Modern professional wrestling has always had a strong affiliation with celebrity crossover and, in light of the recent news that Justin Bieber was close to taking part at Summerslam (please lord, no), it got me thinking about all of the many celebrity appearances throughout the ages. In no order whatsoever, lets take a look at the best and worst celebrity appearances – but, before we start, let me just point out that I am aware there are countless celebrity appearances, performances and cameos so I am only going to mention the times when things got physical.
I must begin with the Mack Daddy of them all – Wrestlemania I. Vince McMahon upped the ante with the first wrestling extravaganza, and there was not one but five A-List appearances on show at The Greatest Wrestling Event of All Time! Music mega-stars Liberace (as guest timekeeper) and Cindy Lauper (as Wendi Richter’s manager) gave the event an air of glamour, and the main event saved the best for last. The one and only Muhammad Ali was the guest “outside” referee for a match that saw Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff versus Hulk Hogan and Mr “I ain’t getting on no plane, fool” T. The match is pandemonium – Mr T throws hip tosses and body slams while Ali throws punches, Jimmy Snuka throws headbutts, and Cowboy Bob Orton throws elbows, and the crowd and Hulkamania go wild.
Hulk Hogan used his mainstream experience again to lure the odious talk-show host Jay Leno to WCW in 1998. Not only did Leno team with Diamond Dallas Page in the main event of Hog Wild to face Eric Bischoff and Hogan, but he actually pinned Hogan (no mean feat, politically speaking). The match is as bad as you think, especially as it featured two non-wrestlers, and was an obvious attempt to boost ratings and garner exposure for WCW. Furthermore, to add extra twist of bitterness to the cocktail, it exposed wrestling as the joke circus that your mum and dad always believed it to be and berated you for watching. The sight of Leno excitedly jiggling around the ring with sweatpants pulled up to his nipples as Hogan stupidly flops about to sell the moves is just plain awful. Don’t believe me just watch I dare you!!!
1998 WCW again here, folks, and this time around we have none other than DDP (again) and Karl Malone versus Hogan (again) and Rodzilla (North Korea advocate Denis Rodman). DDP and Hogan used their connections – and Turner’s chequebook – to capture the signatures of two of basketball’s biggest stars to take part in the headline match at Bash at the Beach. The match wasn’t that bad really – a few botches here and there but Malone and Rodman look to be genuinely happy to be there and play the face and heel roles pretty well – and the crowd enjoyed the experience too.
Now, not my all time favourite but close up there. WCW’s days were numbered. Long-gone were the times of exciting and innovative wrestling television. We were living in the Vince Russo days, and I may as well stop now as that says it all. For its sheer insanity and absolute bizarre premise it remains prominent in my memory. In 2000, WCW was sinking fast and in a fit of desperation for ratings Vince Russo was trying and booking almost anything that he could think of no matter how ridiculous the stipulations were. None more so than the San Francisco 49ers match between Booker T versus Jeff Jarrett, which saw 4 boxes – one holding the WCW Championship – hanging from each corner of the ring. The “match” was underway, and in typical Russo booking was chock full of crazy unfunny comedic sections (sex doll ha ha ha). Anyway, Jarrett reaches the final box only to punched full on in the nuts twice by none other than Howard Stern regular Beetlejuice (dressed as Superman!), allowing Booker to win the belt. But it doesn’t stop there, bona fide crazy man Scott Steiner interferes and completely destroys Beetlejuice by literally throwing him around and putting him in a Steiner Recliner. Pure fantastic WCW insanity.
Sticking with WCW, Russo, and the year 2000, we got the one of the greatest celebrity run-ins of all time. As previously-stated, WCW was in the toilet, every match was steeped in absurd stipulations (Viagra on a pole match anyone?) and the once prestigious WCW title was now changing hands at a rapid rate (even Russo won it!), leading to the degradation and worthlessness of said title.
So what do you do to reclaim some esteem to a fading company with a title belt that means fuck all? Enter D-List goofball David Arquette, best known for being Courtney Cox’s husband. In an attempt to cross promote the upcoming WCW “comedy” movie Ready to Rumble, Arquette was crowned WCW World Heavyweight Champion in an angle that still dumbfounds some 15 years on and is credited as being the death knell of the once proud company.
Back to WWE, this time in 1998 – a year which saw the company languishing behind WCW in the ratings and at a creative crossroads. In the build up to Wrestlemania XIV, Vince McMahon acquired the services of ‘The Baddest Man on Planet’ “Iron” Mike Tyson in a move that Bruce Prichard credits as the beginning of WWE’s supremacy. Tyson’s introduction saw him join D-Generation X, launch the Stone Cold versus Vince feud, and – as ring enforcer for the main event – he KO’d Shawn Michaels in the match that propelled Austin to super-stardom and kickstarted the Attitude Era, a moment that remains fond in the memory of all wrestling fans.
From one boxing megastar to another, Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr entered the ring to face The Big Show at Wrestlemania XXIV. In the lead up, Mayweather jumped into the ring to save Rey Mysterio from a Big Show beating and was thrown aside by The Big Show ,who then got down on his knees and beckoned Mayweather to attack. The fallout was brutal, just check out Show’s broken nose on the first video. The actual ‘Mania match wasn’t good by any means, but it was interesting due to the freakish dimensions on display between the two fighters. Oh, and the fact that it was Mayweather.
This one actually pains to write as much at hurt to watch but in 2007 WWE thought it wise to get John Cena to face off against Kevin ‘K-Fed’ Federline. The only reason that I can think of is because they both rapped once apart from that I got nothing. The fans at every opportunity viciously booed a genuinely despised figure, K-Fed and not because he has heel heat, it was because the guy was and most probably still is an absolute tool. The match is an embarrassing mess and the only action that takes place is when Johnny Nitro and Umaga interfere, watch below if you want I strongly recommend you don’t.
Now for my all time favourite celebrity appearance in a wrestling ring! Let me paint the picture for you… The year was 1999 and we were in the midst of the Attitude Era, complete with puppies (boobs), and Jeff Jarrett. Jarrett was in the ring, spouting off about him being the greatest Intercontinental Champion of all time, when he spots Ben Stiller and invites him into the ring. What happens next is the worst promotion of a film you have ever seen. It is so cringe-inducing that it is fantastic. When Stiller gets too close to Debra McMichael’s tits, Jarrett decks him and puts him in the funniest Figure Four Leglock ever. D-Lo Brown makes the save and carries Stiller out of the arena like a little baby. It is fucking hilarious.
Fast-forward to 2008 and Smackdown . Arnold Schwarzenegger is making a guest appearance for some award or something (I can’t remember or care to even look it up). Anyway, he’s commentating on the main event – a 6-man tag with DX versus The Rock, Test, and Shane McMahon (remember him?). The match is laden with interference and all sorts of malarkey, and Stone Cold inadvertently KO’s The Rock, so to even out the odds Mr Terminator slides in a chair that Austin smashes against HHH’s head, giving Test (RIP) an easy cover. HHH recovers and he’s mad, so he confronts Arnie and receives a nasty backhander and a beatdown to the joy of the crowd. Also, listen out for Arnie’s explanation of why he interfered. It’s class.
Wrestlemania XI is probably the best of all celebrity appearances of a star-studded night. I mean how are you going to top a most uncomfortable looking Pamela Anderson and Home Improvement‘s turd Jonathan Taylor Thomas as guest time-keeper? Short answer is you don’t, but you give it a damn good go. Match-wise, Bam Bam Bigelow versus NFL-star Lawrence Taylor as the main event is probably the best celebrity match there is, with much kudos going to ‘The Beast from the East’ as a top worker with the skills to pull it off.