It’s no secret that WWE cares plenty about the look of its Superstars, holding them to high standards as we’ve seen over the years. Appearance plays an important role in wrestling and it could easily make or break a career. We have seen some names completely transform at the company’s request, and many of them ended up benefitting from the change.
It is difficult to boil it down to just one reason as to why the company enforces some changes, including body weight. There have been plenty of wrestlers who had to bulk up in an attempt to reach WWE’s ideal image, while others were forced to drop weight. In some cases, it was completely understandable as it’s normal for Superstars to neglect their conditioning from time to time, especially when they have nagging injuries. But there have also been times where the company’s request didn’t make much sense, but it is their call, after all.
Most Superstars are usually open to the company’s suggestions but there have been cases where workers refused to cooperate for one reason or another, and it even put their job on the line. For so many years, Vince McMahon was involved in nearly every decision there is – and some claim he still is – and you know it’s serious when it’s coming from the chairman.
With today’s list, we will be discussing 15 wrestlers who were forced by the WWE to change their appearance.
If you have never heard of Manu, that doesn’t come as a surprise since he had a forgettable run with the WWE. After having joined forces with Randy Orton, Cody Rhodes, and Ted DiBiase Jr. to form the now-defunct Legacy, the stable consisting of third wrestler generations was expected to dominate the scene for years to come.
Manu only made a few appearances before being kicked out of the group and released from the company, it is reported that WWE had asked him to lose weight to change his appearance. They didn’t see him as a good fit for the stable in his current shape, and having heat with some members of the WWE locker room didn’t make matters any better for him. WWE gave up on Manu soon afterward after having failed to meet their expectations when it comes to his shape, which shows how greatly the company values the look of its Superstars.
Before the Women’s Revolution was launched in WWE, there were several names who just missed out by having left slightly before the new era. One of those names was Kharma, also known as Awesome Kong in TNA, who had been one of the top female wrestlers in the late 2000s. After making her company debut through segments and in-ring attacks, Kharma’s run was put on hold since she was pregnant.
She would remain with the WWE for some time prior to her release, as the company wanted her to lose weight while altering her character upon her return. WWE found Kharma to be difficult to work with, which led to her eventual release. It has been reported that she was very resistant to make some changes, leading to some disagreements with the WWE. With Kharma failing to meet expectations and the return date the company had set out, she was let go after only one official match.
MVP was one of the most memorable mid-carders of the mid-2000s, engaging in some of the most memorable feuds at the time. While he never went on to become a World Champion, fans still hold him in high regards with many hoping for a return even if it’s just a one-time appearance. Since making his debut, fans have always speculated about his attire with some embracing it while others referred to him as a power ranger due to the design and colors.
What some may not know is that his original attire was supposed to be different with MVP wrestling shirtless, but the company had two concerns that they felt had to be addressed. The first one being his physical shape while the second was a visible tattoo of Malcolm X. Upon receiving the news, MVP designed his famous attire which was approved by WWE officials.
12. Roman Reigns
For the past few years, Roman Reigns has been the face of the WWE as evident by his huge victories over The Undertaker and John Cena. But before he embarked on a wrestling career, Reigns was a football player in bulkier shape. Upon his release from the CFL, he managed to emerge on WWE’s radar who had interest in signing him but told him that he must drop some weight and improve his conditioning.
According to Jim Ross, who served as a commentator and talent recruiter for the company, Reigns worked extremely hard to transform into the man we all know today. Once he fulfilled WWE’s request, he was signed by the company as he began his wrestling training. Fast forward to today and Reigns has become the top Superstar today after having headlined WrestleMania the past 3 years with another one likely coming up in April.
Before he became one of the most dominant forces in WWE, Kane was finding it difficult to find his niche in the industry. After having donned some various personalities – including that of fake Diesel – Kane was finally born and he made an immediate impact in his memorable debut. This kayfabe brother of The Undertaker had a unique look to go with a memorable theme song as well as a strong presence that immediately drew in all fans.
It is said that the company came up with the idea to mask Kane because they weren’t very big on his look without it. While Kane didn’t particularly love the mask, he did accept to take on the persona. Kane is still around these days with a similar look to his earlier days after having switched his appearance for some years, but the clock is ticking fast for The Big Red Machine.
In 2004, WWE decided it was time to bring in new female talents which brought the Diva Search. The contest would run for years, but it’s known for having valued looks more than talent. Many of WWE’s mid-2000 Divas came from the Diva Search, including Maria Kanellis who finished fifth in the 2004 edition.
Following the contest, Maria became a backstage interviewer before she eventually began competing in the ring. During that period, the company really wanted the Divas to look their best and Maria was no exception as she was told to shed some pounds.
It is pretty shocking, to say the least, considering that Maria has always been in the same shape, but perhaps you can’t always make sense of WWE decisions. Maria spoke about the case during a shoot interview, and her reaction was also similar to that of anybody who has come to learn about WWE’s request.
9. Kurt Angle
Plenty of fans may not have a memory of Kurt Angle with hair since it seems like he has always been bald, but that’s not entirely true. At Judgment Day 2002, he lost in a hair vs hair match against Edge who gave Angle the look we are all used to now.
Angle had come to an agreement with the company regarding his new look, but that didn’t last long as he decided to grow it back after a few months. WWE rejected Angle’s request and had him keep his bald look. It’s probably for the best in this case as he had lost most of his hair by then.
After having left WWE in 2006, Angle joined TNA where he wrestled for many years. During some of those years, he did embrace his wanted look by growing out his hair, which is something he probably wishes to be erased from fans’ memories.
8. Mickie James
When Mickie James joined the WWE, she was quick to make an impact and capture the fans’ attention through her charisma and talent. Shortly after, she engaged in a feud with Trish Stratus and she went on to reign over the women’s division after having won the title at WrestleMania 22.
But it wouldn’t last too long as she moved to SmackDown where she didn’t recreate that same success. James had slightly gained some weight, but it was apparently too much for the company who changed her attire and look.
They even wrote a storyline to shame James about her weight with Michelle McCool referring to her as “Piggie” which obviously didn’t go well with the fans. Mickie James left the company shortly after and didn’t return until last year, as she continues to compete with the younger Superstars.
7. Samoa Joe
Younger fans may not be familiar with Samoa Joe’s history, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see that many believe he is a new talent. While that is true to an extent when it comes to the WWE, Joe was training with the likes of John Cena and Randy Orton before he went on a different career path.
Following years of work in the independent scene, including a memorable stint with TNA, Joe finally joined WWE although he had gained some extra weight by then. He was certainly athletic for someone his size and could execute some impressive moves, but his weight did hold him back at some point as he slowed down.
Over the years, Yokozuna has become underrated despite having been posthumously inducted into the 2012 WWE Hall of Fame as the company rarely ever mentions him. When he broke into the scene with Mr. Fuji by his side, he was one of the most intimidating Superstars at the time.
WWE had been trying to recapture the magic from previous years by introducing new larger-than-life characters, including Yokozuna who went on to become a two-time World Heavyweight Champion. A few months into his career, WWE asked him to put on more weight in order to become more threatening.
Yokozuna listened to company officials and bulked up – his weight continued to increase with every passing year. It is said that he had even reached 800 pounds at one point, although it is reported that he was around 550 pounds around the time of his death.
Layla is one of the many women who came from the WWE Diva Search, but unlike so many others, she went on to have an impressive career. Not only did she win the 2006 contest, but she also went on to win two titles during her stint with the company.
As a two-time WWE Women’s Champion, she is the only Diva Search contest winner to have accomplished that feat. But at some point, the company was dissatisfied with Layla, believing that she had gained some weight and even let herself go.
Although she had always been in great shape, she worked hard to meet the company’s standards and it paid off at the end. After having spent almost a decade with the company, Layla retired from wrestling in 2005. She is currently working as a real estate agent as per her official Twitter account.
4. Molly Holly
A two-time WWE Women’s Champion, Molly Holly was one of the names who stood out at a time when talent meant very little in women’s wrestling. While she never had the same sex appeal as other Divas nor did she ever try to be raunchy, Holly was admired for her impressive wrestling ability although not everyone felt that way.
In 2003, Stephanie McMahon asked Holly to drop some weight as the company didn’t see her fit enough for their ideal image. Not only that, but they created an entire feud between Holly and Trish Stratus in which the latter just insulted the former for her appearance.
WWE went on to humiliate Holly in several ways from segments to matches until she left in 2005. That’s one of the many tales of which the company would love fans to forget, especially when considering the current Women’s Revolution and all the anti-bullying campaigns made by the WWE.
3. Big Show
Since breaking into the industry as The Giant, Big Show has been one of the most prominent figures of the wrestling industry. Following a successful run with WCW, he jumped over to WWE in 1999 where he remains as of today.
During his younger years, Big Show was leaner than we would come to know him for most of his career. It has been reported that the company wanted him to put on more weight to make him a more intimidating force and sell him as a threatening giant. Big Show was quick to bulk up, adding plenty of weight over the years.
He continued growing as the years went by, but many believe that he was better off staying lean since he lost some of his agility. This past year, Big Show surprised everyone when he shared an image of his transformation, having shed down some of that weight to look like his younger days.
2. Shawn Michaels
We all know how much WWE values the appearance of its Superstars. It is even more evident when looking at how much their ideal image has changed over the years as the company always adapted to the latest trends. Decades ago, it was the norm for wrestlers to have chest and arm hair but we saw a significant change since the late 80s with the majority of wrestlers being fully shaven clean.
There were a few exceptions in the 90s with some names opting to keep the hair. Names like Scott Hall and Shawn Michaels immediately come to mind with the latter having tested different looks. In the 2000s, he joined the roster by also completely going hairless, which was apparently something the company had enforced on him. While Michaels did regrow chest hair from time to time, it wouldn’t last long before he would once again shave it all.
1. Kevin Owens
Since joining the WWE, Kevin Owens’ weight has been discussed numerous times with some believing that he should shed some pounds while others were quick to defend him. Despite not having the WWE’s ideal look for a wrestler? Owens has already accomplished plenty including a run as the Universal Champion. While we have seen some wrestlers such as Randy Orton joke about his weight on social media, as well as fans who put him down for it, one of Owens’ biggest critiques has been Vince McMahon.
The chairman is known for preferring Superstars to be toned and ripped as we have seen over the years, which made him ask Owens to drop some weight which he has done. Although he may not be in top shape like other Superstars, he did drop some weight since his debut but it’s clear that Owens’ performances were never affected by his shape.
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