Though many have failed, there are a few WWE Superstars who have broken through the barriers of the squared circle and achieved success in Hollywood.
Professional wrestling combines elements of storytelling with choreographed wrestling matches. It is essentially a soap opera, but with people getting bashed with steel chairs and garbage can lids. The outcomes are pre-determined, and superstars intentionally play into either a "heel" or "face" role and do promos to hype fans for upcoming matches, especially pay-per-views. WWE superstars, in particular, combine acting and athleticism to create magnificent content that has been beloved by generations of fans going all the way back to the 1960s.
Some of the more prolific WWE superstars have gone on to have massive success as movie actors in Hollywood, as outlined by GQ. It makes sense; if someone can captivate an entire live audience and millions of people worldwide on a weekly basis, it seems feasible that they would have success starring in a film or TV show. However, time has shown us that's not always the case. Some of the most popular WWE superstars of all time like "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, Triple H, The Big Show, and others have gotten opportunities on the big screen, but fell flat in the most cringe-worthy of ways. That said, here are some WWE superstars who maneuvered into successful careers as movie stars
The term "success" in Hollywood can have a broad definition. While Ronda Rousey certainly hasn't been elevated to the success of the other members of this list in Tinsel Town, at least not yet, she has had several on-screen performances in big-budget franchises like the Fast and Furious franchise (which coincidentally features three of the four members of this list). It is interesting to note that Rousey appeared at WrestleMania 31 alongside Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson for a tag-team match in the run-up to the release of Fast 7, which featured the pair beating the snot out of WWE Legend Triple H and his wife Stephanie McMahon. The showing was enjoyable, offered a unique "WrestleMania moment," and is just one of the many times WWE has brought in Hollywood celebrities, MMA Fighters, boxers, even Sumo Wrestlers to the "Grandest Stage in sports entertainment."
Dave Bautista (known in WWE as "Batista, The Animal), had his breakout role in Guardians of the Galaxy, where he took on the role of Drax the Destroyer. Batista would pivot back and forth from heel to face in his career in World Wrestling Entertainment. He could get a crowd excited, get them to cheer, and get them to boo. It wasn't until the later stages of Bautista's WWE career that he started being more comedic — as opposed to the serious, aggressive, no-nonsense badass he had portrayed early on in his career and into his prime.
Bautista worked alongside WWE legends Triple H, Ric Flair, and Randy Orton. They formed the group known as Evolution. With Flair representing the past, Triple H representing the now, and the young guns Batista and Randy Orton (known for his signature move, the RKO) were the future of WWE. This turned out to be accurate as both men went on to become multiple-time World Champions and sure-fire inductees for the WWE Hall of Fame.
Batista officially retired from WWE in 2019 after briefly reappearing in 2014, reforming Evolution for a few months, then returning to Hollywood to show up one more time in 2018 and ending his career in 2019. Bautista is a main antagonist in the blockbuster film Dune, and he will be reprising his role as Drax for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
Since starting out his career as a "gangsta rapper" with his trademark "You Can't See Me," John Cena is known best today for his role as Peacemaker in The Suicide Squad and the subsequent HBO Max Peacemaker series. He has also appeared in the Fast & Furious franchise, and just like The Rock, Cena can cut a promo like it's nobody's business.
Cena rose quickly through the ranks of WWE because of his massive fan appeal when he had the microphone (not to mention the feats he could pull off in the ring). With his ability to "freestyle" rap, trashing his opponents, and signature catchphrases, Cena went from a nobody to a top-of-the-card title contender in a few short years. Cena was absolutely adored by audiences until 2006, when the "Cena fatigue" kicked in.
Unlike most WWE superstars, Cena never turned heel. He was always portrayed as the good guy. He was the Superman of the WWE, always coming in to save the day and usually coming up with a come-from-behind victory. And as the WWE transitioned from the "ruthless aggression era" to the "PG era," the WWE forced Cena to change the name of his signature move and make some other adjustments that took away a lot of the appeal from his early years. This led to a split audience. On any given night, when Cena was in the ring, you could rely on half the crowd chanting for Cena and half the crowd chanting, "Cena Sucks."
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson
And last, but certainly not least, the man who paved the way for others like Cena and Bautista to achieve superstardom beyond the squared circle, the man with many names: "The Most Electrifying Man In Sports and in Entertainment," "The Great One," "The Bramma Bull," "The People's Champion," — Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. The Rock is widely considered one of if not the most talented WWE performers to ever step into the ring. Not only because of his incredible in-ring athleticism and agility but also and perhaps just as importantly, because of the way he could cut a promo. The Rock at his prime, always had the crowd in the palm of his hand, able to generate the most electrifying reactions from the crowd, the cheers, the colossal pop when his music hits, and one cannot forget his iconic one-liners like "Just Bring It," and "If ya smell what the Rock...is....cooking?"
Johnson is a true Hollywood A-lister. He has starred in multiple big-budget films and franchises like The Fast & Furious Saga, Jungle Cruise, Jumanji, and many movies ranging in tone from action/adventure to comedy, as well as some dramatic roles. Johnson is currently starring in his most prominent role yet, landing the role of Black Adam in the film adaptation of the DC anti-hero.
Johnson has always been loyal to the fans of WWE, saying he would not have the success he has today without the support of the millions (and millions) of The Rock's fans in the WWE Universe. The Rock has retired and returned several times in WWE history, including when he came back to face off against the man below him on this list, John Cena, at WrestleMania, the WWE's biggest yearly pay-per-view event. The match was so heavily hyped, and the event performed so well that they did the same at the following year's WrestleMania. While getting older and unable to be as physically active in the ring, the Rock can still go out there and cut a promo with the best of them.