11 Best Athlete Guest Appearances in WWE History
In 1985, WWE (then WWF) boss Vince McMahon launched a new event, WrestleMania, that has since been dubbed "wrestling's Super Bowl."
It was McMahon's plan to include celebrities that caused WrestleMania to really take off. George Henn of the New York Daily News wrote, "McMahon chose Madison Square Garden to stage a star-studded mega-card to be beamed around the U.S. via closed-circuit television."
Indeed, boxing legend Muhammad Ali served as the guest referee for the first WrestleMania, and an era of epic athlete guest appearances was born. The tradition was carried on throughout subsequent WrestleMania events as well as WWE Raw and others.
There were some great athlete performances—For instance, Shaquille O'Neal absolutely crushed his guest-hosting gig on Raw (because of course he did). And there were some not so great ones (looking at you, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano).
Here they are: the best athlete guest appearances in WWE history, as characterized by entertainment value. Unfortunately, neither Jon Stewart or Grumpy Cat are athletes, otherwise they'd be here for sure.
In 2009, English boxer Ricky Hatton served as a guest host on WWE Raw. His skills as an actor didn't exactly shine, but his skills as a boxer sure did.
The ongoing rift between boxers and wrestlers has long provided entertainment for WWE enthusiasts. In yet another classic boxer vs. wrestler bout, Hatton took on Chavo Guerrero. Things got dicey for a minute, but a massive right hand eventually knocked Guerrero to the ground for good.
William "The Refrigerator" Perry won a Super Bowl with the Chicago Bears in 1986. Not long after, he starred in a "battle royal" at WrestleMania 2 in Chicago. The battle pitted several other NFL players against WWF legends like Bret Hart and Andre the Giant in an epic 20-man battle.
Amid the chaos, Perry's one-on-one bout with Big John Studd stood out. Studd looked to have the big lineman beat, but as Perry extended his arm for a handshake, he pulled his opponent to the ground. The move, and the rest of his battle royal dominance, was enough to get the Fridge into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006.
Ronda Rousey may not have looked fearsome in her fight against Holly Holm, but she is still an imposing presence in any ring or cage. Also, in terms of her appearance at WrestleMania 31, one has to remember the context. She hadn't yet lost a fight, and the armbar was still one of the most feared moves in the UFC.
Rousey joined the Rock in the ring, giving her appearance even more star power and delighting over 76,000 fans at Levi's Stadium. When Stephanie McMahon tempted the Rock to hit her, he retrieved Rousey from the crowd and said, "I would never hit a woman, but I have a very good friend who would be more than happy to," per Craig Tello of WWE.com.
The two proceeded to own McMahon and Triple H.
Among his many talents, former bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger is a born entertainer.
According to his WWE bio, the Governator is a longtime friend of wrestling legend Bruno Sammartino. It was that friendship that helped forge Schwarzenegger's place in WWE history. His first performance came in 1999, during WWF SmackDown, where he absolutely destroyed Triple H to become the "World Box Office Champion."
English footballer Wayne Rooney's November appearance on WWE Raw was an instant classic.
Part of the greatness was a result of a little Twitter banter that occurred months before. According to Jeff Laboon of WWE.com, Bad News Barrett is a big fan of Preston North End FC. After a Rooney penalty kick helped Manchester United secure a victory over PNEFC in February, Barrett called out the footballer on Twitter. Rooney responded, and a challenge was born.
Months later, Rooney attended Raw in Manchester, UK, and Barrett started in about how he didn't want Rooney's son to have to "watch his own father fail." Now, to say Rooney smacked him across the face (while accurate), might sound like a sissy move, somehow, it wasn't.
Floyd Mayweather's appearance at WrestleMania XXIV in 2008 was as David vs. Goliath as they come. First taunted into the ring by the Big Show, Mayweather looked pea-sized compared to the behemoth. But he proved he packs a lot of power, sending the big guy to the ground with a few ferocious punches and drawing actual blood.
Mayweather's competitive fire brought an element of entertainment to this one not always seen in athlete appearances. When the real matchup began, the Big Show appeared to have Mayweather licked, but a metal chair and set of brass knuckles later, Mayweather came out victorious.
Former MLB player and manager Pete Rose might not be in baseball's Hall of Fame, but he was inducted into the WWE Hall in 2004. According to his profile on WWE.com, Rose appeared at WrestleMania XIV, WrestleMania XV and WrestleMania 2000. Among the highlights include a longstanding feud with Kane and a chicken costume. For real.
At WrestleMania XIV, Rose made the mistake of trolling the home Boston fans with a Bill Buckner joke and was shortly thereafter Tombstoned by Kane. A year later, Rose suffered the same fate at WrestleMania XV, all while sporting that aforementioned chicken costume.
Mike Tyson is no stranger to the ring. Though his fame was won in boxing, Tyson holds a special place in WWE history.
His appearance at WrestleMania XIV became the stuff of legends. Tyson served as guest enforcer during the battle between Shawn Michaels and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. It wasn't over when Austin pinned Michaels, however. Michaels got up to argue with Tyson, who promptly knocked him to the floor.
Years later, Tyson returned to the ring as guest host of WWE Raw. Tyson took on Triple H & HBK with Chris Jericho but eventually (hilariously) turned on his teammate.
Bob Uecker played MLB in the 1960s but went on to gain more fame as a broadcaster. He earned his way into the WWE Hall of Fame with classic back-to-back guest appearances at WrestleMania III and WrestleMania IV.
Putting his broadcast skills to good use, Uecker was, of course, a guest ring announcer on both occasions. He appeared before an epic bout between two WWE legends, Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant at WrestleMania III. A year later, Uecker encountered Andre the Giant backstage and ended up in a chokehold. Classic.
Boxing legend Muhammad Ali served as a guest referee at the very first WrestleMania, held at Madison Square Garden in 1985. Just the fact that such a legendary figure was on hand for the very first event made this memorable.
Hulk Hogan said, "When the show started and I realized Muhammad Ali was there, and Billy Martin and the Rockettes and all these actors, I said, 'Holy s--t. This is huge,'" per George Henn of the New York Daily News.
That wasn't even Ali's first appearance in professional wrestling, however. He stepped into the ring against Gorillia Monsoon in 1976. A world-class boxer in an Airplane Spin—there's something you don't see every day.
Shaquille O'Neal starred as a special guest enforcer on WWE Raw in 2009, and what a shock, it was awesome. WWE pitted the Big Aristotle against the Big Show in what turned out to be an epic victory for Shaq.
Shaq interrupted the bout between Chris Jericho and the Big Show, jumping into the ring like he was born to be there. The highlight had to Shaq giving the Big Show a little wave goodbye after chasing him out of the ring (around the 1:30 mark). That, or the victory dance, of course.
O'Neal was nominated for a Slammy Award for the performance, but unfortunately the unbeatable guest performance of Bob Barker happened that same year. He was also rumored to be on the card for WrestleMania 28 a few years later, but unfortunately the move never materialized.