Pro wrestling, like almost every other form of entertainment, requires that a performer not only have the skills necessary for the job but also that they look the part. Being an amazing technical wrestler might guarantee you have a job on the independent scene for life but if you want to make the big bucks in this industry, you’ve got to have a certain look about you.
For that reason, wrestlers are always trying to change their appearance in the hopes that they land on something which makes them appear more of a Superstar. You will see plenty examples in this article of wrestlers doing whatever they can to change their appearance in the hopes that it elevates them up the card. Unfortunately, there are far too many examples of wrestlers who were as skilled as anyone who came before them but ultimately didn’t have a look WWE or another major promotion felt they could sell.
While nowadays smaller wrestlers are being given a chance to show they can compete at the top of the card, those wrestlers still have to have a look which makes them feel like a larger-than-life star. Many wrestlers featured in this article were able to turn themselves into main event players by altering their appearance.
Here are 15 wrestlers who are completely unrecognizable from just five years ago, enjoy.
15. Sasha Banks
25-year-old Sasha Banks signed a WWE contract five years ago in 2012. She had spent the previous two years working independent promotions near her home in Massachusetts.
While wrestling on the independent circuit, she wrestled under the name Mercedes KV, a play on her real name.
Early in her career, she lacked the look and confidence of a “legit boss” though shortly into her WWE career that would change (the gimmick was inspired by her cousin Snoop). Banks is one of, if not the most, talented female on the roster. Her championship reigns have left quite a bit to be desired, however. Despite being a four-time WWE Women’s Champion, she has never successfully defended the title in a televised match. Sasha has vocalized some frustration over the fact that she has never been given a lengthy title.
14. Matt Hardy
Five years ago, Matt Hardy was wrestling in Ring of Honor. He was making his return to the company for the first time since 2005 when he wrestled a few matches for them during the time he was fired from WWE. This was during the period of his infamous love triangle involving Lita and Edge.
Then 38-year-old didn’t look as broken down five years ago, as the body tends to age somewhat rapidly from the late-30s to mid-40s. Hardy also completely reinvented his character since that time and went through his Broken gimmick which revitalized his and his brother Jeff’s careers. While he hasn’t been able to take the gimmick to WWE, parts of its still come through from time to time.
At WrestleMania 33 this year, Matt and his brother Jeff returned to WWE and won the Raw Tag Team Championships.
Five years ago, Asuka was known as Kana and she wrestled in Japan and the North American independent scene. She, um, looked significantly scarier as Kana, though that isn’t to say she isn’t still somewhat terrifying as Asuka.
She definitely had a darker feel to her as Kana but perhaps we’ll see that part of her persona begin to creep through more now that she is on the main roster. If Asuka ever turns heel again somewhere down the line, we might even see some of her evil dark facepaint come back as well.
Asuka bucked the trend of NXT Champions losing their titles before being called up to the main roster. A collarbone injury put her on the disabled list for a couple months and the decision was made to just have her join the main roster once she recovered.
12. A.J. Styles
Five years ago, A.J. Styles was still wrestling in TNA. While he was popular and well respected, his career had yet to reach the level that it has today.
Although the now 40-year-old was in his mid-30s five years ago, he still looked quite young. He had yet to grow out his hair or grow in his beard, something that would make him more grizzled looking later in his career.
Much like Daniel Bryan would do as well, the addition of the beard and long hair gave a whole new look to him as a performer. No longer did he look like somebody’s little brother pretending to be a pro wrestler, he looked like a pro wrestler who could actually stand toe-to-toe with other main event stars. He’s not the first nor will he be the last to utilize the long hair and beard strategy.
11. Enzo Amore
It was just five years ago the WWE signed Enzo Amore to a WWE contract. Triple H was said to have been impressed with the package Enzo had sent into WWE which included various YouTube videos of him cutting promos.
As evidenced by the photos above, WWE had to do a lot of tweaking to his appearance to get his physical self to better resemble his vocal self. Now with crazy bleached blonde hair and a beard which goes down to his chest, Enzo looks like the kind of star that his voice projects him to be.
Enzo is an interesting character in wrestling at the moment. His inclusion on the 205 Live roster has been controversial but also quite successful as viewership for the show has reportedly gone up since he debuted.
10. Adam Cole
Rumors are 28-year-old Adam Cole has been on WWE’s radar for several years. The belief is that Cole took part in a WWE tryout long ago but was told he simply looked too young to be signed. They suggested he come back when he’s a little more xperienced, filled out more, and had grown out the hair on both his head and face to look older.
Evidently, WWE also told him he had all the physical skills but simply lacked the right appearance. With time and age, however, that would change. Now Adam Cole has debuted in NXT along with Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish.
Cole might still be a little small for what Vince normally likes on the main roster, however. Unfortunately, for that reason, Cole’s destination after NXT might end up being 205 Live over Raw or SmackDown. Purist wrestling fans would be baffled by such a decision.
9. Kenny Omega
Five years ago, Kenny Omega was not considered one of the best wrestlers in the world, even though he might have been. At the time, he was ½ of the “Golden Lovers” tag team along with Kota Ibushi.
The team won the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships on one occasion in New Japan Pro Wrestling and won the DDT Tag Team Championships twice for the promotion.
It wouldn’t be until 2014 that Omega would leave DDT to join NJPW on a full-time basis. Upon returning to the promotion, Omega was announced as the newest member of the Bullet Club. Following WrestleKingdom 10 on January 4th, 2016, Omega announced he was moving up to the Heavyweight Division. He would win the Intercontinental Championship not long after. Later that year he would become the first non-Japanese wrestler to win the G1 tournament.
In 2012, the performer currently known as Rosemary in Impact Wrestling was on the independent circuit wrestling as Courtney Rush. She only adopted the Gothic character in late 2015 for Smash Wrestling and then afterward in Impact Wrestling as a member of the Decay faction.
Her time in Impact Wrestling has launched her from being a well-respected women’s independent wrestler to being one of the bigger names in the non-WWE women’s wrestling scene. Currently, she is involved in a feud with Taya Valkyrie at the very top of Impact’s Women’s Division.
Rosemary was part of some controversy earlier this summer during a match in Mexico for AAA Lucha Libre. During the match, Sexy Star bent back her arm for real in an armbar spot which led to a large backlash against Sexy Star in the industry.
7. Tetsuya Naito
Fans of New Japan Pro Wrestling have no doubt seen a drastic change in the appearance and mannerisms of Tetsuya Naito.
Since 2015, Naito has been the leader of Los Ingobernables de Japan, a far cry from the character he used to portray. NJPW pushed Naito as a true blue babyface, they even booked him to win the 2013 G1 Climax tournament. Controversially that year, the promotion would allow fans to vote on which match main invented their annual Tokyo Dome show. The fans voted for Nakamura and Tanahashi’s match over his, letting the promotion know they weren’t as behind the character as they wanted.
Naito changed his character, turned heel, and ended up getting over with fans. Ironically, many of the fans who had voted against him in 2013 are now the same fans cheering him today.
6. Scott Hall
It has been less than five years since Scott Hall also reported to Diamond Dallas Page’s house to take partake in the DDP Yoga program. At the time, few thought Hall had much longer to live.
Shortly before he took up DDP’s invite, Hall had shown up to an independent event in no condition to perform. It’s not that he was drunk, although he might have been, Hall just looked completely out of it. He was said to have been high on prescription drugs after suffering a medical episode not long before.
Nowadays, Scott Hall looks good for his age. He’s sober, appears to eat healthy, and looks how a healthy 59-year-old is supposed to look like. He spends a lot of his time following the career of his son, Cody Hall, who is currently wrestling in Japan for Pro Wrestling NOAH.
5. Drew Gulak
Drew Gulak looks entirely different from how he did even in 2016’s Cruiserweight Classic, let alone five years ago. As of this writing, Gulak is getting a lot of television time on 205 Live. Nearly every episode, you can expect to see him give an updated version of his PowerPoint presentation.
The character he plays today is a far cry from the character he came into the Cruiserweight Classic with. For that tournament, he had a close-cropped haircut and an intimidating goatee and was more of a serious character. In fact, Gulak has wrestled most of his career as a serious character. He is a 13-year veteran and had competed for 12 years in the hardcore wrestling organization Combat Zone Wrestling. It’s unclear how the CZW fans would respond to his current PowerPoint presentations.
4. Ruby Riot
Five years ago, Ruby Riot was wrestling at Heidi Lovelace. She was just two years into her career at the time and her punk rock persona hadn’t yet crept to the surface.
She had a nose ring, and her haircut was a little different but she hadn’t quite turned into the punk rock Superstar that she is today. Ruby wrestled for Ohio Valley wrestling, Shine, Chikara and in Japan for Stardom before being signed by WWE earlier this year.
As of this writing, Riot is on the outside looking in of the NXT Women’s Championship picture. She failed to qualify for the fatal four-way match to declare a new champion at the Houston Takeover show. Considering her skill and popularity, however, don’t expect her to be on the outside of the championship scene for a long.
3. Becky Lynch
30-year-old Becky Lynch still wasn’t signed to WWE five years ago. She was still toiling away on the independent scene wherever she could get booked.
Becky seemed like she wouldn’t make it in WWE when she first debuted in NXT as well. She started her NXT career with a stereotypical Irish jig dancing gimmick that luckily was dropped soon after it first aired.
She soon dawned a new look with dyed orange hair and goggles. The look is reminiscent to a Magic: the Gathering character and also inspired by the “Steam-Punk” genre of science-fiction. Whatever you want to call her current look it sure is a heck of a lot more interesting than the bland one she had early in her WWE career or on the independent scene.
2. Jake “The Snake” Roberts
It was approximately five years ago that Jake “The Snake” Roberts accepted Diamond Dallas Page’s invitation to come live at his house and take part in his DDP Yoga program.
When news first broke that this was going on, few thought it would have much of an impact. Roberts’ “personal demons” had become public knowledge as far back as the late 90s and it appeared he was beyond help. Jake thrived under DDP’s program and supervision. He dropped weight drastically, cut and dyed his hair, and ended up looking like a far healthier version of himself. Some even joked he had begun to resemble Jake Roberts impersonators.
Now five years into the program, Roberts is reporting he is still healthy, sober, and feeling great. His self-growth over the last five years has been nothing short of amazing.
1. Jinder Mahal
The current WWE champion looks nothing like his former self from five years ago. Now 31 years old, Jinder had just joined 3MB in 2012 and his future couldn’t have looked bleaker. In fact, he would only last two more years on the main roster before being released. Jinder was re-signed to the company in 2016, however, as WWE embarked on its second brand split era.
When WWE decided they wanted to break into the Indian market in 2017, Jinder was the guy they turned to. Since he’s been back on the roster, he has been eating clean and working on his physique. Also adding to Jinder’s new look, is a new head of hair, he grew out of his hair and grew in his beard, something that has also worked for wrestlers like Daniel Bryan and A.J. Styles in the past as we mentioned.
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