Dwayne Johnson, who am I kidding, The Rock – is one of the biggest movie stars on the planet today.
His movies draw bookoo money at the box office and generate more buzz and media attention than most. The Great One’s role as Luke Hobbs in Fast Five reinvigorated the Fast and the Furious franchise by turning it into an action movie phenomena.
The Rock is riding high in tinsel town as the definitive contemporary action star who probably had more charisma coming out of the womb than most people will ever have.
The professional wrestling icon has had his ups and downs… cough “Tooth Fairy” cough…. but has finally become the star that people pegged him to be since his days as the Scorpion King.
What about the other goliaths of the squared circle who have graced the silver screen? While The Rock isn’t the first pro wrest…. sorry Mr. McMachon, I mean, sports entertainer to star in feature films, why did the former 8-time WWE champion succeed where his peers failed?
Let’s take a look at a few examples.
There was a time when the Hulkster was considered the most successful wrestler turned actor, which is funny considering his movies and performances set a very low bar for that standard.
While his role as villainous wrestler Thunder Lips in Rocky III brought him a lot of notoriety and appeared to set him up for success, it was the roles afterwards that failed to exhibit his thespian skills, if any.
In 1989, No Holds Barred, Hogan played Rip, a wrestling hero to the masses, who fights off corporate greed and gets pulled into the ultimate showdown with a mysterious ex-con, Zeus. Subsequent films such as Suburban Commando, Mr. Nanny, Santa with Muscles, and Assault on Devil’s Island cast Hogan in roles that either closely resemble his in-ring persona and/or cast him as the hero of the day.
Goldberg exploded on to the wrestling scene out of nowhere in 1997 as a stoic and unstoppable ass-kicking machine who oozed intensity. It only took him nine months to capture the WCW (World Championship Wrestling) world title while amassing a legendary undefeated streak of 173 wins without a single loss.
The former NFL defensive tackle’s movie career has placed him in roles that are pretty much a mirror image to the character that had fans chanting “Goldberg, Goldberg” in arenas all around the world. Universal Soldier: The Return in 1999 cast him as Romeo, an indestructible, regenerated soldier that feels no pain. He played the fierce and imposing fixer Mr. Smith in Looney Tunes: Back in Action and in Santa’s Slay, Goldberg stars as a killer Santa Claus looking to check people off his naughty list.
Stone Cold Steve Austin
The Texas Rattle Snake revived pro wrestling in the late 1990’s and spearheaded WWE’s most profitable period known as the “Attitude Era” with his beer drinking, middle finger waiving, anti-authority persona.
Life after wrestling has been good to Austin. He has a popular podcast boasting a high listenership and is the host of the reality show Redneck Island, which just ended its fifth season.
While Austin made his film debut as racist prison guard in The Longest Yard (2005), his roles in films such as The Condemned and The Expendables, along with a growing resume of direct-to-video movies, have him play no nonsense, kick ass protagonists or antagonists, which draws from his Stone Cold persona.
There are a slew of other wrestlers who have appeared in movies, television, and commercials with almost all of them playing characters in-line with the in-ring character that made them famous in the first place. This is not a bad thing at all. After all, would anyone really want to see Steve Austin in MacBeth or Goldberg taking a cue from Joaquin Phoenix in the critically acclaimed film Her and watch him fall in love with his iPhone?
Actually, those scenarios might be pretty funny to watch unfold.
Seriously, though, if movie studios need a by-the-numbers, hulking, bad-ass character for a film, pro wrestling is a good place to look. The Rock, on the other hand, brings more to the table than a “Hulk Smash” personality. Besides being athletic and having a body that looks like it’s chiseled out of granite, he’s articulate, handsome and ridiculously funny.
Plus, he is not afraid to show his ass by putting himself in embarrassing, and sometimes vulnerable, situations. Besides Roddy Rowdy Piper in John Carpenter’s They Live, this is what sets The Rock apart from other wrestlers who have tried and those that continue to try their hand at Hollywood.
Hogan, Austin, Goldberg and others are not particularly funny, and while they’re not hideous to look at, their posters won’t be hanging on the wall of a teenage girl anytime soon. Most top-level wrestlers are very protective of their spot in WWE and are traditionally selective on what movie roles they take because they don’t want to do anything that might damage their wrestling drawing power at the box office.
The Rock has also never done a wrestling-themed movie, and doesn’t constantly go back and forth to WWE unless it for a major event or match. While he has done, and will continue to do, a great job in action movie genre, The Rock has put on some quality performances with his other roles in movies such as Be Cool, where he played a gay Samoan bodyguard who dreamed of being an actor, and a thoughtful performance as the lead in Snitch where he played a father who was desperate to help his estranged son reduce his prison sentence by becoming an informant.
The Rock is the most diverse performer to ever step inside a wrestling ring, which has served him well in Hollywood and beyond. John Cena and Dave Batista have followed in the The Rock’s footsteps by taking roles that allowed them to draw from their wrestling experience to do something different.
If he needed anymore validation, The Hollywood Walk of Fame announced yesterday that The Rock will finally get his star cemented on Hollywood Boulevard.