Professional wrestlers are generally considered to be larger than life figures both literally and figuratively. However, though it’s hard to believe at times, most of them weren’t born that way.
Just like us ordinary folks, WWE stars were once children and even young adults who dealt with many of the same issues we all do. Of course, the best way to illustrate this point is with photos that show some of the world’s most famous sports entertainers before they hit it big.
That being said, get ready to see ten images of pro wrestling's brightest stars before they became household names.
10 Hulk Hogan
Hulk Hogan is arguably the biggest name in all of professional wrestling. He has won the world championship on numerous occasions and headlined some of the most successful WrestleMania events to date. The Hulkster helped pro wrestling enter the national stage in the 1980s and was a major player in the famed Monday Night Wars of the late-90s.
In this photo, we see a young Hulk Hogan in what appears to be a high school yearbook photo. In those days, wrestling wasn’t even on the future champ’s radar. As a young man, Hogan was an aspiring musician who played bass for several local bands.
9 Kurt Angle
Former Olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle was recently inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame this past April. Over the course of his now legendary career, Angle earned a reputation as one of the best in-ring performers of his generation. The former multi-time world champ was also good on the mic and could even be quite funny when the situation called for it.
Here we see a young Kurt Angle dressed for success. Back when this image was taken, Angle was already an accomplished amateur wrestler. He began wrestling at just seven years of age and excelled at every level of the sport.
Sable was one of the most popular female wrestlers during WWE’s Attitude Era. While she generally wasn’t regarded as an outstanding in-ring performer, the Jacksonville Florida native had a natural charisma that really resonated with fans. She is a former WWE (then WWF) Women’s Champion and is also the wife of another very famous pro wrestler by the name of Brock Lesnar.
Here we see Sable in her youth looking very different than she did at the height of her WWE run. By the time this photo was taken, the former model had already won at least one beauty pageant – on her way to becoming one of wrestling ‘stop female draws in the late-90s.
Rikishi is one of the many WWE Hall of Famers on our list. He is a former Intercontinental Champion who was known for attacking opponents with his prominent backside. Despite weighing around 400 pounds, Rikishi was fairly agile and even had some pretty fly dance moves in his day. He is a member of the famous Anoa’i wrestling family and is the father of professional wrestlers Jimmy and Jey Uso.
Here we see the big man posing for a high school football photo. Rikishi played ball for Balboa High School, which is an academic institution located in San Fransisco, California.
6 The Rock
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has gone from being of the biggest names in pro wrestling to becoming a Hollywood A-lister. During his time in WWE, The Rock earned a reputation as one of the best talkers the business had ever seen. His outstanding mic work and charisma caught the eye of some big-name filmmakers, and the rest is history.
Here we Johnson as a young man sporting a very stylish mustache. As a youngster, “The People’s Champ” spent a good deal of his time playing football. In fact, in the early-90s, he played football for the Miami Hurricanes and even won a national title with the team back in 1991.
5 Stephanie McMahon
In recent years, Stephanie McMahon is best known as a villainous on-air authority figure in WWE. However, she has also been known to wrestle on occasion and even won the WWE Women’s Champion back in the day. “The Billion Dollar Princess” is a very influential figure behind the scenes and currently serves as WWE’s chief brand officer (CFO). She is the daughter of Vince McMahon and will likely remain a key figure in WWE for years to come.
Believe it or not, Stephanie McMahon may have already begun working for WWE when this photo was taken, as she began her career modeling t-shirts for the organization’s merchandise catalog as a child.
4 Shane McMahon
Shane McMahon is an influential figure backstage and has been wrestling rather frequently these days. He is eldest (and only) son of WWE CEO Vince McMahon and is also Stephanie McMahon's brother. As a wrestler, Shane-O has as a former European Champion, tag champ, and recently won the WWE World Cup at Crown Jewel this past November.
This shot shows a teenage Shane McMahon sitting on the set of what appears to be Tuesday Night Titans. This photo was taken before the future champ made his on-screen debut in the early-1990s. McMahon actually debuted as a referee who went by the name Shane Stevens.
3 Nia Jax
At an even 6-feet tall, Nia Jax is one of the tallest female performers to ever set foot inside a WWE ring. She signed a developmental contract with WWE back in 2014 and has since gone on to win the Raw Women’s Championship. She is a member of the Anoa’i wrestling family which includes some of the biggest names in the sport. The powerhouse out of San Diego, California is also Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s second cousin.
Before she became a famous pro wrestler, Jax used to be a plus-size model. This throwback photo shows the former women’s champ at one of her shoots back in the day.
Paige is a recently retired pro wrestler whose career was cut short due to injury. Though her career ended prematurely, Paige had a very memorable run with WWE. The English starlet made history by becoming the very first NXT Women’s Championship. After being called up to the main roster, she continued to make waves by becoming the youngest Divas Champion in the title’s history. The recently released film, Fighting with My Family, was based on her life.
While she wasn’t famous at the time, Paige was already wrestling when (and at the time) this photo was taken. In fact, she made her pro debut when she was just 13.
1 John Cena
John Cena has been the face of WWE for the better part of the last 15 years. He is one of the most decorated professional wrestlers of all-time, having captured a version of the WWE World Championship 16 times over the course of his legendary run in sports entertainment. He appears to be following Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to Hollywood. Cena recently announced that he joined the cast of Fast & Furious 9 and has already appeared in several popular motion pictures.
Here we have a photo of John Cena during his college football days. He was a former center at Springfield College where he became an NCAA Division III All-American.