Oh sure, WrestleMania is the biggest Big Dance for World Wrestling Entertainment’s top talent. But I demand more than just muscle for my ‘Mania money — I want some serious star wattage, too. Or some amusing sorta-star wattage, anyway. Throughout its nearly 25 years, celebrity attendance at the legendary event has pinned down everything from campy comedy, to tux-and-gown glamour, to what-the-heck hodgepodge with equal vigor.
Among the more memorable:
WrestleMania (1985) — It Floated Like A Butterfly. Twinkled Like A Sequin. But Mostly Just Wanted to Have Fun.
What better way to launch your tough-guy, manly-man pro wrestling extravaganza than an appearance by … Liberace and the Rockettes? But Liberace wasn’t just another pretty face in the crowd; he was also timekeeper for the night’s main event, officiated by Muhammad Ali.
Meanwhile, Cyndi Lauper, friend and video offspring of wrestling’s Captain Lou Albano, was most definitely a girl who had fun, vamping it up as Women’s champ Wendi Richter’s enthusiastic manager.
WrestleMania II (1986) — Where’s The Beef(cake)? Like For Example, John Davidson?
Call this bicoastal ‘mania a veritable celebrity buffet! Starting with a spangly Ray Charles who stole the show with an unforgettable “America The Beautiful.” Cab Calloway performed, too — well, he performed guest judging duties as Mr. T traded punches with “Rowdy” Roddy Piper.
Over on the mic’s — a glammed-up Joan Rivers, Susan Saint James, the Kate half of the then-white hot Kate & Allie, and Joe Theismann paramour-turned-That’s Incredible hostess Cathy Lee Crosby.
And for those who would go on to become fans of, say, the Undertaker, Kane and/or Coors beer, the Prince of Darkness and Mistress of the Dark, Ozzy Osbourne and Elvira, were on hand to lend a little lack of color.
But the piece de resistance de WrestleMania II? The timekeeping prowess of arguably the most famous woman on the planet at the time: Miss Clara “Where’s The Beef” Peller.
WrestleMania III (1987) — Because. The Ring. Ain’t Round. This Blows My Mind.
Glam Rock Man — and eyeliner enthusiast — Alice Cooper accompanied Jake “The Snake” Roberts and a rather daunting boa constrictor named Damien to the ring for Roberts’ match against the Honky Tonk Man. When Honky Tonk pulled off the upset, Cooper and Roberts retaliated by tearing his head off and drinking his blood. Oh, just kidding. They just used Damian to accessorize the torso of the victor’s equally snaky manager Jimmy “Mouth of the South” Hart.
… which no doubt horrified the bejesus out of guest commentators Entertainment Tonight Lady Mary Hart and Baseball Announcer Man Bob Uecker.
WrestleMania IV (1988) — AKA Lifestyles of the Large and Sweaty
At the time, Robin Leach was America’s most beloved balding, British bon vivant, who nurtured our caviar wishes and champagne dreams with a weekly peek into the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Apparently curious to see how the other half lives, Leach presided over this year’s WWF Championship match.
And helping him represent for the Holly-hood: the lovely Vanna White, who kept time ringside, made small talk backstage, and for one blessed night of her life, did not have to sell anyone a single @#$% vowel.
WM IV was also the first of many, many, many WWF/WWE appearances by the Vince McMahon of corporate raiding, Donald Trump, who hosted the event at his spankin’ new Trump Plaza in Atlantic City.
WrestleMania V (1989) — His Finishing Move Was The “Zip It!”
Always a supporter of his fellow motor mouths, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper turned the tables on flash-in-the-pan talk show host Morton Downey, Jr. during his much-loved “Piper’s Pit” segment.
WrestleMania VI (1990) — This Is Probably The Only One You Got Your Ma To Watch
Because Steve Allen, best known as the original host of The Tonight Show, served as roving interviewer and audience of one when the Bolsheviks practiced the Russian National Anthem. Prompting millions of jacked-up young dudes in Hulkamania T-shirts to wonder, “Who in the hell is that?”
… see also, Allen’s fellow guest interviewer, way-pre-TMZ gossip maven Rona Barrett.
… and also Robert Goulet, after he was your grandma’s heartthrob and before he was a jarred-nut pitchman, who warbled O Canada for the fans at the Toronto SkyDome in honor of ‘Mania’s first Canadian appearance.
… and finally, Mary Tyler Moore who turned the world on with her smile from her ringside perch.
WrestleMania VII (1991) — Live With Regis And Fonzarelli
With the country in the throes of the Gulf War, Willie Nelson opened the event with a touching God Bless America — then partied all night with the Nasty Boys in celebration of their newly-won Tag Team belts, one of which they gave Nelson to commemorate the debauchery.
Didn’t peg Willie for a wrasslin’ fan? Well how about Regis Philbin, who served as guest interviewer and guest commentator for the main event between Hollywood Hogan and “Iraqi sympathizer” Sgt. Slaughter — an epic match announced by the talk show host least likely to show up at WrestleMania. “Who is … Alex Trebek?”
Meantime, Henry Winkler gave the thumbs-up to his ringside seats, along with Chuck Norris, Macaulay Culkin and Lou “I’m The Real Hulk” Ferrigno.
And reaping the benefits of being a momentary-Mrs. to Donald Trump, Marla Maples flashed her Southern charm and UltraBrite smile as a backstage interviewer.
WrestleMania X (1994) — Good Golly, Mr. Hair Club For Men
Little Richard got things off to a rollicking start by freaking out the crowd with his take on America the Beautiful.
And ring announcer Howard Finkel sported a snazzy new hairpiece, gifted to him by insta-icon Cy Sperling. You know — Cy Sperling. Not only the President of Hair Club For Men’s, but also a client. Geez.
Since we’re on the subject of hairpieces, Burt Reynolds was also on hand to announce the evening’s main event, along with New Kid On The ring announcer Block Donnie Wahlberg, brother of Reynold’s future Boogie Nights costar, Mark.
Jennie Garth was there, too. And her hair was 90210-some.
WrestleMania XI (1995) — What A Man. And A Boy. And A Pair Of Playmates. Yes They Were.
Then a best-selling Playboy Playmate and the most coveted of Baywatch babes, Pamela Anderson accompanied Kevin Nash (AKA Diesel) to the ring for his WWF Championship match against Shawn Michaels. Who just so happened to bring his own platinum Playmate to the ring in the form of then Singled Out host Miss Jenny McCarthy.
Randy “Son Of Toolman” Taylor himself, 13-year-old Jonathan Taylor Thomas served as guest timekeeper for the main event. Which, given the presence of two former Centerfolds, I am sure he hated beyond description.
And to cap the evening, Salt-N-Peppa performed their smash hit “What a Man” to serenade football star Lawrence Taylor as made his way to the ring in his main event match against Bam Bam Bigelow, accompanied by a coterie of NFL players including one Reverend Reggie White.
WrestleMania XIV (1998) — This One Came Out Smelling Like …
… Flowers. Well, Gennifer Flowers, purported mistress of President Bill Clinton, who spent the last moments of her 14.5 minutes of fame serving as a guest interviewer and ring announcer.
… what The Rock was cooking. Ms. Flowers’ interview with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson marked the first time ever that the people’s champ would arch his brow and uttered the eight words that made him famous: “If you smell what The Rock is cookin’.”
… a Rose. That is, fallen baseball legend Pete Rose, who fielded support for his Baseball Hall of Fame reinstatement campaign from the WWF fan base by serving as ring announcer for the Kane vs. Undertaker match. For his efforts, Rose was rewarded with the first of what would be many Tombstone Piledrivers at the hands of Kane — all of which did in fact pile drive him right into the Hall of Fame. The WWE Hall Of Fame.
WrestleMania XVI (2000) — AKA The Only, Only Time You’ll Ever Get To See Screech, Jiminy Glick And An Alien In The Same Room With A “Cop Killer” Gangsta.
That’s right. Dustin Diamond, Martin Short and Third Rock From the Sun‘s French Stewart were all ringside as controversial rapper-turned respected actor Ice-T accompanied The Godfather & D-Lo Brown to the ring.
WrestleMania 23 — Or As They Liked To Call It The “Talent Competition”
Miss USA 2006 Tara Conner brought her pretty party posse Miss Teen USA 2006 Katie Blair and Miss Universe 2006 Zuleyka Rivera to the show to support boss and mentor Donald Trump. Oh, and Miss USA 2007 Rachel Smith came along for the ride, foreshadowing her appearance with Conner and Blair on the Trump-produced MTV reality show Pageant Place.
These are the celebs who will feel the ‘mania when WrestleMania 24 takes over Pay-Per-View March 30:
- Five-time Grammy-winner John Legend will perform a live version of “America the Beautiful.”
- Reality show gadabout Snoop Dogg will serve as Celebrity Ring Announcer for a “BunnyMania” match in which trademark-monikered Playboy cover girls Candice MichelleTM and MariaTM take on the Glamazon(TM) Beth Phoenix(TM) and poor, trademark free Melina.
- Former Cosby show cutie and current Disney Channel star Raven-Symoné will host the WWE’s biggest wish-granting event ever, the Bacon, Bagels and Biceps brunch, and then join more than 50 Make-A-Wish children at the big event.