Professional wrestlers generally have an exaggerated look. Any performer on a stage needs to look larger than life. When you are trying to capture the attention of an entire arena or even a stadium, the more extreme the better. Ric Flair's robes cost him thousands, but he understood how important it was to peacock your way down the aisle. The WWE did start to embrace more of the MMA look with stars like Randy Orton and Brock Lesnar going back to basics with more realism and less flash, but wrestling is not MMA. It has to focus on what it offers, which is over the top showmanship and high flying action. The look is a part of that.
But wrestlers do not grow up looking like the extreme performers they will become. Could you imagine Randy Savage walking around a grocery store dressed in full Madness getup snapping into Slim Jim's? Instead, the look is something that must be molded over time, as they begin their career and learn what works with the crowd. That’s actually one of the greatest qualities of pro wrestling. The interaction with the live audience is an integral part of the sport. Baseball and football players shouldn’t be thinking of the crowd when they work on their skills, but wrestlers must always consider the people. Their moves, gimmick, and look are all organically grown.
This long process and intended goal of looking like a real-life superhero can obviously provide some shocking results when contrasting to their more ‘innocent’ younger days. What does a young Giant look like? How about those masked or painted men? You might not recognize many of these cats in their kitten years. Others carry unmistakable features that are hilarious in a younger context.
So take a step in the time machine as we take a look at what greatness looks like in their awkward years,
14 CM Punk
Before he looked like a CM Punk has a bit of angsty teenager in his gimmick already, could you imagine him as an actual teenager? Before he was able to harness his unique power he must have been like an untamed young X-Men. He even had the flaming red hair of a superhero mixed with the look of a singer at Warped Tour.
Too bad the closest thing we got to a Punk/Austin match was this picture. Who knows, maybe Austin gave him a Stunner immediately after.
13 John Cena
Cena’s rapper gimmick was his most popular by far. Perhaps it’s because it felt so believable. So believable that Cena would be THAT guy; the guy who jumps on the rap bandwagon.
The quality in Cena that causes a large percentage of wrestling fans to be instantly annoyed is prevalent in his fashion decisions as well. If he annoys you now, just peer through his past.
Of course Cena once had an undercut with blonde streaks. Of course he dyed his hair german-robot blonde. And of course he was a creepy bodybuilder with a scary dark tan (with the weirdly less-dark face).
Did you expect anything else?
12 Andre the Giant
I grew up watching Andre at the end of his career. He was not only tall but incredibly thick and heavy. A truly intimidating giant of a man.
But back in his younger days he was much more lean. And with that giant afro he looked like a seven foot piece of broccoli!
Andre was a celebrity for most of his life, as his size gained him notice, but his amazing personality is what resonated with the people. There’ll never be another like him.
11 Jeff Hardy
Well, look what we have here. Dressed up nice in the tux but you don't fool me Mr. Hardy. If he came to your door to pick up your daughter would you not call the cops? The razor sharp undercut, blonde streaks, and that look in his eyes are all I'd have to see before my daughter was grounded for life.
According to Hardy's bio he is a musician as well. He looks like he tried out for the Backstreet Boys but got busted for selling them weed and pulling a knife.
10 The Undertaker
I don’t know what’s scarier - the pale, gigantic, intimidating Undertaker? Or the pale, thinner, SMILING Mark Calaway. This is one of the few times you will ever see him smile actually.
Before his big break as ‘Taker, Calaway was struggling in WCW. Although the management loved his look and skills, they didn’t know what to do with a guy who “never smiled”. Ironically he did pretty damn well not smiling in the WWE. Further proof that a great gimmick should be an exaggeration of a wrestler’s real-life personality.
As his wrestling career winds down I’d love to see Calaway return as the creepy smiling guy in a tux!
10. Steve Austin
It took a long time for Steve to find the magic formula that made him one of wrestling’s biggest stars ever. He always had a great look and talent but it didn’t click in the WCW. His cocky arrogance was too over the top and lacked that down home straight shootin’ style that clicked in the Attitude Era. The change from long flowing blonde hair to no-nonsense shave job was the perfect symbol of his new philosophy.
How great would it be to see Stone Cold rock a retro blonde wig?
9 Kevin Nash
That trademark smirk was probably there the day he was born. Nash always looked like he was the smartest guy in the room. His career proved it as he managed to get to the top everywhere he went (with relatively limited ability). Nash didn’t grow up dreaming of being a wrestler, he just sort of fell into it as a way of making money. That philosophy followed him throughout his career. Perhaps his greatest achievement was his jump to WCW and the extremely generous contracts his peers enjoyed because of his negotiations. Wrestlers nowadays can make a much better living thanks to Big Daddy Cool.
Wow, Rikishi was in great shape! His HeadShrinker Fatu gimmick was slimmer than Rikishi but still heavier than average. But back in the day the dancing Samoan was a stud, looking more pimp than the Godfather.
It looks like both wrestling and football run in the famous Samoan family. Rikishi expressed a desire for his sons to become NFL players but they followed the family tradition all the way into the WWE, proudly inducting their father into the Hall of Fame.
For more pimptastic pictures, check out Afa and the rest of the gang from back in the day.
7 Kurt Angle
Look at those adorable cheeks! He must have made his older female relatives incredibly pinch-happy. Who knew this lil' guy would grow up to be an absolute wrestling badass.
The more I look at this photo the less I'm sure it's actually him. It's been verified of course, but if you told me "whoops, that's actually a casting photo from 'Leave it to Beaver' and not Kurt Angle" I'd believe you and somehow the universe would make more sense.
6 Hulk Hogan
He looked a little more Jay Leno than He-Man back then. The addition of hair and lack of bandana and handlebar moustache really throws the dimensions off. Before all the muscles he looked like a teddy bear. A teddy bear with 70s hair and sideburns. He must have driven an El Camino.
Part of Hogan’s success was his iconic look. While many wrestlers might shun the color yellow for it’s cowardly reputation, Hogan embraced it. He realized that on camera, yellow really popped on tanned skin. Thus, the Hulkster was born and his red ‘n yellow blazed across wrestling shows for decades to come.
I just realized how rarely we see Hogans eyebrows.
5 Bill Goldberg
How does a face change so much? Is it just the hair moving from the top of his head to his chin? Did all that gym time slightly restructure his face? I wouldn’t believe these are the same two people. Goldberg went from friendly real-estate agent to asskicking athletic superfighter.
Another thing that changes his look is Goldberg’s trademark photo pose. While some people smile for a camera, Goldberg loves to look mad and furrow his eyebrows.
Goldberg's three steps to success: Spear, Jackhammer, EYEBROWS.
4 Ric Flair
Ric Flair has wrestled in a mind-blowing FIVE decades. Fans of several generations know his in-ring persona all too well. His entire career is based on playing the smaller underdog who begs, cheats, and steals to win at all costs. That’s what made his 1992 Royal Rumble marathon performance so compelling.
But would you believe he used to be much bigger? He was almost unrecognizable as the extra weight transformed his face into a circle. A nearly-fatal plane crash changed his life forever. He was even told he could never wrestle again.
Flair ended up beating the odds, but ended up dropping a lot of weight in the process. His new, sleeker body allowed him to play a believable ‘weasel’, and the rest, of course, is history.
Almost unrecognizable. Could we see a picture from this era with black hand prints on the breasts like that unforgettable episode of Raw? Maybe a photoshop guy can help is with that.
Tammy Sytch laid a lot of the groundwork for the Divas, but Sable brought the knockout glamour. Miss Elizabeth was the Vanna White, but Sable combined that with a little bit of Pamela Anderson to keep fans glued to the action.
She’s currently happily married popping out tiny beast incarnates with Brock Lesnar.
2 Randy Savage
Randy Savage’s appearance was drastically different in his pre-wrestling days, and even changed quite a bit during his career. In his school and baseball photos, one of the biggest differences is how ‘open’ his eyes are. Wrestling fans are used to his wild glasses and his twitchy ‘madness’ gimmick that always gave him that squinty look.
Perhaps the greatest difference is seeing him without a beard! The casual fan would most likely not recognize him unless his name was written at the bottom of the baseball card. Then again, the casual fan wouldn’t know his name was Randy Poffo!
And of course all you hardcore fans already know the Easter egg on the back of his baseball card: “Improved his swing by dropping his elbow”.
1 Mick Foley
Wow, who is this guy?! You can see his eyes and that Foley smile shining through, but he really transformed himself through the years. Not cutting any hair attached to your head and face will do that. With all of his teeth and regular barber visits you can see how he landed his beautiful wife and created a bombshell daughter.
Wouldn’t you love to see Foley ditch the homeless look just once to see how much of his boyish looks remain? Although with all of injuries, perhaps the hair is the only thing holding him together!