I’ve written a few times about how important a wrestler’s look is for their career. It’s the first thing sees when a superstar is on their way to the ring. If they can instantly connect with the audience based on their appearance alone then they are already one step head of the game (not The Game). However, a wrestler’s appearance can grow stale over time. They might need to make a change to get over. Sometimes, it’s simply cosmetic and the only thing they make changes to is how they appear. Other times, the new look is part of a larger transformation. The shift can be part of a gimmick tweak, or it could be part of a complete character overhaul. This is definitely a necessity for the latter, as it would be a strange if Bray Wyatt was still walking around in Husky Harris’ tights, or Kane was wearing Dr. Isaac Yankem’s scrubs.
Here’s a list of 15 wrestlers whose looks have changed so drastically over the last five years that they are now practically unrecognizable. Whether it be more muscles, changes to their hair, or a totally new wardrobe, these superstars have been able to evolve their character to something entirely different.
Also, just for fun, let’s take a look at five wrestler’s whose appearance has stayed the same for half of a decade, wrestlers who are comfortable with how they look and show no signs of mixing things up in the future.
20 Unrecognizable: Big Show
Even five years ago, there were rumblings that the Big Show’s wrestling career was coming to an end. He had already been in the business for 18 years and won just about every championship imaginable. In 2013, he was fresh off of reigns as both World Heavyweight Champion and Intercontinental Champion. His age was starting to show and he was once again putting on weight. The Big Show’s weight fluctuates almost as often as he turns heel and/or face, depending on the cycle of the moon. This was a particular low point, as he didn’t look great, and he was constantly flip flopping between being the Authority’s lackey and 500-pound crybaby. Flash forward to five years later and the giant has abs! He weighs under 400-pounds, which hadn’t been the case for ages. It appears that his career might actually be winding down, which is actually kind of a bummer. He now looks great, and his feud with Braun Strowman saw him putting on some of the best matches of his lengthy career.
19 Unrecognizable: Matt Hardy
Matt Hardy’s two stints in TNA are like night and day. His first was incredibly anticlimactic, and involved him doing some of the dullest and unmemorable work of his career. The second time, oh man. We got so much good stuff out of his second stint. Not only did we get the current version we know and love, but we also got the underappreciated “Big Money Matt.” But let’s focus on how he looks now. A look that started in TNA and that we finally are seeing in WWE. Thanks to Hardy’s condition (pronounced: cun-deesh-shun), he now sports a white streak in his hilariously straightened hair. This is surprisingly an upgrade from he awful “white girl on vacation in the Bahamas” braids that he was rocking during his first time in the land of Dixie. Even his new choice of jacket seems like it shouldn’t be better than his previous “generic trench coat.” The “bondage kimono” really ties the whole Woken (or Broken if you’re nasty) look together.
18 Looks The Same: Finn Balor
Demon paint aside, Finn Balor has always kept it pretty simple when it comes to wrestling attire. Even back in his days heading up Bullet Club in New Japan as Prince Devitt, ol Fergie Ferg opted for some classic all black trunks when duking it out in their junior heavyweight division. Now, when wrestling on Monday Night Raw, Finn can sometimes be seen busting out flashier trunks like the baby blue pair he sported against Bray Wyatt or the red version he recently debuted. But for the most part, he sticks to the jet black gear he first wore in Japan. In addition to keeping his trunks, The Demon King has also been able to maintain the same crazy physique he’s had since his Apollo 55 days, making up for his smaller size with all of the abs in the world.
17 Unrecognizable: Pete Dunne
Despite only being 24-years-old, Pete Dunne has been wrestling for over a decade. That means the Bruiserweight has been dishing out some of the hardest hitting offense since he was 14. When I was 14? I was on the JV bowling team. Not quite as cool. Dunne is still on the smaller side, weighing in at 205 pounds, but he has certainly beefed up since the first picture was taken five years ago. He’s also upgraded his wardrobe for the better. He’s traded in his boring stretchy pants for a much better look. His current maroon singlet brings back memories of William Regal, another tough as nails Brit who has been a huge influence on the current UK Champion. Also, he’s god a sweet vest that not only looks cool but would also function as some practical outwear.
16 Unrecognizable: Drew McIntyre
Ah, Vince McMahon’s former chosen one. It seemed that a mere five years ago his days were numbered when he was resigned to the jobber-filled (albeit beloved) tandem known as 3MB. Granted, the dude had a terrific body, he just seemed to have lost all sense of motivation, and who could have blamed him. Thankfully, in 2014, Drew was released from his contract and hit the independent circuit hard. Determined to show WWE just how poorly they used him, the Scotsman made a huge impact by winning both the Evolve and TNA world championships. Word got back to WWE and he was once again signed, this time to the developmental system of NXT. When he returned, it wouldn’t be with the eyeliner and leather pants he was last seen sporting. No, he has since adopted a much more rugged look complete with an awesome beard and lush chest hair. The aggressive look came hand in hand with a new, aggressive persona that led McIntyre to the NXT Championship.
15 Unrecognizable: Enzo Amore
Enzo Amore has always looked like a muppet. Plain and simple. He has always looked like a bizarre furry and felt puppet come to life via some toxic New Jersey witchcraft. However, over time, his muppet-ness has only gotten more and more absurd. They say that they key to a great character in wrestling is to just be yourself with the volume turned all the way up. Well, if Enzo Amore’s original look and character during the early days of NXT was himself turned up to 11, today, Muscles Marinara must be turned up to…oh, I don’t know…69 (good one)? 2012 Enzo Amore was actually tame compare to his look in 2017. What stated innocently enough with leopard boxing shorts and some gaudy shades has evolved into absurd overalls, complete with poop emojis, lavish track jackets, and hair that defies any and all logic.
14 Looks The Same: Shinsuke Nakamura
There was a time when a new signing would send wrestling fans into a massive tizzy, worrying everything that made the superstar popular would be stripped away upon their arrival to the WWE. Colt Cabana was a shell of his former self when he became Scotty Goldman and Hideo Itama, the former KENTA, had to wait until CM Punk left to reclaim the Go 2 Sleep, a move that he created! Recently, WWE has realized that its okay to allow wrestlers to keep what made them special. There is no better example than Shinsuke Nakamura. Sure, the former IWGP Heavyweight Champion hasn’t had the easiest time on the main roster (losing to Jinder Mahal isn’t a good look), but he was able to keep the look that made him unique in New Japan. His Skrillex-esque hairstyle and Michael Jackson Thriller ensemble remained in tact, as well as his rock star entrance and mannerisms. Let’s hope Nak’s success is something WWE also replicates in 2018.
13 Unrecognizable: Jason Jordan
Sometimes, all it takes is a decent haircut to make all of the difference in the world. That is exactly what happened when Jason Jordan shaved off the awful mop he called a hairdo and settled on something a lot more manageable. Today, he keeps it simple with a buzzed hairstyle that is much better suited for the some of an Olympic gold medalist. Thankfully, he also shaved off the terrible goatee that looked lame when Fred Durst rocked it way back in 2000. Jordan was one of WWE’s longest tenured wrestlers in developmental, going all the way back to Florida Championship Wrestling in 2011. He also kept the same look all the way through 2015, when he was teaming up with Tye Dillinger. Maybe if he would have changed his style up earlier we could have bypassed the entire controversial “Son of Kurt Angle” storyline.
12 Unrecognizable: Andrade “Cien” Almas
Sure, if you put anybody under a mask, they could be considered unrecognizable, but in the culture of Mexican wrestling, a mask is a sacred part of a performer. While wrestling as La Sombra, Andrade Almas was no different. In addition to covering his face, Cien also used to have a slightly better build, appearing to be more muscular five years ago. The founding member of Los Ingobernables (the predecessor of the Japanese offshoot), would obtain his current look in 2015 while still in CMLL after losing a Mask vs Mask match to veteran luchador Atlantis. He would be signed by NXT two months later. Upon his debut, he would attempt a short-lived mask-less version of his CMLL entrance attire. However, wearing a suit, suspenders, and hat to the ring with no mask just made the current NXT champion look like a reject from the Mambo Number 5 music video.
11 Looks The Same: Cesaro
Granted, the Swiss Cyborg looked totally different before he joined WWE’s main roster, but since he made it to the big leagues, his look has gone unchanged. Sure, the wardrobe he wears to the ring has gone through quite the evolution, as we’ve seen him in robes, tuxedos, and even camouflage kilts, but he has generally stuck the same grew within the squared circle. All the multi-time tag team champion needs is a good pair of trunks to get the job done. He’s also maintained the same shaved head and five o’clock shadow that brings Jason Statham and other bald badasses to mind. Many wrestlers try and mix things up if they aren’t getting over as they hoped. Not in this case, instead of different pants or facial hair, Cesaro would rather let his work between the ropes do the talking.
10 Unrecognizable: Jack Gallagher
The pictures above really showcase the importance of having a gimmick. That guy on the right can be anyone in any gym across the globe. The simple trunks? No muss, no fuss hair? And mouthguard? He just reeks of a wrestler who boasts having an incredible “workrate” and is a real “technical wizard” in the ring. Homeboy on the left? That dude is something different. He’s a prim and proper gentleman who isn’t afraid to mix it up with someone who forgot to mind their p’s and q’s. That’s that kind of wrestler we want. One who you know upon first look who they are and what they stand for. Jack Gallagher has continued to be one of the standouts each week on 205 Live, thanks to not only his skills within the ring, but his unique look as well.
9 Unrecognizable: Chad Gable
Currently, Chad Gable is tearing it up in Smackdown’s tag division and teaming with veteran Shelton Benjamin. A mere five years ago, he was attempting to follow in the footsteps of WWE legend Kurt Angle by competing in the 2012 Summer Olympics. His natural abilities did not go unnoticed by the folks singing checks in the WWE and he was quickly signed to a contract. No longer resigned to a certain weight class, Gable has been able to add almost 20 pounds of muscle mass to his frame. This must be a real treat for someone who has been cutting weight on a weekly basis since he was a teenager. In addition to chaining up his body, his hair has changed drastically as well. He’s grown his hair out from a short, little crew cut to the ridiculous mane he sports today.
8 Unrecognizable: Sin Cara
The ballad of Sin Cara is a long, confusing, and disjointed one. Also for a character that has been around since 2011, there is surprisingly little payoff. Originally, Sin Cara was portrayed by Mexican legend Mistoco. When he went down with an injury, he was replaced by WWE developmental luchador Hunico. The original Sin Cara returned and reclaimed his mantle. He was eventually release and Hunico has once again reclaimed the mask. During the time in between his two stints as Sin Cara, Hunico adopted a gimmick of a brawler from the Barrio. Resembling a thug, he wore Dickies, sunglasses, and a tank top and came to the ring on a lowrider bike. He has since traded that all in for a new and improved Sin Cara look that incorporates vivid and dynamic color schemes that are hardly ever repeated. Now, if he could only get the push that he deserves to match his awesome lucha look.
7 Looks The Same: R-Truth
In January of 2018, R-Truth will turn 46 years old. In the picture on the left, the dude was closing in on 40. That’s insane. Not only does he look practically the same in both of these pictures, but he also looks almost identical to when he wrestled as K-Kwik in 2000 when he was 28! Dude has been “Gettin’ Rowdy” in the wrestling business for 20 years. Currently, with his great physique and youthful appearance, he looks better than a lot of superstars on the active roster. He also seems to be solely responsible for keeping the entire airbrushed jeans business afloat. So, when we break it down, Truth can credit looking exactly the same as he did five years ago to both good genes and bad jeans. That’s what’s up!
6 Unrecognizable: Rusev
If you would have told me this time last year that Rusev would currently be the most over guy on WWE’s roster, I would tell you that’s about as believable as a Jinder Mahal World Championship reign. Since debuting in NXT as Alexander Rusev, the Bulgarian Brute has always had the goods when it came to in ring work. It just never seemed like WWE would give him a chance. Thankfully, by making up his own ridiculous holiday, (side note: I would like to take this time to wish you a very happy Rusev Day) he’s been able to get over all by himself. When he started out in developmental, Rusev was rocking one of the oddest sets of ring gear. His entrance included some leather skirt-like legwear, which would be removed to reveal some smaller miniskirt-like trunks. Very strange. Thankfully, he eventually upgraded to some patriotic biker shorts that have represented both Russia and Bulgaria, depending on where his allegiances lied.
5 Unrecognizable: Johnny Gargano
A fauxhawk, eh? Woof. I guess there’s a reason why he’s called “Johny Wrestling” and not “Johnny Haircut.” The picture on the right really shows how much a guy can mature within five years. Gargano on the left looks like he has a long way to go before being taken seriously in the business. Also, having unlimited time to utilize the WWE Performance Center in Florida has done wonders for the former member of D.I.Y. He’s been able to transform his body from generic indie guy to shredded workhorse. Bonus points for growing out a real beard. It really stops him from looking like he woke up, hungover at the crack of noon after a sick kegger at the frat house. Kudos for him though for sticking to his trademark winking man logo all the way to WWE, its a nice nod to the Gargano of the past. Thankfully he chose to stick with that instead of the hair. Once again, woof.
4 Unrecognizable: Sasha Banks
Pictured Above: You vs The Girl He Tells You Not To Worry About. Five years ago, when Sasha Banks was signed to NXT there was nothing really special about her. She was an undersized performer with only two years of experience under her belt. Her gear was plain, opting for the a classic sports bra and shorts combo that just about everyone has worn. For months, Sasha was used as enhancement talent for other female formers, often jobbing out to the likes of Paige, Alicia Fox, and even Summer Rae. Eventually, she had a change of character and transformed into the Boss. She got some flashier gear that includes a fun braided arm strap and has adopted more vibrant colors that especially pop against her fuchsia hair. Her change of appearance also came with a change of attitude, Banks became more confident than ever and fully embraced the Boss gimmick.
3 Looks The Same: John Cena
What never goes out of style? Jorts. Jorts never go out of style. Just ask anyone who buys their leg wear in bulk at Wal-Mart. Put it all together with matching baseball hats, t-shrts, and wristbands, and Big Match John has been rocking the same style since about 2006. Whether it be green, blue, yellow, orange, purple or the new lime green, the leader of the Cenation has always stood out in a crowd. Every time Cena makes his grand return to the company, he brings a whole new rack of merchandise with him. Dated Fruity Pebbles jokes withstanding, It’s really the smartest idea ever. If fans want to keep up with the style (or lack their of), they can shell out the $59.99 the Shop Zone charges to get the entire collection. Who knows, maybe on Cena’s next return, we can get a nice “Hustle, Loyalty, Respect” shirt in periwinkle.
2 Unrecognizable: Kassius Ohno
Whoa boy. This might be the only entry where the person looks worse today than they did five years ago. It’s no surprise that Kassius Ohno’s first release from NXT was a result of his body not being where management though it should be. He was in decent shape, but was unable to maintain the ideal body for a performer at the time. Once he was let go, he really let himself go. Ohno packed on an estimated 50 pounds while on the independent scenes. The crazy thing though is that his ring work only got better. KO was putting on epic matches in places like Evolve and PWG. Seriously, one of the bet matches I’ve had the honor of seeing live was between super chunky Kassius Ohno and a 47-year-old Dick Togo (you know, from Kai En Tai) at Evolve 74 in Queens. In the five years Ohno was absent from NXT, things have changed quite a bit. Folks like Kevin Owens have broken down barriers for wrestlers with different body types. Thankfully, the former Chris Hero is back in WWE’s good graces, and once again putting on amazing matches in NXT despite his weight.
1 Unrecognizable: Jinder Mahal
As this is the final entry on this list, it is also the last one to involve a former member of 3MB. Although, I know for sure I could make and argument for Heath Slater if I really, really wanted to (his hair is totally different!). So, I’m going to focus on the most drastic one right here. I previously mentioned that I adored everything about 3MB, but it was clear that those men were going nowhere fast. Like McIntyre before him, getting fired was the best thing that happened to Jinder Mahal. At first things were bleak for Jinder, he put on a bunch of weight, constantly looked bloated and tired, but he would eventually turn everything around. Thanks to dieting and exercise (his words, not mine) Mahal was able to get himself into great shape and was able to once again get on WWE’s radar. Not only did he gain a ludicrous amount of muscle, but there is also one more thing Mahal has gained over the last five years. That would be the ten pounds of gold the Modern Day Maharaja carried for 170 days throughout 2017.