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Official Article

5 Pro Wrestlers In Prime Time

Professional wrestlers are some of the most entertaining people on the planet. Big personalities often accompany their big muscles, which creates a spectacle in and outside the ring. So it’s only natural that some of our favorite grapplers would choose to cross over into mainstream entertainment. While The Rock is probably the most successful example of a wrestler crossing over into Hollywood, looking back to the 80s and early 90s there were quite a few attempts at giving wrestlers acting jobs on TV, with mixed results. So let’s take a look at 5 Pro Wrestlers In Prime Time.

Roddy Piper, Robocop: The Series

Do you recall the small screen adventures of everybody’s favorite cyborg police officer, Robocop: The Series? I do, because the action figures for the unfortunately named villain, Pudface and generic Sgt. Parks cluttered the aisles of Toys R us for years in the 90s when I was a major collector. It did work as a form of low-level marketing though, causing me to watch a handful of episodes during the shows short single season run. One of which to my surprise featured the "Hot Rod" himself, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper (R.I.P.). The former rival of Hulk Hogan was now facing Robocop as Commander Cash, or rather, a psycho who thought he was the living embodiment of OCP’s beloved animated hero. 

Roddy played the pied piper (how appropriate) to the children of Detroit, convincing them to rob and riot through subliminal advertising while munching on their Commander Cash breakfast cereal. It was fun to see Roddy playing a delusional character obsessed with “Cartoon Justice”, rather than his usual loudmouth tough guy. I’m not saying the episode was particularly good, but to a young wrestling fan, it was a a cool crossover. Speaking of which, Robocop himself eventually made a guest appearance on WCW (World Championsip Wrestling) to awkwardly rescue Sting from a literal steel cage.

Jessie Ventura, Small Wonder

As wrestlers go, Jesse Ventura was always better on the mic than in the ring, so it made sense for him to get speaking roles in movies like Predator and The Running Man, but I’ll always remember his guest starring role on the goofy syndicated sitcom Small Wonder. You remember this show, right? Basically it’s the tale of a suburban Dad that creates a monotone voiced android daughter who lives with the family and uses her robot powers to cause wacky hijinks.

Well in this episode we learn that Ted and Joan Lawson (the parents) went to college with Jesse “The Body” Ventura, only back then he was a nerdy loser named Wally who was picked on by Ted. Jesse is in town for a match and comes over for dinner to give Ted a taste of his own medicine. Jesse actually plays the part very sweet and you can imagine him having been a dorky kid who took the Charles Atlas comic book ads for weight lifting courses seriously.

King Kong Bundy, Married with Children

Sharing his name with not one, but 2 iconic characters in the world of entertainment, King Kong Bundy was a huge, balding monster who once terrorized Hulk Hogan in a steel cage at Wrestlemania II. I owned his LJN WWF Superstars toy back in the day, which required a ridiculous amount of molded rubber to portray his girth in 3 dimensions. His toy was even bigger than Andre the Giant!

Though he never got to star alongside his banana loving namesake, he did appear on TV screens with characters sharing his surname. That’s right, King Kong Bundy found his way onto two episodes of the FOX sitcom, Married…With Children which starred the Bundy family. First he appeared as Uncle Irwin, one of Peggy’s kin from Wanker County in a 1988 episode called “All In The Family”. Then showed up again in 1995 playing himself and wrestling Bud in a Bumblebee outfit. He really did have a unique look, so I can see why they would bring him back.

Hulk Hogan, The A-Team

Hulk Hogan is THE icon of wrestling and honestly has more credits than any other wrestler of his era because of it. Who can forget his cameos in Rocky 3 or Gremlins 2? He even had something resembling a film career as a leading man in movies like Suburban Commando and Mr. Nanny (the less said about this film, the better). But he also had his fair share of prime time appearances back in the day, eventually getting his own weekly adventure show, Thunder In Paradise, which could have been the source of this list for all the wrestlers who appeared on that turkey. 

Airing a few months after Mr. T’s guest appearance as Hogan’s tag team partner at the inaugural Wrestlemania in 1985, I remember catching this wrestling based episode of The A-Team and thinking it was so cool that Hulk was stepping into Mr. T’s world now. They even brought Hogan back for a return appearance on another episode in 1986 when Wrestlemania II was fresh in everyone’s minds and Mr. T. made his second appearance in a terrible boxing match against a previous entrant on this list, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. Some pretty good cross promotion there between Universal Studios and the WWF.

Vader, Boy Meets World

Now here’s a show that really has a strong following. It even got a sequel series for a new generation recently. Boy Meets World definitely had my attention the first few seasons and the recurring role of the pro wrestler known as Vader had a lot to do with it. Vader aka Big Van Vader was well known in the wrestling world (especially in Japan), but never had that mega-star status of say, Earthquake in America. Still he was a dangerous dude and a curious casting choice for the ABC family sitcom starring Ben Savage.

It was just so hilarious that Vader was playing himself, but as the father of the gentle and poetic behemoth known as Frankie, played by Ethan Suplee. You would have thought it would just be a funny one and done appearance, but they kept bringing him back to further develop the members of the Stechino Household, eventually introducing Frankie’s Younger brother Herman. I lost interest when the gang went off to college, but Vader was always a welcome face during what I consider to be the golden years of Boy Meets World.

Did you have a favorite wrestler who showed up on the tube? Wait, let me guess? It was Bret Hart’s guest starring role on Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, right?

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Hoju Koolander Posted on Mar 07, 2016 at 04:58 AM

All great mentions of additional wrestler appearances on TV. I think there were also quite a few cameos on an 80s wrestling based sitcom called "Learning the Ropes" starring former pro football player, Lyle Alzedo, forgot to mention. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6yeqBYt5aEA

mickyarber Posted on Mar 06, 2016 at 06:30 PM

One of my favorites was the Pilot for the Roddy Piper / Jesse Ventura show called Tag Team. It featured Piper and Ventura as wrestlers who stopped a crime, and then decided to go into the detective business.

The pilot wasn't bad actually, but it was just never picked up.

massreality Posted on Mar 06, 2016 at 02:14 AM

I loved the WCW episode of Baywatch. Vader, Hogan, Savage, and Flair were all in the episode (and a few others.) I'm also partial to Bret and Owen Hart's appearance in Honey I Shrunk the Kids.

Vaporman87 Posted on Mar 05, 2016 at 12:29 AM

Casting King Kong Bundy in Married With Children was a stroke of genius on the part of Fox. But the role given to Piper just seems odd. More like something that would have appeared in the live action Tick series.

Also... Pudface. Just... Pudface. LOL

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