POW! BANG! ZAP! OTHER COMIC BOOK NOISES!
Join us as we take a break from the in-ring action and take a look at wrestlers who made appearances in superhero franchises on the big and small screen!
A couple of weeks ago we listed some of the most famous superhero gimmicked grapplers in wrestling history.
So it makes sense now to turn the tables and list the pro wrestlers who have turned up in live-action superhero epics.
Some have had starring roles, some only small cameos, some donned capes years ago, and some have yet been released.
The one thing that is for certain is that the muscle-bound, tight garment, cartoon stars of pro wrestling seem to transition well to the muscle-bound, tight garment, cartoon worlds of comic book heroism. Who’d have thought!?
So buckle your utility belt, fire up the (insert your name here)-mobile and get ready to DDT crime on its stupid head!
Lex Luger (Superboy)
13 years before Smallville hit the small screens, there was another show chronicling the teenage years of Clark Kent simply called Superboy.
In the season 3 episode called Mindscape, perhaps inspired by the famous Alan Moore Superman story “For The Man Who Has Everything” a parasite affixes itself to the lad of steel, causing him to have vivid nightmarish hallucinations.
It’s during one of these bad trips that Superboy thinks he is a robot and has to do battle with his replacement, played by none other than Lex Luger!
Luger actually goes over Superboy, in the hallucination anyway, pulling at his robot guts and blowing him up.
It’s quite cool that Lex is a part of Superman lore, as Supe’s arch-nemesis Lex Luthor was the inspiration for Luger’s ring name, a fun fact that may have helped him get the gig in the first place.
Z Gangsta and Ultimate Solution (Batman)
Tommy “Tiny” Lister Jrand Robert “Jeep” Swenson were never the greatest ring technicians.
Both were hired for their impressive physiques. Lister was used by WWE to reprise his role as Zeus and to feud with Hogan and help promote the character’s villainous turn in Hulk’s 1989 movie vehicle No Holds Barred, and Swenson joined WCW in 1987 under the guidance of manager Gary Hart.
The two then became members of “The Alliance To End Hulkamania!” in WCW in early 1996. Zeus was renamed Z-Gangsta, and Swenson repackaged, unfortunately, as The Final Solution. This moniker was quickly changed to The Ultimate Solution for obvious reasons.
And you thought Gunther Stark was a problematic name.
Anyway, the two would leave the wrestling world to pursue a career in Hollywood.
After featuring in the Adam Sandler/Damon Wayans action Comedy Bulletproof, Swanson would go on to play big muscular bad man Bane in Batman And Robin.
Unlike the comic book and The Dark Knight Rises incarnations of the character, this Bane was not a criminal mastermind tactician, rather a mindless Poison Ivy henchman who would shout his name a lot and sometimes sport a fedora and flasher mac.
Of course, Bane was the least of Batman and Robin’s problems. The movie killed any big-screen outings in the franchise for eight years before Christopher Nolan restored it to its former glory with his Dark Knight trilogy.
It was the second of these films, The Dark Knight, that would see Lister cameo as the prison boat captive who decides to prevent the prison guard from setting off the bomb the Joker had set up in one of his twisted games.
Lister’s Hollywood career was far more successful than Swanson’s, appearing in movies such as Friday, The Fifth Element, and Jackie Brown.
Some bat fans like to think Lister’s character in TDK is none other than Waylon Jones AKA Killer Croc, but this has never been confirmed.
Unfortunately, both Lister and Swanson are no longer with us, but they shall go down in both bat and mat history.
Triple H (Blade Trinity)
After The Rock’s role as The Scorpion King in The Mummy Returns was successful enough to give the character his own spinoff film, despite minimal screen time and a horrific CGI final form, It was Triple H’sturn to try and make a run in Hollywood.
Also starring in a sequel to a popular franchise, Blade Trinity, Hunter played a vampire called Jarko Grimwood, a henchman with metal fangs that emulated James Bond villain Jaws.
Unfortunately, unlike the first two movies in the Blade series, the film flopped both financially and critically.
Any future movies planned for Triple H, including a rumoured role as the titular heroes son in the never to film King Conan, were scrapped.
So Triple H diverted 100% of his attention back to the ring, and the fella did pretty well for himself.
Almost ten years later Helmsley would have another swing at movie stardom with starring roles in the WWE produced films The Chaperone and Inside Out, both released in 2011, and the rest is history.
Awful, awful movie history.
Kevin Nash (The Punisher)
It is a well-known fact that Nash played Super Shredder in the second Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie.
But do the Turtles count as superheroes? Do their ninjitsu skills and ability to pop their head in their half-shells count as a superpower?
To avoid this debate Big Sexy is being included on this list for his role as The Russian in 2004’s Punisher movie starring Thomas Jane.
But does The Punisher count as a superhero? Does a penchant for harsh justice and a shed load of guns count as a superpower? Who knows. Who cares.
Nash only turns up for one scene in the movie, but what a scene!
Looking almost unrecognisable without his trademark goatee and long hair, the bleach blonde, red and white striped shirt villain arrives at Frank Castle’s apartment looking to put an end to our hero.
What follows is an excellent fight scene, brutal but fun, that rages throughout the apartment complex. With Frank bumping for The Russian for the majority, the battle ends with a spectacular spot that sees Castle goring The Russian through a bannister and down the stairs.
Frank survives, and Nash does the job.
Randy Savage (Spider-Man)
Spider-Man is no stranger to the world of pro wrestling, with the likes of Brad Armstrong, Rey Mysterio, Lio Rush and many more giving a nod to the webhead in various costumed tributes.
Let us not forget in most telling’s of Spider-Man’s origin, his costume is inspired by Pro Wrestling one way or another. In the 2002 movie, it’s the career he picks to showcase his new powers before realising that with them comes great responsibility, not a title shot at Mania.
Just as well really as he would probably just end up getting spider-squashed by Brock or Roman.
Anyway, Peter Parker enters a contest where if anyone can defeat Bonesaw McGraw, played by none other than The Macho Man himself, Randy Savage, they win $3000!
That sounds like quite a carny stipulation for a promotion that can afford a spectacular steel cage set up and Bruce Campbell as a ring announcer, but I digress.
Bonesaw attempts to destroy the young newcomer with full-on stiff chair shots, almost creating another “Mass Transit” incident. Luckily this inexperienced grappler was bitten by a radioactive spider and can take the punishment.
Bonesaw grabs a crowbar, but The Human Spider delivers a series of kicks to McGraw and finishes him off by tossing him into the side of the cage with his well-educated feet.
The ref calls a stop to the match in a move that in real life would probably get more heat than the ending to Bray and Seth’s Hell In A Cell Match.
Edge (The Flash)
Remember that time when Edge was forced into retirement, cut his hair and decided to be an actor for a bit? Well during that time he had a guest role on The Flash.
Copeland would play Al Rothstein, who was killed by an evil alternate universe Al Rothstein (also played by Edge) who takes his place as DC baddie Atom Smasher, who can grow up to 15 feet! That’s steel cage size in WWE measurement.
Despite having an awesome mask and name, Atom Smasher would be defeated with little fanfare, and this would be Edge’s only appearance on the show.
Copeland would go on to grow his hair back for a more memorable run in the TV show Vikings, before going on to star in the famously bad flick Money Plane with Frasier Crane.
Luckily, Edge returned to the WWE at the 2020 Rumble, making us all cry with happiness and proving he still has what it takes in the ring.
Cody Rhodes (Arrow)
Another WWE superstar who made his way to the CW-verse is Cody Rhodes.
Cody appeared in Arrow as Derek Sampson, an evil drug dealer who supplies a narcotic called Stardust (see what they did there?).
After falling into a vat of the stuff (like all good DC villains do) he is resurrected with super strength and an inability to feel pain.
Unlike Edge, Cody would be a reoccurring character on the show, probably down to his friendship with Arrow star and massive wrestling fan Steve Amell.
Steve would feud with Cody on WWE television, culminating in a match at SummerSlam where he and Neville would take on Stardust and King Barrett.
Amell’s friendship with Cody is so strong he kind of cut ties with WWE when Cody did, making appearances in ROH in 2017, All In in 2018 and AEW Revolution in 2020.
He now stars in Heels, a show about independent wrestling that also features AEW star CM Punk.
The Rock (Black Adam)
This might be a cheeky one to include in the list as at the time of writing The Rock has still yet to appear in a live-action superhero role, which is crazy to think looking at the scope of the Hollywood career The Great One has forged for himself.
However, it has now been FIFTEEN YEARS since Dwayne Johnson announced his interest in the character Black Adam.
In that time DC Universes have risen, fallen, risen again and fallen/been retooled/soft rebooted/whatever it is they are doing over there.
However, the movie has finally been filmed, wrapped and ready to release later this year.
To say Black Adam has been The Rock’s passion project is an understatement. Despite all the setbacks and delays, Johnson has remained adamant (or should that be Black adamant) that his portrayal of the character was still coming.
For years The Rock has said that Black Adam will be an anti-hero that would change the hierarchy of the DC universe. But while The Rock spoke about it, another WWE superstar snuck in and actually did it…
John Cena (Peacemaker)
Peacemaker is quite an obscure DC character, and probably wasn’t on the top of anyone’s list for live-action adaptations, but for the last couple of years, Cena has made the hypocritical anti-hero a household name.
Wanting nothing more for the world than peace, and not caring how much violence and killing he has to do to achieve that, Peacemaker made his debut in 2021s The Suicide Squad.
Currently, he is starring in the HBO spinoff Peacemaker, which looks on track to becoming one of the most successful superhero TV shows of all time.
It helps that Cena seems to adore the character. He has turned up in costume at any given opportunity, for TV shows, film premiers, even surprising fans at the Comic-Con Peacemaker costume contest.
Cena’s passion for the role has played no small part in making Peacemaker a success, and one we hope continues for years to come.
Batista (Guardians Of The Galaxy)
Of course, Peacemaker’s success isn’t all down to Cena. Director and writer James Gunn has a talent for making obscure comic characters more popular than they have ever been, a skill he showed off with 2014’s Guardians Of The Galaxy.
Dave Bautista started his transition from the ring to screen through a series of bit parts and cameos before landing the role of Drax The Destroyer in Guardians.
What could have easily been just another meat-headed muscly character, Drax is actually…well, a meat-headed muscly character, but one done expertly.
He is funny, charming and has a lot of heart despite being slightly dim-witted, all the while managing to retain the badass and sometimes frightening aspects of the warrior character.
It’s Batista’s showcase of acting abilities in the role that has really kick-started his Hollywood career. Since then he has gone on to star in franchises like Bond, Blade Runner and Dune with a couple more turns as Drax in the pipeline for Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol: 3 and the GOTG Holiday special.
Although Batista hasn’t quite reached the box office heights of The Rock, one could argue he has starred in better quality films, and it’s all down to Drax, a role most people can’t see being portrayed by anyone else.