Top 5 celebrity angles in pro wrestling

Shawn Michaels and Mike Tyson
Shawn Michaels and Mike Tyson
Mike Rosa

Celebrities have been showing up in pro wrestling for ages, from Mr. T at the first WrestleMania all the way to Bad Bunny in WWE today. Celebrities have been used in managerial roles, guest referee roles, and even competed in matches. With Mike Tyson making a small stint in AEW with Chris Jericho, Shaquille O'Neal wrestling Cody Rhodes, and Bad Bunny being a manager-type for Damian Priest, celebrities in pro wrestling are seemingly showing up in many different ways.

We've even seen what can happen when certain celebrity appearances turn into gold like Pat McAfee, who wrestled two matches for NXT and ended up taking home the Wrestling Observer Newsletter's Rookie of the Year Award. So we're going to look back and rank the top five celebrity angles in pro wrestling history. We will be looking at actual angles in which celebrities showed up in more than one appearance.

5. Celebrity in Pro Wrestling - David Arquette (WCW)

David Arquette, Diamond Dallas Page, Chris Kanyon
David Arquette, Diamond Dallas Page, Chris Kanyon

Looking back on it, having David Arquette win the WCW World Heavyweight Championship was kind of ridiculous. But when you look at other celebrity appearances in pro wrestling, none have accomplished what David Arquette did in 2000.

After starring in the wrestling cult classic Ready to Rumble, Arquette began appearing on WCW television and immediately entered into an angle with Eric Bischoff, aligning himself with Chris Kanyon and Diamond Dallas Page. After holding the WCW Championship, Arquette defended the title against Jeff Jarrett and DDP, where he turned on Page and handed Jarrett the victory. He made his last appearance for WCW after the New Blood Rising PPV.

It wouldn't be the last time we saw Arquette use his celebrity in pro wrestling. Arquette appeared on Monday Night Raw in 2010, teaming with Alex Riley in a losing effort against Randy Orton. He also made a brief appearance on Being the Elite, getting superkicked by The Young Bucks.

It seems like every pro wrestling fan is still against Arquette winning the title. With Arquette himself saying he was against the win, looking at celebrity appearances in wrestling history, none of them have possibly been as kayfabe successful as David Arquette.

4. Celebrity in Pro Wrestling - Dennis Rodman/Karl Malone (WCW)

Dennis Rodman, Karl Malone, and Hulk Hogan
Dennis Rodman, Karl Malone, and Hulk Hogan

We've seen a lot of NBA players show up in pro wrestling over the years, but none may be as entertaining as Dennis Rodman and Karl Malone. In the 1998 NBA Finals, Dennis Rodman, Michael Jordan, and Scottie Pippen took on Karl Malone, John Stockton, and Jeff Hornacek. Capping off an incredible 45 point game, Michael Jordan's last shot as a Chicago Bull put an end to the Jazz's run, giving the Bulls their sixth NBA Championship in 8 years.

But before game four, Rodman actually missed team practice to the dismay of many writers and fans. Rodman was taking part in a WCW taping, in an angle with the man he was actually going up against in the NBA Finals, Karl Malone.

We've seen many celebrity guest spots in the WCW days, but when you look at Dennis Rodman, arguably none were more fascinating than him. Dennis Rodman himself could be a pro wrestling gimmick; Partying in Las Vegas in the middle of the season, dating celebrity women, and even dying his hair in some of the craziest (and coolest) of ways.

Karl Malone was the opposite of a celebrity. He was a quiet Louisianna boy that was strictly business (even though Rodman and many of the Lakers got under his skin every time they shared a court). However, Malone was a fan of pro wrestling dating all the way back to his youth.

WCW put the two big-men in a tag team feud, with Rodman seemingly joining the NWO and teaming with Hulk Hogan, and Malone teaming with new friend DDP at the 1998 Bash at the Beach. While the match may not rank high in pro wrestling matches, having Rodman and Malone battle in the ring after their battle on the hardwood was a sight to see for many pro wrestling fans in the late '90s.

3. Celebrity in Pro Wrestling - Donald Trump (WWE)

Donald Trump, Vince McMahon, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and Bobby Lashley
Donald Trump, Vince McMahon, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and Bobby Lashley

In 2007, the pro wrestling world was shocked when Donald Trump was rumored to be involved in a WWE storyline. Trump was in the news due to his feud with another celebrity, Rosie O'Donnell, which Vince McMahon used to start a storyline using local wrestlers acting as the two.

Trump interrupted McMahon's "Fan Appreciation Night" in the most celebrity way possible, dropping money from the rafters. In the months following, Trump and McMahon came up with a stipulation for their match at WrestleMania 23. Billed "The Battle of the Billionaires," McMahon and Trump were to select representatives to fight on their behalf, and whoever lost the match would have to have their head shaved.

At WrestleMania 23, with Stone Cold serving as special guest referee, Lashley and Umaga went to war. We even got to see Trump give McMahon one of the worst clotheslines and punches by a celebrity in pro wrestling history. Following a stunner by Austin, Lashley speared Umaga and pinned him, winning the match for Trump.

After the match, Trump shaved Vince McMahon's head in the middle of the ring with the help of Bobby Lashley and Stone Cold. WWE even inducted Trump into the celebrity wing of the WWE Hall of Fame.

A celebrity with the name and stature of Trump in 2007 showing up in pro wrestling was huge for the sport. Even bigger was the character Mr. McMahon finally get what many pro wrestling fans felt he deserved.

2. Celebrity in Pro Wrestling - Mike Tyson (WWE/F)

Mike Tyson
Mike Tyson

Mike Tyson may not be involved in the best celebrity angle in pro wrestling history, but when it comes to WWE/F, it may be the most important. WCW was the pro wrestling promotion that took the world by storm in the nineties. With the birth of the NWO, Vince McMahon was losing the ratings war every week.

With WWE ratings dropping, advertisers leaving, and the fact that their top star, Bret Hart, was dropping the company for their number one competition, Vince McMahon and WWE had to do something big. WWE couldn't compete with the type of money that WCW was throwing at talent, but Vince handed out a last-minute, hail-Mary payday to one man: Mike Tyson.

Tyson was suspended from the sport of boxing following the Evander Holyfield debacle and was also fined $150,000. Vince saw this as a chance to pounce and offered Tyson $3.5M to have him be the special guest enforcer for Shawn Michaels vs Stone Cold at WrestleMania XIV.

WWE used Tyson's celebrity in the absolute perfect way, using his image as the bad boy of boxing to his advantage in pro wrestling. The "Baddest Man on the Planet" aligned himself with Michales and D-Generation X after a big scuffle with Austin on an episode of RAW. But at WrestleMania XIV, Tyson turned on D-X and handed Austin, the biggest star in pro wrestling at the time, the WWF Championship.

The way the WWE used Tyson's image was ideal, and according to Eric Bischoff, as soon as he saw Mike Tyson in the WWE, he knew that the WCW "was in deep s***." Tyson was also inducted into the celebrity wing of the WWE Hall of Fame.

1. Celebrity in Pro Wrestling - Andy Kaufman (Memphis pro wrestling circuit)

Andy Kaufman, Jerry Lawler, David Letterman
Andy Kaufman, Jerry Lawler, David Letterman

Andy Kaufman was involved in not only the best celebrity angle, but possibly one of the greatest pro wrestling angles of all time, period. Andy Kaufman was by no means a wrestler, he was a comedian actor who seemingly fell in love with the business. In the early 1980s, Kaufman began calling himself the Inter-Gender Champion of the World, wrestling women at shows and offering $1,000 to any that could pin him.

In kayfabe, Jerry "The King" Lawler took offense to Kaufman wrestling women which led to the start of the feud between them. The two would wrestle each other, and Kaufman even suffered a neck injury after taking one of Lawler's piledrivers. In typical wrestler fashion, Kaufman wore a neck brace, playing up his injury worse than it was.

But then Kaufman used his celebrity to bring light on the Memphis pro wrestling scene, by appearing on the David Letterman Show in 1982 with Lawler. Many in attendance and watching at home actually believed Kaufman and Lawler hated each other, and after Lawler slapped Kaufman, he began throwing an expletive-ridden tirade at The King. The feud was a work of entertainment art in a time when pro wrestling was focused on just that, wrestling.

In fact, the angle was so good, it took over 10 years for Lawler to admit that he and Kaufman were actually good friends. Kaufman and Lawler might've started a change in pro wrestling. Using a celebrity that had all but no in-ring skill in a storyline that was based solely on the story arguably helped make wrestling what it is today.

Edited by James Sullivan


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