In the following article, we take a look at photos of current WWE stars during their younger days. For the most part, you won’t be able to recognize these WWE stars; you can definitely say they’ve done some growing up since their days as children.
Along with the hilarious photos, we’ll give a bit of background on their upbringing, discussing the trials and tribulations most of these Superstars had to endure. Some had a positive childhood while others struggled to get by. We’ll take a look at both extremes. We also discuss which wrestlers on this list aspired to make it in the business since their youthful days and what plans some of the others had back in the day. Regardless, it led them all to the same occupation and they’ve all made it in their own right.
From a punk-looking Braun Strowman to an unrecognizable Roman Reigns posing for an adorable photo, these are 15 photos of current WWE stars looking unrecognizable as children. Enjoy folks and like always, be sure to share the article with a friend. We begin with a wrestler that was far from the monster among men we see on WWE programming these days. Let’s get it started!
15 Braun Strowman
Braun has shared some hilarious photos of his past. Seriously, Strowman looks unrecognizable in most photos of his youth; he underwent the insane growth spurt during his days in the strongman field. Working a normal job in security, Braun was approached to enter the field given the potential of his large size filling out. Once he made the jump, not only was he putting in hours at the gym but his calorie-consumption was truly something else. Braun touched base on how much he was eating back in the day;
“When I’m not flipping ambulances I’m in the gym stacking plates and banging weights. I eat 15,000 calories a day just to be able to feed the monster. It takes a lot to run almost a 400-pound frame. As far as training goes, sometimes I just go out into the woods, and I beat trees down with my bare hands.”
Now a part of the WWE, Strowman has changed his ways. Given the crazy schedule, he’s not consuming anywhere near those kinds of calories, in fact he’s consuming near 3,000 calories which is a huge drop off. He’s looking a lot leaner these days compared to the power lifting days. He also looks unrecognizable in the photo above; he better suits the rebellious kid persona than the Monster Among Men, that's for sure.
14 Finn Balor
Finn decided at a very young age that he wanted to become a wrestler. His early inspirations consisted of the great Shawn Michaels and another unlikely source, X-Pac. Balor was motivated seeing the smaller wrestlers succeed in the business and it led him to flying overseas to Tokyo as he got an internship. Balor admits he did it for the experience and he does not regret making the move.
Obviously, his size hasn’t been a detriment. He was the first Universal Champion. Balor claims that movement for smaller wrestlers is extremely key, he also references Zack Sabre Jr. as another prime example of a wrestler that makes the most of his abilities despite his size.
Along with wrestling for New Japan before the WWE, Balor was always a family man. He frequently posts photos alongside his parents and siblings. Even before the WWE he had it good with New Japan. Balor was hesitant to join the company at first but he now admits he made the right decision;
“Sometimes you just have to take a step back and admire the landscape. It is a very competitive place NXT right now,” Balor said. “Japan was an incredible chapter. I was kind of very reluctant to move on from Japan and very unsure of what I was getting into when I went to NXT. I can honestly say it’s been the best decision I’ve ever made.”
13 Seth Rollins
Like a lot of the others on the list, Seth became obsessed with wrestling at a young age. He recalls his youth and the impact pro wrestling had;
“My brother and I would wrestle in my grandparents’ living room, that was our spot,” Rollins said. “Even when he wasn’t there, I would fight pillows and the wrestling buddies (plush toys shaped like wrestlers) all on my own.”
This would ultimately lead to Rollins actually starting his own backyard wrestling league, yeah he was all in at a young age. Young Seth had some favorites in the ring growing up as well;
“Hulk Hogan was a superhero to me as a kid,” Rollins continued. “I loved Batman as a kid, but he wasn’t a real person. He was a character, and I couldn’t touch him. But Hulk Hogan, I watched him walk out on the ramp and get into the ring. He was a real person.”
Getting to the WWE took a lot of work for Seth. He wrestled lots of matches in front of crowds that featured less than 100 people. His standout match took place against AJ Styles; even back then Styles knew Seth would become something special. Ironically, both are now the top Superstars on their respective brands.
12 Mojo Rawley
Rawley posted this hilarious throwback photo to his Instagram account. He asked for fans' opinions on whether or not he should grow his hair out again. Seeing such a picture, most of us would agree that the completely bald Rawley is a much better idea.
Before the WWE, Rawley’s dream wasn’t to make it with the WWE but instead, he aspired to become an NFL star. Thanks to a great college career, Mojo caught the attention of the Green Bay Packers signing on as an undrafted free agent. He would also sign a contract with Arizona, though an injury derailed his momentum.
The initial purpose of the Performance Center was to turn athletes into wrestlers. Rawley was an early example of that, though he admits he took a massive risk making the jump due to the NFL interest that was still there at that point;
“It made the least sense. It was the biggest risk,” Muhtadi says. “I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.”
Not only was it a risk in terms of experience but it was a risk financially as well. Rawley also took a huge hit making such a decision. He went from a potential lucrative NFL deal to making $37K as a wrestler. Whether you like him or not, you have to applaud his guts in this situation.
11 Nia Jax
You can say that Nia was a late bloomer. She entered the wrestling business back in 2014 with no prior experience. At that point, all she had on her resume was a career as a plus sized model along with some college basketball prowess. At the age of 30, she was entering an entirely different field.
Given her look and family background, the company had big plans for Nia. Despite only being with NXT for two years, she was fast tracked onto the main roster. She’s now enjoying the peak of her career as the current Raw Women’s Champion. And as if that wasn’t enough, she has the honor of being selected as Ronda’s first singles match opponent in her WWE run. Just imagine telling Nia that back when she was just getting started.
In terms of her childhood, Nia admits she didn’t have much, but love was truly all she needed. She recalls Christmas with her family back in the day;
“Awww the younger years. We didn’t have money, but we were filthy rich with love! Our mother worked multiple jobs to make sure we always had what we wanted & needed. My brothers and I had the best childhood memories around the holidays, our mom always made time to make us amazing food, baked goods, and somehow even when times were really bad, we woke up Christmas morning to all the gifts we wanted. I have such fond memories of the holidays with my family, not because of the gifts, but because they were always filled with LOVE.”
Like Nia, Carmella completely changed career paths when joining the WWE. She signed at the age of 25 and was completely green to the wrestling business. Instead, she had a background in dance; she was a cheerleader for the New England Patriots and LA Lakers.
Getting an audition with the WWE was huge for Carmella. However, she recalls things starting off badly when former PC coach Bill DeMott bashed her for lacking personality. We can safely say that’s a thing of the past, if there is something Carmella doesn’t lack, it is personality!
She grew up watching the business due to her dad’s involvement, Paul Van Dale. He served as an enhancement talent. Carmella recalls her childhood and watching WWE programming on the regular;
"I grew up watching wrestling and in wrestling because my dad wrestled when I was younger. He wrestled independently and in the WWE in the 90's, so it's just bringing everything full circle being here in the WWE. When he does get a chance to see me, he's so proud. And he watches NXT every single week and he's always calling me [and] telling me what I'm doing right and what I'm doing wrong, so it's really cool."
9 Bray Wyatt
This hilarious photo was posted by his sister Mika Rotunda. Seriously speaking, Wyatt looks completely unrecognizable in the photo. He’s certainly come a long way since his high school days when he graduated back in 2005. Wyatt was active during those days, he served as a defensive tackle and he continued on during his college days. With wrestling running in his bloodline, it was only a matter of time for Wyatt to decide to pursue a career in the field alongside his brother.
Bray bounced around some awful gimmicks early on before striking gold with the current character we have seen on WWE television for a couple of years now. Wyatt recalls being inspired by such a character early on in his younger days;
“I've always been a huge fan of horror movies. I like the feeling of the thrill and I've always been attached to those movies, so naturally, the progression was once I started watching wrestling, it was the characters that always caught my eye. Like, one of my earliest memories of this was Papa Shango and The Ultimate Warrior and Papa Shango having the nasty black ooze coming at Ultimate Warrior with the voodoo. And I think that's the type of stuff that really sticks in my head."
8 The Bellas
Before the WWE, both the Bella sisters had quite the journey. As a 15 year old, Nikki went through a terrifying experience. She discussed the matter during Lilian Garcia’s Podcast;
"I remember walking home one day from school and this car pulled up behind me really slow and it gave me a really weird feeling and all of a sudden it skimmed me and the man was half n***d and tried to pull me into his car and saying crazy things to me. And it was terrifying. I remember like fighting, running to the nearest house, screaming, crying (and) like praying the person the person was home because I didn't know I was being chased. Being a 15-year-old girl, that year I went through so much and it like broke me."
That was only the beginning of the craziness, as Nikki would even marry her high school sweetheart though thankfully, the marriage got annulled. The twins made the bold decision to move to LA in search of fame; they struggle on route to stardom, Nikki even took on a job at Hooters. The struggle was all worth it though, as not only are they both former Divas Champions but they’re also household names thanks to their roles on reality television.
7 Peyton Royce
Making it to the main roster wasn’t the easiest for both Peyton Royce and Billie Kay. Bayley sent out an emotional Tweet during their SmackDown Live debut discussing the struggle they went through early on;
“When these two got signed and moved to America, they were sleeping on my apartment floor in Orlando for a few weeks until they could get their feet on the ground. So proud to see how far they’ve come, they sacrificed so much to have their moment tonight.”
Now on the main roster, Royce has a heck of a career ahead of her. Still only 25, she has a massive future. Among her biggest inspirations growing up was Eddie Guerrero, she discussed a touching story involving her late idol;
"It never crossed my mind that I can do that. I hate that it comes back into my head, but it was the day Eddie Guerrero died. That was it for me. I used to pray at night and tell him that I was going to do this for you because you gave me all these memories and all these feelings and I just wanted to give back to others the way you gave to me," Royce said. "He was so charismatic. He would make me feel happy. He would make me laugh. He was so amazing to watch in the ring. He was so athletic and entertaining. I wanted to be able to speak Spanish, actually, I am taking Spanish now. I wanted to take Spanish in school because I wanted to talk like him, he was a big inspiration for my life."
6 Corey Graves
Trying to make it as a wrestler, his family grew worried given his look. His brother Sam discussed Corey’s struggles early on;
"We always thought the world of him, but we could only imagine what the paying public would have thought of him," says his brother, Sam, who was also in training. "He was a teenage kid who looked like he's missed a couple meals, going out there and trying to be a pro wrestler."
It was a big struggle early on for both brothers; even Sam would get in the business. Things got so bad in 2011 that Corey contemplated leaving for good. In an odd twist, the WWE would accidentally hire his brother. Instead, Corey was who they really wanted to employ. It was a bittersweet moment as he joined the company, however is brother was shown the door.
His in-ring career was ultimately cut short due to multiple concussions however, that was a blessing in disguise as he would thrive in his new role as a color commentator with NXT. He’s now a mainstay on both main roster shows; you can find Corey on Raw and SmackDown telecasts. He’s come a long way from the dude that was barely able to put gas in his car back in the day.
5 Dolph Ziggler
It turns out that Ziggler aspired to be famous at a really young age. He posted this hilarious photo last month. It’s an old headshot from his Boss Baby audition. Oh, how much we’d pay to see him rock a similar head of hair inside of the squared circle these days.
Back in his younger days, Nemeth was known as an excellent amateur wrestler. His background caught the eye of WWE recruiters and he joined OVW in 2004. Now despite his mat abilities, Ziggler struggled early on in-terms of the lackluster characters he was given. Whether it was a caddie alongside Chavo or as a member of the Spirit Squad, Ziggler’s career could have easily sunk early on.
Luckily, he was one of the only Spirit Squad members to be salvaged and properly repackaged.
We can safely say that his new gimmick worked out quite well. Ziggler has a Hall of Fame worthy resume as a two-time WWE World Champion, two-time US Champion and five-time IC Title holder. Set to turn 38 in a couple of months, Dolph is still a mainstay on WWE programming these days. His longevity in the business is certainly remarkable. Once he’s done in wrestling, he’ll no doubt hit some more auditions reminiscent to his earlier days.
At a young age, Lana always had the goal to entertain. Before the WWE, Lana worked in the fields of both music and acting. She discussed being a fan of the WWE at a young age and how she landed the gig with the WWE;
“I’ve been a fan since I was a little girl. I always watched like, of course The Rock, and [Hulk] Hogan, and Triple H, and Stephanie McMahon, but I never thought that it was a realistic thing that I could ever do. But, since I’ve been three years old, I wanted to entertain and be a storyteller and put smiles on people’s faces. And, I’ve been working in the entertainment business and Hollywood since I was 19. They had a huge Divas Search, and I was presented with an opportunity, and I went through a lot of callbacks. Over thousands of girls they auditioned. It was narrowed down to 12, and then five of us they signed.”
Despite her limited abilities Lana has that special quality. Fans usually hate on performers with a lack of in-ring ability but due to her connection, the WWE Universe has taken to the talent. That’s quite the accomplishment in this day and age.
3 Sasha Banks
Some are meant to perform in the ring and that was the case with Sasha Banks. She even has an essay from her younger days discussing her dreams which talked about making it as a WWE Superstar. If that doesn’t get you motivated to follow your dreams, we’re not sure what will.
"When I was 10 I wrote in my journal that I wanted to be the greatest women's wrestler of all time and that I wanted to change the definition of what it was to be a Diva in WWE.”
It wasn’t all good times for Sasha growing up, instead it was quite the opposite.
“I didn't have an easy childhood - I wouldn't even call it a childhood. I have a brother with autism and Tuberous sclerosis complex, which is a tumour in his heart and his brain, so my whole life was taking care of him. I felt like I was an adult at three. Then, at 10, there was nothing on TV but WWE - I turned it on and was instantly hooked.”
Sasha is currently living the dream out on the Raw brand. Her gimmick is going through a bit of a dry spell but with youth still very much on her side, she’s got a long way to go.
2 Ronda Rousey
Ronda posted this emotional throwback photo to Instagram alongside her father. Although the photo seems joyful, her childhood was quite the struggle and even consisted of Ronda living out of her car at one point. She even struggled with her speech at a young age; who would have thought that she’d be working as an actress and reciting lines in front of a live audience and millions watching at home decades and decades later?
“At about 6, I began speaking coherently in sentences,” Rousey says. “They told me I had brain damage from the hypoxia. But when you’re a kid, your brain figures out a way to reorganize.”
The passing of her father was also extremely difficult, even to this day Ronda hardly talks about his passing. However, with her mom becoming a judo champion, she aspired to be like her. We can safely say the decision worked out quite well. Rousey risked it all later entering the world of MMA and she became a pioneer for not only the female division but the sport in general.
Ronda has now turned the page on her UFC life, as she’s now a WWE Superstar and we can safely say that her career started off on the right track with a monumental WrestleMania debut. She has a serious chance of being one of the best ever.
1 Roman Reigns
Reigns was actually a troubled young man early on. He even spent some time with the Sheriffs Boys Ranch department as they attempted to straighten him out. Roman discussed that time in his life;
“I think a lot of it was because I didn’t have that strong male role model in my life. That’s important. So at an early age I knew if I had children that I would be in my kids’ life no matter what so they never had to deal with any of the issues I had to as a youth.”
Early on football was Roman’s escape, he became a big time prospect during his college days though unfortunately (or fortunately), he didn’t end up getting drafted to the NFL and instead, had a brief career with the CFL. Working with his family’s furniture company, a stuck Roman Reigns decided he was going to give wrestling a try and we can all agree that was the right choice. He looks like he was born to do this (whether you like him or not, there’s no denying his natural abilities).
Now in 2018, he continues to be pushed as the main face of WWE programming. If Roman is to turn heel, he’ll become an even bigger star. Believe that!