Growing up as a WWE fan in the late 1980s and early 1990s, there was a huge separation between being a wrestling superstar and a mainstream superstar. Sure, Hulk Hogan, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and Jesse Ventura were in a few B-movies, and Randy “Macho Man” Savage did those Slim Jim commercials, but most wrestlers did not achieve a lot of success outside of their wrestling company. Whether this was by design, or because wrestlers were not yet “sports entertainers,” the key is that there was a glass ceiling for wrestlers who aspired to be actors.
In the past year, we have seen “The Rock” Dwayne Johnson become one of the world’s top movie stars, in addition to success as a producer and television actor. The Rock has come back for a few pay-per-views in the midst of that success, beyond getting a run as WWE Champion.
Batista started to do well via the Guardians Of The Galaxy series, and according to IMDb, he currently has seven films slated to come out. Batista also came back to the WWE for a post-Hollywood run a few years back.
John Cena is currently in the midst of a Hollywood ascent, and Chris Jericho is regularly popping up in non-wrestling projects within the music and television worlds. So the precedent has been set about wrestlers being able to do non-wrestling things and be accepted by non-wrestling fans.
Looking at the current WWE roster, I see a lot of potential stars. The Miz was well-known before becoming a wrestler, thanks to MTV reality television. He has starred in some WWE-produced movies, but slowly appears to be transitioning into the mainstream world. Similar things can be said about Big Show and Randy Orton. Dolph Ziggler starred in a WWE-produced movie, but has notably been doing stand-up comedy in recent years, while appearing in the occasional online video. According to a Wrestling Observer report a week back, Enzo Amore has expressed interest in being a rapper. Paige is the subject of a forthcoming movie being produced by The Rock. Kane is in the midst of a mayoral campaign. Charlotte is in the midst of a promotional book tour. Nikki Bella is appearing on Dancing With The Stars. That is a lot of people flying the WWE flag outside of the ring.
Ultimately, based on the successes of the aforementioned Rock, Cena and Batista, it makes one wonder if wrestling is only intended to be phase one of the careers of many WWE Superstars. Is WWE likely to start making contracts more long-term and management-oriented like a talent agency? Might WWE start aiming to produce more original content which integrates non-WWE talent in order to give Superstars the rub? Time will tell, but the company obviously has a lot of future mainstream talent on its current roster.