Top 5 Pro Wrestler Performances in Horror Movies

The transition from small-screen superstar to big-screen money maker has been a slippery slope for many a wrestling legend. For every Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, countless others have tried—and failed—to break away from their in-ring personas and carve a successful second career in the movie business. Does anyone care to remember Paul “Triple H” Levesque’s lifeless work in Blade: Trinity? No, me neither. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some performances outside the squared circle that don’t deserve any recognition; in fact, there have been several professional wrestlers who have held their own against some of the acting world’s best, and no other genre has accommodated these hulking, tattooed, larger-than-life characters more than horror.

So, with that in mind, here’s a list of my top five acting performances in horror movies by professional wrestlers!

5. Jesse Ventura as Blain in Predator (1987)

Jesse Ventura as Blain in Predator (1987)

1987 was a banner year in the burgeoning acting career of the future 38th governor of Minnesota, as he starred opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in both Predator and the very loose adaptation of Stephen King’s 1982 novel, The Running Man. While the latter has achieved cult status over the last 35+ years, the former is a bona fide sci-fi/action/horror classic, boasting a cast of testosterone-pumping heavyweights all fighting to give their pythons the most screentime. It’s Schwarzenegger and Rocky franchise alumni Carl Weathers who naturally get the infamous bicep-popping showdown; however, the likes of Jesse “The Body” Ventura, Bill Duke, and Sonny Landham are equally as important to the ensemble, producing one of the great casts of machomen in action film history.

4. Glenn “Kane” Jacobs as Jacob Goodnight in See No Evil (2006)

Glenn “Kane” Jacobs as Jacob Goodnight in See No Evil (2006)

In the annals of professional wrestling, no other character shares as much DNA with horror’s most beloved bad guys—Leatherface, Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, etc—as Kane. The giant, masked, seemingly mute antagonist is one of the Attitude Era’s defining gimmicks, brilliantly embodied by the current Mayor of Knox County, Glenn Jacobs. More than tipping a hat to his slasher movie counterparts, Kane signalled WWE’s shift towards an edgier horror-themed product, which is why it made perfect sense to cast Jacobs as the big bad in WWE Films’ first major film production, 2006’s See No Evil. Jacobs is the best thing in this otherwise derivative slasher fare, acting as menacing, intimidating, and physical as only the man who played “The Big Red Machine” can.

3. David Arquette as Dewey Riley in Scream (2022)

David Arquette as Dewey Riley in Scream (2022)

This one might be controversial, but hear me out for a second: David Arquette’s reign as the WCW World Heavyweight Champion is one of the worst booking decisions in the history of professional wrestling. It was a disastrous publicity stunt, made a mockery of the sport, and was the last straw for many WCW fans. Then, exactly 20 years later, You Cannot Kill David Arquette—a 2020 documentary chronicling Arquette’s return to the ring—came out and blew me away. His passion for wrestling, sincere regret over what happened, and Rocky Balboa-like personal story won me over. He is one of us, and in his surprisingly emotional final turn as the affable Dewey Riley in 2022’s Scream, Arquette reminds us of why we fell in love with him in the first place.

2. Roddy Piper as Nada in They Live (1988)

Roddy Piper as Nada in They Live (1988)

The late, great “Rowdy” Roddy Piper is one of wrestling’s true legends. A skilled in-ring performer and dynamite talker, Piper’s trailblazing work laid the foundation by which all future heels should be judged. As charismatic a performer as the wrestling world has seen, Piper was the perfect choice to lead John Carpenter’s 1988 cult classic, They Live. Blending Carpenter’s signature style with a subversive critique of 1980s American politics, the film sees Piper chewing gum and kicking ass in equal measure, taking down the ruling class of aliens that act as a stand-in for the Reaganomics-era yuppies and their excessive capitalist policies. They Live perfectly captures the political landscape of the time, is one of Carpenter’s best, and greatly benefits from starring “Rowdy” Roddy Piper.

1. Dave Bautista as Leonard in Knock at the Cabin (2023)

Dave Bautista as Leonard in Knock at the Cabin (2023)

While Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stands alone as the box office king among wrestlers-turned-actors, it’s Dave Bautista—better known to WWE fans as simply Batista—who can lay claim to being the better actor. Straying away from the action movie behemoths that have made The Rock one of Hollywood’s most bankable leads, Bautista has instead sought a variety of projects, often taking supporting roles that highlight his acting ability over his physique. A memorable role in Blade Runner 2049 comes to mind, but it’s his quiet intensity in M. Night Shyamalan’s latest, 2023’s Knock at the Cabin, which cements his place as one of the more interesting actors working today. More than just a big guy covered in tattoos, Bautista is a real-deal actor with a bright future.

Those are my picks for the top five acting performances in horror movies by professional wrestlers, so what are some of yours? Please comment below or let us know by following the information about our social media accounts. Alternatively, we can continue the conversation on Twitter/X by following me @JonSheasby!

Written by Jon Sheasby

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