Wrestling has always looked to utilise the mainstream appeal of celebrities within their product to grab the eyes of more fans around the world. As NXT gears towards Takeover XXX, they have brought in former NFL punter Pat McAfee to face Adam Cole. Although many may roll their eyes at the prospect of one of the best wrestlers in the world today facing off against an NFL star with no wrestling matches in his back pocket, there have been a number of great wrestling matches put on by celebrities.
This week we look back at times where grapplers have shared the ring with some of the biggest stars in the world and look for the best celebrity wrestling matches of all time.
Lawrence Taylor vs Bam Bam Bigelow – Wrestlemania XI
This match should never have been the main event of the WWF’s biggest show of the year, but it is still a really good wrestling match and a fantastic effort by Lawrence Taylor. Two-time SuperBowl winning linebacker Lawrence Taylor was ringside at the 1995 Royal Rumble, watching Bam Bam Bigelow fail to win the WWF Tag Team Championships after being pinned by the 1-2-3 Kid.
Bigelow was furious and took his anger out on LT, pushing him into the crowd before challenging the former New York Giant to a match a Wrestlemania. Taylor presented himself well in the match with some strong offence, including an excellent suplex and a Jack Knife to the Beast from the East. But, unlike many others on this list, he sold LT also sold the offence of his opponent excellently, looking exhausted and beaten up as Bigelow was in control.
LT kicked out of a diving headbutt from Bigelow before showing some great babyface fire, hitting him with two running forearms and a second rope forearm to win the match. Taylor was definitely over with the Connecticut crowd, but this match should have come earlier in the night, making way for Diesel and Shawn Michaels WWF Title match.
Hulk Hogan and Mr. T vs Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff – Wrestlemania
Although Lawrence Taylor and Bam Bam Bigelow didn’t belong in the main event of Wrestlemania, that doesn’t mean that celebrities main eventing at the Grandest Stage of Them All has never worked. The Rocky III and A-Team star was one of the most famous men alive in 1985 and combining his star power with the power of Hulkamania helped make Wrestlemania the worldwide phenomenon it is today. The first Wrestlemania utilised the power of celebrities’ mainstream attraction to perfection, with Cyndi Lauper, Muhammad Ali, Librace and of course Mr. T helping the WWF become a pop culture wonder.
Hogan faced Roddy Piper at The War to Settle the Score but retained the WWF Championship by DQ after he was attacked by Orndorff and Cowboy Bob Orton. Mr T, who had been established as being friends with the Hulkster, was sat at ringside and came into the ring to help him but was beaten down by the heels, setting up their match at the first-ever Wrestlemania. Although this is most likely the technically worst match on this list, it is one of the most important matches in WWF history, helping them to sell out Maddison Square Garden and establish Mania as their biggest card of the year.
We continue to see matches with celebrities in them to this day because of this match, with bookers desperately trying to catch the mainstream attention that Vince McMahon did on this night. Mr T would go on to have a couple of other matches, including a boxing match with Piper at Wrestlemania II and a horrendous match with Kevin Sullivan at Starrcade 1994, but this match earned Mr T his spot in the WWE Hall of Fame.
Stephen Amell vs Christopher Daniels – All In
All In was a showcase of the best of Independent Wrestling, so Arrow star Stephen Amell stands out like a sore thumb on this card – but he certainly earned his spot that night. Amell has had a long-term friendship with one of the masterminds behind All In, Cody Rhodes. Amell feuded with Stardust in WWE before the two faced off at Summerslam 2015, partnering with Neville and King Barrett respectively.
The Arrow star would then team with Cody in Ring of Honor, joining the Elite to face off against SCU and Flip Gordon, before Rhodes would feature in an episode of Arrow. But Amell’s crowning achievement in wrestling came at All In, facing off against the Fallen Angel Christopher Daniels. Daniels starts the match by writing off the Hollywood A-Lister, mocking him and taunting the crowd. But Amell fought from underneath and matched everything that Daniels did.
The Fallen Angel then gets more aggressive, hitting him with suplexes and clubbing blows before working the Canadian’s body. Amell fights back into the match and hits Daniels with a stunning Coast to Coast but he can only get a two. He then looks to hit Daniels with a top rope elbow drop through a table on the outside, but Daniels rolls out of the way. Daniels eventually hits the Best Moonsault Ever to Amell to pick up the win. Normally we see celebrities pick up the win in these kinds of matches, with their egos unable to take a loss in a “fake” sport. But as Amell is a long time wrestling fan, he shows respect to the sport and Daniels and allows the correct result to happen.
Moose and DeAngelo Williams vs Eli Drake and Chris Adonis – Slammiversary XV
Although this is not one of the highest profile celebrity wrestling matches ever, it has one of the best ever performances by a celebrity in a wrestling match. TNA/Impact have had some terrible celebrity cameos in the past with the likes of Adam “Pacman” Jones, who won the tag team championships despite not being aloud to get physical due to his contract with the Tennessee Titans.
And then there was Jenna Morasca, who’s incredibly terrible match with Sharmell at Victory Road who won the Wrestling Observers Worst Match of the Year and inspired Bryan Alvarez’ infamous “Minus Five Stars!” soundbite. But this time around, Impact got it right, DeAngelo Williams was a natural professional wrestler and showed all the potential in the world. The man who was the first overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft came into the ring and displayed incredible technical ability, hitting Eli Drake with Arm Drags, cannonballs and moonsaults.
Williams eventually wins the match for his team, with the only downside being an uncooperative table as he hit a top rope frog splash to Drake. In 2018, Williams entered a story with Impact World Champion Austin Aries but unfortunately, the match never happened. This may sound like exaggeration, but Williams is genuinely incredible in this match and he could well have been a star in the wrestling business if he wished to utilise his incredible potential. Just check this match out and be mesmerised that this is somehow DeAngelo’s first match.
Floyd Mayweather vs Big Show – Wrestlemania XXIV
Floyd “Money” Mayweather is one of the highest profile sports stars to step into a wrestling ring helping to draw the fifth highest buy-rate in WWE pay-per-view history. This match utilised the star power of Mayweather to perfection, with his presence alone giving this a big match feel. But the star power of Mayweather isn’t the only thing that makes this match great, it’s an incredibly enjoyable match. Mayweather is continually overpowered by the Big Show but has to use his superior speed and boxing ability to overcome the one and a quarter foot deficit.
The 50-0 boxer eventually picked up the win, hitting Show with a low blow and a chair shot to the head before knocking him out with brass knuckles. Mayweather was never going to job for the Big Show at Wrestlemania, but this finish certainly protected show, taking a blow, a chair and a brass knuckles punch from the greatest boxer in the world to knock him out. This match perfectly encapsulates everything that a wrestling promoter looks for in a celebrity wrestling match, utilising their incredible star power and draw whilst presenting an interesting and exciting contest.