Pro wrestling is not an ideal career for someone who is getting older (which is everyone). That is why most wrestlers will, at one time or another in their careers, attempt to transition to a line of work that is less taxing on their body. For most wrestlers the next logical step is to attempt to gain work in the entertainment industry. While in most cases this is not successful, some wrestlers have managed to eek out acting careers that rival the success of their pro wrestling ones.
Hollywood knows that pro wrestlers have their own fans that will follow them into their new career, but that isn't always enough. Hulk Hogan's fans went to go see movies such as Santa with Muscles or Suburban Commando, but once fans figured out these movies weren't any good, they stopped going. Similarly, many wrestlers have attempted to transition to non-scripted sports, most of the time this leads to failure, as the wrestlers are simply too old to start over in a new sport. Of course, there are a few notable exceptions.
In general, there seems to come a time in all pro wrestlers lives where they decide it might be a good idea to no longer pursue a career in the field. Some are successful finding work elsewhere while others are anything but.
Here are 11 wrestlers who found success outside of the ring, and six who definitely did not:
16 Did Not: Ludvig Borga - Politics
Ludvig Borga was not a very well-liked man, so naturally he decided to go into politics.
His success in WWE, and New Japan Pro Wrestling made him a celebrity in his home country of Finland. So much so that he ran for a seat in Parliament in 2003, and won. Controversially, the party he belonged to, the True Finns Party, opposed immigration into the country.
15 Success: Roddy Piper - Acting
From 1987 onward, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper never had to wrestle a full-time schedule, as he was always able to get acting work on the side. After a breakthrough performance in John Carpenter's They Live, Hollywood had a lot of confidence in Piper.
While Piper's later movies were generally of the direct-to-DVD variety, he never had a problem finding someone willing to give him acting work. Piper was the first guy to take sabbaticals from WWE in order to make movies, returning for big events like WrestleMania. He would do the same for WCW. This helped open doors for future wrestlers that wanted to transition into the acting game.
14 Success: Jesse Ventura - Author/Politician/Conspiracy Expert
Wrestling is actually one of the more normal things Jesse Ventura has done with his life.
Before getting into pro wrestling, Ventura was part of the US Navy's Underwater Demolition Team, which was the precursor to the Navy SEALs. After leaving the military in the 70s, Ventura joined the Mongols biker gang, but left just before they entered into a war with the Hell's Angels. He then began his pro wrestling career.
After wrestling, Ventura became a radio show host and eventually moved into politics. He was elected mayor of Brooklyn Park, serving from 1991 to 1995. In 1998, Ventura was elected Governor of Minnesota, but decided not to run for re-election after his term was up.
13 Did Not: Maven - Acting
Remember Maven from Tough Enough? At the time Maven Huffman was 24 years old and looked to have a successful pro wrestling career ahead of him. It didn't happen however. After four years in WWE the company released him in 2005.
Maven attempted to move into acting, and almost managed to reinvigorate his celebrity status through a series of appearances on MTV in 2006. He ended up being a cast member on the reality series, The Surreal Life after members of the cast voted him the winner of a 15 More Minutes of Fame Reality Hunk Pageant. After that he appeared on BET's J List. Unfortunately for him, that was his last MTV appearance.
12 Success: Batista - Acting
Luckily for Dave Bautista, Hollywood has been more welcoming to him than the crowd at the 2014 Royal Rumble was. Dave's size and look has brought him a plethora of movie roles, especially after his breakthrough performance as Drax in 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy (he's also in 2017's sequel).
Later this year, Batista has a role in the upcoming Blade Runner remake, as well as reprising his role as Drax the Destroyer in an upcoming Avengers movie due for release in 2018.
11 Success: Stone Cold - Acting/Podcast Host
An argument can be made that Steve Austin was the deciding factor in the Monday Night Wars. Austin catching fire in '97 and '98 led to him winning the championship at WrestleMania XIV. After that it was smooth sailing for WWE, who would eventually pull ahead of Nitro for good in 1999.
After a neck injury cut Austin's in-ring career short, he moved into acting. While his film career has not rivaled The Rock's in any way, Austin has arguably had the second best acting career of any pro wrestler.
10 Did Not: Chyna - Acting Career
It's hard not to have sympathy for Chyna. WWE gave her a lot, but they took it away in a heartbeat. Once Triple H left her for Stephanie McMahon, the writing was on the wall. Chyna would have had a lot to offer another wrestling company, however she was never able to get herself together enough after WWE to return to the business in any meaningful way.
9 Success: Val Venis - Marijuana Connoisseur
This sort of depends on your definition of success, but Sean Morley, aka Val Venis, seems pretty happy these days, and that really should be how anyone defines success.
Part of the reason Venis is feeling good nowadays is that he is "high" a lot. Not long after leaving the WWE in 2009, he started to become an advocate for wrestlers using marijuana instead of pain pills. He eventually just started encouraging everyone to use marijuana regardless of pain.
8 Success: Chris Nowinski - Concussion Research
Chris Nowinski retired from pro wrestling in 2004 after having suffered with post-concussion symptoms for a year. He first received the concussion in 2003, not long after signing with WWE in 2002. Chris used his own experience to open the Sports Legacy Institute, which has played a pivotal role in raising awareness of the impacts of concussions. As part of his work with the Institute, Nowinski has been able to convince athletes to donate their brains (posthumously, in most cases) to science. That work alone will help further concussion and CTE research significantly.
7 Success: Trish Stratus - Yoga Company
If there is a charity event or gala in Toronto, Trish Stratus is probably there. She has become something of a pillar in the community ever since she exploded onto the sports entertainment scene.
She is the owner of Stratosphere Yoga, a popular yoga studio in the city. The studio has been dubbed "Canada's Largest Eco-Friendly Yoga Studio". Trish, and her business, have won numerous local awards for the practice. In 2013, Trish received the "Top Choice Business Woman of the Year" award.
6 Did Not: Dino Bravo - Mafioso
Dino Bravo was found shot more than 17 times on March 10th, 1993. His murder is still unsolved, but believed to be related to organized crime.
Bravo retired from pro wrestling in 1992. He was 43 at the time and had a decent run. He bounced around the territories from the early 70s to the mid 80s when he settled in with WWE in 1985. Bravo was just in time to ride the pro wrestling boom of the 1980s, and he was in just the right company. He never made it passed mid-card status, but from 1985 to 1992, Bravo was a solid heel in the company.
5 Success: Chris Jericho - Fozzy
You'd be hard-pressed to find many wrestling fans who actually enjoy Chris Jericho's music. His band Fozzy seems to be finding success despite not being any good. Obviously, music is subjective, but there do not appear to be many die-hard Fozzy supporters encouraging other wrestling fans to give Jericho's band a chance.
4 Success: Brock Lesnar - UFC Fighter
Granted, Brock Lesnar's success in MMA just led him right back to WWE, but it made him far more valuable when he did.
Lesnar left the WWE after WrestleMania XX, though at first he was not going to pursue an MMA career. Instead, Lesnar tried his hand at football, taking part in a pre-season tryout with the Minnesota Vikings. Once that didn't work out, Lesnar just needed one fight outside the UFC to show he had potential.
Brock would win the UFC Heavyweight Championship in just his fourth pro bout. His success on PPV while in the UFC made him far more valuable to the WWE when he finally returned in 2012.
3 Did Not: CM Punk - UFC Fighter
Even hardcore fans of CM Punk have to admit that he has not been successful in his new career path with the UFC.
CM Punk went through a nasty public breakup with WWE in 2014. His reasoning for leaving the company were the exact same reasons why many fans were tuning out during that period. Oddly enough, much of what Punk had been complaining about at the time, has been improved. Punk felt that WWE would only push guys who looked a certain way, but since 2014 we've seen an influx of independent talent find success. In a way Punk's departure was the catalyst for change in the company.
2 Success: Diamond Dallas Page - DDP Yoga
Diamond Dallas Page has achieved more in his life since retiring from pro wrestling than he did while his career was still ongoing. DDP's wrestling career may have been fun, but it was only what led him to his current career.
1 Success: The Rock - Mega Hollywood Star
There is nobody in the history of pro wrestling or sports entertainment who is more of a success than Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.
As the Attitude Era began to close around the start of the 21st century, the Rock began to pick up small acting roles. He first landed a role in 2001's The Mummy Returns which led to a bigger role in the franchise's next film The Scorpion King in 2002. From then on the acting gigs kept being offered, which interfered with The Rock's WWE schedule. Eventually the two careers were no longer compatible with each other.
After those films, the Rock stepped away from WWE, only returning sporadically until finally leaving the company on a full-time basis in 2004. He's been back since, but never for very long. There is currently a movement to encourage The Rock to run for President in 2020. That just tells you how huge his stock has grown since leaving the company.
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