Even though it’s now commonly known that professional wrestling is, let’s say, predetermined, that doesn’t mean that being crowned a WWE champion isn’t a major career accomplishment. Not just anyone gets to hoist a title over their heads while a crowd of 15,000 fans cheer their name. Being awarded a championship is not just recognition of the hard work a performer has put in but the WWE’s way of saying they have faith in you as one of the company’s top stars, making them the face of their division whether they’re holding the women’s, tag team or WWE titles. It’s an honor that many credit as one of the highlights of their careers, right up there with headlining WrestleMania or winning the Royal Rumble. However, getting there is not easy.
Many of the WWE’s current champions have had a long road to getting their hands on championship gold. Some have taken unconventional approaches to getting their shot in a WWE ring, while others experienced dark childhoods that motivated them to begin their training as a means of building a better life for themselves. Either way, it’s fair to say that all of them have amassed some interesting life stories on their way to becoming the WWE champions you know and love (or hate).
The following list examines shocking facts you might not have known about the WWE’s current roster of champions from Universal Champion Brock Lesnar all the way to NXT’s reigning Tag Team Champions SAnitY. Some have overcome genuine struggles, some have surprising pasts and some have lived through pretty wild stories during their time on the road. Here are 15 shocking things you probably didn’t know about the WWE’s current champions.
15 Brock Lesnar Almost Died
Throughout his WWE career, Universal Champion Brock Lesnar has developed a reputation as one of the most unstoppable men in wrestling history, so it’s hard to think of the Beast Incarnate being taken down by medical problems. However, that came very close to happening in 2009 when Lesnar fell victim to an undiagnosed medical condition. The Behemoth first realized something was wrong while hunting in Manitoba, Canada, however after extensive tests, doctors were unable to agree on a diagnosis, a result that could have turned deadly as the wasted time prevented Lesnar from getting treatment to what would turn out to be a very serious issue.
After the stress on his immune system caused him to develop mononucleosis, doctors discovered that Lesnar had contracted diverticulitis, a disease in the digestive tract typically caused by inflammation in the large intestine. The Conqueror would undergo surgery twice for the condition once in 2009 and again in 2011 that ended up removing a foot of his colon. Thankfully the condition was found when it was as the diverticulitis was forcing his immune system to focus solely on his large intestine, making the beast extremely susceptible to other illnesses.
14 Dean Ambrose Used To Be A "Dealer"
While these days, Dean Ambrose in known as the Lunatic Fringe as well as one half of the current Raw Tag Team Champions, his beginnings were about as humble as they come. Ambrose grew up in public housing in a less than desirable area of Cincinnati, full of rundown apartment buildings and shady characters. Ambrose says he’d often have to fight people in the streets he knew he stood no chance against, just to survive.
He’d later turn to selling drugs in order to scrape by and eventually dropped out of high school at 16 years-old. Throughout all of this, Ambrose says his escape was professional wrestling and began training as a way to pull himself out of the circumstances he was born into. Hearing all that Ambrose has had to overcome, it’s hard not to respect the career and life he’s built for himself.
13 The Miz Created His Wrestling Character On The Real World
If you’ve been watching the WWE for any amount of time during The Miz’s 11-year career, then you probably know that the Intercontinental Champion got his start on the reality series The Real World. It’s a fact that’s been constantly lampooned by his opponents, often used as a reason to overlook his accomplishments in the ring. However, what you might not have known is that the MTV docu-series was also the birthplace of The Miz as we know him.
Sensing that he wasn’t well-liked by his fellow cast members and feeling alienated by them, the former WWE champ decided to become the heel of the house, walking around with a wrestling belt and cutting promos on his fellow housemates. The Miz would perform outrageous stunts like throwing himself into a trailer to prove it didn’t hurt him, all the while perfecting The A-Lister character, we know today. At one point, he even tells Real World cameras, “The Miz is a character I created. He’s basically a wrestling star and he’s ready for the big leagues.” Oh, how right he’d turn out to be.
12 Natalya Was Accused Of Some Very Strange Bedroom Habits
Of all the lawsuits that have resulted from professional wrestling, this has got to be one of the craziest. In 2014, a prisoner from the state of Pennsylvania filed a $250,000 lawsuit against Natalya alleging that she was an “evil dominatrix,” among other things. The lawsuit, filed by Christopher Donnelly claimed that the SmackDown Women’s Champion abused him physically, mentally and emotionally between 2005 and 2009 and that she physically assaulted him on several occasions while on the road.
Among the more wild claims Donnelly leveraged against the Hart Dungeon graduate were that she aborted his child and that she at one time served as his pimp, forcing him to prostitute himself. Obviously, the lawsuit was not taken seriously in court and in July of 2014, a Florida judge dismissed the case entirely, citing the “delusional language” as well as several other legal grounds for dismissal. Natalya has always been portrayed on Total Divas as one of the most grounded women in the WWE locker room so it’s hard to imagine her being caught up in anything like this.
11 Jinder Mahal’s Uncle Is Gama Singh
While the WWE loves to play up a good second generation wrestler storyline, one that you likely won’t hear about on Smackdown Live is Jinder Mahal’s. This is because the reigning WWE Champion’s uncle didn’t make a name for himself in the hallowed halls of the WWE but in Stu Hart’s Stampede Wrestling promotion in Calgary, Canada instead. Mahal is the nephew of Gama Singh, a legendary heel who worked predominantly in Canada during the 1970s and 1980s.
Interestingly enough, Singh did briefly work for Vince McMahon, taking part in sporadic overseas tours during the early days of the promotion as well as local live events. His two appearances on WWE programming would see him defeating Johnny Rodz on an episode of Prime Time Wrestling and even being interviewed by McMahon himself on Tuesday Night Titans. While Singh is currently semi-retired, given how his nephew treated Cowboy Bob Orton at the Money In The Bank pay-per-view, perhaps a grudge match is in order with Singh in Mahal’s corner?
10 Neville Has False Teeth
As many wrestlers can attest, losing a tooth is just a hazard of the job when you sign up with the WWE. In fact, many a superstar has lost a chomper in the ring from Jeff Hardy to Nikki Bella. However, when King of the Cruiserweights, Neville squared off against Brodus Clay during a 2014 match in NXT, he learned this firsthand, having three teeth knocked from his mouth during the bout. The kicker however was, only one of them was actually his.
As it turns out, back in 2006 during a wild night of partying after an indie show, Neville drunkenly decided to impress people by performing a flip, a move that didn’t quite pan out in his inebriated state and instead, he face-planted, knocking out two of his front teeth. For his part, Clay didn’t feel too bad about knocking the Cruiserweight Champion’s teeth out, saying, “He got three new teeth and they’re all the same color. So if anything, it’s a come up for him.”
9 Seth Rollins Urinated Under The Ring During A Match
It can be hard being a professional wrestler. On top of the whole risking serious injury and/or death every time you step into the ring, wrestlers also have to worry about answering the call of nature during a match. There are no bathroom breaks in wrestling so when a WWE superstar really does have to go in the middle of a contest, they have to get creative.
That’s what Raw Tag Team Champion, Seth Rollins revealed during a 2014 interview with Talking With Soup in which he admitted to sneaking under the ring and urinating during a tag team match with The Shield. The Kingslayer is said to have relieved himself in a bottle he found under the squared circle, however, he also copped to the fact that no one knew about it prior to his candid revelation so it’s hard to say whether or not he was punished for the crude act. When you gotta go, you gotta go, right?
8 Alexa Bliss Was Accused Of Sleeping Around In NXT
Alexa Bliss is now a two-time RAW Women's Champion and a two-time SmackDown Women's Champion. However before she was busy winning all that gold, Bliss was down in NXT still trying to find herself. She didn't have much training in wrestling before starting down in Orlando at the Performance Center and she has since been accused of behaving like a 'ring rat'.
On TheDirty.com, a story was published after the site got info from an anonymous source down in NXT:
“THE DIRTY ARMY: I am currently training with WWE to be a wrestler. We train at NXT in Orlando. A great group of men and women are down here but I have to call out one girl, Alexa Bliss. I wish to stay anonymous but this needs to be out. She is a ring rat as we call it. She sleeps with just about every person who walks in the door here and has slept with trainers, higher ups, wrestlers and whoever else she can get her hands on. I have heard nasty stories I refuse to share. She is cute and nice but is a total slore. She is not very good in the ring but isn’t bad as a manager. I hope she sees this and cleans her act up asap.”
7 The Usos Were Kicked Out Of The Ring At Their WWE Tryout
The Usos have certainly made waves in the SmackDown Live tag team division, winning the SmackDown Tag Team Championships at SummerSlam. However, the way they tell it, they came very close to not making it into the WWE at all. On an appearance on Talk Is Jericho, Jey and Jimmy Uso recalled being kicked out the ring not once but twice during their first two WWE tryouts. Auditioning in front of the likes of Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker and their uncle Umaga.
The Usos say that they choked hard during their first two auditions, botching maneuvers and fumbling their tackle, drop-down, headlock drill. Their performances were so disappointing that Umaga actually kicked them out of the ring. “We cried at the end because we knew we were not getting signed. [Umaga] was hurt too. [He said] Get up, just get out of the ring. So twice that happened.” Thankfully the third time was the charm for them and they were able to become the fan favorite tag team we know today.
6 AJ Styles Grew Up Poor
AJ Styles wouldn’t be the first professional wrestler to channel a difficult home life into in-ring supremacy (or even the first on this list). However, that doesn’t make the United States Champion’s rags to riches tale any less admirable. Styles was born on the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, where a rough home life would force him to grow up quick. Growing up in poverty, Styles’ family was barely able to make ends meet while his father suffered from alcoholism and was abusive towards his family.
The Phenomenal One says that growing up, he wasn’t a fan of wrestling because he had never seen it before, his family unable to afford cable television or tapes of the sport. Styles however, would enter a wrestling school on a whim, joining because his friends were doing it and to see if he had what it takes. Styles is now not only a former WWE Champion but a proud father of four, having been married to his wife for more than 17 years.
5 The Miz Was Kicked Out Of WWE Locker Room Over Chicken
One of the first things a wrestler discovers when they’re signed to a corporation like the WWE is that the business is full of strange customs and traditions. Traditions like, shaking the hands of everyone you meet backstage or never washing your wrestling boots. It’s a fact The Miz had to learn the hard way after his debut in 2006, a misstep causing him to spend quite a bit of time in the dog house. It all started when the A-Lister was caught eating chicken over another wrestler’s bag in the locker room. Chris Benoit reportedly became so furious over The Miz’s seeming act of disrespect, that he kicked him out of the men’s locker room and banned him from returning, forever.
The harsh punishment forced the reigning Intercontinental Champion to change in the hallway for months, a sentence that was made even more complicated with Benoit’s death in 2007. You see, as the tradition goes, only the superstar who kicked you out of the locker room, can invite you back in. Out of respect, The Miz continued to change outside well after Benoit’s passing until The Undertaker pulled him aside one day, asking him, “Hey, kid, why do you keep changing by the garbage?” When The Miz explained the story, The Deadman took it upon himself as the leader of the locker room, to invite him back in.
4 Asuka Was A Graphic Designer
She's vacated her NXT Women's Championship, but since one has yet to be crowned and Asuka never actually LOST it, we'll count her as our NXT Women's representative for now. When you see Asuka steamrolling through her competition on NXT, it’s hard to imagine the most dominant woman in WWE history clocking in for a nine to five desk job. However, before her legendary wrestling career took flight, that’s exactly what Asuka was doing, the Empress of Tomorrow working as a freelance graphic designer to pay the bills.
Feeling unfulfilled, it was during this time that the longest reigning NXT Women’s Champion decided to make a change and pursue her dreams of becoming a wrestler. As they say, the rest is history. The Osaka, Japan native would not only go on to become the greatest champion in NXT’s short history, but would break a record that had not been approached since 1998, smashing Goldberg’s famous undefeated streak in mid-2017.
3 Drew McIntyre’s Marriage Hurt His First WWE Run
A lot has been written about Drew McIntyre’s WWE release in 2014 and while the acclaimed grappler is currently sitting atop the mountain as NXT Champion, the consensus seems to be that his rocky marriage to Taryn Terrell (who wrestled for the WWE under the name Tiffany), greatly contributed to his career downfall and eventual release from the company. It all started when Terrell was arrested due to a domestic dispute with McIntyre after attending a party at the Playboy Mansion. While the WWE Diva was later acquitted on charges, the negative attention it drew to McIntyre is said to have significantly affected his standing with the company.
Despite divorcing in 2011, McIntyre reportedly still faced blowback from Terrell’s negative press and penchant for criticizing the WWE on Twitter, seeing his monster push from the promotion greatly diminished. These days, the Scottish superstar is experiencing somewhat of a Cinderella-story moment, having made his triumphant return to the WWE in 2017 and winning the NXT Championship at TakeOver: Brooklyn III.
2 Eric Young Had A Fishing Show
If you’re strictly a WWE fan, then you probably know Eric Young as the face of SAnitY, one of the most dominant heel stables in all of NXT and the current title holders of the NXT Tag Team Championships. However, outside the ring, the former TNA superstar held a rather surprising job as the host of a travel show on Animal Planet. The show, titled, Off The Hook: Extreme Catches, saw Young traveling across America to fish alongside some of the most unusual fisherman the country has to offer.
The series fed into Young’s passion for the outdoors, already considering himself an amateur fisherman and lasted two seasons. It’s final episode aired in 2013. Young has since become an integral part of the NXT brand, however if you’re interested in checking out what he was up to before he brought sanity to the WWE, re-runs are airing on the Discovery Channel.
1 Brock Lesnar Walked Away From A Serious Motorcycle Crash
If you had any doubt that Brock Lesnar was one of the toughest guys in the WWE locker room, let this put those doubts to rest. In April of 2004, just weeks after leaving the WWE in order to transition into a football career with the NFL, Lesnar’s motorcycle was involved in a serious collision with a minivan that resulted in him actually flying up over the vehicle. His injuries were extensive, suffering a broken hand, broken jaw, a pulled groin and severely bruised testicles.
Such an experience would certainly keep your average athlete on the bench for a while but not The Beast Incarnate. Within weeks Lesnar was back to training on the football field and even still planned to participate in his NFL tryout. However, the organization would halt his plans, preventing him from being apart of it due to safety concerns regarding his injuries. Still, it’s pretty impressive that not even a car accident can keep the Universal Champion down.