Wrestlers, Basketball, and Game Shows: Unpacking 5 Strange Cameos in Film

By Jonathan Meisner



Many of us watch and enjoy them. They can be considered a form of escapism.

But there’s some films where you’re watching, and a celebrity makes a random appearance.

In some cases, its good, others bad. And, there can also be the random and bizarre.

At PopLurker today, we’re going to examine and unpack 5 of the more random cameos in film history.

Grab something strong.



We’re going to need it.


5) Bob Barker in Happy Gilmore


Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, there were several weekday mornings; whether it be snow days in the winter or during the summer waiting for my friends to come by the house, that I’d check out The Price is Right and Mr. “Spay and Neuter Your Pets” himself, Bob Barker.

Whether I was calling the contestant an idiot for picking 6 as the last number in the price of a car when we all know it’s zero, Chad from Des Moines or getting that goddamn yodelling stuck in my head from the Cliffhangers game and wanting to lobotomize myself with a screwdriver, The Price is Right was my jam.

Also, in the 90’s, Saturday Night Live had been experiencing a resurgence and like its previous stars from the 70’s and 80’s went on to make movies, Adam Sandler had already branched out with Billy Madison and the film we’re looking at now, Happy Gilmore.

If you’ve seen Happy Gilmore before you know the basic story of the film. Happy can’t cut it as a hockey player, but his slapshot makes him a freak golfer.

So, he starts playing to save his grandmothers house, meets a girl along the way, becomes massively popular in the golfing circuit for the ratings he pulls in, meets a golfing instructor whose hand was eaten by a crocodile like he’s Captain Hook or some shit, and at the end of the film defeats Shooter McGavin in the tournament final to save his beloved Granny from being subjected to anymore of Ben Stiller.

Partway through, Happy is paired with Bob Barker in a Pro-Am celebrity game.

Under pressure, Happy fucks up continuously. Bob tells him he sucks, Happy gets lippy and cold cocks Bob.

The fight scene in this film is tremendous, first for the idea that Happy has no problem with knocking out a senior citizen, and second for the fact that Bob more than stands his own and drops bombs on Happy like his contestants drop Plinko chips.

Bob, it turns out was trained in martial arts by old Walker Texas Ranger and forever to be an internet meme, Chuck Norris and when originally, he was told that a stunt double would fill in for him, exclaimed “wait a minute! I can fight!”

Bob Barker animal lover and badass!

His appearance in the film was like getting that $1.00 on the big wheel in your first spin, raising viewership of The Price is Right among college level students, and Bob claims someone in the audience asked him about being in the film, every single day.

Which after a while could grow as tiresome as someone bidding $750 on a prize, and the joker next to you, bidding $751.


4) Vanilla Ice in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2


I remember seeing the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie in the theatre when it was released, and I’m pretty sure I saw the sequel in the theatre as well, memory is a little hazy.

What’s not hazy is my recollection of the Vanilla Ice craze in the early 90’s. Dude was everywhere! He had the fastest selling hip hop album of all time with the Queen sampled single “Ice, Ice Baby” had the backing of Public Enemy, and was dating Madonna.

Not bad for a guy whose last name is Van Winkle.

It made sense for New Line Cinema to jump on the Vanilla Ice bandwagon while he was at his hottest and worm him in on the Small-Town Jesus craze.

Ninja 1

Ice appears near the end of the movie and is performing in a nightclub that the Turtles roll through, while in pursuit of Bebop and Rocksteady. I’m sorry, I meant whoever these clowns were that were not Bebop and Rocksteady, fuck you very much movie!

Everyone’s favorite palindrome (or repetitious ear-turd, same fucking thing here) “Go Ninja, Go Ninja, Go!” was cringe inducing even for 11-year-old like me when I first saw it. I wasn’t that into rap to begin with, but even I was clued in enough to realize how lame this whole thing felt. A friend’s mom had his album and tried to teach me dance moves to it, but I was a white redneck kid from Atlantic Canada. Not with these two left feet.

Vanilla was at his peak when the Turtles movie came out, and he followed it up with his first and only starring role in “Cool as Ice”, a film that is on my short list of “have not and will never watch” and was anything but cool earning only 20% of it’s 6-million-dollar budget back and was effectively the beginning of the end of his superstardom.

Most recently he’s been part of his own home improvement reality show called The Vanilla Ice Project.

Seriously, are we supposed to trust a guy who thought that a day glow yellow and blue Suzuki GSX was the shit, to pick the right color for our accent wall?

And in 2015, he made an awkward appearance at the back of the Theater in Madison Square Garden in New York with the original prosthetic wearing Turtles for the premiere of the Michael Bay Ninja Turtles Out of the Shadows movie.

All I can say is “Go Ninja, Go Ninja, Go Away”


3) James Brown in Rocky IV


 Rocky in 1976 was a poignant and emotional tale of an underdog boxer from Philadelphia getting his shot at the heavyweight champion of the world.

Rocky IV a decade later was a complete whirlwind of insanity and is incredibly over the top 80’s.

That’s the significant difference in the two decades. 70’s was drab, grey and pulling yourself out of the gutter, while the 80’s was the obnoxious drunk at the frat party throwing up on your shoe.

Whether Rocky is buying his cousin Paulie a giant talking robot maid for his birthday or running up a goddamn mountain for his next big fight, this movie has its share of over the top and ridiculous moments.

At the center of this ridiculousness, is James Brown performing “Living in America”, prior to an exhibition fight between Russian steroid monster Ivan Drago and the man with as many nicknames as there are Rocky movies, Apollo Creed.

Now, for those of you who have watched Rocky IV you know Apollo doesn’t make it out of this film alive. If you haven’t seen it, the film is over 30 years old, so sorry about the spoiler.

But, before Drago can turn Apollo Creed into Apollo Bleed, we’re treated to enough jingoism to make the bald eagle spontaneously combust and set the Declaration of Independence on fire.

Whether it’s Apollo’s red, white and blue trunks and top hat, a giant gold bull head blowing smoke, and the fireworks and dancing girls or being set in Las Vegas to really turn this whole thing up to 11, Adrian’s expression pretty much says it all.


Yo, Adrian! I’m with you.

Sylvester Stallone had personally requested James Brown perform this song for the film, which continuing with the Vegas theme, ended up a row of cherries for the Godfather of Soul, as this would be his first top 10 hit since the mid 70’s and introduced him to a brand new, younger audience, namely a white audience. Because if you can be part of a $300 million-dollar grossing film about a Swede playing a Russian who murders an African American in the ring, forcing his Italian friend to challenge said Russian to a fight for revenge that reinvents your career well…

Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag alright.


2) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Airplane!


Airplane! is one of the great film parodies in history and consistently ranks at or near the top of most lists before the rash of Scary/Date/Epic Movies beat the dead horse into the ground of the Pet Cemetery and kept trying to revive it repeatedly.

Endlessly quotable whether you enjoy gladiator movies, you speak jive, or insist that you are serious and not to call you Shirley, there’s a quieter tale within the film and that is of NBA star Kareem Abdul Jabbar wanting to take a break from the basketball court and fly from city to city under the inconspicuous handle of Roger Murdoch.

By 1980, when this film came out Kareem was a 6-time NBA MVP, was part of the storied Los Angeles Lakers franchise, and was considered royalty in basketball, however he seemingly decided he’d much rather go from flying across the hardwood to flying across the country.

Kareem, or rather Mr. Murdoch was prepared for a quiet evening of air travel, when unbeknownst to him a young boy named Joey gets invited into the flight deck and insists Roger Murdoch can’t be who he claims he is. Murdoch is all “nah kid, I’m just a regular, everyday 7’2” co-pilot, nothing to see here. Chill out little man” But, even though Joey tries to cape up for “Roger totally not Kareem” and tell him he’s the shit, he inadvertently causes Kareem to blow his cover for a moment when Joey lets slip that his dad thinks he’s a bum and hasn’t been trying on the court since college.

Turns out this part was written for baseball superstar Pete Rose, but I think little Joey learned a more valuable lesson on when to cut the shit, instead of potentially getting lessons from Pete about betting on your own sport and getting blacklisted from the Hall of Fame.

Be more like Kareem, Joey.

I mean more like Roger, Roger.


1) Hulk Hogan in Gremlins 2


Gremlins is one of my all time favorite films, and for me is perfectly suitable Halloween season viewing, despite my girlfriend’s protests to the contrary.

Gremlins 2…I don’t hate, but I don’t love either. It’s certainly not boring, but it’s such a madness tornado. There’s the Gremlins being given distinct personalities such as an intellect, a doofus, and a Hollywood starlet. A bizarre rendition of New York, New York and several cameos including Grandpa Munster and Christopher Lee, but they at least play things straight.

At the epicenter of this whirlwind of wackiness is a cameo by the orange skinned, Fu Manchu rocking pro wrestler Hulk Hogan, who whether you were into pro wrestling or not, was the biggest star in his game at this time and was an international icon.

At this point in the film, the producers decide to go all meta on our asses. Not nearly as hilariously self referential as Spaceballs before it, but also not quite as beat us over the head with it as Last Action Hero after it, the Gremlins sabotage the film as it’s being shown in the movie theater within the Clamp Enterprises office building.

The theater usher turns to the Hulkster for aid in putting the Gremlins in their place, and Hogan cuts a typical coked out 80’s wrestling promo about hot sodas and cold popcorn, or maybe it’s the reverse, all I remember at the time was my brain melting at the sight and sound of this.

All of this takes place while he’s wearing his wrestling gear, and championship belt. Dude was a millionaire at this time, did no one say you can wear regular clothes to the movies, Hulkster?

Hulk then completely breaks the fourth wall and assures us, the audience, this won’t happen again.

11-year-old me was like “what the shit?” Even being a wrestling fan back then like many kids of the 80’s and 90’s was, my brain pulled a Homer Simpson and was all “That’s it, I’m outta here”.

But, what can you expect from a film that brought in a guy whose wrestling friends included a dude that thought he was a tugboat and an androgynous hair dresser from San Francisco.

What’cha gonna do, brother?!

I’m turning the tv off and taking my vitamins like the Hulkster says.

Vitamin B for bourbon.


You can find Jonathan making a cameo on Twitter.

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  1. There have been lengthy philosophical discussions about Vanilla Ice’s cameo in TMNT2. Is he playing himself? If so, why, at the peak of his career, is he performing at such a small venue? How did he come up with “Ninja Rap” on the fly like that? Why was it “Ninja Rap” and not “Mutant Rap”? Because the first thing I would notice is not their fighting style, but the fact that there are giant, talking turtles in front of me.

    Liked by 1 person

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