A long run in WWE is the dream for so many kids, athletes and all types of fans, but only a select few manage to ever reach such lofty goals of getting in the ring, let alone making it to the WWE. Once there, an even smaller amount maintain their spot within the largest wrestling company on the planet for a decent length of time, the pitfalls and perils of striving for a goal with the best in the world as competition having its own toll. Top that off, and fewer still manage to parlay an in-ring career into an off-camera role that could set them up for life, but there are most definitely some who did and the collection is among the most interesting and varied when considering their comparable in-ring fame. Titans of the ring wars work alongside lesser known and even obscure grapplers toward the same ends of putting on the next show in the next town.
Some surprising names pop up among this fraternity of performers who turned their experience in front of the camera and in the ring into valued experience-sharing, training, television production roles and even management and writing jobs.
Whether they had long or short in-ring careers in WWE or WCW, competed for world titles or were comedy specialists or lower-card journeymen, they supplemented those skills with the ability to transfer them beyond the mat. These are the names fans will recognize, but they often have roles that fans aren't even aware of.
20 Billy Kidman
The famed former Cruiserweight Champion in both WCW and WWE has moved into an integral position backstage within WWE, being the official timekeeper for television segments, keeping the show running on time. Billy Kidman can be found right behind Gorilla Position (The area right before superstars emerge on the stage) coordinating time with the producers, directors and Vince McMahon himself to keep WWE television within the bounds of their plans. Go too long in the ring in one segment, and Billy Kidman is the guy adjusting everything else to compensate. He's an invaluable member of the production crew.
19 Arn Anderson
Arn spent much more of his time in WCW than WWE, but once WCW got bought out he has stuck with the sports entertainment leader ever since. The botched surgery that ended his career didn't stop him applying his wealth of knowledge towards helping other superstars navigate their matches and televised segments, with Arn taking on a 'producing' role commonly referred to simply as an Agent, which there'll be a lot of in this list.
Arn does appear infrequently in backstage bits, mostly pulling apart brawls or when a medical team is required, but those are few and far between. Most of the time, he's conveying Vince's requirements for a match and coming up with ideas for finishes to said matches.
18 D-Von Dudley
By all accounts the 'nice' Dudley, D-Von took the Dudley Boyz last run in WWE as an opportunity to network his way into an agent role within the company. Being put in charge of wrestlers as they organize how to construct and finish their matches on WWE television as well as simply imparting his decades of tag team knowledge. D-Von has a great reputation among the WWE locker room as you'll hardly hear anything bad about him, especially compared to the prickly-at-best Bubba-Ray, and that is no doubt an invaluable trait for this career transition. He may have not had close to the amount of singles success as he did tagging, but this solo move looks to have worked out for him.
17 Dean Malenko
The guy who looked like he was your uncle no matter how old he actually was, Dean Malenko finally embraced the mentor role he seemed destined to have when he transferred into the same Agent/Producer role so many other WWE alumni end up in. A former WCW Cruiserweight Champion and WWE Light-Heavyweight champion, Malenko was revered for his technical prowess and silky smooth, devastating looking in-ring skills against opponents of all sizes.
He no doubt uses that knowledge and credibility when imparting instructions to his assigned segment wrestlers, making sure their stuff looks good, but is also safe, while making sense for the story being told.
16 Jamie Noble
Many fans remember Sheamus's early emergence on WWE Raw for the fact he won the WWE Championship in record time, but before that, he also had the distinction of officially retiring one Jamie Noble. Noble, a former Ring Of Honor champion in his own right, went right into the backstage hierarchy of WWE as another agent, but fans will note he had a prominent role just a few years later as one of Seth Rollins off-siders in J&J Security. Noble has since returned to backstage work and if you keep your eyes peeled you'll catch him backstage on Raw about once a month, his telltale accent and look pretty easy to distinguish.
15 Joey Mercury
The other half of J&J Security, Joey Mercury has had a much more mixed bag post-career trajectory than his erstwhile 'J' fellow. Mercury sustained one of the most devastating on-camera injuries in WWE when an errant ladder broke his face completely, and he went through a period of turmoil before returning to the company through its wellness program. Joey found he had a knack for the agent role and is credited as the unofficial 'Fourth Member of The Shield' due to his critical input in that group's early rise. No longer in WWE as of this writing, Joey could return as he has before, but he is working on the indies at last check and seems to be doing okay.
14 Scotty 2 Hotty
Fans who grew up in the Attitude Era might not have seen Scotty 2 Hotty as a master technician, but he actually has a wealth of wrestling experience, which is why WWE felt he had something to offer as a coach at the performance center. He was hired a couple of years ago, and as of 2017 he has been teaching the middle class down in Orlando, the second of four levels of classes the WWE Performance Center offers. We've seen him make occasional on-screen appearances in the past few years, but his primary role remains coaching up the youngsters down in Florida.
13 Norman Smiley
Primarily known for his WCW stint where he 'mastered' The Big Wiggle, Norman Smiley nevertheless came over to the WWE system in 2007 and pretty immediately became one of their training gurus. A perpetual presence within FCW and now next and the WWE Performance Center, Smiley has had a hand in training three-quarters of the current wrestlers we see every RAW and SmackDown. Fans might not suspect him of such an integral role if you only remember his onscreen wrestling career, but make no mistake, you don't maintain a key developmental position for over a decade without training skills worthy of that distinction.
With a wealth of knowledge from two separate WWE stints and a lengthy overseas stay in Japan, the former Albert, then Tensai, and now Matt Bloom ascended to the Head Coach role within WWE's Performance Center. He got the nod for that job when his predecessor was ousted for less than savory reasons, and by all accounts, Bloom is a massive step up. You can catch him in the most recent WWE games as well, performing his PC role for the next generation of superstars digitally as well as he does in reality. Impossible to mistake on sight, you'll see him pop up in most videos that have footage of the new kids coming up.
11 Road Dogg
The D-O-double G was never hugely known for his in-ring work, much rather relying on his speaking skills to rile up crowds and get fans on his side. Despite a short stint in Impact Wrestling where he appeared to be at odds with Triple H and Vince McMahon, he nevertheless parlayed those relationships into a writing and producing role. Often shouted out, whether fairly or unfairly, as the problem when Smackdown has had some lackluster episodes, he clearly has the support where it counts within the company. His best viewable things recently were his Hall Of Fame bit with Jeff Jarrett and his appearance on the Edge & Christian show on the WWE Network.
10 Billy Gunn
Like his former tag team partner, Billy Gunn took on an agent role within WWE as well as a training position at the performance center where he tutored and guided many of the recent and current WWE crop. He is no longer with WWE as of this article, however, as a couple of years back he violated the company's wellness policy while competing in a bodybuilding competition, and WWE had to bring the hammer down and let him go. No doubt it was more to avoid bad press than that Gunn was hurting anybody but himself, but the company is committed to making PR strides back to the mainstream and he was low enough in profile to suffer the ax.
9 Lex Luger
Inspired by the dark times in his own life and career, Lex Luger has been working with WWE as a consultant and wellness officer on many aspects of life as a professional wrestler that otherwise may slip under the radar. From health, to nutrition, to simply taking care of their bodies, Luger is well placed and experienced to guide people away from some enticing short-term solutions that have long-term consequences he has had to find out personally. Luger is informed by his faith and several recent hardships in life, and if he's come through the other side looking to help others, then WWE has a good ambassador in him.
8 Fit Finlay
Fit Finlay is well regarded in every locker room he enters for his tough-as-nails reputation and legitimately excellent and crisp wrestling skills. He may never have been close to a poster-boy, but nobody who watched his work could deny how good he is in the ring, and it didn't matter if he had Hornswoggle under the ring or not.
Not just a worldwide renowned grappler known to be unflinching, Finlay is also largely credited with taking many of the women who've come into WWE the past decade and a half and turned them from models into competent wrestlers. No mean feat for some of them, and a credit to Finlay himself in some cases. Now he regularly shows up in pull-apart brawls on RAW, but otherwise, he's an invaluable backstage presence who wears multiple hats.
7 Jason Jordan
Sustaining an unfortunate injury just as it seemed his career was scheduled to take off, Jason Jordan has been smoothly transitioned into backstage roles shadowing agents, producers and the like to enhance his skill set. While not yet confirmed that his severe neck injury has forced him into early retirement, WWE clearly wants him to remain useful and proactive about his career options.
Whether this means he returns to the ring sooner or later with enhanced knowledge, or if they know something we don't and Jordan remains backstage providing perspective to those who can still go, it's a hopeful story and good on WWE for supporting him.
6 Tyson Kidd
Tyson Kidd had performed the difficult task of revitalizing his career in NXT, finally discovering his niche charisma traits to stand out, and then it all ended with a freak accident. By all accounts, 95% of people who sustain the injury Tyson did, never walk again let alone wrestle, so he's counting his blessings as he's transferred his immense skillset into training and being an agent for main roster stars. Still married to Natalya Neidhart as well, Kidd was never going to go far from WWE, but finding such a quick alternate career after such a close shave informs on how much the man lives for wrestling.
5 Matt Hardy
When we heard Matt Hardy explain that he had to retire, many people wondered how his daredevil brother outlasted him. Then we heard how Matt Hardy's years of top-rope leg-dropping has essentially fused his pelvis to his spine, and we all winced and said: "Yeah, okay, good thing you're hanging the boots up". Matt didn't sit on his laurels long though, using his still underutilized 'Broken' Matt Hardy character to pitch WWE shows like House Hardy and a potential general manager role into the mix. He's also venerated for his creative ideas for matches and could wind up in an Agent role.
4 Mark Henry
Mark Henry is unique among the trainers at the Performance Center and as a quasi-agent at shows because he works with a select crop of wrestlers he has unique advice for. Those guys are the Braun Strowmans, Titus O'Neils, Lars Sullivans, and Baron Corbin's, the 'Big Men' of the current WWE landscape. Mark Henry (and probably quite soon, The Big Show if he follows suit) have gone from the lowest of lows when they were demoted back to developmental (pre-NXT days), told to lose weight, and forced to retrain, to the heights of World Championship success. Henry is an invaluable and more importantly, irreplaceable resource in teaching future huge stars how to navigate the WWE.
3 Shawn Michaels
He was pivotal if not instrumental in the training of stars like Daniel Bryan and The Brian Kendrick back in the day, but Shawn Michaels has been coaxed back into a training role by his good buddy Triple H down in NXT and at the WWE Performance Center. For many, Shawn Michaels is the greatest in-ring competitor of all time, with everything he did looking as good as possible. Now he imparts his knowledge and instincts into the next generation and they'll never have a better teacher.
Shawn may have dipped his toe back into wrestling for one night (and many suspect a WrestleMania dream match with AJ Styles) but otherwise, he is in Florida hopefully bumping those prospects up those last elusive levels of perfection.
There were reports of backstage issues when JBL suddenly stepped away from SmackDown commentary (since debunked by Mauro Ranallo himself), but in the void of his leaving JBL has become somewhat of a mainstream advocate for WWE, going on talk shows both in-house and otherwise to spread the 'good word' wherever WWE is discussed. His most notable moments coming in the lead up to the Crown Jewel event where he appeared on FOX Business channel for WWE to attempt to quash simmering backlash. He's never truly left WWE though, appearing sporadically on Network specials, always toeing the company line as only he can.
1 Serena Deeb
The shaved-bald sister among the Straight Edge Society, Serena Deeb was let go from WWE years back because she was partying hard in her spare time and that directly contradicted her onscreen character. While a harsh line to draw, she worked her way back to WWE via the May Young Classic and after putting in the time and effort she was transferred into a role in the Performance Center as a trainer. Serena may still have had something to offer as an official in-ring competitor, but she decided that the longevity and being away from the spotlight were best for her career advancement at this stage, and we wish her the best because it was awesome seeing her return considering how far she fell.