The WWE has some of the best athletes in the world today. These wrestlers come from high school and college athletic programs as well as wrestling schools around the world. However, there are also former professional athletes that joined the WWE after their playing days came to a close; some of these wrestlers even became very successful superstars in the world of professional wrestling.
These men did everything from becoming world champions to reaching the WWE Hall of Fame. Most of them had massive careers in the WWE despite not making a big splash in the NFL. With some impressive resumes in professional wrestling, here is a look at 10 former NFL players who became WWE superstars.
10 Bill Goldberg
Bill Goldberg was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2018 after a career where he was the only person to hold the WCW, WWE World, and WWE Universal Championship titles. He held the longest winning streak in pro wrestling history at one time and was a dominant big man in the industry.
However, his start came in the NFL. After a standout career at Georgia as a defensive tackle, the Los Angeles Rams drafted him in the 1990 NFL Draft. He went on to only play for the Atlanta Falcons from 1992-94, starting one game and playing in 14 total in the NFL. He suffered a severe pelvis injury that ended his football career and joined WCW in 1996.
9 Baron Corbin
Baron Corbin became one of the most hated wrestlers on the entire WWE roster in 2018 when he took over the job as general manager of Monday Night Raw. He made life hell on the wrestlers until his removal from that role by the end of the year. However, before he started out his career in the WWE, he was a football player.
Corbin, real name Thomas Pestock, played in four consecutive Division II National Championships in college at Northwest Missouri State University before signing as a free agent with the Indianapolis Colts in 2009. While never playing in a regular season game, he was under contract with the Colts and Arizona Cardinals from 2009-11.
8 Brian Pillman
Brian Pillman was one of the most popular stars in both WCW and the WWE — both as a babyface and a dastardly heel. His biggest moments came in the WWE when he joined the Hart Foundation and feuded with his former tag team partner Stone Cold Steve Austin. Sadly, Pillman passed away in 1997 at the age of 35 following a heart attack.
Before he started wrestling, Pillman was a standout nose tackle for the University of Miami (Ohio), where he was a second-team All-American. He went undrafted by the NFL but joined his hometown Cincinnati Bengals in 1984 as a free agent. He won the Ed Block Courage Award while playing in Cincinnati before getting a shot with the Buffalo Bills. He later ended up playing with the Calgary Stampeders in the CFL in 1986.
7 Lex Luger
Lex Luger was one of the biggest stars in WCW, getting his start in the NWA before the company split off and became second to only the WWE in size. He was a two-time WCW World Champion and then got a chance to wrestle for the WWE, as well, before returning to WCW.
Before his wrestling career started, Luger played college football for the Miami Hurricanes but was kicked off the team. He went to Canada to play in Montreal and then signed with the Green Bay Packers in the NFL. He spent the entire 1982 season on the Packers as an injured reserve and was released in 1983 after finishing his football career in the USFL.
6 Mojo Rawley
Most people know that WWE superstar Mojo Rawley is close friends with the Gronkowski family, namely New England Patriots star Rob Gronkowski. Showing support, he has appeared at a few WWE shows by his friend's side. The two became friends after playing college football with Rob's brother at the University of Maryland.
Rawley, real name Dean Muhtadi, signed with the Green Bay Packers as an undrafted free agent in 2009. While he worked as a nose guard and defensive end, he was waived in the preseason. He then signed with the Arizona Cardinals in 2010 but was injured in preseason and placed on injured reserve. When he returned from injury, he signed with the WWE rather than remaining in the NFL.
5 Hacksaw Jim Duggan
Hacksaw Jim Duggan is one of the most beloved professional wrestlers in history, known for his 2x4, American flag, and enthusiastic yells, he was named to the WWE Hall of Fame in 2011. His career actually started in the territories years before Vince McMahon took over the WWE from his father.
Before his start in wrestling, Duggan played college football at SMU — which was also the home to future professional wrestlers like Ted DiBiase. It was there that Fritz Von Erich discovered Duggan. After college, the Atlanta Falcons signed Duggan but a series of knee injuries forced him to leave football, so Von Erich brought Duggan into the world of professional wrestling.
4 Ron Simmons
Ron Simmons, also known as Farooq in the WWE, was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2012. He was the first African-American world champion when he won the WCW world title. He also went on to hold the WWE tag titles three times with Bradshaw, one of the most popular teams in the Attitude Era.
Four years before he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, Simmons was also inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. He was a two-time consensus All-American at Florida State and was ninth in the Heisman voting in 1979 as a defensive standout. The Cleveland Browns drafted him in the sixth round in 1981, playing there for two seasons. He finished his football career in the USFL.
3 Ernie Ladd
Ernie "The Big Cat" Ladd was a huge superstar in professional wrestling — one of the largest in the industry at the time. Standing six-foot-nine, he was able to battle Andre the Giant and stand toe-to-toe with him while doing so. While he wrestled mostly in the territories as the first major African American heel and also challenged Pedro Morales and Bob Backlund when they were WWE champions.
Before this, Ladd was an extremely successful NFL player. After playing college ball with Grambling, the Chicago Bears drafted him in the 1961 NFL Draft, as did the San Diego Chargers in the 1961 AFL Draft. He chose the Chargers and played for them before joining the Houston Oilers and Kansas City Chiefs. In his career, he won an AFL Championship, becoming a four-time All-Star in the early '60s. He is part of the San Diego Chargers Hall of Fame.
2 Monty Brown
WWE fans barely got a look at Monty Brown when he left TNA Impact Wrestling to sign with the company. One of the hottest talents in Impact Wrestling at the time, the WWE signed him and changed his name to Marcus Cor Von. They placed him in the ECW and then lost interest in him, releasing him one year later where he retired from professional wrestling.
Before he started with TNA Impact Wrestling, he played football with the Buffalo Bills for four seasons. He was on the Bills roster when they played in Super Bowl XXVIII in 1994 and then signed to play with the New England Patriots, where he was an immediate starter at linebacker. An ankle injury ended his NFL career and he moved on to professional wrestling.
Big Van Vader passed away in 2018 after a very successful career in professional wrestling. He was a legend in Japan, a superstar in the AWA and WCW, and was a monster in the WWE, although they dropped the ball on him when he could have been even bigger. A former world champion, Vader is someone who is overdue for a Hall of Fame induction.
In college, Leon White played the center position for the University of Colorado and the Los Angeles Rams drafted him in the third round of the 1978 NFL Draft. There was high hope for White in the NFL but he ruptured his patella in his rookie season and retired to move on to create Vader Time in the world of professional wrestling.