Thanks to a few major bombs by a certain red and yellow clad icon, professional wrestlers don’t always have the best reputation as actors. Aside from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, anyway, who is now one of the highest paid actors in all of Hollywood. John Cena isn’t doing too badly for himself in film these days, either, finding key roles in a number of recent high-profile comedies. For whatever reason, though, it’s Hulk Hogan’s negative memories that cloud the minds of most wrestling fans and lead them to believe WWE superstars just can’t act.
That said, those who truly pay attention should be well aware wrestlers have been proving they can also be incredible actors in the right circumstances for decades. Well before Cena or The Rock were starring in blockbusters, and around the same time Hogan was stinking up the box office, other wrestlers were regularly appearing in all sorts of various TV shows and doing a much better job of it than they’ve ever done on the big screen.
Because television is a far more diverse and versatile medium than the average film, whenever wrestlers pop up on the small screen, the series they appear on can adapt to their talents and make them feel right at home. The catch is, these guest-starring gigs typically get a whole lot less attention than when a WWE superstar is in an upcoming potential blockbuster. Fans of the shows will find them extremely memorable, but if you weren’t watching at the time, you might never even know they happened. Keep reading to remember 15 classic wrestler appearances on TV shows you totally forgot about.
15. Goldberg on The Goldbergs
Being the most recent entry on this list, chances are anyone who saw former WCW and WWE World Champion Bill Goldberg appear on The Goldbergs remembers it well. Funny as the show and The Man’s role on it are, though, it’s only a moderate hit in the ratings, so it’s totally possible a good portion of the wrestling audience didn’t even know it happened. For those who don’t know, The Goldbergs doesn’t actually have anything to do with the wrestler, who simply shares his last name with the central characters. Even so, Goldberg claimed it was a natural fit from the day he walked onto the set, a connection that came across on camera. His character wasn’t actually a Goldberg, but rather the brother of Adam and Barry’s high school gym teacher, Coach Mellor. Coaching apparently ran in the family, leading to a sibling rivalry that Beverly’s yenta tendencies naturally felt the need to fix. Thus far, Goldberg has appeared on The Goldbergs twice, with more potential guest roles rumored for the future.
14. The Rock, Triple H, Big Show, and Mick Foley on Saturday Night Live
In May of 2017, The Rock made history yet again by becoming the first wrestler, and athlete in general, to become a member of Saturday Night Live’s heralded Five-Timers Club. If it isn’t obvious, this means he served as the host at least five times, but to many fans of comedy and The Great One, his first appearance was definitely the best. It’s not just the fact The Big Show, Mick Foley, and then-WWE Champion Triple H also appeared either, although the handful of sketches where they all interacted were true highlights — especially the incredible Nicotrel advertisement. In many respects, The Rock’s first SNL hosting gig was his coming out party as an actor and entertainer, proving he was far more than just a mere wrestler. Shortly thereafter, his movie roles started getting extremely successful, leading to his next four roles getting credited as Dwayne Johnson. Unfortunately, some of these later gigs tried to mask his wrestling past, making people forget about how hilarious he could be when digging into it instead.
13. Bret Hart On The Simpsons
Arguably the greatest contribution to entertainment created in America, just about everyone on earth is well aware of The Simpsons. The hilarious yellow family and their immense world called Springfield have been on our TV screens for over 30 years, and there’s still no end in sight to the hijinks they’ll get up to. There are at least two downsides to having been around forever, though. For one, all Simpsons fans are well aware the show has declined in quality over the years. Secondly, with over 600 episodes, it’s easy to forget minor details like the two scenes in “The Old Man and the Lisa” guest starring Bret Hart. The episode details Mr. Burns losing his vast fortune, including his mansion, which The Hitman decides to purchase after learning it’s next door to his fictional rival, The Shrieking Sheik. Even those who remember the appearance well might question if it was actually Hart in the role, as he strangely masked his voice, but we can confirm it was really him.
12. John Cena On Psych
In some respects, the theme song to Psych sounds a little bit like a description of kayfabe — “I know you know that I’m not telling the truth.” Throw in the fact that Psych, like Raw and SmackDown, happens to air on the USA Network, and perhaps it was inevitable main characters Shawn and Gus would be open and proud WWE super fans. For this reason, they must have been overjoyed to interact not only with John Cena, but also Mickie James, Stacy Keibler, The Miz, The Big Show, and both Bella Twins, all in various episodes. Of course, none of these superstars were acting as themselves, always able to adapt into memorable characters while playing along with Shawn’s fake psychic abilities. Cena’s episode is probably the most memorable, not only for his star power, but also the shocking turn that he was the episode’s secret villain all along. Psych never quite got the credit it deserved, so now that it’s over and USA has no reason to promote it anymore, wrestling fans might forget about all the great references it contained.
11. Kane On Smallville
Throughout his 20-year career as the Devil’s Favorite Demon, Kane has wrestled just about every single wrestler to compete for WWE. Apparently, this even includes Superman, although this particular match wasn’t inspired by Vince McMahon’s fever dreams. If it were up to Vince, the Big Red Machine would probably square off against the Man of Steel himself, but unfortunately, Smallville’s writers and producers decided he was better suited to play a villainous alien monster from the Phantom Zone named Titan. Vince at least would have been proud that Titan was a destructive monster similar to Kane’s status in WWE, beating many humans to a bloody pulp before Superman finally saved the day. In fact, replace Superman with John Cena, and the whole thing may as well take place in a WWE ring. All this means is that even those who don’t much care for the superhero genre might enjoy the episode if they do enjoy wrestling.
10. Rob Van Dam On City Guys
Despite airing on NBC’s Saturday morning schedule for five years, City Guys isn’t quite as fondly remembered today as other shows like Saved By the Bell, which it was partially modeled after. This might be due to the show’s unique focus on urban sensibilities, rejecting mainstream trends for more alternative concepts, which may not have resonated with its young audience. For example, rather than hire a WWE superstar to guest star on an episode about lead character El-Train’s dreams of becoming a wrestler, they went with then-ECW Television Champion Rob Van Dam. After a few short sparring sessions, El-Train is competent enough in the ring to save RVD from an attacking tag team. Unfortunately, although RVD thinks El-Train had what it took to become a star, he realized he was too young and focused on school to throw it all away and stick it out in ECW or any other wrestling organization. Given there was virtually no crossover between the Saturday morning crowd and ECW’s bloodthirsty fan base, few interested parties ever even heard about this one.
9. Sting On Walker, Texas Ranger
Ever wonder what Sting was up to between WCW going out of business and deciding to make a comeback for TNA? Well, in a way, an acting career both is and isn’t the answer. Sure, Sting, sometimes credited as Steve Borden, tried to get his footing in Hollywood, but most of the results turned out like his weird appearance on Chuck Norris’s cult classic Walker, Texas Ranger. Portraying a bizarre meth-dealing biker named Grangus, Sting didn’t look anything like Sting, and it wasn’t just the fact he understandably decided not to wear his face paint. Like most episodes of Walker, the action is more ridiculous and silly than it is quality entertainment, but fans of Conan O’Brien’s Walker lever will surely find things to appreciate. Fans of the Stinger, on the other hand, might just question his career choices.
8. Kevin Nash On Nikki
Though her career has largely stagnated today, there was actually a point in the late 1990s when Nikki Cox felt like something of a classic TV “it girl.” In addition to starring on The WB’s Happily Ever After, she had high-profile guest appearances on a half dozen other series, leading to her own program called Nikki. Strangely, it was giving her all the spotlight that slowly caused Nikki’s fame to wane, which is why most WWE fans probably don’t even know one of the main plotlines on the show focus on the fact her husband is a professional wrestler. Of course, he’s not a very good wrestler, as he’s really just a mere jobber who never appears on noteworthy cards — except one fateful night when he wrestles the promotion’s top star, The Big Easy, portrayed by Kevin Nash. In a relatively progressive move for a wrestler at the time, it’s eventually revealed that Nash’s character is gay, but he has to mask his feelings and pretend he loves women to earn the wrestling community’s respect. Still, the show’s low profile made it easy for the underlying message to reach many fans.
7. “Classy” Freddie Blassie On The Dick Van Dyke Show
Two full decades before Hulk Hogan even thought about appearing in his first movie, future Hulkster manager and WWE Hall of Famer “Classy” Freddie Blassie popped up on an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show. To this day, the comedic stylings of Rob and Laura Petrie and all their friends is recognized as some of the funniest sitcoms in history, but truth be told, Blassie’s guest-starring role didn’t happen on one of the best half hours. Rather than focus on comedy, the main point of his episode was a guest star named Randy Twizzle, singer of a catchy rock and roll number called “The Twizzle.” After multiple singing and dancing montages, Rob’s coworker Sally Rogers claims she’s discovered a dance craze even bigger than “The Twizzle” called “The Twazzle,” bringing out the iconic champion wrestler to perform his move. Apparently, “The Twazzle” is basically a fireman’s carry, which Blassie naturally performs on Van Dyke. Even though it wasn’t that funny or memorable, seeing a major wrestler on a sitcom way back in 1962 was notable in its own right.
6. The Rock On That ’70s Show
Nostalgia is hardly a new concept, and back in the 1990s, the Fox network used it to create a hit sitcom blatantly owing into the concept, simply called That ’70s Show. Of course, no show can survive on a throwback setting alone, with the terse relationship between lead character Eric Foreman and his father Red serving as one of the main plotlines. For all their differences, one thing Eric and Red actually have in common turns out to be a shared love for professional wrestling, though it does take the old man a little bit of convincing before realizing he shares his son’s interest. It’s the work of the most electrifying man in sports entertainment that does the trick, the catch being The Rock playing his father, Rocky Johnson, in his appearance. While The Great One is obviously the highlight, he didn’t come alone, as fellow WWE superstars Ken Shamrock, The Hardy Boyz, and Ernie Ladd were all on board, too, as was martial arts icon Gene LeBell. Bridging multiple generations, this is one any fan of ’70s, ’90s, or modern wrestling could all enjoy.
5. “Macho Man” Randy Savage On Dexter’s Laboratory
Like many Cartoon Network classics, Dexter’s Laboratory was actually several shows in one, and the titular boy genius never actually interacts with WWE Hall of Famer “Macho Man” Randy Savage in his guest appearance. Portraying an intergalactic wrestling champion named Rasslor, Savage nonetheless did manage to square off with just about every other character on the show, most notably Dexter’s pet primate/secret superhero Monkey. Rasslor’s modus operandi is challenging every fighter on a given planet to a duel, and if none can stand against him, he blows the whole place up and moves on to the next. Earth’s superheroes are no match to his Macho Madness, but the indomitable spirit of the little Monkey, who refuses to give up after getting beaten to a pulp multiple times, slowly makes him realize humanity might be worth saving — even if we are all a bunch of weaklings represented by a Monkey. In a way, it’s kind of beautiful, and can make even a pessimist shout, “Ooooh, yeah!”
4. Triple H On The Drew Carey Show
So begins the wrestling career of a WWE Hall of Famer. Now that Drew Carey has found his place in pop culture as the second host of The Price is Right, most TV viewers have forgotten all about the nine years he had his own sitcom. The Drew Carey Show was pretty typical of its era, but still managed to win over a decent amount of fans through its flamboyantly weird side characters like Oswald, Lewis, and the colorfully painted Mimi. For one episode, Drew made another memorable acquaintance in famed wrestler The Disciplinarian, played by then-WWE Intercontinental Champion Triple H. The iconic belt actually made its way to the program along with him and is pictured above around the waist of Drew’s friend Kate O’Brien. In that scene, the champ himself is passed out drunk on Buzz Beer, which he later speaks out against in an anti-drinking PSA. Luckily for Buzz Beer owner Drew, hardcore drinkers see this as an endorsement, wanting to prove they can withstanding the brew that knocked out the champ. Triple H might want people forgetting about this one, but that only makes it funnier in retrospect.
3. Dozens of WCW Wrestlers On Baywatch
Just because a given wrestler’s appearance on a certain show doesn’t make any goddamn sense whatsoever doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t still awesome. Somehow, when enough garbage TV mixes together into one spectacular explosion of weird, the results are much more entertaining than the sum of its parts. In 1995, the stagnant WCW product and a little show called Baywatch proved this by getting together to promote a different kind of bash at the beach. Wrestling fans were extremely bored by Hulk Hogan’s feud against Kevin Sullivan and his Dungeon of Doom, but for whatever reason, seeing it unfold in front of a confused and bored Pamela Anderson made it something special. Vader, Ric Flair, and “Macho Man” Randy Savage were all on board as well, likewise producing gold. Even less remembered is the fact Shawn Michaels also appeared on the show the next year. Unfortunately, he played a completely fictional character that had nothing to do with wrestling.
2. Vader And Jake Roberts On Boy Meets World
Cory Matthews and friends wandered through this road that we call life in a manner no ’90s kid could ever forget. Anyone alive at the time will always remember Boy Meets World and its classic moments, yet we could easily see younger viewers missing out on the fun, including the multiple episodes they dedicated entirely to professional wrestling. Being teenagers in the mid 1990s, it made total sense that Cory and Shawn would be big fans of WWE, and they really lucked out in that regard after learning their bully-turned-friend Frankie Stecchino was the son of none other than Big Van Vader. The most memorable of Vader’s several episodes was definitely the one centered around his big match against Jake “The Snake” Roberts, the winner of which would go on, in Frankie’s words, “the winner is in line for a shot at the belt against Sean Michaels at Madison Square Garden.” With Frankie, Shawn, and Cory’s hilariously simplistic advice, Vader manages to win the big one, growling his way into our childhoods forever.
1. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper On It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia
Of all the great performances highlighted on this list, there’s no doubt in our minds the greatest of all was “Rowdy” Roddy Piper’s two-episode stint as The Maniac on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. The iconic WWE Hall of Famer had already proven himself as a great actor in the sci-fi classic They Live, and his interviews guaranteed everyone was well aware of Piper’s incredible comedic wit. Still, he completely transformed into a psychotic and very literal Maniac each time he hung out with the gang. Quite frankly, it’s hard to imagine anyone who calls themselves a fan of Always Sunny or Piper ever forgetting this one, as literally everything his character says and does is outrageously funny. Who could forget him nearly breaking the Paddy’s phone in a fit of rage over $15, or the fact he carries around barbed wire and buckets of chestnuts in his car? That said, it was just too good for us to leave off the list. Also, it’s good for the soul to take the time and remember The Maniac loves you.
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