The wrestling business is often unoriginal. With many wrestlers, it’s easy to pick out their influences. How many pro wrestlers inspired by Ric Flair throw chops during their matches? How many wrestlers right now are throwing superkicks as part of their repertoire after growing up watching Shawn Michaels? How many wrestlers coming up in the business are struggling to create their own signature catchphrase, having grown up watching catchphrase masters like The Rock and Steve Austin?
While wrestlers are obviously influenced by other wrestlers, it is important to acknowledge that inspiration comes from many places. Music, books, television, movies, even video games all have a hand in inspiring today’s wrestlers. Those inspirations that create the wrestling character also play a large role in connecting the wrestler with the audience. For instance, I’m sure many of the nerds that comprise the WWE Universe shrieked in amazement when they heard Xavier Woods play the opening riff to Final Fantasy VII’s “Victory Fanfare” on his trombone and became big New Day fans at that moment.
Perhaps the largest and most obvious influence on the creative end of the world of wrestling is movies. Dusty Rhodes often viewed booking wrestling as “making movies,” even naming the wrestling pay-per-view Starrcade as a reference to a certain giant blockbuster science-fiction motion picture. Thus, as a means of illustrating the influence that Hollywood has on wrestling, the following is a list of 15 awesome wrestling gimmicks you may have forgotten were inspired by movies.
15. Goldust: Star Wars
Dustin Runnels was plain-old Dustin Rhodes, the son of a son of a plumber in early-90’s WCW, before entering the World Wrestling Federation and donning the persona of Goldust. The bizarre one, who often played “mind games” with his opponents (“mind games” was commentator Vince McMahon’s not so subtle way of saying “gay stuff”), was initially billed from Hollywood and his whole gold outfit was a reference to the gold Oscar statue. In his return to WWE in his later years, he has obviously drawn inspiration from Star Wars, as he paints his face exactly like Darth Maul. Now wrestling in his late-forties, he’s still one of the best workers on the roster, and it’s a shame that he doesn’t come to the ring with a giant gold lightsaber.
14. Shelton Benjamin: Big Mama’s House
This is probably the most ridiculous movie inspiration. In 2006, Shelton Benjamin was managed by his mother, a large African-American woman simply referred to as “Momma Benjamin.” One might gather that Vince McMahon saw the movie Big Mama’s House featuring Martin Lawrence and believed it to be the funniest movie that he had ever seen. How not subtle was the reference, you might be wondering? During one segment, Eugene, a character with a developmental disability, pointed at Shelton’s mama and declared something along the lines of, “I recognize you from Big Mama’s House 2!!” The gimmick only lasted a few months, but Momma Benjamin remains in our hearts forever.
13. Hulk Hogan: Rocky III
This inspiration might not be so obvious in terms of the Hulkster’s character, but without question, Rocky III was a giant mainstream success and played a huge role in shaping modern wrestling. Firstly, Hulk Hogan gained mainstream notoriety by landing the role of Thunderlips, the wrestler who, in the film, challenges Rocky to a wrestler vs boxer match at a charity event. Second, this led to Mr. T’s involvement in the main event of the first WrestleMania, as T teamed with Hogan to wrestle Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff in a Tag match. Third, during the first WrestleMania, Hogan actually comes to the ring to the tune of Eye of the Tiger, and the US Express uses Hulkster’s most associated theme song Real American during an earlier match — although this has been dubbed over in later home video releases. Lastly, Sylvester Stallone himself inducted Hogan into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005. As one can see, not only did Rocky defeat communism, he also brought Hulkamania to the masses and changed America forever.
12. Zeus: No Holds Barred
No Holds Barred is an awful WWF-produced film released in 1989 starring Hulk Hogan as fictional pro wrestler Rip, who feuds with fictional pro wrestler Zeus, played by actor Tiny Lister. Perhaps the most noteworthy thing to come out of this movie was that Tiny Lister actually wrestled as Zeus, teaming with Randy Savage to wrestle Hulk Hogan and Brutus Beefcake at SummerSlam. This would not be the only time that a character from a movie walked into the legitimate world of pro wrestling, but might be the most successful in terms of box office for a pay per view.
11. Chris Jericho: This is Spinal Tap
Chris Jericho obviously draws inspiration from the world of rock and roll, as he does moonlight as lead singer for the mediocre metal band Fozzy. A big part of the inspiration for Y2J’s wrestling persona, especially during his younger days in WCW, comes from the movie This is Spinal Tap. The influence is so much so, that during one episode of Nitro, we see Jericho wander around backstage as he tries to find the way to the ring, much like the band can’t find the stage and wanders around backstage in the classic scene from the movie This is Spinal Tap. It is also fitting that on this list Jericho gets the spot of 11, which is louder than 10.
10. Time Splitters: Back to the Future
New Japan Pro Wrestling’s tag team The Time Splitters, comprised of Alex Shelley and Kushia, are two high-flying junior heavyweights who love the film Back to the Future. While Kushida often comes to the ring wearing a life-preserver fashioned vest, in the style of Marty McFly, on more than one occasion the team has come to the ring at big shows in a DeLorean! In fact, on the way to the ring at this year’s Wrestle Kingdom event, Kushida did such an entrance and even had Ryusuke Taguchi dress as Doc Brown remain at ringside for his match against Kenny Omega, who also has some Hollywood influence in his wrestling character.
9. Kenny Omega: The Terminator
A Canadian pro wrestler and Japanese sensation Kenny Omega is having a big run in New Japan right now as de facto leader of the Bullet Club and current IWGP Intercontinental Champion. Kenny “the Cleaner” Omega, who’s nickname could be a subtle Pulp Fiction reference, is more obviously influenced by The Terminator. His ring gear involves big aviator sunglasses and a leather jacket, which is not uncommon in wrestling, but part of his repertoire of moves involving The Terminator Dive, which involves him starting in a crouched position like he has just traveled through time, then bouncing off the ropes and diving to the outside of the ring onto his opponent while the Young Bucks slap the ring apron from the outside to the theme of The Terminator.
8. Triple H: Conan the Barbarian
Triple H is a huge Arnold Schwarzenegger fan and is apparently is also a big fan of the film Conan the Barbarian. While he does not dress like Conan every week on Raw, his stance and how he carries himself to the ring, and the logos on his ring gear are reminiscent of the film. Also, he has made a point of dressing up exactly like the character for elaborate ring entrances at WrestleMania for the past ten years, even when he was supposed to look like The Terminator.
7. The Blue Meanie: Yellow Submarine
The Blue Meanie, as famously portrayed in wrestling by Brian Heffron in ECW, WWE and elsewhere, is the brain-child of the creative mind of Raven. Member of the bWo, Blue World Order, The Blue Meanie character is a tribute to The Beatles, as “blue meanies” are a race of creatures from the film Yellow Submarine who hate music. The Beatles thought up blue meanies to represent all of the terrible, hateful people of the world, which is odd because the “Da Blue Guy” that wrestling fans all know and love is so jolly and huggable.
6. Bray Wyatt: Cape Fear
The Bray Wyatt gimmick was previously done in a similar gimmick by Dan Spivey as Waylon Mercy in mid-90s WWF. The character is a tribute to Robert De Niro’s villainous character Max Cady, in the 1991 film Cape Fear. Wyatt dresses similar, talks similar, and is even from a similar geographic location presumably. WWE did take the idea of the creepy Max Cady further with Wyatt by having him be a cult leader, growing a beard, and being more of a hill-billy. Still, if you’re only familiar with Bray Wyatt and have not seen the film, take some time to watch Cape Fear if you haven’t seen it and you’ll be surprised that De Niro doesn’t say “We’re here!” before blowing out a kerosene lamp.
5. Bret Hart: The Natural
Bret Hart is a no-nonsense fighting wrestler from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, who wears pink and grew up in a wrestling family. Even wrestling under his real name, how could his gimmick be influenced by a movie? Well, in his autobiography Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling, Hart admits that he borrowed his well known catchphrase, “best there is, best there was, and the best there ever will be” from the 1984 sports-drama The Natural starring Robert Redford. This is actually pretty neat to reflect on. It would be like if “Do you smell what the Rock is cooking?” was a line from Field of Dreams.
4. Razor Ramon: Scarface
Scott Hall actually created the Razor Ramon character himself, based off of the movie Scarface. Calling himself “The Bad Guy,” calling men “mane,” and many other aspects of the character all came from Al Pacino’s portrayal of the Cuban drug lord Tony Montana. Story has it that Hall came to Vince McMahon with the idea of being a Cuban from Miami who wears lots of gold and talks like Tony Montana. Vince, who actually had never seen Scarface, thought that Hall was a creative genius and Razor Ramon went on to be one of the most successful Latin American wrestlers of all-time. Less notably, Armando Estrada who managed Umaga later in WWE, also borrowed aspects of his character from Tony Montana.
3. Sting: The Crow
Sting reinvented himself as the “Crow-Sting” character in the mid-90s to be the protagonist against the nWo, and is without question one of the most successful movie rip-off gimmicks in wrestling. Looking EXACTLY like Brandon Lee in the movie The Crow, WCW was actually never sued for this blatant copy of the character because its parent company Time-Warner also produced the movie and owned the rights to The Crow. Story has it that Scott Hall also created this one, as Kevin Nash once dressed like The Crow for a costume party and Hall suggested to Sting that he dress like Nash did at that party that one time. Hall, without ever seeing The Crow, for the second time in his career helped to create a successful movie influenced wrestling gimmick. Additionally, Sting went on to copy Heath Ledger‘s Joker character during his TNA run, going so far as to paint his face like the Joker and copy dialogue from the movie during his promos.
2. The Dudley Boyz: Slap Shot
The Dudley Boyz may be the most subtle and least known movie influenced characters in wrestling. The Dudley Boyz, as they were formed in ECW like the Blue Meanie, were also from the mind of Raven. Later becoming one of the most successful Tag Teams in all of wrestling, the initial idea for the Dudley Boyz stems from the characters the Hanson Brothers from the 1977 sports comedy Slap Shot. The thick-rimmed glasses, dim-wittedness and violence that we associate with Bubba Ray and D-Von all started with the thick-rimmed glasses, dim-wittedness and violence that we saw in the Hanson Brothers as they tried to elbow and hip-check the Charlestown Chiefs to the championship.
1. The Road Warriors aka The Legion of Doom: Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior
The Road Warriors are perhaps the greatest Tag Team in wrestling history, and also perhaps have the greatest, most awesome movie inspired gimmick. Hawk and Animal were two bada**, jacked-up, muscle-heads from Chicago with a moveset that consisted of 100% power moves, who also thought that the movie Mad Max was pretty cool. Their entire gimmick with the shoulder pats, the spikes, the Mohawks, and even their name “The Road Warriors,” was all taken from the series Mad Max. Without a shadow of a doubt, the Road Warriors to this day are pretty darn cool and remain as one of the most influential Tag Teams in wrestling history.