We all have those awkward childhood photos that make us cringe when we look back on them. Whether it’s how we looked in those photos or the memories the photos bring up, it’s undeniable that they are embarrassing. Well all those professional wrestlers that we idolize on stage and on screen are not immune from having photos come up during those “awkward phases” in life. You know, those phases where your teeth are all crooked or your face looks like a before picture on a proactive commercial. Yes, pro-wrestlers also had those moments in their life too.
This list ranges from newborn photos, all the way to Senior year portraits (didn’t we all love taking those?). Some of the childhood/teenage photos of these wrestlers are unrecognizable, but others you can clearly see the same characteristics they display in the ring today.
If there are any millennials reading this, I apologize for the following content as it is filled with 1980-90s nostalgia. Some of these photos may look awkward now, but they were probably stylish at the time. Now relax, pull-up a chair (although most of you are probably reading this on a toilet at work right now), and enjoy these 30 embarrassing (and sometimes adorable) childhood photos of wrestling stars.
30. John Cena
Is there a bigger name in wrestling this past decade than John Cena? Regardless, you would be very had pressed to find a wrestler who has garnished more accolades, movie credits, and money recently than Cena (okay, maybe The Rock but more on him in a bit). Cena has long been the envy of many and that envy only grew stronger after his proposal to the gorgeous Nikki Bella.
But Cena hasn’t always been a muscle bound playboy. He might look like he was created in a WWE laboratory, but I can assure you that he was once a small child like the rest of us.
Yes, even John Cena had to take those ridiculously corny school photos that mom’s love to show off to your college girlfriends any chance they get. Hopefully for his sake, Cena ripped that cheap vest off as kid while impersonating Hulk Hogan.
29. CM Punk with Steve Austin
This photo is amazing. It gives off the vibe that Stone Cold probably can’t stand this little “punk” next to him, not knowing that the little punk would one day grow up to be CM Punk, a fellow champion wrestler. But seeing the changes over the years and feeling the embarrassing memories is all the fun of old childhood photos. Plus, how cool is this photo for both of these guys nowadays? Rule of thumb: take more childhood photos, you will regret not having them when you’re older.
Ironically, in a 2016 interview with Wrestling Inc., Steve Austin said that his two dream opponents for one final match would be either Brock Lesnar or CM Punk. He stated that he thought he and Punk could “sell a lot of tickets” together because of their entertaining styles. He also credited Punk’s fluid moves in the ring as being top-notch. Never judge a book by it’s cover, and never judge a Punk by their hair color.
28. Rey Mysterio
Before becoming internationally famous as a WWE icon, Rey Mysterio was learning the in’s and outs of wrestling from his uncle, Rey Mysterio Sr. Mysterio began competing at the ripe age of 14 in the Lucha Libre leagues of Mexico, hence why Mysterio has such a high flying, high energy skill set. After working his way up the ranks and no longer wearing his lucha libre mask, Mysterio signed with the WWE in 2002.
According to reports, it was Vince McMahon’s idea to “re-mask” Rey Mysterio upon his arrival to the WWE. It turned out to be a great marketing decision and Mysterio’s masks became his calling card, going as far as never being seen unmasked while with WWE. So here is a peak under the masked man and the future lucha libre king.
27. Roman Reigns
As the 2016 Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s “Most Hated Wrestler of the Year” award winner (more like loser), Roman Reigns appears to be on a short leash with WWE fans. But this Raw ambassador is still relatively “raw” as a wrestler because he originally planned on being a professional NFL football player, and he almost made it too getting signed by the Vikings and Jaguars in 2007.
Still, this Pensacola, Florida native needs to step his game up if he wants to be included with the greats of all-time. Now with his iconic long hair, Reigns barely resembles his younger self. After looking at this childhood photo, it is also clear that Reigns most wear colored contacts to give his eyes a more sinister look. Is Reigns 2017’s Most Hated Wrestler so far? My guess is yes.
26. Chris Jericho
Before becoming a superstar, Chris Jericho was just another kid growing up in New York while his father played for the New York Rangers. After moving back to Canada following his fathers retirement, Jericho gained an interest in wrestling from watching local American Wrestling Association events. He then enlisted in the Hart Brothers School of Wrestling.
Given his rock star personality in the WWE, it makes sense that Jericho is also a lead singer for the rock group Fozzy. Judging by his high school photo, it’s clear that Jericho has always been a bit of a badass and goofball mixed into one. Although if Jericho could meet his former high school self, he would surely put him on the list because of that ridiculous mullet.
25. The Big Show
The Big Show is rightfully named given his insane physical stature. He stands 7′ tall and weighs close to 380 lbs. That is a giant human being, so it is difficult to imagine him ever being a small child but here is photographic evidence. This elementary school photo of The Big Show is priceless and in stark comparison to the sternness he often displays in the ring today.
The Big Show’s transformation from normal kid to world champion wrestler occurred when he was working at a karaoke club and ran into Danny Bonaduce, who then introduced him to Hulk Hogan. From there it was history and once he first took the ring (in WCW) there was no turning back. Long live the Big Show.
24. Trish Stratus
This former WWF/WWE sex symbol used more than just her looks to help her get inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, but her looks certainly played a huge part in getting her start. But before Trish Stratus became the poster girl for many teenage boys bedrooms, she was an adorable and athletic little kid.
Stratus was born in Canada and grew up watching wrestling and idolizing stars like Hulk Hogan. As a standout childhood athlete, Stratus gained local notoriety before joining the York University soccer team. Stratus was also working at a gym when she was noticed by a modeling agency, which started her fast track to the WWE villain and manager of T&A. Trish is now a certified yoga instructor and a mother of two.
23. The Rock
Has Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson always been cool? It’s debatable based on this old teenage photo of him, but based on the growing muscles, his gold chain, and extra large boombox, you can see his larger than life personality beginning to take shape. This photo looks like any other teenager’s reaction when their parents bang on the door and tell them to turn the music down. Or is he possibly asking them if they can smell what he’s cooking?
As a high school and college football player, The Rock probably never envisioned himself making a fortune as one of the most popular (and hated by some) wrestlers the world has ever seen. Also, given his lanky and skinny build here, it is clear that The Rock was just starting to take the gym seriously on his way to becoming the mountain of muscle that he is today.
22. Sasha Banks
Sasha Banks grew up watching anime and All Japans Women’s Pro-Wrestling, so she was interested in wrestling from a young age. When she decided to become a pro-wrestler, Sasha received some help and guidance from her cousin Snoop Dogg. Apart from being the inspiration for her persona as The Legit Boss, Snoop Dogg actually took Sasha to her first WrestleMania back in 2008.
Sasha has grown out of her cousin’s spotlight though by becoming one of the most successful women wrestler’s in the history of the WWE. Last year, her and Charlotte Flair were the first two women to headline a WWE pay-per-view event, which shows how far the sport has grown in the past decade plus. Strangely enough, another one of Sasha Banks’ cousins is the famous rapper Ray J.
21. Jeff Hardy
Can you imagine going to high school with the Hardy Brothers? It would be insane, right? One can only imagine how energetic and rambunctious those two were at parties. Also, if you started beef with one of them, you know you are going to have to fight both of them so surely they were kings of their high school. Plus they both definitely hooked up with your high school sweetheart.
The photo pictured here is of Jeff in high school, obviously (it sadly looks like a reverse version of one of those memes “you v. the guy she told you not to worry about”). Jeff and his brother Matt formed one of the greatest tag team duos in the history of wrestling and recently made a comeback after an 8-year hiatus to win WrestleMania 33. The Hardy Boys are back and ready to wreak havoc again, look out WWE.
20. The Rock w/ Muhammad Ali
How cool of a photo is this? The greatest boxer of all-time, Muhammad Ali, probably had no idea that he was holding up a future wrestling champion and international superstar when he took this photo with a young Dwayne Johnson. The Rock posted this photo after hearing of Muhammad Ali’s death and stated, “From hanging out with you in New Zealand as this little punk kid, to years later you as a WWE rookie when you whispered to me, ‘Can you rumble?’, to a few years later when you bestowed upon me ‘The Peoples Champ’ moniker.”
It’s clear that Muhammad Ali was one of The Rock’s biggest inspirations as a kid and it’s amazing that their friendship lasted over many decades. Surely, there will be similar photos that come out which show an old Dwayne Johnson taking a photo with a child who also grows up to become a star. Life always comes full circle.
19. Charlotte Flair
Many male fans lust over this WWE diva (to me she looks to much like her father), but be careful guys because Charlotte Flair will always be daddy’s little girl and you wouldn’t want to piss Mr. Flair off would you? Obviously, Charlotte Flair is the daughter of legendary wrestler Ric Flair (whooo!), so she was almost destined to enter into the family business at some point.
But looking at this cute photo of Charlotte as a little girl (presumably at a birthday party), it’s hard to imagine that little girl becoming the ass-kicking machine that Charlotte is today. Whatever her childhood was like, I can guarantee that it involved a lot of stylin’, profilin’, limousine riding, jet flying, kiss-stealing, wheelin’, and dealin’. Wrestling fans have to love Ric Flair and should love Charlotte by default.
18. Bella Twins
The Bella Twins are two of WWE’s hottest tag-teams ever and for good reason. These model-esque ladies were born in San Diego, but grew up on a farm in Scottsdale, Arizona. After graduating from Chaparral High School (a prestigious high school in Arizona), the Twins moved back to California in search of their big break.
After years of waiting tables at a hotel in Los Angeles, Nikki and Brie finally got their big break when they were signed to development contracts by the WWE in 2007. While both are still smoking hot, their wrestling careers appear to be winding down as Nikki recently engaged John Cena and the two are reportedly focusing on outside projects, while Brie has been out of the ring since 2016. Words of wisdom: Don’t mess with these farm girls.
17. Kofi Kingston
Originally from Ghana, Kofi Kingston is now viewed as one of the greatest international wrestlers of his generation. Although these photos are close to 30 years old by now, you can still see the resemblance and it is undeniably Kingston with his trademark smile. The photo in the forefront makes Kingston look like a total little boss back in the day as well.
Well now Kingston really is a boss, a boss in the ring. His dominating performances in the wrestling world have placed him in the ranks of one of the best tag-team partners the sport has ever witnessed. With his imperative role in The New Day, don’t expect Kingston to leave the scene anytime soon. Maybe when he retires, we will see Kingston wear a suit similar to the one shown above and manage a new team.
16. The Miz
Michael Mizanin (aka “The Miz”) looks exactly the same as he did when he a high school teen, but The Miz’s personality could not be any different. While The Miz is often an annoying, outspoken, and cocky wrestler these days, he was a goofy student government leader and yearbook editor in high school.
Everything changed for this straight laced kid when he dropped out of Miami University in order to become a cast member on the famous MTV Show The Real World. Yes, The Miz was a featured housemate on the Real World in 2001, just years before starting his professional wrestling career. However, we cannot judge The Miz for being a loser in high school because he’s grown to be a big star today. But seriously, the year book editor? C’mon Miz.
15. The Undertaker
Yep this confirms all of our suspicions, The Undertaker has always been ugly. All joking aside, The Undertaker grew up in Houston, Texas and was a very accomplished athlete, especially in basketball. In fact, The Undertaker was such a good collegiate center that he toiled with the idea of going professional before ultimately deciding that he wanted to follow his passion in wrestling.
At 6’10”, The Undertaker is certainly a menacing figure to be paired against in any sport. Thankfully for wrestling fans, he followed his heart into wrestling and became one of the most decorated competitors ever. I’ll admit that growing up and seeing The Undertaker take the stage in his all black, western trench coat use to scare me. A few years after “The Streak” came to an end, The Undertaker seemingly retired at WrestleMania 33, however there are rumors of a comeback. Stay tuned.
14. Brock Lesnar
Is it just me or has Brock Lesnar’s face literally not changed at all from the time he was a newborn? Like he literally looks like a massively muscled baby these days and maybe that is what causes some people to despise him. Whether you love him or hate him, Lesnar appears ready to be around for the long haul as there is zero chance that he remains in the UFC for long after his second suspension.
Looking at the baby photo of the right also makes me wonder just how large of a baby Lesnar was? Did he weigh over 10 pounds at birth or what? It’s clear from the time he was a year old that Lesnar would be a professional athlete in some big-man sport. Don’t let the baby face fool you, however, as Lesnar is a cold-blooded killer in the ring.
13. Hulk Hogan
It’s little Hulk! Hulk Hogan was born Terry Bollea back in 1953 and he described himself as being a chubby kid growing up, before he eventually discovered his passion for working out and building those 24-inch pythons. Here, Hogan is just like any American kid growing up, carrying a football in his hand and dreaming big. While Hogan would not become a football player, he did end up becoming the biggest star the wrestling business had ever seen.
After first trying to make it as a bodybuilder in Venice Beach, California, Hogan and his buddy Brutus Beefcake ended up getting a break in the wrestling business and the rest is history. Even the Immortal One was once merely a mortal just like us.
12. John Cena
This photo takes us back to John Cena again, because why not? The four younger photos of him in this collage are great and all but how good is the one in the forefront? Whatever age he is there, it is clear that Cena was starting to come into his own personality. In fact, just put a “Can’t See Me” shirt on him and it would look like a photo that John Cena would take even today.
While it’s impossible to determine what type of person a kid will grow up to be like, it is clear that John Cena had a passion for being the center of attention and for entertaining others. His fun, outgoing personality jumps out on the camera even as a child. I know there are John Cena haters out there, but seriously who wouldn’t want to be friends with the guy? He’s the definition of cool and he’s remarkably humble as well. And he has a smoke show fiance. All good traits to have.
Judging by the photo on the left, I bet Sheamus got picked on a lot as a child. Honestly, the guy on the right would get picked on too if he wasn’t such a brutal beast in the ring. Sheamus is a strange man and it shows in this progression photo of him a child to him as a man, but he is also a hell of a wrestler. The two traits help create one of the more interesting characters in the sport, Sheamus.
Sheamus was born and raised in Ireland (as if you couldn’t already tell that) and grew up watching British wrestling and WWE. He turned that passion into a career as a young man and is now a heavy weight champion in WWE. For looking like such an anti-social child in this photo, Sheamus certainly knows how to control a crowd and hype up his matches. Word of advice: be nice to the quite kids in your class, they could turn out to be the next Sheamus.
10. Stephanie McMahon
It’s hard to picture Stephanie McMahon having a “normal” childhood, given that she is the daughter of the legendary Vince McMahon. Stephanie was practically born into the wrestling world and, thankfully for us, she embraced it and has become one of the most well known faces in the sport. If she will one day take the reigns from her father remains to be scene, but it’s certainly foreseeable.
The photo on the left shows how incredible and interesting her childhood must have been, as here she is scene with wrestling icon Andre the Giant. There are probably countless photos like this that show a young Stephanie McMahon with other WWE greats. Literally her whole life has been surrounded by wrestling, including her husband Triple H. Looks like a fun childhood to me.
9. Shane & Stephanie McMahon
Shane and Stephanie grew up back when their father was still trying to amass his fortune. There were times in their childhood where the family was living from week to week, as Vince was working several jobs in order to keep food on the table. Eventually Vince took over the WWE from his father Vince Sr. and in that time, he wasn’t at home nearly as much as parents with a regular job would be. That’s when Shane really started to act like a protective figure over his sister Stephanie.
Nowadays, Stephanie looks like she’ll be the McMahon who ends up inheriting the WWE when Vince’s time comes, while Shane will seemingly have very little say. A sibling rivalry definitely exists between the two, but there’s still a whole lot of love between them.
8. Big Cass
Big Cass is certainly a “big human,” as he stands about 7 feet tall and weighs close to 300 pounds. It’s hard to tell in this high school photo, but Cass was a monster even in high school and dominated on the basketball court before thoughts of being a professional wrestler ever crossed his mind. Don’t let his size and demeanor fool you though, Cass is a brilliant guy.
Cass attended New York University on a basketball scholarship and graduated with a degree in Economics. After graduating from NYU, Cass founded a ticket brokerage company in New York. Now as a professional wrestler, it’s possible that Cass’s brokerage company could sell tickets to his own events when WWE is featured in the New York area. Although he is injured right now, Cass is a good athlete and should be able to bounce back after his injury hiatus.
7. Big Show
Admittedly, I included this collage of the Big Show because I played high school basketball when I was younger and I can not even imagine what it must have been like trying to guard Big Show at that age. Just look at that photo; he is clearly a grown man playing amongst boys. I’m sure that number 50 guarding him is not a small guy either but in comparison he looks like a twig.
Every play I would just post up the Big Show and throw him the ball and let him go to work. It would be like having Shaquille O’Neal in his prime. The other photos in this collage are important to, however, as it shows the Big Show’s personality as he really is a gentle and kind man at heart. He literally is a gentle giant… but don’t piss him off!
6. Charlotte Flair
Ric Flair was bound to have a daughter given his playboy lifestyle and claims of sleeping with over 10,000 women. It’s a blessing and a curse for him to have a daughter because given his past experiences with women, he is likely to be overly protective of his daughter to prevent her from being attracted to guys like him. Ironic isn’t it?
In these photos, it’s clear that Mr. Flair had his hands full when Charlotte was in high school. Between the athletic body and movie star smile, she was surely driving all the boys wild. But can you imagine taking Charlotte to prom and having to interact with Ric Flair at the door? It would be like the famous scene in Bad Boyz 2 with Will Smith and Martin Lawrence times 10,000.
5. Randy Orton
Randy Orton came from a wrestling family that attempted to do anything they could to keep him from choosing wrestling as a career. Originally, Orton listened to the advice and decided to join the Marine Corps after graduating from high school. In the Marines, Orton was discharged after two unauthorized absences (desertions) and failing to follow a formal order. He spent time in a military prison in Camp Pendleton for his actions.
After his discharge, Orton’s life appeared to be in shambles so he turned his focus back into the passion he had as a youngster, wrestling. Well that certainly was the right move as Orton is now a 13-time champion in the sport and one of the most recognized figures in the WWE. His RKO move is now an internet sensation too. He still had his crazy eyes even as an 8-year-old though.
4. Alexa Bliss
Alexa Bliss looked like the classic “girl next door” in high school with her cute and innocent looks. Bliss has always been an athletic girl as she used to compete in softball, track, kickboxing, gymnastics, and cheerleading. She even continued cheerleading during her college years at the University of Akron.
Sadly, around the time that Bliss was a sophomore in high school she suffered from anorexia, a potentially deadly eating disorder. Bliss turned to body-building to help her overcome her disorder and further embrace her strengths. Today Bliss is a sex icon in the ring, along with being a champion wrestler. At only 26 years old, expect big things to come for Bliss.
3. Seth Rollins
It may not be obvious based on this high school photo, but Seth Rollins was actually a near perfect child growing up. According to Rollins, he never played sports growing up because he was always too busy doing homework and doing backyard wrestling with his friends. In his words, teenage Rollins was a “model citizen.”
How much of that you are willing to believe is up to you, but one thing you can’t deny is Seth Rollins’ talent in the ring. In fact, legendary wrestler Sting once said that Rollins was the most talented wrestler that he had ever seen or worked with. That is high praise from one of the sports most favorite old-timers. Rollins was a huge rock music fan as a kid and actually looks a lot like Jim Morrison in this photo. His stage name “Rollins” was influenced by the band Black Flag’s lead singer, Henry Rollins.
As you can see, Bayley hasn’t changed much from when she was a teenager, aside from some more muscles and makeup. Bayley first got into watching wrestling when she was just 11 years old, as she would frequently attend Big Time Wrestling shows in her home state of California. Her love for the sport grew even stronger when she attended No Way Out in 2004 (which could be where the picture on the right was shot).
Nowadays, Bayley continues to make a name for herself in the WWE by showing off her great personality. Bayley cites other wrestlers like Lita, Ivory, and Molly Holly as being major influences on her during her childhood. Because of her influences, she prides herself on being a good role-model for young, female wrestling fans today. She has suffered some recent injuries, but Bayley’s stock appears to be trending up.
1. John Cena
This list started with John Cena and will end with John Cena, mainly because this photo was too good to leave out. Cena may not have had very good game in high school as the girl in this photo was apparently a friend of his cousin that agreed to go to prom with Cena. Whatever was going on, I’m surprised Cena had a prom date when he looked like that, although it probably didn’t matter because she couldn’t see him anyway.
This unnamed prom date probably never thought that her prom photo would one day be circulating the internet, but at least she can tell her friends that she had John Cena as a prom date in high school (although I’m sure her husband/boyfriend wouldn’t be as pumped to hear that). She is probably a sweet girl, but Cena has clearly upped his standards by bagging Nikki Bella to be his future wife.
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