While it’s not a big deal to admit you’re a wrestling fan these days, anybody over about 20 years old will remember a time where telling people you followed WWE would result in laughing and the always-said, “Don’t you know that stuff is fake?” Despite explaining that escaping the reality of the world was exactly why you watched, it was a no-win proposition trying to tell people you were a fan of sports entertainment.
It would stand to reason that with the scripted entertainment, over-the-top acting and performers doing their own stunts that celebrities would love pro wrestling, but it would also stand to reason that they would want to hide their love of wrestling more than the average person. During the years when it wasn’t cool to tell people you watched wrestling, the only celebrity who came out as a fan was Andy Kaufman and his crazy antics in Hollywood didn’t lend themselves to giving wrestling any credibility.
If you can’t get them to join you, you can at least hire them to join you – that must have been Vince McMahon’s thinking when it came to the first WrestleMania. In the years that followed, he shelled out big bucks to get some of entertainment’s B-List celebrities to appear at the annual supercard of wrestling. Over time though, as young wrestling fans grew up but didn’t abandon their love of the sport, it slowly became acceptable you watched. As WWE has gone more mainstream, it’s actually become a forum for celebrities to get attention as the long run of celebrity hosts on Monday Night Raw showed. It was often clear who was there for the money and who were the real fans. Here’s a list of 11 celebrities who haven’t made any excuses that they are massive wrestling fanatics.
11. Daniel Tosh
The Tosh.O host on Comedy Central can barely hide his love of wrestling on his popular viral video clip show. Stupid kids doing stupid things while backyard wrestling is a staple category of videos shown and for some reason yet to be explained, Tosh has called out Arn Anderson dozens of times. During the show’s popular “Web Redemption”, two pro wrestling segments have been presented, one about the goofy guy who became famous by cry-yelling, “It’s still real to me, dammit!” and the guy who went nuts when Sting made his WWE debut.
10. Anthony Bourdain
Some celebrity wrestling fans wear it like a badge of honor and some others are a little more secretive of their love of the game. Bourdain, known for his penchant for eating anything on his TV shows, discovered he was a fan in 2014, writing on Instagram: “I went because my daughter and her friend think WWE is awesome. But, God help me, I had a rollicking good time. That was some hilariously awesome, cheesy, over the top, campy, physically impressive showboating. And the initially scary looking audience are so in to it you can’t help but be … well … charmed.”
9. Adam Sandler
The ‘Saturday Night Live’ alumnus and star of popular films like ‘Happy Gilmore’ and ‘Big Daddy’ has been shown ringside at many WWE events, most notably Wrestlemania 21 in 2005, but as an actor, writer and director, he can appreciate the theatrical aspects of professional wrestling and has cast many wrestlers in his projects including: Kevin Nash, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Bill Goldberg in ‘The Longest Yard,’ The Big Show in ‘The Waterboy,’ and Tom “Zeus” Lister in Little Nicky. With the paltry success of his last few films, maybe Sandler should look back to the ring in casting his next movie.
8. Chelsea Handler
It’s hard to tell whether or not she’s being serious or just fooling, but Handler has made allusions to liking professional wrestling in the past and during a 2010 episode of her popular talk show, ‘Chelsea Lately,’ Handler went off on David Hasselhoff guest-hosting an episode of ‘Monday Night Raw’ saying: “I do have one deep, dark secret. No, I do not have a secret love child or a penis. No, I, Chelsea Lately, am a fan of professional wrestling. Everybody knows I enjoy those over-sized meaty bodies, but what I really get hooked on is the masterful storytelling and subtle acting techniques.”
7. Freddie Prinze, Jr.
While his biggest claim to fame should be in getting Sarah Michelle Gellar to marry him, for a short time in the early 2000s he could have been classified as the king of teen movies having appeared in such films as ‘She’s All That,’ ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’ and the ‘Scooby Doo’ movies. He’s made several on-screen appearance for WWE, including Wrestlemania 24 and the Hall of Fame ceremony in 2008 and two episodes of ‘Monday Night Raw’ in 2010. He took his fandom to a level no other celebrity has when he actually went to work for sports entertainment giant in 2010 as a part-time writer. It’s never been made clear if he left the company on good terms in 2012, but we haven’t seen him on WWE programming since.
6. Jon Stewart
You’d think that the well-respected host of a satirical news show on a comedy channel would be the last person to be a fan of professional wrestling, but when Stewart started dropping wrestling references into his show in early 2015, you knew something was up. By the time newly-crowned WWE champion Seth Rollins did a walk-on during the show, it was clear Stewart was finally coming out as a fan. He appeared on ‘Monday Night Raw’ shortly thereafter, delivering one of the best celebrity promos dressing down Rollins and kicking him in the man parts. Stewart returned as the guest host of SummerSlam in 2015, shocking the world when he turned on John Cena, allowing Rollins to capture the US Title. Cena would exact his revenge the following night by landing an Attitude Adjustment on Stewart during an episode of ‘Monday Night Raw.’
5. Stephen Amell
The star of ‘Arrow’ probably did more to resurrect the career of Cody “Stardust” Rhodes than any WWE wrestler could have done after getting into what many fans was a pure comic book storyline of the good superhero (Amell) ultimately defeating the supervillain (Stardust) after months of building to the final showdown. Amell, teaming with Neville, made a great showing for himself, even landing a cross-body block to the outside of the ring on Stardust and King Barrett.
4. Billy Corgan
Known mainly as the bald frontman for the alternative band Smashing Pumpkins and as the guy who dated Courtney Love before she met Kurt Cobain, Corgan took his fandom a few steps further than any other celebrity has and started his own wrestling company. Following an appearance on ECW television, Corgan launched Resistance Pro Wrestling in Chicago in 2011. In 2014, it looked like AMC would be producing a reality show about RPW, but the project was scrapped shortly before filming began. Whether the project was cancelled because Corgan quit RPW, or Corgan quit because the project was cancelled, the singer left RPW in 2014. That wouldn’t be the end though as he took a job as the Senior Producer of Creative and Talent Development for TNA Wrestling in April 2015. Shortly after taking the job, he returned to the road with his band, so his actual contributions to the failing company are unknown.
3. David Arquette
You can take a finishing move like Jon Stewart did, wrestle a complete match like Stephen Amell or even start your own wrestling company like Billy Corgan, but you’ve got to hand it to David Arquette when it comes to committing to a role in wrestling. The star of the ‘Scream’ horror franchise is the only major celebrity who can claim a world championship with a national company. In the waning days of World Championship Wrestling, Arquette agreed to help promote the movie ‘Ready to Rumble’ with a stint on ‘Monday Nitro’ and ‘Thunder’ and actually capture the WCW championship in 2000, holding the belt for one month before dropping it to Jeff Jarrett. Largely considered a black mark on wrestling and the final nail in WCW’s coffin, Arquette has admitted that as a wrestling fan he hated the angle, but has a sense of humor about it, having appeared on WWE programming since his championship fiasco.
2. Ronda Rousey
The most recognizable woman in sports has never tried to hide her love of all things wrestling, recalling her fond memories of watching it with her father, who has since died, as a child. Rousey especially liked “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, and when it came time to take a nickname in the mixed martial arts world, Rousey went straight to the source and asked Piper if she could take the moniker. Piper said it was fine and the two formed a friendship that Rousey honored dedicating a fight to the WrestleMania main eventer a couple days after his death. She also checked with Ric Flair if it was OK for her to take the “Four Horseman” name to label her clique with fellow fighters Shayna Baszler, Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir. Her biggest foray into wrestling was an appearance alongside The Rock at Wrestlemania 31, where she flipped Triple H to the mat and threatened to break Stephanie McMahon’s arm. This led to a lot of speculation Rousey would soon appear in a WWE ring, and she’s expressed interest, but as long as she’s under contract to UFC, we’ll all likely be kept waiting.
1. Mike Tyson
Once Ted Turner hired Eric Bischoff and made the decision to beat Vince McMahon at his own game, the WWE hit hard times. The good guy vs. bad guy model always used was discarded by WCW in favor of cutting-edge programming such as the NWO and using luchadores. After losing in the Monday night TV ratings for months, McMahon fired back with what many consider the turnaround point when he hired Mike Tyson to serve as guest referee for the main event of Wrestlemania 15 between “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Shawn Michaels. Tyson, who was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame years later for his participation, double-crossed Shawn Michaels, giving the win to Austin and proving the Attitude Era was there to stay. Ironically, Tyson was dropped from a WWE plan years earlier where he was supposed to be a guest referee because James “Buster” Douglas shocked the world just days earlier before Tyson’s planned appearance by knocking him out during a boxing match in Japan.