When Vince McMahon took charge of the WWE, he was described as a visionary. The description aptly suits him in hindsight considering the strides the business has taken under his dynamic leadership.
Mr McMahon extended the tentacles of the WWE beyond just the ring and partnered with the NFL, Hollywood and other relevant industries to keep his product relevant. This has led to a lot of crossovers between industries and most notably, the WWE got a global exposure.
Isolating Hollywood alone, the WWE has made the most of its partnership with the cinema industry. Given the dramatic nature of professional wrestling, it is no surprise that many memorable wrestlers have made the transition to action movies. Although wrestling and movies may seem markedly different at first glance, they place similar demands on performers.
As a result, the big screen is littered with crossover performers: "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, John Cena, Dwayne Johnson, and Hulk Hogan. Wrestlers that make a successful career in the film have mastered the abilities that are required of both movies and choreographed fighting.
Here are 5 Wrestling Traits That Transfer to Movies:
#5: Dramatic Abilities
By nature, professional wrestling is a dramatic spectacle. Wrestlers are required to create a character and build it throughout their careers. Many develop catch phrases, create signature moves and wear special costumes in support of their characters. Many wrestlers are known as much for their performing abilities as for their skill in the ring. When they transition to action movies, wrestlers are often able to perform physically without falling out of character.
Action movie characters are often less nuanced than roles in other genres; wrestlers, with their over-the-top acting style, are particularly well suited to the action genre. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is a notable example. After building a popular in-ring character, he parlayed his acting abilities into a lucrative film and television career. With movies like "The Rundown" and "Fast & Furious," he worked elements of his wrestling persona into the on-screen character.
#4: Audience Curiosity
In professional wrestling, the performers are larger-than-life. Their in-ring personas are big and dramatic, unlike anything the audience would see in their everyday activities. The spectacle of a wrestler playing a more realistic character sparks curiosity in moviegoers. It is a natural formula for both action and comedy, as evidenced by Hulk Hogan's performances in "Mr. Nanny" and "Thunder in Paradise."
Action movies give wrestlers the chance to show off their physical abilities and their acting skills, and audiences get to see their favorite performers in an unexpected setting.
#3: Physical Demands
During filming, actors must perform consistently in physically demanding, high energy sequences. It is not uncommon for a single scene to require multiple takes; when the script involves running, fighting or stunts, the actors must be able to keep pace without tiring. Before a movie begins, most actors go through a challenging training regimen to prepare their bodies for the stresses of working long days on action scenes.
Professional wrestlers, who spend a great deal of their career focused on physical performance, are prepared to handle the stresses of long shooting days. Because their training involves maintaining their muscle mass, exercising frequently and performing in matches, wrestlers are a natural fit for action movies.
Their bodies are accustomed to working in charged, high-octane environments. When it comes to physical demands, wrestlers are a natural fit for action movies. John Cena, who played the starring role in the action movie "The Marine", used his existing physical abilities to lend realism to his performance.
Superstars like The Rock, Randy Orton, The Miz, Batista etc have all been part of extremely popular action flicks and their ability to quickly adapt to the setting and deliver a flawless performance stems from their impressive work ethic.
Professional wrestling is highly choreographed. Before a match, a coordinator works with the wrestlers to plan an outline, focusing on signature moves, high points and important moments. From there, the participants can improvise within the framework, playing off of each other to add drama and excitement. Often, they communicate with each other during the fight using hand signals or verbal cues.
The ability to follow choreography and work with other wrestlers translates directly to movies. Acting requires both memorization and improvisation; actors must follow the instructions from a director and add their own touch to the scene. Since wrestlers are comfortable following directions and rehearsing a set of moves, they are often successful in the transition to movies.
A typical wrestling match is just like any other song and dance sequence in a movie. It is well rehearsed, there is ample coordination and there is a timeline set for each move to be executed.
It's not too different when you see both industries from a performance perspective.
#1: Stunt Work
Stunts are integral to the production of an action movie. Many actors opt out of stunts because they are not trained to execute them safely. Instead, the director brings in look-alike stunt people to perform the more dangerous moves and action sequences. The stunt actors are able to perform complex, dangerous scene work in a way that looks realistic but poses minimal bodily harm.
When a wrestler works on an action movie, they come with existing knowledge of stunt work. Before they step into a performance ring, wrestlers undergo extensive training in stunt safety. They learn how to execute a hold without causing harm, how to hit the mat after a fall, and how to take a punch. In an action movie, many wrestlers-turned-actors are able to handle their own stunts, lending a feeling of realism to the film.
Imagine Kofi Kingston doing a movie. He can take a cue out of his Royal Rumble exploits or his Money in the bank experience and deliver real action-packed sequences that would put even the best of Hollywood to shame.