Like any form of show business, be it acting, singing or even wresting, looks are just as important than talent. Professional wrestling in particular is a brutally cosmetic industry. WWE CEO Vince McMahon has said that he wants his superstars to be larger-than-life heroic looking personalities, the type of people that stand out among the crowd. If they are walking around in an airport, people will take a second look and realize right away that they aren’t just any average joe.
The best way to do that is usually by developing a herculean type of physique. Though the world of professional wrestling welcomes people of all shapes, sizes and colors into the squared circle to see if they can make it in the business, only a select few make the cut, and even fewer have long profitable careers. It’s more likely that a man who is 300 pounds of raw muscle without an ounce of fat or in-ring ability gets a contract or a championship run over someone half that size with an average body who can wrestle circles around the best competition.
Intense pressure is put on pro wrestling hopefuls, which often leads to desperate measures to be taken just to impress the executives who are handing out rare spots on the roster and chances at stardom. They are trying to do their best to look the part, no matter the means. Bulking up for many has done wonders for the careers of several notable wrestlers. Let’s take a look at 15 in particular who saw their star rise after beefing up their bodies.
15 Mick Foley
Though he may not have bulked up in terms of packing on a ton of muscle when he decided to try his hand at becoming a pro wrestler, Mrs. Foley’s baby boy putting on the pounds is what helped Mick become the WWE Hall of Famer and “Hardcore Legend” we all know and love today.
Many would be surprised to note that in his pre wrestling days, Mick Foley was an average skinny superfan of wrestling. If that’s not enough, just look back at footage from the 80s when Mick Foley was a lankly unknown enhancement talent for WWE stars on the roster.
It was only when Mick Foley put on weight in his stints in Japan and WCW as Cactus Jack that his character and career began to take off. That extra flab may have been a life saver for the daredevil who likely would’ve had a much shorter career taking the risks he did with a smaller, thinner frame.
14 The Miz
Mike Mizanin was a WWE superfan for as long as he could remember and he was not ashamed to let everyone know it. Before making it in the WWE, The Miz got his first taste of the spotlight as a contestant on the popular MTV reality show The Real World where he entertained his castmates and the world to his wacky pro wrestling impressions and personality.
Miz has always been in good shape, but his body before pro wrestling compared to his body now is like comparing night to day. Miz realized when he began working on turning his dreams of becoming a wrestler into a reality that a big part of going anywhere in the wrestling business would be to upgrade his physique.
Miz first appeared on WWE as a contestant on Tough Enough, but while he lost the competition, he ended up with a contract and is the most successful wrestler to come out of the series, having headlined a WrestleMania and captured the WWE Championship.
13 Kevin Owens
The brash, sarcastic and conceited prizefighter of the WWE Kevin Owens is one of the best stand-out performers on the current roster and is already a multi-time Intercontinental Championship holder. Those who may have followed him from when he first made a name for himself on the independent scene headlining shows for Ring of Honor or Pro Wrestling Guerilla would have seen that Kevin Owens wasn’t always the rotund force of nature he is now.
Early video tapes and pictures show a slimmer and trimmer Kevin Owens pulling off incredible feats of athleticism and wowing crowds with his stylish move set. While Owens may still possess the same agility and flexibility, he has put on more weight. It doesn’t appear to be a hindrance to his performance and, in fact, it was him being in this current shape that he’s in that got him a WWE contract to begin with. I’m sure Owens sees the weight gain as a plus and while he may get teased for being fat, it’s his wallet that he’s most okay with having that distinction.
WWE Hall of Famer and staple of The Attitude Era days of the company, Rikishi’s trademark had always been his heavy stature and his fondness of wearing thongs as a part of his wrestling gear, mainly so he could rub his ample rear end into his opponents faces.
Before he was the blond haired, hip-hop dancing and sunglass wearing member of Too Cool, Rikishi Fatu had some less memorable stints with the WWE that that has less of him to go around. Fatu started out in the WWE as a member of the Samoan tag team The Headshrinkers, where he was a slimmer high flyer who displayed tremendous agility and athleticism.
Rikishi would steadily put on weight through the years as he had short stints as “Fatu” and then “The Sultan,” Rikishi would then find his groove at his heaviest, but it would give him the most success and eventually land him in the Hall of Fame.
11 Randy Orton
A second-generation wrestler and premier name in the company outside of John Cena, Randy Orton started out in the WWE looking much differently than he does currently and in fact has gone on quite a few transformations throughout his stint with the company.
Initially, the blue chipper son of “Cowboy” Bob Orton came to the WWE as an average sized cookie cutter superstar without any distinguishing physical traits aside from boyish good looks. Orton would then noticeably become more bloated and bulky, purposely putting weight on his lean frame to perhaps impress the higher ups who wanted to see him get buffer.
It paid off because it was at that time he began to make a name for himself as The Legend Killer and a large part of the Evolution Stable. Since then Orton has lost the bulkiness and adapted a leaner yet toned body that suits The Viper a lot better.
10 Samoa Joe
WWE turned heads in 2015 when they signed long-time Indy darling and TNA mainstay Samoa Joe to NXT. Many proclaimed that it was a long-time coming and even thought they’d never see it happen particularly because of Samoa Joe’s pudgy overweight body type.
It’s surprising to note that Samoa Joe wasn’t always as round as he is currently. His transformation was along the lines of Kevin Owens, as he was at first much leaner early in his career, but adapted a chubbier physique which he embraced and made it a trademark of who he is, a “looks can be deceiving” type wrestler who has the cardio to go at it in the ring with anyone and has lightning quick agility and uncharacteristic flexibility when it comes to his wrestling style.
Long believed to be held back from an opportunity at the WWE because it was believed he didn’t fit the “trim and ripped” mold of the WWE, it appears the WWE changed their mind when it came to Joe and decided him being a part of their brand was best for business.
9 CM Punk
The self-proclaimed best in the world and longest reigning WWE Champion of the modern era, CM Punk may be done with professional wrestling but he left his mark as one of the most entertaining and explosive stars of his generation.
With his tattoos and style, Punk wasn’t known for having a “wrestler's” physique and was even famously insulted by WWE living legend and bodybuilding aficionado Triple H as being “skinny fat.” The term made folks rush to google to figure out what that meant and it’s basically someone who appears thin and trim but doesn’t have any muscle tone or cuts.
CM Punk did start out in wrestling a skinny average looking guy. After making himself a household name on the Indy scene, Punk got the call by WWE and decided to bulk up because he believed “that’s what they wanted.” Punk looked awkward but after changing his diet and workout regimen, he had a more marketable physique that brought him the accolades that made him a mega star. Now trying out for the UFC, Punk has got himself leaner, losing the bulk to help his chances in the octagon.
8 Randy “Macho Man” Savage
The son of wrestler Angelo Poffo, the man better known as Macho Man Randy Savage never wanted to be a wrestler but rather a baseball player. Randy had a unmemorable stint in the Minor Baseball league and an injury to his shoulder ended his baseball career for good. Randy then would pursue wrestling which became the start of his body transformation.
Randy’s transition to the business came at a time where the pushes and big money went to the stars who were more muscular, so he took his lean baseball body frame and bulked up to massive proportions to compete for the top spots on the card.
Despite having a new muscular body, it was his agility and high flying moves that separated him from the pack. The beefing up of his body would pay dividends for the late Macho Man as he had a successful Hall of Fame career.
7 Triple H
Paul Levesque was captivated by the art and spectacle of wrestling as a young child and lived and breathed wrestling. The Game was certainly a student of the game as he learned from legendary grappler Killer Kowalski and hoped to make himself a star in the pro wrestling world.
Hunter’s role models were bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but, while being physically fit, he didn’t have the type of figure he would be known for later on in his career. Hunter's early career in WCW and the first few years of WWE were disappointing, as he was stuck with bad gimmicks that didn’t draw.
He continued to work hard to move up the ranks and became Triple H of DX. Even after rising to become WWE Champion, he didn’t truly become “The King of Kings” until coming back from a career-threatening quad injury in 2002 looking like a monster, having bulked up to massive proportions. This would only further help his career, as he became a Hall of Famer in the making, capturing the World Championship 14 times.
6 Bret “The Hitman” Hart
He called himself "the best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be” but Bret “The Hitman” Hart in his early days sure didn’t look it. A student of his legendary father’s dungeon, the son of Stu Hart desired to follow in his father’s footsteps by getting into the family business and becoming a pro wrestler.
Bret Hart had the ability and skills at the time, wrestling for his father’s Canadian territory, Stampede Wrestling, but looking back at those videos of the young “Excellence of Execution,” he was lean, untoned and much smaller than the Hall of Fame WWE Superstar he would become.
When getting the call up to work for the WWE, The Hitman realized he needed to bulk up to ensure any semblance of longevity within the company, which he certainly did and, as a result, he became the face of the WWE in the early 90s and multi-time WWE Champion.
5 Scott Steiner
Scott Steiner always has been a physical specimen with a body forged in granite. Steiner started out as an amateur wrestler at the University Of Michigan and would implement his amateur wrestling success into his pro wrestling gimmick along with his brother Rick Steiner. With a short unsuccessful stint in the WWE, The Steiner Brothers would make take their act to WCW, where they were a solid tag team.
It wasn’t until Scott Steiner broke from his tag team with his brother and pursued a singles career that his star really began to rise, along with his biceps! In the late 90s, Scott Steiner would pack an enormous amounts of mass and bulk up into a chiseled monstrosity known as Big Poppa Pump.
His character would refer to himself as “The Big Bad Booty Daddy," have women flocking all around him and would talk lovingly about his muscles. The character sent him into the upper echelon in WCW and was a far cry from his vanilla plain old Steiner Brother days.
4 Seth Rollins
You couldn’t compile a list like this without the man who’s lovingly known on the internet by the name of “Crossfit Jesus.” Seth Rollins burst on to the WWE scene as a member of The Shield but then was the first member to break out of the group and launch himself into the main event by winning the 2014 Money In The Bank briefcase and cashing it in at the perfect time, capturing the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in the main event between Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 31.
Before Rollins became the brawny crossfit enthusiast, he was a ho-hum nobody on the indies known as Tyler Black. Watching some of his old footage on the independents in promotions like ROH and PWG would remind you of the early days of CM Punk, as Rollins was a scrawny prospect far from looking like the megastar that he is today. Rollins has worked phenomenally hard since then and even harder to get back from an ACL tear bigger and stronger than ever.
3 Hulk Hogan
The immortal Hulk Hogan is the first person many think of when they hear the term pro wrestling and for good reason. Hogan, known for his trademark beach blond hair and his bronzed muscular physique, has been a large part of wrestling and mainstream pop culture since the 80s.
The Hulkster wasn’t always the owner of 24 inch pythons though. It has been detailed by Hogan that before he got into wrestling, he was a musician and a baseball player who dreamt of making it to the major leagues.
"I was a fat kid growing up, but I hit more home runs than anyone in West Tampa Little League,'' Hogan would say."But if I hit a ball and it hit the wall, they'd throw me out at second base because I was so fat and slow."
Hogan’s baseball dreams were shattered by injury but he would say his prayers, eat his vitamins and weight lift his tail off to become the most recognizable pro wrestler in history.
2 John Cena
John Cena has always been a muscular guy, playing football in his high school days and becoming an avid bodybuilder to the point of competing in competitions. However at the start of his career in WWE, the advocate for Hustle, Loyalty and Respect was just your average, relatively muscular wrestler.
Cena’s trademark relentless work ethic to be the best would soon take over and the 15-time WWE World Champion took his physique to new heights to become the physical specimen and franchise face of the company for the last 14 years.
Cena has developed a reputation for being super human due to his speedy recovery times from debilitating injuries that should have put him on the shelf for months longer than he would allow. Part of that he can attribute to genetics and the other part he can attribute to his workout and training regimen which he touts is clean and steroid-free.
1 The Rock
Standing at 6’5", The Rock was always a large man, but it wasn’t until The Rock started really hitting the weights that he became “The Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment.” Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a skinny shy kid and it wasn’t until he tried to pursue a football career in high school and college that he started to gain muscle mass.
In the WWE, The Rock disappointed in his rookie year, but after reinventing himself in The Nation of Domination he would really start to take off. More spotlight meant more eyes on him, so he began to up his work in the gym and soon enough The Rock was the hottest star the WWE had ever seen.
The Rock became so big that he opted for a career in Hollywood where he would take his muscular physique to new heights and land huge multi-million dollar roles. Of all the people on this list who saw their careers skyrocket after bulking up their muscles, none benefited more from their transformation than The Rock.