Wrestlemania is the biggest show on the WWE calendar. Acting as a season finale, of sorts, ‘Mania is the time of the year when Vince pulls out all the stops. Taking place in a large stadium, and having the eyes of the world on you puts a tremendous amount of pressure on WWE. If the attendance and buy rates are not there then the show is usually considered a colossal failure. It is for this reason that Vince puts everything he has behind the show. One of the biggest guns that Vince and company pull out is the addition of celebrities. WrestleMania Celebrities!
Bringing in those from Hollywood is a great way to boost viewership and bring some mainstream media attention to the show.
Alas, bringing in those A-listers is a double-edged sword. Sometimes they add to the show and provide some great moments. While others have no business being at ‘Mania and make a joke of the entire proceedings. Below we will discuss the 5 best and 5 worst appearances by celebrities at the Show of Shows.
Best: Bad Bunny – Wrestlemania 37
As a lifelong wrestling fan, Bad Bunny’s lyrics had included various wrestling references. This made him an obvious choice to work into an angle going into Wrestlemania.
Working with Damian Priest, opposite The Miz and John Morrison, most expected very little. There have been very few cases of a celebrity entering the ring and providing an entertaining match.
Luckily, this was one of the best pleasant surprises in ‘Mania history. Bunny was fantastic in the ring during the bout. Sure, he wasn’t going to show the work rate of a seasoned veteran, but he was able to work one hell of a match.
Pulling off moves like a diving splash, arm drag, and dropkick with a crisp finish was surprising from the musical star. Then he was able to bring everyone out of their seats with a Canadian Destroyer. This is not a hard move to master but Bunny was able to pull it off.
Worst: Snooki – Wrestlemania 27
From a great celebrity match to one of the worst of all time, we have the star of the Jersey Shore making an appearance. Snooki was never one to have her celebrity based on talent, and Wrestlemania 27 showed exactly why. Snooki had been feuding with Vicki Guerrero and LayCool since March and it was a yawn the whole time. No one cared about the star being involved at Wrestlemania and rubbed many the wrong way. The Jersey Shore star was taking a spot away from more deserving talents.
She could have saved herself if her ability in the ring had shown us something. It seemed as if Snooki had not trained at all for the event. She was sloppy in the ring and her move set showed no creativity. It was an embarrassing time out for the reality star.
Best: Pete Rose – Wrestlemania 14, 15 and 16 (2000)
Starting at 14, Rose was a ring announcer for the Kane/Undertaker match. He was mid-rant on the Boston crowd when Kane came out and tombstoned the baseball legend. It was a great moment and one that got a roar from the Boston faithful.
Rose would try and exact some revenge the next Wrestlemania. Dressed at the San Diego Chicken he tried to jump Kane before his match. Of Course, Kane got the better of Rose and hit him with yet another tombstone. This would again be repeated the next year at Wrestlemania 2000 when Rose tried to jump Kane yet again, only to get a third tombstone in 3 years.
This would mark one of the most entertaining Wrestlemania celebrity appearances. The fact that Rose kept coming back for more was hilarious. He was overmatched by the Big Red Machine and his use of disguises was fantastic. It built anticipation for Kane’s matches and it showed how celebrities should be used.
Worst: Akebono – Wrestlemania 21
Wanting a special attraction for Wrestlemania 21, WWE decided to put on a monstrosity of a match. Having the Big Show on the roster clicked a light bulb in creatives’ heads. “ Hey, we have a big wrestler, so let’s put him against a sumo wrestler! What a great idea”. Point of fact, it was not a great idea.
Akebono was a world-class sumo wrestler, but he didn’t have name recognition on this side of the world. It was hard for any fan to get invested in a match involving the big man from Japan.
There was also the fact that the match was terrible. It lasted around a minute and it was clear that the Big Show was overmatched. He had no background in sumo fighting and it showed when Akebono had his way with him. There could have been better ways to include celebrities during the evening, this was not one of them.
Best: Mike Tyson – Wrestlemania 14
On the cusp of the Attitude Era, WWE needed the perfect celebrity to bring to Wrestlemania. This led to the brilliant decision to involve Mike Tyson in the show. Tyson was known as the baddest man on the planet and his personality was one that meshed well with the new WWE era.
Tyson had started making appearances at the Royal Rumble and was soon at odds with match-winner Steve Austin. Stone Cold was the driving force behind the Attitude Era and having him square off against Tyson made for some great television.
Once we made it to the big night, Tyson had sided himself with D-X and WWE Champion Shawn Michaels. This would stack the odds against Austin but as we all know this was a swerve and Tyson ended up counting HBK down and awarding the strap to Austin. It was a great move and one that was compounded by Tyson one punching Michaels after the match.
Worst: Kim Kardashian – Wrestlemania 24
This could be the worst decision in WWE history. Kim was pencilled in as the hostess of the show, but she could hardly manage that. From her first appearance, it was obvious to everyone in the building that Kim had no idea what she was doing. She knew nothing about the wrestling world and watching her struggle to interact with the wrestlers was laughable.
The only high point was Kennedy screaming his name in her face. That got a good laugh.
Best: Mr. T – Wrestlemania 1 and Wrestlemania 2
On the heels of the Rock N’ Wrestling Connection, Mr T was heavily used in WWE’s main storyline. Siding with Hogan to assist in battles against Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff, Mr T had become a huge part o WWE.
This involvement translated into T main eventing the first Wrestlemania alongside Hogan. It was a great move and one that instantly added some mainstream exposure to the event. At the time, Mr.T was one of the biggest stars in the world, and having him rub elbows with Hogan was perfect.
With his success at Wrestlemania, Mr. T was brought back the following year to engage in a feud with Roddy Piper. Having a boxing match was an interesting choice that hindered the action but it, again, brought some mainstream exposure to the event. Something that helped to make Wrestlemania an institution.
Worst: John Turturro – Wrestlemania 11
WWE was not in the best position going into Wrestlemania 11. House show numbers and PPV buy rates were down. This meant that the celebrities coming to Wrestlemania weren’t going to be your A-listers. Which led us to the horrendous appearance of the only person whose career didn’t flourish from being on NYPD Blue.
John Turturro was a terrible idea for Wrestlemania. Used in a backstage interviewer role Turturro looked out of his element for the entire show. He didn’t have much knowledge of the wrestlers he was interviewing and his comedic segments were groan-inducing.
Turturro didn’t amount to much after his NYPD stint and judging from his appearance at Wrestlemania it isn’t hard to see why.
Best: Floyd Mayweather – Wrestlemania 24
Like Mr T before him, Mayweather showed us how a celebrity match can be incredibly entertaining. At No Way Out, the month prior, The Big Show made his return to WWE. During the PPV, Show attempted to chokeslam Rey Mysterio before Mayweather intervened. Mayweather was in attendance and a friend of Mysterio’s and confronted The Big Show. This back and forth led to their exhibition match at Wrestlemania.
Their match at ‘Mania was your typical attraction match. Mayweather didn’t have an impressive work rate so there were a lot of bells and whistles or the match. The size disparity made for a great David v Goliath visual. They played this off for most of the match and it made for a captivating story.
Great wrestling was not the point of this match. It was supposed to entertain the crowd while bringing a more mainstream audience to the PPV. That is exactly what the contest accomplished and it was great.
Worst: Susan St. James – Wrestlemania 2
Bringing in celebrities for a big show is a smart idea. Bringing in a different audience while lending credibility to the product is what one can achieve with the A-listers. This is exactly why the Susan St. James experiment for Wrestlemania 2 was a disaster.
As a television personality, James was entertaining enough, but she was completely out of her element at Wrestlemania. It seemed as if James did no pre-work going into the event. She knew nothing about the wrestlers in the ring and her ability to provide any entertaining colour commentary was non-existent.
Her work alongside legitimate wrestling announcers showed the chasm in her abilities. WWE would have been better served to have her in a smaller role and save us all a lot of time.