Top 8 Wrestling Stars Who Became Hollywood Actors

Top 8 Wrestling Stars Who Became Hollywood Actors

Many professional wrestlers have successfully leveraged their fame and charisma from the ring to transition into careers in acting. While professional wrestling is often dismissed as fake, the physicality and risks that wrestlers endure are very real. Each match requires them to put their bodies on the line, showcasing their athletic prowess and endurance.

Despite the predetermined outcomes scripted by writers, these wrestlers shine with their larger-than-life personalities, captivating audiences with their intense rivalries and compelling storylines. As they continue to hone their acting skills through their performances in the ring, many wrestlers are drawn to the allure of expanding their reach into television and film. Here, they are given the opportunity to further showcase their talent and versatility on a different stage. So, here’s our pick of the top 8 wrestlers who became actors.

8. Jesse Ventura

Wrestlers Who Became Actors: Jesse Ventura in Predator (1987)

Jesse Ventura was known in the wrestling world as Jesse “The Body” Ventura, a towering specimen who displayed immense physicallity for a man of such size. In the 80s into the 90s, Ventura starred in some of the biggest action blockbusters like The Running Man, Demolition Man, and his most iconic role as Blaine in Predator. Although he has stepped away from acting in recent years, focusing on a career in politics, his role in Predator is still etched into the minds of moviegoers. Despite taking a supporting role and being killed off fairly quickly, he delivered one of the film’s most quoted lines – “I ain’t got time to bleed.” For this reason alone, he makes our list of the top wrestler who became actors.

Watch Predator on Disney+

7. Roddy Piper

Roddy Piper in They Live (1988)

Similar to Jesse Ventura, legendary wrestler Roddy Piper‘s acting career isn’t as extensive as others on this list. However, he has one role under his belt that has continued to grow in cult status. In 1988, Piper took the lead role in John Carpenter‘s tongue-in-cheek horror movie, They Live. Piper played Nada, a struggling construction worker who discovers a pair of mystical sunglasses that allow him to see the world for what it really is – a place where aliens walk amongst humans and secretly run everything.

They Live is a unique blend of action and horror spliced with dark humour. Piper brings his cocky demeanour from the ring into the role, lightening the tone amongst its darker moments. Furthermore, the film boasts one of the rawest fight scenes ever caught on film, which has since become iconic. Outside of this role, Piper has also starred in hit shows like Cold Case, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Although his resume is somewhat small, he still easily makes the cut amongst the top wrestlers who became actors.

Watch They Live on Apple TV+

6. Hulk Hogan

Hulk Hogan and Sylvester Stallone in Rocky III (1982)

For those who aren’t into wrestling, the name Hulk Hogan is still likely familiar to them. To fans of wrestling, he is an absolute legend in the sport. Hogan’s first acting role came in the 1982 movie, Rocky III. In his famous scene, Hogan’s character Thunderlips faces off with Sylvester Stallone‘s Rocky Balboa in a wrestler meets boxer extravaganza. However, Thunderlips takes things a little too far and treats Rocky like a rag doll, as he lifts him into the air and throws him all over the ring. Hogan went on to lead the 1993 kids movie, Mr. Nanny, which has fell under the radar since. He also made small appearances in films like Spy Hard, and has lent his voice to animated projects like Gnomeo & Juliet, and American Dad! Howeverhis role as Thunderlips remains his performance that is most etched into pop culture.

Watch Rocky III on Hulu 

5. Steve Austin

Steve Austin in The Expendables (2010)

Steve Austin, better known to wrestling fans by his iconic stage name Stone Cold, is undoubtedly one of the biggest names in the wrestling world. Known for his rebellious attitude, no-nonsense persona, and memorable catchphrases, Stone Cold Steve Austin captivated audiences and became a wrestling legend during his illustrious career. Even after retiring from in-ring competition, Austin’s legacy continues to live on, as evidenced by his induction into the prestigious WWE Hall of Fame.

In terms of his Hollywood career, Steve Austin easily makes the list of the top wrestlers who became actors. His first notable role as an actor came in 1999 when he starred in six episodes of Nash Bridges. After this, his acting career went someone quiet while he rode his biggest wave of wrestling fame. However, in 2005 he landed his biggest role yet opposite Adam Sandler in The Longest Yard. In 2007, he led the cast of the action thriller, The Condemned, opposite the likes of Vinnie Jones and fellow wrestler, Nathan Jones. However, his most iconic role to date is easily as the brutal villain in 2010’s The Expendables. In the movie, Austin delivered one of the standout fight scenes in the whole picture, taking on mercenary Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) in a brutal, no-holds-barred battle.

Watch The Expendables on Netflix

4. Andre the Giant

Robin Wright and André René Roussimoff in The Princess Bride (1987)

Andre the Giant is truly one of the most legendary wrestlers of all time, known for his immense size and towering stature that made him a formidable presence in the ring. While his acting career may have been relatively sparse, his memorable role in Rob Reiner‘s Oscar-nominated classic, The Princess Bride, truly illustrates his versatility and magnetic charisma on screen. Despite his limited experience in acting, Andre’s charm and larger-than-life persona translated well onto the big screen, making him one of the finest examples of wrestlers who became actors.

Watch The Princess Bride on Netflix

3. Dave Bautista

Dave Bautista in Dune: Part Two (2024)

Dave Bautista, known simply as Batista in the wrestling world, is a famed wrestler who has made a significant impact on the industry. With his imposing stature, impressive strength, and charismatic persona, Batista quickly rose to prominence as one of the top stars in WWE during his tenure. Known for his powerhouse moves and intense rivalries with some of the biggest names in wrestling, Batista solidified his legacy as a formidable legend of the ring. Beyond wrestling, he has also found success in Hollywood, making a seamless transition from wrestling to acting.

Bautista made his first appearance as an actor as a villain in Smallville. At the time, he stated himself that his acting needed some work. To that, he clearly set out to better himself – and it paid off. More recently, he has starred in a plethora of big budget movies and acclaimed projects. In 2014, he starred as Drax in the blockbuster hit, Guardians of the Galaxy, a role he reprised for two sequels and the crossover movie, Avengers: Infinity War. Furthermore, he has starred in acclaimed movies like Blade Runner 2049, Dune, and Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. In 2024, he is set to return for Dune: Part Two.

Watch Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery on Netflix

2. John Cena

John Cena and Leo Abelo Perry in Fast X (2023)

John Cena, a renowned wrestler turned actor, first dabbled in acting when he starred in the WWE-produced film, The Marine, in 2006, marking the beginning of his foray into Hollywood. Following this success, Cena went on to star in another WWE film, 12 Rounds, in 2009. As he ventured into larger productions, Cena proved himself to be a standout among wrestlers-turned-actors, seamlessly transitioning into action roles and comedic performances with unparalleled ease. His unique aura, timing, and dedication to his craft have set him apart in the industry, allowing him to carve out a successful career in both wrestling and acting. His most notable roles come from hit movies like Daddy’s Home 2, The Suicide Squad, and Fast X. In 2024, he is set to star opposite Zac Efron in the zany comedy, Ricky Stanicky.

Watch Fast X on Apple TV+

1. Dwayne Johnson

Dwayne Johnson in Black Adam (2022)

Dwayne Johnson is not only one of the most renowned wrestlers who became actors, he is also one of the biggest blockbuster stars in cinema history. To that, Johnson took the spot as the highest-paid actor in the world in 2016, 2019, 2020, and 2021. So, it’s easy to see why we gave him the top spot on this list. Outside of his iconic status as a wrestling legend, he has also become a massive Hollywood star with a dynamic range.

Johnson’s portfolio of movie roles in extensive to say the least. He has took on major roles in action movies like Walking Tall, Fast & Furious 8, San Andreas, and Black Adam. On top of this, he has struck a note with younger audiences thanks to roles in family movies like The Game Plan, Tooth Fairy, and the rebooted Jumanji movies. What’s more, he has showcased his humurous flair in comedies like The Other Guys, Central Intelligence, and Baywatch. Despite being such a Hollywood titan, Johnson pleasantly surprised wrestling fans when he returned to the ring for WWE Smackdown in 2024. Want to learn more about Dwayne Johnson? Here are 10 fun facts you might not know about him.

Watch Black Adam on Netflix

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