The rich history of the WWE has featured an array of Superstars leading the company into the homes and hearts of millions. WWE did a better job than other promotions of making their top performers exude star power and they came off like larger than life characters. Every wrestling promotion wants to develop top stars, but no one has been able to do it like WWE. The presentation, pageantry and atmosphere delivered in the WWE managed to put the biggest stars on the level of other big names in the entertainment industry. What gets lost in the careers of these Superstars is most of the people to play them have lived interesting lives.
We’re going to break down the top fifteen WWE stars that are still with us. Unfortunately, many of the greats have departed, but the majority of top stars are still providing entertainment in some form. Everyone knows what these icons did during their days in the spotlight. This list will tackle what each performer is doing now. Some still have positions with the WWE, whether on screen or behind the scenes. Many have moved on to other fields or are spending their time enjoying other passions. Enjoy both a breakdown of why these are the top 15 living WWE icons and what they are currently doing now.
15 CM Punk: UFC Fighter
CM Punk's time in the WWE gave us one of the most unique stars in recent history. Punk did great work for the entirety of his stint in the company, but there was quite a bit of drama associated with it. The backstage life of the WWE was not for Punk, as he clashed frequently with Vince McMahon and Triple H. Luckily, his talent allowed him to move to the top of the company as one of the biggest stars of all time.
14 Trish Stratus: Acting & Yoga Company
Women’s wrestling in the WWE has seen it's fair share of up and downs. The division rarely allowed the female performers in the company to showcase their talents, but Trish Stratus broke out in a way like any other. WWE gave her a relevant spot due to her looks, but she wanted her athletic talent to be the story. Stratus had many classic matches and storylines on her way to becoming the most successful female wrestler in company history, in terms of both accolades and platform.
13 Kurt Angle: Part-time Indie Wrestler
Wrestling fans desperately want Kurt Angle to have one more run in the WWE and for good reason. Angle dominated the company during his seven years, while winning just about every title possible. WWE pushed Angle big time and he excelled in every aspect of the sport. Angle connected with the fans more than most, but left the company out of frustration in 2006.
12 Edge: Acting
The rise of Adam “Edge” Copeland in the WWE saw him achieve success in every possible role before becoming a main eventer. Edge joined his best friend Christian for one of the greatest tag team runs in WWE history. Fans took note of his improvement and he moved into the midcard. Edge then progressed into a main event star with an unbelievable heel run as the top foe for John Cena. His legendary career sadly ended early due to injuries forcing him out of the business.
11 Bob Backlund: WWE Manager
Bob Backlund’s accomplishments in WWE fly under the radar due to his peculiar personality. His first WWE Championship reign lasted nearly six years before he dropped it to The Iron Sheik. Backlund’s biggest flaw at the time was his lack of presence and being dubbed boring by critics. Still, he left an impact and had the reputation of being among the favorite wrestlers of Vince McMahon Sr. Backlund had another title reign with many years of success before retiring from in-ring action.
10 Mick Foley: WWE Reality Show & Raw General Manager
The career of Mick Foley saw him create memories in WCW and ECW, but WWE truly made him a legend in the industry. Between the characters of Cactus Jack, Dude Love and Mankind, Foley gave an amazing performance through various forms of storytelling. WWE fans connected most with the story of Foley rather than the wrestling characters he portrayed. Foley gave his all to the fans with brutal matches and the audience repaid the legend with genuine love, making him an icon in the sport.
9 Bret Hart: Sharpshooter Funding
Bret Hart helped create change in the WWE by being one of the first World Champions that didn’t have to look like a monster. Following the bitter departures of Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior, Hart became the new face of the promotion. Hart had outstanding matches every week, bringing a new style to that the WWE that placed an emphasis on work rate. Sadly, The Montreal Screwjob forced him to leave the company in the absolute worst way possible.
8 Triple H: Executive Vice-President of the WWE
The overall career of Triple H is sometimes hard to process due to the different chapters. Triple H’s first stint with noteworthy success was pairing with Shawn Michaels in D-Generation X, before taking over the faction with new members. The ascension of Triple H gradually occurred with him becoming one of the biggest stars of all time. His real life romance with Stephanie McMahon added more criticism than ever, but it definitely benefited him in the long run.
7 Bruno Sammartino: Retired
Bruno Sammartino was arguably the first Superstar in the WWE. As the face of the company, Sammartino was the man most associated with the WWE for about a decade from the 1960s into the 1970s. The legendary Sammartino held the WWE Championship for a record length of over seven years. No one will ever get close to that number, but WWE trusted Sammartino to carry the torch at the time. Sammartino was beloved in the company until having a bitter falling out.
6 John Cena: Acting
WWE had a tough time transitioning out of the Attitude Era with Steve Austin and The Rock leaving the company. They had to build new stars and one person stepped up to the challenge in a way like no other. John Cena gained momentum as one of the fastest rising stars, making the WWE give him the opportunity to hold down the top spot. Everyone has an opinion of Cena, but he has given us many classic matches and memories as anyone else in WWE history.
5 Shawn Michaels: MacMillan River Adventures TV Show
Every argument about deciding the greatest in-ring performer of all time features Shawn Michaels in it. Michaels delivered unbelievable matches over the entirety of his career and captivated fans through the art of storytelling. Chances are you have at least one Michaels match in your top five list if you’re a longtime wrestling fan. Michaels influenced the majority of top stars today with his outstanding work stealing the show almost every night.
WWE gave Michaels the special moment of retiring at WrestleMania XXVI in the main event against The Undertaker. He's refused to wrestle another match since, though Michaels still appears on WWE television every now and then for a talking segment.
4 The Undertaker: Part-time WWE Superstar
The Undertaker has been Vince McMahon's most trusted star over the course of his twenty-six year career in the company. Every top star in that time frame has left the company at some point, had a falling out or just retired from the business. The Undertaker remained loyal to the WWE with an amazing work ethic. Fans gravitated towards him and still hold him among the most beloved stars when he makes his rare appearances.
3 The Rock: Acting
Anyone with wrestling intelligence could see The Rock had all of the tools needed to become a massive star. No one could have predicted just how big of a star he would truly blossom into though. The Rock struggled early on, but found the personality needed to thrive. His promos made him shine and deliver the most memorable catchphrases in wrestling history. WWE pushed him to the moon as an irreplaceable piece of the Attitude Era.
2 Hulk Hogan: Spokesperson for Various Companies
There are two narratives associated with the life of Hulk Hogan. He was the first Superstar to help usher the WWE into becoming what it is today as a global phenomenon, but many stories suggest The Hulkster is a terrible human. The success of Hogan was met with criticism of him being selfish backstage, by refusing to help the others in the locker room. Hogan developed the reputation of using his influence to bury others. Vince McMahon allowed it because he was the first mainstream draw for the company.
1 Steve Austin: Reality Show & Podcast Host
Steve Austin's WWE career reached unmatched highs in the wrestling business as the face of the Attitude Era. WWE caught lightning in a bottle with Austin’s popularity bringing in money and sending the company on an upward trend like never before. Austin’s rebellious attitude caught on with fans wanting to live vicariously through him every time he tormented Mr. McMahon. The success of Austin helped WWE win the Monday Night Wars and he rightfully is respected as the biggest WWE icon.
Austin has immersed himself in other projects rather than relying on WWE to bring him in for occasional appearances. His acting work pales in comparison to The Rock's, but he has received quite a few roles. Austin has made his stake in the entertainment world mostly by being the host of multiple reality shows, with the current one being Redneck Island. Wrestling fans are most ecstatic about Austin having his own weekly podcast interviewing wrestlers and other personalities in entertainment. WWE has an occasional live podcast with Austin interviewing the current top stars in the company on the WWE Network. Austin stays very busy despite being far removed from his time as the most popular wrestler in the world.
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