Stone Cold. Triple H. Hulk Hogan. John Cena. What do these names have in common? Yes, these are all professional wrestling superstars. But more than that, these men possess the most important trait found in every successful wrestler: they are world class entertainers.
Professional wrestlers, especially those who have reached the pinnacle, are incredible physical specimens. They own top tier athleticism, grappling skills, ring command, strength, and speed. The list goes on. But the most important trait found in superstars – a trait that covers up deficiencies in all other areas – is “star power.”
Star power is tough to define and tougher to attain. The building blocks of wrestling stardom – crowd command, acting prowess, eccentricity, and the ability to blend drama with comedy – are often imitated. Fans, however, recognize right away if an athlete has the “It Factor.” Just like an All-Pro NFL quarterback or a world champion boxer, some athletes are born for the bright lights. The competition, and the fans, will weed out impostors pretty quickly.
Wrestling fans expect greatness from our legends. We witnessed The Undertaker’s historic WrestleMania streak and are patiently waiting for John Cena to reclaim the World Heavyweight Championship. But which celebrities outside of wrestling could make a run at a title belt? In this list you’ll find acclaimed athletes and entertainers whose unique skill sets, attitudes, and accomplished professional careers make each a prime candidate to climb onto a turnbuckle and take the WWE by storm.
11. Blake Griffin
Few giants in the NBA can consistently dominate the game while enduring the physical beatings that Blake Griffin does night in and night out. Since being drafted first overall in 2009, Griffin has established himself as an all-world talent, averaging 21 points and 10 rebounds per game while turning around the fortunes of the Los Angeles Clippers franchise. Off the court, Griffin has shown some acting chops, appearing in commercials for Subway and Kia Motors.
Griffin’s name is synonymous with thunderous dunks that demoralize opponents and electrify the home crowd. Clippers fans love these rim-shakers, but competitors often try to intimidate Griffin via hard fouls and excessive physicality. Not only has this resulted in the 5-time All-Star being one of the most fouled players in basketball, it has also led to several fights and three career ejections. Blake Griffin would most definitely fit in well in the WWE. There’s always room for a high-flying, heavyweight heel who’s not afraid to get his hands dirty.
10. Tom Hardy
Is any actor better suited to star in a feature film documenting the transition from Hollywood A-lister to full-time WWE superstar than Tom Hardy? The Englishman has reached stardom as an intense character actor, violently fluctuating weight and immersing himself in roles that require severe mood changes. Hardy first rose to fame playing soldiers in Black Hawk Down and Band of Brothers, then added 50 pounds to his frame for the lead role in Bronson, where he played Charles Bronson – England’s most notorious inmate and prison brawler. Hardy has played an MMA champ in Warrior, a few gangsters, spies, an action hero (Mad Max), and a supervillain (Bane in The Dark Knight Rises). Hardy’s ability to tackle physically challenging roles is unparalleled. An avid mixed martial arts trainer, Hardy is one actor who would thrive in the WWE workload.
There is no badder beauty dominating pop culture right now than Robyn Rihanna Fenty. The 27-year-old singer has invaded radio waves since her teenage years, but lately her career has breached another stratosphere. The Barbados native has 51 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 chart since 2005; she sells out arenas worldwide; and was even named the Sexiest Woman Alive by Esquire in 2011. The pop icon has also appeared in three feature films, most notably landing a large role in Peter Berg’s 2012 film Battleship.
Rihanna, known affectionately as “Bad Girl Ri-Ri,” is no stranger to controversy. She is defiantly outspoken about her sexuality and known to be one of pop music’s hardest party-goers. In true Diva fashion, Rihanna has been romantically linked to celebrities including singer Chris Brown, MLB all-star Matt Kemp, and rapper Drake.
Oh, and did I mention she was an Army cadet in high school? There’s no question that Rihanna has all the tools to be a premier WWE Diva.
8. Raffi Torres
Every professional wrestling battle needs a heel. There is perhaps no athlete in sports more hated and villainous than the San Jose Sharks’ Raffi Torres. Torres has etched himself in hockey lore through sheer brutality and aggression. On-ice “bad boys” are typically big, slow defensemen; skilled at protecting the net and trading punches. That’s where Torres separates himself. The 34-year-old is a somewhat skilled offensive player with quick hands and fast skates, but he plays a much more physical game than his counterparts. The former 5th overall draft pick is notorious for his five NHL suspensions, all for illegal hits. In 2012, Torres received the third longest suspension in league history (21 games), and this October he was suspended 41 games, the longest ban ever for hitting an opponent.
Torres is a tough, skilled hockey player. He’s an asset whenever he is available to play. The quality that keeps him off the ice more than any other player could very well make him one of the WWE’s greatest heels.
7. Conor McGregor
Conor McGregor might be small in stature, but he has scrapped and clawed his way out of the gutter and earned every accolade that he receives in the octagon. McGregor was raised in South Dublin, Ireland where he quickly abandoned soccer in favor of hand-to-hand combat. At the moment, the Irishman is the UFC Interim Featherweight Champion, the number 1 featherweight contender in the world, and the number 2 pound-for-pound brawler in the UFC. He currently serves as the European coach on the 22nd season of The Ultimate Fighter, where he continues display his world class trash talk while promoting his upcoming bout with Jose Aldo. McGregor’s elite athleticism, combat skills, rampant ascension through the UFC, and affinity for the camera make the 27-year-old a prime candidate for the WWE.
6. Rob Gronkowski
Rob Gronkowski is the perfect athlete to transition to professional wrestling entertainment. The man already has a world-famous moniker, he’s built like a cyborg, and sports protective padding that fans call his “bionic arm.”
Gronk is the best tight-end to ever play the game of football. At 6’6, 265lbs, he’s the type of athlete who could dominate any contact sport. The 3-time Pro Bowler pairs brute strength with blazing speed and has scored more touchdowns through his first six seasons than any player at his position.
Gronkowski’s gridiron dominance is unparalleled, but his mental makeup is what could make him the next WWE star. Gronk is an entertainer, inciting fan pandemonium with his celebratory “Gronk Spike,” finding the cameras at every award show, and even hosting a three-day party cruise in the off-season. Gronk was born to entertain and dominate physical competition. The WWE is a natural fit.
5. Nicki Minaj
Nicki Minaj is a transcendent hip hop star. The Queens-bred singer has earned respect from icons across the board, evident in her signing to Young Money Entertainment and business partnerships with megastars like Jay Z and Kanye West. This week, she was even nominated for TIME‘s Person of the Year.
It takes more than an acute business acumen and chart-topping hits to make the WWE. Another reason why Minaj would make an exceptional Diva is that she’s an absolute bombshell. Nicki Minaj’s sex appeal is undeniable. Plus, overcoming a tough childhood in Queens definitely provides some grit to go with Nicki’s glow.
Lastly, Minaj is a genius entertainer. One of her best attributes is the ability to perform under different personas. Minaj has written songs from perspectives of at least six alter egos. This technique was made famous in hip hop by Eminem, but it’s also a common theme in professional wrestling. Nicki’s use of character changes would serve her well in the WWE.
4. Jordan Burroughs
Jordan Burroughs has one important skill that no other member of this list claims: he is a world champion wrestler. While he’s not as mainstream famous as Nicki Minaj or Blake Griffin, he is arguably more accomplished and recognizable in his field.
The 27-year-old Burroughs was a three-time All-American and two-time undefeated national champ at the University of Nebraska. Since graduating in 2011, Burroughs has won three of four World Wrestling Championships and won Gold at the 2012 London Olympics. As the reigning Olympic gold medalist and defending WWC champion, Burroughs is one of the most accomplished freestyle wrestlers of all time and clearly the sports biggest star.
The question is not whether Burroughs could make the jump from Olympic champion to professional wrestler, but rather will he decide to follow the likes of Brock Lesnar, Jack Swagger, and Kurt Angle from amateur wrestling to the WWE.
3. Action Bronson
Action Bronson is one of hip-hop’s greatest gems. The Albanian-American rapper-chef-television host was born and raised in Queens, NY, where he fostered a love for his three favorite things: food, hip-hop, and professional wrestling.
Anyone can see that Bronson enjoys a warm bowl of sage butter gnocchi, but a trip through his discography is required to understand his passion for pro wrestling. Take, for instance, the title of one of Bronson’s early hits: 2011’s “Barry Horowitz,” an ode to the former WWE jobber. Bronson’s historical wrestling knowledge runs deep. He even adopted Bam Bam Bigelow’s moniker as his own.
Aside from rapping about wrestling, Bronson is an acclaimed chef. He hosts a food show – “F**k, That’s Delicious” on Vice – and is known as one of the most entertaining personalities in hip-hop. Barring a fitness test, Action Bronson would be a force to reckon with in a no-holds-barred cage match.
2. Ronda Rousey
Following her first career defeat, Ronda Rousey will likely attempt a comeback and seek a rematch against her victor, Holly Holm. Whether or not she regains the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship belt, one thing is certain: Ronda Rousey is a certified bad-ass. She is also a certified babe.
Prior to the loss, Rousey reached unparalleled celebrity status for a mixed martial artist. Ronda won her first 12 professional fights while repeatedly setting sell-out crowds into a frenzy via lightning quick knockouts. At one point, she won three fights in a combined time of 64 seconds. Rousey also became a regular guest on late-night television shows, acted in The Expendables 3 and Furious 7, and was featured nude in ESPN The Magazine’s “Body Issue” in 2012.
There’s no doubt that “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey wants to regain the fame and fortune that accompanied her rise to the top of the UFC. As a beautiful, bad-ass megastar, Rousey could become the first real female superstar in the WWE.
1. Bryce Harper
Bryce Harper is the reigning 2015 National League MVP and the best young player in the MLB. Harper has been a phenom since his youth baseball days. After two years of high school, Harper was named the best player in college baseball as a 17-year old, and was drafted first overall that same year.
Harper made his major league debut as a 19-year old and has been a force in the MLB ever since. This season, Harper hit for a .330 batting average with 42 home runs and 99 runs batted in. He is known as a five-tool player; possessing incredible power, speed, arm strength, defensive instincts, and ability to hit for average.
But what really makes Harper a candidate for WWE superstardom is his polarizing personality. He plays the game at a fast pace, often breaking “unwritten rules” and infuriating opponents. Known for his short temper, Harper has been on the wrong end of many ejections. This season we even saw a brawl between Harper and teammate Jonathan Papelbon. Harper’s world-class athletic ability, polarizing personality, and impeccable hair make him a perfect fit for the WWE.