There have been a lot of celebrities that have set foot in a wrestling ring, but few were met with a vociferous rush of jeers like Chris Diamantopoulos, Sean Hayes, and Will Sasso were on WWE Monday Night Raw. The trio were in character as Moe, Larry, and Curly to promote the upcoming Farrelly Brothers’ film The Three Stooges. It probably seemed like a good fit -- lowbrow slapstick is WWE’s go-to when they attempt to be funny -- but on Monday night, the audience was having none of it.
There’s been a general feeling since the project was announced that casting new actors to play the comedic personas of three long-dead comedians is highly disrespectful to the Stooges’ legacy. I think you can certainly hear that in the audience’s boos. WWE also couldn’t resist a stab at Hulk Hogan, a man the audience cherishes who’s now working for Impact Wrestling, a WWE competitor. The in-ring sketch was doubly cursed. Fans didn’t want to see new actors as The Three Stooges (no matter how good their impressions were, and, believe me, they’re actually very good) and they didn’t want to see a WWE Hall of Famer get mocked for no good reason.
These types of appearances rarely work out well. There’s no evidence that courting a wrestling crowd has ever paid off with a massive uptick in box office numbers (if so, movies like The Marine and See No Evil would be blockbusters). Here are some other notorious movie promotions that took place in a the squared circle...
Ready to Rumble - WCW Thunder, 2000 - David Arquette, World Heavyweight Champion!
Viewed by many as the final nail in WCW’s coffin, I’m a glass-half-full kind of guy, and I choose to see it as the greatest moment in David Arquette’s career. Arquette had been hanging around the WCW shows for a little while, as part of a prolonged push for his flop comedy Ready to Rumble, and the powers-that-be, namely Eric Bischoff, may have underestimated Arquette’s celebrity status when they put the title on him. Hoping for a massive amount of national media attention, they only succeeded in getting thousands of WCW fans to tune out, permanently.
Going the Distance - WWE Raw, 2010 - “They’re booing you!”
Geoff LaTulippe, screenwriter of the rom-com Going the Distance, pointed out via Twitter that the WWE appearance of Justin Long, Charlie Day, and Jason Sudekis was painfully embarrassing for all parties involved. He was right. Watch as all three skilled improvisers get that uncomfortable deer-in-the-headlights look in front of the thousands in attendance, as they repeat the name of the show over and over. Oof. The audience isn’t impressed.
Real Steel - WWE Raw, 2011 - Jackman clocks Ziggler.
Not every appearance on a wrestling show is embarrassing. While promoting Real Steel, Hugh Jackman showed up on Raw, as relaxed and as natural in the ring as you’ll ever see from a big name celeb. Perhaps his stage experience had something to do with that? He’s clearly having a lot of fun, and when it came time for him to actually participate in a match, he delivered one of the most painful looking punches I’ve ever seen on a “fake” wrestling show.
Go to 1:07 for that punch...
Bride of Chucky - WCW Nitro, 1998 - Rick Steiner is called out by Chucky.
The best worst part of the confrontation between Rick Steiner and the killer doll Chucky is that Steiner reacts as if it’s just another day in the wrestling ring, as if Chucky is a legit wrestling opponent and not a special effect puppet from a movie. According to this one-time-only angle, Chucky’s upset because Rick is threatening his brother Scott Steiner, who also happens to be starring in Chucky’s Oscar-bait directorial debut. Uh-huh.
The Muppets - WWE Raw, 2011 - It’s time to fight the fights.
And speaking of puppets, the logistics of having the Muppets appear on a live television show that’s filmed in an arena must have been a nightmare. Both the WWE Superstars and the Muppets try really hard to make things work, but they aren’t exactly chocolate and peanut butter. They’re more like beefsteak and felt.
Jackass 2 & Jackass 3-D - WWE Raw - Jackass comes to Raw.
Jackass and WWE seem like a natural fit on paper, with their common dedication to putting human bodies at risk just for entertainment, but for whatever reason the mixture hasn’t gelled like it should.
Mystery Men - WWF Raw, 1999 - Ben Stiller loves “puppies.”
In an odd bit of promotion for Mystery Men, Ben Stiller was pulled from the crowd at Raw by Jeff Jarrett. Jarrett was managed at the time by Debra, a statuesque Texas blonde with enormous breasts, ones that everyone referred to as “puppies.”
Robocop 2 - WCW World Championship Wrestling, 1990 - Sting finds an unlikely ally.
This is perhaps the most infamous bit of movie promotion on a wrestling show. Robocop rips the door off a steel cage to save his best friend Sting. Like the Chucky bit, the wrestlers and announcers sell the thing as if Robocop is just another person on their roster and not a made-up movie character from a film that’s supposed to take place in the future.