As you may have heard, Vince McMahon is busting out the celebrity checkbook for this year’s SummerSlam, bringing in Jon Stewart as host and the Green Arrow himself, Stephen Amell, for a match. Obviously, the oft-neglected “WrestleMania of the Summer” hasn’t had as many famous guests as the real WrestleMania, but there have been a few memorable (for better or worse) SummerSlam celebrity appearances.
Much like our WrestleMania celeb article, this list is ranked from best to worst. Well, okay-ish to worst. From Leslie Nielsen to Zeus to Cee Lo Green and everybody in between, here’s your SummerFest celebrity rundown…
Note: I’m only including celebs that had some sort of involvement in the show. Just being one of the stars in the audience doesn’t count. So sorry, no Anna Kendrick.
10) Leslie Nielsen
Role: Zombie Detective
Back in the early ’90s, the most popular comedian in the world was a Canadian man in his 60s who specialized in sight gags and jokes that would make the writers of classic Looney Tunes cartoons wince. Clearly, we were living in a cultural golden age.
So yes, back in the summer of ’94, there were two Undertakers running around. One was skinny, had a bright orange beard and looked kind of like Seth Green facially. The other one looked like The Undertaker. Despite this, the question of who the real Undertaker was was apparently so vexing, WWF had to call in Detective Frank Drebin of Police Squad (!) to solve the case. Give WWF credit, they went above and beyond to replicate the feel of the Naked Gun movies here. They had the voice over, they had the sight gags, hell, I’m pretty sure somebody was even called Shirley. The backstage segments were even shot like a Naked Gun movie. Due to this, and the fact that Leslie Nielsen is a goddamn natural treasure, I declare this the second-best WWF/E celebrity cameo in history, next to anything involving Bob Barker.
9) Adam Jones
Role: Anthem Noodler
Honestly, I’m kind of in love with this one. Yes, Tool lead guitarist Adam Jones showed up to SummerSlam 2011 to play the national anthem, looking every bit as drugged-out as you’d expect the lead guitarist of Tool to look. Chance Vince McMahon had any idea who Adam Jones was when he signed the check for his appearance, minus one hundred billion percent.
Jones didn’t actually sing the anthem, or play it on his guitar, for that matter. He just sort of noodled around, occasionally throwing in an “Oh, say can you see?” riff when he sensed the audience might start booing. What elevates the segment to the level of true absurdist art is that WWE decided to just run their standard “Cool American Stuff” stock footage montage over Jones’ guitar grinding. When you hear Tool, you expect to see strange androgynous figures pulling claymation atrocities out of wounds in their torsos, not Getty video of a gracefully soaring bald eagle.
[Adam Jones saws off a wailing heavy metal dirge.]
Aw look, it’s Mann’s Chinese Theatre!
[Random nondescript distortion.]
Abraham Lincoln! And the Golden Gate Bridge! Gee whiz!
8) Jesse Ventura
Role: Guest Referee
I’m counting Jesse Ventura as a celebrity here because, at this point, his wrestling career had been long over, and the only reason he was back in WWF was because he had just won the governorship of Minnesota. Yes, Jesse Ventura was reffing pro wrestling matches while serving as the top elected official in his home state. Nobody ever said Jesse Ventura was good at making decisions. There’s no particularly good reason for Ventura to be involved in Steve Austin vs. Mankind vs. Triple H, but he didn’t get in the way, and the match was great, and set in motion some pretty major sh*t, so the governor didn’t have anything to be embarrassed about.
7) Metta World Peace
Role: Ron Simmons
Technically, Metta World Peace was still regular ol’ fan-punching Ron Artest here. Actually, this may have been his final major TV appearance as Ron Artest, as he changed his name only a couple weeks later. Anyways, R-Truth is having a high-larious exchange about Little Jimmy with Jimmy Hart (get it?), and then we pan over Ron Artest, who mumbles some “… and people think I’m crazy” line, while hugging his tiny adorable daughter. It’s just such a bizarre creative choice. You have one of the most controversial NBA players of all-time willing to appear on your show, and you decide “cute kid segment” is the angle you’re going with. I’m not necessarily questioning it, it’s just a very un-WWE-like decision.
6) Walter Payton
Role: Nonsense Non-Abider
At SummerSlam ’94, Razor Ramon would face Diesel for the Intercontinental Championship, in a match that would look pretty strange in hindsight just a couple years later. Also strange, the fact that the toothpick-flicking “Bad Guy” was backed by mostly squeaky-clean NFL Hall of Famer Walter Payton. Payton himself seemed to be perplexed as to why he was there, with confusion and low-level terror being his primary two expressions throughout the segment.
Payton’s main job was to keep pesky gnat Shawn Micheals from interfering in the match. Michaels was in full “I don’t respect you or this storyline, so I’m going to sell like a clown” mode, and keep in mind, 1994 HBK was pretty much a full-time cartoon character to begin with. So, this was actually a pretty fun match, although Walter Payton had heck all to do with that.
5) Aaron Neville
Role: Anthem Singer
Aaron Neville is not related to Adrian Neville, which is sad because WWE revealing Aaron Neville is Neville’s adoptive father would make me the happiest man alive. No, Aaron Neville was the most successful member of the chart-topping Neville Brothers, whose gimmick was they were a clan of big, tatted-up muscular dudes from New Orleans who sung with all the passion and force of a newborn kitten.
The main-event of SummerSlam ’93 was Lex Luger vs. Yokozuna, but, apparently, WWF didn’t trust Luger to get over the whole “America is great and better than Japan” thing, so before the match, they had Randy Savage come out in full American-flag regalia to introduce Aaron Neville, who Nevilled the hell out of the anthem while wearing a glorious trucker tuxedo. A perfect introduction to the derailing of the Lex Express.
Role: Human Wrecking Machine
Yes, Zeus counts as a celebrity. He may be mainly remembered as a wrestler today, but the dude had, like, three matches his entire career. David Arquette wrestled more matches than Zeus. So has Maria Menounos. Both of them are probably 10 times more versatile in the ring than Zeus.
Zeus was of course the villain of Hulk Hogan’s glorious cinematic debut, No Holds Barred. I guess Hogan figured wrestling Zeus in a WWF ring would confer some sort of credibility on his awful movie, because he pushed for Zeus to be brought in, Vince relented, and the main-event of SummerSlam ’89 was born.
Zeus really is one of the worst characters in WWE history. He’s something a 5-year-old would dream up. An Axe Cop character. “Give him a unibrow, and crazy eyes, and giant shoulder pads. Ooooo, and have him shave a Z in the side of his head!” Also, the only wrestling-related thing he knew how to do was stand directly in the center of the ring and bear hug a guy. Dude does nothing else in this match. He gets tagged in, immediately staggers to the middle and gets to bear-huggin’. It isn’t even a good bear hug. He doesn’t lift the guy up, or apply any real pressure, he just limply embraces his opponent like they’re some distant, not particularly well-liked aunt.
All that said, this match is still great. Hogan, Randy Savage, Sherri Martel and Elizabeth are such masters of manipulating the crowd that it doesn’t matter that the match revolves around one of the worst wrestlers of all-time. The crowd eats it up, and when Hogan finally knocks Zeus down and finishes him with the legdrop, the audience response is downright orgasmic. For a match that was 60 percent Zeus bear hug. Times have changed, man.
3) Insane Clown Posse
Role: Occupiers of Space
How does pretty much every list about celebrities getting involved in wrestling end up including the Insane Clown Posse? The illustrious Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope would go on to commit much greater crimes against wrestling, but their role during The Oddities vs. Kai En Tai was to just stand around and, I guess, make The Oddities look a little more odd? For those who don’t remember The Oddities, WWF basically ended up hiring two Great Khalis in the late ’90s, so rather than torture audiences with them individually, they stuck Kurrgan and Giant Silva together with John Tenta in a mask and South Park shirt and were like, “Well, this sucks, but we know it sucks, so it’s cool, right?”
Like I said, there wasn’t much evil clown mischief in this match, but this match didn’t need any Juggalo help to be horrible and offensive. Kai En Tai were in peak embarrassing stereotype form, bowing and mugging before and after every move and generally being treated like nothing they do could possibly hurt or do any damage, because, see, they’re small and not from here, so they’re loser clowns. Kurrgan and Giant Silva would tag in and dance or stumble around for a bit, then quickly tag out to Golga (Tenta) who did all the real wrestling. It’s the worst kind of Vince Russo-booked, “Wrestling is stupid, so swallow this garbage” stuff nobody brings up when reminiscing about the Attitude Era.
2) Kevin Rudolf
Role: Musical Guest
I’m not terribly familiar with who Kevin Rudolf even is. He looks like Jon Lovitz doing a rock star parody. Kind of sounds like it, too. I do know Kevin Rudolf was already past his cultural relevancy expiration date by the time WWE had him perform live at SummerSlam in 2012. The biggest problem with WWE doing the live music thing are those cuts to the audience, where all the music and joy-hating wrestling fans just look bored and annoyed, but, for this performance, WWE finally got proactive and came up with a (terrible) solution.
Rather than focusing on the audience, they instead had their employees at ringside dance and focused on them. Unfortunately, WWE forgot to CC the, “Hey, actually try to look like you’re sincerely enjoying this, okay?” memo, so everybody passive-aggressively acts like the biggest dorks imaginable. Here’s Justin Roberts and Lillian Garcia doing a sort of hokey-pokey, Macarena hybrid! Here’s Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler doing the bump! The only guys who seem to be genuinely enjoying the performance are the Spanish announce team. Oh, and literally every woman currently on the roster was brought out to awkwardly shimmy on stage. I’m not sure why WWE hired Kevin Rudolf if they felt they needed to go to these lengths to make him seem cool, but I guess overcompensation is kind of one of WWE’s obsessions.
1) CeeLo Green
Role: Musical Guest
In Brandon’s WrestleMania version of this article, he named Kid Rock the worst WrestleMania musical guest of all-time, a designation I can’t argue with, but CeeLo Green may be the worst WWE musical guest of all-time. This performance happened in that brief 2011 window when moms were singing along to “Forget You” on the way to soccer practice, and CeeLo seemed pegged to become the non-threatening novelty rapper dude of a generation. The mainstream would would be shocked and appalled by CeeLo’s numerous rough edges soon enough, but, for now, here he is entertaining the kids in his sparkliest muumuu.
CeeLo doesn’t have any sort of band, just a vaguely embarrassed-looking DJ who backs him as he huffs his way though “Bright Lights, Bigger City” and “Forget You.” During the performance, the camera is in full mom-tracking mode, locking in on one 30 or 40-something white lady shaking her butt beside her bored kids after another. The original, still-twins Bellas are sent out to dance, and man, Nikki looks profoundly not into it. As an aside, I always thought the death of Twin Magic was Nikki’s doing, but aside from two obvious differences, she looks about the same in 2011 as she does now. It’s actually Brie who’s changed. Here, Brie just looks like a Nikki clone. What I’m getting around to is, Nikki is the Bella Prime, and don’t you forget it.
Anyways, what were we talking about? CeeLo launches into “Forget You,” tries to do the call-and-response thing and gets shut down flat half-a-dozen times in a row. CeeLo looks like he’s about to switch to the uncensored version just to get some kind of response, but he guts it out, finishes and gets some halfhearted assurances from the Bellas about how totally cool it was. At least Kid Rock had some sense of showmanship, even if the audience wasn’t having it. This was just embarrassing from every angle.
There you have it, the worst celebrity appearances from WrestleMania’s little brother. Did I miss anybody important? Are you enraged by my Aaron Neville ranking? Hit the comments and let’s jam about SummerSlam.