Physical appearance is one of the more important aspects of a wrestler’s character. A unique look can make someone stand out for better or worse. All performers will need to make some sort of change through the years to keep things fresh. Chris Jericho cut his long hair and started going with the short hair instead. Kevin Owens saw his career change for the better when ditching the tradition singlet gear for his controversial look of a t-shirt and basketball shorts. Wrestlers make changes all the time, but some of them just happen to fly under the radar.
Many of the relevant stars of the industry today are known for their current looks. The shocking fact is they made a huge change at some point in their careers to get to what we know them for today. These transformations either happened under the radar or the wrestlers have done so much with their current look that it is unbelievable to remember the past. The drastic changes are ones that have been forgotten in the wrestling world today. We’ll glance at them all by breaking down fifteen of the active wrestling stars that you likely weren’t aware dramatically changed their look.
15 Big Show
Big Show's look has changed many times through the years. Show losing the long hair for a short cut and later going completely bald look was the most glaring change. A more recent one has seen him hit the gym to become a lean, big man. Show recently returned to television after a few months away. His overall look and gear was the same, leading to many fans missing out on how much weight he lost.
Show was announced as less than 400 pounds and appeared to be in the best shape of his career. The big man is likely winding down in the WWE with retirement coming sooner than later. Still, life after wrestling will be important to be in good shape. The positive changes will benefit his life for the better going forward.
14 Matt Hardy
The success of “Broken” Matt Hardy in 2016 has seen him become one of the top wrestling stars of the year. Hardy has done such a great job with the new character that we sort of forget how new it is. The new persona comes with a new wardrobe and altered hairstyle. Hardy quite frankly looks like someone that has completely lost his mind, but it's working to perfection.
Such drastic changes were a risk for the established star, but it paid off. Fans now chant “Delete” at wrestling shows all over the world. WWE even wants Hardy back when his contract expires at the end of February. Hardy proved the risk of a character and look change can lead to a very positive outcome in a wrestler’s career.
13 Becky Lynch
Becky Lynch was one of the most talented women in NXT from day one, as her vast experience traveling the world showed her potential. Her lack of presence, however, failed to set her apart from her peers. Lynch turning face and dying her hair orange completely changed that perception among fans. Instead of just being a great in-ring performer that looked like everyone else, she was now connecting with her character.
Her loud hair color started to make her stand out physically among the pack. Lynch’s new character showing more of a genuine passionate and kind-hearted spirit also helped to get her to the main roster. Wrestling fans can’t imagine Becky having hair any color hair other than orange these days, but she went most of her NXT tenure without it until the drastic change.
12 Al Snow
ECW fans and WWE Attitude Era fans would agree Al Snow was always in good shape during the prime of his career. The popular late 90s star took the gym seriously, but it has gone to another level in recent years. At the age of 53, Snow is in the best shape of his life. The fact that he is dating someone with a background in fitness has helped improve his physique.
Snow is absolutely jacked and one of the strongest wrestlers currently in the business. The drastic transformation led to TNA having Snow come out of retirement. Instead of just working backstage, Snow now wrestles frequently on Impact and is a full-time on-screen character. Snow has quietly rejuvenated his career and looks completely different than you might remember him.
It is almost impossible to notice the physical changes of Neville due to the fact that he’s rarely on television. The outstanding NXT legend made his way to the main roster and had a solid spot in the lower midcard picture until getting injured shortly before WrestleMania 32. Neville returned in the summer with a new look.
The beard made him look like a new man but the lack of television time makes it tough to spot for the average fan. Neville’s beard grows more and more each week. The talented high-flyer has also seen his physique improve with him gaining a lot of muscle during his time away from television. For whatever reason, WWE refuses to showcase him these days. Maybe they just happen to hate great beards.
10 Eric Young
Eric Young has undergone many changes in his look over the years. The TNA legend spent most of his career with the promotion going from blonde hair to a bald head to his current look in NXT. Young has a wild beard like usual, but has added a shorter haircut to change things up. The look is perfect for his role as the unofficial leader of the SAnitY faction.
WWE signed Young following his decision to leave TNA. His role in SAnitY is meant to showcase him as a familiar face, but also add new stars to the group in hopes of them learning and gaining credibility working with him. Young’s transformation in recent years played a huge role in him getting the SAnitY spot. If Young didn’t make the changes, we have no idea what he would be doing these days.
Many fans have given up on TNA after many years of disappointment, but they did some cool things in 2016. Decay, with Abyss, Crazzy Steve and Rosemary, is one of the best things the company produced with all three making big changes. Abyss underwent the biggest transformation of all as a character with his look. As the longest tenured employee, Abyss went years wearing a mask, but ditched it this year.
The Decay concept meant he needed to do something drastic to prove this wasn’t just another same old Abyss run. The mask was thrown away and replaced with face paint. Abyss rocks the face paint every week and has hair out for the new look. It is spooky enough to not stray too far away from the mask, but provides a completely different aspect to him.
8 Luke Gallows
One of the most surprising realizations for wrestling fans is taking into account that Luke Gallows used to be Festus. The odd look of Festus stood out, but made it difficult to take him seriously. His old look of balding improved when he actually shaved his head and starting rocking the bald head. Gallows also hit the gym to get into the best shape of his life.
Someone that was fooled by the drastic transformation was Vince McMahon. His tag team partner, Karl Anderson, has joked in various interviews the duo has done together that McMahon doesn’t realize Gallows used to play Festus. The running joke is that Gallows is terrified of someone reminding Vince of the old character and bringing it back. Luckily for Gallows, the new look works much better.
7 Karl Anderson
You can’t have Luke Gallows on a list without bringing Karl Anderson into the fray. Anderson struggled on the independent circuit for many years before slightly breaking out in PWG and breaking out big time in New Japan Pro Wrestling. One thing that helped change his career for the better was a drastic hairstyle change. Similar to Gallows, Anderson used to have hair in the early years as a wrestler with a style that didn’t fit him.
Anderson shaving his head and going with the bald look worked to his benefit. The current look has been established for many years and everyone associates Anderson with it. Gallows and Anderson both share that and they have worked together for the best. Wrestlers with awkward hairstyles need to pair together, go bald and form successful tag teams. Now that's a career re-builder.
6 Bubba Dudley
The Dudleyz are regarded as the most successful tag team in recent memory. They have won every major tag title during their career and that came when Bubba Dudley was in terrible shape. Bubba was often overweight and it didn’t hinder him from finding success in the industry. A surprising change to come later in his career during the TNA years saw him transform his body.
Under the new name of Bully Ray, Bubba would lean up and get in great shape. The new look made him achieve the greatest success of his career as a singles star. Bully went on to win the TNA World Championship and was a main eventer until returning to WWE to reform The Dudleyz. Bubba is now a free agent, still in great shape and can provide some decent work for any promotion still today.
5 Dean Ambrose
Dean Ambrose is the perfect example of someone needing a major transformation before he could become a big star. The talented wrestler had a forgettable tryout match with WWE that saw him have long pink hair. That’s right. The Lunatic Fringe had a hairstyle similar to Nicki Minaj. Ambrose completely changed his look and it led to him becoming a big star on the independent circuit.
Promotions like CZW and Dragon Gate USA booked him as the face of their franchise. WWE took notice and the rest is history. Ambrose would have never got over on the independent circuit without the transformation. That would have blocked him from getting a credible spot in the WWE. Just think about how different life would have been for Ambrose if he kept the odd hairstyle.
4 James Ellsworth
James Ellsworth's unique look, which held him back for the majority of his wrestling career, is now his biggest asset. Ellsworth’s smaller stature and lack of a chin made him an underdog hero in the WWE after an assumed one-off losing to Braun Strowman. As odd as Ellsworth may look right now, he used to have another odd dynamic to his style.
Ellsworth used to have long blonde hair and his look was similar to that of a surfer. His lack of a visible chin has always been a part of his look, so that is one consistent. Ellsworth’s long hair is a bit of a shocker to process after seeing him on the SmackDown Live's roster with the shorter style. It actually looks like a wig at times, but the hair was actually Ellsworth’s.
3 Ethan Carter III
Ethan Carter III has one of the best transformation success stories in recent wrestling history. WWE did nothing with him during his stint as Derrick Bateman despite the potential he showed with his character. TNA picked him up shortly after his WWE release and it was one of the better decisions they’ve ever made. With a new, shorter hairstyle, Carter looked a million bucks and fit to be champion.
Factor in his style changing from ironic patriotic outfits to fancy suits and Carter came off like a mega star. TNA saw him ascend to the top of the company and many would consider him the face of the franchise today. His new look, name, attitude and confidence allowed him to finally fulfill his potential after being wasted away in the WWE.
2 Enzo Amore
Enzo Amore's current reputation sees him as one of the best talkers on the main roster. Along with his tag partner, Big Cass, Enzo will get the fans in the palm of their hands to chant along with all of his catchphrases. Things weren’t always this easy for Amore as his journey in NXT was a tough one. His prior look didn’t help things.
Enzo had a different hairstyle with darker hair that just looked terrible on him compared to the current blonde style. His unique look has set him apart from everyone on the roster rather than his prior look of the clone of a wrestler. Amore used to wear sunglasses as part of his prior look and it just came across as silly. The changes he made to his look in NXT played a role in getting him to the main roster.
1 A.J. Styles
The past few years of A.J. Styles’ career have been a whirlwind of success. Styles dominated New Japan Pro Wrestling for many years as arguably the most successful American wrestler to work for NJPW. A reputation for being the best wrestler in the world landed him an opportunity in the WWE where he has now become a huge star and the current WWE Champion on SmackDown Live.
Styles gets made fun of for his “soccer mom haircut” that has many fans believing it has always been his look. That’s actually not true with his hairstyle and beard being a relatively new look to come around the end of 2013. Styles used to have a traditional look with a clean-look face and a pretty normal hairstyle. The hair change has led to many jokes being thrown his way, but it's also led to the most success of his career, changing his legacy forever.