The WWE Superstar to Movie Star Pipeline
Some of today’s biggest movie stars rose to fame thanks to World Wrestling Entertainment. The Rock, John Cena, Bautista, how did they take the plunge?
Movie stars come from a variety of backgrounds including television, commercials, and the theater. But nowadays, many of the most beloved and successful movie stars have first made their mark as athletes in World Wrestling Entertainment, or WWE.
Currently, the second highest grossing actor in all of cinema is Dwayne Johnson, the beloved star of the Fast and furious and Jumanji franchisees as well as Moana. Johnson was first introduced to fans as WWE’s âThe Rockâ Superstar, and he’s far from the only wrestler to burst into Hollywood, asking the question: What is the WWE and modern movies make this jump possible?
WWE began life nearly 70 years ago under several other names, most notably the World Wrestling Federation, the name it retained until 2002. The sports entertainment empire has maintained an intensely dedicated fan base. , which has faltered in size over the years, at times becoming an immensely powerful pop-cultural force. This is not one of those times, audiences have tended to decline over the past few years, 2013 was the last significant highlight of Google TV views and trends. Many of the stars from WWE have completely eclipsed their old home.
WWE Performers Leaving the Ring and Entering Hollywood is not a new phenomenon; the unique aspect of the modern crossover is success. Dozens of superstars have appeared in movies, and many of them have even had movies built around them. WWE Legend Kane Starred In A Low Budget Horror Film Titled See no harm in which he played a dangerous psychopath. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin appeared in a few small roles before starring in WWE-produced action flick the Condemned. WWE also produced a reboot of the long Leprechaun series with Dylan “Hornswoggle” Postal. While these films centered WWE stars, they also failed outright, gaining little feedback and terrible critical reviews.
The previous golden period for wrestlers in movies was the ’80s, where WWE Superstars won roles in beloved classics that defined artists’ careers. Jessie “The Body” Ventura was a tag team champion, Governor of Minnesota, and of course he played the role of Blaine in the American classic. Predator. Andre the Giant played fan favorite character Fezzik in the classic movie The princess to marry. The most prominent example is Hulk Hogan, who made the “Hollywood Hulkster” label precise with film roles of Rocky 3 at Suburban commando. Despite some well-known roles in real quality movies, most WWE stars were revered more as actors than as prominent men.
Current WWE movie stars are best illustrated by 3 examples; John Cena, Dave Bautista and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Cena first entered the world of cinema following the favorite role model of WWE stars in the early 2000s: poorly received action films like 12 turns, before headlining studio comedies like 2018 Blockers, ultimately featured in both F9 and The suicide squad this year.
Dave Bautista is best known for his role as Drax the Destroyer in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but he also stars in action comedy. Stuber and plays a less important role in Blade Runner: 2049. It will also appear in the next Dune adaptation by Denis Villeneuve. Dwayne Johnson needs no introduction, The Rock is Hollywood’s go-to action star from Carnage at Baywatch. Any of these three eclipses Hogan, the former most successful wrestler in cinema by leaps and bounds, and the confluence of the three is a trend worth discussing.
WWE offers a unique style of entertainment: Track and Field Party, Live Sequential Drama Party. The performers who populate the ranks of WWE are actors, and that’s not up for debate. Those who have never experienced WWE content may not know it, but the weekly TV releases and WrestlingMania the events carry a long-lasting and constantly evolving narrative. The plot varies wildly in quality as it focuses on dozens of characters at once, constantly changing depending on who is popular. In addition, the physical demands of the work are intense. The stunts are partially wrong, but what is practically done is amazing. This confluence of elements creates a clear preparation for the life of an action movie star. But if WWE is the perfect training ground, why haven’t the superstars of previous generations managed to gain traction while the current ones have been incredibly successful?
The obvious argument is quality, maybe John Cena and Dwayne Johnson are just better actors than Hulk Hogan or Kane. While this is almost certainly true, the WWE ecosystem also has some responsibility. WWE has always been an economy based on charisma, the superstars who become loved are the nicest ones, and in the age of social media this has become more immediately measurable than ever. Cena recently announced that he will be returning to the ring on social media. Singing fans were able to change the direction of WWE history with their excitement or outrage. WWE fans are extremely engaged and audiences are likely to follow beloved performers from the ring to the theater, with that in mind there is a built-in fan base.
In the modern age, franchise media are the hottest thing in cinema. Filmmakers are often reluctant to take a risk on new intellectual property when it can be so much more profitable to build on ideas that are already appreciated. This ecosystem is perfect for artists who are not only already loved, but who come from a world that sees them both charismatic and believable in action. Wrestling quickly became a great place to find fan favorites that filmmakers could take inspiration from to increase a movie’s fan base and profile. This has its pros and cons, but it is clear that the best players will rise to the top and the poor performers will come out.
The WWE Superstars finding their way onto the blockbuster screen are clearly a fun phenomenon that’s here to stay. WWE performers are proven actors, action stars, and have shown their talents in the toughest stage scenarios. Fans will be excited to see which superstar is next to take the plunge.
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