No matter how many rumor websites, Apter mags, dirt sheets, or Wrestling Observer Newsletters a wrestling fan reads, it’s impossible to truly understand the experience of being a WWE superstar without working for the McMahons. You might know what “Gorilla Position” is — the area immediately behind a WWE entrance curtain, where top executives give last-minute advice before superstars hit the stage or offer immediate feedback when they return — but unless you’ve actually stood there during Raw, SmackDown, or a Pay-Per-View, you don’t truly know what it’s like for the people who have.
The best fans can do is look at pictures and fantasize about what it’s like to be backstage at a WWE event, part of the show, interacting with the wrestlers as an equal, a coworker, and a friend. Depending on what era of wrestling we’re talking about, this could mean getting into some wild parties and acting recklessly, or it could simply mean playing video games with Xavier Woods and filming videos for YouTube. Either way, it definitely means getting a closer glimpse at what pro wrestlers are like when the cameras stop rolling and they think no one’s watching.
Truth be told, not everything that happens backstage at a wrestling event is particularly interesting as most of it is people frantically making last-minute preparations for the show. Once in a while, though, something interesting takes place worth serious attention, and lucky camera snaps taken at the perfect time allow fans to speculate all they want about these brief moments in time. Keep reading to join the speculation by looking at 15 rare behind-the-scenes WWE photos you’ve never seen before.
15. Ceasefire During The War
No time period in wrestling was tenser than the Monday Night Wars, when wrestlers working for WWE and WCW literally saw one another as enemies. This was especially true for the company’s respective top stars, who were personally responsible for the success and/or failure of their brands, making the war particularly important to them. For this reason, this picture remains somewhat shocking nearly two decades after it was taken. The exact details about when and where it was taken remain unclear to this day, but there are plenty of context clues that point to the late ‘90s. On the WCW side, Hulk Hogan is clearly in his nWo phase, and Steve Austin has completely shaved his head on the opposite end, both meaning it couldn’t have been earlier than July ’96. Rumor has it one of the non-wrestlers in the photo is Rich Minzer, who owns a gym in Venice Beach, where all these superstars were reported to work out. Should that be true, the pieces easily fall into place about how this picture happened, though this hardly makes it less surprising.
14. Killer Joke, Dude
It’s hard to imagine a more menacing profession than crossover MMA fighter/pro wrestler, hence Brock Lesnar’s reputation as the Beast Incarnate. Smiling and joking around with a group of women is the last thing fans would expect such a dominant athlete does prior to winning the WWE Championship, and yet this photo was taken at SummerSlam 2014, where he did just that. Granted, these aren’t just any women, and in fact, they come damn near Lesnar in terms of their destructive power. Most people probably recognize Ronda Rousey to his immediate right, laughing and wearing a Roddy Piper shirt. Jessamyn Duke, Marina Shafir, and Shayna Baszler stand across from them, notable for forming the Four Horsewomen of MMA along with Rousey. While Ronda famously appeared at WrestleMania 31 about seven months after the event, she only appeared in the crowd the night this photo was taken, leading to months of speculation she may jump to wrestling. Though such a jump still hasn’t happened yet, the photo likewise continues to give hope it might, considering how happy they all look.
13. Finlay’s Got A Gun
Being entirely honest about this from the get-go, we have no idea where this picture of Fit Finlay holding a shotgun while riding a horse comes from. Quite frankly, it almost definitely has nothing to do with professional wrestling, aside from the fact Finlay himself is indeed a famous sports entertainer. It’s also easy to tell the photo is fairly old, considering the length and color of Finlay’s hair, plus the inclusion of his once trademark moustache. That’s about all there is in terms of an explanation, though, with the rest of it left to the imagination. One thing wrestling fans have always known about The Belfast Bruiser is that he loves to fight, another slight hint at why he looks like a literal cowboy come to life in this peculiar snapshot. A regular criticism related to Finlay that ran throughout his career was his relative lack of charisma and character compared to his sterling ring work, and maybe that could have been fixed if images like this were more prevalent. Liking to fight is kinda cool, but liking to fight with a shotgun on a horse? Now that’s a gimmick.
12. The Undertaker Plays With Toys
Part of the reason The Undertaker is revered as one of the greatest wrestlers in WWE history has been his commitment to the gimmick, never failing to make fans believe he’s genuinely inhuman. That said, The Undertaker is also an employee of a major company that markets to children, so sometimes he had to do silly things like advertise a Jake “The Snake” Roberts plushy with as much menace as possible. Looking at a photo like this, it’s amazing The Undertaker survived past the first few photo shoots without someone realizing how silly it all looked, though wrestling history is of course very happy he did. On a more positive note, the photo might also reveal a hint as to why The Undertaker was so successful, his gritty darkness contrasting the brightly colored cartoon characters of WWE past. If The Undertaker’s loss against Roman Reigns truly was his final match, perhaps we’ll be seeing The Phenom return to his side job as a toy salesman and hawk Reigns’s toys that call back to this old ad.
11. Konnan Goes To The Moon
Now that the Internet brings wrestling rumors to fans’ computers on a daily basis, fans no longer get to truly speculate about gimmicks that might have been tweaked between their inception and execution. This obviously wasn’t the case back in the early ‘90s, leading to confusion when everyone heard Konnan had signed with WWE and was about to debut as some sort of spaceman gimmick. Of course, we now know that Konnan would never actually work for Vince McMahon, and that gimmick, Max Moon, would later go to Paul Diamond. Rumors working the way they do, though, fans were left wondering for many years whether or not any of it was legitimate or if the whole idea of Konnan originally being picked for the role came out of absolutely nowhere. Years after the fact, any question about the scenario should be removed once and for all, thanks to pictures like this one clearly portraying Konnan wearing the Max Moon outfit. Granted, while it definitely happened, whether or not it would have worked is still up in the air.
10. The Power Rangers And Hulkamania Combine
Thanks to being owned by a billion dollar conglomerate with stock in many media outlets, WCW was occasionally a very weird place. Yeah, wrestling can be a pretty strange genre in general, but for the most part, the WWE Universe and other companies have done their best to keep at least one foot in reality at all times. Over in WCW, on the other hand, fictional characters like Arliss, RoboCop, and Chucky the Doll were just as likely to pop up as actual wrestlers. Due to this photo, the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers might as well get added to that list. In retrospect, it’s funny to think of how the Rangers and Hulkamania have almost entirely shifted in popular perception since the picture was taken. Back then, Hogan was on top of wrestling while the first Power Rangers movie heavily damaged the franchise. The opposite is true today, the Rangers having been revived by a successful new film and the Hulkster still hurting from a racist outburst made while filming a private adult video.
9. Making An Enigma
Personal problems be damned, Jeff Hardy has proven time and again that he can easily become one of the most popular wrestlers in the WWE Universe given the right circumstances. For all the talk about brother Matt being the family’s self-proclaimed Broken genius, Jeff simply possesses the indefinable “it” factor that causes millions of fans to flock toward his unique persona. Despite how slapdash and random it can often appear, Hardy’s strange face paint probably plays some small role in why exactly fans love him, which is why a picture like this can have a deeper meaning the more one thinks about it. Defying expectation, Hardy isn’t randomly smearing paint on his face; he’s carefully applying it in some strange pattern that makes perfect sense in his mind. In certain respects, the same could be said about Hardy’s presence inside the ring: it might look reckless and dangerous to an outsider, but to The Charismatic Enigma, everything was, in fact, well planned out, and all is going according to plan.
8. A Colorful Friend Photo Bombs Triple H
The further up the executive ladder Triple H manages to climb, the fewer pictures WWE fans will have of the company COO goofing around with other wrestlers backstage. This picture, in particular, makes it look like HHH is unaware of what Koko B. Ware, and by extension, his infamous macaw, Frankie, are doing to make him look like some sort of corporate pirate, and that sort of behavior will get exponentially dangerous as The Game tries to present himself as a more serious figure. In general, he prefers respectful photo shoots to people putting a bird on his shoulder seconds before the camera clicks. That said, if anyone could get away with making him look like a goof in the future, it would be people in Ware’s exact position — the photo appears to have been taken the night he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. Fans might want to think about this fact the next time they deride Koko as the least deserving Hall of Famer because at least they got a fun snapshot like this out of the ordeal.
7. Getting A Sneak Peak
Chances are, absolutely everybody is aware of the cliché. Moments before the show is about to begin, the big star wants to take a look at the crowd and see what he or she is in for. Maybe they’re nervous, excited, or some combination of both, or in some cases, they simply might not even know what they’re about to do before the roar of the crowd takes over. While this is most prevalent in live theater, pro wrestling has plenty in common with that medium, and it looks like “Stone Cold” Steve Austin is just as guilty as a pretentious actor when it comes to taking a sneak peak at the crowd before the curtain parts (or in Austin’s case, the glass shatters). In one respect, this kind of hurts Austin’s character as “the world’s toughest son of a bitch,” an ice-cold killer who doesn’t care about anything except himself. On the other hand, this touch of reality adds volumes to Steve Austin, the human, revealing he’s no different from any other actor out there, who prioritizes the fans’ reaction over his own performance.
6. One On One With The Great Son
Prior to The Rock making his long-awaited WWE return after seven years in Hollywood to host WrestleMania XXVII, followed by a more continued presence in the industry that made him famous, there was considerable discussion amongst The Great One’s former fans that he had entirely left sports entertainment behind. However, the man who, by then, was known solely as Dwayne Johnson was never going to ignore his family. For this reason, The Rock momentarily found himself back in the company to induct his father, Rocky Johnson, and grandfather, Peter Maivia, into the WWE Hall of Fame. Believe it or not, at the time, Rock’s appearance at the Hall of Fame Ceremony was a slight source of controversy with some feeling he spoke for far too long and about nothing in particular. In other words, people thought he hogged the spotlight a bit. That said, at no point did anyone question that The Rock was genuinely proud of both his father and grandfather for what they achieved that night. Quiet moments between father and son, like the one in this picture, should have made it clear he was there for the right reasons.
5. Lil Naitch Gets A ‘Show’ Shine
Pro wrestlers are just like anyone else insofar as whenever there’s downtime at work, it’s only human nature for them to start goofing off. Or at least that’s the sole explanation anyone can contrive for what exactly is happening in this photograph, portraying The Big Show shining referee Charles Robinson’s shoes with CM Punk appearing to find the situation quite comical in the background. The photo first made the rounds when tweeted by WWE doctor Chris Amann prior to Battleground 2013, yet there was speculation it may have been taken at an earlier event. Interestingly, less than four years later, the whole story takes an added significance due to the fact Amann is suing Punk, an overt sign things have changed in a major way since the photo was taken. That Punk is happy to be backstage in WWE at all is kind of a surprise, given how negatively he’s spoken about it since leaving. Even with all that, though, the real focus is Lil Naitch wearing a smile as big as the man giving him a random shoeshine, a sight that could cause almost anyone to reciprocate the gesture.
4. A Champion’s Celebration
It didn’t last long, and the ending left plenty to be desired, but Daniel Bryan‘s short WWE Championship reign was nonetheless enthralling to the many fans who supported his Yes Movement from day one. Of course, no one experienced this roller coaster on a more personal level than Bryan himself, with his then new wife, Brie Bella, sharing the journey with him every step of the way. Thanks to Total Divas and various other behind-the-scenes style programs on the WWE Network, fans have long been aware that Bryan and Bella were a couple, and it could be easy to assume moments like this happened between them often during Daniel’s most successful run. It can nonetheless remain heartwarming to see the couple at their peak, especially to fans of either superstar, who likely still remember the emotions felt when Bryan won the gold. Now that both Bryan and Bella are effectively retired and ready to raise children together, moments like this can be an important piece of their family history.
3. Pat Patterson Really Likes His Soup
Upon first glance, this picture of The Miz proudly wearing the Intercontinental Championship next to a man in a suit and a slightly annoyed looking Maryse looks rather uninteresting. Sure, Maryse seems miffed about something, but there’s no clue about what that might be, so chances are, the camera simply clicked at an unfortunate moment. Speaking of unfortunate moments, let’s move on to the real focus of this shot. Pat Patterson is one of the most respected names in WWE history, and there he is, looking like a confused old man who stumbled into the frame while eating soup that may or may not be too hot for him to handle. Given his position and reverence within WWE, it isn’t a stretch to imagine Patterson standing in that exact spot during almost every major event the company puts on, ready to dole out advice to younger talent. Thanks to this picture, we’d like to retroactively believe Patterson is always eating during these backstage meetings. For an added bonus, maybe the soup is exotic and/or smells weird, hence Maryse rolling her eyes at Patterson’s odd old-man behavior.
2. Hey Mr. Socko, Gimme A Hell Yeah
While everyone accurately remembers “Stone Cold” Steve Austin as the most popular WWE superstar during the Attitude Era, he was hardly the only wrestler who regularly brought crowds to their feet. In fact, there were certain times when Mankind was right there behind him, almost rivaling Austin’s popularity during his initial brief run as WWE Champion. That said, no two characters were more dichotomous than the Texas Rattlesnake and Mrs. Foley’s Baby Boy, the former a hardened badass and the latter kind of a nerdy goofball. Austin and Foley worked together on many occasions and even held the WWE Tag Team Championships together while Foley was Dude Love. But from a character perspective, Stone Cold was always reluctant to show his softer side in any manner. This rare shot from the Attitude Era reveals Austin dropping the character and falling into hysterics over Mankind’s silly antics, giggling at Mr. Socko and looking like anything but the world’s biggest badass.
1. They All Said The Mountie Was A Joke Who Never Had A Chance…
Just about everyone in the WWE Universe is likely aware that Donald Trump made an unusual number of appearances in sports entertainment prior to dabbling in politics. Hell, being a WWE Hall of Famer was virtually the closest thing he had to an actual qualification for his current job. In any event, while there are no real surprises left to be had with the fact Trump posed for snapshots with a number of WWE Champions, including Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage, and his photo shoots with Ted DiBiase and André The Giant pretty much wrote themselves, this random picture with The Mountie says it all about how deep Trump’s ties to wrestling really go. He didn’t simply take a few photo ops with the biggest WWE stars around at the time; Trump was at least enough of a wrestling fan that he was willing to take pictures with the silliest, lowest profile names on the card. Or maybe he’s just had secret ties to the Canadian government all along…