Who doesn’t enjoy opening an album up and going through childhood photos? Probably no one, right? Everyone loves the nostalgic feeling that going through such pictures bring. And more often than not, a few laughs are had.
The WWE houses some of the most intimidating characters you’ll ever come across. They’re the meanest, strongest and baddest. But they weren’t always as breathtaking, and looked quite average in their pre-WWE days.
It’s actually amazing how some of those characters came to be, given the way they looked during their childhood or a few years before they joined the business. Yet every one of you must know some really muscular dude who used to be a scrawny kid, no?
The stars pictured below are all household names, and have achieved quite a bit in their careers as wrestlers. However, you might not recognize them in pics taken prior to them performing in the ring. Of course, there are some who’ve basically had the same face all of their life and you’d know almost in an instant.
But for the most part, the 15 WWE stars you’ll see below – the 13th entry especially – might leave you wondering ‘what the heck?’
So yeah, let’s go through a cool album.
15. The Great Khali
Sure, the hulking frame is plenty recognizable but if you just focus on the faces, it’s hard to tell that Khali was once this giant kid with high top hair and a thinly kept beard. Khali didn’t have a lot of formal training as a wrestler before getting the call to WWE, but much like they’re doing now with Jinder Mahal, the WWE was trying to appeal to a mass Indian audience so they brought Khali on in 2006 to begin a feud with The Undertaker. Again, it’s crazy to see Khali sporting the style he did, but Vince McMahon probably got a look at one photo of Khali and was convinced he had to sign him. Khali has now left WWE and actually opened a wrestling school himself.
14. John Cena
John Felix Anthony Cena is one of the biggest stars to ever feature in the WWE. The 16-time World Champion is also a big Hollywood name, having starred in films such as The Marine, 12 Rounds and Daddy’s Home.
The wrestler was born in Massachusetts to John and Carol Cena in 1977 and later attended Springfield College, where he played football as an NCAA Division III center, wearing the number 54. The number is still a big part of his game, having appeared on lots of his merchandise over the years.
After graduating from college with a degree in exercise physiology, Cena pursued a career in bodybuilding, also working as a river for a limo company before trying his hand at professional wrestling. He hasn’t been half bad in the ring.
13. The Undertaker
Well, you must think I’m kidding. How is this guy on the left The Undertaker!?
He looks like a computer geek who used to get beat up in school, and we haven’t yet ruled that out. But this guy is really who The WWE icon used to be.
Named Mark William Calaway, The Deadman – as he is also known – was always the athletic type, playing both football and basketball in high school. He enrolled in Texas Wesleyan University and majored in Sport management, also playing basketball as a centre for the University before dropping out to pursue a sporting career. Calaway considered moving to Europe to play professional basketball.
12. Steve Austin
Well for starters, his name isn’t actually Steve Austin. Born Steven James Anderson, Stone Cold’s name was later changed to Steven Williams after his mother remarried, having divorced his dad a year after he was born. But he was also born in Austin, Texas, which should be enough of an explanation, although it’s only half.
The retired star began wrestling in World Championship Wrestling (WCW) under the name Steve Williams, but his name was changed to Steve Austin so he wouldn’t be confused with ‘Dr. Death’ Steve Williams, who was a popular wrestler at the time.
Stone Cold has accomplished a whole lot in his wrestling career, and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2009. He boasts having won six World Championships and three Royal Rumble matches, as well as four WWF Tag Team Championships.
11. Big Cass
Big Cass looks like he’s in line for a big singles push following his recent split from Enzo Amore. If you look closely at his high school image, you can probably notice the intense look on his face that you recognize today, but you certainly wouldn’t be able to tell that Cass is over seven feet tall and he doesn’t look like a future wrestler. Cass actually went on to have quite the career on the indies, even once wrestling as a cowboy before he got his break in WWE.
10. Ric Flair
The Nature Boy Ric Flair is considered to be the greatest pro wrestler of all time by many people. Actually named Richard Morgan Fliehr, the 68-year-old has been in the business for well over 40 years, having made his wrestling debut way back in 1972.
The 16-time World Champion was born in Tennessee in 1949, growing up in Minnesota with his adopted parents. As a schoolboy, he participated in track, football and wrestling, sticking to the latter and attending his first wrestling camp in 1971. As mentioned above, he debuted one year later, and the rest is history.
Flair, who employed loads of dirty tricks to gain advantage in matches, also referred to himself as ‘the dirtiest player in the game’. Low-blows, eye gouges, holding ropes and opponents’ clothing while pinning – just to name a few – were all part of The Nature Boy’s arsenal. He is now signed to the WWE’s Legends program.
9. Kurt Angle
Kurt Angle is now the general manager of Monday Night Raw, having retired from his ring act. The 48-year-old is one of the most accomplished wrestlers around, not just for his achievements on the entertainment spectrum, but also for his feats in the actual sport of wrestling.
Angle began wrestling at the tender age of seven, competing at all levels whilst growing up and ultimately on the Olympic stage. He won Olympic gold in 1996, despite nursing a broken neck.
Shortly after his victory, Angle actually turned down a contract offered by the WWF and took up a job as a representative for an ostrich meat company. But later that year, he was convinced to make an appearance on an ECW event, which ended up leaving a bad taste in his mouth.
Bill Goldberg returned to the WWE for a brief stint last year, but it was perhaps his most memorable, as he defeated current WWE Universal Champion Brock Lesnar in just one minute and 26 seconds at Survivor Series last November with two spears and a jackhammer.
He would also win the World Championship by beating Kevin Owen at Fastlane in March, and opted to defend it against Lesnar at Wrestlemania 33. He hit The Beast with three spears and a jackhammer this time around, but Brock would emerge victorious in spite of being on the receiving end of those crushing moves.
The loss was his first as a clean singles competitor, as well as his first to Lesnar. But he still decided to say goodbye to the WWE in April, calling time on his career, but not ruling out a future return.
7. Jeff Hardy
Jeff Hardy made a surprise return to the WWE, alongside his brother Matt, at this year’s Wrestlemania, with the pair being added as last-minute competitors for the WWE Raw Tag Team Championship. They defeated the teams of Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows, Enzo Amore and Big Cass Cesaro and Sheamus in a fatal four-way ladder match to win their seventh WWE Tag Team title, but would lose the titles in a steel cage match against the latter pair at Extreme Rules.
Jeff has also shown that he can hold it down on his own, having won six World Championships as a singles fighter, fighting in some memorable matches, including a ladder match against the Undertaker for the WWE Undisputed Championship, which he ultimately lost albeit putting up one hell of a fight.
6. The Rock
The most electrifying man in sports entertainment history wasn’t always such a livewire act, despite what many of you might think. Born to former wrestler Rocky Johnson and Ata Maivia (also the daughter of former wrestler Peter Maivia), Dwayne Johnson had fighting woven into his tapestry. But he obviously wasn’t born with the rock hard muscle and cocky attitude we know today.
The star chose football before deciding to wrestle, however, an injury saw to it that his dream did not come to fruition. After voicing his intent to become a wrestler, his father opposed, but offered to train him when he realized Dwayne would not change his mind. He did warn him that he wouldn’t go easy on him though, and I’m sure we all appreciate the results.
5. The Bella Twins
Nikki and Brie Bella are some hot freakin’ twins. Born Nicole and Brianna Garcia Colace to parents Jon Garcia and Kathy Colace, they popped out 16 minutes apart. The twins, who were born in California but raised on a farm in Arizona, were quite fond of soccer and played for their school.
Nikki and Brie also played the game at collegiate level for Grossmont College in El Cajon, California, but left for Los Angeles a year after enrolling, taking up jobs as waitresses while trying to find an agent.
The twins would later pursue careers in acting and modelling, before earning WWE contracts in 2007, despite an unsuccessful Diva Search campaign the previous year. They have since gone on to win three Divas Championships between themselves, with Nikki winning twice and Brie claiming it once.
Stephen Farrelly, known as Sheamus, is a star on the RAW brand, and is currently the holder of the Raw Tag Team title, which he won alongside Cesaro in a cage match against the Hardy Boyz at Extreme Rules in early June.
The Irishman, born in Dublin, played Gaelic football and rugby in his younger days, and is a popular fan of Premier League side Liverpool. Sheamus also used to be an IT technician, as well as a bouncer at a nightclub. And he developed an interest in professional wrestling after watching both British and American wrestling.
He claims that it was a conversation with Bret Hart that gave him the final push, and he hasn’t looked back since.
“I was introduced to Bret Hart while he was in Dublin in 2002 and spoke to him about my desire to get into the wrestling business,” he said in an interview 11 years ago. “We had a talk and he advised me that Larry was the guy to train with. Six months later I headed off with a suitcase and endless possibilities. I was determined to make my name in the wrestling world no matter what sacrifices I had to make.”
3. The Big Show
Paul Donald Wight II, known as The Big show is one of the most towering athletes in the WWE. In fact, only Kane and Big Cass are as tall. At 7 feet tall and 383 pounds, Big Show is one of the stars hardly anyone wants to be in the ring with.
The giant, who was actually called ‘The Giant’ when he joined WCW in 1995, worked several jobs before becoming a professional wrestler. He worked as a bouncer, as well as a bounty hunter, which comes as little surprise. He made friends with the legendary Hulk Hogan through introduction. And Hogan personally recommended him to WCW Vice President Eric Bischoff after being left impressed at how well the big man controlled the crowd at a wrestling promotion.
2. Roman Reigns
Every big dog used to be a little pup, and things were no different for Raw Superstar Roman Reigns, whose real name is Leati Joseph Anoaʻi. The Florida native started out as a football player, playing at collegiate level for Georgia Tech and then moving on to the NFL where he had brief stints with the Minnesota Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars.
He joined the WWE in 2010, making his debut as part of The Shield, alongside Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins. He has since gone on to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship on three occasions, as well as the United States Championship and WWE Tag Team Championship (with Rollins). Pictured above, Reigns looked nothing like the intimidating figure he does now. The change is simply astounding.
1. CM Punk
The CM in CM Punk apparently stands for Chick Magnet. The star, now signed on with UFC, is named Phillip Jack Brooks, and developed a love for wrestling at an early age.
Punk started wrestling alongside his brother Mike as part of a backyard wrestling federation, taking up his present moniker after joining a tag team called the Chick Magnets. He fell out with Mike after finding out that his brother had secretly made away with several thousand dollars of the federation’s funds. They aren’t believed to be on speaking terms to this day.
“I talk to my sisters but haven’t talked to my brother in like 10 years,” he said in a 2012 interview.
In case you hadn’t guessed it yet, Punk is the laddie with the red hair in the photo above… and yes, that is Steve Austin in the back.
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