'Guardians of the Galaxy:' Can Bautista Break the Curse of Tor Johnson? - Rolling Stone
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‘Guardians of the Galaxy:’ Can Bautista End the Curse of Tor Johnson?

From ‘Suburban Commando’ to ‘Guardians of the Galaxy,’ Hollywood has a history of putting wrestlers on the ropes


Dave Bautista as Drax in 'Guardians Of The Galaxy.'

Jay Maidment

Marvel Studios is taking its biggest risk yet with Guardians of the Galaxy, banking on an obscure team of heroes to bridge the gap until the next Avengers flick roars into theaters. But there’s an even larger obstacle standing in the way of box-office success: Dave Bautista.

To the uninitiated, Bautista is a six-time world champion in Vince McMahon’s wrestling circus, and one of the most iconic squared-circle stars of the last decade. In Guardians, he plays intergalactic warrior Drax the Destroyer, which is unquestionably his biggest role to date. A cursory glance at his IMDB page reveals parts in The Scorpion King 3,  something called Wrong Side of Town (co-starring Ja Rule) and, well, that’s about it. His nickname may be “The Animal,” but even scarier is the fact that he’s a professional wrestler in a mainstream movie, and that isn’t always a blessing.

Why? Let’s start with Tor Johnson. Born in 1903, he worked the ranks as a wrestler before transitioning into film, where he appeared in several uncredited roles (usually playing a strongman or some variation thereof). Later in his career, he became a muse of sorts for writer/director Ed Wood, appearing in Bride of the Monster and Plan 9 from Outer Space. And although we’ve come to romanticize Wood’s career – thanks mostly to Johnny Depp – it’s important to understand his films were tremendously terrible. And while Johnson had very little to do with that, “the Curse” was born.

Simply put, the Curse of Tor Johnson means that pro wrestlers are destined to make crappy Hollywood movies.

There are exceptions, of course – Andre the Giant in The Princess Bride, the Rock’s inexplicable rise to superstar status – and parameters to observe (no WWE Studios films, since they control that mediocre themselves, and no movies about wrestling, since that’s basically the industry coming down to their level), but the Curse is very real indeed. Is Guardians of the Galaxy doomed? Probably not, but for every Jesse Ventura, there are 50 Roddy Pipers, and Hollywood just hasn’t been friendly to dudes who wear tights and boots for a living. Don’t believe me? Here’s are some examples of the Curse at its worst:

Big John Studd, Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man

It’s almost poetic to kick off this examination with one of the biggest box-office failures of the ’90s. This buddy flick starring certified cool dudes Mickey Rourke and Don Johnson was an undeniable flop, earning just $7 million domestically, but costing well over $20 million to make. Studd, named Jack Daniels in the movie (because why not?) gets into a bar fight with Rourke and, in all honesty, isn’t the worst actor in the world, but the two have a dynamic that rivals Tori Spelling’s marriage in terms of awkwardness. In the end, Studd wins the fight by throwing Rourke out a window, which is a pretty apt metaphor for the film’s fortunes.

Kevin Nash, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze

He’s since redeemed himself with a small role in 2012’s Magic Mike, but Kevin Nash, also known as “Diesel” in the WWE, is a repeat thespian offender. He can be seen in 2004’s Marvel misstep The Punisher, but his most embarrassing turn may be when he set Foot (for the record, that’s a beautiful pun) in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise. Keep in mind, the first Turtles movie cost an estimated $13.5 million to make and grossed well around $135 million in the U.S. alone, making it one of 1990’s most successful films. How can you lose with a sequel? Well, by casting Nash as Super Shredder, a mutated version of their arch nemesis. Nash didn’t have a ton of responsibility, since his face was covered and he had only one line, but somehow he still got in the way, lessening the film’s profit margin by around 50 percent when compared to the original. Also, keep in mind; this movie does feature Vanilla Ice’s “Ninja Rap,” so there’s a lot of blame to go around.

Hulk Hogan, Suburban Commando

There was a time when Hulk Hogan wasn’t just a terrible reality star. Hulkamania really did run wild, and we all took our vitamins and said our prayers. Hogan was – and always will be – an awful wrestler, and fact that he still became a phenomenon says something about his charisma. He first appeared on the big screen in Rocky III, and when Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito bailed on a genuine piece of crap called Suburban Commando to shoot a classic called Twins, it left Hulk with a movie offer he couldn’t refuse (as if he refused movie offers). Christopher Lloyd picked up DeVito’s scraps, and Hogan played Shep Ramsey, an interstellar superhero who crash-lands on Earth and has to hide with a family in the ‘burbs, which, yes, is also the plot of ALF. This thing was a stinker for all 90 minutes (despite a small Undertaker cameo), and until Mr. Nanny came out two years later, I couldn’t truly understand how his filmography could get worse. Luckily for Hogan, his sex tape doesn’t show up on IMDB.

Goldberg, Santa’s Slay

Still not sure how this isn’t a FunnyOrDie parody, but this 2005 holiday movie actually exists. Goldberg’s WCW undefeated streak is legendary, so he can only hope that this “movie” never becomes enough of a cult classic to tarnish that legacy. Santa’s Slay details how Mr. Claus (played by the Jewish Goldberg) is actually an evil jerk who lost a bet with an angel forcing him to deliver toys and candy against his will. But once the bet ends after 1,000 years, he goes back to his evil ways, abusing animals and killing people. The whole movie is actually on YouTube to watch, mostly because I bet no one wants to admit ownership in order to claim infringement. It also features cameos from Fran Drescher, Rebecca Gayheart and Chris Kattan, so I’ll assume they all have gambling problems.

The Great Khali, The Longest Yard

This Adam Sandler remake revolves around jail-yard football, which makes sense because everyone who saw it felt like a fucking prisoner. This flick is almost my own personal Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World because it features Nash, Goldberg AND Khali, a 7-foot, 350-pound monster from India. His oversized features and intimidating presence harken back to the days of Tor Johnson, when looks trumped the ability to remember dialogue or know where the camera was. Most of The Longest Yard has Khali growling and avoiding lines the way Frogger avoided cars, which was probably the right move because one example of a wrestler talking in this movie has “Stone Cold” Steven Austin calling rapper Nelly the n-word.

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