Embarking on a career in professional wrestling is a tough career choice. It involves months and sometimes years of hardcore training at a wrestling school, spending lots of money, a whole lot of focus and a single-minded approach. That’s just to train at one of these schools. Then you’ve got to begin wrestling at small events, traveling far and wide for very little pay. If you’re lucky to get spotted, prepare to spend a stint at a developmental academy before getting a shot with a major wrestling promotion. Then there’s travel, and lots of it – be prepared to spend the majority of your time living out of a bag, commuting from one hotel room to another, spending long stints away from loved ones. Understanding all of this, kudos to any wrestler just for making it onto the roster of a major wrestling promotion.
As fans, we see all the glitz and glamour, but away from the cameras, there’s the brutal training regimes, and 365 day a year dedication. It’s a miracle wrestlers find any time to partake in activities away from wrestling, but remarkably, some do and have done so quite successfully, accomplishing some truly awesome things – side ventures alongside their wrestling careers.
Below are 15 wrestlers who have balanced their in-ring careers with other pursuits.
15 Stone Cold Steve Austin
As the poster boy of the “Attitude Era” Austin certainly made an impact during his days wrestling with the WCW, ECW and WWE in the 1990s and early 2000s. His “Stone Cold” persona got him plenty of haters, but plenty of fans also latched onto the gimmick. His personality skyrocketed throughout the 1990s, a period when he also started getting involved with other non-wrestling activities.
Perhaps it was because Austin was one of the company’s biggest stars at that point – he had the hard man persona well and truly nailed – that producers and casting directors came calling. When Austin got his first gig on TV in Celebrity Deathmatch, his in-ring career was slowly winding down. Perhaps Austin knew this and had anticipated that he didn’t have too long left and was beginning to think of an alternative career choice, or maybe it was just a great opportunity that he couldn’t afford to miss. Whatever the reasons, Austin then went on to play a detective in Nash Bridges before retiring in 2003, after which he took his filmography to another level.
14 Brock Lesnar
A career in the grueling sport of wrestling is tough enough for most people, enough training, travelling and in-ring brutality to last a lifetime. But not for Brock Lesnar.
In 2007, Lesnar decided he wanted to try his hand at MMA, and he began preparing for his career switch while still wrestling with New Japan Pro Wrestling. He won his first fight in 2007, while stepping away from wrestling to concentrate on MMA, but today, Lesnar is remarkably juggling both. He’s back with WWE and is still a contracted fighter, having recently fought at UFC 200. It’s amazing to think that Lesnar’s career in MMA has pretty much run side-by-side with his wrestling career; people who make the switch normally step away from the other to give their new sport complete and utter dedication. Lesnar must have the mental capacity – he certainly has the physicality – to deal with the rigors of both without any problems.
13 Chris Jericho
There are many wrestlers who can technically be called singers, having released a single at one point through one record label or other, or through the company itself – the soundtrack album, “WWE Originals,” for example.
But Chris Jericho isn’t a part-time singer – he’s not interested in releasing a one-hit wonder on the company’s soundtrack. Jericho truly has a passion for music and takes his musical exploits very seriously. Look at what he’s achieved in the world of music, while also serving as a permanent fixture in the wrestling industry since 1990, and you won’t be able to help clapping your hands in admiration.
Jericho’s discography would make any full-time professional musician jealous. He released his debut album with heavy metal band “Fozzy” way back in 2000, when his wrestling career was still in full swing. Since then, he’s released five more albums with Fozzy, has released a live album, been a guest vocalist and has played bass and piano – an all-round musician if ever there was one.
As if all of this wasn’t enough, Jericho also wrote a column for a metal magazine, hosted his own radio show, is more than a decent actor, has been involved in theatre, comedy, writing….is there anything this man can’t do?
12 The Rock
Dwayne Johnson is a Hollywood megastar in every sense of the word. He’s one of the highest grossing stars in the world, and his credentials to date have meant that he’s at the top of the movie industry – not many can take over Hollywood while still being active in another career.
It’s a testimony to Johnson’s drive and determination – just being content to play bit roles (like many wrestlers-turned-actors do) isn’t Johnson’s style. He wanted to be the best, and today he certainly is as the number one go-to action star in the industry.
There’s a certain type of person in this world. Some people have it good and don’t want to take risks to propel their careers to the next level. Others will do whatever it takes to be the best. Johnson falls into the latter category. He’s been rated by many as the biggest WWE Superstar of all time, but that hasn’t stopped him taking over Hollywood.
For several years, Johnson's wrestling and acting careers ran simultaneously, and even now when he’s the biggest movie star in the world, he still visits his old stomping grounds, the WWE, from time to time.
Edge – Adam Joseph Copeland – called time on his wrestling career in 2011, having won a stack load of championships, making him one of the most decorated wrestlers of all time.
What makes these championships and titles even more remarkable is the fact that for the vast majority of his career, he was balancing his wrestling career with other activities, mainly acting in films and TV shows. His first movie, Highlander: Endgame, was released in 2000, although this would be his one and only movie during his in-ring wrestling career. It was more about TV for Copeland and he made a number of TV appearances, appearing on shows such as The Weakest Link and TV Total during the early 2000s. This was all a stepping stone – preparation for his days away from wrestling, and Copeland has now had a lot more major roles come his way.
Copeland has many strings to his bow and enjoys putting pen to paper in addition to being in front of the camera. He wrote his autobiography in 2004 – Adam Copeland on Edge – and wrote every word himself, a great achievement considering he was still keeping busy in the ring.
10 Big Show
Paul Wight, better known as Big Show, has been appearing on our screens since 1995 and is still going strong. Aptly named “the giant,” Big Show is a sheer mass monster – a monster of epic proportions. His billed height of seven feet and weight of 440 pounds gives Big Show awesome physical presence – something that can’t be found elsewhere or replicated using animations (in the movie industry for example).
So when movie producers and casting directors are in need of someone to play a monster or a massive intimidating figure, who can they call? Big Show. His unique physical attributes have meant that he’s been cast in eight films since 1996, and has made numerous TV appearances, all of which come together to make up a pretty long filmography.
Because of his appearance, Big Show is only ever going to have limited roles in the movie industry – he’s not going to be cast to play a romantic figure anytime soon – but Big Show is fine with that and is utilizing the opportunities he gets. Maybe when he retires from wrestling, Show can further his acting career.
9 André the Giant
André the Giant was another freakishly big wrestler – often described as the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” He was the first wrestler to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, and deservedly so. As with the likes of Giant Gonzalez and The Great Khali, André suffered from gigantism, which would ultimately lead to his death in 1993 due to acromegaly, but boy did André make the most of his time in the spotlight.
During the 1970s, André did his physical attributes justice to become the highest-paid wrestler of all time. He earned somewhere in the region of $400,000 during one year – a staggering amount of cash back in the 70s. But André also rose to fame due to his career in the movie industry. He appeared in several movies from 1967-1981 and is best known for his role as the giant god in the 1984 film, Conan the Destroyer, and for appearing in the 1987 romantic fantasy adventure, The Princess Bride, a performance that gained him a huge fan following.
Kane is another guy who’s heavily involved in the acting world, not surprising considering his in-ring performances over the years involved playing a range of different characters. Who can forget his portrayal of Isaac Yankem – the deranged dentist – or the menacing masked monster? It just shows his versatility as an actor – no wonder Kane has got a number of other acting gigs away from wrestling.
Actually having said that, Kane has WWE to thank for his first major role in a movie. The company – WWE Studios – produced the 2006 slasher film, See No Evil, their first release, and naturally they chose the most menacing figure of all the stars on the roster to play the lead role – Kane. Since that first appearance on the big screen, Kane has starred in numerous other movies and has made a ton of TV appearances.
But what may surprise most of you is that Kane also has a relatively normal job – normal in comparison to the glitz and glamour of wrestling, that is – and is actually an insurer. He and his wife own an Allstate Agency and both are dedicated to the business, despite the money that’s rolling in from wrestling and acting. On a personal note, Kane is also a very outspoken Libertarian, with the former WWE Champion being featured at LPAC in 2013.
7 The Undertaker
The Undertaker has been regarded by many to be one of the most loved figures in professional wrestling and has won a plethora of titles over a remarkable three decades in the ring, most of which has been at the helm of the business. He’s already established himself as a wrestling legend and is beginning to slowly ease himself away from wrestling.
But how does Mark Calaway balance his time with wrestling and other pursuits? Well, he’s done a bit of the usual, run-of-the-mill stuff – for wrestlers anyway – and has dabbled in the movie industry, but Calaway spends the majority of his time investing in real estate. Calaway, along with fellow investor Scott Everhart, have an impressive portfolio of properties. The cleverly named “Calahart” property was perhaps their most notable achievement in the property industry – they did up a $2.7 million property in Colorado and managed everything from the finances to the construction aspect of the process. If you’ve got the money, put it to good use!
6 Mick Foley
Mick Foley is a multi-talented man if ever there was one. While still active in the ring – 1983-2012 – Foley must have used up every second of every day doing something worthwhile. Looking at his list of accomplishments during this time, it’s staggering to think he actually had time to train and win four world championship titles.
Let’s start with films, TV and radio. Foley first began acting in 1996, has starred in a number of different films and made a ton of TV appearances during his career, and has frequently appeared on a number of radio shows such as on Air America Radio. But as we’ve already mentioned, wrestlers love nothing more than getting in front of the camera, so nothing special here.
It’s Foley’s writing that makes many people gasp in astonishment. Looking at Foley, you wouldn’t expect him to be a bestselling author – it just goes to show that appearances can be deceiving. After spending a grueling day training in the ring, Foley loved nothing more than to get out pen and paper and work on his next literary masterpiece. His list of works includes memoirs, children books and contemporary fiction – an awesome achievement considering he was also working as a full-time wrestler.
5 Dolph Ziggler
Dolph Ziggler is accustomed to stealing the show at wrestling events, but remarkably, he’s also a stand-up comedian. It’s safe to say that not many of this fellow wrestlers laugh when faced with Ziggler in the ring, but the guy’s an accomplished comedian and has even gone on tours across the U.S.
Many wrestling fans got to know of Ziggler’s comedic prowess when he hosted “WWE Download” – a YouTube series consisting of Ziggler expressing his views of various videos and moments in the WWE. Ziggler’s sarcasm and witty personality endeared him to the wrestling public and gained him a whole heap of new fans, fans which no doubt followed his progress as he did stand-up in various theaters and arenas across the States.
Like many other wrestling stars, Ziggler has also appeared in a few films and TV shows, but comedy is undoubtedly what Ziggler does best, making him stand-out a bit from his colleagues.
4 Randy Savage
Randy Savage – the original rock star of wrestling – spent over three decades in the business and won 29 championships, living the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle in the process.
Look at Savage in his heyday and the guy just resembled a rock star, and he had the personality to match. That’s because for much of his career, Savage was also heavily involved in music.
His personality was that of a rock star, although his music was more rap and hip-hop orientated. His debut album, “Be a Man,” was released in 2003 and became a major success – among fans anyway. It featured songs that referred to many wrestlers, a tribute to Curt Hennig, and the title song which was made as an insult to Hulk Hogan.
In addition to his music, it’s unsurprising that someone with the personality of Savage appeared in a ton of movies and TV shows, during and after his wrestling career came to an end in 2005.
The late Randy Savage certainly left a legacy.
3 Kevin Nash
Hall of Famer Kevin Nash pretty much enjoyed two successful careers simultaneously; both his acting career and his wrestling career began within a year of one another and he just continued to roll out the films while continuing to win championship titles.
He made his debut in the movie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze in 1991, just months after he stepped into the ring for the first time at a WCW event as one half of the "Master Blasters" tag team. Over the next few years, he went on to build his filmography with a load of minor roles and cameo appearances. He’s appeared in some fairly big films over the course of his acting career, such as The Longest Yard and Magic Mike. Balancing working on 15 films with wrestling commitments is certainly an admirable achievement. Nash has also appeared on a number of TV shows, such as Sabrina, the Teenage Witch and Nikki.
2 Hulk Hogan
Hulkamania gripped the business of wrestling when Hogan was in his prime in the 1980s and 90s, an era where this all-American hero caused Hogan fan frenzy wherever he went. He headlined pretty much every pay-per-view event during that era – an era that many people describe as the golden days of wrestling. He brought in the cash while wrestling, and continued to do so with his other pursuits and side ventures, much of which occurred alongside his in-ring days.
The Hulkster has endorsed many products, including his own "Thunder Mixer," and also opened his own restaurant in 2012. Additionally, Hogan’s appeared in a ton of movies, with casting directors all wanting to get a piece of one of the biggest names in America at the time. He started out with a small role in the world-famous movie Rocky III in 1982 before gradually getting bigger and better roles and establishing himself as a pretty versatile actor – comedy, kid’s movies, animations, he’s done it all. Later, he even got in on the reality TV show industry, before the Kardashians took over and made the industry their own.
1 John Cena
Once a hated figure – many people found those initial gimmicks infuriatingly annoying – John Cena is now one of the most loved characters in the sport. His popularity is not limited to wrestling fans, however, but away from the ring too, as he’s embarked on a number of other pursuits and ventures.
WWE Studies commissioned Cena’s first film, The Marine, which actually did pretty well at the box office. His next two films, 12 Rounds and Legendary, were also WWE productions films, which got him noticed and paved the way for him to get more involved in the movie industry. Those roles eventually led to bit parts in huge comedies like Trainwreck, and Daddy's Home.
The in-ring persona of the “doctor of thuganomics” led to Cena’s real life music credentials. He’s released a number of singles, initially on various WWE albums, before releasing his own album in 2005 entitled, “You Can’t See Me.”
Being the do-gooder that he is, Cena wouldn’t be happy raking in all the cash if he wasn’t giving something back. Through his wrestling career, especially when he rose to prominence, Cena’s been heavily involved in the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and has helped make the wishes of over 500 seriously ill children come true.
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