Think about some of the most prominent wrestlers to have graced the industry and you’d think that due to their skill and dedication, they must have come out of the womb throwing punches, kicking and grappling. There are many who have had lifelong ambitions to crack into wrestling sports entertainment – their sole purpose in life from a young age has been to get a contract with a major wrestling promotion because of their love for the profession. Juxtaposed against these individuals who have lived and breathed wrestling since they could walk and talk are many wrestlers who have enjoyed the limelight despite not necessarily intending to be there – or at least not initially.
Wrestling is love and a livelihood for some, but for others, it’s just a means to an end, a way to keep the cash rolling in, something unconventional and different from a regular 9-5 office job. But what do we the fans care? As long as they’re giving it their all in the ring and keep delivering amazing performances, who are we to judge?
Some wrestlers work hard to climb through the ranks and reach the top of the profession. Others fell into the industry through sheer dumb luck. It’s what they do when they get there that counts.
The following is a list of 15 wrestlers who arrived on the wrestling scene through sheer dumb luck, some of whom aspired to be there, others who never considered wrestling until a chance meeting changed everything.
16 Mojo Rawley
Rawley’s a newcomer to the industry, having earned a place on WWE’s main roster as recently as July 2016; whether or not he makes any headway in wrestling remains to be seen.
He began his wrestling career in 2012 at the age of 26 – the first time he’d ever wrestled; needless to say his main goal in life was never to become a professional wrestler.
Rawley has always been sports mad, with his sport of choice being football. From a young age, he was making waves in various football leagues and divisions around his state of Virginia, certainly doing everything possible to turn his passion into a reality. He hit the big time in the sport he loved when he was signed up by the Green Bay Packers in 2009, then by the Arizona Cardinals in 2010, but injuries got the better of him, making his realized dream a short-lived reality.
Rawley reassessed his plans for the future after a freak injury caused him to have an 18-month layoff. Professional wrestling was probably never in his plans and he had no intentions of switching careers until he got injured, but we’ll see over the next few months how it all works out for Rawley in the ring.
15 Ashley Massaro
Although her wrestling career was relatively short-lived, Ashley arrived on the scene with a bang and certainly made an impact resulting from her involvement in some scandalous storylines during her three-year stint with WWE. She made some close connections – with Trish Stratus – and some fierce enemies – Mickie James – but her personal accomplishments in the ring were, well, non-existent. Perhaps that’s because it all happened rather quickly for Ashley.
One moment she was on magazine covers and making waves in the modelling industry, the next she found herself competing in – and ultimately winning – the 2005 Raw Diva search.
Her time with WWE started when she was modelling in a swimsuit pageant. It just so happened she was modelling in front of a WWE casting director who approached her and the rest is history – well, the next three years, 2005-2008, anyway.
Ashley’s certainly one woman that got into the industry through sheer dumb luck, but unfortunately for her, the transition from model to wrestler didn’t really work out. Those three years didn’t really result in much success, but it got her out there, in the public eye, and she’s now back to doing what she loves best, acting and modelling.
14 The Great Khali
This is the kind of thing fairy tales are made of. Picture a large mountain of a man, a freak, an outsider – as Dalip Singh Rana would have been perceived by the majority of people in his remote community in Punjab, India. He’s from a dirt-poor family, struggling to make ends meet. Then, he gets a job as a security guard, commuting to Shimla, earning a paltry salary, just enough to put food on the table. It was during this time his luck changed. A police officer spotted him and convinced him to join the Punjab police, which he did, and from there his wrestling career took off.
This policeman just happened to be well connected in the health and fitness industry and had helped many other policemen rise to international stardom in various sports. Rana’s potential was spotted, and he started training and taking this policeman’s advice. By 2006, Rana became known to the world as the monstrous figure that is "The Great Khali."
13 Kelly Kelly
Arguably one of the hottest divas to have been contracted with WWE, Kelly enjoyed six years in the industry, during which she won one WWE Divas Championship. But the company must have been hoping for a whole lot more from Kelly, considering they fast-tracked her route into the company and onto the main roster.
As a kid, Kelly was a fan of professional wrestling, but she never seriously considered it as a profession. Pre-wrestling, she was doing a bit of modelling and was putting a plan in place to get her dream job as a news anchor; that’s before WWE came calling.
John Laurinaitis, who was working as a WWE official in 2006, scouted Kelly after seeing her potential during one of her modelling assignments. WWE contacted her modelling agency, sorted out her new career path in wrestling and sent her on the road to Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW) to gain some experience. Just a few months later, a contract with WWE was hers. Being a childhood fan of wrestling, she gleefully accepted. She didn’t have to jump through hoops or even take part in a Diva Search; she was just spotted and WWE took care of the rest.
12 André the Giant
Can you imagine André the Giant not being a wrestler? Well, he very nearly wasn’t. From a young age and through his early teens, André was resigned to the fact that he would be a farm laborer. He dropped out of school, as he felt it wasn’t needed for his future profession, and got himself an apprenticeship in woodwork. His brother said he could perform the work of three men – no doubt he would have been in demand in the farming industry.
At 17 years old, he made a trip to Paris – the city of love – and that’s where he found romance of a different sort and fell in love with wrestling. Initially, it was just sheer luck -- a case of being in the right place at the right time -- that got him involved with the industry. A local wrestling promoter who realized Andre's earning potential due to his size spotted him and pushed him into wrestling.
Andre learned the art of wrestling at night and worked all day to pay for the training and day-to-day expenses. The hard work paid off as he went on to enjoy three decades at the helm of the industry.
11 Big Show
Again, what would professional wrestling be without the mass monsters, the giants of the business like André the Giant and Big Show? Paul Wight was doing what a lot of young people do when fresh out of school -- jumping between different jobs in the hope of stumbling across something he liked and sticking to it. He worked as a bounty hunter, in a call center, and the obvious one due his size: a bouncer in his hometown of Aiken, South Carolina. But his luck changed when he was working for a karaoke company, not because Wight found his calling in the karaoke industry, but because he made some contacts, ones that ultimately made Paul Wight into the character we all know and love – The Big Show.
He met famous radio personality Danny Bonaduce, who was connected to Hulk Hogan, during a karaoke night. Bonaduce introduced him to Hogan and the two hit it off over a friendly game of basketball. Hogan liked what he saw and thought Wight had star appeal. He introduced him to Eric Bischoff – VP of WCW at the time – and The Giant was born.
10 The Ultimate Warrior
As a child, James Brian Hellwig wasn’t really into any sports. By his own admission, he was a “small, insecure kid," that was until he hit the weights for the first time at the age of 11. He then moved to the Golden State, the home of many great bodybuilders, and got inspired to start thinking of bodybuilding as a profession when he set eyes upon “The Black Prince”– Robby Robinson, a famous bodybuilder. His dream soon turned into reality and he began winning amateur contests up and down the country.
Bodybuilding is a grueling sport, and who is to say he wouldn’t have made it big if he would have persisted with it? We will never know though because in 1985, while Hellwig was in contest preparation for an upcoming bodybuilding show, he was spotted and recruited to form a wrestling group – along with other bodybuilders, Garland Donoho, Mark Miller, and Steve Borden. Whether it was the promise of a large payday or something else, Hellwig was given the opportunity and threw away his bodybuilding career without hesitation for the chance of becoming a professional wrestler. It all worked out for him in the end.
9 The Bella Twins
Brie and Nikki Bella came together in WWE to form the iconic tag team duo – the aptly named Bella Twins – and very soon took the industry by storm. Together, they’ve won the WWE Divas Championship three times, which included Nikki’s record-breaking reign as champion – 301 days at the top. Neither of the girls had any aspirations of becoming professional wrestlers, and were doing the usual things before breaking into the industry, working odd jobs, doing a bit of modelling and some acting here and there before they were discovered by the WWE.
This is kind of the way things went for a lot of former WWE Divas, but someone from the company must have laid eyes upon them and noticed their earning potential – as twins – in wrestling. They made an appearance on a show called Meet My Folks, were discovered, and were subsequently offered a contract. Things couldn’t have gone more swimmingly for the Bella Twins.
Despite his wrestling prowess, his feats in the ring and that famous spear we’ve all come to know and love, it might surprise some of you to know that wrestling wasn’t Goldberg’s number one career choice. In fact, he had zero wrestling training and hadn’t even stepped into the ring before the age of 30 – a pretty late starter into the wrestling industry, but he certainly made up for lost time.
Football was Goldberg’s sport of choice, and from a young age, that’s all he wanted to be – a professional in the NFL. He achieved his dream, but unfortunately, his six-year career was ended by injury. Wrestling hadn’t even featured in his mind at this point, but it was when he began power-lifting and dabbling in MMA during his rehab that he got spotted by the now Hall of Famer Sting and Lex Luger, both of whom urged him to give wrestling a try.
Goldberg was open in saying that he was never a fan of professional wrestling, but had to embark on a new career because realistically he was never going to get back into the NFL. Today, wrestling fans throughout the world are glad he made that choice.
7 Sid Eudy
Sid Eudy has enjoyed major championship success across a range of different wrestling promotions, and from the wrestling industry’s point of view, his career proved to be very lucrative as he drew in pay-per-view audiences and headlined a number of major events. He had star appeal and the industry knew that they could bank on him to deliver and keep the fans flocking to the arenas. In his prime, Eudy was a bankable star, and deservedly won a number of titles and other memorable accomplishments in the wrestling business. It just goes to show that talent – the next superstar of the industry – can be unearthed, seemingly from nowhere after a chance encounter with a prominent star.
That’s how Eudy got introduced to the industry. He was working out in a gym and was spotted by Randy Savage and his younger brother and fellow wrestler, Lanny Mark Poffo. They thought he had potential, started talking and things just gathered pace from there. It just goes to show that you never know who you might come across in your local gym!
6 Lex Luger
Lex Luger was instrumental in getting Goldberg into the wrestling industry – we certainly all thank him for that – but he himself very nearly ended up on a different career path. He had a stint in the NFL and the Canadian Football League playing for a range of different teams as an offensive lineman. He brushed shoulders with the best during his six-year career, including Jim Kelly and Jim Burt, but decided to call it quits in 1985.
After spending six years playing football, most people would be looking to wind down – for a bit anyway – before starting up again in another profession. Luger was doing just that and was taking it easy at a celebrity golfing event in Florida when he happened to bump into wrestler Bob Roop. Roop was instantly struck by the physicality of the man and twisted Luger’s arm a little to entice him into the world of wrestling. Roop arranged for Luger to get trained and took care of everything.
A few months later Luger stepped into the ring for the first time and made his professional wrestling debut. Chance encounters can lead to wonderful things!
5 Torrie Wilson
Despite having a nine-year career in the wrestling industry, Wilson never really achieved anything of note – there were no championships and no titles and her wrestling trophy cabinet remained rather bare. But despite her lack of accomplishments, she was involved in plenty of memorable storylines, endeared herself to many and will certainly be remembered as one of the hottest divas to have entered the industry.
It’s unsurprising that she’d have a place in many people’s hottest diva lists because she’s always taken care of her body. At school, she used to run track and field, started to get into modelling and was heavily involved in the fitness industry.
It was in 1999 at the age of 24 that Wilson got involved in wrestling. She attended a WCW event with her then boyfriend and was spotted by none other than Scott Steiner. He immediately asked her to accompany him into the ring (Wilson’s boyfriend must have been pleased!) and then Kevin Nash also took a shine to her and wanted Wilson to be involved in some of his storylines. She was brought into the company and began her work in wrestling a month later – talk about being fast-tracked into the limelight!
4 Triple H
Triple H certainly worked his butt off to get his break in wrestling, and his inclusion on the list isn't to undermine his work. It's just to show that no matter how hard you work, you always need a little bit of luck.
It’s unsurprising to hear that Hunter has always been obsessed with wrestling, and from a young age, he embarked on a bodybuilding career because he wanted a body that resembled something similar to those of his favorite wrestling pros. He loved wrestling, but the way he got involved in the industry was actually due to sheer luck because of a chance meeting with an industry professional.
Paul Levesque was managing a Gold’s Gym franchise in Nashua, New Hampshire when he met Ted Arcidi – powerlifter and actor – who was at the time working with WWE. Levesque saw his chance and went for it. He was persistent in his attempts to get some help from Arcidi, and his persistence eventually paid off and got him a meeting with trainer Killer Kowalski. Levesque enrolled in his school and began to live out his dream and begin his journey to stardom.
3 Hulk Hogan
Hogan’s another legend who’s been interested in wrestling from childhood, but his path into the wrestling industry was paved by brothers Jack and Gerald Brisco and occurred because of a chance meeting.
The young Hogan was a musician and was involved in the music industry for a decade before getting into wrestling. He played bass guitar for a number of rock bands in the Florida area, and began to get gigs – which made him think about music as a serious career choice. It was while he was studying at university in 1976 that he formed his own band, Ruckus, along with a couple of local musicians. They started to get popular and Hogan’s music career was beginning to take off.
In his spare time, Hogan enjoyed weightlifting and regularly trained at Hector's Gym in Tampa Bay – a workout gym for many professional wrestlers. Just by lifting weights, Hogan got the attention of the Brisco brothers, who did their utmost to get Hogan trained up and into the ring. They had to overcome a few obstacles, mainly Mike Graham’s dislike of Hogan due to a childhood feud – Graham was the son or promoter Eddie Graham – but they eventually succeeded and Hogan began wrestling in 1977.
Sting is easily no.1 on this list, due to the enormous star he became, despite having no interest in wrestling for most of his early life. Steve Borden was just a California kid who excelled in sports and was always a gifted athlete. He spent no time watching television, having no access to it within his home community, hence he didn't have a chance to fall in love with wrestling.
He embarked on a career in bodybuilding and that seemed to be where his career was heading. By chance he was taken to a WWE event in Los Angeles by some friends and after seeing the show, he decided to pursue a career in wrestling.
He was eventually recruited while at his Gold's Gym that he co-owned in San Fernando Valley. He was offered to be a part of Powerteam USA, a stable headed by Red Bastien and Rick Bassman. Eventually they succeeded, as Sting agreed to join them. He broke into the business alongside Jim Hellwig, and the two would team up as the Freedom Fighters and eventually the Blade Runners.
From there, Sting would go on to become WCW's biggest star and enjoyed a 30-year career in a business he initially had no interest in pursuing.