With Canadian actor Stephen Amell’s in-ring debut and Jon Stewart as guest host, SummerSlam is a buzz with celebrities this year.
Now this is far from the first time wrestling has used celebrities to get itself into mainstream media so let's take a look at some of the best and worst uses of celebrities in wrestling history.
Cyndi Lauper also probably deserved to be on this list for her involvement but we’ve given the nod to Mr. T.
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In 1985, the WWE and Vince McMahon bet it all on the WrestleMania PPV – had it flopped; there may well not be a WWE today.
The rise in mainstream popularity of Hulk Hogan and the Rock & Wrestling connection definitely contributed but the big celebrity involvement of the first two WrestleMania’s was BA Baracus himself.
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In the first main event of WrestleMania Mr T & Hulk Hogan teamed up to face Paul Orndorff and the late Roddy Piper in a match which helped launched a new era in wrestling.
Piper & Mr T’s feud would continue with the two squaring off in a boxing match at WrestleMania 2 the following year which Mr T would win by disqualification. T was no ring technician but his entertaining feud with Piper helped launch the WWE’s early PPVs.
Few non-wrestlers deserve to go into the WWE Hall of Fame but I think Pete Rose may be one of the ones that belong.
Rose is known in the baseball world for his permanent ineligibility from the sport due to accusations he bet on baseball whilst an active coach, so a natural heel Rose came out as special guest ring announcer at WrestleMania 14 and cut a heel promo on the Boston Red Sox – then was tombstoned by the seven foot monster Kane.
Now the tombstone piledriver is a dangerous move, just ask Steve Austin, in fact only Undertaker & Kane are allowed to use it so for Rose to agree to take the move (although a very safe looking piledriver) is something most celebrities probably wouldn’t, but Rose played ball and he went down in wrestling folklore.
Then it got better, the following year at WrestleMania 15, Rose appeared again, this time as the San Diego Chicken (the event was in Philadelphia) before being tombstoned by Kane again, then the running gag was done a third time at WrestleMania 2000 but despite being done three times it’s still a beloved spot by fans.
Rose was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004 by Kane and is still referenced occasionally to this day on WWE TV.
Arnie is an American icon, a former Mr. Olympia and a box office smash hit.
He’s also a big wrestling fan being a long time friend of former WWWF Champion Bruno Sammartino and when WWE needed a big name star to sell people on their new B-show Smackdown, Schwarzenegger was the perfect choice.
The Schwarzenegger episode was in November 1999 (days before the cinematic release of the film End of Days) but the episode was less plugging the film and more seeing Arnie having fun.
He would interact with fan favourites The Rock & Stone Cold and backhand heel Triple H during a stint on commentary. The episode did a 5.1 rating, by far the best Smackdown rating in 1999 and 3 points higher than WCW Thunder of the same night, which only did a 2.1.
Schwarzenegger wasn’t the greatest commentator in the final segment by any means but as someone who would’ve been an inspiration to the boys growing up it was clear everyone was thrilled to have him on the show and his backhand to Triple H was a lot more believable than David Arquette winning a World Championship.
The future Govenor would leave with a title belt however, with Vince McMahon presenting him a replica WWE Championship and proclaiming him the “Champion of the Box Office” – such a shame End of Days’ box office numbers were below what Universal Studios hoped for.
As stupid as WWE’s initially idea of trying to promote the biggest heel in boxing as a babyface was, the actual end result was pretty decent.
‘Money’ Mayweather is one of the greatest boxers of all-time, he’s 48-0 in professional bouts and there’s good reason to believe he’ll retire undefeated so as WWE geared up for WrestleMania 24 why not try to cash in on the most hated man in boxing following his recent in-ring retirement?
In the hope that Mayweather would actually be cheered, they set up Money to face the returning Big Show who was coming back from a 14 month absence in the hope the David versus Goliath matchup would create sympathy for Mayweather.
It would not; the double turn would eventually come in the lead up to the event and Mayweather would play up to his heel antics by appearing to walk out of the No DQ match and eventually putting Show away with brass knuckles.
The feud gave some memorable moments like Mayweather legitimately breaking Big Show’s nose at their initial square off at No Way Out and Show throwing Mayweather into a crowd of wrestlers at their weigh-in, the match itself was also pretty good in what turned out to be one of the best WrestleMania’s of all time.
Undoubtedly the best use of a celebrity ever was Mike Tyson in 1998 and at WrestleMania 14.
WWE were in dire straits at this time, Bret Hart had left, morale was low and Raw is War’s ratings were so bad in comparison to WCW Monday Nitro that the USA Network were actually considering cancelling.
Vince McMahon needed to pull one rabbit out of the hat or the company that had been in his family for three generations was going under.
The answer to all his problems was one man, Mike Tyson. Tyson was banned from boxing following his infamous rematch with Evander Holyfield in 1997 when he bit Holyfield’s ears and was disqualified.
Like Mayweather, Tyson was the biggest and one of the most controversial names in boxing, one of the biggest names in world and he pulled a crowd and publicity anywhere he went. McMahon paid him $3 million to appear at WrestleMania 14 but before the event came one of the most remembered segments in Raw history.
It was January 19 1998, the night after Stone Cold had won his second consecutive Royal Rumble and there was no doubting it this year – he would be in the main event of WrestleMania.
Vince made the stunning announcement that Tyson would be the special guest enforcer in that main event, Austin came to the ring told Tyson that Austin was the “toughest SOB in the world” and flipped him off.
Tyson shoved Stone Cold, which led to the pair squaring off before officials and Tyson’s entourage separated the two all the while Vince McMahon screaming at Austin telling him, he’d ruined it – foreshadowing their future feud.
It was gold, Raw didn’t win the ratings war that night, but it did bump the number up from the low 3s to a 4. However, the involvement of Tyson was a huge success, WrestleMania’s buyrate went up from 237,000 in 1997 (its lowest ever number) to 730,000 in 1998.
A week after WrestleMania 14 Raw would win its first head to head ratings battle since June 10 1996 and by the end of October 1998, they wouldn’t lose another head to head week with WCW.
Miller Lite Catfight Girls
I bet you don’t remember these, do you?
Many view WrestleMania 19 as the second best ever WrestleMania and I’m inclined to agree, it had many great matches and if it wasn’t for it being in a time where business and interest was down it’d probably remembered even more fondly.
However, other than Limp Bizkit’s two terrible performances of Rollin’ & Crack Addict this was the pits. Now, I’m English and I was also nine when this PPV aired, so excuse me when I say I haven’t the foggiest who the Miller Lite Catfight Girls are.
From what I can gather they were two models who argued on adverts to the point they would ‘catfight’ to try and sell beer. Now that’s all well and good but why does it need to be on a wrestling PPV?
The two bicker backstage over who created WrestleMania, Vince McMahon or Hulk Hogan? The one’s voice acting was so bad she struggled to pronounce Hulk Hogan's name so it sounded like “Hul Ko Gan”.
This culminates in a four-way pillow fight with Torrie Wilson & Stacy Keibler but I can tell you this did nothing for WrestleMania 19, which got only 560,000 its buyrate lowest since 1997.
Jeremy Piven & Ken Jeong
When TV historians look back at Monday Night Raw they’ll probably pick the Guest Host era as the worst time in the show’s history and when they look at who hosted, they’ll probably pick Jeremy Piven as the worst.
Piven (who’s probably best known as Vince Chase’s agent Ari Gold in the TV show Entourage) wasn’t alone however, as he had Ken Jeong (Leslie Chow in The Hangover) with him. Neither man was clearly enamoured by professional wrestling or took their time to research WWE as Piven infamously called Summerslam “Summerfest”.
Now everyone makes mistakes, but misquoting the name of the next PPV of the company that’s paying you a lot of money to appear and giving you free publicity of the terrible movie you just made is pretty bad.
Piven & Jeong went onto shill their new film throughout the rest of Raw with The Goods being packed into every sentence possible from everyone, the hosts, John Cena and even Michael Cole.
It was one of the worst episodes of Raw, even being inducted into WrestleCrap in 2013 and although WWE has had some decent guest hosts over the years, Piven & Jeong weren’t two of them.
Mickey Rourke’s portrayal of beaten-down Randy ‘the Ram’ Robinson in 2008 film The Wrestler was magnificent. Rourke portrayed the role brilliantly as a former 80s star that now wrestles in small indy shows in front of hundreds rather than the thousands he used to.
It got huge critical acclaim from film buffs and those inside wrestling so it was only natural Rourke would appear on WWE TV.
Chris Jericho called out Rourke and other legends on TV and at the Screen Actors Guild Awards in January Rourke announced he’d be competing at WrestleMania 25 - Hollywood and wrestling was abuzz.
Except four days later Rourke had a change of heart and it was announced he’d just be a guest and so Jericho would face Ricky Steamboat, Roddy Piper & Jimmy Snuka with Ric Flair in their corner at WrestleMania in a handicap match.
Rourke was not even in the legends corner, instead he sat in the crowd and after Jericho won a god-awful match saved only by Ricky Steamboat being the only legend who could move, Rourke finally (and I mean finally, it took nearly 20 minutes) got into the ring and knocked Jericho out.
A waste of Jericho at WrestleMania, this whole angle went from a hot programme between Rourke & Jericho (who would have at least tried to carry Rourke to a decent 1v1 match) to a handicap match where two of the competitors may as well wrestled on mobility scooters.
Adam 'Pacman' Jones
Adam Jones is a famous NFL player, the 2005 first round draft pick out of West Virginia has had a marginally successful career at cornerback in that he’s had a few off-field problems and is still signed to a team despite never really being spectacular.
Anyway, after an off-field problem got him suspended from playing for a whole year, Pacman was free to do whatever he wanted but instead of spending the year training with the Tennessee Titans and trying to prove what a great professional he was he signed for TNA and they announced he'd be an active wrestler.
There was just one problem, he was suspended but he was still an NFL player so, he couldn’t actually get in the ring and compete.
Rather than thinking that the fact a wrestling promotion paying someone a tonne of money per appearance couldn’t actually get in a ring and wrestle would be absolutely moronic they gave him a contract anyway.
Better yet, they had him win the TNA Tag Team Championships with Ron Killings (R-Truth in WWE) over Kurt Angle & Sting (two of their biggest stars) without Pacman getting in the ring. So the man who couldn’t wrestle won a wrestling championship? Go figure.
I actually feel bad about calling Arquette one of the worst just because he seems like a really nice guy. The former Mr. Courtney Cox (Monica in Friends) was the star of WCW’s own wrestling film and box office bomb Ready to Rumble and was brought in when the film tanked at the cinemas.
Arquette a huge wrestling fan was asked to come in to try and cross-promote the film on WCW TV, which is fair enough, however, their idea to promote the film is looked at as one of many death knells for the now defunct promotion.
The actor who according to Wikipedia weighs around 150lbs won their WCW World Championship – yes, the same one Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, Hulk Hogan and Goldberg all won.
Not only was this the most ridiculous booking idea in wrestling history, it competed with one of the best ever World Championship angles in WWE history in The Rock Vs Triple H and did nothing to promote WCW or the film.
It garnered one article in USA Today and WCW got Courtney Cox & Kurt Russell (who openly laughed at the thought of Arquette being a wrestling champion) to appear on TV for 2 minutes, whilst it completely devalued the already dying WCW World Title.
Arquette won the belt in a tag match (don’t ask) by pinning Eric Bischoff who was not the World Champion and would defend it in a Triple Cage match at Slamboree.
The only good things to come out of this whole mess was an entertaining heel promo from Arquette the night after a heel turn at Slamboree, and because he felt so bad about the whole thing (being a wrestling fan he personally didn’t want to do the angle because he knew it’d offend fans) he donated all his WCW payments to the families of deceased wrestlers Owen Hart & Brian Pillman and to Darren Drozdov who was paralyzed following a botched move in-ring the year before.
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