*Although we use the word “actors” very loosely in some cases... Jayne Nelson is your referee
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island is in the cinemas this week, and its stars the actor formerly known as The Rock, who gets all fatherly while punching giant lizards on the nose. Dwayne’s probably the most famous wrestler-turned-actor to dip his toe into our gentle genre, but, as Jayne Nelson discovers, there are plenty more out there...
(Oh, and if you’re wondering why the legend that is Hulk Hogan isn’t in the list anywhere, well… that was the subject of much discussion. He has acted, of course, but not in much sci-fi, and when he is in sci-fi, he tends to be playing himself – as in Gremlins 2 – or a variation on himself – as in Muppets From Space . Then we get into the hairy topic of whether Thunder In Paradise was an SFX show or not, and that gets certain members of the team more heated than in discussions about whether James Bond is sci-fi. So let’s just call Mr Hogan an honorary 11th on the list, okay?)
If you share a name with the Six Million Dollar Man it’s a handy bonus if you’re able to kick ass as well as he can – and Mr Stone Cold never failed to do so in his extraordinary wrestling career. Winner of 19 championships and a showman who always entertained a crowd (usually by playing the bad boy), Austin’s larger-than-life persona has followed him into acting... although it’s probably fair to say it’s not exactly his natural environment, if his performances are anything to go by.
His biggest role to date has been in The Expendables , but we’re highlighting his guest appearance in two episodes of Chuck as Hugo Panzer, a muscle-bound baddie who nearly wipes our titular hero off the face of the planet. When it comes to looming, glaring and punching, Stone Cold Steve Austin is the master. Dialogue and nuance? Not so much. The end result is still jolly good fun, though...
Aha! Fooled you! Bet you thought this would be a list made up entirely of American WWE stars, didn’t you? Well, phooey. We Brits can wrestle too, and here’s an example of an unlikely master of the craft – Brian Glover. Before thesping became his full-time career, Glover did the rounds of smoky, sweaty sports clubs as a blond Swede named Erik Tanberg (he actually hailed from, er, Yorkshire) before taking up the name of Leon Arras, The Man From Paris.
Famed across the North as the wrestler you loved to hate, Glover eventually moved onto starring in everything from An American Werewolf In London and Alien 3 to Doctor Who ’s “Attack Of The Cybermen” (above), becoming a well-loved British actor in the process.
In this video, he’s in action in 1974 on World Of Sport . Ah, nostalgia...
As you can see in the video below, Triple H is a guy who knows how to make an entrance. We’d love to invite him round to ours to see how he’d announce his presence, although we fear the neighbours would complain about all the noise. But he’s got every right to be full of himself: the former 19-year-old Mr New Hampshire is now one of the biggest names in WWE, having snagged everything from World Heavyweight Champion to World Tag Team Champion to the role of the WWE’s Chief Operating Officer, a prestigious position indeed.
But he’s been dipping his toe into the world of acting, too, making his movie debut in 2004’s Blade: Trinity to kick the stuffing out of Ryan Reynolds (warning, link contains swearing and scary pooches). He’s also cameoed in Robot Chicken and we expect he’ll be getting up to more fist-flying action in the future.
You have to wonder if someone’s having a laugh when a wrestler becomes an actor and insists on being credited not under their real name – á là The Rock becoming Dwayne Johnson – but by a moniker such as “WWE Superstar Edge”. Still, it’s one way to ensure that you get noticed by a brand-new audience who may have never heard of you, and it avoids confusion with that other Edge, the one with “The” in front of his name, who plays for that rather popular band.
Although he’s retired from the sport now, Edge had the, er, edge over many other wrestlers by standing a whopping 6ft 5in tall, as well as being bloody good at hurting people. Which probably explains why he won too many titles for us to list here without boring you (although if 11 World Heavyweight titles bore you, lord knows what he could do to impress you).
Retiring in 2011 – you can watch his goodbye announcement here – he’s stuck with his Canadian roots by appearing on several projects filmed in the country, from Highlander: End Game to Haven to Sanctuary . His role on Haven is recurring and he’s actually not half bad – although it’s a far cry from performing his famed Downward Spiral in a ring surrounding by thousands of screaming fans...
It’s rather unfair to compare Tyler Mane to the majority of other heavyweights on this list, largely because they’ve won dozens of world titles between them and Mane... well, hasn’t. Not that he wasn’t a decent wrestler, mind, with an 11-year career at WCW (World Championship Wrestling) which began in 1989. Mane first fought under the name Nitron before rotating through a roster of others – Skywalker Nitron, Sky High Walker, Gully Gaspar – and ended up as Big Sky, tag teaming with Vinnie Vegas (aka Kevin Nash, himself an actor these days).
You probably recognise Mane from his role as Sabretooth in the first X-Men movie – where he was all embarrassing eyebrows and pointy teeth – and he’s also pulled on a William Shatner mask to scare the bejeesus out of an entirely new audience as Michael Myers in the two Halloween remakes. At 6ft 9in, it’s no wonder he’s scary...
He also hosted a little curiosity called The Mane Show , in which he interviewed movers and shakers in the worlds of sci-fi, FX and metal. Check ’em out – he’s a likeable interviewer.
Not many wrestlers go from pounding their rivals in the ring to pounding their rivals in the political arena, but then Jesse Ventura was never an ordinary wrestler. Nicknamed “The Body”, Ventura had a successful WWF career in the ’80s before ill-health forced him to give up the fighting and become a commentator instead. Since then he’s been the Mayor of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota and has hosted a TV show about conspiracy theories – kind of fitting, given that he appeared in the conspiracy-loving X-Files in the classic episode “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space”.
Most of the people reading this who don’t follow wrestling probably know Ventura from 1987’s Predator – one of three films he made with Arnold Schwarzenegger, the other two being The Running Man and Batman & Robin .
In the behind-the-scenes interview below he boasts about his arm muscles being one inch bigger than Arnie’s: “That made Jesse Ventura feel pretty good.” Funny how wrestlers always seem to talk about themselves in the third person, isn’t it?
He’s a cult hero these days, most notably for his lumbering performance in Ed Wood’s tragically bad Plan 9 From Outer Space , but burly Swede Tor Johnson was actually a decent actor and a top bloke, from all accounts. He appeared– usually mute – in such films as Bride Of The Monster (1956), Night Of The Ghouls (1960) and The Beast Of Yucca Flats (1961), but before heading out to Hollywood to seek his fortune he’d been a halfway-decent wrestler in his homeland.
The Super Swedish Angel was so named because there was already a wrestler named Phil Olafsson who was the Swedish Angel. You can get a sense of his wrestling style (basically a lot of face-pulling and arm-waving) from this Pathe newsreel showing him fighting in the UK under the name King Kong .
Johnson became such a cult hero in the States that there was even a famous monster mask modelled on his face. Now that’s immortality...
Billed as The Eighth Wonder Of The World, the mighty 7ft 4in frame of André The Giant was a familiar fixture in ’70s and ’80s wrestling. Afflicted by acromegaly, a syndrome that causes excessive growth, André used his giant height and weight to beat the tar out of all comers – although his famous feud with Hulk Hogan wasn’t always a winning one...
The Frenchman was the first wrestler inducted into the WWF Hall Of Fame and held many titles, and yet he’s known by most for his role as the lovable giant Fezzik in The Princess Bride . Acting was hardly his forte and many of his lines are near-intelligible, true, but he’s still an essential and very lovable part of the film. He also found time to star as Bigfoot in two episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man .
Winner of 34 championships, also known as “The Canadian” and “Rotten Roddy Piper” (he loved to play the villain), here’s one wrestler who’ll be forever remembered not for his sporting career – great as it is – but for taking the lead in one of the coolest alien invasion movies ever made.
John Carpenter’s 1988 thriller They Live featured Piper as a drifter who discovers, through the use of special sunglasses, that aliens have infiltrated our planet and are hiding among us. He’s hardly the most natural of actors (he spends most of the film looking slightly puzzled) but it absolutely doesn’t matter, namely because of two things. First, that the film’s most famous line, possibly one of the best one-liners in cinema history, was ad-libbed by him after he’d been thinking of using it in the ring: “I have come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass, and I’m all out of bubble gum.”
And secondly, a fight scene that’s so needlessly over-the-top it’s become one of the most famous bust-ups in Hollywood history, despite the fact it’s wholly unnecessary to the plot. Piper and co-star Keith David enjoyed putting together what was supposed to be a small disagreement between their characters so much that it went from being 30 seconds to five whole minutes – and man, is it amazing.
Piper’s also popped up in other sci-fi over the years, from The Outer Limits to Highlander .
WWE staple Dwayne Johnson came from a wrestling family and started flinging half-naked men about a large ring in 1996, doing rather well at it, too. He’s won a total of 16 championship titles in his career, as well as the hearts of countless followers (usually all he has to do to get a cheer is raise an eyebrow, Spock-style).
Many would assume his role as the Scorpion King in The Mummy Returns was his first acting gig, but no: in 1999 he kicked seven shades of crap out of Seven Of Nine in an episode of Star Trek: Voyager . Even as an alien, he’s a tough guy...
Since then, Johnson’s starred in multitudes of movies, both as a hardnut hero ( Doom , the upcoming GI Joe: Retaliation ) and as a self-deprecating nice guy ( Tooth Fairy , Journey 2: The Mysterious Island ). Not only is he totally unafraid to take the piss out of himself, he’s actually rather good at serious roles... although whether he’s flexing muscles or wearing a tutu, he’ll always be The Rock to us.