When it comes to being a professional wrestler – sorry Vince, that’d be a “sports entertainer” these days – one of the most important things when it comes to making a first impression on an audience is a performer’s physical appearance.
A talent’s physique can often say so much about them or the character that they’re portraying in the ring. For instance, a more heavy-set superstar will instantly have casual audiences thinking that they’ll be more of a powerhouse, brutish performer, whereas a smaller, slighter frame will conjure up the idea that a superstar may well be more reliant on high flying or a vast technical arsenal. And we all know that first impressions most certainly do count, more-so to Vince McMahon himself as well as to crowds and TV audiences across the world.
But while a superstar’s physique plays a huge part in a first impression, that’s not to say that a wrestler’s look can’t change over time. Whether it’s bulking up, slimming down, going leaner and more shredded, many a superstar has undergone a major physical transformation since the WWE has been in existence, be it as the WWF or even the WWWF. Sometimes these changes are down to dietary and workout changes, while others, particularly those less flattering changes, are merely an unfortunate unavoidable result of not being quite as young as a superstar once was.
Here, it’s time to showcase 19 of the most amazing and shocking changes in physiques in WWE history. And no, Michael Cole’s impressive weight loss and increased muscle definition doesn’t make the cut.
Toronto native Edge was always in good shape throughout the early part of his run with the then-WWF. Whether as part of The Brood, as one half of Edge & Christian, or as a solo act who was chasing Intercontinental gold, Edge was never the biggest of guys when it came to muscles on top of muscles, but he always looked the part of a true WWE superstar.
After returning from an arm and shoulder injury in 2002, Edge was bigger than we’d ever seen before. With a larger, more muscular frame and barely an inch of fat on him, many were shocked to see how Edge had been hitting the gym during his months out injured.
Of course, Edge would be one of the names listed in Sports Illustrated’s 2007 article on WWE performers who were taking banned substances. Following that, Edge’s physique would get a little more loose and smaller over the following years.
The Rated-R Superstar himself has openly talked about how he hated doing weights in the gym, and his final few years in the WWE saw him carrying more weight around his midriff and with a lot less muscle mass on his arms.
18. Eddie Guerrero
The beloved Eddie Guerrero went through some huge body transformations over his career.
When he first appeared on worldwide TV as part of WCW in the mid-90s, Eddie (then spelt Eddy) was undoubtedly a hugely talented performer. He was also on the smaller side as well, though. Despite the undoubted charisma and in-ring skills, Guerrero’s size was something that was clearly going to hold him back at that point in wrestling history. Of course, smaller wrestlers would be given a chance at main event success in later years, but not at that point for poor Eddie.
By the time Latino Heat turned up in the then-WWF in 2000, he was notably bulkier than his initial years in WCW, but Eddie’s muscle mass began to increase even further in 2002. At that point, having been fired by the WWF, Guerrero had hit the gym like a mad man, and there’s also speculation that he was using steroids at that time as well.
By the time Eddie was put into the WWE main event scene and given the WWE Championship in 2004, he was the biggest he’d ever been. His physique may have been impressive, but Eddie would sadly pass away in November 2005, despite years of being clean, following the damage drugs and steroids had taken on his body over the years.
17. The Undertaker
Nobody has made more of a career out of regularly changing their appearance than The Undertaker. It may not have necessarily been that much of a physical transformation bar the odd haircut or slight weight change, but The Phenom looks vastly different today than what he did when he debuted at the 1990 Survivor Series.
From an undead zombie, to the rejigged Deadman in 1994, to the Lord of Darkness, to heading up The Ministry, to the American Badass, to Big Evil, and then transforming to varying hybrids of the aforementioned gimmicks over the last few years, ‘Taker has constantly looked to evolve and move forward with his character.
And throughout all of this, The Undertaker has always been hugely successful and one of the WWF/WWE’s top superstars, going down as one of the truly biggest icons that the wrestling industry has ever seen.
Sure, some of The Phenom’s looks and transformations may have proved to be more well-received than others, but this legend of the business has never been one to be afraid of changing things up and refreshing his character and appearance when he felt that it was needed.
16. CM Punk
So many of us miss CM Punk, but it’s easy to lose track of just what a physical transformation The Straightedge Superstar underwent during his time under a WWE contract.
Obviously Punk went from long hair to shorter hair during his WWE stint, but his actual body physically changed as well. Having made a name for himself on the independent scene and with the likes of Ring of Honor and IWA Mid-South, when the time finally came for Punk to head to Titan Towers he decided that he needed to make himself look more like a WWE superstar. And so, when Punk debuted in the WWE’s developmental territory of OVW, he reportedly weighed in at nearly 250 lbs after bulking himself up.
By the time this former World Champion finished up with the WWE, he was being billed as 218 lbs and had a far leaner, tighter frame. Even after that, Punk dropped further weight to make the 170 lbs limit required for his UFC debut last year.
15. Hulk Hogan
For anybody who grew up in the 1980s, Hulkamania was well and truly running wild, brother. Even if you weren’t a wrestling fan, the presence of The Hulkster transcended the wrestling business and was a huge part of the famed rock ‘n’ wrestling boom.
Barely ever losing a match, racking up countless wins and titles, the huge frame of Hulk Hogan was something that was all over TV screens and movie screens. But then, seemingly from out of the blue at that point in time, Hogan turned up ahead of WrestleMania IX with a far, far leaner physique than any of us had ever seen.
Not by accident, this just so happened to be the same time that the then-WWF was embroiled in the infamous steroid scandal. Funnily enough, by the time that all of that bad press had died down several years later, Hogan would once again bulk back up during his later time with WCW and by the time he returned to the WWF in 2002.
14. Triple H
It’s all about the game, and how you play it…
Since debuting in the WWF in 1996, Hunter Hearst Helmsley has always primed himself on being in top physical condition. Still, his ’96 frame was nowhere near as big as Triple H at his biggest.
After breaking out as a main event talent in 1999 and 2000, Hunter had gotten himself into phenomenal shape. Looking like a million bucks, The Game would get even bigger upon returning from his first quad injury in 2002. But with the extra muscle came added pressure on Triple H’s body, in turn leading to further injuries down the line.
During the mid-2000s, The Cerebral Assassin piled on the pounds in the completely wrong way – putting on blubber never before seen on Hunter’s frame. Some claim it was down to Triple H’s injury issues, others suggest he’d cut back on his workout schedule due to spending his time looking after his firstborn daughter.
Despite fluctuating between being ripped and carrying a spare tire, the past year or two has seen Triple H get back into ridiculously good shape, which is even more impressive considering that this multiple-time World Champion is now 47 years of age.
13. Ultimate Warrior
Remember when there were two Ultimate Warriors? If you’re of a certain age, you likely will, but that was all just badly-judged rumour and speculation.
But that’s the perfect indicator of just how drastic the Ultimate Warrior’s physical transformation was at one point in time. From the hulking, bulking Warrior who shot to superstardom and defeated Hulk Hogan clean 1-2-3 for the WWF World Championship at WrestleMania VI, fans actually believed it was a complete different persona parading as Ultimate Warrior when the Warrior came to the rescue of Hogan at the end of WrestleMania VIII.
Of course, the reason for this smaller, more toned Warrior was in large part down to the steroid scandal that was terrifying the then-WWF in the early ‘90s. The fact that Warrior was fired by the company, along with Davey Boy Smith, for steroid use at one point in time tells you all you need to know about why this former WWF Champion seemed to look smaller and smaller each time you saw him on WWF TV, bar a 1996 return that saw him looking huge!
12. Matt Hardy
The story of The Hardy Boyz is one of wrestling folklore; small, young talents start off as jobbers to the stars before going on to become superstars in their own right. But where the eldest of the brothers is concerned, Matt Hardy has undergone a fair few physical changes over the years.
Upon his debut, Matt was a skinny high flyer who eventually bulked up a little and would go on to become one of the greatest tag team wrestlers that the wrestling industry has ever seen. Whilst he looked like a million bucks as part of The Hardyz, it was after the team split up that Matt’s physique underwent some changes.
At times, Matt would pile on the muscle mass, yet there was a point in time where he was called “Fat Hardy” by some sections of the online wrestling community. Whilst Matt undoubtedly had piled on some excessive pounds, the former European, United States, and Tag Team Champion did manage to get himself back in excellent shape, and these days his physique is looking better than it’s ever been during his current stint in TNA.
11. The Big Show
The larger-than-life Big Show has undergone some huge body changes throughout his wrestling career.
Debuting in WCW at just 23 years of age in 1995, Paul Wight obviously stood out amongst his peers for his pure size. At 7 feet tall, Wight, also known then as The Giant, shocked the world by defeating Hulk Hogan and becoming the WCW Champion in his very first match.
At that time, Wight was in fantastic shape. As well as being 7 feet tall, he was in great physical condition and was an absolute beast to behold. By the time he’d make the jump to the then-WWF, though, weight problems became a major issue for Wight. Now performing under the moniker of The Big Show, his weight would balloon towards the 530 lbs mark – keep in mind, his WCW debut saw him clock in at around the 380 lbs range – and would result in him even being demoted to WWF/E developmental to get in better shape.
These days, The Big Show is a part-time performer whose career is winding down. To his credit, though, he’s spent the past 6 months or so hitting the gym and getting himself in fantastic shape ahead of what looks like a battle with Shaquille O’Neal at WrestleMania XXXIII.
10. Randy Savage
This particular transformation didn’t exactly take place under a WWF/WWE umbrella, but it was still a huge surprise to many who tuned in during the final years of WCW.
Randy Savage is rightly revered as one of the true greatest performers of all time, but his appearance during his final WCW shows was vastly different from what longtime WWF fans were familiar with.
The Macho Man was always in good shape during his WWF time, even though he took to wearing a top in the early-90s because he was worried he’d lost some definition, but his later WCW years saw a Savage who was absolutely shredded, with many speculating he’d been hitting the steroids during this time.
9. Rey Mysterio Jr.
Without taking into the time WCW made the stupid, disrespectful decision to strip Rey Mysterio Jr. of his iconic mask, the Master of the 619 has still physically changed massively over the years.
Upon debuting in WCW back in 1996, Rey was a slim, short cruiserweight who quickly wowed audiences and became a must-see part of the company. By the time he turned up in the WWE years later, Mysterio had bulked up considerably, and he’d add further muscle mass over the following years.
Of course, when Mysterio was later revealed as one of several WWE superstars who had been taking certain banned substances, Rey’s physique again underwent a major shift. This time, though, the former WWE World Champion saw his well-defined body soften a little, and he’d even take to sporting a vest or t-shirt as part of his standard wrestling attire to hide his gut.
In his prime, The Big Red Machine had one of the greatest physiques in WWE history.
At nearly 7 foot tall, Glenn Jacobs filled out his large frame with muscles on top of muscles, with his change of attire in 2001 (left on the above image) showcasing an impressive physique that had largely been kept covered up over the previous years.
For the majority of the next decade, despite undergoing various outfit changes – including losing his famed mask altogether – Kane would remain in amazing shape, and he’d manage to keep his huge frame in top condition regardless of reaching the twilight of his career.
Over the past year or two, however, it looks as if age has finally caught up with this former multiple-time World Champion. The Devil’s Favourite Demon will turn 50 this year, and his career is expected to come to a close sooner rather than later. As the picture above shows, Father Time is catching up with Kane, and he’s in far, far different shape to what he’s so fondly remembered as by his many fans.
7. Adrian Adonis
Canadian grappler Adrian Adonis may not be a name that’s all too familiar to more modern wrestling fans, but he was a huge star throughout the 1980s. From the start of his career to the end of his career, though, he was basically unrecognizable.
During his time in the AWA and then his initial time in the then-WWF, Adonis was a tough-as-nails biker sort who teamed with the likes of Jesse Ventura and Dick Murdoch whilst also battling legendary names like Bob Backlund and Pedro Morales.
It was in 1986 that Adrian changed his gimmick, becoming “Adorable” Adrian Adonis and playing a more effeminate character than had really been seen by international wrestling audiences at that time. By now, Adonis had also started to put on a fair amount of weight to go with his bleached blond hair.
Adrian Adonis tragically passed away in 1988 at the age of just 33 following an automobile accident, and his appearance had massively changed by the mid-late ‘80s from the smaller, solid biker fans had been first introduced to back in 1979.
Andrew “Test” Martin was always a big guy, but there was a time where this Canadian native took big to a whole new level.
Debuting in the then-WWF as Test in 1998, Martin was an impressive looking specimen. Standing at 6’6” and weighing in at the 280 lbs range, this was a grappler who was the sort that Vince McMahon would instantly get tight in the pants over.
Test had always been a guy who was in great condition, but it was when he returned to the WWE under its ECW umbrella in 2006 that he shocked everyone with the physical transformation he’d undergone. Not content with being an in-shape larger competitor, Test had turned himself into a chiselled rock of a man.
Of course, it came as a surprise to absolutely nobody when Test was suspended in early 2007 for failing the WWE’s wellness policy. Shortly after this, the former Intercontinental, European, Hardcore, and Tag Team Champion would be released from the company.
The sadly deceased Joanie Laurer went through one of the biggest transformations in WWE history. From her debut to her final years in the company, The Ninth Wonder of the World was nearly unrecognizable.
Since debuting in the then-WWF in early 1997, Chyna would seemingly change her look every few months. From altering her facial structure, to enhancing her chest at several points, to making herself more feminine in her appearance, it’s a rarity that you see any two pictures of Chyna where she physically looks the same.
Even after she finished up with Vince McMahon’s organisation in 2001, Joanie continued to alter her appearance over the ensuing years as she made appearances for New Japan Pro Wrestling, TNA or even in movies, TV, and her adult film career.
4. Scott Steiner
From his WWF debut to his return to the WWE, Scott Steiner was a total different person when it came to his physique.
Steiner had impressed many as one half of The Steiner Brothers in the then-WWF during the early-90s. The team had made their name in the NWA and WCW before having a run with Vince McMahon, and they wowed audiences in New York just as they had down in World Championship Wrestling. Whilst both Rick and Scott had their plus points, Scotty managed to stand out due to his outlandish (at the time, at least) Frankensteiner finishing move.
Scott Steiner was always an absolutely phenomenal athlete with a perfect physique, yet by the time he returned to the now-WWE in 2002 he’d taken things to a whole other level when it came to being a physical specimen.
By then, Steiner had reinvigorated himself and became Big Poppa Pump, complete with some of the most shockingly massive muscle mass wrestling fans have ever seen. And not a single steroid was touched, honestly…
3. Bubba Ray Dudley
OK, OK, this one kind of didn’t happen in the WWE, but the body transformation of Bubba Ray Dudley is still one of the most impressive to behold.
The big body change for Bubba happened during his time in TNA. Having made a career for himself as the slightly rotund one of the Dudley clan, Bubba’s time as “Bully” Ray in TNA saw him get in absolutely ridiculous shape. Gone was the excessive gut, and instead this tag team legend trimmed the flab, developed some major guns, and bulked up his calves so much that he was given the nickname of Calfzilla.
Of course, by the time Bully reverted back to Bubba and returned to the WWE, the earlier excess pounds seemed to have been piled back on, meaning any purely WWE fans may not even be aware of the spectacular shape this particular Dudley Boy got himself into during his time away from Vince McMahon’s company.
2. Ivan Putski
The Polish Power may not be a name that’s all too familiar to some younger generations, but this Hall of Famer and former Tag Team Champion is revered by many longtime fans as having one of the most impressive physiques in the history of the wrestling business, period. But that wasn’t always the case.
Prior to this time in the then-WWF, Putski was in Verne Gagne’s AWA and for the most part had a vastly different body to what he’d later become famous for. During the majority of his stint in the AWA, The Polish Hammer was a larger, rounder grappler who had a short, stocky frame. Make no mistake about it, Putski still had a lot of muscle in his thick frame, but it was more like a solid footballer rather than a well-constructed wrestler in peak physical condition.
1. The Rock
The Rock today is near-enough unrecognizable to when he first debuted in the then-WWF, at least from a physique standpoint.
When “The Blue Chipper” Rocky Maivia made his in-ring debut, this future wrestling icon had a shoddy, tousled haircut, just a smidge of puppy fat, and was nowhere near the man mountain that we see today. Now parading around as a hulking mountain of muscle and charm, The Rock has done what was once deemed impossible: crossed over from the wrestling business to become one of the biggest movie and entertainment stars on the planet.
Still, as those who follow The Great One on his social media will know, regardless of his ridiculously hectic schedule, Dwayne Johnson manages to work out several times a day, hence why he seems to get bigger and bigger each time you see him on your screen, be that in a movie or as a surprise return to WWE TV.