Two years ago, I wrote an article looking at the connections between professional wrestling and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise. It was pretty well received. However, the next movie in the franchise is coming out this week so it’s time for an update.

I think it’s only fair to give you a quick overview of TMNT franchise as a whole. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was created by two struggling artists Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman as a joke in 1983. The two would later published their own comic the following year never intending it to be more than a one-shot (a single issue for those that don’t speak comic book) Soon however its popularity grew and this gritty underground comic parodying stuff from Frank Miller soon became a Saturday morning staple for CBS from 1987 to 1996 showing the fun-loving Turtles (Michelangelo, Donatello, Raphael and Leonardo) alongside intrepid reporter April O’ Neil. As with with any cartoon from the 1980s toys were soon to follow and Turtles definitely saw green as they battled it out G.I. Joe as the number one action figure line in the country. This would lead to a massive amount of merchandising for the Turtle license. The characters at one point even had their own concert tour.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would make the jump to the big screen in 1990 making three live-action films and one CGI over the next decade , which made hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office. For a while in the late 90s , our favorite heroes in halfshells were back in the sewers as the creators battled to preserve the characters. They tried to revive the franchise with a few animated series through 4 Kids TV before their current series at Nickelodeon.

When the Viacom owned kids network announced the TV deal for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in 2009, rumors began to swirl on a feature film return. Soon we would get more concrete news with the addition of veteran Hollywood producer/director Michael Bay wanting to give his take on the beloved franchise. Fans were obviously skeptical considering the history that Michael Bay had with the Transformers movies. And they had a right to be. Early versions of the script had Michelangelo, Donatello, Raphael and Leonardo being aliens instead of the titular mutant origin story. Online outrage caused those the origin story return to its beginnings.

However, fan boys would again rage once the character designs of the brothers came out. Each with their own different garb with personality. Leonardo was an old-school samurai. Michelangelo was modeled after a surfer. Donatello was the stereotypical nerd. .And Raphael was given the design of the battle hardened soldier. While these designs were offputting they weren’t really a dealbreaker.

The real fun came when the first trailer was released showcasing the live motion capture Green Machine. Special-effects house Platinum Dunes made the fearsome fighting team something that would definitely not pass the WWE wellness policy. The humanoid turtles were gone and in the place were characters almost unrecognizable to previous incarnations.

But despite all the criticism, the 2014 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles made $66 million its opening day. And the film grossed $190 million overall leaving Paramount and Nickelodeon movies to greenlight the sequel almost immediately. The 2016 film subtitled “Out Of the Shadows”, has improved quite a bit on the predecessor.

So I bet you’re saying, “What are the connections to wrestling in Ninja Turtles already?”

And why not get started with the original animated series which saw many voice actors James Avery as Shredder and Pat Fraley (Casey Jones, Baxter Stockman).These men voiced roles in the 1980’s WWF “Hulk Hogan’s Rock N’ Wrestling” cartoon. Avery would would lend his talents to Junkyard Dog and Fraley would voice Hillbilly Jim.

Similarly, the Nickelodeon animated series also has a few wrestling connections. Seth Green , who currently plays the voice of Leonardo on the series, is the executive producer and cowriter of “Camp WWE” on the WWE Network. And the legendary Keith David, who plays “Sal Commander” on the current Turtle series, also starred opposite “Rowdy ” Roddy Piper in the 1988 classic “They Live”. Giving us one of the most iconic fight scenes in movie history.

David was also the narrator of WWE Network’s Monday Night War series.

Discussing the movies, while the first TMNT movie has no references wrestling out right, there’s an interesting preview of its original DVD release in 2002 to a little film from New Line Cinema called “Suburban Commando” which features some guys maybe you’ve heard of them, Hulk Hogan and the Undertaker.

The second feature film in 1991 has some direct references to professional wrestling which include Super Shredder, the evil arch nemesis on the TCRI special cocktail, played by none other than Kevin Nash. Not to mention when the Fab Four meets genetically modified minions Tokka and Rahzar, Michelangelo quips, “Didn’t we see these guys at Wrestlemania?” You also have the fact that Ernie Reyes Jr, who plays Keno in the film, would face The Rock in 2003’s “The Rundown”to add to the list. But that’s not all .

intergalactic league

Along with this movie sequel, came a few more references in 1991 one in the form of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures comics “Intergalactic Wrestling League” having our heroes in wrestling gear battling for a way home on a asteroid. Also, there was an action figure of Michelangelo as a professional wrestler (which I still own by the way)

In the 2016 “Out Of The Shadows” feature film, former WWE Champion Sheamus plays the rampaging rhino Rocksteady. According to interviews, the Irishman wasn’t the only wrestling name to go out for the role as CM Punk also auditioned.

Stephen Amell, who plays Casey Jones in the film, appeared on WWE television during a Raw in Brooklyn. TMNT was filming in New York at the same time. The star of CW’s Arrow had been engaged in quite the twitter battle with the recently released Stardust a.k.a. Cody Rhodes.

This led ultimately to a match at Summerslam 2015 in which Amell would team with Neville against King Barrett and Stardust The heroes would be victorious. And Amell keeps hinting that he would love to return to the WWE ring sometime soon.

And now let’s get to how wrestling directly referenced The Ninja Turtles. Let’s begin with Japan, which had their interpretation of The Turtles series in the UWA/UWF around 1994 there were the Los Turtles

There was also Kowabunga in the USWA from the early 90s.

This was former Championship Wrestling from Florida, Continental and Jim Crockett Promotions talent Chris Champion donning a mask going into his shell and capitalizing on the Turtles craze at the time.

The character would also continue on with the late Brian Hildebrand a.k.a. WCW referee Mark Curtis reprising the character in Jim Cornette’s Smoky Mountain Wrestling.

In May 2016, WWE Extreme Rules was sponsored by “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of Their Shells”

With actors already signed on for a third film, who knows what other wrestling connections will be made in the Turtles universe. It’s been one shell of a good time revisiting this.

About The Author

Dan is host of Shooting from the Hip which you can hear every Sunday at 8pm EST, 7pm CST right here on