Celebrities have been involved with wrestling ever since the inception of Wrestlemania. Even before Wrestlemania 1, which took place in 1985, Jerry Lawler was wrestling Andy Kaufman in Memphis. But what is the appeal of celebrities being involved in wrestling? On top of appeal, are there celebrities who are actually good in a wrestling ring? Let’s take a look at how celebrities in wrestling have evolved over the years and if it is still a smart decision to bring in celebrities.
Taking Andy Kaufman’s feud with Jerry Lawler out of the equation and only focusing on WWE for now, Wrestlemania has always been a mesh of celebrities and wrestling. During Wrestlemania 1, Mr. T, Liberace, Cyndi Lauper, and Muhammad Ali all had some involvement. However, the only one to wrestle was Mr. T. This was the very first Wrestlemania and the main event was won by a celebrity and his tag team partner. Mr. T was able to do just enough in the ring to make it look convincing but some of the credit falls on Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff for making him look so good during the match.
Without going through every year and every match involving a celebrity, a few honorable mentions should be made before the “Host of Monday Night Raw” era is discussed. At Wrestlemania 2, there was a follow-up to the Mr. T versus Roddy Piper story where Piper and Mr. T would face each other in a boxing match. Also on the card for Wrestlemania 2, there was a battle royal that had WWF wrestlers and NFL players as participants. The use of football players in the battle royal was a brilliant idea because WWE was able to hide the negatives and accentuate the positives with what they were able to do in the ring.
Multi-person matches have always been a great way to showcase celebrities in the wrestling ring. Fast forward to Wrestlemania 27, Nicole Polizzi (Snookie) teamed with Trish Stratus and John Morrison to face off against LayCool (Layla and Michelle McCool) and Dolph Ziggler. Even though Snookie scored the win for her team, fans could see how inexperienced she was in the ring. Her inexperience was overshadowed by the amount of fun the crowd was having with the various interactions between all of the competitors in the match. The following year at Wrestlemania 28, a similar formula would be used for another celebrity wrestling match. Maria Menounos teamed with Kelly Kelly to defeat Beth Phoenix and Eve Torres in a tag match. Once again, the crowd could see the inexperience but the match was still enjoyable.
Not all celebrity interactions and matches have taken place at Wrestlemania though. There have been numerous celebrity appearances during the Royal Rumble over the years. Names such as Pete Rose, Drew Carey, Johnny Knoxville, and even Bad Bunny have competed in the Royal Rumble. Pete Rose had many encounters with Kane over the years and Johnny Knoxville and Bad Bunny have had the opportunity to compete in singles action outside of the multi-person matches they were involved in. At Payback in 2023, Bad Bunny had one of the best matches of the year, not just celebrity-wise but in general. Both Bad Bunny and Logan Paul have recently changed the caliber of what is expected from celebrities when they step into a wrestling ring.
It was not all fun and entertaining with celebrities and their involvement with wrestling. There was a period of time in WWE where each week Raw would have a guest host. There were many guest hosts throughout this era of television and a lot of them were either forgettable or remembered for being terrible. One of the biggest examples of a lackluster appearance was the night that Jeremy Piven hosted Raw in 2009. Piven seemed to be happy to be there but fans could tell that he was not interested in the product, stating that Miz would be banned from “SummerFest”. Of course, Piven meant the WWE event SummerSlam, and John Cena quickly corrected Piven’s mistake but this has been seen as a reason not to bring in celebrities.
Another reason fans do not want to see celebrities come into the ring is the feeling that they are taking away time from the talent that is on the roster. When Bad Bunny and Logan Paul were first introduced to have matches, many fans felt that other wrestlers could have been booked in their place. It was not until after their respective matches that fans gave them the benefit of the doubt for the work they were able to do in the ring. But it has not always just been a WWE project to include celebrities in their product. Even though Stephen Amell had a SummerSlam match, teaming with Neville (PAC) to take on Stardust (Cody Rhodes) and King Barrett (Wade Berrett), Amell has also performed in a match against Christopher Daniels at the first All In event. All In would be the event that helped launch AEW.
Also in AEW, former TBS Champion Jade Cargill had her first match where she teamed with Shaquille O’Neal to face Cody Rhodes and Red Velvet. This big marquee match launched the career of Jade Cargill but having Shaq in the match helped bring more eyes to the event. Even though there have not been many matches in AEW that have involved celebrities, there have been many occasions where celebrities have made appearances on AEW television. Rick Ross has made a few appearances on AEW programming, where he was involved with Swerve and Keith Lee. Also, there have been a few more notable names such as Rosario Dawson, Kevin Smith, Jason Mewes, Steve-O, and a brief video of Bow Wow, that have made appearances in AEW.
The biggest question with regards to celebrities making appearances in a wrestling ring is “Why?”. The obvious and most likely answer is to bring in viewership. It is believed backstage that when a celebrity is announced for an appearance, wrestling companies expect to increase their viewership. This does not always seem to be the case. Even though Bad Bunny is one of the top recording artists in history, there has always only been a slight increase from the regular viewership. With the rise of social media over the past two decades, there have been massive increases in views on videos involving celebrities. Hopefully, fans will be able to see more celebrities perform at the level of Bad Bunny, Stephen Amell, Logan Paul, and even Shaq whenever there are any celebrity integrations in the future.
Which celebrity would you like to see make an in-ring appearance? What company would you like to see them in and with whom should they have a program?