When Hulk Hogan became a huge name in the World Wrestling Federation, he went on to star in quite few theatrically released movies (Mr. Nanny, anyone? Seriously, anyone?!), spawn a Saturday morning cartoon that needs an immediate DVD release, and he co-hosted “Saturday Night Live” with Mr. T. I pity the fool who watch that episode! … anything? Ah, I give you gold, and I get nothing.
Anyway, Hulk Hogan did it all while headlining Wrestlemanias, switching companies, and becoming a household name. Sure, most of his movies are closer to a “Worst Movie Ever” list than anything else. But, you can’t deny that he did it all. Even in the Reality TV frenzy that is STILL sweeping across television, Hogan has his own VH1 series called “Hogan Knows Best”. You probably won’t be seeing “The Snitsky Show” anytime soon. Hogan has really achieved the impossible by becoming a household name. Not many superstars from WWE have done that. Hell, how many sports figures are household names? Not too many. Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, Babe Ruth, Hulk Hogan. There are more, but you probably get my point (or probably not).
The next name that comes to my mind is Rowdy Roddy Piper. Why? I really have no idea. Roddy Piper has done several movies (of action genre, I assume), and can anyone name these movies? Just one? If you can, you’re probably Piper’s biggest fan. Don’t get me wrong, Piper deserves some of the spotlight for his genius mic skills and ability to effortlessly make the audience laugh, but I doubt his movies are nameable, let alone quality-made. He recently made a film for television, but he’s far from a wrestling legend-turned film star.
Before getting to the biggest movie star that started in the WWE (Hint Number 1: It’s not Doink the Clown… unless Doink was ever played by Brad Pitt. Then Doink may be number one.), I have to get to someone who has crossed over into a different world while still making a name for himself. Mick Foley has made it into the literary world, in both fiction and non-fiction. Having never read “Tietam Brown” or “Scooter”, while still wanting to, I cannot say for sure that Mick has the same knack for fiction. But, in his two autobiographical efforts (“A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks” and “Foley is Good”), Foley made hundreds of pages fly by. The term “page-turner” does not do Foley justice. His success in literature is incredible. Unlike those who “pen” autobiographies with ghost-writers, Foley goes one step beyond and writes the books himself and it certainly shows. While I can’t say his WWE.com diary is a great idea (it may be overkill of a great thing), I have enjoyed it thus far.
When The Rock left the WWE for a big screen career, I felt like he could be the next big star. However, his box office success is limited. While his films have made a decent amount of money, his biggest solo project remains “The Scorpion King”, a spin-off of “The Mummy Returns”, which was a sequel to “The Mummy”… which was a remake of a film of the same name. Before striking out domestically with “Doom” (his lowest-grossing project), his film work did between $45 and $60 million. “Be Cool”, “Walking Tall” and “The Rundown” fell between those amounts. It has been felt by many fans that The Rock would have done better back in the WWE ring, but his time has come and gone. He’s a future hall-of-famer, however he has accomplished everything needed to be accomplished. His only reason to return is a future (or current) big shot superstar, such as John Cena, but it’s not mandatory for the people’s champion.
Of course, there are certain past and present WWE superstars who have dabbled in other forms of entertainment. Stone Cold Steve Austin co-starred in the 2005 Adam Sandler comedy “The Longest Yard”, alongside Goldberg and Kevin Nash. John Cena has already released his own CD. Joanie Laurer starred in “One Night in Chyna”… oops… well, I have no idea how that got on my mind. And last month, Stacy Keibler became a part of the reality/game show “Dancing With the Stars”, and has since placed herself in the final four, while 20 million viewers a week watch the show. The on-again/off-again relationship that certain superstars have with fame outside of wrestling seems to be a positive. But, I really have no idea how well Joanie Laurer’s “video” sold.
This year, “WWE Films” releases their first feature-length film in theatres. After filming John Cena in “The Marine” first, WWE decided to instead go with the horror film “See No Evil”, starring Kane. The tentative release date (according to Box Office Prophets) is May 2006, however that’s subject to change. When I first heard about WWE Films, I really had no idea what to expect. Were we going to see documentary films about the world of wrestling, past and present? Hey, that’s not such a horrible idea. We we going to be treated to buddy comedies, starring the likes of Kurt Angle and Chris Jericho in an “Odd Couple”-esque movie? Hey, that’s not such a horrible idea.
Actually, “WWE Films” is shaping up to release a wide variety of films. We’ve got horror, we’ve got action, we might have drama. Honestly, I have no idea what “The Marine” is about, or if John Cena will teach anyone the basic rules of thuganomics in the film. The biggest issue is whether or not the movies will be good. It’s not shaping up to be in WWE Films’ favor. Judging by past resumés of the writers and directors, the quality of the movies may not be up to par even with the average modern movies. Let’s just say they’re more towards the Razzies than the Oscars.
But, I have to keep an open mind. After all, I haven’t seen the films yet. I’m up for any sort of horror film, so “See No Evil” might be decent enough after all. When else will we see Kane terrorizing a group of innocent people? Not anywhere else, that’s where! My biggest fear is that the focus of the WWE will be lifted off the actual wrestling, and placed fully on the film franchise that is about to begin. I realize that there is just as much wrestling as there is entertainment in the title of WWE. In any event, the WWE should always keep its focus on what has built millions of viewers. The films will hopefully just be a bonus for fans who can point out the stars that we’ve come to know on a weekly basis. It’s hard to imagine that a wrestling company would be at all interested in movies, but at the same time, how can the WWE refuse? The Rock has made several hits, even if the films haven’t generated the mega bucks. Hulk Hogan is a household name, not just for his wrestling past, but for all of his work in Hollywood, from cartoons to movies to a reality show based on his family. The WWE is a wrestling business, but why not try their hand at the cinema? Why not cross over into Hollywood?
Wrestling and Hollywood has never went hand-and-hand successfully, but many have tried to make the huge leap into stardom. It takes years and years of hard work to be a Tom Hanks or a Julia Roberts. The WWE isn’t expecting (or shouldn’t be expecting) to have A-list celebrities star in their films, but a small, quiet business could eventually become something big. Something that could create work for many superstars who deep-down are aspiring actors. Imagine Triple H as an action star. Or Shelton Benjamin and his Mama in a comedy. Or how about Eugene as a ladies man with a thirst for ass-kicking. On second thought… let’s leave the movie-making to WWE Films.