Similar to the experience of other professional sports, the percentage of people who actually achieve their dreams of being a professional wrestler is incredibly small. Even those who are eventually signed by WWE (arguably the pinnacle of the pro wrestling industry) sometimes spend years honing their craft for lesser organizations on the “indy” circuit.
Those wrestlers who follow this route typically must find another way to supplement the small income which wrestling on the independent circuit provides. As such, this list will count down 15 WWE Superstars Who Had Crazy Jobs Before Signing. Not only will this article provide some insight into the work required to become a WWE superstar, but it will also create the venue for some hilarious stories.
Many of your favorite wrestlers have worked at jobs that you can only imagine, and I imagine they are certainly glad to have made it big with WWE. With many of the performers in this article, you can see the makings of the characters that they continue to utilize to this day. All facts and storylines featured in this article are from WWE.com or are from the first-hand knowledge of the author.
15. The Undertaker – Professional Basketball
Anyone who has watched the early stages of The Undertaker‘s career can tell you that the man was a phenomenal athlete. Despite his large size, Taker had the quickness and body awareness of a much smaller wrestler. It makes sense then, that prior to becoming a professional wrestler he spent some time pursuing an overseas professional basketball career. Taker played collegiate basketball (at the center position) at Texas Wesleyan University. He did not complete his studies, however, and instead briefly attempted to play pro ball in Europe. For whatever reason, Taker abandoned his dream of basketball and instead focused on becoming a professional wrestler. After a failed attempt with WCW, Undertaker would make his debut with WWF as the “phenom” character which has since become so legendary.
14. Big Show – Bounty Hunting
I always wonder what those WWE superstars who are ridiculously large in stature did for a living prior to coming to WWE. A perfect example of this is the Big Show, who worked a variety of jobs before splashing onto the wrestling scene with WCW. The most interesting of these (though he did work for a karaoke company which must have been awesome/terrifying) was the job he held as a bounty hunter. Can you imagine being on the run from the law and seeing a 7ft tall 500 lb. giant coming after you. The threat alone would deter me from committing any serious crime. The lifestyle must not have appealed to Show, however, as he would sign with WCW when he was only 23 years old.
13. AJ Styles – Ambulance Driver
We all know that AJ Styles is one of the most “phenomenal” professional wrestlers in the entire world. But was he equally as phenomenal as an ambulance driver? Styles famously grew up in poverty with his abusive, alcoholic father. After graduating high school, he attended college on an amateur wrestling scholarship. Dropping out of the university to pursue professional wrestling, Styles quickly discovered that he didn’t have the funds to support himself while continuing his training. As such, the Phenomenal One had to drive an ambulance during his early wrestling career to supplement his income. I imagine there are quite a few people floating around the Carolinas who like to tell the story of how the great AJ Styles picked them up in an ambulance.
12. Kurt Angle – Olympic Gold Medalist
Whenever someone criticizes WWE superstars I am tempted to remind them that many WWE greats had incredible athletic achievements prior to coming to WWE. A perfect example of this is Kurt Angle, who won an Olympic Gold Medal in wrestling in the 1996 Olympic games that was held in Atlanta. Angle quickly transitioned his national acclaim into an accomplished professional wrestling career. As if winning an Olympic Gold Medal wasn’t enough of an accomplishment in of itself, Kurt Angle actually had a lingering neck injury which hampered him throughout much of the games. Angle’s amateur success was constantly cited in the early days of his career (in order to give his character some instant credibility), but that doesn’t stop his amateur wrestling days from being one of the more interesting pre-WWE careers in recent history.
11. Samoa Joe – Mortgage Broker
Many of the entries on this list reflect the physical abilities of most professional wrestlers. With the incredible physical demands of the industry, it is unsurprising that many wrestlers worked at other physically demanding jobs prior to signing with WWE. Such is not the case with Samoa Joe, however, as the Samoan Submission Machine actually worked as a mortgage broker prior to his pro wrestling career. For those of us who have seen Joe demolish the likes of Seth Rollins and Brock Lesnar in recent weeks, it’s hard to imagine him sitting at a desk and working out financial deals. Then again, several wrestlers have mentioned Joe as one of the smartest guys on the roster, so it is unsurprising that he held a white-collar job in his early life.
10. Booker T – Wendy’s Employee
This entry makes light of a terrible situation, but I couldn’t resist including Booker T‘s notable Wendy’s career in this article. Prior to signing with WCW, Booker spent 19 months in prison for a pair of armed robberies at Wendy’s restaurants in Houston, Texas. While investigating these robberies, police became suspicious of the fact that the perpetrators seemed to have familiarity with the restaurant’s operations and cash procedures. They later discovered that this was because the offenders, Booker T and his brother Stevie Ray, actually worked at a nearby Wendy’s franchise. Following his rehabilitation and rise to stardom, the public has largely forgiven Booker T for his crimes. I doubt, however, whether he’ll ever receive any endorsements from this fast food chain.
9. The Miz – College Drop Out
Pretty much everyone who is a fan of professional wrestling knows that Mike “the Miz” Mizanin got his first bit of fame as a member of the Real World and The Challenge series on MTV. Many people do not know, however, that Miz’s life wasn’t going too well prior to being cast for these shows. Miz attended Miami University where he studied business but dropped out when he learned he had been cast to The Real World. Apparently, Miz wasn’t doing too well at the time and spent more time hanging out with his Theta Chi fraternity brothers than he did attending classes. Miz is, of course, now a multi-millionaire; so I’m sure that his days spent as a college dropout are now a distant memory.
8. Bautista – Lifeguard
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was recently starred in 2017’s Baywatch remake. Makers of the film may not have known, however, that another WWE superstar turned Hollywood actor actually served as a lifeguard for a number of years. Prior to signing with WWE Dave Bautista was a lifeguard at several beaches along the East coast. By age 17 Bautista was estranged from his parents and had to work several odd jobs to support himself. While some of these jobs were what you’d expect from the almost 300 pounder (bouncer, bodybuilder), Bautista is also apparently a pretty strong swimmer. The first Baywatch film was a somewhat surprising success, so maybe it would be wise of the Animal to make public his lifeguard acumen in order to land a role in the inevitable sequel.
7. Sting – Gym Owner
I bet if you threw a rock in the WWE locker room you could hit a superstar who worked at a gym prior to signing with WWE. Strength and physique are an important part of any professional wrestling career, so it’s natural that many superstars have an affinity for the weight room. The Icon Sting (real name Steve Borden) didn’t work at a gym however, he actually owned the gym. After graduating from the University of California, Borden parlayed a successful bodybuilding career into owning his own Gold’s Gym health club. It was an act of chance that Sting fell in love with wrestling after being invited to a WWF live event. According to Sting, a lineup featuring Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant convinced him to pursue a career in the industry.
6. Enzo Amore – Ticket Salesman
Since the demise of his tag-team with Big Cass, I have started to have serious doubts about the future of Enzo Amore in WWE. While his promo skills are exceptional, he doesn’t have the in-ring abilities to carry a match by himself. Hopefully, WWE can find a place for him somewhere in the company as a manager or even a commentator. If the WWE thing doesn’t work out, Amore can always go back to his old job, selling game tickets for the New York Jets. Pretty much everyone who is familiar with Enzo knows that he is from the New York City area (actually New Jersey). As such, it is unsurprising that he is both a huge New York Jets and Yankees fan. As such, it must have been pretty cool for him to work in Shae Stadium, even if it was only as a ticket salesman.
5. Hulk Hogan – Musician
In spite of the early reservations he had about the professional wrestling industry, Hulk Hogan became the most influential performer in the history of the business. There was just something about the Hulkster’s charisma which aspired itself to WWE audiences and pop culture fans. It isn’t hard to imagine, therefore, that Hogan could have been a fairly successful musician if he wanted. Hogan played bass guitar for over ten years for various rock bands in the Florida area. He even dropped out of college at the University of South Florida in order to dedicate more time to his music. It was at one of his bands shows that Hogan was “discovered” by wrestlers Gerald and Jack Brisco. The pair was so impressed with Hulk’s physique that they invited him to train at the wrestling camp of one of their friends.
4. Mark Henry – World’s Strongest Man
For decades now, Mark Henry has been introduced to WWE audiences as “the World’s Strongest Man”. This is more than a gimmick, however, as Henry actually won the World’s Strongest Man Strongman Competition in 1996. Though Henry was a famous weightlifter before this, this victory vaulted him into national prominence and paved the way for him to sign with the WWE. I think it’s fair to say that signing such a famous and popular power lifter was certainly a feather in the cap of the WWE corporation. WWE has cited his notable accomplishments many times, including several arm wrestling and truck pulling stunts which appeared to resonate with the WWE Universe. This famous portion of Mark Henry’s life is certainly worthy of a place on our list.
3. Kevin Nash – Club Manager
If I had to pick any WWE superstar (past or present) who could be a stereotypical strip club manager, it would probably be Kevin Nash. Nash actually held a variety of positions immediately after high school, including a failed professional basketball career and a position with the military police in Giessen Germany (he even served at a secure NATO facility for two years). It is his position as a floor manager of a strip club in Atlanta, however, which seems to truly sum up who Nash is as a person. The man seems just slimy and conniving enough to work at the sort of run down roadhouse you see in movies. This story is made even better by the fact that Nash was cast in the star–studded Magic Mike films which center around a group of male strippers.
2. Brock Lesnar – Army National Guard
For a variety of reasons, I find this particular entry to be utterly terrifying. On my list of things that I don’t ever want to run into, Brock Lesnar with military training and weaponry is pretty close to the very top. This was almost the case, however, as Brock attempted to join the Army National Guard when he was only 17 years of age. He wanted to work with explosives, but his red-green color blindness caused him to be assigned an office job. Lesnar subsequently failed a computer typing test and resigned his position with the Army. This led him to enrol at Junior College where he would dominate the amateur wrestling world. This, of course, led to him transferring to the University of Minnesota and eventually being recruited to Ohio Valley Wrestling.
1. Nikki Bella – Hooters Girl
WWE divas typically have a small range of careers before beginning their wrestling training. The large majority of female superstars were either models or fitness stars before signing with WWE. Nikki Bella, however, got more of a unique start than his peers. Prior to debuting on the independent wrestling scene, Nikki worked as a waitress at a Hooters chain restaurant. For those of you who don’t know, Hooters is a famous sports bar restaurant where the waitresses wear skimpy uniform outfits. Nikki and her sister Brie have both alluded to this job multiple times on their show Total Divas, though it is not public knowledge just which branch she worked at. Nikki and her sister have now transcended their WWE fame, so I doubt if we’ll ever again see Nikki rocking those iconic orange shorts.
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