There was once a time when a performer's physical appearance only meant so much as it pertained to his status as a professional wrestler. Characters such as Harley Race and Dusty Rhodes were given similar opportunities awarded to the likes of Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan and Lex Luger based upon their abilities to draw interest and money via their in-ring talent and their skills on the microphone. A wrestler's look would only get him so far if he did not connect with fan bases for whatever reasons, and that made for an industry that was filled with interesting characters different from each other.
That unfortunately is no longer the case in what is the biggest North American professional wrestling organization. World Wrestling Entertainment has, over the years, become keen on featuring what are often referred to as “cookie-cutter” performers who all have similar looks and similar physiques. As hard as it might be for a diehard fan or a wrestling historian to imagine, it is very possible that even “The Nature Boy” would not have gotten a true shot to be a world champion and top babyface/heel in the WWE today all because he didn't have the physique preferred by those who run the company.
This is not to suggest that talentless jacked-up muscle-heads are the only individuals pushed by WWE. Some of the best performers in the company who make large amounts of cash for themselves and for the WWE also happen to be in tremendous physical condition. Those independent contractors do not have to look far for inspiration to hit up the gym on a daily basis. Three top executives, two who remain weekly on-air characters, do well to keep themselves in tip-top shape, and they have been featured on magazine covers and also in workout videos.
20 The Rock
The only reason that The Rock is not higher on this list is because he only makes limited appearances on WWE programming these days. Now a true international movie star, Dwayne Johnson has evolved from the fit young man who debuted in the formerly-named World Wrestling Federation to a massive human being who draws attention with every new picture he posts on social media websites such as Twitter and Instagram. Rock seemingly gets bigger with every year, so much so that there are some out there who believe that he may be going a bit over the top with his workouts.
19 Kevin Owens
Those who only know this wrestler from his days in NXT may be a bit baffled to see Owens on the list. The man who got noticed by the WWE when he went by the name Kevin Steen had to wait as long as he did to get an opportunity to perform in the company because of the fact that he was, for so long, overweight. Owens did well to drop the requested amount of weight, and all indications are that he is a favorite among at least some within the WWE. He has been pushed to the top of NXT in a brief amount of time, and Owens could be the next big thing for the company.
18 Mark Henry
So what if Henry is not really “The Strongest Man in the World” anymore? You probably still wouldn't have the guts to tell him that to his face. Henry is a great throwback to the days of old when giant heels would toss undersized opponents around as if they were feathers. While he never met the expectations the WWE had for him when the company gave him a massive contract, Henry's championship run as an unstoppable monster who could not be beaten was one of the best things the organization has done in maybe a decade.
17 Rob Terry
What happens when you take a bodybuilder and try to turn him into a pro wrestler? It sometimes goes poorly as was the case with Terry. Say whatever you will about his talent – or lack thereof – inside of a wrestling ring. Terry earned the nickname “The Freak” because of his physique. Terry's days with TNA Wrestling have apparently come to an end, and whether or not the company would be willing to bring him back for another run is unknown at this time. We'll always have those memories of some lackluster matches and also some funny promos if we have indeed seen the last of Terry in the ring.
Those who only watch WWE may not be familiar with the name, but they will recognize him for his days when he was Brodus Clay. Of all of the performers featured in this piece, perhaps none was more wasted by the WWE than Tyrus, who is now in TNA Wrestling. He may not be ripped, no, but Tyrus has a unique physique that stands out in a crowd and also an unexpected amount of athleticism for a man of his size. He was largely treated as a joke by the WWE, and it is no wonder that he (allegedly) became disinterested in his craft while with that organization
15 Seth Rollins
Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer newsletter and podcasts has said it best when speaking about Rollins and the other two members of what was once known as The Shield: There is a good reason that Rollins is the only one out of the three who performs with his shirt off. Rollins is one of the more underrated athletes in the WWE, and it seems as if it will be a matter of when and not if he is going to get his chance to carry the ball for the company. We could be on the verge of watching Daniel Bryan take on Rollins in a WWE Championship match. My, how things have changed in that company
What is there to not like about Ryback? He is a humongous human being who has those classic “mean guy matches” that were routinely featured on WWE programming back in the 1980s. His push to the top of the card did not go over well, and he and CM Punk likely won't be sending Christmas cards to each other anytime soon. Ryback is nevertheless in the perfect spot on the card, though, out of the championship picture but yet a capable worker who has the weightlifter look WWE has been drawn to for years. Enjoy “The Big Guy” while you can, but don't expect to see him headlining WrestleMania.
How do you get skyrocketed to the top of the WWE roster? Be the workout partner of Triple H, of course. Being a 6'4", 267 lb Irish guy also helps. The WWE unintentionally put Sheamus in a terrible position when the company had him defeat beloved underdog Daniel Bryan in under 30 seconds at WrestleMania. That booking decision turned Sheamus into a hated figure among many who attend WWE events, and it also resulted in Bryan and not Sheamus becoming one of the biggest stars in the promotion. Sometimes, things simply do not go as planned. Sheamus is expected to get another push following his return from injury this spring. We'll see how he is received by the fans.
12 Big E
An athlete with the physique and the look had by Big E is, on paper, a can't-miss prospect in the pro wrestling world nine times out of ten, and yet the WWE seemingly cannot decide what to do with him. The company has tried making him a babyface, a monster heel and even a comedic character. Not of those gimmicks have helped him get over with audiences. Big E is well on his way to being one of those “what could have been” cases, and it does not appear that the WWE will be turning his career around anytime soon.
11 Adrian Neville
At 5'10" and 194 lbs, Neville is undersized in the WWE world of giants, which could turn out to be his downfall if he gets called up to the main roster. That is unfortunate, as fans could be robbed of some dream matches including Neville and the likes of Daniel Bryan and Seth Rollins. The former NXT champion is one of the top athletes in the WWE, and his ability to perform jaw-dropping and even dangerous aerial maneuvers makes him a one-of-a-kind performer. The hope is that the trend of WWE being overly obsessed with size is coming to an end and thus Neville will be given a true chance on the roster.
Rusev may not look like a living superhero as do the likes of John Cena and The Rock, but his physique is nevertheless impressive due to the athleticism he has despite his size. A pro wrestler with a background in fighting, Rusev may very well be one of the better overall athletes in the WWE. The gimmick of the Russian who hates everything about America could prove to be weight in that there is only so much that can be done with it, but Rusev could, because of his look and his in-ring work, become the next Brock Lesnar for the WWE ,but only if given the right push.
9 Awesome Kong
The one word in the title of this piece that earns Kong a spot in the list is “impressive.” How anybody could behold Kong either on television or in person and not be impressed by the female wrestler who is unlike any of her peers is a mystery. Everything happens for a reason, or at least that is what optimists like to believe, but one cannot help but wonder what Kong could have been had her WWE run gone differently. Kong is back at it, this time with TNA Wrestling, and there is always the hope that she will be given another chance by the WWE sometime down the road.
Cesaro seemingly has everything that the WWE would require from a wrestler who should be pushed as a top player. He has the look and the supposed “it factor” to be a star for the company. Cesaro is legitimately one of the strongest men in the WWE. He can cut heel promos with the best of him. The hot Internet rumor on the subject is that those behind the scenes don't like the fact that Cesaro has a European accent, which would be absurd if that is in fact accurate. WWE has so far dropped the ball with Cesaro, which is a shame considering the talent that he possesses.
7 Bobby Lashley
One would think that booking a man with the size and physique of Bobby Lashley would be easy. Turn him into a monster heel, give him a mouthpiece who can cut promos while Lashley just stands there and looks intimidating, and have him plow through opponents with ease until a top babyface can take him down. While it sounds simple enough, it took multiple failed runs in different organizations before TNA Wrestling of all places finally got it right with Lashley for an amount of time. A true athlete, Lashley is on the verge of once again pursuing a mixed martial arts career.
6 Brock Lesnar
Lesnar is a physical freak of nature, an athlete with the type of size and agility that is yearned for by would-be professional football players. Even when he is forced to cut weight before a legitimate Ultimate Fighting Championship bought, Lesnar is still a mountain of a man who draws crowds to their feet the second that his theme music roars over the in-arena speakers. WWE would be crazy to let “The Beast” make a return to the UFC for at least one more big-time fight. Lesnar is the top character the company has, and he cannot be replaced by any one performer.
5 The Big Show
Pro wrestling has been built on what are advertised to be “larger than life” characters. They don't get much bigger in the business than Big Show. Show infamously let himself go after he was paid big bucks by the World Wrestling Federation, and things got so out of hand that he earned himself the nickname “The Big Slow” and also a demotion to a developmental territory so he should shed the extra pounds. Show has since done well to keep himself relatively fit for a man with such a large frame, and he continues to be an active wrestler long after some within the industry believed that he was washed up.
4 Triple H
Long before he was the co-founder of D-Generation-X, The Cerebral Assassin, The Game, The King of Kings and one of the leaders of heel faction The Authority, Triple H was a bodybuilder obsessed with maintaining his physique. While he is now a part-time wrestler who only occasionally enters the ring for a match these days, Triple H has remained as physically fit as he was when he was on the active roster. Add in the fact that he is not taking bumps on a weekly basis, and it is not crazy to suggest that Triple H may be better off physically than he was a decade ago.
3 John Cena
He is the most-polarizing figure in the WWE today, one absolutely beloved by some within the fan base and a man who also routinely gets booed whenever he steps out from behind the curtain during an event. One thing that cannot be debated is Cena's impressive physique, one that he has managed to maintain for well over a decade despite the fact that he is more often on the road than he is at home. Cena has, to his credit, denied ever using steroids or any other performance enhancing drugs, and thus we have to take the leader of the Cenation for his word and applaud his dedication.
2 Stephanie McMahon
Her father is Vince McMahon and her husband is Triple H. Of course Stephanie McMahon would possess one of the more remarkable physiques in wrestling. That she is in such outstanding shape is noteworthy enough. The daughter of the WWE CEO has three kids of her own, but you would not know that merely by seeing her on programs such as Raw. McMahon has been widely recognized for keeping herself physically fit, as she has been featured on the covers of workout magazines. She is also the lead role in one workout video that was produced by the WWE.
1 Vince McMahon
Vince McMahon, the Chairman and CEO of WWE, will turn 70 years old later in 2015. Remember that fact when you come upon a recent picture of the executive and former world champion. Some would say that McMahon has an unhealthy obsession with his physical appearance and that it is unnatural for a man of his age to be so incredibly ripped. Those people may have valid points, but the man's dedication to his look has to be admired. There truly will never be another Mr. McMahon, and his on-air character is still missed by fans who could not get enough WWE programming during the “Attitude Era.”