It makes sense that wrestling has always leaned to appearances from celebrities. Wrestling is a mix of both sports and entertainment; it always was long before Vince McMahon came along. So naturally, promoters have pushed for some stars to show up. It wasn’t common until the 1980s when WWE’s shooting to power with “The Rock n Wrestling Connection” made it a major thing. Linking WWE with stars like Cyndi Lauper made it huge and WrestleMania got attention for being packed with celebrities like Billy Martin and Liberace. WWE went too far with folks in WrestleMania 2 but still bring some stars in for the bigger shows as well as other antics. WCW would follow suit and in some cases, not too bad at times.
Sadly, the bad appearances outweigh the good ones by a wide margin. Everyone from SNL stars as movie characters to the Muppets heavily criticized WWE for their “RAW Guest Host” period where they had the show hosted. But they still seem miles above some of the stupid antics in wrestling past and present. WCW had some of the most infamously horrible celebrity appearances ever, several of which can be credited with driving the company downward majorly. TNA also has problems with promoting a big celebrity (who often is B-list at best) over their regular talent. Slews of examples abound, but here are the biggest of the bunch. 15 celebrities who should never have been allowed near a wrestling ring and the fact they got huge promotion and paydays over the real workers is a key reason wrestling is so hard to take seriously by so many.
Arli$$ (that’s how it was spelled) was one of those shows that you either loved or hated, no in between. Robert Wuhl starred in the title role of an egotistical sports agent who would do anything to get ahead. Running a major six seasons, the show was successful but also riled critics up with some stupid stuff. Leave it to WCW to wait until the show was almost at the end of its run to decide to use it. In 1999, Scott Hudson and Bobby Heenan welcomed Arliss onto the show to do broadcasting. Note, they welcomed Arliss as Wuhl came out completely in character and proceeded to talk about him wanting to represent the wrestlers. So, he was a fictional character noting how he starred in a show about himself which was also fictional. Even for wrestling, this was blurring the lines way too much to take. Arliss spent his time promoting Dennis Rodman as bigger than all of WCW combined and ignoring the match totally. It ended with Rodman coming in and Arliss urging to sign him on, before a big brawl came out. He vanished immediately and for all his talent, Wuhl couldn’t save this from one of the dumbest ideas of an already dumb period for WCW.
14 Macaulay Culkin
Once, the Cruiserweight title was a really big deal for WWE, a serious belt that helped guys out. But then in 2007, they let Hornswoggle win the title, the leprechaun character was a joke and so the belt was turned into one as well. Former champion Chavo Guerrero was out to win the belt back and soon facing Hornswoggle in one incredibly stupid match after another. This included bouts of him on his knees, hands tied behind his back and in a cow outfit. One bout was a falls-count-anywhere match where Chavo chased Hornswoggle into the back, hunting him through doors. Opening one up, Chavo was met by a paint pail on a string that slammed into his face to knock him out cold. Coming from another room, Hornswoggle got the pin. As Chavo got up, he found the guy who had thrown the pail was none other than Macaulay Culkin. On paper, it must have sounded good, Culkin channeling his Home Alone character but in truth, it came off just random and stupid as Culkin just shrugged and walked off, looking totally bored by this. A bizarre sequence that just wasted so much.
13 Leslie Nielsen
Once, Leslie Nielsen was an actually serious actor, even auditioning for Ben-Hur. That all changed when Airplane and The Naked Gun made him a go-to comedic actor with his deadpan expression lending well to comedy. In 1994, WWE had an angle of the Undertaker vanishing and hired Nielsen to find him. Acting up like Frank Drebin, Nielsen was shown in videos hunting at hotels, pools and other places, always searching and somehow missing the six and a half foot tall guy in black clothing walking behind him. WWE spent weeks doing this, promoting this as a huge thing despite how the videos looked very cheap and too nutty for fans to buy into. It was a real time waster (even back when WWE specialized in that) and too much a comic element to what should have been a spooky story. It culminated at SummerSlam where Nielsen joined with George Kennedy to walk the arena searching still and showed how even his comedic skills couldn’t salvage this horrible angle.
12 Jeremy Piven
Piven is a terrific actor and has proven his worth over the years. From shows like Ellen and Cupid, Piven mastered playing a smarmy jerk who could be likeable at times. He used that for his most famous role, of super-agent Ari Gold on the long running hit Entourage that won him three Emmys. So WWE thought he could fit in as one of RAW’s guest hosts. Sadly, while a good actor with a script, Piven wasn’t at his best in a live setting. He seemed ill at ease, rough, stumbling and some openly wondered if he was drunk. Not helping was Ken Leong as his sidekick who also acted rather freakish. This led to the infamous moment where Piven snapped that if the Miz interfered in a match, “You will be banned from the Summer Fest!” The fans howled with laughter as later in the show, Piven leapt off the top rope at John Cena and got an AA for his trouble. The most laughable of all RAW guest hosts and a showcase of how some actors really can’t cut it for wrestling.
11 Donald Trump
Maybe it’s no surprise Trump and Vince McMahon got along well. They were both egotistical, loud-mouthed, obnoxious men who loved the limelight. They had worked before with a couple of WrestleManias from Trump Plaza and other appearances over the years. So it made sense in a way Trump got more involved with WWE in 2006 with him “buying” RAW. The promos raged with the stage soon set for “The Battle of The Billionaires,” (forgetting the tiny technicality neither man was an actual billionaire) for WrestleMania as McMahon’s agent, Umaga, faced Bobby Lashley with the stipulation the loser had his head shaved. The idea of Trump’s infamous hairdo being cut was intriguing, but he just seemed bored by the whole thing and his smugness so damn annoying. Lashley won and the sight of Vince being shaved bald was funny, but Trump didn’t seem at all into it. It’s a key reason why Trump was never taken seriously in his Presidential run, as this is an act as far away from Presidential as you can possibly get.
The popularity of The Jersey Shore remains baffling to many people. Somehow, a collection of idiots pushing every stereotype of Jersey life became a huge hit and a cultural phenomenon. The biggest of the bunch (in terms of fame) was Nicole Lavelle, aka Snooki, the pint-sized, well-stacked, loud-mouthed gal with the outrageous fashion. Despite how hated the show was by critics, it was a big enough hit for WWE to bring Snooki in for an appearance in 2011. This led to a “fight” with LayCool where Snooki was made out to be a bigger deal than the real wrestlers. This set up a Mania battle of Snooki teaming with Trish Stratus and John Morrison to beat LayCool. The sight of Stratus, one of the finest female workers around, letting this reality show freak get the pin was ridiculous and showing a very low point for women’s wrestling, even by WWE’s own lofty standards.
9 Master P
A famous case of waste even by WCW’s standards. In 1999, the company decided to hire rapper Master P to come in and push his albums while also bringing in new fans with hip-hop music. Master P began showing up on Nitro doing his raps and wasting a lot of time with bad promos. He also brought in the No Limit Soldiers, a posse of rappers of little talent that got a push as well. Soon, the West Texas Rednecks, a band of Jeff Jarrett, Barry Windham and others who cut a hysterical song “Rap is Crap”, targeted them. The problem from the start was that WCW’s audience was Southern based and more inclined to country than hip-hop. Also, the Soldiers outnumbered the Rednecks so the fans cheered the actual wrestlers on. WCW wanted the Soldiers as the faces so basically dropped the entire thing and thus wasted a few hundred grand on Master P doing some bad rapping. A massive waste of time and talent that proved WCW just didn’t understand its own audience.
8 Johnny Fairplay
Born Jon Dalton, Fairplay got his nickname for his tenure on Survivor where he lied about a dying grandma to become a player that viewers loved to hate. After various other reality shows, Fairplay found a home in TNA as in 2004, the company decided to pay $100,000 for his “services.” This included a feud with A.J. Styles where Fairplay used Lex Luger to fight back against Styles and looked bad. Soon, he got into a program wanting to become Dusty Rhodes’ personal assistant. This included the Against All Odds PPV where Trinity and Traci showed Fairplay behind the scenes finding “clues” Dusty laid out for a contract and getting beat up. He returned later to “sign up” a new tag team to absolutely no takers. In either case, TNA wasted a hundred grand on an annoying guy to waste tons of time en route to ruining shows, a standard for the company.
7 Kevin Federline
The man has become a walking punch line for years. A would-be rapper, his big claim to fame was being married to Britney Spears from 2004 to 2007 and known as an arrogant jerk of the highest order. He was still a big name so WWE thought he’d be fun to have around for a while. He came in as a “friend” to Johnny Nitro and Melina to do a bad rap that ended with John Cena entering. In one of his most acclaimed moments, Cena hit an AA on Federline that had the fans cheering him on. Federline soon got payback by hitting Cena with the belt at Cyber Sunday, costing Cena a win to Booker T. Federline then challenged Cena to a match on RAW that was a true joke, massive interference and goofy stuff abounding before Umaga ran in to take Cena out and let Federline win. That’s right: John Cena jobbed to Kevin Federline. Cena did get one last AA to put this feud to bed and Federline was dumped by WWE fast as his divorce to Britney was going through. Complain about Cena all you want, but one has to feel sorry for him getting involved in this mess.
6 Gary Spivey
Back in the 1990s, you couldn’t flip around a TV station without seeing an ad for the Psychic Friends Hotline. A batch of folks urging a call and for just a few dollars, making predictions on your fortune, they actually did big business. The most popular of these was Spivey, notable for his thick white mustache and a hairdo that looked like a Brillo pad. In 1995, Paul Orndorff was shown down on himself, complaining over his lack of push and considering quitting. Suddenly, Spivey entered the locker room to help out. “I had a vision, I knew you were in trouble!” He gave Orndorff a big pep talk, telling him how he was still Mr. Wonderful and fantastic and should believe in that. Orndorff was so fired up by this wonderful talk that…he retired a few months later. Spivey is still around today with that crazy hair but one didn’t need psychic powers to predict his appearance with WCW could be a flop.
This one truly blows one away that it was even conceived, let alone put on the air. 1990 really was the year WCW moved away from being the alternative to WWE to aping them constantly in stupid stuff. Sting and Ric Flair were feuding but Sting suffered a real knee injury to put him on the shelf for a while. Wanting to keep the push up, WCW had Sting announcing he’d be showing up at Capitol Combat with…Robocop. At the time, a sequel to the classic action movie was coming to theaters and WCW thought this would be good cross-promotion. The sight of legendary announcer Gordon Solie calling Robocop (not even Peter Weller, just a guy in the metal suit) entering the arena was ridiculous. The Horsemen who threw him into a small cage that just happened to be set by the ring attacked Sting. Robocop slowly marched out which somehow terrified the Horsemen to run and Robocop tearing the door off to let Sting out. It was one of the nuttiest moments ever seen in wrestling and the start of one nutty decade for WCW.
4 Jenna Morasca
It’s not only the worst match in TNA’s history but perhaps the worst women’s match of all time. In a period where their own Knockouts were taking second jobs to get by, TNA decided to hire on Jenna, whose major claim to fame was Survivor years before and paid her $100,000. They pushed her into a feud with Booker T’s wife Sharmell and that set up a match at Victory Road 2009. It’s a match that would gain the elite “minus 5 stars” rating from most every website reviewers and easily the worst match of the year. The two went at it with a terrible set of moves where Jenna botched everything from getting into the ring to the simplest of maneuvers, all of which had the crowd turning on the match big time. It ended with Jenna victorious but an absolute low point for both TNA and all of women’s wrestling as a whole to show how terrible TNA and celebrities mix.
3 Jay Leno
In 1998, after dominating the Monday Night War for so long, WCW was feeling it as WWE finally took over. Desperate to get back on top and obsessed with the ratings, WCW decided to reach to a major star: Jay Leno. Eric Bischoff began by mocking The Tonight Show on Nitro with overly long segments repeating jokes that wasted airtime. Leno had issues with Bischoff and Hulk Hogan coming onto the Tonight Show to face Leno, DDP coming out to save him. Thus, the main event for the Road Wild PPV was DDP and Leno facing Hogan and Bischoff. Maybe it was best this took place in front of a non-paying crowd of bikers as hard to imagine this selling out any arena. The match was as bad as one could imagine with the sight of Leno holding Hogan in an arm bar for a minute just so new photographers could get the image of a 50-year-old, flabby talk show host manhandling one of the sport’s biggest stars. Many a person watching said it was embarrassing for the entire business, a wretched moment and showcased how Bischoff’s obsession with media pushed WCW in bad directions.
2 Pacman Jones
As seen by this list, TNA has some serious issues with hiring celebrities and pushing them hard. But Jones may be the worst of the lot. In 2007, TNA decided to sign on Jones, who was getting major press during his time with the Tennessee Titans. However, that was because Jones was wanted for his involvement with a shooting in Las Vegas and he was on suspension. TNA didn’t let that stop them from signing Jones on for a major push. However, due to his contract with the NFL, Jones couldn’t actually have any physical contact. Not letting a tiny thing like that get in the way, TNA had Jones team with Ron Killings and win the tag team titles. Which meant half the tag team champions was contractually barred from actually wrestling, a move TNA was slammed for hard. Jones just looked totally bored as TNA pushed him hard before they “lost” the belts and showed how incredibly stupid pushing him was for the company.
1 David Arquette
This is the moment WCW passed the point of no return. In 2000, the company had agreed to work with the movie Ready to Rumble, a flop comedy with Arquette as a superfan convinced wrestling is all real and pushing his hero (Oliver Platt) into a real match. The movie had major WCW stars in it but was ravaged by critics and failing at the box office. WCW was determined to push it however and so star Arquette got plenty of time on shows, teaming with DDP a lot. During a meeting, Tony Schiavone (in a moment he wishes he could take back) joked that with all the publicity, they should make Arquette the champion.
Leave it to Vince Russo to believe this was a genius idea. On April 26th, 2000, Arquette teamed with DDP to face WCW Champion Jeff Jarrett and Eric Bischoff with the stipulation whoever got the pin was the champion. After DDP fought on his own, Arquette stumbled out and pinned Bischoff. Thus, the WCW title was now in the hands of a B-list actor, a moment the fans hated. Arquette “defended” the title a bit before allowing Jarrett to win it back in one of Russo’s “shocking swerves.” Arquette hated it as much as anyone, giving the money he was paid to the families of Owen Hart and Brian Pillman to help raise his character. Russo still defends this as good for business, but all it did was serve as one of the final nails in WCW’s coffin.