Hi folks! Today, we’ll be looking at five of the best celebrity wresting matches of all time in any promotion (I’m not knowledgeable of any from Japan) . There have been many, but it’s difficult to find any that were good. Usually through no fault of their own, the celebs don’t have the necessary skills to work a solid contest. Or as a champion from a real sport, they don’t want to come across as weak by losing to a wrestler. It’s often the lack of training and commitment contributing to wrestler vs. celebrity matches failing to be anything more than a spectacle for short-term media attention. These are the exceptions.
Tyson Fury vs. Braun Strowman: It kinda sucks because I can’t find the full match to analyze, but Tyson Fury is a rare example of a sports athlete who came in and respected his opponent and the business enough to sell. As a World Champion he could’ve made Strowman look like a chump, but he worked their match like a wrestler and sold more than most of his predecessors.
Because he worked it like a wrestler and not a boxer, it appeared a little ordinary, and it’s not like Strowman is a ring general who could help him connect the dots. Either way, it was better than Brock Lesnar vs. Cain Velasquez, which in theory should’ve been a more exciting “fight”. Some enjoyed it, others hated it, but the main thing we can take from Fury vs. Strowman is the undefeated champion of the world didn’t stink up the place. That’s a win in my book.
Toby Keith Attacks Jeff Jarrett: This is more of a moment than a match, but he did technically change the outcome by getting involved. At the first show in TNA/Impact Wrestling’s history, Toby Keith was on hand to perform. But Jeff Jarrett shoved him out of the way, which understandably made Keith irate. In the main event battle royal to crown the NWA World Heavyweight Champion, Toby took matters in to his own hands.
5. WrestleMania II Battle Royal
Correct me if I’m wrong, but this may have contained the most amount of athletes from another sport than any wrestling match we’ve seen. And no, I’m not saying it was an epic battle royal by any means. But what it did do, was it made having wrestlers and football players in the squared circle together not feel weird. Here’s the list of participants:
Jimbo Covert (NFL player – Chicago Bears), Pedro Morales, Tony Atlas, Ted Arcidi, Harvey Martin (Former NFL player – Dallas Cowboys), Danny Spivey, Hillbilly Jim, King Tonga, The Iron Sheik, Ernie Holmes (Former NFL player – Pittsburgh Steelers), B. Brian Blair, Jim Brunzell, Big John Studd, Bill Fralic (NFL player – Atlanta Falcons), Jim Neidhart, Russ Francis (NFL player – San Francisco 49ers), Bruno Sammartino, and William “Refrigerator” Perry (NFL player – Chicago Bears).
The last name made it worthy of being on the card. The fans LOVED the “Fridge” from the first second to the last. In fact, when he got eliminated they needed to do something with him because the fans would’ve been pissed. His back-and-forth with Big John Studd is an often overlooked moment, likely because WrestleMania II as a whole was shambolic. William Perry had only been with the Chicago Bears for a year, but his charisma and team’s dominance guaranteed him a huge pop from the local fans, yet to neutrals you cannot deny he’s a natural.
4. Stephen Amell & Neville vs. Stardust & Wade Barrett
Five years is a long time ago for Cody Rhodes. For all these guys really, they’ve all moved on in different ways. Amell wrestled with Ring Of Honor, and also at All In against Christopher Daniels two years ago. Neville is in AEW with Cody, and Wade Barrett moved on to World Of Sport as a commentator… then NWA Powerr replacing Jim Cornette, and presently in NXT.
This comic book fueled encounter at SummerSlam showed Amell wasn’t just another celebrity looking to plug their product. He is a diehard wrestling fans with aspirations to become one. And not for money, but because he genuinely enjoys it and respects the business. And that’s why I included the SummerSlam match over his encounter with Daniels, because it started him along the path.
3. “The Mailman” Karl Malone & DDP vs. “The Worm” Dennis Rodman & Hulk Hogan
It is possibly the best celebrity match outside of WWE that isn’t some kind of worked shoot fight. Dennis Rodman wasn’t great because he seemed tired, but sure sold well and did more than would be expected. Karl Malone however, it’s kinda disappointing he didn’t keep on wrestling, because he’s a pure athlete and he’d clearly been paying attention to training. What a natural! Imagine how many amazing wrestlers the business could have had if there was no such thing as the NBA or NFL.
As his nickname suggests, he delivered in style. What I like about this is they let Malone & Rodman have as much time as DDP & Hogan; they weren’t trying to protect or carry ’em. They were both up for working every part of the match, and there has been nothing like it since. At least, not from two basketball players. You have to feel a little sorry for Malone in the end, I think his performance deserved a little more reward.
2. Lawrence Taylor vs. Bam Bam Bigelow
Surprisingly, this is the main event of WrestleMania XI. Never before had a singles match between a sports athlete and a wrestler featured in the most sought after spot in WWE. And while Bam Bam Bigelow is a hell of an athlete, he wasn’t anywhere near the most popular guy on the roster. He’s well respected for his athleticism, and certainly has support, but there is no way he would’ve main evented WrestleMania had it not been for Lawrence Taylor. It is said that he was the perfect fit for Taylor, as his look contrasts and he could carry him to a good match. But they went further than that, by delivering something so great it surprised many how good Taylor was in such a short time of training.
Bruce Prichard said he spent more time golfing than training in the run up to WrestleMania, just because it’s his favorite pasttime, so imagine what he could’ve been had he committed. There’s a question mark over the result though. Yes, Taylor is a hell of an athlete and it is believable he could win. But Bam Bam is a veteran by this time, and there’s no way a rookie, even with the pure, raw athleticism of Taylor, should be able to beat him in the most important match of his life. It’s kinda sad that this is Bigelow’s biggest achievement in WWE, he should be remembered for so much more. Still, the media attention helped the company immensely in a struggling time, therefore achieving what it set out to do.
1. Mr. T & Hulk Hogan vs. Roddy Piper & Paul Orndorff
The most successful celebrity match of all time helped to launch the flagship show that is WWE’s WrestleMania. The amazing thing about Laurence Tureaud, known to the world as Mr. T, is that he’s not a sports athlete. What he is though, is a very adaptable man with natural charisma and athleticism. The duo of Hogan & Mr. T was a natural fit, and Piper provided the necessary heel heat to get everyone on their side.
This was in stark contrast to his Clubber Lang character in Rocky III, who was a notoriously outspoken villain with nothing holding him back. I think they did a great job highlighting the fact he wasn’t anything like Clubber Lang, and instead was more of a hero like B. A. Baracus. I also like that they made a ton of drama from this encounter, during and afterwards. Instead of plugging a World title match, a tag match was the draw for WrestleMania and it succeeded.
This is what WWE is about, but it has been a long time since they have succeeded on this level. It’s understandable that some wrestlers felt disrespected for allowing Mr. T to have this spot, but at the end of the day it’s business. In the long run, decisions like these expand the company and they’ll benefit in the long term. The key is to keep the fans drawn in by the celebrities. If they can’t do that, then it was all for nothing. Do you have any celebrity matches you believe should have made the cut? Share it with us in the comments below. And with that said, I hope you enjoyed this short list of the best celebrity wrestling matches. Thank you and see you again!