The involvement of celebrities at WrestleMania is something that fans seem to have mixed feelings about currently, but if not for their presence during the early years of WrestleMania, there is no telling whether wrestling's biggest spectacle would have reached the heights that it has.
There is no doubt that some celebrities have fallen flat on the big stage, but several have taken their roles very seriously and added to the event. WrestleMania will always be about the regular performers first and foremost; however, fringe fans are interested in mainstream stars, so the WWE has to deliver them.
Perhaps celebrity involvement isn't as prevalent now as it was at WrestleMania I, but we usually see a handful of celebrities at WrestleMania on a yearly basis and that figures to continue moving forward. Just as has been the case in the past, some of them will be awful, some of them will be average and some of them will be great, but hopefully the majority fall into the latter category.
Here are the top five celebrity contributors over the long and storied history of WrestleMania.
Donald Trump's involvement with WrestleMania stretches all the way back to 1988 as his venue, Trump Plaza, hosted WrestleMania IV. Trump Plaza was once again the stage for WrestleMania V and Trump has been a great partner with the company ever since. It wasn't until WrestleMania 23 that he truly became part of the show itself, though.
Leading up to WrestleMania 23, Trump was engaged in a feud with Vince McMahon. Each man tried to one-up the other and prove that he was the better billionaire. Things eventually came to a head and a challenge was laid down. At WrestleMania 23, Bobby Lashley would represent Trump and Umaga would wrestle on McMahon's behalf. Depending upon who won the match, the losing billionaire would have to get his head shaved.
Not surprisingly, Trump's signature locks were spared as Lashley won the match. This led to Trump, Lashley and special guest referee "Stone Cold" Steve Austin shaving the chairman's head bald. It was an embarrassing moment for McMahon, but Vince has never let that stop him from doing something that he believes will draw money.
A lot of fans are critical of the "Battle of the Billionaires" in retrospect since it may have taken some of the focus off the wrestlers, but it seemed to interest the public and it led to significant pay-per-view buyrates. That alone means that Trump's contributions were successful and ultimately quite beneficial to the WWE brand.
Trump's physical involvement was minimal and his role in the match itself barely moved the needle, but he was a main drawing point and a headliner despite not being a wrestler.
As the all-time hits leader in Major League Baseball, it is a shame that Pete Rose can't involve himself with the organization due to his ban for betting on baseball. Luckily the ban doesn't apply to other companies, though, as the WWE was more than happy to make him a part of WrestleMania XIV, WrestleMania XV and WrestleMania 2000. At each of those events, Charlie Hustle was met by an attack at the hands of Kane.
At WrestleMania XIV, Rose was the special guest ring announcer for the huge match between The Undertaker and Kane. The Big Red Monster apparently didn't think too highly of the former Cincinnati Reds superstar as he hit him with a thunderous tombstone. Rose attempted to get his revenge on Kane the following year as he dressed up like the San Diego Chicken and tried to ambush The Big Red Machine, but he was foiled once again.
Rose gave it one last try at WrestleMania 2000, but Kane got the best of him and had help in the form of his tag team partner— Rikishi. It really didn't make much sense for Kane and Rose to feud as the only link between them was that Kane was called The Big Red Machine, while the Reds teams that Rose played for were nicknamed The Big Red Machine. Other than that the attacks were pretty random, but they were extremely entertaining.
The great thing about Rose is that he has had a good sense of humor about his banishment from baseball and he has embraced the heel role. That was evident at WrestleMania as the fans absolutely loved seeing Kane take is frustrations out on the hits king. If we're lucky, perhaps Rose will make his long-awaited WrestleMania return at some point and come face to face with Kane once again.
Only a small handful of celebrities have actually competed in matches at WrestleMania, and Lawrence Taylor was certainly among the most successful in that regard. Not only is LT a former New York Giants linebacker, a Pro Football Hall of Famer and arguably the greatest defensive player of his era, but he proved to be a capable in-ring performer as he main evented WrestleMania XI against Bam Bam Bigelow.
The feud between Taylor and Bigelow started at the Royal Rumble as LT was sitting in the front row. Bigelow teamed with Tatanka against the upstart tandem of Bob Holly and 1-2-3 Kid in the finals of a tournament to determine the Tag Team Champions. Bigelow and Tatanka shockingly lost, which led to Taylor and his buddies having a good laugh. Bigelow didn't take too kindly to Taylor's reaction, so he proceeded to push him around.
That set the stage for an unprecedented WrestleMania match that actually headlined the card. The WWE was so excited about Taylor's involvement that he and Bigelow went on after the WWE Championship match between Diesel and Shawn Michaels. A lot of fans look back at WrestleMania XI as a failure, but I have always felt as though the undercard contributed more to that feeling than LT vs. Bam Bam.
It was obvious that Taylor wasn't a trained professional wrestler, but he was once one of the greatest athletes in the world, so he had the natural ability needed to grapple with a physical freak like Bigelow. Perhaps LT didn't change the landscape of wrestling, but he generated interest, beat Bam Bam in the main event and didn't embarrass himself in the process.
Maybe Taylor vs. Bigelow wasn't fit for a WrestleMania main event, but it was a passable match and one that LT should always be proud of.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. is not only one of the greatest boxers of our time, but he is one of the greatest trash talkers as well. That combination made him a natural fit for the WWE ahead of WrestleMania XXIV. Mayweather was first introduced as a potential competitor at No Way Out 2008. Big Show returned from a long injury layoff to attack Rey Mysterio, but as the luchador's friend, Mayweather made the save as he hit Big Show with a flurry of punches.
Big Show then challenged Mayweather to a match at WrestleMania, and "Money" accepted despite the obvious size disparity. Their bout went on just prior to the Edge vs. Undertaker main event and it was a no disqualification match that could only end via knockout or submission. Big Show used his intimidating presence to toss Mayweather around, which prompted Mayweather to take off with his entourage, but Big Show was able to get him back in the ring.
The match continued to be controlled by Big Show; however, Mayweather began to get help from his corner men as one of them hit Big Show with a chair. Mayweather followed suit and was eventually handed a pair of brass knuckles, which allowed him to knock the giant out cold. It wasn't necessarily surprising that Mayweather won since celebrities tend to go over at WrestleMania, but the manner in which he did it was a bit shocking.
Mayweather was technically the face heading into the match, but he used a number of heel tactics that allowed him to prevail. It certainly made sense for things to play out that way, though, as Mayweather is almost always viewed as the bad guy before and during his fights.
Since Mayweather is the ultimate showman, he was an ideal choice for Vince McMahon in terms of celebrity involvement. Mayweather can't box forever, and since he is all about the money, I wouldn't be surprised if we see him back in the WWE one day.
Vince McMahon went all out when it came to WrestleMania I as he knew that it was an all-or-nothing affair. If it succeeded, then it was likely to launch the WWE and professional wrestling in general to new heights. If it failed, however, it very well could have sunk the WWE based on how much was invested in it. Luckily for McMahon and wrestling fans everywhere, WrestleMania I captivated the audience. A big reason for that was the involvement of television star Mr. T in the main event.
Hulk Hogan was embroiled in a bitter feud with "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff and "Cowboy" Bob Orton heading into the event and it was clear that he needed a backup. That came in the form of The A-Team star. Mr. T was among the most popular television stars in the United States at the time and he was in fine physical condition, so he seemed like a very good for the main event at WrestleMania.
The match itself featured Hogan and Mr. T teaming up against Piper and Orndorff. Orton was in the corner of the heel team, while "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka backed up Hogan and Mr. T. Also, Pat Patterson served as the special guest referee inside the ring with Muhammad Ali acting as a referee on the outside. It can be argued that there had never been that much star power in one match before, so the fans predictably ate it up.
While the match wasn't anything special from an in-ring perspective, Mr. T did a solid job and it was entertaining due to its novelty. The WWE was so happy with Mr. T's performance that he returned the following year to face Piper in a boxing match at WrestleMania II. Mr. T won that match by disqualification, and although it wasn't as good as his WrestleMania I involvement, it generated plenty of interest once again.
It may seem a bit funny to think of Mr. T as a wrestling icon, but he was a huge part of the first two WrestleManias and helped make them as successful as they ultimately were.