For many, the dream of being a WWE Superstar is a burning desire that spans from childhood. Looking at the WWE’s current class, the likes of Bayley, Seth Rollins and Kevin Owens kept this dream strong from a young age. The unfortunate part, is many long-time aspiring wrestlers never make it to the big time like these three did.
The WWE searches for a wide variety of wrestlers; back in the 80s and early 90s the company was focused on recruiting the larger than life look. This caused several wrestlers to get hired based on their look alone despite the fact that they knew very little about the industry. This remains true today, however, as the WWE is less invested in the bodybuilder look and more focused on turning athletes into WWE Superstars. The development of NXT was initially created to do exactly that and it has succeeded with stars like Chad Gable successfully transitioning from his amateur background into a pure pro wrestler. For the WWE, they love to broaden their horizons when it comes to their talent pool by looking at a variety of athletes.
This brings us to our topic in this article featuring some of the most iconic wrestling stars that didn’t always plan to work in the domain. Some aspired to be bodybuilders, while others didn’t even know what the WWE was. No matter what the case might have been, we’re truly happy they ended up in the WWE. These are 15 iconic WWE names you wouldn’t believe didn’t plan on becoming wrestlers. Enjoy!
When you think about WCW, the word G.O.A.T. seems fitting to describe the legacy of the Stinger. Despite the fact that he looked like such a natural in the ring, pro wrestling wasn’t always the plan for Sting and as a matter of fact, he only became aware of wrestling later in his adult life.
In his early life, Sting enjoyed playing sports such as basketball and football. His love would later transform into the field of fitness as he would become a bodybuilder along with co-owning a Gold’s Gym. At that point, Sting had no intent on becoming a wrestler and he himself admitted he didn’t even have a clue what wrestling was because of his limited access to it.
That however, would all change one night when Sting attended a WWE show that featured the likes of Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan. Sting immediately fell in love with the pageantry of the sport and at that moment, he decided to change career paths.
14. Macho Man Randy Savage
Speaking of G.O.A.T.s, Randy Savage needs to be in the discussion of such a topic. His persona, charisma and in-ring skills all equaled to absolute greatness. When looking back at the late 80s and early 90s, Macho Man was arguably the best in the world when combining all of the elements that make a wrestler great. What makes his story even more remarkable is the fact that it probably should have never happened.
Like many other wrestling stars, Macho Man was very active as a young man playing several sports which included baseball at the time. Initially, Savage decided to pursue a career in the field and was actually signed as a catcher out of high school for the St. Louis Cardinals. He’d play for other minor league teams which included the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago White Soxs. Because of a nagging shoulder injury, Macho Man’s progress would be halted causing him to switch fields in the world of pro wrestling. He fell in love with the industry in 1973 during a baseball offseason and decided to pursue it full-time a year later in 1974. Eleven years later, Macho Man was a household name competing for the WWE and as they say, the rest is history.
13. Roddy Piper
Sticking with the theme of wrestlers regarded as the greatest of all-time, Piper was labelled as the very best heel to ever lace up the boots. Even the likes of Ric Flair recognized Piper as the best villain the pro wrestling world has ever seen. To this day, aspiring wrestlers look at footage of the Hall of Famer to emulate his ways. He truly was that good and a trailblazer in the industry who used the entertainment aspect to draw heat, something that was not the norm at the time.
Like everyone else on this list, Piper prioritized other things as a young man. He was frequently in the gym and decided to turn that work ethic into a career as a fighter. Roddy became a Golden Glove boxing champion along with awards in Judo and as an amateur wrestler.
After that passion fizzled out, he set his sights on a career as a pro wrestler starting off on the Indie scene in Canada. His first match actually involved midgets, believe it or not. After a decade of experience, Roddy joined the WWE in 1984 and revolutionized the business with his Piper’s Pit program. To this day, the WWE is still paying homage to this concept with the likes of The Miz and Chris Jericho, providing a similar type of entertainment.
12. Ultimate Warrior
His antics outside of the ring weren’t the greatest, and it hurt his legacy to an extent. However, at one point in time during the late 80s and early 90s, the Warrior was a wrestling sensation and one of the greatest attractions ever witnessed in the world of sports and entertainment. He cemented his legacy with a WWE Title reign along with an induction into the Hall of Fame before his passing. Say what you want about his personal demons, but the guy was an attraction like no other in his time.
During the 80s and early 90s, the WWE looked into the field of bodybuilding to recruit their wrestlers. Unlike today where the company searches for athletes, McMahon instead emphasized the larger than life look. Warrior was the prototype of exactly what Vince searched for. Before he became a wrestler, Warrior was an amateur bodybuilder winning several competitions. With the goal of working as a bodybuilder and becoming a chiropractor, Warrior didn’t even think of the wrestling business but that all changed when he was invited to form a wrestling group alongside Steve Borden (aka Sting). Warrior would put his other goals on hold and enter the business full-time. We can all agree, he chose correctly.
11. Kevin Nash
Love him or hate him, Kevin Nash dominated the wrestling scene in the late 90s becoming a star for both WWE and WCW. His reasons for getting into the business infuriated fans but you have to admire the guy for being honest and admitting he got into it for the money. Nash would end up using his size to climb up the ladder and he burst onto the scene with the WWE after a disappointing initial WCW run. He’d become an upper card player and later, take his talents over to WCW becoming even bigger as a member of the nWo and a five-time WCW World Heavyweight Champion.
For Nash, the dream of making some serious cash seemed to have vanished when his pro basketball career ended after sustaining a ligament tear. He’d switch from job to job following the career ending injury, going from a Military Police Officer to strip club bouncer to assembly line worker. He finally decided to take a risk on an opportunity for more money by joining the pro wrestling field in 1990 signing with WCW. Looking at his body of work, we can safely assume Nash got his wish and became a very wealthy man.
Looking back at his wrestling career, Vader seemed like a natural in the ring. He is remembered as one of the most underrated performers ever who could generate heat just based off of his persona, but he also brought it in the ring as one of the most unique wrestlers ever who had some significant athleticism despite his large size. Who can forget that breathtaking moonsault? Now that takes some serious skill.
Despite his natural in-ring abilities, Vader actually aspired to become a pro footballer. He made it into the NFL drafted by the Los Angeles Rams. However, a career ending injury forced him to re-focus his energy on something else. While training in the gym, that something else came to fruition as a man spotted Vader and recruited him into the wrestling domain. He’d start off overseas with New Japan and he’d later make a name for himself on the North American circuit joining WCW and feuding with the likes of Sting.
2016 was rocked by the announcement of Chyna’s sudden passing at the age of 46. The loss of such a great pro wrestling trailblazer just reminded us of how spectacular she really was. Chyna truly was a once in a lifetime performer winning the Intercontinental Championship on multiple occasions and dominating the landscape of the women’s division throughout her career. Remarkable to think how that easily could have never happened for the “Ninth Wonder of the World”.
Chyna struggled early on to pay the bills and develop a proper ambition. She worked several jobs early on to support herself working as a cocktail waitress in a strip club and even working chat hotlines. Her job list only increased from then on working as a flight attendant, selling beepers and even working as a belly dancer.
Finally, she decided to compete as a pro bodybuilder which caught the eye of the WWE. After training with Killer Kowalski the company was hooked and despite Vince McMahon’s displeasures, she was brought in to protect Degeneration-X because of Hunter and Shawn’s desire to bring her up. Ultimately, the decision worked out for both the WWE and the late great Chyna.
8. Kurt Angle
Unless you were living under a rock, you’re well aware that Kurt Angle was an amateur wrestling sensation growing up. His biggest accomplishment came at the 1996 Olympics when Kurt won a Gold Medal despite the fact that he had a badly injured neck at the time. That classic Angle quote “I won an Olympic Gold Medal with a broken freaking neck” is actually fairly accurate and 100% real. Following his victory, Angle actually turned down the WWE having no desire to work in the pro wrestling industry. He would instead turn his focus on a career as a marketing rep for a food company. His decision was that much easier after he attended an ECW show and was horrified by the sights he had seen that night. Following the event, Angle changed his mind and wanted no part of wrestling.
That all changed in 1998 when Angle signed an eight-year deal with the WWE. He became an instant success and was truly a natural in the ring. Following the expiration of his eight year deal, Angle fled for TNA and has been gone ever since. At the age of 48, we hope to see the semi-retired wrestler in a WWE ring one more time.
7. Trish Stratus
She went from working as eye candy in the Attitude Era to becoming one of the greatest of all-time; this truly is the story of Trish and her WWE legacy. She began as a manager and later worked a storyline with Vince that set her into superstardom. Following the angle, Trish blossomed as a wrestler and forged a path as one of the greatest ever combining beauty and in-ring talent all into one. Her career accomplishments included a seven-time Women’s Championship reign along with an induction into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2013.
As great as that all sounds, that wasn’t always the plan for Trish who aspired to became a model. She loved the WWE as a kid, but she instead set her sights on a career in the fitness industry and working with fitness companies like MuscleMag as a sponsor for the brands. This would end up paying off immensely as the WWE would spot Trish through her modelling gigs. This landed the Diva a two-year deal and she never looked back following the 1999 contract signing.
Born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Goldberg aspired to play football and make it into the NFL from a very young age. He worked as a bouncer part-time and pursued his football career throughout. His passion and dedication later led the big man to getting drafted into the NFL by the Los Angeles Rams. He played for five years but ultimately his dreams were crushed after he sustained a career ending injury. Although he was proud of making the NFL, Goldberg was not satisfied with the outcome. He would however, be very satisfied with what happened next.
With his NFL dreams in shambles, Bill was spotted by WCW stars Sting and Lex Luger. The two urged Goldberg to make the jump and despite his lack of knowledge for the business, he agreed and joined the WCW’s Power Plant. He’d go on to dominate the WCW landscape creating the greatest streak in pro wrestling history of 173 straight victories. Set to turn 50 at the end of December, Goldberg is still going strong with the WWE today. Safe to say he chose correctly.
5. Brock Lesnar
Like Goldberg, Brock Lesnar basically joined the WWE because of the money. He started off as a terrific amateur wrestler and struggled to find out what was next on his list in terms of professions. Lesnar admitted himself that he was very depressed trying to make a decision and resorted to alcohol during the dark period of his life. The WWE would ultimately approach Lesnar with some big bucks and despite the fact that they he knew very little about the industry, he took the bait and signed a deal in 2000.
We’re pretty sure Lesnar has no regrets as the WWE continues to make him very wealthy. Growing his name on the platform also allowed for other opportunities in the field of MMA and even the NFL at one point in time. At the age of 39, Brock happily continues to cash-in checks while maintaining his status as one of the best and brightest attractions the WWE has to offer nowadays.
4. Roman Reigns
A lot of the heat towards Roman stems from the fact that he had absolutely no wrestling experience prior to signing a WWE contract. Instead, all he had to show for it was a failed football career and lineage of family members that worked in the wrestling industry. Those factors were enough to entice the WWE and create a megastar.
Growing up, Roman was very passionate about football. He was a tremendous prospect coming out of Georgia Tech but went undrafted following the NFL Draft. He was invited to multiple camps in 2007 which included invites from the Vikings and Jaguars. He missed out on both teams and later fled to the CFL. His Canadian football career was also short-lived and he would go on to sign with the WWE. Despite his lack of experience, Roman was an absolute natural in the ring and continues to improve as one of the very best working in the company today. Love him or hate him, you can’t deny the guy’s terrific work ethic.
3. John Cena
Since 2005, John Cena has ran the WWE becoming the most recognizable WWE face in the last decade plus. As of 1998 however, that would have seemed impossible for Cena who set his sights on other horizons.
John always loved the WWE but decided against a possible career early on. Instead, he graduated from Springfield with a degree in exercise physiology. With the added knowledge, Cena would branch into the world of bodybuilding pursuing a career in the field. He would also work as a limousine driver and bouncer during that time.
With his bodybuilding career winding down, Cena once again changed his focus, this time, on something he had loved for a very long time, the world of pro wrestling. He started to train for it in 1999 and by 2000, he was already recruited by the WWE’s developmental territory Ohio Valley Wrestling. 16 years later, Cena is the most popular and highest paid WWE Superstar on the roster. He’s come a long way from his limousine driving days!
2. The Rock
Some people are just destined to become something special and it turns out, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was one of those special souls.
It wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows for The Rock who grew up with very little but was showered with love by his family. His first love wasn’t the family business of pro wrestling but the world of football. Rock was a huge prospect coming out of the University of Miami and he set his sights on a possible NFL career. That dream ultimately fell short and The Rock would instead join the CFL. He also earned a degree in criminology and physiology.
Following his last CFL season in 1995, Rock made the permanent switch and joined his family heritage of becoming a pro wrestler. He made his debut in 1996 and he’d grown into one of the biggest stars in wrestling history. After conquering sports and entertainment, he took his talents to Hollywood and became the highest paid actor in the world. Along with his accomplishments, The Rock is a tremendous source of inspiration for millions around the world with his constant humble and gracious attitude. Like we said, some are just destined to be great.
1. Hulk Hogan
A pioneer in the wrestling business, Hogan was the chosen one who helped to shape the wrestling industry into the dominant form of entertainment it continues to be to this very day. Although he looked destined to be in the ring, that wasn’t the case at one point and his wrestling career was actually born because of being at the right place at the right time.
Hogan’s first love was music, playing the bass guitar. Hogan, along with his band Ruckus, were quite popular in 1976 and became a huge hit in the Tampa Bay area. During his spare time away from the instruments Hogan loved to workout. It was there that Hogan caught the break of a lifetime. While in the gym, Jack and Gerald Brisco approached Hogan about a possible pro wrestling career. Hogan being a huge fan accepted immediately. His start was bumpy at first, but once he quit his music career for good, the Hulkster blossomed into the greatest star the pro wrestling industry had ever seen.