The pro wrestling business is a much different place in 2017 than it ever has been before. For years and years, in WWE in particular, you had to fit a certain, rather specific mold if you wanted to stand a chance of making it as a wrestler. WWE was known as the land of the giants for decades. If you weren’t well over six feet tall and at least on the cusp of 300lbs then don’t bother coming. The 1990s sparked a change in that mantra however. Smaller men started appearing on the scene and demonstrated a wrestling ability that had never been seen before. Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, these types of Superstars who would go on to become multiple time World Champions and WWE Hall of Famers.
HBK and The Hitman as well as a host of others paved the way for the locker rooms of today. WWE’s current roster features men and women of all shapes and sizes up and down the card. Despite that being the norm nowadays, there is still a stigma attached to some pro wrestler’s looks and the age old belief of what a stereotypical Superstar should look like. While most fans see the performers for their in-ring ability, some at WWE still believe it to be the land of the giants. It’s no coincidence that SummerSlam’s main event will feature four behemoths in Brock Lesnar, Braun Strowman, Samoa Joe and Roman Reigns. Big men are still favored in WWE for the most part, but here are fifteen examples of Superstars who believed that they looked like wrestlers enough to try and break that mold.
15. Bo Dallas
You would think a man with professional wrestling very much in his blood would basically ooze the business. Current Raw Superstar Bo Dallas is a third generation performer. His grandfather is Barry Windham and his father, Mike Rotunda otherwise known by his gimmick IRS. On top of that his brother is a man he shares Monday nights with, Bray Wyatt. Bray very much looks the part and could potentially be in the same bracket as The Undertaker if given the right tools. His brother Bo? Not so much. Dallas doesn’t have the same attention grabbing look as his sibling, and it would appear Vince McMahon is aware of that considering their respective places on the card. Bray was once Husky Harris though Bo, so don’t give up all hope.
14. Tommy Dreamer
One upon a time there was a pro wrestling promotion known as ECW. You will have likely heard of it no doubt. There are a few wrestlers who helped the relatively small promotion reach the unbelievable heights that it did, and they were known as the ECW Originals. Taz was one of them, as was Bubba Ray Dudley, and of course Tommy Dreamer. ECW was of course not your average wrestling company and you had to be of a certain breed to make it there. Taz and Bubba very much fit that role. To look at Dreamer however you would probably think, not so much. Tommy is a pretty average looking guy who you wouldn’t imagine being a wrestler at all, yet he was known as one of the most extreme to step foot into the ECW Arena.
Bayley is a different breed when it comes to women in professional wrestling. Raw’s resident hugger is unique compared to the women she currently shares a locker room with, and a million miles away from the ladies that used to grace WWE’s rings. All of that means Bayley doesn’t particularly look like a pro wrestler. In this case that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In NXT Bayley was loved because what she lacked in an intimidating look she made up for by leaving it all in the ring. That isn’t the case on Raw but rather her gimmick seems to be she’s a fan living out her dream, which means her girl next door look also lends itself to that. WWE often sells the fact that Bayley was a super fan growing up, so it all fits her current look.
12. Kassius Ohno
If you only watch Raw and SmackDown Live chances are that you may not yet know who Kassius Ohno is. If you watch NXT or independent wrestling then you will most definitely be familiar with the original KO. Formerly known as Chris Hero, Ohno is a pretty big guy. Tall and pretty stocky may make some men look ready for a wrestling ring, but for Kassius it does not. If you don’t know who he is you would likely not give him a second look as he made his way to the ring, but as soon as he starts performing be ready for your jaw to hit the floor. Ohno is a bonafide high flyer. Impressive enough as it is, but almost unbelievable when you see Kassius doing it.
11. Dean Ambrose
One of the most formidable factions in the modern era, nay all of pro wrestling history is The Shield. The Hounds of Justice ran rough shot through WWE, first as heels then as baby faces. No doubt about it Roman Reigns looks the part. A big, brick wall of a man and a member of the Samoan Dynasty. Seth Rollins also oozes a certain look. Addicted to cross fit, you can see why WWE want him as the face of the company. Then there’s Dean Ambrose. The Lunatic Fringe added that wild card aspect to The Shield, but he hardly looks like a professional wrestler. His indy life before WWE was a rather unique one, taking part in pretty violent matches in the infamous CZW. Perhaps that’s what it is, that he looks like a guy who slots right in at CZW but doesn’t fit the mold so much for a WWE Superstar.
John Bradshaw Layfield is a case like no other featured on this list. The now SmackDown Live announcer has adopted the role of two very different professional wrestling personas during his long tenure with WWE. Throughout the Attitude Era JBL was paired up with Farooq and known simply as Bradshaw. The two of them made up the tag team The Acolytes and became known as being pretty tough. They looked like wrestlers beyond a shadow of a doubt. Then Bradshaw morphed into JBL. He cut and dyed his hair, wore nothing but boots trunks and a cowboy hat, and was almost unrecognizable from the wrestler he had been in the Acolytes. It didn’t suit him, yet WWE pushed him and that was when the Texan became WWE Champion.
9. Jeff Hardy
Jeff Hardy has been a professional wrestler on and off with WWE since the age of sixteen. The former WWE Champion had to lie about his age at the time of course, but even with that in mind it’s pretty amazing that whoever was in charge of talent relations at the time hired him. Even by today’s standards Jeff’s unique look doesn’t exactly scream professional wrestler. Back in the ’90s when he was first hired he would likely have bared no resemblance to the giants he would have been sharing a ring with at the time. The torn clothes and the tattoos, it’s a look Vince McMahon has never been too sure of as will become clearer later on in this article. Nevertheless Jeff has carved out a Hall of Fame worthy career for himself, and what he lacks in look he has more than made up for with his daredevil acts between the ropes.
8. Sami Zayn
Before Sami Zayn arrived on the scene in WWE he wrestled for many years on the independent scene. Back then though the Underdog From The Underground was not known as Sami Zayn, and you would likely not have recognized him at all. The Canadian Superstar wrestled under a lucha mask and was known as El Generico. Legend has it that the masked wrestler went to work at an orphanage after he finished wrestling, at least that’s what Sami will jokingly tell you. With a mask on Zayn looked a lot more like a stereotypical pro wrestler. Without it he kind of looks like your average guy. The reason Sami has risen to the level he’s currently at though has nothing to do with his look, and once he’s in the ring he is anything but an average guy.
7. Kevin Owens
Sami Zayn’s best friend is Kevin Owens, at least when the two are not in character. The Canadian duo’s careers have been almost identical, even arriving into WWE at more or less the same time. Much like Sami’s rise to prominence, KO’s current status is based on his incredible wrestling ability as opposed to his look. Owens really does look like the every man. He’s a little overweight, something that WWE try to play on all too often, and just looks like your average guy. It’s probably why so many fans gravitate to him. While he doesn’t necessarily have the appearance of your typical wrestler, he certainly doesn’t look like a pushover either. Even if I didn’t already know what he’s capable of I would still want him on my side in a bar fight.
6. Sasha Banks
The Women’s Revolution truly is in full swing in WWE right now. So much so that it’s probably fair to say the revolution has passed and what it has brought to pro wrestling is here to stay. One of the most impressive female Superstars that has risen to prominence since WWE started taking their women wrestlers seriously is Sasha Banks. The Boss is a three time Women’s Champion and has staged incredible bouts with the likes of Charlotte Flair and Bayley. Banks hardly looks like a wrestler though. Her tiny frame would never have led you to believe that she could compete with the best of them, yet here we are. The one plus is that it allows bigger competitors to throw her around in a way that makes her matches look very convincing.
5. CM Punk
Many of the wrestlers featured on this list so far have managed to carve out successful careers for themselves in WWE despite not exactly looking the part. Well this next entry, CM Punk, basically made a career out of it. Slightly smaller than your average WWE giant, covered in tattoos, and straight edge to boot! It was certainly a look WWE were not used to, and both Vince McMahon and Triple H demonstrated that through their use of him in the company. The fans loved Punk but because he didn’t fit the company’s mold the highers ups did all they could possibly do to keep him down. They threw Punk and his fans a bone every now and then, like making the now UFC star WWE Champion, but even then their focus was elsewhere.
4. Alexa Bliss
Alexa Bliss is the third and final woman to be featured on this list, and is the one that looks most like she shouldn’t be stepping foot in a WWE ring. On occasion Bliss has told the story of when her mom found out she was going to try out for WWE and that at first she was definitely not on board with the idea, likely because she had seen what would happen to a woman of Alexa’s size in a wrestling ring. Thankfully she didn’t stop her altogether though as Five Feet Of Fury has become one of the most prominent females in WWE today. A three time Women’s Champion, twice on SmackDown Live and once on Raw, the latest of those belts having to be shortened because of how petite she is.
3. James Ellsworth
There is no one currently on the WWE roster that looks less like a professional wrestler than James Ellsworth. James was introduced to the WWE Universe last year as a jobber for Braun Strowman to squash, yet for some reason the fans took to him and now he’s a permanent fixture on SmackDown Live each and every week. Anyone who cheered him initially is likely regretting that now. Ellsworth is probably about 150lbs soaking wet and Tuesday night announcer JBL is always sure to hammer home how odd he looks, ironic really considering he also made this list. Ellsworth may not look the part but it isn’t his physical appearance that makes him so easy to dislike. He’s simply annoying, and that has nothing to do with him looking like a wrestler or not.
2. Shane McMahon
Shane McMahon is not a wrestler, he’s a glorified stuntman. He and WWE may try to convince you otherwise but it’s not the case. It makes sense as he doesn’t really look like a wrestler either. His father Vince on the other hand, when called upon to perform in the ring must have basically lived in the gym because he became a monster of a man. Shane has chosen a different path. He’s got the entertainment part of it down and some of his matches are unbelievable, but he does it all while looking like a corporate man who’s off to the gym, because that’s effectively what it is. He’ll put on his tracksuit bottoms and trainers and head to the ring to jump off something ridiculously high up. When you’re pulling off stunts like that people tend to forget that you don’t look like a wrestler.
1. Daniel Bryan
Daniel Bryan is the epitome of someone who does not look like a wrestler yet has succeeded in the business in such a way that nobody, including himself, could have possibly imagined. He’s small and scruffy looking, or at least he was at the peak of his wrestling career, and I can only imagine how many times he was told that he was trying to make it in the wrong line of work. Bryan must have spent his early years as a wrestling fan watching the likes of Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant thinking that world was a million miles away from anything he could achieve in the business. If he once did think that way, lucky for us it didn’t stick. The now SmackDown Live General Manager fought all the odds and despite not having the physical appearance of a typical wrestler, reached heights that only a select few performers get to enjoy.
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