Professional athletes are celebrities, but they are a special kind of celebrity. Professional wrestlers are even more unique in the type and style of their celebrity, in that they typically don’t interact with other famous people outside of their field. This hasn’t stopped them from occasionally doing so, and sometimes they’ve even wound up as good friends. Wrestling fans have been verbal about their distaste for most celebrities appearing on screen, but there’s absolutely nothing they can do about who their favorite wrestlers decide to hang out with once cameras stop rolling.
The exact definition of friendship is loose, vague, and often personal, so we’ll clarify we simply mean two or more people who spend their free time together by choice, and seem to enjoy doing so. We can’t tell you too much about these peoples’ personal lives or what specifically it was they bonded over, but we know they were seen together a whole lot, and it made fans of the wrestler and the celebrity do a double take almost every time. Read on to learn about 10 wrestlers who were friends with major celebrities you never would’ve expected.
12. Hulk Hogan and Dennis Rodman
In 1997, WCW seemed to be beating WWE in absolutely every way imaginable, and that extended to their top star having a very public friendship with one of the most famous athletes on the planet. Hulk Hogan was the WCW World Champion, and as was discussed constantly on Nitro, he was pretty good friends with NBA bad boy Dennis Rodman. Rodman regularly lent his support to Hogan and his friends in the new World order, appearing with a baseball bat and a can of spray paint on plenty of broadcasts, ready to attack on the Hulkster’s call.
Rodman and Hogan have apparently maintained their friendship for years after they appeared together in the ring. Following the leak of controversial and racist statements made by Hulk Hogan, Rodman took to Twitter, defending his friend and saying he knew he wasn’t a racist. Rodman also appeared as a contestant and the eventual winner of Hulk Hogan’s Celebrity Championship Wrestling in 2008.
11. Vampiro and The Insane Clown Posse
In a sense, this entry is cheating, because the Insane Clown Posse are actually wrestlers themselves, and they competed for both WWE and WCW during the height of the Attitude Era. That’s not to mention the fact they even started their own wrestling promotion, Juggalo Championship Wrestling, which still exists to this day. Still, it might be pretty surprising to fans of Lucha Underground to realize the extent to which Vampiro is down with the clowns.
Given their connection to the industry, the Insane Clown Posse are or were actually friends with quite wrestlers, including Raven, Terry Funk, Sabu, and Eddie Guerrero, but Vampiro earns the spot on the list for seemingly being their best bud in the business. Along with Raven, the group even teamed up in WCW, in a stable known as The Dead Pool. That group didn’t last long, but Vampiro and the others make rare appearances at ICP concerts and the Gathering of the Juggalos when called upon to do so. The Insane Clown Posse aren’t even the most famous band to get involved in wrestling, though…
10. Dixie Carter and Billy Corgan
Billy Corgan is the lead singer and songwriter for the extremely successful alternative rock band the Smashing Pumpkins. The band released their latest album in December of 2014, and since then, Corgan has accepted a position as Senior Producer of Creative and Talent Development for Total Nonstop Action. Corgan has always been a huge wrestling fan, and appeared on ECW television 15 years before joining TNA, but the move has been highly criticized since he really doesn’t have any background that makes him deserving of the job outside of the fact he really wanted it, and is famous.
Many people point to a friendship with TNA President Dixie Carter. Corgan is also friends with WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross, and it’s possible they were all able to bond because Corgan had some great ideas about wrestling that he can contribute to the company. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to deny he got a job he had zero qualifications for, so it makes sense people are pointing towards behind the scenes friendships to explain what happened. Dixie’s not the only wrestling mogul with friends in high places…
9. Vince McMahon and Donald Trump
Donald Trump is a WWE Hall of Famer. He’s a member of the celebrity wing, and he actually has made a few contributions to wrestling, by offering his arenas for several WrestleManias and regularly appearing in a major role on Monday Night Raw in 2009. He was also the focus of the Battle of the Billionaires at WrestleMania 23, where he and Vince made a bet on a wrestling match where the loser would have their head shaved. Trump’s charge won the bet, and McMahon was shaved bald.
Throughout the many appearances, it became clear that Trump and McMahon were actually friends off screen, which might not be too surprising. Both men are billionaires who inherited companies from their fathers, but pretend they did it all on their own. Both men have been accused of racism and megalomania. Both have practically attempted to brainwash their audiences by loudly insulting their opponents and spreading lies about people who defeat them…we’re getting off track here, so let’s move on.
8. Eric Bischoff and Jason Hervey
While Vince and Dixie went with some pretty big names for their celebrity entourage, Eric Bischoff went a different route and sparked up a lifelong partnership with Jason Hervey. It isn’t really fair to define who he became as an adult by what he did as a child, but facts are facts, and the fact is, Jason Hervey is best known for playing Wayne Arnold on The Wonder Years. Like most of the celebs on this list, he was also a huge wrestling fan, which was how he started getting involved in WCW in 1991.
Quickly rumors spread that the young TV star was in a relationship with Missy Hyatt, and whether or not that’s true, he did eventually spark up a friendship with WCW producer and later Vice President, Eric Bischoff. The pair not only became pals, but also started a business together, known as Bischoff/Hervey Entertainment. In addition to producing events for both WCW and TNA, the company has also produced successful reality TV shows for VH1, most notably Scott Baio is 45…and Single.
7. Ric Flair and Jim Harbaugh
Jim Harbaugh is the head coach of the Michigan Wolverines, the football team of the University of Michigan. He previously played quarterback for the Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts, Baltimore Ravens, and San Francisco 49ers before retiring to coach for a number of highly respected college teams. He’s also a big wrestling fan, particularly supporting three of his best friends: Ric Flair and the Steiner Brothers. Harbaugh knew the Steiner Brothers when they all attended college together, but his friendship with Flair is more recent and public.
On more than one occasion, Harbaugh has employed his WWE Hall of Famer buddy to hype up his teams and his crowds before big games and big moments. Harbaugh first hired Flair to give the 49ers a pep talk in 2014 when he was coaching the team. Later on, Flair kept the friendship going by reaching out to Harbaugh through Twitter and congratulating his team on a big win. Shortly after the tweet, Harbaugh had Flair appear at Michigan’s Signing Day Party in 2016 to again pump up the crowd and lay some trash talk on team rivals Ohio State.
6. Mark Henry and Michael Clarke Duncan
Not a whole lot is known about the friendship between “The World’s Strongest Man” Mark Henry and Oscar-nominated actor Michael Clarke Duncan, and unfortunately it’s unlikely any of that information will become public due to the circumstances in which the world found out about it. The two once performed a brief spot together at a WWE house show, but fans learned just how deep the friendship must have been after Duncan’s sudden and tragic death in 2012. Photos from Duncan’s funeral revealed that plenty of celebrities were in attendance to say goodbye to their friend, including Mark Henry, who was even close enough to Duncan to act as one of his pallbearers.
Media coverage of the funeral focused on the presence of Jay Leno, Tom Hanks, Stevie Wonder, and others, but Henry holding the casket and leading the way shows there must have been a true friendship between the two. Actor and part-time wrestler Tiny Lister, known to WWE fans as Zeus, was also a pallbearer at the service.
5. Andre The Giant and Arnold Schwarzenegger
Arnold Schwarzenegger was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2015, 22 years after it was established to honor Andre the Giant. Years before either of those events, Arnold and Andre were friends, and if you heard about any of the friendships on this list thus far it was probably this one, because it comes with a pretty famous story. As Arnold has told plenty of times, he once went to a restaurant with Andre and NBA legend Wilt Chamberlain, and Andre very extremely pushy about the fact that he alone would pay for the meal. Due to Arnold’s insistence on splitting the bill, Andre and Chamberlain lifted up the future Governor off the ground and carried him outside, leaving him there while Andre went back inside and took care of the debt by himself.
Years before he even met Andre, Schwarzenegger was also friends with WWE Hall of Famers “Superstar” Billy Graham and Bruno Sammartino. During the filming of Predator and The Running Man, Arnold also became close with co-star Jesse Ventura. He has made a variety of appearances on both Raw and SmackDown, but the WWE Universe will always remember him for the relationships he made behind the scenes.
4. Bob Backlund and Maria Menounos
As model, actress, and TV presenter Maria Menounos gradually ingratiated herself into the WWE Universe, two things became apparent—she’s genuinely a big fan of wrestling, and the man that lead to her becoming one was Bob Backlund. Menounos came from a Greek family who didn’t speak much English, and this lead to her favorite TV programs as a child being wrestling, since she didn’t need to speak the language to understand what was happening. Her favorite wrestler was Bob Backlund, and years later when she began her entertainment career, she met her former hero while shooting a movie and started a friendship that lasts to this day.
Menounos has been involved in wrestling with and without Backlund, beginning in 2009 with a guest hosting stint on Raw that even lead to her wrestling in a series of matches. Her most high profile match came WrestleMania XVIII in 2012, but based on her words, we think she may have reveled in the honor of inducting Backlund into the Hall of Fame on an even greater level. By her own admission, Menounos knows people view Backlund as crazy, but that has seemingly only added to her admiration of him both in and out of the ring.
3. Brock Lesnar and Eric Stonestreet
It makes sense rock stars, athletes, and bodybuilders would be friends with wrestlers, but comedians? Well, apparently that was the case when Eric Stonestreet began posting videos to Vine featuring himself hanging out with WWE superstar and former UFC Champion, Brock Lesnar. Stonestreet is a 2-time Emmy Award winner for his work as Cameron Tucker on the sitcom Modern Family. In August of 2013, WWE was in Los Angeles for SummerSlam, and a variety of wrestlers and celebrities were interacting in anticipation for the event.
In the videos, Stonestreet claims to be extremely angry and looking to fight the first person he sees, only to immediately switch gears once Brock walks into frame to accept the challenge. Lesnar is known as a private person who doesn’t exactly play around with celebrities, so it was a big shock and a treat for fans to see him clearly having a laugh with a popular funnyman.
2. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and Rob McElhenney
“Rowdy” Roddy Piper will forever be remembered as perhaps the greatest heel in professional wrestling history, but once cameras turned off, he was by all accounts an intensely lovable, hilarious, full-hearted entertainer who loved making people smile. This is why after he briefly left wrestling in the 1980s, he took up a second career as an actor, appearing in Hollywood films including They Live and Hell Comes to Frogtown. While filming They Live, Piper became good friends with director John Carpenter, and he would only continue to build friendships with celebrities as his acting career progressed.
Near the end of his career, one of Piper’s more endearing acting roles was playing The Maniac on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Piper became friends with the cast of the show after the appearance. He further endeared himself to the mainstream comedy community with regular appearances at The Comedy Store in Los Angeles. After his tragic death in 2015, The Comedy Store held one of many tribute services for Piper, with several of his friends from the comedy world in attendance.
1. Jerry Lawler and Andy Kaufman
Jerry Lawler and Andy Kaufman engaged in arguably the greatest feud in the history of wrestling. If one was to call it the greatest celebrity feud in the history of wrestling, there wouldn’t even be an argument. Today, everyone knows that pro wrestling is scripted, and no one even does anything to hide it, but that wasn’t always the case. This is why it might be a surprise to people that the two men who were seemingly the most bitter of rivals were actually close friends.
We’ve called most of the celebrities on this list wrestling fans, and surely they are, but none really compare to Kaufman, who even in his groundbreaking comedy clearly just wanted to be the world’s greatest heel. Lawler was simply overjoyed by the enthusiasm and mainstream appeal Kaufman was willing to give him, and the two carefully laid out their every public appearance together in order to make fans think they really hated each other, while secretly laughing all the way to the bank together once the show was over. On several occasions, Lawler has been asked who the biggest snub is in the WWE Hall of Fame, and the 50-year veteran of the industry always given the same answer. Not some great forgotten wrestler from his youth. Not someone he idolized. Not someone he feuded with and respected for years. His friend, the comedian and actor, Andy Kaufman.