Sometimes it’s just better if a wrestler does a small role before tackling a lead, such as Hulk Hogan did in Rocky III as Thunderlips. It is perhaps the king of all wrestler-turned-actor bit parts, so with that said I won’t be selecting it on my list, as I’m already mentioning it. However, I do believe Hogan would have been better off sticking to this approach for his film work or just having stuck with this role alone and not continued acting anymore at all. Since his roles in No Holds Barred, Suburban Commando, and Mr. Nanny were so poorly received, I don’t know how he ever climbed the ranks to land a recurring role in the Thunder in Paradise series of films and TV show. Though it’s probably a safe bet why he doesn’t still have acting roles in films. Hogan really did transcend professional wrestling and all the wrestlers turned actors surely have him to thank even if it’s just for setting the bar so low for the acting transition.
So here are Roger Malcolm’s Top 10 Wrestler-Turned-Actor Best Bit Parts:
10. Bill Eadie (Ax) (Masked Superstar) as Jake Bullet in No Holds Barred.
The opening of the film has Hulk Hogan’s character Rip in a championship match against an eye shadow-wearing, curly-haired wrestler named Jake Bullet. Once known around the world as the Masked Superstar, Bill was a part of The Machines stable under a mask known as Super Machine, and most famously as the face paint-wearing Ax from Demolition. So this is the most you ever really get to see of Bill Eadie’s face inside a wrestling ring or out, well at least before the days of shoot interviews. It’s a short match with some basic wrestling moves until Bullet gets Rip into a sleeper hold. Eventually Rip “Hulks up” no-selling Bullet’s forearm smashes. Rip sends him into the ropes, leading to one of Hogan’s famous big boots that only stuns Jake. Rip bounces off the ropes himself, connecting with a running “double ax hammer” as Jesse Ventura calls the match. Rip pins Bullet for the 1-2-3, winning the match.
Bill gives a fine performance portraying his day job on film. I once heard Eadie remark about the day of filming and how they were able to do it all really quickly and have the rest of the day off, impressing the film crew. Professional wrestlers always impress filmmakers, it’s the reason Sylvester Stallone hired a group of them to work on Paradise Alley. It’s common to hear what would take a film crew with actors days to shoot can be done by wrestlers in a few hours. I believe even John Carpenter complimented Roddy Piper in the same way even though their fight scene in They Live took 3 days to film and something like 3 weeks to rehearse, which they did in John Carpenter’s backyard.
9. Bam Bam Bigelow as Huge Biker in Major Payne.
After being hired by the kids to kick the shit out of Major Payne, Bigelow arrives on a motorcycle. Decked out in biker garb (consisting of black boots with chains around the heels, denim vest, and a leather helmet that he removes revealing his signature tattoo flames on his bald head), he gets off his bike, walking towards where the Major is disciplining his troops. “Yo, Payne,” he calls, catching the Major’s attention. “You Payne? I got something to say to you.” Payne says to himself “Fe-Fi-Fo-Fum. What beanstalk you fall from?” before walking over to the huge biker. After Bigelow tells the Major the things “he heard”, Payne replies “You know what I heard? I heard your mama was so fat she played pool with the planets.” This insult causes the biker to reach back, throwing a big right-handed punch and leveling the Major.
With Payne on the ground the biker asks, “You thinking about leaving yet?” Payne responds with, “Well actually, I think the party just begun, hee hee hee… Now what I’m gon’ do is take this right foot and put it ‘cross the left side of your face.” Bigelow tells him, “Don’t give me that billy jack bullshit.” as Payne starts sliding his feet back and forth, catching his attention. Payne lands a left punch to the throat and a kick to the crotch, bringing him down to a knee. Clutching his throat Bigelow says, coughing, “You said you were gonna kick me in the face.” Payne happily responds, “What, you calling me a liar?” kicking him in the face sending him onto his back, ending the scene for The Beast From the East.
8. Kurt Angle as an Uncredited Inmate in Pain & Gain.
I can’t stand most of Michael Bay’s films and this is at the top of the list with the Transformer sequels. I did enjoy Bad Boys and The Rock when I was young. I just can’t seem to remember any story between all the explosions, scantily-dressed females and the constant spinning camera in Bay’s films. However, I did remember Kurt Angle in the prison yard fighting The Rock (I mean Dwayne Johnson not Alcatraz). Angle is bench pressing some huge weight when Mr. Johnson intervenes between two guys harassing another inmate. Angle stands up, getting four good punches on The Rock before putting him in a headlock. On his knees ol’ Dwayne grabs a round weight plate and whacks Angle in the forehead, sending him backwards. He then tosses it like a frisbee, where the camera travels with its POV as it hits a goofy-looking Angle in the throat, which makes me what to gag. Kurt’s role is a nice cameo for the U.S. Olympic-gold-medalist as an inmate in a prison, and at least it was a big blockbuster film. Kurt’s appearance is actually what motivated me to watch the film – the rest of it just felt insulting.
7. Nathan Jones as Boagrius in Troy.
The opening of the film starts as two armies have gathered for battle. The two Kings meet to discuss the battle. The King Agamemnon says, “I don’t want to watch another massacre. Let’s settle this war in the old manner. Your best fighter against my best.” The King Triopas calls out, “Boagrius!” leading his army to cheer loudly as a huge warrior armed with two spears and shield emerges, shoving his way through the mass of soldiers. Agamemnon looks somewhat impressed and shouts for Achilles, which is returned with only silence as he is not with the army. An errand boy is sent to find Achilles who has overslept, as we find out, with two women. Once Achilles arrives he tells his King, “Imagine a king who fights his own battles. Wouldn’t that be a sight?” before continuing towards Boagrius, who is hyping himself up, shouting and lifting his arms into the air preparing for battle. Achilles starts to run slowly, building speed as Boagrius launches a spear. The spear pierces Achilles shield causing him to discard it while continuing his approach. Boagrius arms himself with another spear, and after narrowly missing Achilles with it, he draws his sword. Achilles quickly approaches. Boagrius has enough time to raise his sword as Achilles sidesteps, leaping into the air and driving his sword into the left trapezius muscle. The sword pierces his heart, causing him to drop to his knees and then onto his face, ending the fight. This seems to be a role Jones would continue to play as the big oaf who is overly confident, always letting his opponents get the best of him – such as his roles in The Protector and Fearless. However, he does have competent opponents in Tony Jaa and Jet Li respectively.
6. “Macho Man” Randy Savage as Bonesaw McGraw in Spiderman.
Peter Parker enters into a wrestling tournament to win some cash so he can buy a car to impress Mary Jane. Once arriving at the stadium he gets a look at his competition in Bonesaw McGraw. Bonesaw body slams an opponent in the ring and climbs the turnbuckle, launching himself and delivering the “Macho Man” Randy Savage’s signature diving elbow drop. The ref counts the pinfall as the crowd roars, cheering “Bonesaw, Bonesaw, Bonesaw!” Bonesaw takes to his corner, sitting on a stool surrounded by 4 valets rubbing him down as the announcer introduces “The terrible, the deadly, the Amazing Spider Man!” Parker complains to the gorilla position because his name is suppose to be “The Human Spider”, yet continues down the ramp to the ring, while being verbally abused by Bonesaw’s valets.
Once entering the ring, four sides of a cage are lowered from the ceiling, locking him inside. Bonesaw McGraw – with his signature gravelly voice – shouts, “Hey, freakshow! You’re going nowhere.” He then lifts three fingers on his right hand saying, “I’ve got you for three minutes. Three minutes of playtime.” as the bell rings. Immediately, Bonesaw rushes forward as Parker leaps up, causing Bonesaw to smash into the cage and sending him back onto the mat. A little taunting by Parker and a couple close calls causes Bonesaw to get a chair from a valet. Bonesaw cracks it twice over Parker’s head and then twice again over his back while he’s down on the mat, then tosses it away. As the crowd continues chanting “Bonesaw!”, Parker is lifted off the mat and slammed into the sides of the cage twice. Another valet hands Bonesaw a crowbar, but as he lifts and runs forward Parker delivers several kicks from the mat, stopping his momentum. Bonesaw takes a few steps back, balances himself, and then rushes forward again as Parker plants both his feet into his abdomen, sending him overhead into the ropes and smashing against the cage for the knockout.
5. Ox Baker as Slag in Escape From New York.
The captured Snake Plissken is led to a wrestling ring centered underneath the watchful eye of The Duke, where he must fight for his life against Slag. Slag – a huge beast of a man – enters the venue to the cheers of the raucous crowd. Snake, seeming nonplussed, watches Slag enter the ring, throwing his arms up into the air to the crowd’s approval. Slag looks up to the onlooking Duke of New York as he silences the crowd. The Duke speaks, expecting Slag to kill Snake so the Duke can place Snake’s head on the hood of his car. The bell rings as both participants are given baseball bats, which they quickly start using in combat. Slag hits Snake in the abdomen with his bat, then grabs him and throws him to the mat. Snake delivers a kick to Slag’s head from the mat. The scene cuts to the accompanying storyline and when we return, we see Slag walking back to his corner, dropping his bat. Snake takes the time to recuperate, going back to his corner where he is handed a spiked bat and trash can lid.
Now both combatants, armed with spiked bats and trash can lids as shields, lay into each other, taking swings and deflecting each other’s attacks. A vicious back-and-forth ensues until Slag’s power forces Snake down to a knee. Slag penetrates Snake’s trash can lid with his spikes, ripping away the shield. Snake is forced to use his spiked bat as a shield, connecting with Slag’s bat. Slag’s tremendous strength pulls Plissken off the mat to his feet and into the ropes, where he bounces off. His momentum sends him across the ring and back to the mat. Slag tosses away his trash can shield and lifts his spiked bat high above his head, reaching far back to deliver the final blow as Snake springs up, hitting him in the abdomen and causing him to bend forward. Plissken removes the bat from Slag’s stomach and whacks him to the back of the head. Slag collapses forward onto the ropes, silencing the crowd for a moment until they start a chant, repeatedly shouting “Snake, Snake, Snake, Snake, Snake, Snake, Snake!”
4. Robert ‘Kurrgan’ Maillet as the Uber-Immortal Giant in 300.
The Giant is led into battle – on four chains connected to a metal collar – by his fellow Immortals. As the battle rages on he is soon released from his chains and cuffs. He quickly grabs one of his comrades, choke-slamming him to the ground and taking his axe. He stands, throwing the axe, which grazes the top of Leonidas’ helmet, trimming the hairs. He then pursues Leonidas, swinging a sword and dramatically bashing it against his shield. Leonidas stabs him through his bicep only to have him grab the blade and remove it himself. He lifts Leonidas, tossing him across the battlefield where he then approaches, lifting his long blade into the air and bringing it down. Leonidas attempts to block with a sideways-held sword, which only allows the tip of the blade to etch a mark over the eye opening on his helmet, cutting above and below his eye socket. Collapsing onto Leonidas, he growls before being stabbed in the eye, causing him to lift up to pull the blade out and giving Leonidas the opportunity to cut his head off cleanly. It’s a vicious fight, much like all of 300, excellently performed by the intimidating Maillet.
3. Kevin Nash as The Russian in The Punisher.
I didn’t even recognize Nash the first time I watched this film. He was tremendous and very intense as the bleach-blonde Russian. As ‘La donna è mobile’ plays in the air there is a knock on the door. The Punisher (Frank Castle), thinking it’s just his neighbor knocking, casually opens the door and receives a punch to the face. He attempts slamming the door but the big Russian just punches his arm right through it. Castle is tossed across the room, where he uses a hanging chain to come back and delivers a kick, which doesn’t do much. He then grabs a balisong knife, flipping it open and stabbing the Russian in the chest. Slightly smiling, with a wickedness the Russian grabs Castle’s hand. Removing the knife, he then throws Castle against the wall where he forces him to stab himself. Castle breaks a box over the Russians head, using a plethora of tools as weapons and getting nowhere until he crawls into the bathroom, where he retrieves a grenade hidden under the sink. The Russian bats it back into the bathroom as Castle throws it out, causing him to jump into the bathtub as it explodes. The Russian then rips the toilet from the floor, knocking Castle through a wall with it.
The struggle continues as Castle is choked and has his head slammed repeatedly in the refrigerator door. Once again thrown through another wall, Castle ends up in the apartment complex hallway. He’s picked up and ran through the neighbor’s door as both land on the kitchen table. Castle, seeing the pots cooking on burners, reaches and grabs one, flinging its boiling contents onto the Russian’s face and disfiguring it. Castle tackles the Russian back through the doorway, crashing through the railing and down the staircase, where the Russian breaks his neck, ending the fight. This role is certainly better than his role as the Super Shredder in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, where, once transformed, he kills himself by collapsing a dock onto himself. It was lame, like the rest of the movie.
2. Mick Foley as Cactus Sac in Big Money Hustlas.
This is the original film starring the Insane Clown Posse. It’s absolutely ridiculous and everything one should expect from the clowns. It’s also a much better film than their sequel, having Harland Williams as Officer Harry Cox. Yep, Harry Cox. Harland took the role. Mick Foley appears near the end of the film as Cactus Sac, which is much better and more hilarious than his part in Boy Meets World as Mankind refereeing an impromptu match between the guys and girls. In search of Big Baby Sweets, Sugar Bear jumps into a wrestling ring after saving Officer Harry Cox. Cactus Sac enters saying, “Sugar bear, I’m going to tear you up because your ass is grass and Cactus Sac got the… no no that’s too cliche but you will be mine, mine, all mine. Wee!” Cactus Sac back-body drops Sugar Bear, then delivers a sweet slow-motion clothesline before saying, “Have a nice daa… goddammit that’s not my line anymore.” He then delivers a couple kicks before saying. “Oh, here’s one more for you, Sugar.”, delivering another kick to the back of the head. Cactus sends Sugar into the corner, where he delivers a running knee. Cactus turns, putting his hands on his knees ala Dude Love. He begins switching them back and forth when we see what looks to be a crew member in the lower right part of the frame before saying, “Ooh, have merci… goddammit. That’s not it either.” He then delivers a kick to the gut and a DDT to Sugar, leaving an imprint of clown makeup on the mat. Cactus says, “Let’s see what Mr. Socko has to say about this.”, pulling Mr. Socko from his tights. He slips him onto his right hand, takes a look at it, and exclaims, “What the fuck is this thing?” before removing the sock and tossing it out of the ring. He sends Sugar over the top ropes with a back-body drop and onto a wooden skid, where a piece of wood stabs Sugar through his leg.
Cactus, still in the ring, puts his hands up like pistols shouting, “Bang bang! That’s the line. Bang bang, bang bang, bang bang, bang bang!”, as he runs around the ring shooting with his fingers. He stops to look out at Sugar where he jokes, “What, did somebody order a steak out there? Haha. Oh that’s good. That’s real good. Ho, ho, ho.” Cactus exits the ring, retrieving Sugar Bear and returning him to the ring. Now back in the ring himself, he requests a chair, which he catches as it’s thrown into the ring. He delivers a chair shot to Sugar’s back and takes to the turnbuckle, where he asks, “Would you like some squash with that steak? Bang bang!”, leaping off as Sugar removes the wooden stake from his leg. Cactus lands on the stake with his last words being, “A stake through the heart. That’s the second time this week.”. He then collapses to the mat, dead.
1. Stan Hanson as Neanderthal in No Holds Barred.
One of the most famous gaijin (foreigner not native to Japan) wrestlers in Japan, Hanson has a classic role in a bar, chewing on his signature big wad of tobacco – even spitting it on a yuppie’s expensive shoes. He’s a disgusting, grungy barfly picking his nose constantly with his underwear sticking out of his atrocious-looking wardrobe. We’re even treated to one of his famous lariats in the make-shift ring at the center of the bar, where he fights a guy for a few moments before knocking him out onto a table. He later finds the yuppie and his yuppie buddy taking a piss in possibly the most disgusting bathroom ever seen. One stall even has “V.D. Room” sprayed painted in red on the outside of the door. After hearing the yuppies calling him an idiot, he kicks a door off a stall yelling, “Who you callin’ idiot, you maggot?!” Hansen walks up behind them, placing his hands on their shoulders and looking down to their front sides, saying slowly, “Why, why what do we got here a teeny wiener and here’s another. It ain’t even worth it.” He then walks off laughing and scratching at his crotch. Later we’re treated to him seeing the two yuppies again, where he says, “Well, if it ain’t the teeny wieners.”, with his yellow-toothed sister the waitress repeatedly saying “Teeny” over and over again. He even has a moment with the film’s heavy, Zeus, only he doesn’t stand a chance. Zeus catches his fist, overpowering him down to the ground. It’s a memorably bizarre character and perhaps the best thing about No Holds Barred. It’s certainly better than Hulk Hogan’s acting as Rip.
Join me next time for my article “Wrestler Turned Actor: Top Roles”.