For a long time wrestling was an “old boys club”, where you had to know somebody in order to get into the business. Most times if you wanted to be trained, you would first have to be “stretched” (using stiff holds to dominate another person) by a veteran. Trainers like Stu Hart were notorious for pushing their students to their physical limits in their training facilities. Even the biggest Superstar in the history of wrestling Hulk Hogan, was stretched as a rookie by Hiro Matsuda; Matsuda purposely broke Hogan’s leg during said incident.
While some fans may hear this and immediately call it barbaric, others respect the old school nature of trainers who want to protect the business. Specifically, trainers would make sure wrestlers who left their camp were ready to represent the trainer’s name in a positive light. In most cases, wrestlers would spend years learning moves, holds, and psychology before ever having their first match.
No system is perfect however, and throughout the years some wrestlers have been able to rise through the ranks without ever paying the proper dues. In some cases you have name cache in another sport, or other times it could be that your father was a former employee of a company you are trying out for. In either case, when wrestlers debut in a higher spot than their peers, without a fraction of the training or experience it can forever haunt them professionally and personally.
The Miz has told a story on numerous occasions, where he was banned from using the men’s locker room because no one respected him for being a reality star. Miz has steadily worked his way up the ladder, and has overcome his own obstacles, but had to start at the bottom unlike the people on this list.
This list is full of wrestlers who came from little or no experience, and took a top spot from someone on the roster. As always, let us know your thoughts in the comment section below if you think we missed somebody.
10 Kurt Angle
Besides competing with a broken freakin’ neck, Kurt Angle had very little in common with professional wrestlers when he signed to WWE in October of 1998. Just over a year later Angle debuted on screen, and went on to win both the European Title as well as the Intercontinental Title by February of 2000.
No wrestler has ever ascended the ranks like Angle, becoming only the fifth Grand Slam Champion in WWE history, after only two years with the company. Angle would obviously go on to a respected career, but many fans were initially unhappy with his meteoric rise to the top. Luckily for the company, they were proven right when Angle grew to be the best wrestler in the business.
9 Brock Lesnar
Brock Lesnar is a pretty polarizing figure in the world of sports, with fans either loving him or hating him. That mindset isn’t a recent development however, with Lesnar being controversial among fans since his debut in WWE in 2002.
Lesnar would go on to win the WWE Undisputed Title just 126 days after his first televised appearance on WWE programming. Though he had amateur experience, and spent some time at developmental, many big stars in the WWE didn’t agree with such a push for Lesnar. Steve Austin famously quit the WWE because he didn’t want to lose to Lesnar (at least not in a KOTR qualifying match), who was a rookie at the time.
8 Bobby Lashley
Much like Kurt Angle, Bobby Lashley was pushed through the WWE based on his amaetur wrestling accomplishments. Vince McMahon must have taken an instant liking to the 275 pounder Lashley, because before long he was one of WWE’s top stars.
His first couple years in WWE were filled with squash matches, and screwjob finishes, but within two years of his 2005 main roster debut, Lashley was already a three time champion. The only reason that Lashley wasn’t pushed further, was because he walked away from the company after an injury in 2007.
7 Lex Luger
Has anyone ever liked Lex Luger? No, seriously. The former offensive lineman decided to develop a bodybuilder's physique after retiring from football in 1984, which is why he was noticed at a celebrity golf event a year later.
Luger signed to NWA soon after the event, and won the NWA Heavyweight Title just a month later, defeating established veteran Wahoo McDaniel. Luger never had any wrestling ability, but was destined to win major titles in WCW during the 1990s. He truly jumped into the business, and became an overnight success.
6 Ted DiBiase Jr.
Being a third generation Superstar can be a double edged sword; on one hand you begin your career with incredible name recognition, but adversely that title brings incredible pressures with it.
Although he trained at the Harley Race Academy, DiBiase was pushed through to the main roster of the WWE based on his father's name. In fact DiBiase, along with Cody Rhodes, won the Tag Team Titles within his first month on the main roster. WWE really tried to push DiBiase to the top of the card, but for some reason he just couldn’t get over, maybe it’s because fans knew he didn’t work his way up the card.
5 Randy Orton
While it can’t be denied that Randy Orton has a natural ability inside the squared circle, his ascension to the top spot might as well have been paved in gold. After getting into the wrestling business with the help of his father (Cowboy Bob Orton) in 2000, Orton was instantly signed to a WWE contract in 2001. His time in developmental would be short, and just one and a half years later, the future champion would join Evolution. The rest is history.
Many unprepared women have graced the wrestling ring, especially in the WWE, but none more so than Sable. So why Sable instead of all those other women? Well unlike many generic Divas of today who haven’t paid their dues, Sable defined an era. Besides WWE Hall of Famer Sunny, there were no other women who had the name recognition that Sable had in Wrestling.
Sable became the Women’s Champion despite never training to be a wrestler. The future Playboy model actually debuted as her real life husband Marc Mero’s valet, before eventually turning on him, and somehow becoming a singles wrestler. The real question is, how can someone who has competed in more Bikini Contests than matches, actually be a former WWE Women’s Champion?
Bill Goldberg was WCW’s answer to the white hot run that Stone Cold Steve Austin was having in the late 90s. Both men shared many similarities, such as bald heads, bad attitudes, and black trunks. The main difference between them however, was that Austin was an overnight success after seven years of hard work; Goldberg...not so much.
Goldberg debuted in WCW after only four months at their training facility, The Power Plant. The future Heavyweight Champion not only had no wrestling experience, but actually didn’t even like the sport. Goldberg entered the profession purely as a financial move, and to his credit, would eventually make tons of money. Sadly for him, none of his earnings have translated into respect from fans, as most have come to realize that he was a complete scrub who didn’t deserve his spot.
2 The Big Show
When “The Giant” debuted on WCW television in 1995, fans were amazed by a wrestler who was as big as Andre The Giant, but much more athletic. It turns out that The Giant, who would eventually go by Big Show in the WWE, was a former college basketball player who had tons of charisma and presence.
Hulk Hogan saw Show at a charity game and thought he had potential, so he instantly brought him to WCW to sign a contract. In Show’s first match ever, he main evented a pay per view, won the Heavyweight Championship, and defeated the immortal Hulk Hogan. Show obviously has since paid his dues, but a debut like that is unheard of, and will probably never happen again.
1 The Rock
Yes, The Great One is on this list. Dwayne Johnson may be a third generation Superstar who grew up in the business, but becoming a wrestler was his last resort. Like many former WWE stars, Johnson wanted to play football, even spending a few years in the Canadian Football League. When that didn’t pan out, Johnson was trained by his father Rocky Johnson, and the WWE’s Pat Patterson.
In truth, The Rock never worked any indies, and has only worked for one company during his entire wrestling career - the same company his father called to get him the job. His talent is unquestionable, but his short stint in the WWE as a full time performer, weighed against his standing in history makes The Rock number one on this list.