LOS ANGELES -- In the shadow of Hollywood, the stars will be out when a reunited DX, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and the other Superstars of Raw come to Los Angeles' STAPLES Center on Monday. The Superstars should be used to star treatment -- Hollywood came calling a long time ago, and WWE has been an entertainment hot spot for decades.
If you scan the crowd Monday night during Raw, there's a pretty good chance you'll see a celebrity who's a part of the WWE Fan Nation. Over the years, stars such as Ashton Kutcher, Steve-O, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Adam Sandler, My Name Is Earl's Jaime Pressly, Kevin Federline and others have attended Raw and other WWE extravaganzas. And WrestleMania always brings out the stars. From Liberace and Mr. T to Donald Trump and CSI's Marg Helgenberger, the grandest stage of them all has attracted a who's who in entertainment.
In many ways, the inaugural WrestleMania, spurred on by the vision of WWE Chairman Vince McMahon, provided a foundation for WWE and Hollywood that gave birth to what sports-entertainment is today. Tinseltown took notice then, and is still taking notice now.
"He's always understood what is going on in society and sure knows what to do to keep WWE at the forefront of the entertainment industry," Gerald W. Morton, a language and literature professor at Auburn University Montgomery in Alabama and author of Wrestling to Rasslin': Ancient Sport to American Spectacle, once said. "At the time when Vince McMahon took such a bold step of promoting wrestling as entertainment … I would have thought that maybe he would get four or five [successful] years, tops, with that strategy."
To an extent, Hollywood and the entertainment industry outside the United States recognized professional wrestlers' star potential even before WrestleMania. But the inaugural WrestleMania in 1985 and the success WWE enjoyed afterward arguably opened Hollywood's eyes even more.
Andre the Giant had a critically-acclaimed role in the 1987 movie The Princess Bride. "Rowdy" Roddy Piper surprised critics with a commanding, not-so-campy performance in his starring role in the 1988 cult favorite sci-fi flick They Live. Terry Funk showed Sylvester Stallone and Patrick Swayze his brawling skills in Over the Top and Road House, respectively. Jesse "The Body" Ventura has had several small roles on the big and small screen, most memorably alongside Schwarzenegger in Predator. And Triple H had a supporting role opposite Wesley Snipes in 2004's Blade: Trinity and has made guest TV appearances on shows such as The Bernie Mac Show and Mad TV.
Today, WWE has more impact on Hollywood than ever. Hulk Hogan is a reality TV star with Hogan Knows Best, but he never had the movie career that Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is enjoying. With his last movie, The Game Plan, debuting at No. 1 at the box office, The Rock is building a solid body of work. But he, as well as Hogan, gained his initial notoriety in WWE. The Rock's electrifying career in WWE opened the doors to Hollywood. His star will continue to shine next year when he and The Great Khali -- who had a pivotal role along with Austin in the 2005 remake of The Longest Yard -- will appear in Get Smart when it comes to the big screen.
And WWE Films continues to make waves in Tinseltown. Stone Cold's star power helped make The Condemned the No. 1 action DVD in the United States after its release. Our fans have enjoyed watching Kane and John Cena in See No Evil and The Marine, respectively.
So, this Monday night on Raw, the stars of Hollywood will be cheering the Superstars in the squared circle. Both of them are ready for their close-up. Lights … camera … action!