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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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