Wrestlers, with their mammoth size, sometimes flamboyant gimmicks, and the toughness that comes associated with professional wrestling, sometimes make it hard to imagine that, at the end of the day, it’s just another sport. They are characters and there are safety precautions that the athletes take. Outside of the ring, away from the lights and cameras, they are vulnerable just like ordinary people. Ok, perhaps, “vulnerable giants” is the right phrase to go with.
While wrestlers are tougher, larger, and often feel like gods among men – towering and intimidating ordinary people – they too were young and innocent once. If Vince ever saw just how cute some of the WWE stars were as children, he might be caught off guard, wishing that a certain click just didn’t exist. Of course, the WWE abhors such moments and often goes out of their way to bury pictures that ruin the aura surrounding their stars characters. Sometimes it’s funny and other times just plain embarrassing. Naturally, wrestlers were once children too and nothing breaks kayfabe like a braces-lit smile, or maybe that embarrassing photo right out of the high school yearbook.
Here are 15 pictures of WWE stars and their youthful misadventures that Vince McMahon will do anything to erase.
15 The Rock
The Rock is one of the few wrestlers who were successful in making their transition to Hollywood work for them. The man was a natural performer in the ring as well as in front of the mic. A definite superstar if there ever was one.From giving his voice to a Disney movie to slamming his opponents in the ring, there is little the Rock hasn’t done or is not planning to do. While he evolved his wrestling career into something larger by venturing into every known entertainment territory, his origins are the “The Rock” will forever be cherished by his fans from his time in the ring.
There are very few wrestlers that can go toe to toe with the Rock when it comes to attitude and athletic prowess. It is precisely this that makes the bewildered looking kid with an afro seem unreal. The Rock has a solid background in wrestling but looking at the kid in his red sweater he looks like the very embodiment of childlike wonder.
14 Shawn Michaels
If every Wrestler in the WWE roster was asked who they had a beef with at one time during their career, pretty much every single one would say Shawn Michaels. While as a wrestler, entertainer and athlete Shawn has carved a large space for himself, his tactics and infuriating attitude towards other wrestlers caused him to have at least one mainstream enemy throughout the span of his career. He managed to win every major WWE title from Royal Rumble to the WWE Championship.
Shawn Michaels has made into the Hall of Fame, but his career has been littered with notorious incidents that don’t say much for Shawn’s character and while he has held the role of the main event and even raked the superstar status, few have truly loved Shawn. However, looking at his childhood picture few can say that this baby will grow up to participate in the “Montreal Screwjob”! Too cute to imagine!
13 Trish Stratus
Trish Stratus rose to power in the wrestling world when female objectification was everywhere. She herself was a victim of the most potent variety that thrived in the industry in the shape of Vince McMahon. Trish is one of the most famous female wrestlers of all time. You can see that she had the spunk in her since childhood. Not only was she a cute child, her aura seems to one of a superstar. However, it is hard to imagine that such a sweet little girl will go on to become the face of female wrestling. Not to mention, be at the receiving end of the most controversial televised display of misogyny.
From being a spunky little girl to female pro wrestler that took more power for herself in a male-centric profession Trish was always at the center of the attention.
12 Seth Rollins
At the WWE Elimination Chamber of 2015, Seth Rollins took his acting skills a bit overboard and right into cartoon territory. His expression in front of the camera was the face of meme frenzy on the internet. Seth retained the awkward look in front of the camera. However, that moment compared to his childhood look, this one is much better. Not only does Seth not look threatening AT ALL, he looks like the sad, sweet kid from class who is often getting a swirly by the mean kids! Rollins retains the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and has a killer look. However, in his youth, he was everything but that. It’s okay though, he was innocent back then and a late bloomer. But considering all things, he turned out OK. The picture of Seth as a young boy was first shared by Roman Reigns, in a moment of nostalgia, no doubt.
11 John Cena
John Cena is not only the face of WWE for this generation, he also has a remarkably good persona and gimmick. His fans love his style, technique and most of all his versatile approach to largely repetitive nature that the WWE can sometimes have. John Cena’s childhood pictures show some early work done towards the eventual goal of becoming a wrestler. His childhood pictures are sweet, innocent and quite adorable. Clearly, he always wanted to become a pro-wrestler. A lot of the mannerisms do become a part of his character on WWE. It is amazing just how dedicated some people are. Who knew when these pictures were taken that the little boy would eventually go on to become a WWE superstar with a cult following!
However, it is hard to take his key gesture seriously, considering he’s been doing that since he was 10 years old!
10 Rey Mysterio
If WWE has a nightmare, it is probably falling into the Indie Gimmick wrestling scene or trap. Rey is a star in his own right on WWE. However, before progressing towards the main ring, he became famous as a masked wrestler! The mask, flair and flaunt were all a part of his persona.
While this particular gimmick gave him the umbrella he needed to really hone his unique style in the ring to become the very best across the globe, it was, quite frankly, not taken seriously. Rey was hardly a favorite for the WWE administration and they have tried their best to distance themselves from the fun and technique oriented wrestling style of Rey. His overall physique and height was something that hardly made for a wrestler but through struggle he managed to become a great one indeed. His picture as a child shows just how hopeful he was as a child!
Charlotte is not just a second generation wrestling legacy but also the current WWE female wrestling champion. Ric Flair’s daughter is a tremendous athlete. WWE goes to great lengths to show off their trophy wins over the years, the massive numbers and following of the 90’s and just how much following professional wrestling had with WWE as the main provider of this platform.
While truly ingenious characters and gimmicks have thrived in the ring, there has been a disturbing trend that has marred much of WWE history: unabated misogyny and female objectification. Charlotte is trying to set a new trend and while the narrative is evolving there is still a long way to go.
Charlotte is a star and a proponent of health and well-being, something she carries with a great physical form. Charlotte looks just as beautiful as a child as she does now. The rare photo gives a sense of realism to the star and that she too is a human with a real person’s past and childhood!
8 Roman Reigns
Roman is the latest WWE love interest; the golden boy is the front for the WWE image and promotions. However, it is hard to imagine the hardcore Roman, famous for his mugshots and attitude, is the same innocent kid in his father’s arms. The picture of Roman is sweet and adorable and a far cry from the type of publicity WWE is looking for! It is ironic that before signing on to fight for WWE, he ended up creating a criminal record for himself for “fighting under influence”. Not only is this immature, it is downright embarrassing for the WWE administration. No wonder they go to great lengths to sweep such details under the rug. Now imagine if the baby pictures of Roman broke Kayfabe even further! How can you possibly feel threatened by such a cute toddler and with that pout?
7 Braun Strowman
Persona is everything in professional wrestling, you simply cannot break character. Being caught in the act of destroying food is hardly the wrestling material that is considered a genuine threat to Brock Lesnar. Braun Strowman’s initial years in the business were lukewarm at best when he started out as a member of the Wyatt family.
WWE has invested quite a bit in bringing him to this point where he has a massive following, persona and having a deceptively sharp technique that can throw any competitor out of the ring. His childhood image is a disaster for WWE, as it undermines the “badass” image of Braun to one of a chubby, cute kid that you want to pull the cheeks of!
Braun was clearly a healthy child and a true connoisseur of food since he was a child!
6 The Big Show
The Big Show, or the giant of the ring who has six packs, shot to fame for two reasons; his size and his mum attitude. His aura was just as massive as his personality; one that inspired fear even in the best of athletes in the business. Big Show was introduced to the world of wrestling by another great of the world; Hulk Hogan in 1995. Outside of the first five years that he signed with WCW Big Show spent the entire duration of his career with WWE and is considered one of the great successes of the platform.
For his entire adult life, he was portraying one character or another, nearly all of which focused on his behemoth physicality and Big Show was the identity that he finally comfortably settled in. Looking at his childhood photo it is impossible to relate the giant with the bright-eyed, innocent and happy-faced kid that he once was.
5 Bubba Ray Dudley
Bubba was part of the Duddley Boys Duo and won the tag team championship a record 10 times during his expansive career that lasted 26 years in Pro wrestling. Bubba Ray is a true entertainer and a tremendous athlete. He even snagged the Hardcore Championship eight times! Devon and Bubba Ray were the best of the best in terms of wrestling partners. Not only were they unbeatable, they were inseparable.
Dudley spent most of his career teaming with his kayfabe half-brother; D-Von as a part of the best “Tag Team Duo” and the only ones to have held every title that could be found for tag team wrestling making them a truly historic presence in the world of Professional Wrestling. They have won the TNA, WCW, WWF and WWE Tag Team Championships along with a few others. It is amazing how different and unthreatening Bubba Ray looks as a child, so hopeful and full of wonder. It is hard to see him as the king of ladders, chairs, and tables!
4 The Bella Twins
The Bella Twins are an example of a phenomenon that has grown one fan at a time. Not only are the twins the undisputed Diva sensations of WWE for the last ten years, they have navigated the misogyny ridden minefield with considerable finesse. The novelty of female tag team wrestlers that were twins never really went out of style. Their commodity status has allowed them to build a massive fan base and venture into other territories, like fashion design.
The twins are truly talented and a powerhouse duo. Both sisters have been Diva champs and Nikki has been a champ twice! While it is hard to humanize the “Diva” perfection of the twins, they too were little, sweet and cute. Their picture shows them as tight as ever and not even a WWE storyline that exploits their differences for the sake of entertainment can keep them apart. Divas since childhood!
3 The Undertaker
Undertaker is a sensation, a name that everyone knows. You do not have to be a wrestling fan to be aware of the undertaker. The character and the persona are considered one of the best gimmicks in the history of WWE. Every fan knows about the celebrated legend of “the Streak”, the fact that he remained undefeated in every match till a fight with Brock Lesnar went for the collision course in 2014. The Undertaker is definitely the most celebrated performers in the history of Wrestling. His character was one of the most tightly guarded myths, WWE went to great lengths to prevent his humanization in any way. It was just a part of the Undertaker persona. No gimmick, no legacy was ever as successful. The rare photograph from his youth makes it hard to relate the undertaker to. The picture speaks volumes about the wrestler’s ability to have kept such a good grip on his Kayfabe throughout the years. He looks almost too normal!
2 Randy Orton
Kayfabe is important for the survival of any wrestler and keeping the persona and gimmick alive is the lifeline of their career. For someone whose character is called “Randall Viper”, the picture of his childhood where he has a toothless, crooked grin is just too humanizing. You simply cannot relate to the Viper persona after looking at Randy as a child.
Randy started out slow in the business and while his current viper gimmick is working for him, thanks to the attitude and killer looks. Randy’s a second generation wrestling legacy, he probably knew as a kid that the ring was going to be the place for him. The picture of his childhood gives a very vulnerable look into the early years of the “Viper” making the audience remember that the people that seem so fearless and giant like in the ring are at heart, sporting the same crooked, toothy grin.
1 Dean Ambrose
It is hard to think of the wrestling world without the antics of Dean Ambrose. He is one wrestler who has managed a persona even with bubblegum pink hair, a series of lame gestures and gaudy accessories. It was always hard to take him seriously but in spite of the strange fashion choices, he has carved a name for himself in the wrestling world. In the initial years, every wrestler is going through the motions, making the best of horrible situations and doing odd gimmicks to make their mark in the WWE history. In his 10 years in the business his lunacy has matured and evolved, but at no time did it disappear. However, his cool persona makes it work now. The picture of him sulking as a child points towards the adult that became the perfect showman! He looks quite cute, trying to maintain his angry slouch and pout for the camera.