It’s no surprise that there is a great deal of crossover between pro wrestling and reality television. Both have competitive elements, regularly rely on stereotypes and shock value to attract viewers, have been accused of exploiting their on-screen talent, pretend that what you’re watching has anything to do with actual “reality”, and are watched regularly by millions of people on a weekly basis (although how many millions can vary wildly in some cases). As a result, over the years, more than a few professional wrestlers have managed to find themselves in various roles on a number of popular reality shows, and some of them have even managed to make quite an impression while they were there.
10. Hulk Hogan
Hogan’s on-again, off-again relationship with WWE is well-documented, and during one of his longer breaks from working for Vince McMahon, Hogan decided to try his hand at the whole reality TV business. Thanks to his partnership with Eric Bischoff, who had accumulated a large number of connections in the TV industry while President of WCW, Hogan managed to get not one, not two, but three different reality shows off the ground in a very short time. The most well-known, of course, was Hogan Knows Best, a “slice of life” reality show that followed the Hogan family in their ridiculous day-to-day lives. Unfortunately, serious legal issues that arose from a deadly car accident involving Hogan’s son resulted in the show being cancelled. This didn’t slow Hogan down, though, and a spin-off was quickly created, this time focussing on his daughter, Brooke, and her burgeoning singing career. When it became apparent that Brooke was not going to be the next big pop sensation, that show was also cancelled. However, in the meantime, Hogan created Celebrity Championship Wrestling, where D-list celebrities were trained by Brutus Beefcake and former Nasty Boy Brian Knobbs to become pro wrestlers (insert easy joke here). That show actually received moderately positive reviews, but only ran for a single season and has largely been forgotten.
9. Trish Stratus
Sometimes, reality shows fail horribly, and this was the case with the short-lived Armed and Famous, which included former WWE Women’s Champion Trish Stratus (who also had a moderately successful travel show called Stratusphere at the time) among its stars. The concept of the show was that several celebrities, including Stratus, would be trained as actual police officers in Muncie, Indiana, with cameras following them as they learned the job on the fly. The show originally debuted on CBS, but was pulled after four episodes. The show then moved to VH-1, where two additional episodes were aired, but was finally cancelled, with several filmed episodes never being shown. The quick cancellation of the show might have had something to do a lawsuit filed by a Muncie resident, claiming that she was the subject of an improper search and seizure which may have involved participants in the reality show.
8. Eve Torres
In 2012, NBC aired a reality show called Stars Earn Stripes, in which celebrities (many of them athletes of some type or another) competed in various military training exercises for a top prize of $100,000. The show was not without controversy, drawing criticism from various sources for “glorifying military violence”, and only aired a single season. One of the competitors was WWE’s Eve Torres, who was actually Divas Champion when the show aired, and who actually dominated the competition, eventually winning the entire thing. Unfortunately, while WWE did some promotion for the show in advance of its premiere, it was barely mentioned afterwards, and Eve’s success on the show was basically ignored on WWE TV (likely due to her status as a hated heel, although it seems odd that they wouldn’t promote the show more, given their partnership with NBC Universal). Eve actually left WWE a couple of months after the show’s finale aired, choosing to concentrate on her career as a self-defense instructor, although she does continue to act as an ambassador for WWE.
7. Kurt Angle
Back when Spike TV was still attempting to be a real cable network and not a haven for re-runs of 1000 Ways to Die, one of their more popular programs was the reality competition Pros vs Joes, in which regular people competed against retired athletes in a variety of sports. And after Spike TV reached a deal with TNA Wrestling become the home for their weekly Impact! program, they worked hard to cross-promote TNA on their other original programming. One result of this was former Olympic gold medallist and TNA wrestler Kurt Angle appearing on Pros vs Joes, with the contestants forced to attempt to wrestle Angle on several occasions during the show. Due to Angle being an actual amateur wrestler in addition to his professional career, the “Joes” were ridiculously unsuccessful against him, which was basically the point of the competition.
6. Robbie E and Brooke
You certainly can’t say that TNA didn’t at least try to get their wrestlers out into the maintream when they could, which is how Jersey Shore knock-off gimmick Robbie E and his girlfriend, former Knockouts Champion Brooke Tessmacher, ended up on the 25th season of the award-winning reality competition The Amazing Race. Although Robbie and Brooke were introduced as pro wrestlers, TNA was not referenced by name, and the focus of the duo was more on attempting to repair their relationship over the course of the Race. Robbie and Brooke struggled through the early legs of the Race, often finishing near the bottom of the pack, but they turned things around late and managed a respectable fourth-place finish, being eliminated just before the final leg. Unfortunately for the couple, the Race could not save their relationship, as they split for good shortly afterwards.
5. The Rock
We’re still not sure how Spike TV’s Lip Synch Battle even became a thing, but for a short period, it was an actual phenomenon, featuring big-name stars pretending to sing some of music’s greatest hits. Perhaps one reason why it grew so big, so fast, was the great decision they made for their debut episode, scoring The Rock, who was likely promoting one of the 6 million movies he was making at the time, as one of the two performers. His choreographed rendition of Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” went viral almost instantly, and helped drive the show to the highest rating for an original show on Spike TV in the network’s history (and for added hilarity, soundly defeated the man who had created the show in the first place, TV host Jimmy Fallon). This served to continue to build the reputation of The Rock as a man who will do absolutely anything to entertain an audience, and somehow manage to make even the craziest things work.
As tragic as the death of Chyna at a fairly young age was, it’s impossible to say that nobody could have seen it coming. In fact, Chyna’s post-wrestling spiral into depression and substance abuse was widely documented in a variety of appearances she would make over the years. Most visible of these incidents was the season that Chyna spent as a cast member on The Surreal Life, a fairly exploitative MTV reality show that gathered a group of controversial, troubled, and past-their-prime D-list celebrities and put them in a house together, in an arguably more mean-spirited take on their groundbreaking The Real World series. Chyna appeared in the fourth season of the show, and participated in one of the series’ most infamous moments, as her then-boyfriend Sean “X-Pac” Waltman arrived at the house and engaged in a full-scale screaming match with her, before being forcibly ejected from the set. This was undoubtedly one of the lowest points of Chyna’s career, especially since it was broadcast on television for the entire world to see.
3. Stacy Keibler
Keibler, the woman with the longest legs in wrestling, eventually drew the eyes of Hollywood thanks to a prominent role on WWE TV. Her first foray into a venture outside wrestling would be as a contestant on the incredibly popular Dancing With The Stars competition, which was an incredible ratings juggernaut for ABC. Keibler put on an incredible show, riding some perfect scores from the judges and the support of the wrestling community all the way to a third place finish, where despite being seen as the best dancer of the final three, she was unable to compete with the voting bases of NFL legend Jerry Rice and musician Nick Lachey. The more interesting story, however, was the fact that WWE basically ignored Keibler’s ascent through the competition. Rumors were that WWE were discouraged from promoting an ABC show (again, USA Network is owned by NBC Universal), and were also a little upset that Keibler was becoming a visible star outside of wrestling. In fact, Keibler would never appear on WWE programming again, leaving the company shortly after her stint on DWTS ended and moving on to a reasonably successful career in Hollywood that included several high-profile guest spots on popular TV shows (and a lengthy relationship with none other than George Clooney).
2. Chris Jericho
One WWE wrestler that made a dedicated push to become a huge star while on hiatus from wrestling was Chris Jericho, who has had several brief appearances on various TV shows. In 2006, Jericho took his first dive into a reality TV competition, parlaying his role as the lead singer of the band Fozzy into a spot on Fox’s Celebrity Duets. Unfortunately, Jericho’s musical stylings didn’t result in reality TV success, and he was the first contestant eliminated after some uninspiring performances. Jericho would not be denied, however, and continued to make appearances on TV, including a hosting job on the short-lived game show Downfall, before getting an invite for the eleventh season of Dancing With The Stars. This time, Jericho put on a far better showing than his embarrassing run on Duets, surviving several weeks to finish in a respectable seventh place. As should be obvious by now, WWE barely mentioned Jericho’s work outside of wrestling, although that can likely be attributed to the fact that he didn’t do particularly well, and was often not active in WWE when he was appearing on those shows.
1. The Miz
Of course, it all comes down to the man most associated with both wrestling and reality TV, former housemate on MTV’s The Real World Mike “The Miz” Mizanin. Granted, Miz rose to reality “stardom” before ever stepping foot inside a wrestling ring, but it was his passion for pro wrestling that made him one of the show’s most memorable characters from the early seasons. After several other appearances on MTV reality shows related to his stint on The Real World, Miz actually entered WWE’s version of a reality show, the $1,000,000 Tough Enough competition which aired on Smackdown in 2004. Miz was heavily promoted during the competition due to his reality show roots, and while he failed to win the entire thing (finishing second to MMA fighter Daniel Puder, who barely anyone remembers), he did earn himself a WWE contract and made his full-time debut in 2006. Since then, Miz has become a multi-time champion, including winning the WWE Championship in 2010, and has main-evented WrestleMania, making him undoubtedly the most successful crossover between reality shows and pro wrestling.