For a lot of women who have graced the roster of the world’s biggest wrestling promotion, getting a gig with WWE was due to sheer luck; a lot just seem to fall into the business unexpectedly – not that we’re complaining. Then there are those who have something about them – that sexiness, sassiness, screen presence, and, of course, the right skills and Vince McMahon’s blessings – that help them make it to the top, forge out amazing wrestling careers for themselves and become superstars of the promotion and the industry.
These femme fatales are today known for their skills in the ring and what they did during their time with WWE. But what about what went on before that, before they became known to the masses in a wrestling capacity? Not a lot of people know what went on in those early days before WWE.
Some followed the conventional route – conventional for a lot of female wrestlers anyway. These women got an education, worked part-time jobs, embarked on a modeling career and then got spotted and scouted from someone within the wrestling industry.
But a lot of these WWE superstars had truly fascinating lives before getting into wrestling These are the top 15 female WWE superstars who had fascinating lives before they made it big in WWE:
Chyna’s life was short-lived but extremely eventful, packed with trials and tribulations and a lot of sad moments – her life resembled a movie.
When she was little, she came from a broken home. Her mom and dad divorced, and then three stepfathers and a stepmom came on the scene. Her dad was an alcoholic and actually stabbed her mom; I’m no psychologist, but having to witness all of that at such a young age was surely going to leave emotional scars.
She moved from school to school as her family moved around a lot. She claimed she was sexually abused by a teacher, and as a result of that, she developed the eating disorder bulimia nervosa. Then, once she reached the age of 16, she began bodybuilding, finished her schooling in Spain, and came back to the U.S. to study Spanish Literature at the University of Tampa. She could speak Spanish and also learned French and German. She wanted to use her language skills to work with the FBI, but ended up joining the Peace Corps.
After her stint with the Peace Corps had concluded, Chyna worked numerous jobs and started getting more involved in the bodybuilding industry. But because of her size, she wasn’t successful – judges were after svelte physiques, not bulk. So she decided to put her size to good use and began her wrestling training at Wladek "Killer" Kowalski's professional wrestling school in Malden, Massachusetts. A couple of years later, she had made it to WWE, debuting as Triple H’s bodyguard.
When Sunny was a kid, she never in her wildest dreams envisaged becoming a pro wrestler. She was actually very driven and was extremely smart. She harbored dreams of becoming a working professional and did everything she could to try and make those dreams become reality. She studied pre-law, then switched to pre-med, wanting to be a plastic surgeon.
But then she began dating Chris Candido, and it was he who sparked the idea of her becoming a wrestler. In fact, she and Chris went to the same high school together and he was already involved in the business. She began traveling with him in order to make some extra cash, in the meantime working as a freelance photographer, before getting picked up by Smoky Mountain Wrestling. A few years later, she was with WWE.
Lana’s still in the industry with WWE where she manages her husband, Rusev, but she’s enjoyed many other successful careers too, during and before WWE.
Lana was born in the U.S but spent many years of her childhood in Latvia where her father was based. She always wanted to be a performer of some kind, and as a youngster, belly dancing took her fancy. She trained at a ballet school in Latvia and quickly made it big, performing with the country’s national ballet group while she was in her teens. She continued with her dancing, this time in the U.S. where she was in high demand, performing in theaters on Broadway.
Her face began getting recognized and suddenly, Lana’s modeling career was born. She made a good go of that too and continued to dance, this time using her skills in show business. Lana made the transition from the stage to the cameras; she began dancing in music videos for a number of prominent rap and hip-hop artists and even started appearing as a dancer in films. She eventually transitioned into acting and starred in the successful Pitch Perfect series.
Wow, Lana sure has packed a lot into her 31 years on the planet, and now that she’s wrestling – she only just began wrestling in WWE in 2013 – she’ll no doubt make a success out of that too.
Aliyah’s certainly not your conventional wrestler. She’s of Arab decent and cultural values, traditions and religion have always been a big part of her life. But that’s not why she’s not your conventional wrestler with a run-of-the-mill backstory. Sure, it’s fascinating she first to go to WWE with her strict conservative family at home, but what’s even more weird – and strangely wonderful because it’s so unusual – is that she transitioned to wrestling from the circus. Yes, she was a circus performer as a teenager and did routines on the trapeze, all of which probably helped her when she moved to the ring.
What’s also quite weird is that Aliyah trained to be a nurse; nursing to circus performer to in the ring performer with WWE – a very strange mix, but Aliyah’s now settled on a career she enjoys and looks to have found her calling with WWE NXT.
11 Stacy Keibler
Stacy Keibler’s still quite young at 37, but boy has she already packed a lot into her life. She’s famous in many different industries – that’s because she busted her butt when she was younger so that she would have plenty of options open to her. At the age of three, Stacy was practicing ballet, jazz, and tap dancing. As she aged, getting a decent education became her focus. She studied mass communication at university, but she was always a performer at heart and desperately wanted to be in the limelight.
Stacy began to utilize her dancing skills and moves while working as a cheerleader for the Baltimore Ravens football team. She also began getting minor movie roles and modeling jobs, but she fell into wrestling by chance. Stacy was at a wrestling show with her boyfriend and was spotted dancing in the crowd. She then auditioned and won a contest to become a member of the Nitro Girls dance troupe. She was a Nitro girl while still attending school and cheerleading – Stacy certainly liked keeping herself busy. Then in 2001, Keibler's contract was bought by the WWE, and Stacy became known to the masses, dedicating herself to wrestling.
10 Torrie Wilson
Torrie Wilson was totally different from the woman in the industry we all knew and loved before she embarked on a wrestling career with WWE. The woman who was at the center of a number of raunchy storylines was actually painfully shy as a youngster – it took wrestling for her to come out of her shell and find herself.
Having said that, she still immersed herself in school life, played lots of sports, took part in cheerleading and dancing, and you can imagine that she’d still probably have been one of the more popular kids at school. But Torrie was battling with a lot of demons – both her often debilitating shyness and an eating disorder. She developed anorexia nervosa and then bulimia while she was modeling, and this went on for about six years during her teens before she caught the bodybuilding bug and the health and fitness lifestyle helped her snap out of it. Torrie began competing in bodybuilding and fitness competitions, but acting was her passion, and she began getting some acting jobs to bring in some extra cash.
It was in 1999 that Torrie got spotted and entered the wrestling industry for the first time. Here’s another woman who was brought to a show by her boyfriend, only to be spotted and taken onto the world stage. Scott Steiner took a shine to her, and that was that – Torrie Wilson, the wrestler, was born.
9 Alexa Bliss
WWE SmackDown Women's Champion Alexa Bliss is still a relative newcomer but has already risen to the top by tasting major championship success and has gained quite a following.
But Alexa already had quite a fan following and tasted success during her life before WWE. Alexa has always been an accomplished athlete. From the age of five she was playing a number of different sports, including softball, track, kickboxing, and gymnastics and took part in plenty of competitive events too. It was evident that she had that competitive streak in her as she gained success in everything she tried her hand at. Next there was cheerleading and she quickly rose through the ranks and became a Division One status cheerleader in college. But around this time, she developed an eating disorder which she thankfully overcame when she started getting involved in the iron game. To be a bodybuilder you’ve got to eat and Alexa did just that, eating, training and piling on the muscle. Alexa wasn’t just your part-time bodybuilder either. No, she actually won her pro card – which is seriously hard to do by the way – and so she went on to the next challenge, wrestling.
Reading all of this, you’ll probably think Alexa’s in her 30s, right? Nope, amazingly she’s still only 25. If Alexa stays in the industry for any length of time, there’s no doubting that she’ll dominate the women’s division.
8 Summer Rae
Summer Rae’s one hell of an athlete – those who watch her doing her stuff in the ring can testify to that. But there’s a reason for her athletic prowess – it links back to her grounding in football. At the age of 25, having just finished her degree Marketing, Rae embarked on a football career. She joined Chicago Bliss of the Lingerie Football League – now known as the Legends Football League - and made an instant impression. She played in the league for three years as a cornerback and during that time she was made captain. In her final season, she also made the all-star game, but when the 2011 season had concluded she called it quits and decided to make the move over to wrestling – a move which we’re all very thankful for.
7 Michelle McCool
Being a school teacher may not be the most fascinating job in the world, but for us who know Michelle from her days strutting her stuff in the ring, it’s certainly a drastic change.
Growing up, it was obvious that Michelle was going to be involved in the education sector in some capacity. Her parents worked in education, so Michelle wanted to follow suit. She immersed herself in school life, taking part in a number of activities and getting good grades too. She did enough to complete a Master's degree in Educational Leadership from Florida State University, and then put what she’d learned to good use, becoming a seventh-grade science teacher in Florida. During this time, she also taught gymnastics, kickboxing and shared her athletic skills by working as a personal trainer. Fitness and bodybuilding were also her passions, and she stepped on stage several times.
Despite keeping busy with all of these activities, Michelle still harbored dreams of becoming a wrestler – she’d been a wrestling fan from a young age. So, after accomplishing so much and having plenty of skills under her belt, she decided to try and fulfill her dream. At the age of 24, she took part in the RAW Diva Search, was one of the finalists, and that kick-started her career with WWE.
As a youngster, Lita never settled and moved around a lot, but her sources of comfort were strumming her guitar and focusing on her music.
School just wasn’t for her, but she did eventually manage to graduate. The natural progression after that was working towards a degree, so that’s what Lita did. She did it because she was supposed to do it, and so went to Georgia State University where she majored in education. But she hated that whole school environment, so she decided to drop out and began to focus more and more on her music. She worked as a roadie for a band, played guitar in several bands herself, and it was while she was doing all of this that she got into wrestling.
She saw Rey Mysterio do his thing on TV and from that moment on, Lita was hooked and couldn’t get the idea of becoming a wrestler out of her mind. So she packed her bags and went off to Mexico to make it happen. She began her career wrestling in Mexico before returning to the U.S. and working on the indies for a year and with ECW before WWE came calling.
Asuka’s made a name for herself in the industry as one of the best workers around. She’s a work horse, has a large varied skill set and is versatile – all qualities that have stood her in good stead throughout the course of her wrestling career.
Asuka’s a very intelligent woman and has plenty of strings to her bow. Before wrestling, Asuka worked a number of different jobs, not as a waitress, bartender, or anything like that – not that that’s bad of course. She worked as a freelance graphic designer, video game journalist, and for Microsoft. Microsoft loved her so much, they even sponsored her and paid her to wear their merchandise.
In 2004 Asuka was working as a graphic designer in her native Japan but wanted to try something new, so naturally she decided to try her hand at wrestling. She wrestled with a number of different promotions and then decided to up sticks and move to the U.S. where she quickly made a name for herself. It’s surprising WWE took so long to sign her up – she only started wrestling on NXT in 2015 – but watch out because she’ll certainly be looking to make up for lost time.
4 Becky Lynch
Though she was destined for the squared circle, there is no doubt that Becky Lynch has had one of the most eclectic lives to get to that point. Though she was trained to wrestle by Finn Balor in 2002, Lynch took a break from wrestling to work for a few years. During that time, she was employed as a clown, stuntwoman, actress, and even a flight attendant. She detailed her work history on Steve Austin's podcast in 2016, and surprised many fans when she went over her resume. Luckily, the Lass Kicker found her calling when she jumped back into wrestling in 2013, finding major success on SmackDown Live. It's good for her to know that she can jump back into one of her other careers if wrestling doesn't work out.
3 Mickie James
Mickie James has enjoyed an eventful time of it in wrestling, particularly with WWE where she was at the center of a number of high-profile storylines, including what’s regarded to be the best feud in women’s WWE history – with Trish Stratus. Being thrust into the limelight like she was during that period was a far cry from her life before WWE.
As a youngster, James enjoyed a life of solitude and used to spend every spare moment on her grandmother's horse farm in Virginia. It was probably to get away from her family, which was rather big; she has a sister, a half-sister, a half-brother, and three stepbrothers.
James tended to the horses at the farm, and loved equestrian sports. She also played the violin for five years – James is full of surprises.
As she was also an avid wrestling fan, her friend pushed her to pursue a wrestling career – thank you James’ friend whoever you are – and suggested James go to wrestling school, which she did. She then began getting work on the indies.
James started off as a valet, then became a manager, and finally managed to show what she’s worth in the ring. But the work she was getting just wasn’t paying the bills, so while doing all of this, she was also waitressing and posing nude for men's magazines. Then, TNA signed her before WWE came calling and her days doing side-jobs were over.
2 Candice Michelle
Candice Michelle was a sizzling diva in the ring, although there are plenty of people who also know her for other things. Yes, Candice is a prominent name in different industries, although not everyone knows her as Candice Michelle.
We can attribute Candice’s figure to her days as a youngster, during which she was very active and took part in a number of different sports. During her teens, she began modeling and won her first competition at the age of 16. After high school, she went off to college to study Theatre Arts and it was around this time her photo began to get picked up. She began appearing in tons of magazines; everything from men’s magazines, bodybuilding magazines to car magazines and that’s when her modeling career really took off. But modeling wasn’t enough for Candice. She had studied on-camera acting at college, and so wanted to put her skills to go to good use.
The Hollywood directors weren’t calling, so Candice got herself work in the adult film industry, more specifically bondage. Working under the pseudonym Mackenzie Montgomery, Candice got trussed up and gagged regularly on camera.
In 2004, Candice auditioned to be a part of the Diva search on a whim, and despite not making the final, she had done enough to make WWE want to hire her, which they did, and thus her wrestling career was born.
British-born Paige is still involved with WWE, but her life before she got involved with the promotion was a rather strange, topsy-turvy one.
Paige was born and raised in East Anglia in the UK and was actually born into a wrestling family. Both her mom and dad were wrestlers, so you’d think Paige grew up loving everything about wrestling, right? Wrong! She had to witness her parents coming home with all sorts of injuries and so that turned her away from wrestling for many years. Her early career aspirations were more animal-related; she wanted to be a zoologist, but when her dad began running a wrestling school, Paige began messing around in the ring and was soon hooked.
Her brothers taught her all she needed to know; by the age of 13, while most girls were worrying about school and boys, Paige started wrestling in an official capacity. By this stage, it was all she wanted to do, so Paige began sending out résumés to wrestling promotions around Europe. She began getting work, but also supplemented her income by working as a bouncer and bartender – she was still only 15 at this point! Additionally, Paige and her family were featured in a Channel 4 Documentary called The Wrestlers; Fighting with My Family.:
She began getting more and more work around Europe, and then in 2010, a talent scout from the WWE came to the UK and Paige participated in a try-out for WWE. She was unsuccessful but tried again five months later and subsequently signed a contract with WWE.