R0BTRAIN's Bad Ass Cinema: Wrestlemania Celebration

So as I sit here writing this, I’m getting pretty psyched about the prospect of watching Wrestlemania in a few hours. I’m not a hardcore wrestling fan anymore, but ‘Mania always brings back my nostalgia of being a Hulkamaniac when I was a kid and the joy of the Monday Night Wars when I was in college. I wish I did still have the madness for Sports Entertainment that I used to have, but my heart just isn’t in it anymore. Most of my favorite wrestlers have retired or quit to pursue other avenues of stardom, and the WWE just doesn’t have the pull for me that it did when I’d stay up late in 6th grade to watch Saturday Night’s Main Event or Prime Time Wrestling.

Still, Wrestlemania always seems like a chance for Vince McMahon and company to pull me in again, like when I was a kid. My friends always come over and we jump around and yell at the screen as if it were college again. I’m hoping the nostalgia hits hard, and that maybe we’ll get some old school wrestlers on the show as well.

At any rate, in celebration and because I’m lazy, this week’s column is completely wrestling themed. Enjoy…

Favorite Wrestling Cameos

Let’s face it, when it comes to wrestlers in movies, most of the time they’re best in the smallest doses possible. These guys are known for their physicality and presence more than their acting ability anyway, and when used properly, they can be really effective.

The Punisher
While the movie isn’t very good, despite a decent performance from Thomas Jane, it’s hard not to love Kevin Nash’s awesome cameo as the assassin known only as “The Russian”. Basically he just shows up and has this brutal fight scene with Thomas Jane’s Punisher, throwing the actor around like ragdoll, through walls and bathtubs. It’s at this point in the movie that, The Punisher finally starts to show some life as a film, giving us what we’ve been after the whole time; unrelenting violence. Nash shows up and the movie finally gets kick-started, if only he could do the same in a wrestling ring anymore.

My friends and I still call out “Bonesaw is READYYYYYYY” all the time. Randy Savage looks better in this movie than he has in an actual ring in a long time. Sure, the Macho Man gets beat down by Tobey Maguire’s Spidey, but I don’t really think Sam Raimi could have cast what’s supposed to be an oldschool, head crushing wrestler like Bonesaw Mcgraw any better than Savage. His “three minutes of playtime” are some of the most fun in the movie.

The Godfather
You may have heard of this movie before. Wrestler Lenny Montana plays Luca Brazzi, Don Corleone’s main muscle man. The movie doesn’t go into the same detail that the novel does about just how dangerous Brazzi is, but with Montana playing him, he’s still pretty imposing physically. It somehow makes me feel good that one of the greatest films of all time features a professional wrestler in it. Makes you wonder if Citizen Kane would have been different with Tor Johnson in the lead.

The 40 Year Old Virgin
Kimberly Page plays the woman with smalltown values who has the wardrobe malfunction in the speed-dating scene. Putting her in this column is my way of thanking her.

Rocky III
Come on, has there really ever been a wrestler cameo in a movie better than this one? Hulk Hogan plays Thunder Lips, the wrestling heavyweight champion of the world, who has to fight Stallone’s Rocky Balboa in a charity event. Initially, he’s also completely insane, beating Rocky to a pulp until the Stallion makes one of his legendary comebacks. What I love about this particular cameo is how Hogan’s Thunder Lips completely fits into this comic book world of Rocky III. The film made a huge leap from the first two movies, making Rocky more of a superhero than just a down and out boxer, and for this reason, this one stands as the best of the Rocky movies next to the first one and stands as perhaps the most entertaining movie of the entire series. The role was also really important to Hogan himself as well, as it provided exposure like he’d never experienced before in his days in the AWA, which he’d had to quit just to be able to take the job. Next thing you know, Hulkamania was born.

Worst Movies Featuring Wrestlers

There’s a lot of films in this category to choose from for sure, but these are the worst of the worst.

Man, how did they screw this up? Basically, all they had to do was put a bunch of space marines on a planet with a ton of aliens and horrible monsters and have them kill each other in exciting ways. Instead, we just get another film just ripping off Aliens with no creativity or originality whatsoever, and they managed to take The Rock down with them.

Ready to Rumble
Wow. Well this movie should have been just another step on WCW’s road to wrestling supremacy. Instead, it was just another jump in a downward spiral for the company, leading to the WCW title reign of David Arquette, AKA: Wrestling’s darkest hour.

Halloween (2007)
This one’s not Tyler Mane’s fault, and really if you’re an ex-wrestler and you’re offered the job of playing Michael Myers in a remake of Halloween, you take it. Little did he know Rob Zombie was going to take everything that we love about Halloween (the mystery, the suspense) and use none of those elements, dumping all over one of the great Horror movies of all time. Mane’s actually one of the best elements of the movie, it’s just too bad everything else in the movie is a huge pile of crap.

Mr. Nanny
There’s a certain movie formula that takes some of the manliest men ever and sticks them in kids movies. Those movies suck. (see also: The Gameplan)

The Condemned
You know, I’m not totally against watching a bad Action movie. In fact, the bad ones can be the really fun ones to watch on occasion. With that in mind, I was kind of excited when I went to see The Condemned, but I was wrong. I was so wrong. Not only is The Condemned not a good or even fun flick, it’s painfully hypocritical, and downright repulsive to watch. On the one hand, you’ve got “Stone Cold” Steve Austin badassing around on an island of condemned prisoners, like a cross between Battle Royale and The Running Man. On the other hand, you’ve got a movie with an extended rape scene, awful, nonsensical fight scenes and a moral to its story that is against violence, all while guys are running around shooting each other.

Favorite Movies Featuring Wrestlers

There are less movies to choose from in this category, but these are the movies I’m most fond of.

No Holds Barred
Guilty pleasure, thy name is Hulk Hogan. Yes, this is not a good movie in any way, shape, or form. What this movie is, is a 12-guage bullet of nostalgia that goes right through me. In his greatest performance on the big screen, Hogan plays a wrestler named Rip, who seems a lot like Hulk Hogan truth be told. Really, this movie is a ridiculous excuse to have the Hulkster fight a ton of guys, and on that level the movie is a ludicrous amount of fun. Those looking for good acting, directing and a well crafted screenplay should rent The Godfather instead.

Ed Wood
80’s WWF Superstar George “The Animal” Steele gets to play 50’s wrestler Tor Johnson in Tim Burton’s best film ever. Steele isn’t going to win any awards for his acting any time soon, but he is pretty funny in this role, portraying Johnson’s childlike qualities and naïveté to the hilt. Steele was actually perfectly cast by Burton and it shows up on screen.

The Princess Bride
It’s nearly impossible not to love Andre the Giant in this movie, as the film’s gentle giant, Fezzik. This role personified all the gentlemanly qualities of Andre and reminded us why we loved him in the first place, before he turned into one of the WWF’s best and scariest villains in the 80’s. What I wasn’t aware of before this film, was that Andre is freakin’ hilarious. To his credit, the Giant gets some of the best laughs in the movie, as the “rhyming” sequence and his flaming “Dread Pirate Roberts” scene get me every time.

The Rundown
There’s no substitute for natural charisma, and the Rock is able to show it in this, his absolutely finest flick. I understand the guy is trying to widen his acting credits, but after disasters like Be Cool and Southland Tales, I wish Rock would just go back to making movies like this one. This is as solid as a straight up Action movie in this category gets, schooling any of the flicks under the WWE Films banner. I really miss the Rock in the ring, and if he doesn’t go back to making movies like this one, I say he should go back really soon.

They Live
This is the very definition of an awesome Cult movie. When I was a kid, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper was a god, and this movie helped put him on his pedestal. This movie is still amazing to behold, and features not only one of the best fight scenes in this type of movie, it features one of the best fight scenes in any movie. The film makers behind The Condemned should watch this movie and hang their heads in shame. For those that don’t know, aliens have subverted our culture and are hiding among us, and only Piper’s Nada and a few others know the truth. John Carpenter fills this movie with political subtext and satirizes Reagan’s America. Roddy Piper shows up to kick ass and chew bubblegum, and lucky for us, he’s all out of bubblegum.

So got any favorite of your own? Let me know if I forgot anything…