Professional wrestling has often been viewed as an evolving form of both sports and entertainment. Change is a big part of what makes wrestling so entertaining. The types of technical moves, submission holds and throws have evolved with creativity from the new generation of wrestling superstars.
We also see an evolution of how creative wrestlers can get with their looks and personas. Alexa Bliss is a perfect example of someone who came into the WWE and made some big changes to her appearance to stand out. Change can often be a good thing and it’s part of what led Bliss to becoming the SmackDown Women’s Champion. That’s why some wrestlers might be seen undergoing a transformation in an effort to remain fresh and prevent themselves from going out of style.
Not all wrestlers go through a transformation. They, as well as the promoters booking them, might feel confident in how their character is perceived on television or in live crowds. There are a number of long-tenured veterans who are unlikely to make changes to their move set, their look or even their entrance music. In many cases, it might be a matter of it being too late for them to go through a major character change.
Either way, wrestling fans have seen a collection of wrestlers who have transformed drastically in recent years while others remain the same. The following features 10 professional wrestlers who have gone through a major transformation during the last five years. It also features 10 wrestlers who are still the same in that five-year span.
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19 Transformed – Enzo Amore
Before he was a certified G and a bonified stud, Enzo Amore was a former NCAA Division III football player and didn’t have a lot of wrestling experience coming into WWE. But the WWE liked what they heard and offered him a developmental contract in 2012. Because he was from New Jersey, he was given a cocky, loudmouthed Jersey persona. While his presence on the microphone hasn’t changed, his look has.
Amore once had long black hair and there was a time when he had no facial hair. Over time, he went from having a pencil-thin mustache to the thick beard. His hair has also changed a lot to include different prints on the sides. He now also features blonde hair in a pony tail that poofs up significantly. It’s safe to say that Amore’s appearance has drastically evolved.
19. Same – Goldust
Dustin Rhodes has been around professional wrestling for a very long time. He’s wrestled under the Rhodes name in WCW and briefly in WWE. While he comes from one of the greatest wrestling families, he’s enjoyed the most success as Goldust. The character was originally a creepy gimmick that had homosexual undertones, but it has become a comical gimmick in his most recent run in the WWE.
Whether he was teaming with Cody Rhodes, feuding with Stardust or starting another tag team with R-Truth, there hasn’t been much of a transformation. There’s no need. Goldust is currently a dependable veteran who helps provide depth to the tag team division and the undercard. A drastic change wouldn’t benefit him since he’s likely nearing the end of his wrestling career.
18 Transformed – Eric Young
Overall, Eric Young has seen a lot of transformations in his character in the last decade. He was once the timid and scared member of Team Canada during the early years of TNA Wrestling, but that has since changed. The last five years have seen Young become more grizzled with an extremely thick beard. Young was in a tag team with ODB before he had a run at the TNA World Heavyweight Championship.
In recent years, Young began wearing a green vest with various patches. He’s embraced working as a villain both in TNA and now with WWE. The veteran is now the leader of the faction Sanity, which puts him as the leader of a group. While he did form The World Elite in 2009, it’s not a role that Young is used to playing.
17 Same – R-Truth
In the last five years, R-Truth has embraced a character that leads many to think something is wrong mentally. It started with a crusade against “Little Jimmies” before having an imaginary friend. It had its memorable moments and it led to R-Truth having a feud with John Cena for the WWE Championship. For the most part, he’s remained in the mid-card or lower as another veteran who provides depth after the brand split.
R-Truth has essentially kept the same kind of entrance with rapping to his own lyrics on a live microphone. Now in a tag team with Goldust, that hasn’t changed much. He’s still throwing dance and hip-hop into his in-ring work. Like Goldust, he could be in the final stages of his WWE career.
16 Transformed – Bubba Ray Dudley
Since first appearing as one of the Dudleys in Extreme Championship Wrestling in 1995, Bubba Ray Dudley has mostly been a tag team specialist. He and D-Von helped revolutionize tag team wrestling through the 1990s, 2000s and in the current decade. But in TNA Wrestling, he changed into Bully Ray after splitting from D-Von. The change was different and led to a successful singles run.
Not only that, but fans started to notice that Bully Ray also dropped a lot of weight during the peak of his TNA tenure. While the Aces and Eights gimmick might not have done well, Bully Ray still held the TNA World Heavyweight Championship on two occasions. Since then, he was last seen teaming with D-Von for the WWE until just after this year’s SummerSlam.
15 Same – Mark Henry
The World’s Strongest Man has seen some ups and downs in the last five years. Mark Henry did earn his first ever World Heavyweight Championship in a feud with in the fall of 2011. It was a time when he was finally given a serious push in his long WWE tenure. It was a short-lived run before Daniel Bryan cashed in an opportunity that led to the beginning of the Yes Movement. Henry has not been a main event superstar since.
While he’s had various gimmicks during the Attitude Era, Henry hasn’t had to try a different gimmick. While he has bounced around between face and heel, he’s still the same 400-pound strongman who uses his brute strength as the base of his offense. It’s probably why the fans aren’t excited and entertained during Henry’s matches in recent years.
14 Transformed – Kane
Kane might be currently competing as the Big Red Machine in WWE, but he’s made a number of character changes in the last five years. In 2011, he put the mask back on and ended up in a duo with Daniel Bryan called Team Hell No. A few years later, after a loss to Bray Wyatt, Kane was shockingly turned into a corporate character, complete with a suit and job title as Director of Operations.
Since then, Kane has gone back and forth between Corporate Kane and Demon Kane. It was even part of a story line in a feud with Seth Rollins for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in 2015. Kane has had a long career that dates back to 1992 and the corporate story line provided something different for the WWE veteran.
13 Same – JBL
Ever since he had a transformation from Bradshaw to John “Bradshaw” Layfield (a.k.a. JBL) in 2004, we haven’t seen JBL make a lot of changes to his character. For the most part, he has worked as a villain. It’s suited him very well as a rich man who belittles the average person sitting in the live crowd. JBL was certainly a top heel for almost two years before dropping the WWE Championship to John Cena.
Even after he retired from in-ring competition in 2009, JBL hasn’t changed his look or on-screen demeanor on WWE television. He still wears a business suit. It is hard to imagine the WWE being able to turn JBL into a face after more than a decade of being one of the more hated superstars in recent WWE history.
12 Transformed – Big Show
Just about every wrestler makes a turn from face to heel or vice versa. The Big Show might be guilty of having the most turns in his professional wrestling career. However, he’s been one of the more consistent and dependable big men in the last decade. In the last five years, his physical condition has changed quite a bit. For most of his career, he was more than 500 pounds. His peak was 537.
But he’s slimmed down and now weighs less than 400 pounds. He’s also apparently working hard in the gym for a big match against basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal for a match at WrestleMania 33. Now at age 44, Big Show might be hoping for one more huge push in the WWE. If he keeps losing weight, he might be fit enough for a lengthy title reign.
11 Same – Dolph Ziggler
There was a lot of potential in that one guy named Nicky in the Spirit Squad when the group debuted about 10 years ago. Since then, he’s transformed into the Dolph Ziggler that fans love to see perform in the ring. There’s a reason he calls himself the Show-Off. Ziggler has established himself to be a dependable performer similar to a lot of great mid-card superstars, vut there has been little change to his look in the last five years.
Ziggler’s attire might have changed from shorts to pants, and he's donned different colors and different patterns. But the attitude has been that of a confident superstar who is out to prove he is the best in the company. He’s also spent a majority of the last five years as the guy who’s looking to break out into the main event spotlight. About 99 percent of the time, that superstar comes up a bit short in predictable fashion.
10 Transformed – The Miz
About five years ago, The Miz was at the top of the WWE Universe. He was the WWE Champion and defeated John Cena in the main event of WrestleMania XXVII. But the character grew stale and The Miz would fall down the totem pole that is the WWE match card. Since then, he’s been able to reinvent his character as one of the top heels on the SmackDown Live roster. In 2014, Miz debuted a movie star character that gave him another boost.
This led to him climbing back up to the top of the mid-card tier and winning the Intercontinental Championship four times. The Miz has also recently become one of the best on the microphone that featured a fiery promo against Daniel Bryan during an episode of Talking Smack. Some think that the movie star gimmick has saved The Miz from falling into WWE mediocrity.
9 Same – Randy Orton
Randy Orton has had a consistent career over the course of the past decade. While he transformed from a Legend Killer to the Viper right around 2007, there really hasn’t been a need to change him much since then. Orton is the type of superstar who works best as a heel and works with a calculated mindset. His in-ring work involves him making moves and “stalking his prey” like a snake would.
Outside of adding tattoos up and down his arms, Orton’s look has been relatively the same for more than just the five-year span this article is focusing on. While the Wyatt Family is a different role for Orton, it hasn't led to him transforming much. He still comes across as the same Viper, but only helping someone like Bray Wyatt. It’s a storyline that could help finally put Wyatt over as the next villain.
8 Transformed – Daniel Bryan
It was around 2011 and 2012 when Daniel Bryan was starting to reach the peak of his popularity in the WWE Universe. He had a quick run with the World Heavyweight Championship and Team Hell No with Kane was a growing success, but it also saw Bryan’s change in appearance. He stopped shaving and cutting his hair to a point where he could have been confused with Cousin It from the Adams family.
Nonetheless, he would rise to the main event spotlight for WrestleMania XXX. Unfortunately, a number of concussions and neck injuries impacted his career and led to his retirement in 2016. Since then, Bryan has cut his hair significantly and is now an authority figure of sorts as the SmackDown Live general manager. It's hard to imagine considering the foundation that the “Yes Movement” was built upon.
7 Same – Rey Mysterio
Rey Mysterio is another example of not fixing something that isn’t broken. The future Hall of Fame superstar has been one of the most marketable professional wrestlers in recent history. Younger wrestling fans want to wear his mask for Halloween and to live events. He’s also a natural babyface with a connection to kids and families. That has not changed during his time in WWE and now in Mexico.
The only thing that has changed for Mysterio’s look is the color scheme for his masks. He certainly has a lot of options that have been used through the years. Mysterio has made some adjustments to his in-ring moves. He is getting up there in age, and has a history with knee injuries but still seems hopeful to wrestle as long as he physically can.
6 Transformed – Bray Wyatt
Husky Harris did not have a successful run in the WWE with the Nexus. After only a year on the main roster, he was sent back to Florida Championship Wrestling to further his character development. It was in FCW and the NXT brand that Bray Wyatt was born. Completely different from Husky Harris, Wyatt sported a big beard, an island-themed shirt and cryptic promos that continued to evolve.
By the time he was brought back to the WWE main roster in 2013, Wyatt called himself the Eater of Worlds. It was certainly a different character that has evolved slowly on WWE television. While Wyatt doesn’t have the best win-loss record against top WWE superstars, he’s still one of the more popular characters. The proof is in the “fireflies” that greet the Wyatt family during their entrance.
5 Same – John Cena
John Cena had his last major transformation shortly after debuting in the Ruthless Aggression era of the WWE in 2002. The Doctor of Thuganomics started to wear uniforms of teams based on the town he was in and whether he was a heel or face. Then he started becoming the face of the WWE with a different colored shirt just about every month. He wore mostly jean shorts or cargos and sneakers as his in-ring attire.
For the most part, Cena hasn’t transformed at all for the last five to 10 years. That’s also unlikely to change anytime soon. Cena has been around long enough to the point where there’s no reason to reinvent himself. Shawn Michaels really didn’t change much during his second run in the WWE and other legends usually don’t transform.
4 Transformed – Seth Rollins
When Seth Rollins came into WWE’s developmental system, his entrance featured a one-man mosh pit with heavy metal music playing. His tights were colorful as he quickly became the top man in Florida Championship Wrestling and then the NXT brand. But Rollins has changed a lot during his WWE career, which started in his main roster debut in 2012. Instead of the babyface fans were used to seeing, he was part of The Shield faction.
His ring attire went from colorful to all-black with a military feel. Rollins would have another transformation in 2014 when he turned on Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns. Rollins has grown into the heel role that included him cashing in Money in the Bank for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 31.
3 Same – Kurt Angle
The former Olympic gold medalist has had a very long, successful career after transitioning from amateur wrestling to the world of professional wrestling. Since 1998, Angle has won virtually every championship possible, both in WWE and in TNA Wrestling. The most recent years of his career have seen him lead the Main Event Mafia and act as the Director of Wrestling Operations in TNA.
But while competing in the ring, Angle still wears some form of red, white and blue – a nod to his Olympic background. Now wrestling on the independents, Angle is hoping for one more run in the WWE. It would be a nice to have the former Olympic gold medalist come out to the familiar “You Suck” chants, but don’t expect any drastic transformations.
2 Transformed – Matt Hardy
If someone was to say that Matt Hardy has made a slight change in character, it would possibly be the biggest understatement of the year. For most of his wrestling career, he was never quite the star that his brother Jeff was in the WWE. Despite having won the TNA World Heavyweight Championship twice, Matt Hardy was never embraced by the fans as a top star, but all of that changed when he became “Broken” Matt Hardy.
The broken gimmick has led to some of the most creative and entertaining matches and segments in recent memory. It’s not just the broken brilliance of Matt Hardy; it’s the memorable characters that have come from his broken run -- Señor Benjamin, Vanguard One, Skarsgard the Dilapidated Boat and even the soul of George Washington in a giraffe. As silly as it all sounds, Hardy has made it work.
1 Same – The Undertaker
There’s an old saying that if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. The WWE actually went against that old saying back when The Undertaker took on a motorcycle riding bad*** gimmick in 2000. There’s a reason it only lasted a few years. The Undertaker is synonymous with darkness and supernatural abilities, not Harley Davidsons and terrible Limp Bizkit music for a WWE entrance.
This is one of those times where change isn’t necessary. The Undertaker doesn’t need to be transformed from The Phenom that he’s always been. While he might only have one or two WrestleMania matches in him, he cannot finish his WWE career as anything other than the dark and ominous figure that we’ve known for more than 25 years.
While he's clearly aged, The Undertaker still carries the familiar look we've always loved.
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