WWE wrestler Cody Rhodes’ recent comments that if he could challenge any celebrity to a wrestling match, he’d pick Morgan Freeman got me thinking. From Andre the Giant and Rowdy Roddy Piper to Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Stone Cold Steve Austin, we’ve seen plenty of wrestlers turned actors with varying degrees of success but what actors could be wrestling stars? After all, putting aside the ability to actually wrestle (although that’s never stopped the Great Khali), being able to talk and to emote through facial expressions and body language is something needed as much in the performative art of wrestling as it is in thesping and those who are good at it could conceivably (in a fantasy world) translate pretty easily. Here’s a few of my picks which I think could make the leap into the grappling world.
Note: Mickey Rourke is too obvious a choice after starring in The Wrestler so not mentioning him.
1. Vin Diesel
Might as well start with The Rock’s Fast and Furious co-star. Vin Diesel has the height and muscles most vanilla midgets would envy for success in the size obsessed world of WWE. Moreover, he’s got presence to spare, the distinctive bald head and handsome features and just imagine him delivering promos in that undulating bass voice. It’d send chills down your spine.
2. Jane Lynch
The distinguished character actress and comedienne finally achieved the mainstream recognition she has long deserved with her breakthrough role as Sue Sylvester, the mean, sharp-tongued cheerleaders coach on Glee. That martinet of a character would make a pretty good fit for a manager, not least of the Bella twins. It surprises me actually that during Monday Night Raw‘s phase of having guest hosts that Lynch wasn’t recruited for a one-off appearance putting the Divas through their paces with her trusty megaphone. It would have been more entertaining than watching Al Sharpton shiteing on about literacy.
3. Hugh Jackman
The erstwhile Wolverine on the other hand has done guest hosting duties on Raw and was a hoot interacting with Dolph Ziggler, who got great mileage out of claiming Jackman injured his jaw with a knockout punch. Key to Jackman’s success hosting the show was his undisguised enthusiasm in the role It made the crowd warm to him and it’s easy to see him bringing the same vulnerability he showed as Jean Valjean in Les Misérables, and the berserker-rage arse kicking he dished out in X-Men 2‘s mansion invasion scene to getting over as a babyface. The girls and a lot of guys would like him for his looks, the rest would respect his multitude of talents including singing and dancing which could come in pretty useful in such a variety show atmosphere as wrestling.
4. Sacha Baron Cohen
Jackman’s Les Mis co-star’s commitment to staying in character at all times would put The (original) Sheik to shame, and Baron Cohen’s penchant for playing OTT weirdos would certainly make for interesting viewing in the inevitable feud with Goldust. His comic talents, especially when responding to criticism, as anyone who saw his in-character response as Admiral General Aladeen to being banned from the Academy Awards is something the WWE creative team should take note of when it comes to dealing with criticism of their own product as the recent Glenn Beck debacle attests.
5. Robert Downey Jr.
For what the Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes star lacks in height he more than makes up for in charisma, likeability and smart-ass quips. It’s the latter aspect that would make him an excellent colour commentator rather than an in-ring performer. There hasn’t been a genuinely funny commentator since Bobby Heenan retired and Jerry Lawler started phoning it in every week, so hearing an on-the-ball, snarking Downey would be a breath of fresh air compared to the overrated likes of John Bradshaw Layfield’s listing facts gleaned from Google and bullying his co-anchors, or Michael Cole’s inane parroting of whatever company line or catchphrase he’s had shouted down his earpiece. Being that commentating is such an important part of putting across a storyline to the TV audience, Downey can switch on the gravitis when necessary too and, if it comes to it, there’s still that unresolved grudge match with his old mucker Dredger a.k.a. Kurrgan.
Those are my picks off the top of my head but I’d love to hear other ideas from readers so feel free to leave feedback. Until next time, I’ll see you at the ringside. I mean, at the pictures.