Nobody is born a superstar, WWE or otherwise. Though they may have some innate talent within them that predicts their success, one cannot begin a wrestling career until they’ve received the proper training, and said training typically can’t begin until a person reaches the age 18. Unsurprisingly, most wrestlers wait until even later than that, leaving plenty of time to attempt a full career in an entirely different medium.
Wrestling isn’t a career someone stumbles into, so most of the people we’re about to list had aspirations of becoming a wrestler while pursuing some separate career. In most cases, the “careers” we’re talking about were more like teenage jobs, but many definitely lasted long enough to turn into a full-on profession. We aren’t talking about summer jobs stocking a grocery store, either—these wrestlers picked some pretty inventive odd jobs.
Given how unusual these professions were, even the simpler jobs amongst them generally required some unique skill, no matter how marginal, and a few of these wrestlers even parlayed those skills into their sports entertainment personas. Of course, most didn’t, and are thus even more interesting to consider how disparate their lives must have been before hitting the squared circle. Keep reading to learn about 15 pro wrestlers with the most unique pre-fame careers.
Now that John Cena is the franchise player of World Wrestling Entertainment, it would be reasonable to assume that if he were to get inside a limousine, it would be in the back seat. Long before he was a superstar, he needed any job he could take, though, and that meant sitting behind the wheel of a high-class vehicle and transporting wealthy clients while he trained to become a wrestler. Given Cena’s later success in life, it might also be fair to guess he was a decent limo driver, but by his own admission, he was actually kind of horrible at the job. This was in a time before GPS was widespread, and Cena didn’t have the best sense of direction, upsetting his clients enough that he wasn’t going to be driving limos for long. Lucky for him, his side job working at a gym was proving a lot more promising, leading him to a career in wrestling that would soon see him revolutionize the industry.
It’s somehow fitting that the Ninth Wonder of the World would have a pre-fame career as exotic and creative minded as belly dancing. Chyna was never anything like the typical female wrestler, and the specialized form of performance art she used to practice naturally fits in with that perception. Belly dancing was actually only one of dozens of odd jobs Chyna took prior to deciding to become a wrestler, spending time with the Peace Corps, waitressing in a strip club, singing for a band, studying to become a flight attendant, and predicting her post-wrestling career, offering her voice to a phone sex company. She never spent much time in any of these professions, always gravitating towards her side interest in bodybuilding and fitness. This passion eventually lead her to Killer Kowalski, who trained Chyna to become the legendary wrestler who changed the world for female superstars.
Even Tchaikovsky couldn’t have envisioned a beauty like Lana dancing to one of his ballets, and yet the late, great Russian composer and many others were lucky enough to experience just that (albeit long after their deaths, of course). Inspired by her mother’s success in the field, Lana wanted to perform ballet from a young age, joining the Latvian National Ballet when she was 14. She moved to New York City when she was 17, continuing her ballet career at a number of American dance companies. Perhaps enthralled by the bright lights of show business, Lana branched out to modeling, music, and acting, making her way to the WWE Universe in 2013. Her acting skills have always been integral to her wrestling character, acting as the romantic interest of her real-life Bavarian husband Rusev, much in the vein of Ivan and Ludmilla Drago of Rocky IV.
The Mouth of the South in more ways than one, Jimmy Hart found international fame years before he was one of the best managers in wrestling history as a member of the rock group The Gentrys. The band’s 1965 hit “Keep On Dancing” reached number 4 on the Billboard charts, leading Hart and the other Gentrys to go on tour with The Beach Boys and appear in dozens of TV shows. Unfortunately, their fame proved rather fleeting, unable to score another hit and fading out of the spotlight before the ‘60s were over. the Gentrys had formed while in high school, coincidentally attending the same high school as future wrestling legend Jerry “The King” Lawler. After The Gentrys had fell from glory, Hart saw his old classmate on TV cutting a wrestling promo and gave him a call, soon finding his way into the industry himself. Hart went on to manage names like Andy Kaufman, Hulk Hogan, The Nasty Boys, Terry Funk, Lex Luger, and literally hundreds of others.
It’s pretty easy to understand why a business would want a woman like Trish Stratus working the door, especially if that business is based on physical activity. That said, when you hear Trish Stratus worked at a gym before becoming a wrestler, you might expect her to have had a more physical role than merely answering the phones. It didn’t matter where the gym put her, though, as her natural beauty soon attracted the publisher of MuscleMag International, leading to a career in modeling that soon caught the attention of Vince McMahon. Stratus had been a fan of wrestling since childhood, and was more than happy to switch careers, starting her training with Ron Hutchinson right away. After spending the first several years of her career as a manager, Stratus moved into the ring and kick started the women’s revolution by promising fans 100% Stratusfaction in her every match.
Given the criticism he’s received since entering the WWE Universe, it can be a little hard to imagine Michael Cole covering stone serious world news in his years as a journalist for CBS Radio. His first mainstream role was covering the failed 1988 Presidential campaign of Michael Dukakis, followed by Bill Clinton’s successful campaign four years later. Cole moved on to high intensity jobs reporting on the Branch Davidian siege in Waco, Texas, then the Yugoslavian Civil War, and lastly the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing. His news career slowed down similarly to how it started, with coverage of Steve Forbes’ and Bob Dole’s failed 1996 Presidential campaigns, shortly after which he was suggested to Vince McMahon by Todd Pettengill. Vince must have appreciated Cole’s news credentials, since he pushed him into a major role behind the announce desk almost instantly, gradually leading to his position today as the lead announce for most WWE programming.
As the self-proclaimed oldest rookie in wrestling, it’s only logical that “Diamond” Dallas Page was able to achieve a decent amount in his pre-wrestling career. He had always been interested in getting involved with wrestling, but he thought there was more money to be made in the nightclub business. In the territorial days of wrestling, that was almost definitely true for everybody except the biggest stars, and with how successful Page was able to become in the nightclub business, there’s almost no doubt it was the case for him. DDP’s nightclub was called Norma Jeans, and it was apparently quite the hot spot for wrestlers and partyers in general throughout the 1980s. Once wrestling started to blow up and it looked like DDP could make money in the business he had always enjoyed, he decided to switch careers and trained to first manage and then wrestle. Despite his advanced age, DDP’s drive to succeed and natural charisma made him one of the biggest stars in WCW history, a fact well known by everybody who’s felt…the…bang!
Of all the professions on this list, it probably goes without saying none of the wrestling companies Ron Killings has worked for have brought up his past career. Sure, he’s rapped and engaged in hip hop culture wherever he’s gone, but the drug dealing he admitted funded his early rap career is typically glossed over, to say this least. In fairness, Killings wasn’t exactly a drug dealer in the literal sense, in that he was more of an Omar Little type. Knowing they couldn’t go to the police, Killings would rob drug dealers and sell their product himself, but eventually he realized the lifestyle wasn’t for him. Granted, a 13-month stint in prison tends to have that affect on a person. Shortly after Killings was released from the big house, he decided to put his music career on hold and start training to become a professional wrestler, turning his life around to find great success in both WWE and TNA.
An incredible academic success from high school to Harvard Law, David Otunga is arguably the most overqualified wrestler ever to grace WWE (apologies to Christopher Nowsinki). He made his way to law school after earning a perfect 4.0 GPA throughout high school, getting his bachelor’s degree in psychology, and working at the Cognitive Neuroscience Center at Columbia University. Somehow Otunga also had time to appear as a contestant on I Love New York 2 along the way, making it to the final three. While Otunga wouldn’t find love on the show, he soon met singer Jennifer Hudson and the two became engaged, although they remain unmarried as of January 2017. Shortly after popping the question to Hudson, Otunga put all of his scholastic credentials to the side to pursue a side career in pro wrestling, starting a career in WWE that persists to this day.
Bragging about how he cashes checks for breaking necks, it could be argued A.J. Styles and ambulances would eventually have a negative connection to one another (and the same could be said for virtually any wrestler, for that matter). Of course, the situation was far different when he was a twenty-something ambulance driver, trying to help his nearly impoverished family make ends meet. Styles kept driving the ambulance while pursuing his career on the independent wrestling service, later saying it was a blessing that his boss was understanding enough to give him days off whenever he asked. A.J. and a friend also co-owned a landscaping business up until his wrestling career was successful enough he didn’t have the time or need for any outside business ventures. We’re not sure at exactly which point into his TNA career he had the realization that side jobs were no longer necessary, but it would be a fair guess to assume that WWE is the only career for him ever since he was donned the Face That Runs the Place.
The most surprising thing about Paul Bearer having been a mortician prior to signing with WWE is that he actually started his wrestling career before getting his embalming license. He took time off from his day job as a manager to obtain a degree in mortuary science, then continuing his career in wrestling as his original character, Percy Pringle III. When Percy was introduced to Vince McMahon, the WWE CEO became aware of his side job as a funeral director, and from there it almost seems obvious how Paul Bearer was born. While Percy Pringle III had dozens of clients, Paul Bearer is best known for one, the Phenom of professional wrestling, The Undertaker. The two characters were so perfectly suited for one another fans often forget Bearer also managed names like Mankind and Vader, though his association with the dark side will always be his most memorable trait.
Maybe it isn’t entirely accurate to treat someone’s childhood hobby as a career, but the thought of Sheamus performing in the Palestrina Choir from his childhood until the age of 13 is too adorable for us to ignore. Sheamus started singing when he attended Scoli Caoimhin Primary and Coláiste Mhuire Secondary School, an institution that encouraged him to always stay true to his Gaelic roots. Sheamus soon drifted away from singing to sports, though, discovering an interest in Gaelic football and later rugby. His success in athletics lead to a side career as a bodyguard, leading him to high profile clients like Bono and Larry Mullen, Jr. of U2. Sheamus combined all of his interests (well, except maybe the choirboy act) to create his Celtic Warrior character that brought him to great fame in WWE, creating one of pro wrestling’s highest profile positive Irish role models.
Every wrestler needs an account, helping them sort out their finances as they ascend the ladder towards sports entertainment history—that is, every wrestler except D’Lo Brown, who graduated from the University of Maine in the early 1990s, becoming a Certified Public Accountant. Fans of the Attitude Era are likely aware of this fact, considering JR loved to bring it up at almost every occasion possible, for whatever bizarre reason. In a strange way, it made sense at first, as D’Lo appeared in a mostly non-speaking background role for his first few months in WWE, basically implying he was the Nation of Domination’s financial backer. Whether or not that was intentional, the perception gradually faded away when he branched away from the group to start his solo career, earning great success as the first Euro-Continental Champion in WWE.
While Kurt Angle is still the only Olympic gold medal winner in WWE history, he’s far from the only Olympic competitor to make his way to a wrestling ring. Amongst dozens of Olympic wrestlers and weightlifters, Chip Minton remains one-of-a-kind for his status as a former member of the Olympic bobsled team. In 1994, Minton and Jim Herberich finished fourteenth in the two-man event, at which point Minton temporarily left bobsledding for a career in wrestling. He trained at the WCW Power Plant before making his debut for the company in 1996, spending the next three years as a jobber of little note. Unlike most people on this list, Minton apparently decided he preferred his first career to wrestling, returning to the Olympics in 1998 to perform even better, coming in fifth at the four-man bobsled with Brian Shimer, Randy Jones, and Robert Olesen. He briefly returned to wrestling after that, ultimately retiring from sports in 1999.
In stark contrast to his flamboyant wrestling character, Rico Constantino has been impressing the world as a certified bad ass in his every career choice. He found his first long term employment in his native Las Vegas as a police officer and then bodyguard, transitioning into entertainment after an incredible performance on American Gladiators. Somehow this lead Rico to getting recruiting by The Power Team, a group of ministers/bodybuilders who spread the gospel while impressing young audiences with their feats of strength. He spent two years as a minister counseling children and working with charities such as the Special Olympics before deciding to give wrestling a shot when he was already in his late 30s. Though never a huge star, Rico still exceeded expectations given his age, twice winning the WWE World Tag Team Championships over his short stint working for Vince McMahon.