What is your favorite match of all-time that involved a celebrity as an in-ring performer?
My pick is Floyd Mayweather vs Big Show from WrestleMania 24. The fact that I was there in person might skew things a little bit, but it was a fantastic match for one reason… Floyd Mayweather is the quintessential heel. He knows how to get people to hate him, he’s great at doing so, and he loves to revel in that hate. He soaked the heel heat in on that night in Orlando, and he was able to work with Big Show on delivering a match that was a ton of fun.
Through the years, we’ve seen a ton of celebrities wrestling in matches for this promotion and that promotion. Mr. T teamed with Hulk Hogan to face “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff in the main event of the first WrestleMania, and he came back the next year to face Piper in a boxing match. Several NFL players were involved in a Battle Royal at WrestleMania 2. Lawrence Taylor wrestled Bam Bam Bigelow in the main event of WrestleMania 11. Snooki teamed with Trish Stratus and John Morrison to take on LayCool and Dolph Ziggler at WrestleMania 27. Dennis Rodman wrestled at three pay-per-views for WCW between 1997 and 1999, and one of those matches (Bash At The Beach 1998), saw Karl Malone on the other side of the ring. Andy Kaufman, Jay Leno, Tiny Lister, Kevin Greene, Shaquille O’Neal, Stephen Amell, Tyson Fury, David Arquette, Akebono, DeAngelo Williams, Johnny Knoxville… the list goes on and on and on when it comes to celebrities who came to the wild, wacky world of pro wrestling and actually stepped into a ring.
There have been tons of fun matches and performances by celebrities in the ring through the years, but there have also been tons of stinkers that made you wonder what the point was.
Right now, though, I think we’re in the middle of something of a celebrity wrestling renaissance, and it’s all due to three names.
Logan Paul. Pat McAfee. Bad Bunny.
WWE seems to have struck gold three times when it comes to those men.
To begin this conversation, you have to go back to August 22nd, 2020. That was the date of NXT Takeover 30, a show headlined by Karrion Kross defeating Keith Lee to win the NXT Title in what would be Lee’s final match for the brand before being called up to the main roster. Two matches before the main event, though, is the match that got the most attention coming out of the show, and that was when Adam Cole defeated Pat McAfee in McAfee’s in-ring debut. We didn’t know what to expect going in. Yes, it was McAfee’s debut, but he came from a pro sports background, so it’s not like he was someone who had never been involved in any sort of physicality before.
Even though he lost the match, you could instantly see that McAfee was a long-time fan of pro wrestling. The little things that made old school heels successful… the facial expressions, mannerisms, even down to the way he cheated… were all there on full display. After the match, all I could do was hope that we would see him in the ring again, but I wasn’t sure it would happen. At the time, he was 33 years old, and while that obviously isn’t ancient, it’s pretty late in the game to start any sort of in-ring career in wrestling.
More on McAfee in a bit.
Fast forward to April 10th, 2021. Night one of WrestleMania 37, a show best remembered for being delayed by rain and lightning, as well as for the main event of Bianca Belair defeating Sasha Banks to win the Smackdown Women’s Title. Right there in the next-to-last match was a highly publicized match that was getting a ton of mainstream attention. Damian Priest was teaming up with music superstar Bad Bunny to take on The Miz and John Morrison. For those who are still pretending to be ignorant, or who are too lazy to do the research on your own… yes, Bad Bunny is a SUPERSTAR, whether you like his music or not, whether you’ve even heard his music or not. Right now, he is the seventh most listened to artist on all of Spotify, pulling in almost 63 million listeners per month, and was the streaming service’s most streamed artist of the year for the last two years running. His latest album, Un Verano Sin Ti, was released three months ago and is already approaching a total of 5.55 BILLION listens. In seven less years, and considerably less videos, his YouTube channel has about half the subscribers as WWE’s highly-lauded channel and about one-third of their total views. He is a big, big deal in the music world, and is now even branching out to movies, having a role in the new Brad Pitt film, Bullet Train, and will be starring in El Muerto in 2024, which is a film in Sony’s Spider-Man Universe. Him appearing at WrestleMania would be a big enough news story for mainstream outlets, but him actually wrestling was even bigger.
Again, we weren’t really sure what to expect from him. By his own account, he has been a huge fan of wrestling since he was a kid, so he had that going for him. However, as I mentioned before, he wasn’t coming from a sports background, so who knows how well he would perform in a physical competition. What did we get? He was put into a great situation. For one, not only was it WrestleMania, but it was WWE’s return to putting on shows in front of live crowds, so the fans were extra amped up. Most importantly, though, he was in a tag match that allowed his partner to handle a large chunk of the action. That allowed Bad Bunny to get some high spots and moments that popped the crowd. I still remember losing my shit when he hit the Puerto Rican Destroyer on Morrison at ringside. After the match, I was already looking forward to another Bad Bunny match, but we have no idea if or when that will take place.
More on Bad Bunny in a bit.
Fast forward to April 2nd, 2022. Night one of WrestleMania 38, a show best remembered for a lot of things, depending on who you are. Bianca Belair defeated Becky Lynch in a Match Of The Year candidate to win the Raw Women’s Title. Cody Rhodes blew the roof off of AT&T Stadium by making his shocking return to WWE. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin returned to the ring for his first match in over 19 years. Early in the show, though, was a tag team contest that received a fair amount of mainstream publicity. It saw Rey Mysterio and Dominik Mysterio teaming up to take on the team of The Miz and Logan Paul. Once again, in the circles he rolls in, Paul is someone that is very well-known. Almost 28 million YouTube subscribers when you combine his personal channel and the channel for his IMPAULSIVE podcast, totaling nearly 6.5 billion views. He also racked up a ton of controversy through the years because of some of the things he said and did, which only added to his fame.
Like Pat McAfee, albeit to an entirely different level, we had seen a little bit of what Paul could do in physical competition. He fought in two amateur boxing matches, one against YouTube personality KSI and one in an exhibition against Floyd Mayweather, and also fought in a rematch against KSI that was his professional boxing debut. He went 0-1-1 against KSI, and the fight with Mayweather would go the distance with no winner ever being announced, although Mayweather dominated the statistics and would’ve been declared the winner had it been an actual match. It’s difficult to judge him on those types of things, but it was clear that Paul has always been in very good shape. How would that translate to the pro wrestling world?
The man went out there and looked like a (relatively) seasoned veteran. In his first match. His athletic ability and showmanship were on full display. He wasn’t received well by the crowd, but at the time, it didn’t matter because he was a heel. Then, The Miz turned on him after the match, and it was supposed to be Miz being a dickhead heel, but he got cheered like crazy for it. That’s how much the crowd disliked Logan Paul. Miz, one of the most consistently hated wrestlers of the last 18-ish years, got a monster pop for doing something dastardly. After the “turn” by Miz, we didn’t know if we would see Logan Paul in the ring again, but the seeds for it were definitely planted for a return down the road at some point.
More on Paul in a bit.
Fast forward to August 1st, 2022. The date that sees me typing this very sentence. Where are we when it comes to the three subjects of this column?
Pat McAfee has wrestled four more matches since his debut, including being involved in War Games and a match against none other than Vince McMahon himself at WrestleMania. He was successful as a heel, but he has found a new level of love as a face. The WWE Universe sees him, and correctly so, as one of them. On commentary, he’s more of an overly excited fan than a color commentator, and that is a breath of fresh air in a world of overly corporate and forced commentary. In the ring, he has established himself as someone who isn’t the prettiest or most polished performer, but it goes back to fans seeing him as one of them. He looks like a fan in there, living in dream, versus him coming across as a intricately trained wrestler. Strangely enough, that is meant as a total compliment. I damn sure couldn’t step into a wrestling ring and do what Pat McAfee does, but sometimes, he makes it LOOK like I could. That makes him more endearing than a lot of part-time or “special attraction” wrestlers that we’ve seen through the years.
Bad Bunny has yet to step back into a WWE ring, but he has been keeping himself busy. From early-February to early-April of this year, he went on a record-breaking tour, selling out all 35 dates across the United States and Canada. A few days ago, he kicked off a brand new tour that will see him do 43 dates across North and South America. This new tour will come to a close on December 10th. Will that free him up for a 2023 Royal Rumble appearance, or perhaps another WrestleMania match? It’s certainly possible, but nothing has even been rumored. Who knows? After touring for pretty much all of 2022, maybe he’ll just want to sit at home for several months, eating Doritos and relaxing. What we do know is that WWE has left the doors open for him to return whenever he wants to, and it’s probably safe to assume that he’ll want to at some point. Once you’ve gotten a taste of that life, how could you not want to try it again?
Logan Paul has wrestled once more since his debut, wrestling against The Miz mere days ago at SummerSlam. He signed what he called a “multi-year, multi-event” contract with WWE, so we know he’s going to wrestle again at some point. Honestly, I think that’s a great idea. He is already one of the more athletic performers on the roster and is only going to improve his in-ring work as time goes on and he continues training. Even used as a “special attraction” moving forward, he will be given prime opportunities to continue impressing folks, both in the WWE Universe and behind-the-scenes. It will be very interesting to see his crowd reactions when he returns, though. As I mentioned, he was getting a ton of heel heat, even though he was supposed to be the face in his feud with The Miz. However, when you watch the SummerSlam match, you see a crowd that gets more and more behind him as the match goes on. By the time he actually picked up the win, the crowd exploded in a face pop. Is he an actual face now? That remains to be seen, but that could very well have been the tipping point.
Three celebrity performers, all from different backgrounds and bringing something entirely different to the WWE product. The future is incredibly bright for all of them. This is very unlike a lot of the recent years in WWE history, where celebrities weren’t always brought in for the right reasons. You’d get celebrities brought in to do one-off matches or to do things like be a “Guest Host” for Raw, but it was clear from the start that they weren’t wrestling fans and were only there because it was something set up by their agent so they could promote something. You can always tell which “outsiders” come into the world of pro wrestling with a love for the sport. It’s refreshing to see the love that Pat McAfee, Bad Bunny, and Logan Paul have for wrestling.
Do I want to see more celebrities mixing it up with WWE in the future? Honestly, I think the company can hold off on bringing in any more for in-ring activities. There’s already a bunch of people on the roster who are struggling to get time on television and spots on pay-per-view cards. Bringing in more and more part-timers and one-timers is only going to make things worse. There’s always room for some sort of connection, though. Clash At The Castle is coming to us from Wales next month, so it would make sense to have some big-name celebrity from the United Kingdom involved somehow. WrestleMania will always have some sort of celebrity involvement, and now, you can probably say the same about SummerSlam, as well.
AEW has seen its fair share of celebrity involvement during their brief existence, but it isn’t usually in an in-ring capacity. We’ve seen people like Shaquille O’Neal and Paige VanZant wrestle for the company, but could Tony Khan bring more names in for some major mainstream crossover attention? Take what I just said about WWE’s roster and multiply that by four. AEW’s roster is ridiculously packed right now. There are literally dozens of people under AEW contract who can’t find their way onto Dynamite or Rampage for weeks at a time, if not longer. What happens to those people if, and I’m just throwing out names, Shaq returns to finally have a match against Paul Wight and Lars Frederiksen shows up to wrestle a tag match with CM Punk? The company is in a tough spot, because they could certainly use the boost that comes with crossover appeal. Every promotion could.
What say you, ReaderLand? First of all, what are your thoughts on what you’ve seen from Pat McAfee, Bad Bunny, and Logan Paul? What do you think their futures will be like, as far as being in-ring competitors is concerned? Also, what do you think AEW should do when it comes to possibly using celebrities in the ring? Finally, just for fun, who are some celebrities you would love to see in the world of wrestling, whether it’s for WWE, AEW, or any other promotion? As always, hit me up in the comments section below, or on Twitter (@HustleTheSavage), and let me know what’s on your mind.
Weekly Power Rankings
- Roman Reigns vs Brock Lesnar: Godzilla vs King Kong. Freddy Krueger vs Jason Voorhees. Whatever comparison you want to make, this was the wrestling equivalent of it. A fantastically over-the-top usage of the Last Man Standing stipulation. Now, we wait and see if this really was their final battle. This was their third match on pay-per-view in the last nine months, sixth match on pay-per-view in the last four years, and not counting being in a Royal Rumble together, this was their ninth overall pay-per-view match against each other.
- Drew McIntyre vs Sheamus: Speaking of people who face each other a lot… there’s this matchup. In the last year, they’ve faced each other four times in singles matches on television, and a total of 11 times on television (13 if you count being in the Royal Rumble and a Smackdown Battle Royal together). Every single time, they beat the shit out of each other. As a fan, it’s entertaining as hell, but it’s also something that concerns me. McIntyre is on a major roll as we head to Clash At The Castle. He hasn’t lost a televised singles match in 2022, with his last loss coming at Crown Jewel in October, when he unsuccessfully attempted to win the WWE Title from Big E. Imagine how fucking bonkers the Clash crowd is going to be for Drew. Now, imagine how fucking bonkers they’re going to be if he defeats Roman Reigns become the new Undisputed WWE Universal Insert More Words To Make It Seem Epic Champion.
- Bryan Danielson vs Daniel Garcia: The streak is over! Since making his AEW debut, Daniel Garcia was 0-9 in singles matches on television or pay-per-view (0-10 if you count his RoH Death Before Dishonor match since it’s under the “umbrella” of Tony Khan), but he finally got a win, and what a person to get that win against. It was overbooked all to hell with Danielson being “injured” and with Jericho Appreciation Society hijinks, but that’s the “Sports Entertainment” aspect that JAS matches are going for.
- Jon Moxley vs Rush: Lots of fun here, with widely clashing styles. I’m not someone that really dumps on Moxley’s run as Dean Ambrose, but he really has been on another level since joining AEW. He comes across as so much more comfortable and free now, able to do what he wants in the ring and on the microphone.
- The United States Title: When Bobby Lashley won the title, I said that it would be nice if it was the start of trying to make the title a big deal again. It sure seems like that’s the case now. Lashley is, for all intents and purposes, a main event player in the midcard, and that makes his matches a bigger deal than the average United States Champion’s matches would be. The video package on Raw that focused on the legendary history of the title was really well done, and a good “introduction” to younger/newer fans, who have only seen the title as average, at best.
- Montez Ford vs Seth Rollins: WWE is just going to continue teasing a possible singles run for Montez Ford. As much as I dig The Street Profits, that’s something that I could definitely live with. He’s got what it takes, and he proves that whenever he gets the chance to wrestle singles matches. In one of his highest-profile singles contests, he rose to the occasion yet again. It will be very, very interesting to see how an eventual split between Ford and Angelo Dawkins is handled.
- Bianca Belair vs Becky Lynch: The match was good to begin with, but it looks even stronger when you consider that Becky injured her shoulder in the early stages and worked through pain for the rest of it. It helped to close out a really good, year-long story between Bianca and Becky. However, as good as the match was, it wasn’t what will be remembered in the long run…
- Bayley, Dakota Kai & IYO SKY: In one fell swoop, the Raw women’s division became LOADED. Bayley returning after more than a year away was big enough. Returning with Dakota Kai at her side was huge. However, returning with Dakota Kai AND Io Shirai (even with a new weird name change that Corey Graves knew about before anyone else for some reason) was MASSIVE.
- The Usos vs The Street Profits: It really says a lot about the in-ring chemistry between these two teams that this was a really good match and a major disappointment all at the same time. Their match at Money In The Bank was incredible, and everyone had high expectations for this one. Getting ten less minutes to work with will do that. Have we seen the end of this rivalry, at least for the time being? SummerSlam was the 11th time in the last nine weeks that we’ve seen at least one Street Profit take on at least one Uso on television or pay-per-view, and 12th time overall in 2022. It’s not quite on the level of the storied rivalry between The Usos and The New Day, but it’s up there.
- Bianca Belair vs IYO SKY: Two nights after the Raw women’s division got a major talent boost, that talent was on display here. IYO is so fresh and so different than what the WWE Universe is used to do, and she could be a major star. Oh, and holy shit, her entrance looks banana muffin with the screen and stage setup that Raw has.
- Logan Paul vs The Miz: If he wants to keep putting the work in, WWE really might have a star in Logan Paul, albeit a part-time one.
- The Usos vs The Mysterios: I don’t think anyone really thought Rey and Dominik were going to win this match, but damn if they didn’t have some really believable near falls. Really good stuff.
- Ricky Starks (and/or Powerhouse Hobbs): This whole thing was cool and weird at the same time. After losing the FTW Title (more on that in a moment), Ricky Starks cuts an impassioned face promo that the crowd is going nuts for. Hobbs is standing in the background, nodding along, looking like he’s in the middle of a face turn, too… and then he absolutely blindsides Starks, destroying him. Just like that, Team Taz has come apart at the seams, and Starks is a big-time face in AEW. You have to think this can be a great thing for Starks. However, the reason I listed this entry the way I did is because this could very well be great for Hobbs, too. It gives him a real feud that he can sink his teeth into. One of those rare splits where both members of a team could come out on the other side looking good. Time will tell.
- Hook: It doesn’t matter whether or not you think the FTW Title is a “real” one or not. Hook won the title his father created in 1998 (almost a year to the day before Hook was born), while his father was on commentary for the title victory. That’s pretty cool.
- AJ Styles vs Ciampa: When this match was set up, a lot of people were torn on making a prediction. On one hand, Ciampa has clearly been a “Triple H Guy” from the beginning of his NXT stint, but on the other hand, he wasn’t going to be elevated THAT far THAT quickly, right? Amazingly enough, it turns out that Ciampa can deliver when he’s given the chance to participate in something more than a throwaway match on television. Go figure. Now… will Ciampa actually get pushed to the point where he defeats Bobby Lashley to become the new United States Champion? That’s crazy to think about considering where Ciampa was only a couple weeks ago.
- “The Man” Is Back, Then Not Back Again: The WWE Universe has proven, on multiple occasions, that they don’t want to boo Becky Lynch. Even when the company insists on making her a heel, the connection is too strong, and fans still love her. Well, the WWE Universe got what they wanted. “The Man” is back… and now, she’s gone again. She suffered an injury against Bianca Belair, and she has to go away for a while. We’re going to relive 2021 again, where she eventually returns to a Moment Of The Year type of face pop.
- Jonathan Gresham’s Love Of The PWI 500: I don’t even care if the rumor is true. It’s so hilarious that I’m just going to run with it as if it was true. For the unaware, the rumor is that part of Gresham’s huge argument with Tony Khan was based on his opinion that he should be booked better because he was ranked #20 in the 2021 edition of the PWI 500, which was up from his #49 ranking in the 2020 edition. My God, that’s fantastic. Fucking fantastic.
- AJ Styles vs Mustafa Ali vs The Miz: The match itself was good, with a great finish. It doesn’t rank higher here, partially because of how loaded the week was, but also because of the randomness to it all. I get that Triple H is in charge now and wants to shake things up, but The Miz just came off of a loss to Logan Paul, but he’s in contention for a United States Title shot? Shouldn’t Logan Paul be in contention if we’re going to kayfabe shit? Even worse is the inclusion of Mustafa Ali, who has one televised singles win by pinfall in the last year. Yes, that win was against The Miz three months ago, but I guess that furthers my point about Miz being involved here, anyway. Shit, the last time Miz won a televised singles win was four months ago. Just weird booking.
- The Creed Brothers vs Tony D’Angelo & Stacks: Another week, another impressive performance by Brutus and Julius Creed. I’m not saying it needs to happen in a week or two, but if WWE plays their cards right, the Creeds could become “made” by being the team that ends the historic title reign of The Usos. Just throwing that out there.
- JD McDonagh: I’m still not sure that the NXT fans truly buy McDonagh as a threat to Bron Breakker, but that’s not due to a lack of trying on McDonagh’s part. He is really settling in nicely with his “quiet storm” psychopath character. The promos are very entertaining. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens in the actual title match.
- Solo Sikoa vs Von Wagner: Solo continues to become a bigger and bigger star in NXT, and his ascension has been fun to watch. He looks and sounds like his brothers, The Usos, but his character is just different enough to help him stand out. Will he still end up working with his brothers at some point? Probably. In the meantime, though, he’s working his way into a potential main event spot in NXT.
- Ric Flair: The match wasn’t exactly pretty, and it was put together in an unbelievably stupid fashion, but hey… Flair didn’t die like a lot of people were predicting would happen, so… hooray!
- Lee Moriarty & Stokely Hathaway: Moriarty is such a good in-ring performer, but there was a connection missing with live crowds. The AEW fans weren’t given any real reason to care about him. It’s not like he was out there, cutting ten-minute promos and following that up with 20-minute matches every week. Now, a pairing with Stokely Hathaway should really benefit him, as he can focus on what he does best, while Big Stoke handles everything else.
- Max Dupri: The whole Maximum Male Models thing was going to be silly and over-the-top, no matter what, but it wasn’t going to survive with just Maxxine Dupri as the leader of the group. The return of Max Dupri to the storyline is a great thing for Maxxine, Mah-say, and Man-swah.
- Kayden Carter & Katana Chance: Congratulations to the brand new NXT Women’s Tag Team Champions. Unfortunately, the recent history of the Women’s Tag Team Titles in the world of WWE means they’re either going to lose the titles within a couple weeks, one of them is going to get injured, or one of them is going to be released. Before anyone asks, no, I’m not hoping for those last two options. There’s a lot of potential in a reign for them, but I’m not going to hold my breath. I’ll believe it when I see it.
This Week’s Playlist: “Dissin The Dead” by Gucci Mane… “No Woman No Cry” by Tems… “Omens” by Lamb Of God… “Nevermore” by Lamb Of God… “Madhouse” by Masked Wolf & Mike Posner… “Revolution” by Bishop Briggs… “No More Tears To Cry” by Bullet For My Valentine… “Time” by The Devil Wears Prada… “The Deathless Sun” by Behemoth… “Scars” by Within Destruction… “Wicked Games” by The Weeknd… “Tears In The Rain” by The Weeknd… “Often” by The Weeknd… “The Hills” by The Weeknd… “The Hills (Remix)” by The Weeknd & Eminem… “Can’t Feel My Face” by The Weeknd… “Earned It (Fifty Shades Of Grey)” by The Weeknd… “In The Night” by The Weeknd… “Angel” by The Weeknd… “Starboy” by The Weeknd & Daft Punk… “A Lonely Night” by The Weeknd… “Die For You” by The Weeknd… “I Feel It Coming” by The Weeknd & Daft Punk… “Imagination” by Gorgon City & Katy Menditta… “The Payback” by James Brown