The wrestling industry can be a place which guarantees fame and fortune if an athlete can make it big in it, but the wrestlers can only become big stars if they can work their way to the top of the wrestling food chain. While the WWE may be the peak for a budding wrestler, not everyone has it easy before making it to the company and have to work really hard in order to step into the big leagues that is WWE.
While some wrestlers do come from well-being backgrounds which allow them to gain access to the top quickly, some others have to take the hard way to become a wrestling superstar. Much of the memorable wrestlers actually have to work their way to gaining fame and success in the wrestling industry, and some of them actually come from really poor backgrounds as well. These wrestlers were partially broke before becoming the famous stars they are in the wrestling world right now, as they overcame their tough and problematic lives to become a star in wrestling just because of their passion.
Even though much of these wrestlers did go on to become rich stars in wrestling, they will never forget how they got there as we take a look at the 20 Wrestlers Who Were Broke Before Becoming Famous.
20 AJ Styles
"The Phenomenal" AJ Styles did take his time to display his greatness in a WWE ring, but now he's showing everyone just how amazing he is by being the company's best wrestler since his debut. Styles might have been a hot-shot in the field of wrestling for about a decade or so, but he wasn't always this fortunate in his life. Styles had it very difficult early on, as he had a rough childhood and had to work for himself to put himself through wrestling school and pursue his dream. He worked jobs like mowing lawns and driving an ambulance and ended up being broke most of the time in his early wrestling days. He later entered the company as one of the most famous wrestlers in the world and also had a hefty paycheck in his bag this time around.
19 Zack Ryder
"The Long Island Iced-Z" Zack Ryder has to be one of the more underrated entertainers amongst his generation and has been held back by the WWE despite being very good for a long time now. He's gotten splits of pushes but is still with the company because of it being a childhood dream for him to compete for them. Ryder was a huge fan growing up, as he would have to go through a difficult childhood when he was diagnosed with cancer because of a tumor in his foot which spread into his lungs. He miraculously pulled through with chemotherapy and surgeries, but it all left him dead broke before he could start wrestling. Ryder worked his way into the wrestling industry and despite living his early wrestling career with a problematic financial situation, he grew onto establish himself as one of WWE's mainstay superstars and a favorite among fans as well.
18 Heath Slater
Heath Slater has been an amazing comic relief for the WWE over the past few years, even being rewarded for that recently with a tag team championship run as he looks to have ascended from his jobber status. Slater made quite an impact as part of the Nexus, but quickly withered away as a relevant guy when he started his singles career and was turned into a joke. But Slater's probably glad to even be here because he came from a pretty humble background from Pineville, West Virginia and was raised by his mother, stepfather, and grandparents. Slater didn't have much money at all when he entered the wrestling industry but has since transformed himself into a charismatic wrestler who speaks the truth when he says "he has kids to feed" and "needs this job" to survive.
17 The Rock
The Rock is not only the most electrifying man in all of sports-entertainment, but he's also the highest-paid actor in the world right now which shows just how much he has grown over the years. The Brahma Bull might be living such a lavish life right now, but he was absolutely down in the dumps a few decades back when he was yet to enter the wrestling business. Despite being from the infamous Anoa'i family, The Rock had a failed footbal career and only had $7 to his name in 1995 and was absolutely dead broke financially. But despite being in a torrid situation, he took a vow that he would have all the money in the world one day and he achieved that over the years, which goes on to show the unreal dedication of the man whose incredible passion for whatever he does is why he's in such a magnificent position.
16 Rich Swann
Rich Swann might look like the cool, fun-loving dude in the Cruiserweight Division, but one can really admire him after learning his life story so far. Swann had a really problematic childhood because of an alcoholic father who was pretty abuse and witnessed repetitive domestic violence between his father and mother. His dad died when he was 14, which forced him to look after himself as he had to work in order to pursue his wrestling career. He worked many side jobs to save up money to start his wrestling career and just when he did so, his mother died. Swann went through some really difficult times in the early part of his career, often being broke and having to work extra to make some bucks. But his amazing work impressed the WWE enough to make him a star in their revamped Cruiserweight Division, as Swann's ascend from being broke to WWE Cruiserweight Champion is one fairy-tale on its own.
15 John Cena
John Cena may have been the "face that runs the place" in the WWE for over a decade, but he didn't always have things easy in his life before entering the WWE. Cena was from a well to do family who put him through a proper education but were seemingly not that intent on him pursuing wrestling. Cena didn't really have it easy in his days at Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW) as he often lived with his buddy Samoa Joe at his house and didn't really have much cash with him at the time as well. He was quite broke at the time and only got some relief after getting the main roster call from WWE. Cena has been making sure that a time like that never comes again as he's making a lot of money in the WWE and beyond it with the film and other ventures he's been doing lately.
14 Dawn Marie
Dawn Marie was made to look like this sexual predator during much of her WWE career, but she had to work really hard to get where she was at the time. Marie would originally get his wrestling break in ECW, but before that, she had to go through a lot of problems as a teenager. She came from a rather poor family and had to live in her car at the age of 17. Marie also worked at a bikini bar to put herself through college, as well as doing some other side-jobs to get herself out of debt and was pretty dead broke after that. Dawn Marie would attain some success in ECW, which got her the WWE contract and she did all those erotic stuff to make for a better future for herself and her family and make sure she didn't have to be broke anytime in the future.
13 Booker T
Booker T rose to become the most talented African-American athlete in wrestling in the 90s, as he'd go on to achieve a permanent place in the WWE later on because of his "5-time WCW Champion" status. But before he could be this entertaining personality in the ring, Booker was quite the messed up teenager who got arrested for armed robberies at a Wendy's restaurant. Booker would serve many years in prison, as this shocking incident not only left him completely broke but also made him take a change in career. He then started to wrestle with his brother Stevie Ray, later going on to become a big singles star as Booker avenged his terrible childhood decisions by entertaining audiences around the globe and becoming an icon for budding wrestlers as well.
12 Adam Rose
Adam Rose might have had a sad end to his WWE career, but he has to be applauded for how he made it to the company in the first place. The entertaining wrestler is actually a South African who had a really rough childhood, as he ran away from home at the age of 14, spending two years living on the streets and abandoned buildings. Rose's life was spiralling out of control because of alcohol addiction and violence in the streets, as he had to use wrestling as an escape to that. He turned his life around quickly and achieved the ultimate dream after wrestling almost 15 years in his country when he was signed by the WWE. Rose did achieve a little bit of fame early in his career, but the way he turned around his career just with his passion for wrestling is truly admirable.
R-Truth might look like one of the most fun-loving, happiest wrestlers in the world right now in the WWE, but that is because he has fully deserved his happiness after going through a horrible childhood. Truth was abject to much poverty in his life, as he would have to sell drugs alongside his father to keep things going for them. He later started his music career but continued selling drugs on the side, which got him arrested and jailed for a year. Truth lived in a terrible place after getting released and was broke for a long time before he got his head into wrestling, where he has been entertaining for a long time now and has found his smile back in it as well. Truth avenged his past mistakes with his excellent work in wrestling, as this famous comic-relief of WWE deserves a lot of respect because of his ascendance from poverty.
10 Daniel Bryan
Daniel Bryan had to sadly retire from wrestling last year, but he's a true student of professional wrestling as his love for it made him sacrifice a lot of things just so that he could succeed in wrestling. Bryan would have to look after himself in his pursuit of his dreams, as he gave up everything to training in Shawn Michaels' wrestling school and was completely broke at the time, having to live in his car and even at the school on some nights. He even did this when wrestling in Japan, as the Bearded genius would not achieve real wealth before he was signed up by WWE. Bryan had to work like a horse to get to WWE's platform, where he slowly but surely became one of the biggest fan-favorites of the decade and his amazing devotion to the product definitely paid off in the end.
9 AJ Lee
AJ Lee will always be remembered for being a mentally unstable competitor in the ring but her rise in wrestling is especially special considering how mentally and physically strong she had to keep herself to get to the top of the WWE. Before she was one of the fan-favorite wrestlers, AJ had a terrible childhood where she and her family were homeless multiple times in many years. Lee had to work several part-time jobs to support herself and her family at one point before she decided to pursue her wrestling career. Thankfully that paid off really well for her, as she slowly became into one of WWE' most unique individuals and also became longest reigning Divas Champion at her time. Lee's childhood traumas motivated her to become famous and make money for her family's and her own well-being and she has fought really hard to become the female icon she is now.
"The Rated R-Superstar" Edge was definitely one of the greatest superstars of his time, but he didn't achieve that much fame without having to work for it. Edge had a really tough life before wrestling, as his father left when he was still unborn, forcing his mother to work day and night to make ends meet. Edge had to help his mother with her work after a point of time, as he was pretty broke in his childhood and lived a very humble life. His rise in wrestling came as part of a tag team with old friend Christian, as the two asserted themselves as stars but the former would become one of Smackdown's top guys during the Ruthless Aggression era and beyond. Edge had a really difficult life before entering wrestling, but he made sure he was never broke again when he became one of WWE's coolest characters and attained a lot of success with that.
7 TJ Perkins
TJ Perkins may have fallen in the Cruiserweight Division in the past few months, but he has asserted himself as a mainstay in the WWE because of his impressive work in the division and has come a long way in his career. Perkins worked in the Independent field for over a decade before making it to the WWE, and it all didn't really get that comfortable for him in those years either. Perkins went through a lot of dark patches in those years, also falling into a terrible situation once when he was homeless for a while and was dead broke as well. TJP picked his career from that point and is now a famous Cruiserweight in the WWE, as his impressive climb in the wrestling industry and hard-work shows how being broke can be a wake-up call for wrestlers at times.
6 Mick Foley
Mick Foley has put in almost his entire life into wrestling, as the Hardcore Legend became an icon with his work in the 90s and has since devoted his life to the product. While Foley might be an ideal family man right now, he wasn't really that focused on his well-being all the time when he barely made any money in his early career. Foley was broke most of the time back then, as he used to live in his car or in donated cots and just didn't have enough money to get a roof above his head. The man who would portray 4 amazing characters in wrestling wasn't really the most focused person in real life when he entered wrestling, as he worked hard to get a reputation and made sure that he didn't have to live as a broke man sleeping in his car no more.
Batista is definitely on top of the world because of his amazing success in Hollywood ever since leaving the WWE. Before he became "The Animal" in the WWE, Batista had quite an awful time growing up as he had witnessed three murders by the time he was 9 in Washington D.C. His family then moved to San Francisco, where Batista had a really difficult time settling in and got into a lot of fights. He was kicked out of his father's house at the age of 17 and was completely broke at the time and worked some side jobs before joining the WWE, where he'd attain peak status in the next years. Batista might be a Hollywood hero right now, but he'll never forget the dark days of his past which made him the man he is right now as his terrible childhood is a reason why he's working so hard on securing a good future for himself.
4 CM Punk
CM Punk was definitely the "Best In the World" when he ruled over the WWE as its primary champion, as the Straight Edge Superstar is someone with a set of strict values about himself which makes him special. But before Punk was a fan-favorite, he suffered a lot because of his family and had an especially terrible childhood. He lived with an alcoholic father and a parental structure where everyone cared about his big brother Mike and not him. He eventually found a way to move out of his home and live with his friends at their home. Punk was absolutely broke most of the times back then and suffered a huge loss when he realized that he and his friends' renegade backyard wrestling promotion called "Lunatic Wrestling Federation" was having funds depleted by his own brother. Punk would have to suffer some real financial crunches before he became the WWE icon, and is making sure that never happens to him anymore with his work right now.
Lita was a daredevil of the Women in the WWE during her time, as she wasn't afraid of taking risks to gain more popularity in the company. Before she became one of the WWE's most valuable divas, Lita had it difficult in her early wrestling career, especially when it came to training to become a wrestler. She actually traveled to Mexico to learn about wrestling and started her training under the luchadors, but was in a really bad spot financially. Lita had to dance in a club to make some money in Mexico, as she would also apparently do some sexual favors for the wrestlers who trained her as "payment". Lita made sure she wasn't broke nor desperate ever again when she made quite a breakthrough in the WWE and went on to become one of the most famous women of her generation.
2 Tony Atlas
Tony Atlas was one of the bigger stars in wrestling in the 80s because of his muscular figure which made him quite a hit in the industry. But it didn't really make him that big a superstar he'd want to become, as his obsession towards drug and awful way of living his life found him on the streets at the late 80s. Atlas was homeless, without any work and barely alive when a woman found him under a park bench who would later go on to become his wife. He's since turned his life around and was quite a famous member of the WWE community in the 90s, as his terrific turn-around of his life which was at the bottom of the pit at one point is really admirable and shows the real mental strength of the man.
1 Dean Ambrose
Dean Ambrose may be the "Lunatic Fringe" who has split the opinions of people over the years, but his journey to the WWE is an absolutely incredible one. Ambrose spent most of his childhood living in his city's public housing, where he would often have to sell drugs to survive in the neighbourhood. The Lunatic Fringe would find an escape in wrestling which he followed as much as he can, as his love for wrestling made him quit school and focus on becoming a wrestler. Ambrose sold popcorn and set up the ring before training for wrestling, but he didn't become popular for many years and was often completely broke during these years. He wrestled a lot but was still broke many times until he finally received a proper job when signed with the WWE where he has worked his butt off for the past years, as this job is the dream which kept him from going over the line all those years back.