Farewell Ultimate Warrior

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 15th April 2014.

This past Monday was one of my favourite days of the year. Not only was it the premiere of season 4 of Game of Thrones (a guilty pleasure) but it was Wrestlemania Monday.

I’ve been hooked on the ultimate soap opera for guys since I was a little kid. My parents bought me a tiny (by today’s standards) black and white television which I had in my bedroom. Late at night, when the then WWF was on, I’d sneak across my room, start the box and wonder at the superhuman displays of strength. Whenever I’d hear footsteps coming my way, I’d switch it off and dart back to me bed, pretending to be asleep.

Things are a bit different now. Thanks to the new online WWE Network (only currently available in the USA so don’t ask) I can literally watch wrestling twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. Not that I actually do that. Even for me, there’s only so much lycra one can take.


Wrestlemania XXX from New Orleans was a memorable event, the highlight for me being the introduction of there inductees into the WWE Hall of Fame for 2014. Headlining the bunch was one of my childhood favourites, The Ultimate Warrior. The following night on WWE Raw, Warrior (now his legal name) appeared in the ring to give a heartfelt speech. The next day, he was dead.

The Ultimate Warrior appeared on the WWF scene in 1987 as a replacement for the “immortal” Hulk Hogan, who was pursuing a Hollywood film career (don’t get me started on his appalling movies). With his face paint, ribbons tied around his biceps and ridiculous musculature (definitely not naturally acquired), Warrior would sprint to the ring and shake the ropes like a mad man.

His feuds with the Honky Tonk Man, Rick Rude and Andre the Giant were legendary and always culminated with Warrior standing victorious. As the Intercontinental Champion, he faced WWF Champion Hogan in the “Ultimate Challenge” at Wrestlemania VI, a match that is regarded as one of the best for that era and saw Warrior winning both straps.

Warrior was notorious for his rambling nonsensical promos on the microphone. Unfortunately, this tendency to say way too much saw his reputation become tarnished after he finally retired in 1998, following several attempts to resurrect his legacy, each with diminishing returns.

As a motivation speaker, Warrior made an almost incoherent diatribe at the University of Connecticut in 2005 in which he made the now infamous claims that “queering doesn’t make the world work” and “homosexuals are not as legitimate as heterosexuals.” Other later speeches exposed further extreme right wing views and were met with claims of racism. His blogs were no better, with Warrior making bile ridden rants about his fellow wrestlers. My hero had let me down.

On April 5, Warrior was accompanied by his two daughters to the podium to make his Hall of Fame induction speech. He spoke about how much he loved his wife and daughters. He acknowledged the crew behind the scenes and thanked Vince and Linda McMahon. Very little was said about his colleagues (Warrior was not well liked by his fellow WWF talent) but in my eyes, simply by returning to the company where he was previously persona non grata, Warrior had showed his human side and was rebuilding bridges with his fans.


The following night on Raw, Warrior stood in the centre of the ring and addressed his fans and colleagues in a prophetic and haunting speech.

“No WWE talent becomes a legend on their own. Every man’s heart one day beats its final beat. His lungs breathe their final breath. And if what that man did in his life makes the blood pulse through the body of others and makes them believe deeper in something larger than life then his essence, his spirit, will be immortalised.”

With that speech, the man Warrior transformed into the Ultimate Warrior and just for a moment, I was a child again, jumping up and down in anticipation of my hero running to the squared circle to vanquish his enemies with the “ultimate splash.” In my mind at least, he had achieved his redemption.

Less than twenty four hours later, Warrior had a massive heart attack and died. Jim Hellwig may be gone, but the Ultimate Warrior will live on forever.

Published in: on May 12, 2014 at 00:26  Leave a Comment  
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WWE Network – even more reason for wrestling nerds to stay inside

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 14th January 2014.

Last Thursday, at a glitzy press conference in Las Vegas, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Chairman Vince McMahon announced the creation of the WWE Network. Widely expected to be a new premium sports channel to be carried via traditional US cable TV distributors, WWE pulled a pro wrestling storyline swerve by revealing that the fledgling network will be internet based, and most importantly, available in Australia.

WWE Network will consist of a live feed plus on demand programming. I have no doubt that die hard fans will be able to stay glued to their screens 24/7 but is there enough footage of men pretending to fight in their undies for a whole network?

On their way to becoming the dominant wrestling promotion in the USA and by default, the planet, WWE have swallowed up almost every tape library going so their archive of over 100,000 hours of bouts and footage from the 1940’s to now will be a major drawcard for enthusiasts of the square circle.

WWE is also promising original programming such as Wrestlemania Rewind which will examine some of the greatest match-ups in history, the stories behind them and talk to the participants, assuming they haven’t died in a steroid or drug related incident. Another documentary style show, The Monday Night War, will spotlight the infamous mid-90’s battle for ratings between WWE and World Championship Wrestling (WCW). Of course, history is written by the victors so don’t expect a balanced perspective. For the record, my friends and I were huge WCW fans at the time. With hindsight, WCW was pretty terrible. Our preference for it may have had more to do with Australian pay TV’s decision to drop WWE programming at the time.

I’m most excited about WWE Legends House, a reality show which sees “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan and other stars from the eighties with inverted commas in their names live under the same roof. I’m looking forward to enjoying the antics of the legends. By legends, I mean a bunch of unhinged old grapplers who have been dropped on their heads a few too many times.

For most fans, the biggest attraction will be the monthly pay per view events such as Wrestlemania. Currently priced at $35 a pop via Australian pay TV channel Main Event, the pay per views will be part of the network lineup. With the introductory price point for the WWE Network being set at US$9.99 per month, with a minimum six month subscription, the online channel represents great value for fans and appears to be another sign that tradition TV distribution is on the wane.

The best news for Aussie wrestling fans is that WWE Network will become available for us in late 2015 or early 2015. The lag is presumably to allow WWE to renegotiate its arrangements with local distributors such as Foxtel.

WWE Network premieres in the US only on February 24. In the words of the late “Macho Man” Randy Savage, “Oooooh yeeeah!”

Scooby Doo and WWE: the megapowers collide

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 17th December 2013.

As kid growing up in the eighties, one of my favourite things to do on a Saturday morning was to wake up early and watch cartoons. Nowadays, I much prefer to sleep in and miss Saturday morning altogether. My favourite animated series was Scooby-Doo and if it was listed in the TV guide, I’d make sure that I was glued to the box for every minute.

Sure it was super formulaic. There’s a mysterious figure haunting a location, usually a mine, theme park or film set. Scooby and the gang arrive in the Mystery Machine to investigate. Chaos ensues. Insert a whacky chase scene. The criminal is collared and unmasked to reveal that it was Old Man Smothers / McGillicutty / Jackson all along. The famous phrase is uttered. “And I would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for you meddling kids.” Roll credits and theme tune.

I guess the simplicity of the formula appealed to my young brain.That would also explain why I also loved similarly simple shows such as The Famous Five, Murder She Wrote, Hey, Hey It’s Saturday and A Current Affair.

My absolute favourite episodes were the ones which saw the Scooby Gang team up with guest stars, in particular Batman and the Harlem Globetrotters.

Produced in 1972, the “Dynamic Scooby-Doo Affair” and “The Caped Crusader Caper” see Batman and Robin work alongside Scooby, Shaggy, Fred, Velma and Daphne to battle the dastardly Joker and Penguin. I was a huge fan of the sixties camp incarnation of Batman, starring the legendary Adam West, so this was the coming together of two of my most beloved franchises. It’s also worth nothing that the quality of acting is not much different between the animated and live action Batman. I’m not sure if that’s a compliment to the voice actors of the cartoon or a brickbat for Adam West’s thespian skills…

As a child, I had no idea who the Harlem Globetrotters were. I still don’t. They seem to be some sort of basketball team who specialise in doing tricks but aren’t very good at playing an opposing team, kind of like the Parramatta Eels. Amazingly, they were also sleuths who like to solve mysteries. In “The Mystery of Haunted Island” and “The Loch Ness Mess” they team up with the Scooby Gand to investigate locations being haunted by mysterious figures… I won’t bother. You know the rest.

It was with some trepidation that I discovered recently that the latest Scooby-Doo animated movie sees the titular Great Dane work alongside another of my loves…wrestling.

Scooby-Doo! Wrestlemania Mystery sees the Scooby Gang investigating the world of professional wrestling. Despite my initial reservations that these two worlds colliding might be a mistake, I’m think I’ll keep an open mind. After all, there are plenty of masked men in the WWE to be revealed. And quite a few steroid smugglers I’m sure. Scooby snacks anyone?

Many WWE Superstars will be lending their likenesses and voices to the project, including renowned Shakespearean actors Triple H, John Cena, Kane, The Miz, Brodus Clay, Santino Marella and the chairman of the board, Mr McMahon.

In March next year, Scooby-Doo! Wrestlemania Mystery will be unleashed on the world, direct to DVD. Hopefully the Scooby Gang will solve some of WWE’s greatest mysteries, such as, “Why didn’t the referee see that?” and “How is it possible to be beaten up that badly and not get a single bruise?” I might finally also get an answer to the most commonly asked question whenever I admit to liking professional wrestling, “How on earth can you watch that garbage?” Jinkies!

Published in: on January 7, 2014 at 16:46  Leave a Comment  
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B Movie Buffet

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 16th April 2013.

Every so often I feel compelled to visit my local non-specific video store and take advantage of a special offer in order to bring you my B Movie Buffet. The popcorn is ready and the sneeze guard has been removed. Let me watch the dross so that you don’t have to.

First up in this cavalcade of clunkers is Silent Hill: Revelation 3D, a sequel to the 2006 original which was based on the Konami video game. Starring unknown Australian actress Adelaide Clemens, the film also features appearances from returning stars of the original, Sean Bean, Radha Mitchell and Deborah Kara Unger. Ah, the power of contractual obligation. The movie impressively adopts the nightmarish imagery of its source material. Abandoned hospitals, bizarre creatures, faceless scalpel wielding nurses…they’re all here. Just like the video game, the film also has no discernible plot whatsoever. The filmmakers really need to look up the meaning of “revelation” in the dictionary.

WWE Superstar Mike “The Miz” Mizanin stars as the third incarnation of the titular character in The Marine: Homefront, a direct-to-DVD entry in the franchise from WWE Studios. This reasonably new production company was established to showcase the acting talents of WWE wrestlers. Insert laughter here. In the prologue, the film explains that US marines are trained to deal with any situation. After watching this unintentionally hilarious film, this obviously includes saving your sister from terrorists embarking on the dumbest scheme ever with flaws and assumptions big enough to drive a tank through.

Next up on the conveyer belt of cheese is Red Dawn. A remake of the 1984 original which starred the late Patrick Swayze, this teen action flick was actually made in 2009 but delayed due to MGM’s financial problems. Prior to the film’s release last year, the remake’s villains were changed from a Chinese invading force to North Korean. There’s a lot of money to be made at the box office in China compared to North Korea, you see. Aussies Chris Hemsworth and Isabel Lucas lead up the Wolverines, a rebel fighting force formed by some good looking teens who manage to escape the initial invasion. In a ridiculous training montage, Hemsworth transforms the rag tag group into a tight military unit in a single day. Plot holes abound. How do the North Korean soldiers parachute into Spokane and then suddenly have tanks and jeeps? How do the Wolverines infiltrate the city to carry out their missions when everyone else appears to be locked down? Why do I care? My verdict: Tomorrow When the Bore Began.

Last up is the pick of the litter, although that’s not saying much. Here Comes the Boom stars Kevin James of The King of Queens fame. He plays a biology teacher who becomes an MMA fighter in order to raise funds to save his school’s music program, run by The Fonz. There are a few laughs to be had, and I must admit to rather enjoy seeing James, an incredibly annoying comic, get punched and kicked in the head. A predictable ending leaves a saccharine taste in the mouth, and it’s no surprise that this lightweight sports comedy comes from Happy Madison Productions, Adam Sandler’s production company.

The Life and Times of Charlie Fatt Part 4

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This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 4th September 2012.

The saga so far…

A long time ago, in a Welsh valley far, far away, I’ve become Charlie Fatt, professional wrestling referee. After an outrageous career of hardcore matches, cheating wrestlers and general shenanigans, I’ve decided to leave the UK. It’s time for Charlie to “die”.

My final show with NWA Hammerlock / Celtic Wrestling is only a few days away. My good friend, wrestling champion and promoter, Karl “Caiman” Griffiths and I have decided that Charlie deserves a send off. That is, my character needs to be written out of the wrestling storyline.

Between shows, I’ve been training with the wrestlers on weekends. Surprisingly, this rarely involves the ring. Most sessions start with some cardio work, followed by stretches. We then lay crash mats on the floor and start to practice the moves. I’ve become reasonably proficient with chain wrestling, that is, the standard grappling formula of arm bars, rolls and flip ups that all wrestlers have to learn. I also know how to fall onto my front without hurting myself, known as a front bump.

It’s the back bumps I don’t enjoy. Every time I practice throwing myself backwards on a crash mat, slapping my arms and feet on the floor to take the impact instead of my spine, I have no problems, but when I try it in the actual ring, I don’t seem to have the neck strength to stop hitting the back of my head on the canvas.

I’m still pretty confident that I can take a bump in the ring and not get killed so in the locker room before my final appearance, I suggest that Charlie Fatt gets eliminated when the heel (bad guy) pushes me in the way of a high impact move by the babyface (good guy). But which move?

Caiman suggests a clothesline but I decline. That involves a back bump and my brain is slightly allergic to being slammed into the back of my skull. I also dismiss being squashed in the ring corner. That is not impressive enough for a finale. Chris Recall, the wrestler playing the face character in the main event proposes that he jumps off the top rope and accidentally hits me with a cross body. Um, sure.

The card is underway and we have a big crowd. Many of my friends have come to witness my final match. They don’t know what is going to happen. I’m not 100% certain either.

All of my matches run smoothly. That is, my refereeing is appropriately terrible. I miss the bad guys cheating because I’m too easily distracted, and the faces get frustrated because I’m extra strict with them. In other words, I’m doing a great job.

At the right time, with Chris up on the turnbuckle, I make sure that I am in position standing next to the heel. As Chris flies into the air, I’m pushed into his path and he collides with me squarely in the chest. The momentum takes me painlessly onto my back and then I flip over and land with a thud on my front. I hear the crowd gasp in shock. I lie motionless in the ring until my fellow wrestling officials retrieve my body and drag me backstage, but I can’t resist a smirk. Charlie Fatt has officially been killed off in the wrestling world.

I still keep in touch with some of the wrestlers back in Wales. No-one so far has made it to the big leagues. I made some enquiries with Australian wrestling organisations when I returned home but didn’t fancy travelling to Sydney to referee for peanuts (or even less than peanuts). Karl “Caiman” Griffiths has gotten married and retired from wrestling. He hopes to immigrate to Australia one day.

A famous philosopher named Justin Bieber once said, “Never say never.” Will Charlie Fatt be resurrected one day? His zebra striped short still hangs in my wardrobe. You never know.

Published in: on October 9, 2012 at 01:14  Leave a Comment  
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The Life and Times of Charlie Fatt Part 3

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 21st August 2012.

The story so far…

I’ve unwittingly become the official referee for Celtic Wrestling, a professional wrestling promotion in Cardiff, Wales. With absolutely no training whatsoever, I survive my first ever 2 hour show. To my surprise, I’m invited back.

You’d think that there wouldn’t be much demand for professional wrestling referees. It’s not like you need much training (I didn’t have any). And the rules aren’t hard to enforce (there aren’t any). Somehow, my profile was posted on a UK wrestling database online and I started to receive invitations to work for other promotions around the country. I ended up politely declining all offers. You see, in my entire wrestling career as Charlie Fatt, I earned no money at all, not a single penny.

Unless you’re working for a major US promotion like World Wrestling Entertainment, you are not truly a professional wrestler. You’re more like an amateur “professional” wrestler. I wouldn’t think that there is a single wrestler in the UK, let alone Australia, who doesn’t have a day job. An independent wrestling show is not cheap to put on, so by the time the promoter hires a venue, publicises the event and pays the talent (the wresters), there isn’t much left for the lowly referee or ring announcer.

Celtic Wrestling was growing in popularity and the shows were now a monthly event. I had started training with the local wrestlers and was best mates with the then champion and local promoter, Karl “Caiman” Griffiths. Even the national promoter, UK wrestling legend Andre Baker, had started to speak to me.

Now before each show, I’d be briefed about the matches, who would go over (win) and we’d plan out any high spots (moves off the top rope, or a series of exciting moves). We’d also organise any referee distractions. Usually, this involved a member of the heel (bad guys) tag team turning me away for an argument whilst his partner cheated.

My favourite heel to work alongside was Tank. He was a 170kg monster with a wicked sense of humour. He’d grab me by the collar and turn me away from the shenanigans. I’d berate him for touching a wrestling official and as planned, I would then have to force him back into the corner of the ring, except Tank didn’t move as we had agreed. I pretended to push him with all my might, whilst the whole time Tank stood still, with his arms crossed laughing at me, along with the audience. Eventually, he’d give me a wink and I’d turn around, using my best acting talents to look surprised and confused that the faces (good guys) were now unconscious, the innocent victims of a concealed (but not from behind the ears) set of knuckle dusters.

I still occasionally pull out Charlie Fatt’s confused look. It’s really effective at the video store when I get asked about a late fee. “No, I’m certain I returned Titanic on time. I have no idea what happened.”

Next week: Son of Abdullah the Butcher, first blood matches and (possibly) the untimely demise of Charlie Fatt

Published in: on October 9, 2012 at 01:11  Leave a Comment  
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The Life and Times of Charlie Fatt Part 2

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 14th August 2012.

The story so far…

Somehow I’ve been roped into being a referee for a professional wrestling show in Cardiff, Wales. I’ve been given my stage name, Charlie Fatt, and have arrived at the show to officiate a “match or two.” The problem is, I don’t really know what I’m doing and I’ve just been informed that I am the only referee for the night.

It’s one hour to show time and the ring announcer has taken me aside to brief me on the referee gig. He explains that I just need to enforce the rules and count the pins as I see them. I‘m a little confused. Isn’t a professional wrestling referee’s job not to enforce the rules, or to least enforce them badly? How am I supposed to put on a good show if I don’t know the outcomes?

When I ask these questions, I’m informed that the “booker” doesn’t trust me yet and that until I prove myself, things need to stay “kayfabe”. He quickly runs me through the procedure to start the match. Check the wrestlers’ boots and behind their ears for foreign objects and call for the bell. Um, what sort of weapon can be concealed behind a wrestler’s ear? I’m never given an answer. I guess Monkey Magic kept his magic stick behind his ear…

For those of you new to wrestling, the booker is the person responsible for putting together the card for the show. They decide who wrestles whom and the outcome. For this show, the booker and promoter was veteran British grappler Andre Baker. I always found Andre to be a stern, humourless fellow who took the business very seriously.

Which brings me to kayfabe. In the wrestling world, kayfabe is the practice of portraying the events within a show as real. Everything is legit. The bad guys and the good guys really hate each other. That sort of thing. Nowadays, everyone knows that wrestling is entertainment but you’ll still never hear those in the industry openly speaking about the inner workings of the business.

Before I know it, my stage name is announced to the crowd and I’m walking through the curtains towards the ring. A few people clap. I try to look as serious as possible although I probably have a stupid grin on my face. As I climb between the ring ropes I realise that I had never stepped into a wrestling ring until that very moment.

Over the next two hours, I referee eight bouts or so. It is hard work. I’m constantly on the move, darting around the ring trying to stay out of the way of the wrestlers bounding about. The ring, although bouncy when a body slams on it, is really quite hard especially when you have to slap your hand down on it to count the pins and near falls.

I only make one major mistake during the show. When both wrestlers tumble out of the ring, I start my ten count. When the bad guy slides back in at the last second, I accidentally stop counting, and instead of calling for the bell due to a count out, I start counting from one again whilst the poor heroic grappler is forced to clumsily pretend to climb back into the ring very slowly to ensure that he loses. Oops.

OK, so it wasn’t exactly Wrestlemania but my wrestling debut was great fun. I particularly enjoyed being abused by fans for not noticing when the bad guys cheated or I missed the goodies getting a winning pin because I was “distracted”. In other words, I did a good job of portraying Charlie Fatt doing a bad job. I was hooked.

Next week: hard core wrestling, blood baths and the death of Charlie Fatt.

Published in: on October 9, 2012 at 01:10  Leave a Comment  
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The Life and Times of Charlie Fatt: Wrestling Referee

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 7th August 2012.

Many moons ago I was a lowly physiotherapist working in the Welsh town of Merthyr Tydfil. Living in a small rented terrace, I ventured out several times a week to rehearse with the local musical theatre company. In the month of warm weather that was known as Summer I liked to hike around the Brecon Beacons. Life was good

Nobody knew that I was harbouring a secret identity. At night, I’d put on my special costume and dispense my own brand of justice. That’s right folks. (In my best gravelly voice) I’m Batman. Not really, in the world of British Professional Wrestling I was known as the number one referee, Charlie Fatt.

I’m not exactly sure how I came to be a wrestling referee. I noticed a story in the local paper advertising wrestling training and having been a fan of the WWE and such since I was little, I went along to check it out.

I wandered into the Cathays Community Centre in Cardiff one Saturday afternoon to discover a group of people of all shapes and sizes running around the outside of a rusty old wrestling ring. Following that, they entered the ring and started to practice “bumping” with the trainers.

A “bump” is the wrestling term for falling on your front or back without hurting yourself. By outstretching your arms and slapping the mat, and landing with as much surface area as possible, it’s possible to make lot of noise but not hurt yourself (much).

Eventually, one of the trainers, Karl Griffiths, but known to his fans as former Celtic Wrestling Champion Caiman, invited me to join the training session. I declined, as I wasn’t particularly interested in performing in lycra undies and not much else, but did volunteer to help out in some way. Karl suggested I come to their next show and maybe referee a match. He explained that my height, or rather my lack of height, would make the wrestlers seem even larger. “That sounds great,” I said, but my Spider Sense was tingling. What had I gotten myself into?

A few weeks later I’m driving to Cardiff for my first show with James, a mate from Sydney. I had my zebra stripe shirt and black trousers, standard issue for a referee, but still hadn’t come up with my wrestling name and was getting desperate for ideas. As we pulled up to the venue in my rusty beaten up Ford (it cost me 350 quid and I drove it for three years until the fuel tank fell off on the A465), he suggests Charlie Fatt. I don’t have a clue where the Charlie came from but my second cousin is Jeff Fatt from The Wiggles. With no better names on offer, I became Charlie Fatt.

Nervously stepping into the venue, I was greeted by Caiman who informed me that there would be a few hundred people coming to watch the show and that I would be making my professional wrestling debut (with no preparation or training) as the one and only referee for the two hour card. Oh boy.

Next time I’ll write about Charlie Fatt’s grand debut. One..two…three!

Published in: on August 10, 2012 at 08:21  Comments (1)  
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WWE Films: now with extra cheese

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This column was originaly published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 15th March 2011.

I have a confession to make. I don’t mind watching a little bit of wrestling. Don’t tell my mum.

It has always irritated me when people say that it isn’t real. Of course it’s real. When you see a wrestler fly across the ring, he’s actually doing that. When he jumps off the top rope, that’s what is really happening. The notion that you are watching a legitimate fight is what is not real.

The outcome of the matches may be pre-determined and the storylines may be put together by a team of writers but why should that diminish my enjoyment? I know that Home and Away, Neighbours, House, Doctor Who and A Current Affair are completely fictional and I’m sure that it doesn’t stop anyone from watching them.

What I will concede, though, is that the ability to act is not necessarily a prerequisite to be a WWE Superstar. I would suggest big muscles and the ability to look good in lycra trunks is far more important. Subtlety is not really essential in the larger than life soap opera for (mostly) men that is professional wrestling.

So I find it extremely interesting that World Wrestling Entertainment has set up its own film studio to produce motion pictures vehicles for its biggest stars.

WWE was formally the World Wrestling Federation or WWF until a court case brought by the World Wildlife Fund in 2000 determined that the general public might get confused between bodyslams and pandas. I know I often do.

To date, WWE Studios has produced or co-produced ten feature films to variable box office takings and mixed reviews. There are another five on the way.

The Rock, or as he would prefer to be known now, Dwayne Johnson, starred in the first three, and most successful, WWE Studios productions. The Scorpion King (2002), Welcome to the Jungle (2003) and Walking Tall (2004) were all box office hits and cemented Johnson’s place as a legitimate breakout star. His charisma in the ring carried over to the big screen and although he did not become the Schwarzenegger of the noughties as was expected, he is certainly now a big name Hollywood actor.

The depth of the talent pool became somewhat shallower with the departure of The Rock as he retired his trunks and pursued acting fulltime. Next in line in terms of wrestling stardom was “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Arguably the biggest star since Hulk Hogan and responsible for reversing the fortunes of an ailing WWE throughout the nineties, Austin’s vehicle The Condemned (2007), a knockoff of The Running Man (2007) and co-starring Vinnie Jones, was a flop at the box office. Austin has gone on to several direct-to-DVD films as well as appearing as a henchman in Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables (2010)  although he is yet to expand his acting range beyond looking menacing and punching things.

With the relative failure of current Superstar John Cena’s two movies, The Marine (2006) and 12 Rounds (2009), WWE Studios changed tactics and chose to focus their productions on the direct-to-DVD market, with most films having a very short cinema engagement before hitting the shelves soon after. There also appears to be a trend of not stretching the limited acting abilities of the wrestlers by ensuring that the roles they play are not far from the grappling world. John Cena plays a former high school wrestling champion in Legendary (2010) and “The Big Show” Paul Wight portrays a dim witted cage fighter in last year’s Knucklehead.

With over six hours of WWE programming a week on pay TV, it could be argued that fans are unlikely to spend money seeing wrestlers in films when they can watch them for next to nothing on the box. However, there may still be some money to be made with low budget movies starring contracted wrestlers and B grade actors.

I suppose the lack of acting ability has never really stopped anyone from making it to the big screen. Just ask Britney Spears, Mariah Carey and Jessica Simpson.