It takes a specific mind state to get into a wrestling ring. This person has a willful desire to take bumps, get bruises, and sometimes defy gravity. With that in mind, imagine the person who does all of that with little training. The cats we watch on a weekly basis trained for years before stepping between those ropes. The celebrities who show up once every few months? Not so much.
WrestleMania is normally the time of year when those celebrities step inside the squared circle and get physical. With former 24-7 Champion Bad Bunny tagging with Damian Priest to fight Miz and John Morrison, this year is no different. In honor of Mr. Bunny—and in hopes his passion for wrestling translates to a good match—it felt right to talk about the 10 best celebrity WrestleMania matches. The Showcase of the Immortals is a perfect time to get the rest of the pop culture landscape to give WWE some attention. These are the people who impressed when all eyes were on them.
1. Mr. T (WrestleMania)
Easily the number one spot. Of the 10 matches on this list, two of them have an importance that can’t be fully explained. This is one of those two. Mr. T was an ‘80s icon. He starred in a hit television show (The A-Team) and was the bad guy of all bad guys in Rocky III. In short, Mr. T was sort of a big deal. He lent his immeasurable juice to the first WrestleMania and not only helped put Vince McMahon’s company on the map, but his star power gave everyone involved a rub as well. To say nothing of the fact the dude was built for a wrestling ring, with a persona made for McMahon’s sports entertainment creation.
WrestleMania isn’t still a thing almost four decades later without this match, and that event itself isn’t nearly the success it was in 1985. Is it a technical marvel? Of course not. But it didn’t need to be. It accomplished everything it needed to do, and to borrow a very tired phrase, Mr. T looked like a million bucks. Plus without this match, wouldn’t have Roddy Piper in John Carpenter’s They Live. I don’t know about you, but that’s a world I never want to live in.
2. Mike Tyson (WrestleMania 14)
Forgive me for this one. Yeah, Mike Tyson isn’t wrestling so it’s not “his” match. But this is the other match too important to what WWF was and what WWE is today. Not mentioning it would be crazy on my part. Last I checked, I was fully sane so here it is. Tyson’s involvement in the main event at WrestleMania 14 was huge. Those of you not around in 1998 or at least not of age may not understand how big Iron Mike was. He was the legit “baddest man on the planet.” Tyson’s name was synonymous with ass whippings as he was a force the boxing world wasn’t ready for. As far as the bottom-line goes, Mike was box office gold. When he and Steve Austin traded fisticuffs on an episode of Monday Night Raw, it was worldwide news.
Cut to WrestleMania 14 and Tyson’s involvement did for Austin what Mr. T did for Hogan 13 years earlier. While Mr. T was a modern-day superhero, Tyson was an antihero who wanted to kill the competition by any means necessary. You can see why he and Austin would get along in the end. Iron Mike may be a fixture on AEW now, but many moons ago, he helped propel WWF into the Attitude Era. Shoutout to Shawn Michaels for selling that punch because without it, that moment doesn’t work nearly as well.
3. Lawrence Taylor (WrestleMania 11)
To keep it all the way real, wasn’t expecting to put this match this high. But Lawrence Taylor (LT) and Bam Bam Bigelow are two incredible athletes who put on a fine match in 1995. LT’s star wasn’t as bright in ‘95 as it was during the ‘80s, but it was still a big thing for a professional football player to go toe-to-toe with a professional wrestler. Especially one with LT’s parchment-length accolades and only two years into retirement.
Bam Bam is one of the most underrated cats of all-time. The agile big man is a great dance partner for LT. Bigelow makes LT look spectacular and LT is, dare I say, competent. If you’re the type to scoff at this type of match getting the main event spot at the biggest event of the year, then maybe it’s not for you. If you’re willing to put that aside, you’ll witness a match that is sure to keep you sports entertained.
Also? Give Bam Bam Bigelow his flowers.
4. Maria Menounos (WrestleMania 28)
Don’t sleep on Maria Menounos. Maria showed up to WrestleMania 28 aka Once in a Lifetime part 1, with two broken ribs and still acclimated herself really well. She knew what she was doing, made the most of her minutes, and the three pros hid her weaknesses. This match, like the ones above it and the ones under it, serves its purpose. Maria is impressive for someone with no training, two cracked ribs, and competing on Dancing with the Stars. Not to mention her actual day job. Props to her and props all around as the women did the damn thing.
5. Floyd Mayweather, Jr. (WretstleMania 24)
Floyd Mayweather is made for wrestling. Everything about this cat is made for WrestleMania. Most celebrities enter Mania as fan favorites because hey, they love wrestling just like us! Mayweather, the natural heel, goes in as the bad guy against the Big Show because of course he does. Rather than a traditional boxing match, Show and Floyd was more of a fight. Floyd boxed while Show did his best to dodge, connect with punches, and deal with Mayweather’s overeager entourage. If WrestleMania is pure spectacle, this is the purest distillation of that idea.
Floyd uses everything but the kitchen sink to beat the giant. The aforementioned entourage, chairs, closed fists, and yes, brass knuckles. In the end, Money Mayweather gets the W while Paul Wight gets a broken nose and an image for the ages.
6. Snooki (WrestleMania 27)
Snooki can go. Not for long periods of times, nor will she compete for any championship ever. But if you put her in a six-person tag match with good wrestlers on both sides, she gets an A+. The reality tv star showed her athleticism with a set of somersaults from one side of the ring to the other, teeing up her “finishing” move to get the W for her team.
This match is where it’s at on this list out of sheer surprise. I didn’t expect much from Snooki and she managed to sway me and the audience in attendance. That’s it.
7. Shaq (WrestleMania 32)
Recent history tells us just how much Shaquille O’Neal loves wrestling. Fair to say at this point dude is pretty good at it too. We got a taste way back at WrestleMania 32 during the Andre the Giant Battle Royale. The NBA legend locked eyes with the Big Show—apparently WWE’s celebrity ambassador—and started throwing bombs. Shaq is an entertainer first and foremost. The Diesel—not that one—understands how to rock a crowd and the importance of putting on a show. He milks every moment and gets to choke slam Mayor Kane!
Shaq was such a force, everyone in the ring eventually banded together to get throw him out of it. But the statement was made. In a match that rarely creates standout moments, Shaq was the moment and made it unforgettable.
8. William “The Refrigerator” Perry (WrestleMania 2)
Ask any director or writer and they’ll tell you sequels are hard to do well. Ask seven-year-old me and he’ll point to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3. Vince McMahon knew how much was riding on WrestleMania 2 and he pulled out all the stops. One of said stops was a 20-man battle royal featuring NFL players and WWF wrestlers. I believe the technical term for the match would be “wild AF.”
William Perry was the star of the night. The reigning NFL Rookie of the Year was a force and understood exactly what he was in and knew how to make it work for his home team Chicago crowd. WrestleMania 2 isn’t an event many talk or write about today, but this match deserves your attention. Like the event itself, it’s audacity and chaotic.
9. Butterbean (WrestleMania 15)
Since we’re at the bottom of the list, you’ll excuse me for getting weird. The Brawl-for-All was an odd experiment that perfectly encapsulates the Attitude Era. Wrestling is pre-determined—shock, I know—but the Brawl-for-All was anything all real. Wrestlers, some with boxing acumen and some without, were thrown into the ring together while WWF hoped for the best. Bart Gunn made a name for himself by dominating the competition, and positioned himself for a big boxing match with Butterbean, an actual boxer, at WrestleMania 15.
It went about as well for Bart as you’re thinking it did.
Butterbean was a freaking force of nature. Gunn didn’t stand a chance and was dead the minute the bell rang. If the point of these celebrity matches is to make the famous people look good, then this match wildly succeeded. Butterbean came to what was, at the time, the biggest WrestleMania in history and tore the house down. He just so happened to make sure his opponent was in the house as it crumbled brick by brick.
Poor Bart never recovered and the rest, as they say, is history.
10. Pete Rose (WrestleMania 14, 15, 2000)
Some beef is everlasting. Pete Rose is one of the few celebrities with a longterm WrestleMania story! His beef with Kane stretched from 98-2000, with the same result each and every year: Rose looking up at the lights. Rose’s wrestling persona was that of a charlatan who was willing to do whatever he could to get over on Kane. Rose never managed to fool the Undertaker’s baby brother, but he did provide a couple chuckles during the portion of the night when the audience needed a break. More importantly, he was always a good sport about getting dropped on his head.
While not a match per se, or even at all actually, Charlie Hustle deserves a spot on the list for the ongoing feud that was a staple of the era.
Now it’s your turn, Cagesiders. Tell me what I missed and why I’m crazy for throwing Pete Rose on this list.