The Hollywood influence

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August 08, 2012

SummerSlam returns to Los Angeles on Aug. 19, making it the fourth consecutive year that WWE’s summer classic calls the STAPLES Center home. With its rich sports-entertainment history — LA was long the stomping grounds of 1994 WWE Hall of Fame inductee “Classy” Freddie Blassie and the site of many legendary battles between Roddy Piper and Chavo Guerrero Sr., not to mention home to more than a half-dozen World Championship title changes — The City of Angels has become an ideal host city for SummerSlam.

Yet, even with its outstanding legacy of mat greatness, Los Angeles will forever be known primarily as the epicenter of the film industry — the destination city for millions of aspiring silver-screen stars and starlets. La La Land is the place where Hollywood heavyweights are made, dreams are fulfilled (or crushed) and multimillion-dollar blockbuster budgets are green-lighted daily.

Over the course of several decades, the Hollywood influence has pervaded the culture of WWE in a number of ways. (WATCH PLAYLIST)

You can detect it in the many full-length films that WWE’s been involved with, tracing it back to “No Holds Barred,” a 1989 cult classic produced by WWE. (A digitally remastered version of the film, a Hulk Hogan vehicle, was recently released for the first time on DVD.) More than 20 years after “No Holds Barred,” WWE is a bigger player in the film game than ever: The WWE Studios-Pathe joint production “No One Lives,” a horror film featuring Brodus Clay in a supporting role, debuts in September at the Toronto International Film Festival. Additionally, members of the WWE Universe who are in L.A. for SummerSlam can take in a sneak peak screening of "The Day" Aug. 18. (SUMMERSLAM AXXESS ATTRACTIONS)

Away from the big screen, however, the influence of Hollywood on WWE is profound. Though celebrities have often rubbed elbows with Superstars, few actors had the cache that action star and pop culture juggernaut Mr. T did when he climbed in the ring to compete in the tag team main event of WrestleMania I in 1985. (T would reappear for a boxing match against Piper at the following year’s WrestleMania.) Far from the only action star to appear in WWE, Mr. T blazed a trail followed by the likes of the indestructible Chuck Norris, who got involved in the action at Survivor Series 1994; Tiny Lister, the massive actor-turned-Superstar who got a taste for the squared circle after portraying the evil “Zeus” character in “No Holds Barred”; Leslie Nielsen and George Kennedy, who searched for The Undertaker in summer 1994; and Arnold Schwarzenegger, whom WWE Chairman Mr. McMahon presented with the World Box Office Championship Title in a November 1999 edition of SmackDown.

Speaking of the WWE Chairman, his fingerprints are evident in Los Angeles. Or, more accurately, his star is. In March 2008, Mr. McMahon was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which is among Los Angeles’ most popular landmark sites.

Then, of course, there are the many instances when the Hollywood influence has rubbed off on individual Superstars. Go back to the commercials for WrestleMania 21, which was held in Los Angeles, to see Superstars such as Eddie Guerrero and Booker T like never before, dressed up as John Travolta’s and Samuel L. Jackson’s characters, respectively, from “Pulp Fiction.” Theirs was one of several WrestleMania commercials that parodied classics flicks to great effect. (Other examples included John Cena and JBL acting out a scene from “A Few Good Men” and Triple H parodying “Braveheart.”)

Moreover, who can forget Goldust — Dustin Rhodes’ longtime gold-plated persona who burst onto the scene in 1995 and was a major cog in WWE’s Attitude Era? Goldust and Piper famously clashed at WrestleMania XII in a Hollywood Back Lot Brawl — a concept match that began in, you guessed it, a movie studio’s back lot. More recently, there was Santino Marella’s “audition” before Raw guest host Freddie Prinze Jr. during an August 2009 edition of Raw. Trying on Dark Vader’s mask and, subsequently, a wig and glasses, The Milan Miracle tried valiantly to impress the second-generation actor. (To date, Marella’s yet to appear in a Prinze flick.)

With so much shared history between WWE and Hollywood, is it any wonder Los Angeles has become the home of the biggest event of the summer?

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