If you asked a professional wrestling fan from the 80s what they thought about wrestling today, they’d probably have a few concerns and may just entirely not understand it. Back in the old school days of wrestling, there was an insistence that storylines and characters were real which has pretty much died out today. You will still see many wrestlers vaguely represent their characters outside the ring, but with the growing presence of social media, you’d basically have to be a method actor to not break the illusion at some point.
Bookers in wrestling promotions have equally been less insistent that their wrestlers stay in character like this, especially after Vince McMahon himself acknowledged the difference between kayfabe and reality. However, even he still thinks the illusion should be treated with at least a little bit of respect. He seems fine with being a somewhat different person off-camera, but has notably punished the likes of Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman for being too buddy-buddy when they were supposed to be feuding.
Wherever you or anyone else draws that line though, one thing’s for sure: There’s a treasure trove of character dissonance out there nowadays. Ranging anywhere from hilarious, to surprising, to just plain “What?” So let’s get right into 15 photos of WWE Superstars being completely out of character.
Braun Strowman bursted onto the WWE scene just two years ago and has quickly become one of the greatest big men the company has ever seen. Some still remember his early days where some fans would call him clumsy and insist he was only there because Vince McMahon liked his size and his look. But in two short years he’s made those early detractors look like complete fools with his surprising athleticism and memorable stunts like upending an ambulance. He may as well be the embodiment of the “monster heel” trope.
And here he is having a grand old time of childlike wonder at Disneyland.
Many fans were left completely speechless when these photos first came out. What the hell do you say about 2 meter tall strongman who brutally squashes most other wrestlers and who turns out to be a big softie at heart? It’s like finding out The Incredible Hulk has a collection of stuffed animals. I’m expecting some new nicknames for him in the future. “The Monster Among Mice” or “The Magic Mountain of a Man”.
No tag team in recent memory has worked as well as a duo than Enzo Amore and Big Cass. The decision to split them up was a questionable one considering how well they played their strengths to cover each other’s weaknesses. Amore, the loud mouth trash talker getting the arena hyped, and Cass, the huge muscle to back up their words. Watching them tear apart their opponents both verbally and physically was always a treat. And we can only wonder what they’d say about themselves in this photo.
Their shirts do most of the explaining, that this was taken at an event for the Suzan G Komen Foundation, a big partner of WWE. On the one hand, they are clearly doing their very best to stay in character despite outfits that don’t match at all. They look like they’re desperately trying to change it to the Certified G Komen Foundation. But on the other hand, there’s only one word to describe them here, and I’m gonna spell it out for ya. S-A-W-F-T, SAWFT!
Alexa Bliss was the clear sleeper star of the women’s divisions in WWE after the draft last year brought back the brand split. It would have been a stretch to think of her as anything more than just an NXT call-up there to provide depth to a split division, but she quickly blossomed into by far the best female heel on the roster. Her iconic loud mouth and arrogant attitude make it hard to do anything but despise her character. Which makes it surprising to see her looking so innocent here.
Yep, turns out the real Alexa Bliss is nothing like her in-ring persona. Snotty queen of mean? Arrogant jerk who thinks she’s better than everyone else? Try happy-go-lucky Disney fanatic. And no, that’s not a metaphor. She’s admitted as much in interviews. As a little thought experiment, next time you see Alexa Bliss trying to be a dastardly obnoxious heel, just think back to this photo and see if you even try to still hate her. It really tears apart the illusion.
Samoa Joe is certainly a recent addition to the WWE roster that had fans excited. Few other wrestlers in the world right now have embraced and perfected the bruising brawler style as much as him. So much that some fans consider his matches must-sees, even if his run on the main roster so far has been underwhelming at best. Whether face or heel, he’s almost always presented at the badass who can get stuff done. Not the happy guy just trying to have fun…right?
Actually, yeah. Most people who know the real Samoa Joe think of him as one of the nicest, down to earth guys out there in the wrestling world. Those who only follow the character will find this photo of him being a big goofball out of place. But those who’ve heard his stories of partying too hard on the indie circuit or seen his avid love of gaming know this is just good old Joe at his best.
Whoever said these moments had to come outside the ring? Sometimes all it takes is just the right amount of catastrophe to see wrestlers break character right in front of the live audience. And this one stands out big time in recent memory.
Randy Orton is not a wrestler you will see break character very often. It’s easy to maintain that vicious Viper persona when the real guy likes his privacy. And when you think of him going off script in the ring, it usually concerns his anger getting the best of him for real. Certainly not looking like he went too far.
Those who recognize this photo remember it from Backlash earlier this year where Jinder Mahal beat Orton for the WWE Championship. With help from the Singh Brothers, as always. The match had a spot where Orton disposed of the Singhs over by the announce tables, and he dropped one of them very awkwardly. So if you’ve ever wondered what Orton’s “Oh sh--, I may have just killed a man” face looked like, well there you go.
Glenn Jacobs has had quite the career of ups and downs in WWE. From literally just impersonating another wrestler, to an evil dentist, to nothing more than a corporate sellout, he’s been through a wide variety of characters other than the demon Kane we know him best as. But we’ve uncovered yet another character so jarring they couldn’t show it on TV…Dad Kane.
We’ve seen him plenty of times without his mask, and yes, there’s the whole thing about him getting into politics now, but it’s still so unusual to see him being so…unthreatening. I mean, audiences were never really going to be intimidated by a dentist, but at least there was a clear effort to be menacing. Here? Nothing. In 25 years we’ve never seen him get to just be a normal guy.
Tamina Snuka for basically her entire WWE career has been the black sheep of the women’s divisions. One of the few female wrestlers who’s always clearly been there to be a wrestler and not partially just eye candy, she’s never really been given a chance to shine, at least not for herself. Despite having the look of someone who should be a clear powerhouse in the division and the in-ring ability to pull it off convincingly, the company has never put enough faith in her to give her a chance, or even really develop her own character.
In all the times she’s been someone else’s right-hand woman or outright manager, we’ve got the vague idea that she’s supposed to be a very serious, menacing presence. So naturally, here she is being so happy that the ground can’t contain it. In this one picture of her celebrating the gift of a new car from her cousin The Rock, she’s almost shown more personality than in her entire WWE run, even if it isn’t the personality you’d expect.
While we’re on the subject of powerhouses who haven’t truly been given their due, let’s talk about Rusev. Rusev started off so well in WWE, bursting onto the scene by going undefeated in singles matches for his entire first year on the main roster. WWE had built up a great powerhouse heel until for some reason they decided not to follow through on it. Since then it’s seemingly just been teases of building him back up but never getting very far before that also falls through.
More recently he’s been surprisingly entertaining in his over-the-top heel antics with Aiden English, but it turns out this is truer to his real self. That picture of him being a doofus for the camera? That’s the not the exception. It's pretty much par for the course with him. It shouldn’t be surprising at all that he’s held his own in more comedic roles and contexts.
Hey, we’re on a streak here. Might as well continue it.
Bray Wyatt. Unique, intriguing character. Captivating promos and solid in-ring ability. And yet somehow, WWE keeps screwing the pooch with him. Whether by unintentionally making an absolute mockery of his mystique or simply by ruining his credibility by never letting him definitively come out on top. There’s so much potential in this cultist character of his, but with how much it’s gone wrong, you almost wonder if it’d be better just to start over with Bray Wyatt.
Oh hey, look at that. This is what Bray Wyatt would look like if he got hit too hard on the head and snapped back into being a normal person. He’s just here…hanging out with his brother Bo Dallas and his sister. Looking like he’s just going out to dinner or something. It’s…it’s different. Maybe a little too different. We gotta do some work on this guy and maybe we can turn him into a compelling wrestler.
Nah, let’s just stick with the cultist.
In recent years, WWE has shown to be stubborn about turning wrestlers heel even when their babyface act clearly isn’t working. But at the same time, they’ve done a great job creating great heels we weren’t expecting. Exhibit A: Neville. From a bland babyface whose only attraction was his athleticism, to the arrogant, violent King of the Cruiserweights. His overpowering heel work was so enticing it’s easy to forget about his time as a babyface. At least until you see pictures like this.
Unsurprisingly, the famous Englishman is a huge football fan (soccer for us Canadians and Americans), an ardent supporter of his hometown Newcastle FC. Based on his character you’d think he’d be sniveling at the players and touting how much better he is. But he seems to be genuinely enjoying himself here. Also unlike he was in WWE apparently, considering the whole walking out debacle last month.
In no small part due to the switch to PG content, a large contingent of WWE’s audience both at home and live in the arenas are small children. It’s also not unusual for them to see some things that upset them considering almost all storylines in the ring are mean jerks beating up on the likable good guys. This all means a common character break is for heels to calm down those they may have scared or made sad. Even Baron Corbin.
Yes, that Baron Corbin. The one who viciously beats up anybody who gets in his way. The one who repeatedly mocks legends of the business to tout his own greatness. That guy. Even he’s a softie. At this point I’m just hoping there’s at least someone on the WWE roster who has the gall to be a jerk in real life too. It seems like the best we’ve got right now is Enzo Amore.
What? Just what?!?!
For the desperately needed context of this photo, this was taken at Drew McIntyre’s wedding, and he was not afraid to highlight his Scottish background. He and notable guests wore this mash-up of a tuxedo and a kilt that I didn’t know I needed in my life until I saw it just now. And yes, some of his guests were his fellow wrestlers. Notably his 3MB-mate Jinder Mahal.
Mahal’s entire gimmick is essentially just having Indian heritage and being way too proud of it. And here he is…wearing a kilt…and not laughing at how ridiculous it is. To be fair it looks out of place on McIntyre himself, considering WWE has only mentioned his Scottish descent, not necessarily shown it. And we can also see Sheamus there, looking…actually, considering his ring attire while he’s been teamed with Cesaro, it looks surprisingly normal on him.
The Miz is in the middle of a career stretch. For the past two years, there has arguably been no better heel, and possibly no better all-round full-time superstar. The Miz has perfected the art of making audiences hate his stupid guts. And he manages it both in his promos with his condescending character who puts too much stock in his own brand, as well as in his ring work, constantly taunting the audience by using signature moves of fan favorites, especially Daniel Bryan.
Based on stories of backstage heat involving The Miz, you wouldn’t be surprised if this was very true to reality. And for the most part, Miz and his wife Maryse have held their personas in public more than most wrestlers. But this one candid photo of them messing around is all it takes to remind us that they’re still big adorable goofs at heart. Which arguably makes us appreciate their heel work more, because based on the light-heartedness here, they probably just plain enjoy getting stadiums to boo the hell out of them.
Yes, even the decade-long poster boy of the entire company has a few kayfabe breaking photos out there. No, John Cena didn’t break bad and start punching babies or anything, but if anybody would be told to keep the illusion and not hang out with heels he’s supposed to be feuding with, it would be John Cena. So what the heck is he doing taking silly photos with CM Punk in the middle of their epic feud back in 2011? Also, what is he wearing?
I know lots of fans already make fun of the way Cena dresses since he constantly looks like a merchandise advertisement with legs. But even this is a stretch for John Cena. Dare I say those pants are outright tacky. Sorry to any Zubaz enthusiasts out there, but there’s a reason those died out in the 90s. And believe it or not, he went as far as wearing those things during a house show on a Japanese tour.
One of the nicknames of wrestlers that still makes me chuckle to this day is Seth Rollins being called Crossfit Jesus. Why? His long hair and beard combo and his love of Crossfit. Pretty self explanatory. There are plenty of pictures of Rollins enjoying a good Crossfit workout. Like this one.
Wait, what are the rest of The Shield doing there?
Yes, while Rollins seems to be the most ardent Crossfitter of the bunch, Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose have been seen to come along on occasion. This is Rollins’ natural habitat, but the others not so much. Reigns being a fitness bro and hanging out with his friends while doing it I suppose makes sense, but it’s nothing like how he’s been presented on WWE TV. Ambrose is the big one, though. He feels so out of place in this picture. Wild lunatic and chill workout buddy are two personas that just do not mix under any circumstances.