Beyond the mat: Stacy Keibler and the wrestling stars who've gone mainstream

With George Clooney's latest squeeze in the spotlight, we take a look at some of wrestling's other success stories

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Beyond the mat: Stacy Keibler and the wrestling stars who've gone mainstream
Written By
Tom Cole
So it’s nice to see Stacy Keibler in the news today, stepping out with her new man George Clooney to the premiere of The Descendants. And it’s intriguing to note that some media outlets are making quite a meal of the fact that the former Dancing with the Stars contestant outshone her beau on the red carpet, which suggests it won’t be long before the telephoto lenses of the mainstream are pointed more fixedly in her direction. All of which is quite some feat for a former wrestling personality, don’t you think?

Yes, before the bright lights and glamour of A-list junkets and dating Hollywood royalty, Stacy worked for the USA’s two most prestigious wrestling companies: the WWE and the now-defunct WCW. As those organisations’ top valet, she got herself involved in all manner of undignified in-ring hijinks during her career, including “marrying” wrestling nonentity David Flair and playing the unwitting Barbara Windsor to WCW manager Eric Bischoff’s Sid James. But those days are long since over and unlike a good 99 per cent of those involved in “sports entertainment”, she’s made the leap into the mainstream. 

But while most folk who’ve chosen a career in the squared circle have little to look forward to after their days in the ring are over, there are some remarkable success stories from the world of wrestling besides Stacy’s. Let’s have a look at some of the grapplers who also managed to escape a dotage battling in the school halls and fairground tents of the independent wrestling circuit…

The Rock - Or as he’s perhaps better known these days, Dwayne Johnson, is possibly the most successful wrestler-turned-mainstream entertainer ever. The charismatic People’s Champion, who raised the People’s Eyebrow and dropped the People’s Elbow to rapturous acclaim on a weekly basis in the WWE in the late 90s and early noughties, has gone on to make a slew of Hollywood films, starting with The Scorpion King in 2002 and culminating this year with the mega-grossing Fast and Furious 5. With a whole host of film roles ahead of him, including a part in the next Fast and Furious movie, the Rock’s star shows no sign of fading anytime soon.

(Seriously, with charisma like that on show below, was there any doubt he'd make it in the movie world?) 

You can’t help but wonder if Hulk Hogan ever looks at his career trajectory with jealousy. Speaking of whom…

Hulk Hogan - The man who made the Legdrop of Doom the most feared move in all of wrestling needs no introduction. Certainly not to the legion of Hulkamaniacs who followed Hulk’s in-ring career that lasted for most of the 80s and 90s, at any rate. But Hulk Hogan’s more than just a wrestler: the man’s a cultural icon. Not only is he the walking definition of "wrestling" for most people, he’s dabbled in films (appearing in respected fare like Rocky III as well as, well, less respected fare like Santa with Muscles), politics (he ran for US President in 2004), TV (reality series Hogan Knows Best showcased his obsession with his daughter’s chastity, which to be honest came over a bit creepily) and music (he made a toe-curlingly bad album in 1994). A modern-day renaissance man, Hulk Hogan has ensured that, in the public consciousness, Hulkamania will never die. Whatever that means.

Hogan showcases his acting skills in WWE:



Andre the Giant - One of Hogan’s most famous rivals and the first man inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, Andre Roussimoff’s massive size and odd appearance meant that he was destined for crossover success. As well as appearing in cult hit The Princess Bride, the Giant, who died in 1993, lives on in cities around the world to this day as a street art icon in stickers, billboards and stencils that proclaim "Andre the Giant has a posse" or "OBEY Giant". No one appears to know why, but seriously, next time you’re out and about, keep your eyes peeled for either of these designs. You’ll be surprised how often you’ll see him…



Mick Foley - The nicest man in wrestling, who played the misunderstood madman Mankind in the WWE in the late 90s, defied the stereotype that all wrestlers are illiterate gristle-heads by becoming a renowned memoirist and author. As well as three volumes of wrestling-based autobiography, he’s written a series of novels and children’s books, with his 2004 page-turner Tietam Brown proving so compelling that Crash director Paul Haggis is said to be interested in shooting a film adaptation.



Chris Jericho - As the wrestler who once described himself as "The Ayatolla of Rock and Rolla", it’s perhaps fitting that Jericho managed to leave the grap game behind to become an actual rock star, as frontman for the band Fozzy. The group, who’ve released four acclaimed albums, have appeared at some of the world’s most prestigious rock events, like the Download and Sonisphere festivals in Britain.



Jesse Ventura - Everyone made such a fuss over Arnold Schwarzenegger becoming the Governator, it’s almost as if they’d forgotten that Jesse “The Body” Ventura, Arnie’s Predator co-star and former professional wrestler, was made Governor of Minnesota in 1999. Serving in office until 2003, Jesse had already been the Mayor of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota during the early 90s, and is said to have his sights set on running for President in 2012. With a track record like that, who knows, we might just see a wrestler running the free world yet...

Check out Jesse's headgear here:

So well done to Stacy for being the latest in a line of surprising wrestling success stories. And any despondent grapplers who feel their life will be over if ever they hang up their tights, remember the fine folk we've profiled here and the remarkable adventures they've had. To paraphrase former wrestling commentator Vince McMahon: anything can happen in the WWE. Or outside of it, for that matter.

Andre the Giant - One of Hogan’s most famous rivals and the first man inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, Andre Roussimoff’s massive size and odd appearance meant that he was destined for crossover success. As well as appearing in cult hit The Princess Bride, the Giant, who died in 1993, lives on in cities around the world to this day as a street art icon in stickers, billboards and stencils that proclaim "Andre the Giant has a posse" or "OBEY Giant". No one appears to know why, but seriously, next time you’re out and about, keep your eyes peeled for either of these designs. You’ll be surprised how often you’ll see him…



Mick Foley - The nicest man in wrestling, who played the misunderstood madman Mankind in the WWE in the late 90s, defied the stereotype that all wrestlers are illiterate gristle-heads by becoming a renowned memoirist and author. As well as three volumes of wrestling-based autobiography, he’s written a series of novels and children’s books, with his 2004 page-turner Tietam Brown proving so compelling that Crash director Paul Haggis is said to be interested in shooting a film adaptation.

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