Everyone has a distinct path to the WWE. Back in the day, aspiring to be a WWE Superstar wasn’t on the agenda of most of the talents, in fact, most of them probably didn’t even know what pro wrestling was until later in their lives. When it comes to signing talent, the WWE prioritized image, as opposed to skill and a passion for the business. Today, that’s changed drastically as the company seeks to sign the very best talent from around the world.
In this article, we take a look at a bit of both. We feature current Divas that aspired to become WWE Superstars before their fame, along with other current Superstars that aspired to succeed in other fields as well. What did these two sides both have in common, you ask? How unrecognizable they looked in comparison to now - no matter what they were pursuing.
From Becky Lynch during her indie days to Charlotte appearing on WCW television as a 13 year old, these are 15 photos of WWE Divas you wouldn’t even recognize prior to their WWE fame. Enjoy the article and like always, be sure to pass it along to a friend. We start with the WWE’s Ravishing Russian during her modelling days, let’s get started!
Before the WWE, Lana had other priorities in life. She began as a ballet dancer walking in similar footsteps to her mother. Lana would ultimately transfer those skills and enter the world of entertainment, attempting to break out as an actress.
Her most prominent gigs however, were as a model. The Ravishing Russian still has a slew of modelling pics available from her past via an old MySpace account. She looks hardly recognizable today, compared to the way she looks on WWE television nowadays. Among her top modelling gigs was working as a commercial model for Red Bull. Eventually, she would transfer her skills onto the scene of sports and entertainment, entering the domain alongside Rusev in the summer of 2013. Still young at the age of 32, it’s very possible that Lana returns to modelling once her contract with the WWE expires.
Looking unrecognizable, this is a picture of Maryse during her humble beginnings rocking the black head of hair (we seriously had to look at this picture twice before determining that it was in fact the beautiful Canadian). Looking at Maryse today, there are some noticeable differences, particularly in a certain area; let’s just say her bench press prowess is either garnering some impressive results, or a certain surgery took place.
Like Lana above, Maryse came into the WWE with no prior experience in the industry. Instead, she was all about glamour and modelling, serving as a Playboy cover model along with becoming the 2003 Miss Hawaiian Tropic Canada. Through the Diva Search pipeline, Maryse would end up signing a contract with the company and thriving as both a wrestler and later on, a manager.
13 Charlotte Flair
Yup, Charlotte appeared on pro wrestling network television long before her WWE days, however she was known under her real name, Ashley. Back in 2000, at the age of 13, Charlotte appeared for the company alongside her father as he was involved in a feud with none other than Vince Russo. Russo loved to play the family card, just ask Stephanie McMahon who was encouraged to debut as an on-screen character thanks to Russo’s requests.
Without a doubt, not even Vince Russo could have predicted the outcome. Despite making the cameo as a teen, Charlotte still decided to pursue other things, however in May of 2012 that would all change as she began her training down in NXT at the Performance Center. Fast forward over five years later and she’s already a five-time Women’s Champion along with being crowned as the first ever Triple Crown, even winning the Divas Title just before it would get replaced.
12 Sasha Banks
Before she turned into a mainstream name as The Boss, Sasha Banks was simply known as Mercedes KV, which was not only a play on her actual name, but her name on the indie circuit as well. In terms of looks, Sasha was incredibly young during her humble beginnings, looking completely unrecognizable to her look today as The Boss. Sasha started training back in 2008; so do the math, she was only 16 at the time of her initial experience. With already almost a decade of in-ring work, Banks continues to thrive as one of the most over acts within the entire company.
Going back to her indie roots, she began with Chaotic Wrestling, along with working alongside several other indie promotions, particularly in the Massachusetts area. In the summer of 2012, her dreams were realized after a successful tryout which earned her a deal with the company.
11 Nia Jax
Unlike Sasha, Jax wasn’t always thinking about pro wrestling, as a matter of fact her life was far from the world of sports and entertainment at a young age. As you see in the picture above, Jax actually developed a love for basketball, playing college hoops during her teen years at Palomar College out of California. She would also serve as a plus-sized model; if you haven’t done so yet, check out some of her modelling pics from the past, you’ll be baffled at how different the current Raw Superstar was before her WWE fame.
Signing in 2014, Jax blew through the developmental system quicker than most. Some wrestling pundits weren’t too pleased with her quick rise to the main roster but when you have such a special look, you can expect quicker outcomes compared to most. Like her theme song indicates – “I’m not like most girls.”
It’s truly hard to believe that the WWE hasn’t made any mention of Paige in over a year now. The last we heard of Paige on WWE TV, she was drafted to Raw during the 2016 WWE Draft. Whether it was a terrible neck injury or multiple suspensions, Paige’s time away hasn’t been the greatest, especially during her relationship with Alberto Del Rio, a wrestler who is basically blacklisted by the company given his remarks since leaving the company.
As of September, Paige has been cleared to return. What many fans tend to forget is that the UK native is still only 25, which is hard to believe considering she began wrestling at the age 13 (yup, that’s not a typo). The photo above gives you a sneak peek at just how young she looked, if that isn’t enough, there are a slew of other photos from her indie days prior to the WWE, all of which – she looks noticeably different to the Paige we know and love today.
9 Throwback - Trish Stratus
We decided to add an alumni WWE Diva to the article and we felt as though this one was quite significant given the context of the photo above. Looking rather different to her blonde bombshell days during the Attitude Era - the photo above shows Stratus alongside her High School sweetheart Ron Fisico. Not only were they high school sweethearts, but they ended up tying the knot in 2006 (right around the time Trish’s WWE career was coming to an end). The happy couple is still together nowadays. The happy family has two beautiful children.
Like others on the list, modelling was Trish’s initial breakthrough. Serving as a bikini model for MuscleMag, she ultimately got the attention of the WWE and during the tail end of 1999, she would sign a deal with the WWE.
Ms Money in the Bank Carmella was in a different world just a couple of years ago. Following her University graduation, Carmella entered the world of cheerleading back in 2010 joining the NFL’s New England Patriots. She would later transfer her skills on the hard court, serving as a Laker Girl until 2011 with the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers.
Oh, how things would change for the Massachusetts native. The initial intention for NXT was to sign athletes with no prior experience and Carmella fit the mold with her resume, coming from the world of cheerleading. She signed in 2013 and with no prior experience, the WWE wisely took their time building her up, placing her as a manager early on. Though when it was evident that she oozed with charisma and had the potential to be something more, she was put in the ring and that decision has paid off as she continues to improve over on the SmackDown Live program.
7 Renee Young
Who’s that, you ask? Perhaps the hair color might have thrown you off? Rocking brown locks, that’s WWE broadcaster Renee Young, who isn’t sporting her signature luscious blonde head of hair. The WWE personality has a slew of throwback photos available on her old MySpace account. She looks recognizable for the most part, however this shot makes her seem pretty different and no, not in a bad way.
Young, who went by Renee Paquette (her actual name) - aspired to work in the field of comedy at a young age. She would later move back to her hometown of Toronto in search of a position in the field of broadcasting; it’s at that point that she began covering pro wrestling, obtaining a position with The Score, hosting the program Aftermath, which covered everything WWE. In the fall of 2012, she was contacted by the WWE and as they say, the rest is history.
6 Mickie James
Inching towards her 40s, the veteran has endured quite the career in the world of sports and entertainment. Surely, once her time is up, a spot in the WWE Hall of Fame is inevitable.
Before she would become a mainstream name with the WWE, James began working the indie scene. Along with the lesser known wrestling territories, Mickie worked some edgy photoshoots, in some of the photos (like the one you see above), she looks pretty unrecognizable. After two years of sending the WWE footage, she finally inked a deal with the company reporting to OVW for a couple of years. The decision ultimately paid off as she was head and shoulders better than most once she made her in-ring debut on the main roster. Although she looked stunning then, some might argue that she looks even better today at the age of 38.
5 The Bellas
The photo above is a rare shot of twin magic, both Brie and Nikki prior to their WWE days. The high school graduation photo comes from the twins' days at Chaparral High School back in Arizona, where they were both raised. The two were promising athletes both getting recognition for their play in soccer.
Ultimately, the twins moved to LA in search of fame. They started off working as waitresses and little by little, they began getting modelling gigs with the likes of Budweiser. Through the Diva Search pipeline, the twins would end up signing a deal with the WWE, ironically it was their future step-dad Johnny Ace, that spotted them. Despite their lack of in-ring skills early on, the duo would improve drastically and they would take their names to another level thanks to reality TV outlets such as Total Divas and their own spin-off, Total Bellas.
As you can see in the photo above, Bayley was clearly a life-long fan of the WWE, which makes her experience that much more special. Rocking the Hardy Boyz chain and Lita-like pants, Bayley was showcasing her love for the company a long time ago as she grew obsessed with everything pro wrestling. Who would have thought that years later, she’d be on the same brand as those Hardy guys she loves... What a world folks, follow your dreams!
Attending pro wrestling shows at the age of 11, Bayley would become an in-ring performer at 18. She worked the indie scene a couple of years before getting called up to the WWE, joining the NXT developmental field. The decision proved to be correct as Bayley would become one of the most iconic NXT characters in the history of the developmental brand. We wish we could say the same about her main roster run, though sadly, due to awful booking, that hasn’t been the case thus far.
3 Becky Lynch
Becky’s teen years weren’t the easiest. She dropped out of University and began to spiral a little bit due to living the party life. Ultimately, in 2002, she found a passion in pro wrestling. The photo above shows just how green she truly was early on, looking nothing like her current self with the orange head of hair. Lynch’s path was filled with ups and downs as she would briefly leave the business for a more stable career as a flight attendant. Thankfully, she would end up returning to wrestling and shortly after, Lynch would receive a chance of a lifetime singing a deal with the WWE.
Currently on the SmackDown Live roster, she remains one of the most over acts on the show (men included). Just entering her 30s, Lynch has a long way to go with the company.
2 Alexa Bliss
Little Miss Bliss was actually even smaller back in the day when she was taking up her craft as a cheerleader. She reached Division I for the University of Akron, but would eventually change crafts entering the world of bodybuilding. The domain was huge for Bliss as it potentially saved her life. Alexa struggled with her weight and changing to bodybuilding gave her fine perspective on how to diet properly. Later on, she would actually apply online for a WWE career and wouldn’t you know, Bliss would end up getting a call-back by the company joining NXT in 2013.
Debuting under a Fairy Tale gimmick, who would have predicted that the Five Feet of Furry would end up becoming the most villainous and over WWE talents on the main roster? At the age of 26, her potential is just beginning to percolate.
1 Stephanie McMahon
Although Vince Russo has had a plethora of awful ideas, especially during his WCW days, he was right on the money in launching the Stephanie McMahon character. Before her WWE days however, Stephanie was just a quiet girl with a shy smile behind the scenes. After graduating in 1998, Stephanie joined the WWE’s head offices working as a receptionist and later, working for the accounting department. Her ’99 debut would be significant, as she would turn into a ruthless heel and one of the best of the 2000s. Her position would only continue to grow taking a spot as the Head of Creative behind the scenes and later, getting promoted to a prestigious title as the Chief Branding Officer of the WWE.
She’s come a long way from the photo you see above. However, at the age of 41, Steph still looks tremendous and perhaps, even better than her days back in the 2000s.