I remember one reviewer noticing that in the 90’s Roger Corman would seemingly blindly hand out  a contract to any Pro- Kickboxer who came knocking at his door. Now, honestly Corman was far from being the only one guilty of this. 80’s and 90’s had a surging VHS market and Action/ Martial Arts film were way more mainstream then these days so lots of Pro- fighters did have their 15 minutes of fame (or a 5- movie deal) and here’s some interesting examples for you:

05.  Curtis Bush (42- 10- 02 KB)

We purposely decided to lead with  the most obscure name off the list and that’s Curtis Bush. Bush was a lanky southpaw fighter with a background in Tang Soo Do (also Chuck Norris‘s first art). He amassed the pro record of 42 wins, 10 loses and 2 draws and also competed in Pro Boxing in parallel.

Beside being a four division champion he also had a burning desire to be in the movies. But, it seems that tall, mustachioed dudes just weren’t the flavor of the day.
He had a small part of a deranged poacher (killed by the star Michael McNamara) in Canadian action movie Dragon Hunt (1990). He also played parts of Foot Soldiers in the first two TMNT movies: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1991) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Secret of the Ooze (1991). He then tried his hand on the small screen with a TV adaptation of Patrick Swayze’s Roadhouse– that was canceled after only four episodes!

This has to be one of greatest covers to ever grace a VHS tape

But what really makes him worthy of this list is his passion project: The Dark Angel: Psycho Kickboxer! Made for just 10 000 dollars over the course of 5 years Psycho Kickboxer is a real treat for B-movie lovers like us. I mean who can say no to a seemingly deranged man in a Ninja costume running all over town and preventing random acts of violence (with even more violence). It’s painfully low budget and nonsensical but man- it’s a it’s so fun to watch.

Look at him go!

Now, you could say that his acting career went nowhere but he did have background roles as military personnel in couple of big movies in recent times (Battleship, Godzilla) and IMDB does show him as an Admiral in Godzilla vs. Kong (2020), so it seems Psycho finally got the last laugh.

04. Kathy Long (18-1 KB, 2-0 MMA)

Kung Fu San Soo and Aikido practitioner and a pioneer of female Kickboxing in America with an 18-1 record holding WKA, WMAC, ISKA and KICK titles.
She was even a commentator in the first ever UFC event (1993) – even thou she smartly decided not to comment too much– leaving the other absolute Martial Arts legend Bill “Superfoot” Wallace to keep embarrassing himself (famously mispronouncing UFC as Ultimate Fighting Challenge).

Her most significant contribution to the world of film was actually being a stunt/ fight double for Michelle Pfeiffer‘s Catwoman in ‘92‘s Batman Returns by Tim Burton.

Also in ’92 she also appeared as a villain in Rage and Honor featuring Cynthia Rothrock and (our personal favorite) Richard Norton and continued with couple of leads in movies such as post- apocalyptic Knights (1993) and The Stranger (1995). In ’97 she again showed up with Richard Norton in a fun Australian action movie called Under The Gun aka Iron Fist.

She even dabbled back into the competition pool (having come full circle) by having two MMA fights in 2009 and again in 2015. Second one was particularly impressive, wining a fight at 50 years old against an opponent roughly half her age! Definitely an accomplishment.

Even thou her dramatic acting chops where never even remotely sharp as her fighting chops I’m definitely not changing the channel when I see her on a TV.

03. Gary Daniels (31-04 AKB04- 01 KB)

Gary Daniels started as a British Taekwondo practitioner who was famously too brutal for the sport so he eventually transitioned to Amateur and then Pro Kickboxing (even capturing PKA and WKBA titles).  His most famous lead role is in Hokuto No Ken aka Fist of the Northstar that despite it’s budget constraints turned out to be a surprisingly faithful manga adaptation. Unfortunately it wasn’t widely distributed in the US and is today relegated to a Cult Classic status.

He would go on to be the star in countless Kickboxing movies on VHS either as a Hero or as a Villain but beside a Hong Kong stint or two (see Jackie Chan’s City Hunter) his big break wouldn’t happen for years and years…. Not until Stallone chose him to be an Eric Roberts‘s henchman in the first The Expendables (2010). Even in a star- crowded movie like that he did get to shine especially in an excellent two against one fight scene with Jet Li and Jason Statham.

He went on to share the screen with Eric Roberts and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin again in Hunt To Kill and was perfectly cast as a video game character Bryan Fury in not so perfect Tekken (2010). All of that positioned him to the upper levels of action B-movie market in the ’10s and he even returned to his native England for a pair of movies ike Skin Traffik (2015)– again with Roberts (Rourke and Hannah too) and I Am Vengeance (2018) where he went against the WWE superstar Stu Bennet aka Wade Barrett.

But still, being a legit badass (he traveled all the way to Thailand to have a pro Muay Thai match when he was almost 50) with a cool British accent you’d think the sky is the limit, and because of that I feel that he never really fulfilled his true potential.

02. Jerry Trimble (29-2-2 KB)

Trimble started his film career in the 80’s armed with an annoying high- pitched voice, long blond hair and all the sidekicks, hook kicks and spin-kicks you can possibly imagine.

Now, differently then some of the other folks in this list over the years he eventually developed actual acting chops (but he can still pull out those spin kicks from his arsenal if need be) confirmed- by the fact that he is still successfully working today in both film and TV.

Recommended viewing: any of his collaborations with the Filipino Action Maestro Cirio H. Santiago like One Man Army (1994) or Stranglehold (1994). And if you’re really into our kind of craziness he can be seen in Corman produced StarQuest II.

It’s also worth noting that he is adversary in early Jet Li film The Master (1992) where he is at his mighty mulleted ass- kicking best, then his career altering appearance in famed thriller Heat (1995) and of course going toe for toe with Austin 3:16 himself in “Stone Cold” Steve Austin VS Dolph Lundgren feature The Package.

For an American Kickboxer with golden pants- he sure went far.

Trivia: The Package (2013) was actually directed by Jesse V. Johnson who’s slowly but surely becoming a real force to be reckoned with in the action movie industry with films such as British comicbook– adaptation Accident Man (2018) and the Asian Expendables awesomeness that is Triple Threat (2019).

 

01.  Don “The Dragon” Wilson  (72-5-2 KB)

To circle back to the start with Mr. Roger Corman, there’s one kickboxer in particular who made more movies with Corman than anyone else. His name is of course Don “The Dragon” Wilson. Coming from a Kung Fu Pai Lum Kung Fu and Goju-ryu Karate background he competed in Kickboxing on and off until 2002 (with his final exhibition match in 2011).  He amassed an incredible list of titles: IKF, WKA, KICK, ISKA, STAR and the PKO and with wins over such opponents like Dennis Alexio, Oaktree Edwards and Dick Kimbe he is considered one of the greatest American Kickboxers of all time.

His acting career on the other hand was let’s say- slightly less impressive. He started transitioning to movies with a villain role in 1982 Hong Kong movie New York Chinatown aka Xue xi Tang Ren Jie (1988) and made his debut as a lead with Bloodfist– of course a Roger Corman production directed by Terence H. Winkless. And Bloodfist would continue to be his bread and butter as he filmed 8 parts to date!!! Another stand outs are Ring of Fire movies, featuring other famous Martial Artist like Billy Blanks, Michael Jai White and already mentioned Gary Daniels.

Now for us, we prefer the more obscure and odd moments of his filmography like his forays into SF with Virtual Combat (1995) and let us not forget his horror movie Night Walker(1996) (utilizing shaky cam to the max way before it was a fashionable thing to do) with Wilson breaking freaking vampire spines!

After all this time he’s still working and seems to be doing alright for himself but in retrospect he just never had the charisma and elegance of someone like Van Damme that could have pushed him to the real super- stardom. But he did challenge Van Damme to a Kickboxing match, so you got to give him that.

 

 

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Comments
  1. Michael Shields says:

    I think Jerry Trimble is teaching acting.

    Like

  2. Mike SHields says:

    What! No Andy Bauman? Night of the Kickfighters (1988) has to be the all time worst of the kick boxing genre. And Bauman isn’t any better. 🙂

    Like

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