Wrestling entertainment has given birth to a multitude of huge stars. Some professional wrestlers reach the pinnacle of the WWE, while other still leave the ring for stardom in Hollywood. The ability to perform and put on a thrilling show means some WWE heavyweights have gone on to become action stars in Hollywood.
Being a WWE wrestler not only requires a star to be a performer, but professional wrestlers also need to be in peak physical condition. Because of their athleticism, some wrestlers have even left the WWE to pursue work in other sports. Some WWE stars even participated in other sports before they entered the WWE. For some, their foray into a different sport has been met with extreme criticism, and for others their history in their previous sports has given them the skills to be successful in the WWE.
Most of these WWE superstars have been involved in other sports that are similar to professional wrestling. Some dabbled in mixed martial arts, some were boxers, while others still were involved in Olympic wrestling – which is of course completely different than the wrestling that’s part of the WWE. Athletes that play multiple professional sports are not uncommon. The most famous of course is Bo Jackson, who had a phenomenal MLB career as well as a short but successful NFL career.
Even Michael Jordan, the greatest NBA player of all time, showed he had the potential to make it to the MLB after he demonstrated his skills playing for the Chicago White Sox’s minor league affiliate the Birmingham Barons. In pro wrestling jumping to, or coming from, another sport is quite common. Here’s a look at ten WWE wrestlers involved in other sports.
10. Randy Poffo AKA Macho Man Randy Savage – Baseball Player
Before he became a WWF legend and one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time Macho Man Randy Savage went by his real name Randy Poffo, and had a promising career playing baseball. Randy Savage played for many minor league baseball teams including the farm teams for the St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds and Chicago White Sox.
He was signed by the Cardinals right out of high school, and he began playing minor league baseball when he was just 18 years old. Savage played as a catcher, and over the course of his baseball career he played 289 games over five seasons. He started wrestling in 1973, which was one year prior to his final baseball season where he played on the Tampa Tarpons.
His baseball career had quite a lot of promise, but ultimately he was destined to be a wrestler. He was told his real last name did fit that of someone who wrestled like a savage, so he went by Randy Savage instead. Macho Man ended up winning a staggering 20 championships during his 32-year wrestling career.
8 Ken Shamrock – MMA Fighter in UFC
Ken Shamrock is undoubtedly the most successful professional wrestler to ever compete as a mixed martial artist in the UFC. His record is so impressive it not only puts the records of other pro wrestlers that have competed in the UFC to shame, but the records of many of the best UFC fighters ever as well.
Unlike most other pro wrestling stars that competed in the UFC, Shamrock started off in the UFC and then later made his debut in the WWF. He has been called the world’s most dangerous man, and has cemented his place in the UFC Hall of Fame. Shamrock transitioned from professional wrestling to mixed martial arts when he was in Japan competing in the Fujiwara Gumi league.
He competed in legitimate wrestling matches while he was part of the league. The popularity of these non-staged bouts lead him to join a Japanese mixed martial arts league known as Pancrase. After that he would join the UFC, and then later go back to pro wrestling. One of the first things he did as part of the WWF was referee a match between Bret Hart and Steve Austin, Shamrock’s first WWF match was against Vernon White, who he easily defeated. His UFC record is 26-11-2, while his Pancrase record is 17-4-0.
7 Kurt Angle – Olympic Wrestling
Kurt Angle not only has earned multiple title belts in his professional wrestling career, but he has also earned something that is undoubtedly more impressive. He is an Olympic gold medalist.
He won his gold at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta for freestyle heavyweight wrestling. The WWF and TNA superstar showed that his athleticism was unmatched when he defeated Abbas Jadidi to win the Olympic gold medal. Angle also won gold the year prior at the World Wrestling Championships. He won bronze at the World Cup in 1992, and then won silver at the World Cup in 1995.
After he won his Olympic gold medal he was offered a contract with the WWF, but he turned it down. He wouldn’t join the WWF until 1999 after he signed an eight-year contract with the WWF in the fall of 1998. Angle’s Olympic gold win was made even more impressive by the fact he suffered a severe neck injury during the 1997 Olympic trials.
6 Phil “CM Punk” Brooks - MMA Fighter In UFC
CM Punk left the WWE at the height of his wrestling career to pursue a new challenge in the UFC. He was one of the most talented and popular WWE stars of the last ten years, and perhaps he will be just as successful in the UFC.
However, the UFC is real. It’s not staged, and many believe the potential for immediate anger is much more severe. For this reason many people have been critical of Phil Brooks since he has no background in amateur wrestling of any kind. He’s not worried though, and has trained extensively in kempo and jiu jitsu. He has been training long and hard, and many expect big things from him in the UFC. Others think he might not last. "He could be one and done, or he could have a career here. I don't know. We'll see," said UFC president Dana White. It is not known who CM Punk will face in his first UFC match, but it is expected to happen sometime this year.
5 Claudio Castagnoli AKA Antonio Cesaro – Professional Rugby Player
Before joining the WWE, Castagnoli, who goes by the ring name Antonio Cesaro, competed as a professional rugby player in his native Switzerland. His time spent as a rugby player was written into his WWE character’s storyline, too. Cesaro started wrestling in the off-season, and eventually he started wrestling all over Europe until it overtook rugby as his true athletic passion. After gaining experience wrestling all over Europe and Japan, he joined the ranks of the WWE team and impressed many in the WWE developmental leagues. When he joined the WWE he became successful quickly, and he won the United States Championship in 2012. Aside from his history playing rugby, the fact that Castagnoli speaks five languages was also worked into his character’s backstory. Cesaro has also found success in tag team wrestling and won the WWE Tag Team Championship with his wrestling partner Tyson Kidd.
5. Lawrence Pfohl AKA Lex Luger – Football Player in CFL
Before Lawrence Pfohl became known as the WWF superstar Lex Luger he had a promising and successful career in pro football as an offensive lineman. While he never competed in an NFL game, he was briefly part of the Green Bay Packer’s lineup. Before that, he found great success in the Canadian Football League playing for the Montreal Alouettes. While a member of the Alouettes he made it to the Grey Cup final in 1979, but Montreal was defeated by the Edmonton Eskimos. After spending a season on the injured list as a member of the Packers he was released from the team. Pfohl then played in the United States Football League. His USFL career started as a member of the Tampa Bay Bandits and then he played for the Memphis Showboats and Jacksonville Bulls. It was at a celebrity golf tournament the year after his football career ended that he met Boob Roop who later introduced Luger to Hiro Matsuda. Matsuda had trained Hulk Hogan and would go on to train Luger to become a pro wrestler in the NWA.
4 Steve “Mongo” McMichael – Football Player in NFL
Not only did he have a formidable career in pro wrestling, but Steve “Mongo” McMichael also has a Super Bowl ring. In college, McMichael played for the Texas Longhorns, and in his senior year he was named first team All-American. His NFL career began when the New England Patriots drafted him. The Chicago Bears would then sign him as a free agent. He helped the Bears win the Super Bowl as a starting defensive tackle, and he was named to the NFC Pro Bowl Team in 1986 and 1986. McMichael finished his football career in 1994 with the Green Bay Packers. After his football days, he took up professional wrestling. He made brief appearances in the WWF in 1995 as a commentator and wrestler, but he would go on to spend four years in the WCW as a wrestler. After wrestling, he returned to football and coached the Chicago Slaughter of the Indoor football league from 2007 to 2013.
3 Wade Barrett - Bare Knuckle Boxing
Before Wade Barrett entered the WWE ring he got his start honing his fighting skills as a bare-knuckle boxer. The Englishman was a champion bare-knuckle boxer while he lived in Liverpool in his early 20s. His time fighting in the seedy underworld got him in to quite a bit of trouble. After winning a big cash prize during one of his matches he was stabbed and his assailant attempted to steal his money. The incident left him with a massive scar and resulted in a lot of blood loss. When he became a professional wrestler his real life history as a bare-knuckle boxer was written into his character’s backstory. His time as a bare-knuckle boxer also resulted in him having a disfigured nose. He currently wrestles in the WWE under the persona Bad News Barrett.
2 Dave Bautista AKA Batista - MMA Fighter In UFC
Dave Bautista has had quite an interesting career in sports and in Hollywood. He is one of only a very small number of WWE stars who have both appeared on the big screen and also competed in a sport other than professional wrestling. Unfortunately, Dave Bautista’s time in the UFC was nowhere near as successful as his time in the WWE or his blossoming blockbuster movie career. Batista has an undefeated record in the UFC, but he only competed in one match. He went up against Vince Lucero and won by technical knockout. However, many saw the fight as underwhelming if not embarrassing. Lucero was out of shape and still managed to put pressure on Batista. Batista ended up going back to the WWE, and then of course went on to star in films like Guardians of the Galaxy and the upcoming James Bond movie Spectre.
1 Brock Lesnar - MMA Fight In UFC
Brock Lesnar is yet another WWE star who tried his hand in the UFC. His mixed martial arts career was nowhere near as successful as his professional wrestling career. Still, he managed to become the UFC Heavyweight Champion fairly quickly, but a series of problems forced him to end his UFC Career early. He finished his time in the UFC with a 5-3 record. Lesnar’s first match was against Frank Mir at UFC 81, but Lesnar lost that bout. Lesnar would later defeat Randy Couture at UFC 91 to become the UFC Heavyweight Champion. He finally defeated Mir at UFC 100 to become the Undisputed Heavyweight Champion in the UFC. Illnesses and injuries cause Lesnar to end his UFC career early. He ended up going back to the WWE. There was speculation for many years about Lesnar’s return to the UFC, but this year those rumors were put to rest when Lesnar resigned with the WWE.