
- JUMPING JIM BRUNZELL: One half of the tag team known as The Killer Bees, Brunzell, like Dan Spivey, competed in the battle royal at WrestleMania 2, he would also compete in a tag team match, that thanks to an Iron Sheik Shoot Interview, has become infamous at WrestleMania III in Detroit. Brunzell was one of six wrestlers involved in the opening scene of The Highlander. Fun fact, the producers of Highlander wanted that scene to take place at an NHL game, but the NHL denied them access so AWA wrestling got the nod.
- BAM BAM BIGELOW: Bigelow was an interesting character, a large man with great agility and a bald head covered in flame tattoos, Bigelow was one of the 14 men who competed in the tournament to crown a new undisputed WWE Champion at WrestleMania IV. Bigelow also starred with Lorenzo Lamas in Snake Eater III.
- ISLANDER TAMA: The Islanders teamed up with their manager, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan to take on the trio of The British Bulldogs and Koko B. Ware at WrestleMania IV. Tama, then known as The Tonga Kid, is another of the wrestlers featured in the opening scene of The Highlander starring Christopher Lambert.
- ULTIMATE WARRIOR: Last but not least in the first part of my WrestleMania Action series, is the late great Ultimate Warrior. Warrior had the biggest win of his career at WrestleMania VI in Toronto, when he defeated Hulk Hogan. Warrior would go on to have his own comic book in the 1990’s and star as The Swordsman with Gary Daniels in the movie Firepower.