We take the road of a WWE Superstar for granted while watching the product on a weekly basis. On the norm, fans just look at the performer as just another Superstar who we love or hate. But truth be told, there’s just so much more to that person that what meets the eye. Behind the scenes, those Superstars are real people, with real emotions living in a circus like atmosphere day in and day out. Another aspect we hardly ever appreciate is their struggle to get to the company and towards the top of the mountain.
You can take this article in two ways, one, by sharing a laugh with a buddy on how different these performers looked at one point in time. Or two, you can value the transformation and struggle these stars underwent from their less than glamorous days away from their current fame. We advise you to do a little bit of both when scrolling down the list.
These pictures show these WWE stars in various situations, whether it be working the indie scene, working in another field, or just having some fun outside of the ring. What all these pictures have in common is the life these Superstars lived before their WWE fame looking pretty unrecognizable. So without further ado, enjoy the list and be sure to share it with a friend!
17 Sami Zayn & Kassius Ohno
This picture is truly a gem with Sami Zayn rocking a 70s inspired moustache back in his indie days. Also in the picture, is new NXT star Chris Hero, aka Kassius Ohno, who can be found at the bottom of the picture.
For Zayn and Ohno, their careers followed a similar path earl on. Sami toured the indies since his days back home in Montreal, wrestling for the small promotion, IWS, International Wrestling Syndicate. He would make the bold decision to leave the Quebec territories and showcase his talents around the world. The decision paid off as he would join NXT in 2013 and is now a regular on Monday Night Raw every week.
As for Hero, he continues to find his way, recently re-signing with the WWE for a second stint. Like Zayn, Chris has been on the independents since 2000 and at 37, he’s still going strong showing no signs of slowing down. This time around, we hope things work out for the newly named Kassius Ohno and his WWE experience.
16 T.J. Perkins
We struggle to figure out what’s worse, either Perkins’ outdated Billabong inspired shirt, or that awful haircut which makes him look like a homeless surfer. All jokes aside, T.J. was in fact homeless at one point in time trying to make it in the wrestling industry. He started wrestling the lucha libre style at the tender age of 13 and shortly after, he was already working the indie scene. Without a doubt, the guy’s the most experienced 32-year-old in the entire WWE roster today.
T.J. had several stints around the world which included pit-stops with TNA and of course, Ring of Honor. His biggest break came in the WWE’s ground breaking CWC tournament where he won the entire event, shocking the wrestling community. He earned himself a contract with the performance and he’s now a pivotal part of the division. Thankfully though, he cut his hair and lost the awful shirt when making his WWE debut. Good call T.J., good call.
15 Curt Hawkins & Zack Ryder
Rocking some serious beards nowadays, these two guys have come a long way since their clean shaven baby-faced days aspiring to make it into the business. For both, the WWE was always the goal but as we’ve seen in the past, the company can be a dream killer for several aspiring stars.
For Ryder, his WWE journey had a little of both, half nightmare, half beautiful dream. After taking up some awful gimmicks with the company, Ryder took it upon himself to grow his brand away from the company. The decision was risky, but certainly paid off as crowds were chanting his name on a nightly basis during the Rise of the Ryder Revolution time period.
His buddy Curt Hawkins hasn’t exactly enjoyed the same kind of fame, but he did recently earn himself a new contract with the company. After joining the indie scene for a couple of years, Curt is now back with the WWE, but it remains to be seen how long that will last given his current status with the company as a major afterthought.
14 Karl Anderson
Looking generic as generic can be, Karl Anderson looks older in this throwback picture than he actually does today. The guy looks like a mixture of Arn Anderson and Perry Saturn. What’s worse than that is those God awful trunks that look to match the color of his terrible spray tan.
Okay enough ripping the poor guy, who’s actually been around for quite some time. Anderson started off with the aspirations of making it as a singles' guy, wrestling with the likes of NWA, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla and Ring of Honor. He would finally strike gold overseas in Japan forming a tag team with Luke Gallows. Their success would translate onto the WWE product as the two were signed in 2016. After a slow start, the team has finally caught heat claiming Raw’s Tag Team Titles.
13 Big Cass
Poor Cass struggled big time early on to find an identity with the WWE. This picture certainly validates that. The struggle was real for the Queens, New York native who spend a year in FCW as a major afterthought. Once the developmental brand changed its identity to NXT, the big man finally caught an idea that worked, tagging alongside his buddy Enzo Amore. The two took NXT by storm and brought their popularity onto the main roster in 2016.
Nowadays, Cass is far from the days of the picture above thriving with Enzo while looking like a legit beast in the process. With such an improved look, Cass has all the tools to be a future World Champion. Only time will tell if that becomes a reality someday.
12 Kevin Owens
Looking at the unrecognizable throwback picture above, Owens looks like that high school bully who would just verbally abuse his fellow peers. Well, not much has changed nowadays as he’s still that guy, but the only difference is that he grew a beard and a bigger belly.
Putting the beard and belly jokes aside, Owens started from humble beginnings. The picture you see above is from his IWS days wrestling for a small promotion out of Montreal, which we mentioned earlier with Zayn. Like Sami, Owens made the bold decision to leave the Canadian scene and tour the world. All his hard work eventually paid off as he was crowned the Universal Champion on the August 29th, 2016 edition of Monday Night Raw. A day, he’ll never forget.
Alongside KO, Neville looks like the man “the earth forgot” as he’s looking quite light, while rocking an awful head of hair. He looked forgettable visually, but once you got a glimpse of him in the ring, that would all change.
He paid his dues on the indie scene for several years joining the likes of Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, ROH, Chikara, Dragon Gate and New Japan. During that time, he remained small in stature but filled out quite nicely muscle tone wise, turning into a brick wall. With the WWE pushing the debut of NXT, Neville was brought in to aid the brand with his fantastic style and it worked out perfectly. His main roster run wasn’t the same, but he’s now turning a corner as the King of the Cruiserweights. We like this Neville and hope he continues along this path for a while.
10 Mojo Rawley
Wearing an Arizona Cardinals jersey, Mojo looks absolutely unrecognizable when you compare him to his days today on SmackDown Live. His NFL playing days are done, and he’s now focusing on making something of himself with the WWE.
Fans have been critical of Mojo, after all, he joined the WWE with no experience whatsoever. Don’t forget though, the point of NXT to begin with was to train great athletes from around the world and teach them the ropes of pro wrestling. There simply is no denying his athletic abilities which Triple H himself has praised. The dude jumped over a 60 inch hurdle, something most humans can’t even do half of. We hope that skill can translate in the ring as his WWE journey has been quite lackluster thus far, despite his obvious enthusiasm for being a part of the company.
9 Enzo Amore
Posing for a picture while pulling the finger to his buddies, a WWE career probably wasn’t in the cards for Amore at that point. He was a huge fan of the company growing up, but never had any prior experience in the field. The one thing he did have was one heck of a mouth as he oozed with charisma and personality. That alone would ultimately help him to get a job in the company as Triple H’s trainer Joe DeFranco relayed Hunter a video of the Jersey native working a promo.
Without a doubt, Hunter has no regrets about the situation as Amore continues to thrive on the main roster alongside the previously mentioned Big Cass. At the age of 30, Enzo still has more to give.
8 Baron Corbin
When looking at some of the biggest transformations, those of NXT are often discussed. After all, most the Superstars to join back in 2012 had little wrestling experience and came from various other backgrounds. Their goals weren’t to look like a Superstar but to compete like one in whatever field they were in. When it comes to the WWE, you need a bit of both and Baron Corbin learned that early on.
He was heavier in his NFL days, but would completely alter his image, slimming down and rocking the long hair. His commitment to being a WWE Superstar continues to pay off as he’s thriving on the SmackDown Live brand and has the potential to be a future World Champion a couple of years down the line.
7 Braun Strowman
In comparison to the others on the list, Strowman doesn’t look all that different, but those Oakley inspired glasses, along with the fact that he’s lifting up a bar filled with tires does throw some of us off our game. The big man was in fact a strongman weightlifter, winning several competitions including the 2012 Arnold Amateur Strongman Championships. He would take that talent to the WWE and utilize it to perfection throwing around opponents with ease.
Today, he continues to shine as the WWE makes it crystal clear that he’s the new “big man” of the company now that Big Show is set to retire. A championship run can come as early as 2017 with the and the WWE engine being quite high on the dude.
6 Alexa Bliss
From shy, innocent cheerleader to, two-time Women’s Champion. What many of us are asking is, what the hell happened here? She began as a cheerleader and later, Bliss entered the field of bodybuilding. This would eventually lead to a WWE contract after she simply applied online for a job with the company. After she thrived as a manager down in developmental, Alexa would reach new heights in her solo career and that would cause a quick call up to the main roster. As you probably already know, she’s thrived thus far becoming a two-time champion.
As for her persona, that’s all an act. Bliss is still the shy and sweet type outside of the ring. In it, she plays the role of a heel to perfection and her act is inspired by things that annoy her in real life. She uses those little elements in her character, and that has led to immense success for the youngster.
5 Nikki & Brie Bella
Growing up on a ranch, the two twins could not have possibly predicted their futures as performers for the WWE. The twins set their sights on a career in the entertainment business, moving to LA. They worked as waitresses while searching for an agent to make it in the industry. Their biggest break would come from a failed Diva Search audition. Although they didn’t make the cut for the show, the twins would get something ever better, a contract with the WWE.
After a lackluster first run with the company, the twins would comeback stronger than ever not only improving in the ring, but helping the WWE in reaching new heights in the world of reality television with Total Divas. Perhaps nobody could have predicted that the two twins would be pioneers in the WWE for reality television and mainstream social media fame.
4 Sasha Banks
As you see in the picture above, Sasha had fame running through her veins from a young age, as she's the cousin of the famous rapper Snoop Dogg. Banks would use his fame as motivation to reach her goals in making it in the pro wrestling business. She started off pursuing her dream at the tender age of 16. After working the indie scene for quite some time, Sasha would make the jump onto the WWE stage in 2012.
From then on, her fame would take a massive leap as she developed the persona of The BOSS. She’s regarded as one of the greatest NXT Women’s Champions of all-time and continues that momentum onto the main roster as a three-time champion early on in her main roster run.
3 Stephanie McMahon
Yup, that is in fact the Billion Dollar Princess during her younger days as she worked for the WWE as a model for the company’s merchandise sector. Following her graduation from the University of Boston, Stephanie would join her father’s company to work in the head office. Had it not been for Vince Russo, maybe she’d still be working there today.
Instead, the creative head pitched an idea for Steph to work on-screen, and man are we ever thankful that the decision was made. McMahon has thrived with the WWE, becoming one of the greatest villains of the 2000s. Today, her role is so much more than that as Stephanie is responsible for promoting the WWE on a grand scale as the company’s Chief Branding Officer. Along with the gig, she remains dominant on-screen serving as the Commissioner for Raw.
2 Finn Balor
Making his name be known overseas, Finn Balor shined with New Japan becoming a hot commodity in the world of pro wrestling. His initial debut however, was under the controversial gimmick you see above as the Pegasus Kid. Why was it so controversial you ask? Well, the original Pegasus Kid was played by Chris Benoit and considering the wild controversies linked to his name, the persona was later scratched and re-born with his more common persona under Prince Devitt.
He aided New Japan immensely, and would later ink a deal in North American, joining the WWE’s NXT developmental brand. He arguably put the development on the map, becoming a must-see performer for the show. Now out with an injury, you can expect Balor to play a similar “Super Man” like role once he returns to Raw, helping the ailing product.
1 Roman Reigns
Looking like a character out of Dumb and Dumber, Roman Reigns looks like he cut his hair with a bowl. This picture kind of sums up where the hate towards Roman Reigns comes from, and it's not because of his terrible haircut. Instead of a picture where he’s signing an indie deal with some company, he’s instead inking a scholarship which catered to his initial dream of making it in the NFL one day. With that in mind, fans have a hard time cheering a dude that wasn’t all about the WWE from day one.
In his defense, he has worked that much harder to prove his worth. Say what you want about his prior ambition, but Roman can bring it in the ring with the best of them, using his speed and enormous power to his benefit. We can’t change the past, but we can appreciate his hard work as an everyday guy when it comes to the WWE product.