#WWE superstar #JohnCena will host #SaturdayNightLive this Saturday, December 10, one of only a few pro wrestlers who have ever hosted the show. Cena follows Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Hulk Hogan as wrestlers who have hosted the iconic late night #NBC show.
Even though professional wresting and the WWE are as mainstream and widely known as the #NFL and #NBA, there's still something special about a wrestler hosting the late night television show. Essentially, when you get to host #SNL, you have arrived as a mainstream superstar.
An appearance can also do wonders for a wrestler's career. Hosting SNL in March of 2000 helped propel #TheRock. Hollywood got to see his legit acting and comedic skills, and rolled out the red carpet for the second-generation wrestler.
The SNL appearance for Cena could also open doors. He has taken a step away from a regular pro wrestling schedule, and has spent much of the last year making mainstream appearances, from hosting The Espys to starring in the reality TV show "American Grit."
Cena, like The Rock, has legit acting and comedic skills, so there's much riding on his SNL appearance.
But long before The Rock and Cena, SNL helped launch the success of #HulkHogan and the WWE, then called the WWF.
Hogan and Mr. T guest hosted SNL on March 30, 1985, the night before the first Wrestlemania.
Wrestling was about to get really big in 1985. Hulk Hogan had won the title the prior year, but Cyndi Lauper's involvement in the WWF brought the company mainstream attention. It would be like Lady Gaga appearing semi-regularly on WWE television today.
Mr. T, of course, was still hot from his appearance in Rocky III in 1982 and The A-Team, which debuted in 1983.
Pro wrestling was hotter than it had ever been in 1984 leading into 1985, and the first Wrestlemania. Vince McMahon, the owner of the company, allegedly invested all of his savings and mortgaged his house to help fund #Wrestlemania, hoping that it would be a success. Had Wrestlemania been a bust, some claim that the WWE would not exist today, and that McMahon, much like he had to do with the XFL, would have folded up shop.
But, Wrestlemania was a success. The WWE had no worries about selling out Madison Square Garden, where the event was held. The company had been selling out the venue for decades. The WWE needed its audience -- and new mainstream fans -- to watch the event on closed-circuit television.
"It was a huge gamble, the biggest gamble I had ever been a part of," Vince McMahon says on The True Story of Wrestlemania documentary. Here's a preview:
The event reportedly was watched by more than 1.1 million people at closed-circuit venues around the country. McMahon leased out movie theaters and small arenas to display the show.
It was on Saturday Night Live where Hogan and Mr. T made a final push, to a mainstream audience, for people to find a place to watch the event. Rowdy Roddy Piper and Cowboy Bob Orton made cameos on the show.
In the video below, Hulk Hogan was at his absolute best promo-wise. How could anybody not watch him talk and not want to watch him wrestle? Mr. T also had incredible charisma. Even the biggest skeptic might have been convinced to check out the show for a laugh.
Mr. T, during a skit, actually told the audience that there weren't any more tickets for #MSG, and that they had to find the show somewhere on closed-circuit television.
This was an era before the internet and social media -- and long before ESPN and other mainstream entities were regularly covering professional wrestling.
The show offered great mainstream press for the event and likely helped push the show over one million viewers. Also appearing at Wrestlemania were other mainstream stars, such as Muhammad Ali, Liberace and the aforementioned Lauper.
Cena has the potential to knock down many doors if he can deliver a 5-star performance. Will we see the Dr. of Thuganomics make an appearance on #blackjeopardy?
Here's a promo for Cena's appearance: