Whatever Happened to Zeus’s Wrestling Career?

Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister Jr. is an actor you might’ve seen in such flicks as Runaway Train, Beverly Hills Cop 2, Universal Soldier, Friday, Don Juan DeMarco, Barb Wire, The Fifth Element, Jackie Brown, Little Nicky, Austin Powers in Goldmember, and The Dark Knight. You might’ve also heard his voice in Zootopia. If not, you might’ve seen him in episodes of Fresh Prince, Walker, Texas Ranger, and Matlock or the music videos for Remember the Time, Santeria, and Ridin’. He was never an actor who was going to be an A-list Movie Star. The only chance that might’ve ever happened would be if he had auditioned for and/or booked the role of John Coffey in The Green Mile. However, there was a brief period in the late 80’s when he might have become a famous wrestler. Whatever happened to that?

In the late 80’s, Lister was cast as the evil wrestler Zeus in the Hulk Hogan vehicle, No Holds Barred. To promote the movie, Vince McMahon thought it would be a great idea to make Zeus an actual wrestler, in spite of the fact that Lister had no actual training in wrestling.

At first, Lister wasn’t interested in becoming a wrestler. That is until he heard how much it was going to pay. According to him, “Vince McMahon was a great negotiator. He would already wire the money into my account before he even started negotiating. Who’s going to say no? You’re going to take $56,000 out of your checking account?”

In the ring, he not only pretended to be Zeus but accused Hulk Hogan of only having won the match at the end of the film because, not kidding here, “he was billed first”. In the matches, he teamed up with Macho Man Randy Savage against Hogan and Brutus Beefcake. All of those matches had Hulk winning the match.

Most of the matches had him going against Hulk Hogan. However, he occasionally fought other wrestlers. Those matches didn’t end well.

He made it to the Survivor series, where he teamed up with The Million Dollar Team, including Ted DiBiase and The Powers of Pain. Again, Hulk won.

He then re-teamed with Savage against Hulk and Brutus in a “No Holds Barred Pay Per View Event”.

This ended up being his last match and, for about 6 years, he went back to acting. In 1996, he did return in the WCW as Z-Gangsta but it didn’t last long.

So what happened to Zeus/Tiny’s wrestling career? It’s simple: the guy just wasn’t a wrestler. Lister had never dreamed of becoming a wrestler and was more focused on being an actor. This could be seen in that he had been acting since 1984, five years before No Holds Barred came out. In addition, he only agreed to do it for the money, not for any actual love of the sport. But, because he had no training in wrestling, it showed, as it turned out that, while he’s an okay actor, he’s a pretty lousy wrestler. As a result, the gimmick got old quickly and he stuck to being an actor, which he was better at. Though, it was a terrible idea to bring an actor with no knowledge or training of the sport in to begin with. I mean, imagine if other movies tried that? What if, for example, the cast of A League of Our Own played with The Mets or The Yankees? It wouldn’t end well, I can tell you that!

That all being said, while he might have sucked at wrestling, he is one of the better things about the movie itself, which is a mixed bag to say the least. When it’s him, Hulk Hogan, and Kurt Fuller outhamming each other, the movie is unintentionally hilarious. When it’s Hulk Hogan dealing with his boring girlfriend and boring friends, the movie gets boring really quickly. Yet, while he might’ve been entertaining in the movie, it doesn’t mean he should’ve been in the ring in real life.


Posted on April 1, 2017, in Movies and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Terrific write up Kev. I remember actually seeing No Holds Barred on the big screen back in ’89. Not that I’m a huge Hulk Hogan fan or anything, it was just part of a double-bill and this was the B movie of the two. It was good corny fun for what it was though, and Tiny Lister does strike an imposing figure whether he is playing Zeus or, later on Deebo in Friday.

    I find this article interesting because up until now I did not know that Zeus was a WWF wrestler. I find it interesting that they actually hired him to play the character from the film in the wrestling ring, that’s gotta be unique in wrestling history. Has another actor ever used a film character and played them in the wrestling ring? And that’s a great quote from Lister about how Vince McMahon convinced him to do wrestling: “Who’s going to say no? You’re going to take $56,000 out of your checking account?” That is a very interesting negotiating tactic McMahon has there.

    I watched a clip or two that you posted here, and I have to say Lister is lame as a wrestler. I’ve never seen a wrestler fake-hitting so badly, I get the feeling he doesn’t want to hurt the other guy out of respect but his punches and hits look so incredibly fake and telegraphed. I’m assuming he got better at that since he lasted awhile. Anyway, this was a fun article, I learned something new here.


    • Thank you. Also, there was one other time I can think that an actor became a wrestler after a movie. David Arquette also became a wrestler to promote the film Ready to Rumble for a little while (David Arquette, hmm, now that might be an actor someone should write a WTHH article to).


      • there has been enough written about David Arquette wrestling in World Championship Wrestling (WCW), and how him winning their world Championship was one of many nails in the coffin of a company that went from turning record tv ratings and profits, to folding and being bought out by its biggest competitor for pennies in just a matter of 3 short years.


        • Good point but, even outside his failed wrestling career, there might be enough material to write a WTHH article. Also, come to think of it, it seems like history sort of repeated itself with David and Tommy’s wrestling careers. Both were actors who starred in a terrible movie about wrestling that was actually funded by a huge wrestling corporation (WWF and WCW). Even though both movies failed at the box office, one of the actors from both movies, despite having no experience in wrestling whatsoever, decided to become a wrestler themselves and ended up making a fool out of themselves. Weird how that happened…


      • Arquette didn’t want to be champion. Look up a guy named Vince Russo, one of the most polarizing figures in wrestling. Arquette wasn’t interested, but Russo insisted on it, saying it would be good for business. I know, hence why I said polarizing. Anyway, his reign lasted a week and Arquette did some good by giving his money from WCW to families of deceased and disabled wrestlers


  2. And allegedly the original plan was to give him the WWF title and headline against Hogan at WrestleMania, but instead they gave it to the Ultimate Warrior. Wise choice, I mean, like you say, he had no intentions to be a wrestler, and considering his lack of skill, they do all right with what they had, but him headlining WrestleMania would be pushing their luck…


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