Corrigan’s Corner: 10 Greatest Celebrities in Wrestling

tephen Amell, the star of CW’s Arrow, will team up with Neville to face King Barrett and Amell’s social media antagonist, Stardust, at SummerSlam. I’ve never watched Arrow and...
Stephen Amell, the star of CW’s Arrow, will team up with Neville to face King Barrett and Amell’s social media antagonist, Stardust, at SummerSlam.

I’ve never watched Arrow and haven’t heard of Amell until WWE mentioned him, so this matchup means absolutely nothing to me. But it is interesting how the treatment of celebrities has evolved throughout the history of professional wrestling. Before the Rock N Wrestling Connection of the mid-1980s, promoters refused to allow Hollywood actors to step inside the ring and expose the similarities between the different entertainment genres.

Nowadays, a few social media interactions can lead to an actor’s physical altercation with a wrestler, usually, with the showbiz intruder getting the upper hand.

That’s not to say that actors, pro athletes, politicians, and singers can’t positively affect the world of wrasslin’. As a matter of fact, here are the top ten celebrities to positively influence the industry.

10. Pete Rose

Ol’ Charlie Hustle could have been a great heel manager after his controversial exit from Major League Baseball. Rose knocked his WrestleMania XIV promo out of the park, hilariously insulting the Boston fans. Unfortunately, Kane wasn’t a fan of Rose’s jokes, and tombstoned the Hit King before facing the Undertaker. In what became my favorite WrestleMania tradition, Rose spent the next two years seeking revenge on the Big Red Machine; first by dressing up as the San Diego chicken, then by jumping Kane with a bat. Of course, neither assault was effective, even leading to Kane’s partner Rikishi delivering a Stinkface to the banned hall of famer. The trifecta of appearances earned Rose entry into the WWE Hall of Fame as the first member of its celebrity wing.

9. Mickey Rourke

Screwed out of an Oscar by teasing a WrestleMania match against Chris Jericho, Rourke had everybody talking after starring in “The Wrestler.” His portrayal of Randy “The Ram” Robinson earned rave reviews among critics and fans alike, especially pro wrestlers themselves. Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, Ricky “the Dragon” Steamboat, and the late, great “Rowdy” Roddy Piper all praised Rourke for his amazing performance, yet Jericho bashed the actor for daring to enter his world. We got a classic handicap match out of the angle, a heroic return for Steamboat, and a cool Mania moment when Rourke punched out Y2J.

8. Floyd Mayweather, Jr.

If WWE hopes to fill 100,000 seats at WrestleMania 32, Vinnie Mac should sign Mayweather vs. Ronda Rousey at AT&T Stadium. After all, “Money” Mayweather has already proven he can dance with the big boys at the Showcase of the Immortals. Case in point: Mayweather’s battle against Big Show at Mania XXIV, perhaps the best wrestler/non-wrestler match ever. Before Brock Lesnar sparked synergy between WWE and ESPN, boxing’s box-office champion made headlines by legit busting Big Show’s nose in a white hot angle at No Way Out 2008. That led to a mismatch turned special attraction at Mania where Mayweather remained undefeated with a giant upset over the “World’s Largest Athlete.”

7. Lawrence Taylor

Whereas Mayweather shined on an already stacked card, LT had to carry the main event of WrestleMania. The New York Giants’ legendary linebacker was simply enjoying a front row seat at the 1995 Royal Rumble when Bam Bam Bigelow, pissed about losing the finals of a Tag Team title tournament, shoved LT. On RAW, Bam Bam not only refused to apologize, but also challenged the two-time Super Bowl champion to a match at WrestleMania XI. Taylor agreed, received training from Diesel, and went on to defeat Bigelow in the most anticipated match of the show.

6. Dennis Rodman

If Michael Jordan could dabble in baseball, then “The Worm” could sure as hell try a dropkick. Rodman joined the NWO, teaming with Hollywood Hogan in a losing effort against Lex Luger and The Giant at Bash at the Beach 1997. That didn’t stop the rainbow-haired tabloid star and his non-racist buddy as they regrouped and avenged their loss the next year by defeating DDP and NBA Hall of Famer Karl Malone. The craziest part about those matches is that they took place just weeks after Rodman and the Chicago Bulls won the championship. (Both years!) Rodman would go on to win Hulk Hogan’s Celebrity Championship Wrestling (a future #TBT fo sho) as well as challenge Curt Hennig for the i-Generation title.

5. Donald Trump

Responsible for the highest-drawing WWE pay-per-view until The Rock returned at WrestleMania XXVIII, The Donald has been a very profitable friend of WWE for almost 30 years. Hosting WrestleMania IV and V in Atlantic City, assuming the role of RAW General Manager, and putting his iconic hair on the line against Vince McMahon in the Battle of the Billionaires at WrestleMania 23, the GOP candidate certainly deserved his 2013 induction into the WWE Hall of Fame.

4. Cyndi Lauper

Hot Take: There would be no WrestleMania without Cyndi Lauper. The 80s pop sensation launched the Rock N Wrestling Connection by giving Capt. Lou Albano a role in her “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” music video, which won MTV’s first Best Female Video award. Her fun and games with Albano prompted Piper to smash an award over the Captain’s head, bodyslam Lauper’s boyfriend and manager Dave Wolff, and even kick the singer in the head. At that point, WWE exploded into the mainstream and professional wrestling morphed into sports-entertainment. Merchandising, cameos, pay-per-view extravaganzas, everything that made Vince McMahon, and several of his Superstars, millionaires. Lauper went on to manage Wendi Richter to the Women’s Championship at the Brawl to End It All as well as the inaugural WrestleMania.

3. Mr. T

The man who saved Lauper from the dastardly Piper and Paul Orndorff at the War to Settle the Score, that’s right, B.A. Baracus. Although he’s been reduced to a comedic footnote from the 1980s, and a Shockmaster-level laughingstock from his Hall of Fame speech, Mr. T helped propel WWE into the global juggernaut it is today. His teaming with Hogan at WrestleMania, and boxing matches with “Cowboy” Bob Orton and Piper in 1986, attracted huge attention to the once carnie attraction. Mr. T was a household name giving the rub to guys like Hogan and Piper, whose death wouldn’t have been covered all over the world without the pop culture cred of the fool-pitier.

2. Mike Tyson

“You’re out here calling yourself the ‘baddest man on the planet,’ right now, you’re looking at the eyes of thee world’s toughest son of a bitch!”

And with that, Stone Cold Steve Austin captivated the wrestling world, forcing fans to dream about “Iron” Mike vs. the Texas Rattlesnake. The closest we got was an epic pull-apart brawl that turned the tide in the Monday Night Wars and led to WWE ultimately destroying WCW.

All thanks to the ear-biting, Hangover-singing, convicted rapist known as Mike Tyson.

Look, I love Tyson. Even though I missed his boxing prime by about ten years, I feel fortunate to be living in the Ronda Rousey equivalent. His show-stealing performance at the Roast of Charlie Sheen should have made everyone a fan. And most importantly, he’s a wrestling historian.

That’s what makes his contribution to the industry so great: Tyson helped save the company he grew up watching. In 1998, he was the most controversial athlete in the world, and by transferring his allure to WWE, the last boom period, the fondly-remembered Attitude Era, truly began.

1. Andy Kaufman

All other celebrities better watch the throne because nobody understood and improved pro wrestling more than Andy Kaufman. The self-proclaimed “Inter-Gender Wrestling Champion of the World,” Kaufman got involved in the business before actually getting involved in the business. The comedic enigma challenged women in the audiences of his shows to go mano-y-womano. After months of that farce, Jerry “The King” Lawler challenged Kaufman to face a man for a change.

The buildup to the match, featuring Kaufman insulting Memphis and southerners everywhere, and the actual match itself, thrust the regional territory into the national spotlight. Media outlets around the country were following Kaufman’s foray into the squared circle, wondering whether this was an advanced form of his shtick or if he really had become delusional. Of course, it wasn’t much of a match, as Lawler hit a back drop and piledriver on the actor for the moral victory. (Just as he should have done to Michael Cole at WrestleMania XXVI.)

However, Kaufman suffered a broken neck, and demanded an apology from The King when they appeared on Late Night with David Letterman.

Only Letterman’s people were sorry when Lawler slapped the shit out of Kaufman, who responded with an infamous profane tirade. It’s TV history and one of Letterman’s greatest moments. The authenticity of the rivalry, and the star appeal of Kaufman, set the territory on fire for months and months to come.

Most importantly, it attracted many new eyes to the in-ring product, which should be the ultimate goal of recruiting celebs to wrasslin’.

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