It’s been wall-to-wall sport this summer so we’re turning our gaze to sports sorts who used their prowess in the field, the ring and even the diving pool to become big screen Hollywood stars
Is there a correlation between the wrestling ring and making it into mainstream acting? Clearly. WWE is all about being a big personality, remembering lines under pressure, and winning over the crowd, usually while wearing something ridiculous. Therefore, expect a fair whack of wrestlers on this list, like this flame-haired Irish WWE wrestler taking the United States by storm. Not to be confused with the other flame-haired Irish WWE wrestler taking the States by storm (Sheamus), Lynch played villainous Maddy Hayes in The Marine 6. Aaaand that’s about it... Hey, is it her fault if people prefer to see her as Becky Lynch in such shows as Billions and The Four Horsewomen of NXT?
He didn’t set the Hollywood big screen alight, but this former NFL linebacker managed to nab the holy grail — a regular sitcom gig. Not only did it permit him to display his pectoral prowess, while bringing the funny, but he also got to keep his own name playing The Ebony Falcon himself, Terry Jeffords. Prior to Crews’ eight-year stint on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, he had a number of recurring TV roles in Arrested Development, The Newsroom, and Everybody Hates Chris. He has also landed movie parts in Get Smart, The Expendables franchise, Deadpool, Terminator Salvation, plus a litany of animated offerings, from Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 to VeggieTales: Celery Night Fever.
In 2009, featherweight Carano was part of the first female fight to headline the MMA. Given she won (and kind of made history in the process), the door to Hollywood sprung open, leading to roles in Deadpool, Fast & Furious 6, and a lead in Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire.
In addition to his foray into film, WWE’s Cena has come to the fore as a proper funny presenter. Should you need further convincing, check him out co-presenting alongside Nicole Byer in the latest incarnation of Wipeout. Cena — who you may have mistaken for Channing Tatum after a particularly rough night — kicked off his wrestling career in 1999, and the 45-year-old is still actively hurling himself around the ring today. What of his movies? He’s appeared in Suicide Squad, Daddy’s Home, Bumblebee and at least 20 more.
Arguably one of the original WWE Divas, Keibler’s very public wrestling career spanned from 1999 until 2006, whereupon she hooked up with George Clooney for a couple of years and dipped her toe in the world of acting. While she didn’t get offered a landslide of movies (appearing in just one; 2012’s Dysfunctional Friends alongside Clueless alumni, Stacey Dash), she did appear on TV in How I Met Your Mother and Chuck.
Like a lot of the athletes on this list, the late André appeared in many movies as himself. It was his legendary turn alongside Mandy Patinkin in 1987’s Princess Bride that truly showcased his acting ability — which was particularly impressive given he was reportedly consuming, on average, a case of beer, at least three bottles of red wine, topped off with two bottles of brandy A DAY.
The name that brought female MMA fighting to mainstream media was always going to have a career in Hollywood. Rousey even managed to make a WWE pitstop along the way to knock seven shades out of Becky Lynch. To date, Rousey has had parts in usual ring-to-screen film franchises such as Fast & Furious and The Expendables, while also undertaking her fair share of cameos in television shows.
Having acted in movies as well as short films, the decorated NBA player is also a producer of TV series, documentaries, and many movies – including certain questionable reboots. He both produced and starred in last year’s Space Jam: A New Legacy, which garnered an aggregate score of just 26pc from the critics on the Rotten Tomatoes movie review website.
Was he a footballer? An MMA enthusiast? A wrestler? All wrong, I’m afraid. In his previous life, he was a diver. Statham competed for England at the 1990 Commonwealth Games, finishing eighth in the one-metre springboard, 11th in the three-metre springboard and 10th in the 10-metre platform. As for his movies? As well as a couple of Fast & Furious movies, he’s starred in suitably high-octane fare The Meg, Killer Elite, Death Race, Crank, Chaos, War and more. Has he been typecast? You decide.
True, former basketball ace Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has appeared in more movies than fellow NBA legend Michael Jordan but he has never played the lead. The closest KAJ came to being a leading role was his turn as Roger Murdock in the original Airplane! spoof. No one can take Jordan’s leading man legacy away from him — even if he were repeatedly outshone by Daffy Duck in the 1996 film Space Jam. If we were talking documentaries, he’d be king. If you’ve never seen The Last Dance, do yourself a favour and check it out on Netflix.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a face more formidable. Now, imagine it running at you on a foggy football field during a game, making grabby gestures towards your nethers. Commencing his film career in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, Jones then nabbed the lead in Barry Skolnick’s Mean Machine. He could have stayed nestled under his collective comfort blanket with Jason Statham and Guy Ritchie had he not already expanded into more global block-busting territory via Gone in 60 Seconds, X-Men: The Last Stand, Swordfish, and 2016’s The Magnificent Seven. Jones has in the region of 70-plus film and television series appearances, among them such lesser-known titles such as Hell Ride, Kill The Irishman, Kill Kane, and I Am Vengeance: Retaliation. His latest rumoured project? ZvG: Zombies Vs Gladiators, according to the IMDb website.
I know what you’re thinking. Surely O.J. Simpson should make an I know what you’re thinking. Surely OJ Simpson should make an appearance in this Top 12, given he has starred in multiple movies. As some of those titles include No Place to Hide, Detour to Terror, A Killing Affair, and Killer Force, we’ll give OJ a swerve in favour of another American Footballer turned Hollywood star, The Rock. It may (or may not) surprise you to learn that Dwayne Johnson didn’t directly follow in his father’s professional wrestling footsteps; he first entertained a footballing dalliance with the Miami Hurricanes. When you consider his dual background in both American footballing and wrestling, Johnson — star of such blockbusters as the Fast & Furious film series — was all but destined to have us all smell what The Rock was cooking.