Not all WWE superstars are like Bayley. They didn’t all grow up as WWE super fans, or spend their childhoods dreaming about becoming WWE superstars. They didn’t practice their own entrances in their backyard, while their favorite song played in their head. They didn’t all take their replica championships and imagine the moment when the referees hand comes down, and they are crowned the new WWE Champion. In fact, many of WWE’s (and WCW’s) top stars probably considered pro wrestling a step down from where they really wanted to be. They probably feel as though they “settled” for their new roles when their original plans did not pan out the way they had hoped. Several of WWE’s top stars of days past, and the current roster came from other walks of life that they thought fit their skills better, or fulfilled a life-long dream. That’s not to say they don’t love what they currently do, but not everybody who’s on the roster always pictured themselves being there.
And who’s to say that many of these people won’t someday return to their old ways? Maybe there’s people in WWE right now who just don’t feel that wrestling is the right fit for them. We’ve seen people like Brock Lesnar come into the WWE, and then move on to become a champion in UFC. There’s a good chance others are tempted to follow the same path. But for now, let’s focus on what we know, and that’s the 15 WWE mega-stars whose first choice WASN’T pro-wrestling.
15. Lex Luger – Football
That’s right! The man once pegged to be the next Hulk Hogan after Hogan’s departure from the then-WWF, did not intend on becoming a professional wrestler. In fact, he even came remarkably close to becoming a professional football player and likely would have never seen the squared circle in his life. The Lex Express played football at the University of Miami, but was kicked off the team before the end of the season. From there, he went to the Canadian Football League, where he played from 1979-81. After getting very close to winning the Grey Cup (the CFL’s Super Bowl), Luger was signed by an NFL team, the Green Bay Packers. Unfortunately for Luger, a preseason injury kept him from playing a single game in the league. After being released during training camp in 1983, Luger went on to play for a few years in the USFL (United States Football League) before making his way to professional wrestling in 1985.
14. The Ultimate Warrior – Bodybuilding
Before Jim Hellwig became the face-painted freak who captivated audiences with his blend of athleticism, charisma, and natural craziness, he spent his time dabbling in the world of competitive bodybuilding. When he was just 11 years old, Hellwig began lifting weights. Then, after a move to California, the future WWE Champion truly became invested in the world of bodybuilding. Though never considered elite, Warrior would go on to find moderate success as a bodybuilder, eventually winning the 1983 AAU Coastal USA competition.
Even if bodybuilding didn’t work out for Hellwig he was prepared. His backup choice? Not professional wrestling, but becoming a chiropractor. Luckily, a group of bodybuilders close to him would go on to help Jim make an incredible decision, introducing him to the world of pro wrestling and introducing pro wrestling to one of the most iconic stars of all time.
13. John Bradshaw Layfield – Football
He’s not the first person on this list with a background in football and he sure won’t be the last. But it is true that the former WWE Champion (and 18-time Hardcore Champion), and current Smackdown Live color commentator, originally planned on becoming a pro football player. He played as an offensive lineman in college for Abilene Christian University, and was named to the All-Lone Star Conference in his final 2 years. He would go undrafted in the NFL, but was later picked up by the Los Angeles Raiders in early 1990. However, before he could live out his dream, Layfield was cut from the franchise, and would only play football for one more year, as part of the World League of American Football. It didn’t turn out all that bad for the big Texan, as he has since become a big star in the wrestling business, and has likely become more popular and successful as he would have been had the Raiders kept him on their squad.
12. Randy Savage – Baseball
OOOH YEAH! The Macho Man wasn’t always meant to be a key player in the wrestling world. Instead, The St. Louis Cardinals wanted to make him a key part of their own success. And then the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago White Sox wanted the same. The man who would later become a WWE Hall Of Famer was a highly sought after baseball player, following high school. Unfortunately for Savage, but luckily for thousands of wrestling fans, he could never get out of the minor leagues and, in 1974, he would turn his back on baseball, and begin his journey into the world of professional wrestling. 12 years later, after years in several territories, the young man from Ohio was a champion in WWE, capturing the Intercontinental Championship in 1986. He would later go on to win the WWE Championship, and main event WrestleMania, before also winning the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. Not bad for a man who was so close to becoming a star in the MLB.
11. Sting – Bodybuilding
Remember how I said some bodybuilding friends close to Ultimate Warrior convinced him to become a wrestler? Well guess who one of those friends was? Steve Borden, better known by his WCW persona Sting. Following high school, where Borden was multi-talented, playing both baseball and football, he began a career in bodybuilding. He never once considered wrestling as a career, mainly because there’s a good chance he knew nothing about it. Where he lived, Borden did not have access to any wrestling programming and therefore was not exposed to the business until he attended a WWE show in Los Angeles, which not only exposed him to the business, but inspired him to become a wrestler. It worked out well for Sting, as he would become a multi-time WCW World Heavyweight Champion, and the “Franchise of WCW.” He also gained recognition as being the last big WCW original to appear in WWE, waiting over 13 years before appearing for the company, following their purchase of WCW.
10. The Rock – Football
I mean, is it any surprise that Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson wasn’t always interested in becoming a wrestler? Just look at what he’s done since leaving the ring, with much more left to give in the business, might I add. He’s become a big league actor, was voted The Hottest Man on the Planet, and may even become the President of The United States. Therefore it should not be that difficult to learn that The Rock intended on becoming a football player. He played for the Miami Hurricanes in college (what’s up with wrestlers going to the University of Miami?), but he was replaced following injury in 1991. After graduating in 1995, he played for The Calgary Stampedes in the CFL, before finally following in his father’s footsteps, pursuing a career in sports-entertainment. Without the success in WWE, The Rock most likely would not have found his success in Hollywood. Sometimes things just work out.
9. Andre The Giant – Farm Hand
Definitely the biggest person on this list. It is true, though, the gigantic Frenchman did not want to become a pro wrestler. He just wanted to work on his family’s farm. In fact, Andre dropped out of school despite being very good at math, because nothing he was learning was of any benefit to a farmer. After finding out that farming brought him little satisfaction, he tried woodworking, and factory work, with no avail. However, he was introduced to wrestling at 17, and because of his size, he soon became a star across the world. He found his way to the WWE in 1973, at age 26, where he would remain undefeated for FIFTEEN YEARS (not so big now, are you Goldberg?). Unfortunately, the thing that got him to the dance, was what killed him, as his heart couldn’t keep up with his body, and Andre The Giant passed away at age 46.
8. Mark Henry – Weightlifting
We all know about Mark Henry being touted by WWE as The World’s Strongest Man, but did you know that actually was what Henry originally wanted? Henry was a legit strongman, and competed in multiple competitions in the weightlifting field, including capturing Olympic Gold. His personal records include a deadlift of 903 lbs., or about FOUR of AJ Styles. Just let that sink in for a second…yeah, he’s a strong guy. After accomplishing pretty much all he could in the ‘big, tough guy’ world, Henry reached out to the WWE, who welcomed him with open and VERY outstretched arms. Although he never really reached the same levels of success he did as a power lifter, the big man’s career, and longevity, is certainly enough for him to gain legend status
7. Baron Corbin – Football/Boxing
Okay hold on! Before you rush to the comments and say ‘But Baron just started, how can he be a legend?’ I’m not saying he is. However, he has already accomplished a lot, and has great potential. He is certainly marked for a big future as one of the top heels in the company and, in 20 years, he will have likely earned his place on this list. However, the current Mr. Money in the Bank did not intend on becoming a wrestling star. He originally planned on playing in the NFL. He was even signed to two different franchises, but never saw the gridiron for a regular season game, getting cut from both teams. Prior to that, though, Baron was a boxer. A damn good one, too, as he would become a two-time Golden Gloves regional champion for the Kansas-Missouri area. Say what you will about his promo work, this guy is legit.
6. Roman Reigns – Football
Well, since I’ve already brought up a current guy, I might as well bring up the most divisive member of WWE’s current roster and that’s Roman Reigns. He’s not a bad guy. He’s not a good guy. And he almost wasn’t THE guy. Yes, despite being apart of the Anoa’i wrestling dynasty, Joe (Roman’s real name) was focused on an NFL career. Oh, what could have been…oh well, I guess he’s not really that bad. As is normally the case with football players turned pro wrestlers, Reigns never played a regular season NFL game. He later played in the Canadian Football League, but decided to hang up his cleats in 2009, and the next year, he signed with NXT. And, even though we may not consider him one now, there’s no way that Vince McMahon doesn’t make sure that Roman becomes a legendary part of WWE’s history, moving forward.
5. John Cena – Bodybuilding
That’s right! ‘The Face That Runs The Place’ almost never moved into the place. The Miz made a reference to it during the build to WrestleMania 33 and a little digging reveals that WWE’s biggest babyface star, the man who has been on top for the last decade and a half, did indeed originally plan on bodybuilding being his main source of income. The now 16-time champ began pursuing the career in bodybuilding after graduating college in 1998. However, as fate would have it, John didn’t make it in the bodybuilding world and instead began wrestling. As of this writing, Cena is still in the ring, as he is currently in-between Hollywood projects. But, Cena knows his career is reaching the end and his accomplishments certainly do label him as a future Hall of Famer. It almost didn’t work like that, though.
4. Vader – Football
Big Van Vader was a star everywhere he went. He won three WCW World Heavyweight Championships and was the first ever American to win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, a title he also won three times. He never won a championship in WWE, but did challenge for the top title multiple times. Before any of that, though, Vader was a REAL football player. He didn’t just make practice squads, and he wasn’t cut from teams before the season. Vader was a legitimate NFL player, even playing in Super Bowl XIV as part of the LA Rams. It never seemed that Vader would become a pro wrestler, as he appeared destined for greatness as an NFL lineman. It was only after he was forced to retire after a ruptured patella that he became a wrestler. He was quick to learn the ropes (literally) and went on to even bigger things than football.
3. Bill Goldberg – Football
This one shouldn’t take too long to go over, as we all know his story. Before becoming one of the few truly genius decisions WCW ever made, Goldberg played in the NFL for the Atlanta Falcons. After 14 games played over three seasons, Goldberg was taken in the expansion draft by the Carolina Panthers, for whom he became the first player the team ever cut. After an abdominal injury forced him to leave football behind, Goldberg was approached by Lex Luger and Sting, who encouraged him to join WCW. Goldberg admits he wasn’t a fan of wrestling, but needed money and a career after football, so he decided to give it a shot. He became an icon for WCW, and later a World Heavyweight Champion and Universal Champion in WWE, as well. And to think he didn’t like wrestling until he could make money from it…
2. Kurt Angle – Amateur/Olympic Wrestling
He won Olympic gold with a broken freaking neck. He won the WWE Championship, again with a broken freaking neck. However, those two worlds almost never met each other for Kurt. He revealed on WWE’s Network Special “24” that when WWE initially approached him with a contract, he turned it down because his brothers always told him it was “just fake wrestling.” However, when he finally decided to check out the WWE, he decided to call Vince back. Angle never needed, nor did he want, a career in WWE to solidify his status as a legit competitor. As stated, he won Olympic gold for amateur wrestling, as well as many world championships. And now he’s the General Manager of Monday Night Raw. Is there anything Kurt Angle can’t do?
1. Hulk Hogan – Musician
The man synonymous with wrestling itself didn’t originally want to be a wrestler. He wanted to play music. He was a bassist who played rock music in Florida from a young age. And despite being a fan of pro wrestling from the age of 16, Hogan kept his focus on becoming a famous musician. Once he started working out, though, he attracted the attention of Florida-based wrestlers who easily convinced him to try wrestling. Hogan would later go on to become a mega-icon in the industry, twice (mostly through backstage politics, but I digress). Not only did his super-babyface run make WWE a nationwide phenomenon, but his WCW heel turn cemented the company as a legit competitor to the WWE, and proved that they gave viewers a fresh, innovative product. And he just wanted to make music.
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