The type of body art a person covers themselves in can say loads about their personalities, especially if they make their living in a manner that puts that art on display. The superstars of World Wrestling Entertainment are no strangers to self-promotion, and if there’s a way they can sell themselves without even saying a word, you just know Vince McMahon is going to encourage his superstars to give into their individual whims when it comes to achieving that goal. Tattoos are incredible ways for a wrestler to endear themselves to a crowd the second they appear on screen, and the more the wrestlers tell us about why they picked their ink, the more likely someone in the audience is going to relate and maybe even find a new favorite superstar because of it.
There are as many reasons to get a tattoo as there are to become a wrestler, most of which go far beyond merely thinking they would look cool (although let’s face it: that does play a huge factor). Body art can be an intensely personal medium, what with it appearing on people, and those amongst us who choose to permanently draw on ourselves tend to put tons of thought into the idea before doing so. To be fair, however, sometimes people get tattoos without any thought whatsoever, with the upside being that everyone knows these tats tend to make the best stories in the long run. For tales of pride, regret, and prideful regret (but mostly just pride), keep reading to learn about 15 pro wrestler tattoos you never knew had interesting meanings.
15. Seth Rollins: Samurai Warrior Or Tom Cruise Fan?
When Seth Rollins entered a tattoo shop to Architect his first piece of ink, he had two things in mind: his philosophies on life and, apparently, his favorite movies. Japanophiles no doubt recognize the writing on Rollins’ spine as the seven common tenets of Bushido: integrity, respect, courage, honor, compassion, honesty, and loyalty. Oddly enough, however, Rollins didn’t come across the piece due to his love of Japanese warrior culture—he noticed it in The Last Samurai, starring Tom Cruise. Explaining his decision to ink the code on his back, Rollins claimed to relate to Cruise’s character, US Army Captain Nathan Algren, a former soldier who finds peace and relaxation in the way of the samurai. In contrast to his wrestling character, Rollins claims to follow this code in his own life, or at least find it inspiring to try and do so. Certain tenets of the Bushido code include an eighth virtue, self-control, but it seems pretty obvious why fans of tattoos might not celebrate this particular part of the belief system.
14. Umaga’s Quiet Tribute To His Cousin
Typically when we think of Umaga we think of his wasted potential, succumbing to a drug overdose only a few months removed from an anachronistic yet promising and exciting last run in WWE. The next thing people tend to remember is that he was a black sheep member of the vast and expansive Anoa’i family as the nephew of The Wild Samoans and brother of Rikishi. Umaga was thus also the cousin of Yokozuna, who also featured in a tattoo on Umaga’s right forearm. The tattoo was rarely visible during his time in the spotlight, covered by tape related to his Samoan Spike finishing maneuver. It’s kind of strange in a sense that WWE would have Umaga hide that tattoo, considering they usually love celebrating their own history and the family legacy of their superstars. Whatever the reason they chose to hide it, Umaga’s tribute to his cousin was definitely the most interesting of his several tattoos, the rest merely tribal designs that were never explained well enough to have resonance outside of the tribe.
13. Mideon Paints A Portrait Of A Rebel
Creepy, crawling, and with an eye tattooed on his face, arguably the one thing Mideon had going for him was he looked appropriately weird as one of The Undertaker’s chief acolytes in the Ministry of Darkness. Dennis Knight previously performed as Phineas Godwinn and Tex Slazenger, more country-fried gimmicks, which might explain his fascination with legendary gunfighter Dr. John “Doc” Holliday, who Mideon has tattooed on his left shoulder. Holliday earned his legend through his involvement in the Gunfight at O.K. Corral, the infamous real-life shootout between the Cochise County Cowboys and the group of Holliday and the Wyatt brothers (no relation to Bray’s family). The ordeal has been documented in dozens of classic films, most notably My Darling Clementine starring Henry Fonda and Tombstone starring Kurt Russell. Mideon had a portrait of the real deal tattooed on his shoulder, though, presumably to represent his own outlaw spirit. Far more controversial, albeit likely with the same misguided impetus, is the tattoo of the Confederate flag he has on his other arm.
12. Santino The Barbarian
If you were to compare resident WWE comedian Santino Marella with someone named Conan, you’d probably think wacky talk show host O’Brien before anyone else. Santino himself might have someone else in mind, considering he tattooed legendary film and comic book character Conan The Barbarian on his chest. Santino’s other tattoos show similarly mythological imagery, with a dragon, a lion, and a winged creature, all of which only serve to make the more realistic and human looking Conan stand out as a harsh reminder that Santino is also a strong fighter beneath all of his humor. Perhaps in this sense Santino can be said to represent both of the famous pop culture Conan’s, while luckily sidestepping the negative connotations of being related to WWE’s own Barbarian. Explaining his tattoo to WWE.com, Santino displayed a touch of his trademark humor, equating Conan’s rise from a peasant villager to a king, finding success as a WWE superstar comparable to becoming a king in his own mind.
11. Wade Barrett Earns The Attention Of His Favorite Band
It doesn’t matter how famous you are—if your favorite band reaches out to you, you’re gonna geek out a little. After all, this is pretty much the reason people tattoo song lyrics on their bodies in the first place. Pro wrestlers are the same as anyone else in this regard, which is why a fair amount have had their favorite lyrics tattooed somewhere on their person. One of the most apparent examples in recent years was Bad News Barrett, who sported a large bouquet of roses on his right arm, surrounded by the words “boredom, culture, alienation & despair.” Out of context, these seem like the usual cries of disaffected youth, but indie rock fans will recognize them as the lyrics to “Little Baby Nothing” by Manic Street Preachers. Though MSP were never particularly famous in the United States, they were enormously popular in England, from where both Barrett and the band natively hail. Not long ago, MSP guitarist James Dean Bradfield offered Barrett the honor of recording his next theme song, to which Barrett could simply Tweet “Mind: Blown” in response.
10. Jeff Hardy Wears His Roots On His Sleeves
Calling himself “The Charismatic Enigma,” Jeff Hardy would be expected to cover himself head to toe in tattoos. Unfortunately, that would cut into his ability to spastically throw paint on himself, so he’s kept it simple with only a few actual tattoos strewn throughout his body. Well, relatively simple that is, as the few tattoos he has are pretty big, including a large root that stretches across his entire right arm. Hardy claims he got the roots to remind him of his connection with the earth, equating our planet’s ability to feed trees through water with the human body’s ability to create life with blood. Of Hardy’s other tattoos, the most interesting is probably the dragon on his leg, if only due to the fact it was inked in secret as an act of teenage rebellion, hidden from his father for years. Also noteworthy is the fact Hardy himself drew a few pieces on his right hand with his left hand, a fact he found particularly difficult considering he’s right handed, and you can’t write with the hand you’re writing on.
9. AJ Styles Will Never Forget His Children’s Birthdays
Concurrently to “The Phenomenal” AJ Styles rapidly increasing his profile from indie sensation to top WWE superstar, he’s also been rapidly increasing the amount of ink splattered about his body, and with a very specific reason. While AJ claimed to have always been a fan of tattoos, he was waiting for a meaningful reason to get one himself, deciding at the age of 32 that he wanted his kids’ initials and birthdays proudly displayed on his midsection. The giant AJ isn’t merely to appease his ego, either, representing his children’s names, Ajay, Avery, Albey and Anney Jones. The first three children and their birthdays were drawn onto his body in 2010, with the fourth added six years later, two years after his youngest was born. The process through which AJ received his latest tattoo was documented by WWE as part of the Network Original Series Superstar Ink. Long before he got his tattoos or even had children, AJ was making it clear family came first as early as 2002, when he declined a WWE developmental contract because it would have forced him to move away from his wife.
8. …And Justice For Jericho
Considering the sheer number of times Y2J has taken a sabbatical from pro wrestling to tour with his band Fozzy, the average WWE fan is well aware of Chris Jericho’s penchant for heavy metal music, specifically of the ‘80s big hair variety. Fozzy’s first album was actually almost entirely a tribute album focused on classics of the genre, and their second was about half and half, and the band went on to write exponentially more original songs from there. More than merely cover “The Prisoner,” Jericho has also tattooed a reference to Iron Maiden on his forearm, with the band’s ominous mascot Eddie appearing on his wrist. His other wrist puts him in an equally metal mood, sporting a copy of Metallica’s …And Justice For All cover, a blindfolded Statue of Liberty. That Jericho got these tattoos after entering his 40s only seems to confirm the theory he’s going through a midlife crisis, or at least that it’s his gimmick, his history as a metal fanatic that makes it believable he just always wanted to do this and was waiting for when it felt like the right time in his life and career to get it.
7. The Hot Headed Bam Bam Bigelow
Okay, we admit it: there’s no deeper interesting meaning behind Bam Bam Bigelow’s cranial tattoo. There’s no denying it remains arguably the most memorable tattoo in wrestling history, though, so we would be remiss not to tell it’s origin story on any list even slightly related to wrestler ink. Bam Bam’s tattoo is and means exactly what it looks like—he’s a mean customer with a hot head, and you don’t wanna mess with him. Tattoos aren’t quite as painful as the myth would imply, but that isn’t true for one like Bam Bam’s, which he later admitted caused him to pass out. He never asked for a break throughout the long and expensive process, though, showing just how tough the Beast From The East really was. How expensive was it, by the way? In the neighborhood of $4,500. And that was before Bam Bam was a superstar, so who knows how he paid for it. Our guess? He told the tattoo artist what he wanted, and the guy or gal was simply too scared to tell him no for any reason.
6. Hornswoggle: Part Muppet?
The way he was portrayed by WWE, there were plenty of moments it seemed like Hornswoggle wasn’t an actual human. Standing out as especially cartoonish in the already cartoonish playground of Vince McMahon, Hornswoggle may as well have been one of the several creatures he had tattooed throughout his body, those being Jim Henson’s delightful band of misfit marionettes, The Muppets. Hornswoggle got to meet his heroes on an episode of Raw in 2011, showing off his tattoos of Kermit The Frog and Missy Piggy to the super couple themselves, earning a stiff chop from Piggy when he mistakenly leaned in for a kiss. Despite the situation going poorly for Hornswoggle, he still chose to honor it by getting even more Muppets inked onto his body, adding Gonzo, Fozzie Bear, and the always ornery duo Statler and Waldorf to his body art collection. Horswoggle was blessed with the opportunities to meet even more Muppets when he made a cameo in the 2014 film Muppets Most Wanted. In addition to the tattoos, Hornswoggle also has a considerable Muppet toy collection, which he has displayed on the WWE YouTube series Superstar Toyz.
5. CM Punk Takes The Pepsi Plunge
In contrast to Hornswoggle or Chris Jericho, CM Punk proves it’s possible to be superficial and to have a deeper meaning at the same time, proudly displaying his favorite drink on his shoulder in a manner that also subtly espoused his life philosophy. Of Punk’s many tattoos, the Pepsi logo on his shoulder is one of his oldest, both for the most obvious and slightly more personal reasons. On paper, the logo is a declaration that Punk enjoys Pepsi. Beneath the surface, Punk has explained he also got the tattoo as a response to the many people he knew getting tattoos of their favorite beer companies, defiantly announcing his straight edge belief that he refused alcohol by instead preferring a popular soda. Punk also used his love of Pepsi to inspire his first several finishing moves, the Pepsi Plunge and Pepsi Twist. Punk’s many other tattoos continue to portray both sides of his personality, with his knuckles flatly spelling out “Drug Free” in contrast to the Pez dispenser on his arm, to name an additional example.
4. The Rock Is A Traditional Pe’a Warrior
Bam Bam’s head tattoo aside, certain media outlets have truly overstated the pain of getting inked. This doesn’t apply to archaic mortal and pistol style tattoos, though, such as the traditional pe’a stretched across the most electrifying shoulder in sports entertainment. Most fans know The Rock is of Samoan descent, but one can’t appreciate just how seriously Rock takes his heritage without understanding the meaning behind his most personal—and painful—tattoo. The pe’a process doesn’t use a needle like regular tattoos, but rather handmade pieces of bone, turtle shell, and wood, often requiring two or three people to apply, and sometimes taking weeks to cover a person’s body in full. The Rock’s shoulder alone took three 20-hour sessions with master Tahitian tafuga ta tatau Po’oino Yrondi, composed entirely freehand by the man Rock ventured to Hawaii solely for the opportunity to have the work done. As intricate as it is, The Great One himself described the tattoo as simply being representative of three things: family, protecting his family, and being a warrior his enemies can’t hold down.
3. The Undertaker Has Pride In His Krew
The demonic and ghastly Undertaker is such an insular and iconic figure in WWE lore it can be easy to forget he is a man like any other, and no man is an island. The Undertaker himself acknowledges this fact with a proud display of his backstage gang, etching the letters “BSK Pride” across his abdomen. BSK refers to The Dead Man’s Bone Street Krew, a group similar to Shawn Michaels and his Kliq, consisting of Undertaker, Paul Bearer, Yokozuna, Savio Vega, Rikishi, The Godfather, The Godwinns, and Brian Adams. Although the BSK was never implicitly mentioned on WWE television, by painting the letters across his stomach, The Undertaker was silently acknowledging the influence his friends had on his career, also gradually turning into a tribute to the members time has lost since he got the tattoo. The Undertaker actually got his tattoo in response to Savio Vega getting a much smaller BSK tattoo of his own, defiantly making his much bigger and more noticeable to make it clear he wasn’t kidding about his pride in the group.
2. Lita Is A Punk
Not many females in WWE have been as bold as the men when it comes to tattoos. Of course, boldness is often a prerequisite for a pro wrestler of either gender, so the WWE Universe hasn’t been entirely bereft of inked women. Arguably the most memorable amongst the tattooed ladies of wrestling was WWE Hall of Famer Lita, who sported a large devious looking demon on her right arm and an arrangement of skulls on her left. Far more interesting than her more open display, however, is a hidden tattoo of Lita’s appearing inside her lips and spelling the word “Punk.” No, this has nothing to do with her alleged relationships with CM Punk, and in fact was drawn onto her years earlier when she was living with a tattoo musician at a house where they often hosted punk bands. During a performance by a band named Railhead, Lita allowed her roommate to commemorate the period of her life by injecting ink inside her mouth. According to Lita, the process actually didn’t hurt at all, largely due to how fast it happened.
1. Brock Lesnar’s Drunken Swordfight
We’ve all heard the story. Dude quits his job, sees his life spiraling out of control, goes on vacation overseas, gets drunk, and wakes up with a tattoo he can’t totally remember getting. It doesn’t matter how big, bad, or strong you are; this chain of events can happen to anyone, up to and including “The Beast Incarnate,” Brock Lesnar. To Lesnar’s credit, he at least remembers getting the giant sword inked onto his chest, though he did admit to having been heavily inebriated prior to actually having the work done. The tattoo was actually connected to his drinking in more ways than one, as he claimed the sword represented a literal sword he felt pressed against his throat at that time in his life, largely due to the stress of WWE preventing him from working for New Japan Pro Wrestling, intensified by the fact he was suffering from serious substance abuse issues. Lesnar ultimately cleaned himself up and returned to UFC and then WWE, now using the sword to strike fear into his opponents and further increase his iconic image.