WWE WrestleMania 33: Greatest Celebrity Moments in the History of Event
WrestleMania is equal parts celebrity and athletic competition, and it has been that way since its beginning. And by being so, WrestleMania embodies the concept of "sports entertainment" better than anything else WWE does all year.
Sometimes, the celebrities are passive participants; they're scattered among the crowd, and the camera pans to them in between the matches. Other times, they're ceremonial participants; they're conducting interviews backstage and ringing the bell.
The best celebrities, however, are the ones who get actively involved in some manner: serenading the wrestlers to the ring, officiating a match or even fighting in a match themselves. Here are the greatest moments from these consummate performers.
Muhammad Ali Referees the Main Event (WrestleMania)
Shortly after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, Muhammad Ali was a special guest referee for the main event of WrestleMania I. A unabashed showman, The Great One made the most of his moment, which reached its climax when he punched "Rowdy" Roddy Piper in the face.
Ali's presence solidified WrestleMania as a marquee event deserving of attention. Nobody was "too good" for wrestling after the greatest athlete of the 20th century participated in its main event.
It must also have been easier to book celebrities after Ali's participation.
"Well, Muhammad Ali did it," a WWE representative might say. "Why can't you?"
Ray Charles Sings "America the Beautiful" (WrestleMania II)
At the first WrestleMania, ring announcer Howard Finkel sang "The Star-Spangled Banner." At the second WrestleMania, WWE upgraded. They booked Ray Charles to sing "America The Beautiful," a song that he is famous for covering.
Recently, WWE has leaned towards younger singers to deliver the opening song. But there's something appealing about these earlier pay-per-views, where you got to see an old master at work, just doing his or her thing.
Mr. T Boxes Hot Rod (WrestleMania II)
The first time Mr. T showed up at WrestleMania I, he tag teamed with Hulk Hogan, and the four match participants tried their hardest to work a semi-legitimate wrestling match.
But at WrestleMania II, WWE threw all pretense out the window and put Mr. T in a straight up boxing match with "Rowdy" Roddy Piper.
This went over really well, with Mr. T channeling his Clubber Lang persona. But eventually, Piper got fed up and scoop slammed his opponent, which ended the match in a disqualification.
Aretha Franklin Sings "America the Beautiful" (WrestleMania III)
WrestleMania III is widely considered one of the greatest pay-per-views in the history of the franchise. It had Andre the Giant vs. Hulk Hogan. It had Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat. And the evening would get off to an incredible start, with Aretha Franklin singing "America the Beautiful" with a whole lot of brassy soul.
Franklin would reprise her appearance on WrestleMania 23, 20 years after her first appearance with WWE.
Pete Rose Gets Tombstoned by Kane (WrestleMania XIV)
Pete Rose may never get into the Cooperstown Hall of Fame, but he's a proud member of the WWE Hall of Fame. And much of his notoriety in WWE can be traced back to this moment, when Kane Tombstone Piledrived the baseball legend into the mat.
Rose would get involved two more times at WrestleMania—at WrestleMania XV, when he dressed up like a chicken, and again at WrestleMania 2000. And each time, Kane would soundly decimate his archrival.
Mike Tyson Turns on DX (WrestleMania XIV)
After Mike Tyson bit Evander Holyfield's ear off and was suspended by the Nevada State Boxing Commission, nobody wanted to work with him.
But WWE saw the chance to co-opt his notoriety into something fantastic and made Tyson a part of the DX stable. Vince McMahon further announced that Tyson would be the ring enforcer for for the main event at WrestleMania XIV between Steve Austin and Shawn Michaels.
But when referee Mike Chioda got knocked out, Tyson took over refereeing, and he made a quick count to give Austin the title. Then, he cold cocked Shawn Michaels in the face before celebrating in the ring. It was another great example of the bond that WWE and boxing share with one another.
Mickey Rourke KOs Chris Jericho (WrestleMania 25)
Mickey Rourke's status became a meta-debate in the weeks leading up to WrestleMania 25. Would he fight Chris Jericho or not? Would it be a match or just a cameo?
Rourke was in contention for an Oscar that year for his lead performance as Randy the Ram in The Wrestler. There was some concern that he would be lowering his status in the eyes of the voters if he participated.
At the end of the day, Rourke split the difference. He knocked out Chris Jericho with a single punch to defend the honor of WWE Legends, and he got a massive pop from the crowd for his efforts.
Snoop Dogg Raps Sasha Banks to the Ring (WrestleMania 32)
Snoop Dogg delivered for his little cousin Sasha Banks last year when he rapped her to the ring, with themed lyrics for the occasion.
Uncle Snoop has always been a big, unpretentious fan of WWE, appearing on Raw multiple times and guest starring on WrestleMania three times. His latest appearance was definitely the coolest, and it came on the same year of his induction into the WWE Hall of Fame.