There may be no job more unique than being a WWE Superstar. It’s an athletic profession to be sure. Performers need to have the cardiovascular conditioning, strength, and durability to wage war (albeit with predetermined outcomes) in the ring for weekly television shows and recurrent house show performances. On top of that, it’s a profession that demands larger than life charisma to connect with live and TV audiences. There are elements of acting, a rigorous travel schedule that goes all year round, and there’s media work to keep up with.
So, what do people who worked for WWE do after they leave the company? There are smaller stages to work on for sure, as well as big time wrestling promotions in other countries. But there are also those wrestlers who go on to pursue very different professions, passions, and interests well outside the professional wrestling sphere. There are also those former WWE Superstars who are just trying to make ends meet to provide for themselves and their families in the aftermath of their more lucrative careers in the spotlight.
There are quite a few sad stories of WWE’s wrestlers dying young—victims of years of physical injuries, substance abuse, or mental health issues. You may be surprised, however, at how many wresters have gone on to productive, perfectly respectable lives after leaving the ring. This article takes a look at 15 separate instances of wrestlers traveling very different paths to achieve their own brands of success and fulfillment since they departed from the bright lights of WWE.
15 Diamond Dallas Page: The DDP Yoga Empire
DDP’s post-WWE story may be the best known on this list because he has both done a remarkable job of marketing himself and has actually done such good work.
The story goes that Page’s wife suggested yoga to help him heal up from his many physical ailments when he walked away from a full time wrestling career. While Page was at first reticent because yoga didn’t seem like a very masculine pursuit, he wound up giving it a try and was stunned by how effective the results were. This led to him adapting his own style of yoga specifically marketed to regular guys who probably wouldn’t try yoga on their own.
Page wound up with a successful second career in the home fitness industry. Additionally, he’s the man behind a number of feel good stories of former wrestlers like Jake Roberts and Scott Hall healing their bodies and overcoming their demons of substance abuse with Page’s guidance and support.
14 Chris Nowinski: Concussion Research
Over the last decade, our society as a whole has seen a spike in concussion awareness. You can see the effect of it in WWE, as more and more performers miss time due to head injuries that they might have worked through in the past, and dangerous spots like steel chair shots to the head have all but disappeared from the company’s landscape.
Chris Nowinski saw his own wrestling career cut short after he got a bad concussion and found himself suffering from post-concussion symptoms for months to follow. This development led to the next stage in his career. Nowinski has become a vocal advocate and driving force behind research into and education on concussions. His efforts included self-publishing a book on the topic and co-founding The Sports Legacy Institute, later renamed the Concussion Legacy Foundation. According to the organization’s website, the Harvard alum is also currently pursuing a Ph.D in Behavioral Neuroscience from Boston University.
13 Jeff Jarrett: Wrestling Entrepreneur
Few wrestlers worked the system during the Monday Night War more thoroughly, or more successfully than Jeff Jarrett. With an eye toward advancing his standing on the card and working his way into bigger paydays, Jarrett bounced between WWE and WCW with two tenures a piece in each company. He wound up being a main eventer and world champion in WCW. Unfortunately he burned his bridges in his final WWE tenure by purportedly holding up Vince McMahon for extra money before he did a job to Chyna. So, when WWE won the war, there was no chance of Jarrett heading back again.
Rather than settling into a career on the indies, going abroad, or leaving the wrestling field, Jarrett dug in and blazed his own trail. Working with his father, he co-founded TNA as an alternative national promotion. When he became estranged from that company, he also founded Global Force Wrestling, though he wound up back in TNA management before that company really took off (though, officially, the company is still running).
Given his lineage, and that his father Jerry Jarrett was a promoter and booker before him, perhaps it’s no surprise that Jeff wound up taking this route. Nonetheless, he went from a WWE career mid-carder to quite arguably the most influential wrestling business person outside of WWE.
12 Alundra Blayze: Monster Truck Driver
In the mid-1990s, Alundra Blayze had one of the greatest runs any woman has ever had in WWE, as the featured performer for the small women’s division, through which she put on a series of matches opposite talents like Bull Nakano and Bertha Faye. She’d leave the company under less than pleasant terms, though, in one of the most high profile moments of the Monday Night War. She showed upon WCW Monday Nitro with WWE’s Women’s Championship still in hand, and dumped it in a trash can on national TV.
After wrestling, Blayze would find tremendous success as a monster truck driver, becoming the first woman to ever win the Monster Jam World Finals, before becoming an executive with Major League Monster Trucks. More recently, wrestling fans got to see Blayze again when she mended fences with WWE, accepting a Hall of Fame induction in 2015, and later doing a sit down interview for John Bradshaw-Layfield’s WWE Network show.
11 Ted DiBiase Jr.: Selling College Textbooks
If ever there were a case of a guy who had everything going his way, only to fizzle in WWE it’s Ted DiBiase Jr. He’s the son of an all time great, The Million Dollar Man, he had a great look, and he grew as both an in ring performer and talker over the course of his WWE tenure. He even looked primed for a big run after he and Cody Rhodes more than held their own against legendary Shawn Michaels and Triple H in a multi-month feud. In the end, though, he’d never reach higher than that point.
Whether DiBiase left, as many critics suspect, on account of creative frustrations with WWE, or because, as he stated at the time, he wanted to dedicate more time to his family, DiBiase left WWE in 2013. The Mississippi Business Journal reported that he went on to management role with College Garage Sale, a website that specialized in selling college textbooks. While this may seem like an odd path, it does fit with his background, which included earning a college degree in business before he started pursuing pro wrestling full time.
10 Carlito: A Top Guy In Puerto Rico
Before he ever worked for WWE, Carlito got his start in his father’s wrestling promotion, the World Wrestling Council in Puerto Rico. There, Carlito became the youngest champion the company had ever seen, and a fixture toward the top of the card for several years. Little could he have known that he would end up back where he started.
WWE clearly had faith in Carlito, giving him old school vignettes to introduce his character, not to mention giving him a US Championship win upon his main roster debut, defeating no lesser name than John Cena. He’d go on to flirt with the main event for a period of time as a rising heel alongside Chris Masters, before turning face and working the upper mid-card. Whether it was bad booking or the rumors are true that Carlito had a bad attitude, he never ended up ascending to that next level. In the end, he was purportedly released due to Wellness Policy issues.
And so Carlito wound up going home and has spent much of the last six years as headliner for his father’s promotion again. He had a big enough name that there’s always a chance he could resurface in a major US promotion, but for now, he seems more successful at home.
9 Kelly Kelly: Appearing On WAGs
Kelly Kelly had an interesting trajectory in WWE. She started out with the company’s ECW brand as part of the Extreme Expose dance troupe, before settling in to manage kayfabe boyfriend Mike Knox. The two worked a gimmick in which he was a bullying brute and she was a sympathetic character stuck with him, while crushing on faces like CM Punk. As time marched on, she became a more full-fledged character in her own right, and a wrestler who wound up winning the Divas Championship and, for a brief period, looking like the de facto face of women’s wrestling in WWE.
The acronym WAGs stands for Wives And Girlfriends of high-profile sportspersons. Since leaving WWE, Kelly married former NHL player Sheldon Souray, and thus qualifies for the WAG moniker. She transitioned this real life role into a stable reality TV spot, now in her third season for the E! television series WAGS.
8 Rob Conway: NWA World Heavyweight Champion
After a run with La Resistance, Rob Conway briefly broke out as a singles star in WWE. He most memorably worked a gimmick in which he bullied wrestling legends in the build to the Raw Homecoming special in 2005. On that show, the legends struck back, beating down Conway, only to climax in Kevin Von Erich applying the Iron Claw on his head.
Conway moved from the main roster back down to developmental in 2007, before moving on to work the independents and in Japan. Most notably, Conway is now a two-time National Wrestling Alliance World Heavyweight Champion. The title’s prestige and notoriety bear little resemblance to their old stature when men like Harley Race, Ric Flair, and Dusty Rhodes pursued it. Nonetheless, it remains an honor on the indies and a testament to Conway remaining active and relevant at that level of pro wrestling.
7 Damien Sandow: Playing The Liberace Gimmick He Always Wanted To
The story of Damien Sandow’s career in WWE is a strange one. After an interminably long stay in developmental he finally got the call up to the main roster with a gimmicky “Intellectual Savior” character. He made the most of the opportunity and turned in a number of great performances before WWE seemed to strap a rocket to him with a Money in the Bank briefcase win. Sandow would, however, become the first man to totally blow his cash in without any external shenanigans, losing cleanly after he cashed in on John Cena at the wrong time. Afterward, he settled into a role as The Miz’s sidekick and, against all odds, got massively over with it. Despite a face turn and great reception from the crowd, he was mostly kept off TV for the months to follow, before he quietly left the company.
Sandow has remained active in wrestling since, most notably wrestling in TNA as Aron Rex. He won the company’s Grand Championship and most recently took on a Liberace-like gimmick that he claimed in shoot interviewed he had pitched, but never gotten an opportunity to play in WWE. During WrestleMania week, he told reporters that he was done with TNA for the time being, and might step away from wrestling for a bit, though he quickly clarified on Twitter that that did not mean he was retiring.
6 Rob Van Dam: Jack Of All Trades
Rob Van Dam was quite arguably ECW’s top ascending star when the company went out of business. Few if any wrestlers were more popular or more talented than him, and there’s little doubt he would have won the ECW Championship before long given the opportunity. Nonetheless, RVD rode his ECW momentum straight into WWE and became a consistent upper mid-card star for years, who even broached the top of the card briefly, upon the launch of WWE’s version of ECW.
Since leaving full-time employment with WWE, RVD has remained a presence in wrestling, working with TNA, the indies, and a few short-term returns to WWE itself. On top of that, he’s appeared in quite a few movies and TV shows, done some voice acting, and has his own web-based TV series and irregularly posted podcast. While Van Dam certainly remains best known as a wrestler, he’s diversified his entertainment portfolio nicely since stepping out of the limelight.
5 Kamala: Surviving Physical Ailments
As the oft-retold story goes, Kamala started his wrestling career as Sugar Bear Harris. When promoter Jerry Lawler caught sight of him, he repackaged him as a Ugandan savage, and thus was born one of the most iconic monster heel gimmicks of all time. Kamala worked a wide variety of US territories, and most famously had multiple stints with WWE, including feuds with Hulk Hogan and The Undertaker.
In shoot interviews, Kamala disclosed that diabetes and high blood pressure issues led to him needing to have his left leg amputated beneath the knee, and then his right leg as well. A crowdfunding effort took place to raise money for his medical bills, and in more recent interviews he disclosed that he lives off of disability checks. All of this seems to point toward a sad ending for a beloved figure in wrestling.
4 Beth Phoenix: Mother Of Two
Beth Phoenix was a female star unlike most of her contemporaries—bigger and physically stronger than most of the women around her for her WWE run. Over the course of her six years on the main roster, she won three Women’s Championships and one Divas Championship, worked a memorable storyline teaming with kayfabe boyfriend Santino Marela, and was one of only three women to ever work a Royal Rumble match.
Recently, Phoenix was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. At only 36, she’s the youngest inductee ever, and still looks to be happy and healthy. She noted in her induction speech that she’s focused now on being a mom to two kids, and lives with her husband (and fellow WWE Hall of Famer) Edge in the mountains of North Carolina.
3 One Man Gang: A Prison Guard
Though he came to WWE under the One Man Gang gimmick that had made him famous elsewhere, the performer was rebranded, and may be better remembered by WWE fans as Akeem. The Akeem gimmick came with the premise that he was actually African. He started dressing as such and taking on a “jive” effect to match up with his manager Slick, in an uncomfortable choice that probably wouldn’t fly in today’s culture. The most memorable part of this run may have been his tag team with kayfabe correctional officer The Big Boss Man, feuding with Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage.
Ironically, in the aftermath of his full time wrestling career, Gang himself would become a correctional officer for a period of years in Louisiana. He later made the news for having lost his home due to Hurricane Katrina. Through all of this, he remained a part time wrestler working on the independent scene, though his performances have slowed in recent years.
2 Paul Burchill: A Career In Nursing
Paul Burchill had an interesting run with WWE, teaming with William Regal, working an anachronistically over the top pirate gimmick, and teasing an incest angle with his kayfabe sister Katie Lea Burchill. Despite his clear talent, he never emerged from the mid-card pack and after a little over four years, WWE released him.
Since his WWE run, Burchill has made some independent wrestling appearances, but shifted his focus more toward helping others. According to a feature on WWE.com in 2014, Burchill was working as a firefighter and paramedic, and was studying to become a nurse. He stated that he aspired to earn a master’s degree to ultimately become a family nurse practitioner. That’s all a far cry from his wrestling career but it seems he’s chosen a more stable, safe, and selfless path moving forward.
1 Snitsky: Acting
Snitsky became an unlikely heel big man on Raw, rising from obscurity when he was kayfabe responsible for Lita having a miscarriage and cost Kane his unborn child. From the feud with Kane, Snitsky became a mid-card mainstay and then bounced around different tag teams for a bit.
Snitsky may be most recognizable for his impressive physique and his monster-like visage that WWE played up for his heel act. So, it may be little surprise that when his four years with WWE were up, aside from some additional wrestling, he found work as an actor. He played villainous characters for ABC’s What Would You Do?—a series based on actors staging incidents in front of everyday people, while hidden cameras capture how bystanders react. He later booked a key role in the 2016 horror film, 100 Acres of Hell.