Anyone and everyone has got to start their career somewhere; whether you are an athlete, a business person or still in school, you have to expect to start at the bottom of the career ladder. For 10 of these former and current WWE Superstars, that somewhere was competing on a bodybuilding stage. Yes, these names may be very famous today, but that was certainly not always the case. As you might expect, bodybuilding and wrestling have gone hand in hand throughout the years; a great physique is very important in pro wrestling. In fact, it is something that CEO and chairman Vince McMahon, stresses out of his talent. Being a bodybuilder can pave the way for a new career path, and in the case of these 10 individuals, it opened a door to pro wrestling and granted them more success than they ever thought they could achieve. So without further ado, let’s begin; here are 10 former and current WWE Superstars that started their wrestling career as bodybuilders.
10 The Great Khali
Before ever stepping foot in a WWE ring, The Great Khali (born Dalip Singh Rana) was well known in his native county of India. In 1995, Khali made his on stage debut as a member of the “Punjab Police” team. His potential was through the roof, and many knew it was only a matter of time before Khali would win his first competition. A couple of years later, that is exactly what happened. In 1997 and 1998, the 7’1 monster won the Mr. India competition. Khali would later use his tremendous size for other things such as acting and wrestling.
9 Earl Maynard
Earl Maynard is extremely significant to this list, as Maynard was one of the first ever wrestlers to be talented in more than one area. Earl Maynard was not only wrestling along the likes of the great Rocky Johnson, but he was also using his various talents, and starring in films and winning bodybuilding competitions. His biggest honor though, came in 1964, when Maynard was crowned as “Mr. Universe”, a name he would later proudly use in the WWE ring.
The now retired former WWE Divas Champion started bodybuilding at the young age of 18. Despite not having a nutritionist or a trainer, Kaitlyn (also known as Celeste Beryl Braun) managed to finish 10th out of 20 females in her first competition, quite impressive for an 18 year old. One short year later, she would compete in the same competition and win it. Her career highlight was competing amongst the amateurs in the prestigious “Arnold Classic." Kaitlyn was the youngest competitor on stage and still managed to finish 5th. This was certainly an accomplishment she will never forget.
7 Tony Atlas
Tony Atlas (born Anthony White) was regarded as one of the most popular wrestler/ bodybuilders in the company’s history. While he was achieving success in the ring, Atlas was also thriving out of the ring. Atlas competed as a bodybuilder from 1972 till 1985, in addition, Tony kept power lifting all the way till 1995. Tony’s biggest accomplishments in the world of bodybuilding were winning the “Mr. USA” competition three times and competing in the prestigious “Mr. Universe” competition. Atlas credits his bodybuilding success to the WWE, claiming wrestling gave him a platform to show off his physique and make people aware of bodybuilding.
6 Billy Graham
Perhaps one of the greatest physiques in wrestling, superstar Bill Graham certainly had one of the most impressive bodybuilding resumes outside the ring, and an equally impressive resume in the ring. In the ring Graham was a World Heavyweight Champion and in 2004, an inductee into the Hall of Fame. Graham was also well known in the bodybuilding world, as Billy trained with the most iconic figure in bodybuilding history, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Graham was one of the first ever wrestlers to have a gimmick and really bring the words sports and entertainment, into the wrestling world. Graham’s physique paved the way and inspired many superstars who would later join the company.
Before hitting the independent circuit, Chyna (born Joan Marie Laurer) began to take part in fitness competitions. In 1996, Chyna entered the New York City regional level of the “Fitness America” competition, but due to her rather large size in comparison to the other women competing, Chyna would usually place last amongst her competitors. After this problem became a constant theme, Chyna decided to take her physique elsewhere and become a pro wrestler, and well, the rest is history.
Despite a short career, Batista did make an attempt to become a professional bodybuilder. Batista gave up on this career path because of height issues, as shorter individuals were looking much stockier due to their shorter height and weight compared to Dave. Batista then switched his focus to pro wrestling, where he was told (once again) that he would never make it in the business. Despite the criticism, Batista enrolled in a different wrestling school and would end up becoming a six time World Heavyweight Champion; not too bad for someone who had apparently no chance.
3 Vince McMahon
Since Vince McMahon took over the company, it’s no secret he loves the 'monster bodybuilder' look on his wrestlers. In 1990, Vince promised he would shake up the world of bodybuilding forever, when McMahon launched the “World Body Building Federation”. Despite his big plans, McMahon’s promise fell short. The WBF never really caught heat and closed its doors in 1992 (not the first time one of Vince’s biggest investments failed). His passion for bodybuilding is still apparent in the WWE though, and wrestlers like Hulk Hogan, The Rock, Ultimate Warrior and John Cena have been the leading stars, with all of them having a tremendous look to them. Image is something that Vince still finds crucial in a WWE superstar, but for some this could be frustrating, as Vince sometimes passes on a great talent and instead opts for a wrestler with an impressive image.
2 Triple H
Triple H’s passion for bodybuilding has been very evident over the years, and Hunter has inspired many all around the world to pick up a weight and train. His new Power Series DVD set is yet another way Triple H continues to influence people to weight train. Before entering the WWE, Hunter would compete in several competitions at a young age and would capture his first championship in 1988, winning “Teenage Mr. New Hampshire”. After making it in the WWE, Hunter would continue to promote his passion for bodybuilding. Triple H would be featured in many other areas outside of the WWE, such as the Muscle and Fitness magazine. Triple H would also create a book about his bodybuilding career entitled Making the Game. His passion has certainly been well documented throughout the years.
1 John Cena
Before John Cena would hit the ring and became a pro wrestler, he had a passion for bodybuilding. Between the ages of 18 to 22, Cena would compete in numerous competitions such as the “Yankee Classic” in Massachusetts, the “Natural Iron Man” and the “Natural Santa Monica Classic” in California. Despite his four year run, Cena admits it wasn't the proper career path for him. The realization that it is a 24/7 job made Cena think about other options. Constantly packing food and counting every single calorie you put in your body can take its toll eventually. John’s decision to leave bodybuilding certainly paid off quite nicely though, as Cena is the most recognizable superstar in the WWE today.