Lights, camera, action: Celebrity-Superstar showdowns in WWE
Lights, camera, action — emphasis on the action, of course. While movie stars, singers, talk show hosts and celebrities in general have the reputation of being pampered, spoiled and soft, we’ve got to say: They tend to show their true colors when they step into the WWE Universe. Raw, SmackDown, WrestleMania and other events have played host to a veritable bounty of celebrities over the years in WWE, and almost every single one of those guest stars has, at some point or another, decided to throw caution to the wind and mix it up with sports-entertainment’s biggest and best. For those of you who think Larry King (whose wife threw water in The Miz’s face on Raw this week) was the most brazen of the bunch, don’t fool yourself: He was just the most recent. Here are a few celebrities who went toe-to-toe with our Superstars and came out sitting pretty (or at least with a pretty good story) on the other side.
Sheamus vs. Mark Cuban
Hindsight being 20/20, perhaps recruiting Mark Cuban to moderate a WWE TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs debate was, perhaps, a recipe for disaster. There really just wasn’t any way the equation of the notoriously outspoken Cuban + John Cena + Sheamus + Tables wouldn’t equal someone getting offended to the point of physicality. In perhaps one of the most inevitable meltdowns in WWE history, the “Championship Showdown” between Cena and Sheamus ended with both The Champ and the guest host in shambles and table remnants scattered across the ring.
To be fair, it briefly seemed like civility would win out, but once the “Championship Showdown” devolved into a shoving match between Cena, Sheamus and Cuban, initial aggression from the No. 1 contender led to the firebrand Dallas Mavericks owner putting hands on The Celtic Warrior. The brawling son of Erin responded in kind, hoisting Cuban up and driving him through a table. Despite all this, though, Sheamus ended up winning the WWE Title at TLC, Cuban would win an NBA Championship with the Mavericks not long after that and Cena would, of course, later become a record 10-time WWE Champion. So in the long run, we like to think everybody involved came out a winner here, including Cuban’s chiropractor.
Mr. McMahon vs. Donald Trump
Mr. McMahon and Donald Trump are both proverbially made of money, but WrestleMania 23 was a classic example of one man’s mouth writing a check that his butt (or in this case, his head) couldn’t cash. In the “Battle of the Billionaires,” The Chairman and The Donald each named a champion to represent them in the ring — Bobby Lashley for Trump, Umaga for Mr. McMahon — with the loser’s respective billionaire suffering the ignominy of having his head shaved live on The Grandest Stage of Them All.
In the ultimate twist, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was named the special guest referee. And well, long story short, Umaga lost and what ensued remains one of the most iconic WrestleMania moments in WWE history. All three men tied Mr. McMahon down, produced the clippers and buzzed The Boss bald, desecrating his suit with chunks of hair and great globs of shaving cream while the wailing Chairman begged for mercy. No amount of pleading from the wailing Chairman (and boy was he mad) could stop the trio, and it was Good Ol’ J.R. who delivered the perfect kicker: “It really was Mr. McMahon’s hair all along.”
All things considered, though, we will say this: As magnificent a coif as he’s got, Vince rocked the cue-ball look, fedora and do-rag pretty well before his hair grew back. That’s a skill that can’t be taught.
Jerry Lawler vs. Andy Kaufman
Perhaps the definitive example of a WWE Superstar and a celebrity mixing it up, Jerry “The King” Lawler’s infamous encounter with Andy Kaufman occurred back in 1982, when Kaufman declared himself the “Intergender Champion” after wrestling women as part of his comedy skits. “The King” took exception to this, and paid Kaufman in kind with a pair of piledrivers during a match between the two in Memphis, Tenn. But the most memorable moment of the entire rivalry came on an episode of “Late Night with David Letterman,” when “The King” slapped Kaufman in the face and the comedian (after a barrage of insults we cannot repeat under any circumstances) threw hot coffee on the Hall of Famer in retaliation. To this day, it remains a seminal moment in both sports-entertainment and pop culture at large, to the point where Lawler played himself in the Kaufman biopic “Man on the Moon.”
Chris Jericho vs. Mickey Rourke
Mickey Rourke received near universal acclaim for playing a broken-down grappler in 2008’s “The Wrestler,” still considered one of the definitive films about sports-entertainment and its competitors. Several current and former WWE Superstars have praised the film and Rourke’s performance (also, true story: R-Truth is in it), but in a bizarre case of life imitating art imitating life, Rourke found himself center stage at WrestleMania, staring down none other than Chris Jericho. Y2J had just dispatched four WWE Hall of Famers before Rourke, who had been antagonized by Jericho on national TV and was ringside for the contest, made his way to the ring and stood toe-to-toe with the former Undisputed Champion. Rourke cleaned The Ayatollah of Rock ‘n’ Rolla’s clock with a left hook, knocking Jericho out cold and receiving his very own WrestleMania moment in the process. Frankly, we’d love to see the Bruce Springsteen song about that, but even in WWE, some things are just too awesome to come true.
Triple H vs. Arnold Schwarzenegger
He just served as Social Media Ambassador for the Oct. 8 episode of Raw, but that wasn’t the first time Arnold Schwarzenegger mixed it up with the WWE Superstars. In the halcyon days of SmackDown, Arnold dropped by as a guest star and rubbed shoulders with the likes of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and The Rock, and even dropped by on commentary for the main event. But The Governator was far from content to just sit as a spectator; passing The Rattlesnake a chair with which to clobber Triple H during The Game’s match and, after the contest was over, backhanding The King of Kings while the WWE Universe roared its approval. In other words, when it comes to the day of the contest, Arnold is still everyone’s father (“Pumping Iron” reference; WWE.com recommends renting this iconic film).
John Cena vs. Kevin Federline
What you’re about to read is 100 percent true. In the waning months of 2006, WWE Champion John Cena incurred the wrath of the former Mr. Britney Spears, Kevin Federline, who showed some serious gumption, disparaging the Cenation leader and even going so far as to cost him a Champion of Champions Match (and the World Heavyweight Title) against World Heavyweight Champion King Booker and ECW Champion Big Show. And on the first Raw of 2007, Federline administered the ultimate humiliation to the Cenation leader by defeating him with the help of Umaga. Cena did get his hands on K-Fed later in the evening, but well, what we’re trying to say is … yeah. Kevin Federline beat John Cena once.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Hugh Jackman
Don’t be fooled by his song-and-dance acumen, or the fact that he’s hosted the Tony Awards roughly 50 times (approximation): Hugh Jackman is a tough man. He’s also not afraid to mix it up in the ring, as evidenced by his appearance on a 2011 episode of Raw where Jackman served as guest host and accompanied an underdog of his choice — it turned out to be Zack Ryder — to the ring to answer an open challenge by Dolph Ziggler. While Ziggler and Long Island Iced-Z engaged in a hard-fought contest, Jackman ultimately proved to be the swing factor in the result when he snuck up the apron and swung at and cold-clocked The Showoff in the #face, giving The Ultimate Broski the opportunity to upset the then–United States Champion for the win. Jackman even got a Broski of the Week honor out of it, which Ryder bestowed upon him in full Woo-Woo-Wolverine getup on “Z! True Long Island Story” that week. Seriously, bro.
Kane vs. Pete Rose
If we were betting men and women here at WWE.com, we’d have wagered that Pete Rose’s attempt to attack The Big Red Machine, Kane, was just a one-time lapse into insanity that muddled the slugger’s senses, never to be repeated following the beatdown administered by The Devil’s Favorite Demon. Consider us proven wrong. Kane’s bizarre rivalry with Rose not only continued through several WrestleManias, Raws and the commercial for No Mercy ’03, but it also turned out to be one of The Big Red Monster’s signature rivalries during his still terrifying tenure in WWE. Time and again, Rose would attempt to get the jump on Kane, sometimes utilizing a San Diego Chicken costume as subterfuge, but the demon in red was always waiting with a Tombstone on deck for the controversial MLB legend.
Of course, Kane is not without introspective tendencies: During his first anger management session with Daniel Bryan, Dr. Shelby and the hated Harold earlier this year, The Devil’s Favorite Demon succinctly summed up the conflict to the sharing circle: “For reasons never quite explained, I have an unhealthy obsession with torturing Pete Rose.” Well, we’ve all been there, buddy, especially Ray Fosse.
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin vs. Mike Tyson
Who’s The Baddest Man on the Planet? If your answer is Mike Tyson, probably best not to say that within 100 yards of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin because his ears are likely to perk up and he’ll probably be miffed that you didn’t name him the premier badass walking the world today. That’s what happened to Mr. McMahon anyway, who praised Iron Mike’s toughness during a landmark episode of Raw, causing Austin to barge down to the ring and instigate a bona fide rumble with Tyson, “ruining” The Chairman’s big night in the process. Of course, Tyson would eventually come around, helping Austin capture the WWE Title at WrestleMania XIV after turning on Shawn Michaels. Let’s just call them The Baddest Men on the Planet and move on before something bad happens, yes?
"Rowdy" Roddy Piper vs. Mr. T
WWE Hall of Famer “Rowdy” Roddy Piper has never backed away from a fight, and Mr. T has been known to teach fools he pities the meaning of PAIN. So it was only natural that the two met at the second-ever Show of Shows to do battle in an old-school boxing match after not getting enough of each other at the inaugural WrestleMania. Piper proved adept at the sweet science, putting up a solid fight against Mr. T, but unfortunately, like most things involving Hot Rod, the wheels eventually came off. The Hall of Famer’s temper ultimately got the better of him and he was disqualified for bodyslamming Mr. T in the middle of the contest — which is illegal in boxing (who knew?). Given Piper’s history, though, we’re just thankful there wasn’t a coconut within arm’s length of him or things might have gotten even further out of hand.
Snooki, John Morrison & Trish Stratus vs. Dolph Ziggler & LayCool
They pump fists in New Jersey as well as Long Island, N.Y., and Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, the pint-sized party animal of “Jersey Shore,” showed she packed quite a punch at WrestleMania XXVII when she teamed with John Morrison and Trish Stratus in a Six-Person Mixed Tag Team Match against Dolph Ziggler and LayCool (Layla & Michelle McCool). Expectations were uncertain as to what Snooki could do in the ring, but she proved the haters wrong with a pretty impressive WrestleMania moment by performing a textbook back handspring elbow into Michelle McCool to help seal the contest. We were as surprised as everyone else was.
Jack Swagger vs. Kermit the Frog
Is there anything more despicable a WWE Superstar can do than to commit physical harm on a Muppet? In the case of Jack Swagger, it’s hard to argue otherwise. During the beloved Muppets’ guest appearance on Raw last fall, The All-American American threatened to turn Kermit the Frog into stew and Miss Piggy into a ham sandwich. Swagger even went so far as to pinch Kermit’s mouth shut when he tried to broker a peace between Swagger and Santino Marella. The Muppets would get the last laugh when Beaker assisted Santino in defeating The All-American American later that night, but we’re having a hard time remembering the last time Swagger infuriated the WWE Universe quite so much as when he laid hands on poor old Kermit. It’s not easy being green.
Big Show vs. Shaquille O'Neal
A perfect celebrity-Superstar matchup if there ever was one, the battle between Big Show and Shaquille O’Neal was so electrifying that rumors were flying of a WrestleMania match earlier this year. In a match between Jeri-Show and Cryme Tyme in 2009, The World’s Largest Athlete attempted to display his dominance by executing a double chokeslam on JTG and Shad Gaspard, leaving both men prone in the ring. This, of course, is when the Big Aristotle got involved, going toe-to-toe with the giant and locking him up in a chokehold of his own, with both behemoths attempting an Earth-shattering chokeslam. The two titans battled in the ring for a few moments before Cryme Tyme regrouped and helped “The Diesel” get the upper hand to drive Show out of the ring. Shaqtastic, indeed.
Dolph Ziggler vs. Clay Matthews
Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi once said “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing,” a lesson Dolph Ziggler learned to his detriment during his pursuit of Edge’s World Heavyweight Championship in the months leading up to WrestleMania XXVII. In a back-and-forth battle with Edge on SmackDown (in Green Bay, Wisc., just days after the Packers’ Super Bowl win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, no less) guest-refereed by Vickie Guerrero, The Showoff sought to steal the title from The Ultimate Opportunist, whose Spear had been banned by Guerrero in the lead-up to the match. Once Guerrero suffered an injury, however, the match found itself without an official. Enter Matthews, sporting the zebra stripes and his own replica World Heavyweight Title (available at WWEshop.com). The Packers linebacker ran down to the ring and counted Ziggler’s shoulders to the mat when Edge hit The Showoff with the Spear, allowing The Rated-R Superstar to retain his title.
John Cena vs. Jeremy Piven & Ken Jeong
Now, we’ve seen some crazy things in WWE. Some really, really crazy things, in fact. But in all honesty, few of them take the cake quite like Jeremy Piven getting caught in midair as he attempted a flying crossbody against John Cena and, when that failed, having Ken Jeong come to his rescue. Cena prevailed in a Lumberjack Match over The Miz, prompting several ill-intentioned lumberjacks to swarm the ring and attempt to attack the Cenation leader. They were dispatched with ease, but the big shocker was that Piven got in on the action, ascending the turnbuckle and taking flight against Cena, only to be caught and then saved by Jeong, who swarmed the ring and struck Cena’s back with a cane. Despite his pleading, Jeong suffered a similar fate. Cena hoisted and tossed him over the ropes onto the lumberjacks, who were probably too stupefied by the events unfolding to realize the flying human headed toward them until it was too late. Jeong splattered on the arena floor like a bag of wet cement. Can’t say we blame them.
The Miz vs. Pee-wee Herman
In another life, The Miz and his oversized ego would have been a perfect fit in “Pee-wee’s Playhouse.” But alas, fantasies of The Awesome One palling around with Jambi the Genie and trash-talking the King of Cartoons would have to remain just that, since his encounter with Pee-wee was anything but playful. That is, for Miz at least. When Miz demanded the TV icon vacate the ring, Pee-wee replied in typical mischievous fashion, infuriating The Awesome One with the Word of the Day and nearly driving Miz to commit the most must-see attack on a childhood legend in WWE history. Disaster was averted by Big Show Herman, but it should be noted that while Miz stewed in the ring, his associate Alex Riley absolutely loved sharing the stage with Pee-wee. Even WWE Superstars are kids at heart.