There is no question about it: No matter what some people may believe, the wrestling industry is a cosmetic one. There aren’t very many lines of work where being immensely tall or muscled are seen as almost a prerequisite by some. Thankfully, some of the importance previously placed on the image has lessened, allowing smaller and more skilled in-ring workers to thrive. It is still naïve to think that your look makes no difference, however. If that weren’t the case, would someone who was relatively untested like Roman Reigns be picked as the heir apparent by the powers that be over someone like Daniel Bryan, who’d proven himself around the world? We think not. As a result, there are often cases where someone undergoes a massive physical transformation in their career, which inspired us to put together this list.
In order to be considered for this list, the person needs to have made a name for him-/herself in the wrestling industry but not necessarily as an in-ring performer. Additionally, they obviously need to have undergone a pretty noticeable physical change, but we aren’t picky as to what form that takes. That means any wrestlers who’ve let themselves go and have packed on weight could find their way here, but so too could someone who put on a ton of muscle in an attempt to get ahead.
Here are the 15 wrestlers who have gone through the biggest transformations in the past 5 years.
16 Daniel Bryan
Arguably the most popular wrestler the industry has seen in the last decade, the last five years of Daniel Bryan’s career have been chronicled in front of millions of fans each week. Starting out a straight-laced looking performer and ending up much the same way, he may seem like an odd addition to this list but that is not taking into account the massive change his appearance underwent in between. While some people think that the long hair and beard he grew out, that so totally altered his look, had something to do with his efforts to get ahead in the business but they’d be wrong. Revealing in an interview that he “just said I wasn’t going to shave for a bit”, he eventually began to feel like he couldn’t shave it. No matter the origin of the hair on his head and face getting so long, he cut it all off once he hung up his boots and looks very different once again.
Considered by many to be the first “Diva” in the WWE, Sunny may not have had the type of wrestling career today’s biggest female wrestling are enjoying but she had a major role to play none the less. The manager of three consecutive tag team champions, a feat she pulled off by betraying one duo after the other, she was a jack of nearly all trades in the WWE. Someone whose personal life has been marked by drama for the last decade, in the last five years Sunny’s body underwent a lot of changes. Inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2011, she had worked very hard at the time to get herself back into shape to the point that she didn’t look that much different than she had in the early nineties. Having packed some of the weight back on, she also looks haggard a lot of the time now which is a far cry from the glamorous woman we saw that night in 2011.
14 Ric Flair
While it may be a bit silly to say, we all get older. After a decades-long career in professional wrestling where he was the world champion a lot, it makes perfect sense that a man who travelled the world over hundreds of times would begin to look older. Still, when you look at a photo of Ric Flair from five years ago when he was managing Fortune in TNA and getting involved in the ring, he doesn’t look all that different than he did during his earlier WWE run. That has changed. Seen most recently as the manager of his daughter Charlotte, it was clear he was having the time of his life and while he carried himself like a younger man his face was telling a different story.
13 Eric Young
This is a spoiler for an upcoming NXT storyline but former TNA Heavyweight Champion Eric Young should debut as the leader of the group Sanity any day now. When that does take place, you will see a man with a scraggly beard and crazy eyes who is most likely dressed in what appears to be an army jacket which has its arms cut off and is covered in patches. Looking back at the beginning of 2011, things were very different. Having recently come off the World Elite days where he sported bleach blonde hair, Eric could best be described as baby-faced. Without a single hair and a silly smile on his face, Eric’s role was as comedic relief and he played it to a tee.
12 Vladimir Kozlov
Initially marked for future world title contention when he made his WWE debut, after a lackluster run of appearances in the front row of WWE crowds Vladimir’s luck seemed to change. Eventually put into a comedy duo with Santino Marella, a man that is arguably amongst the funniest wrestlers of all time, their odd-couple pairing was a joy to behold. Remembered best for their suit and tie clad tea time in the WWE ring during a Manchester episode of Raw, his in-ring efforts have largely been forgotten. A fit but pudgy man during the entirety of his WWE run, he seems to have been living in a gym in recent years. Looking like an absolute beast these days, Vladimir looks like he belongs on the cover of an issue of Muscle and Fitness these days.
11 Matt Hardy
Matt Hardy is a lot of things. A tag team legend and wrestling enthusiast with a massive fan base, for example, there are so many ways to describe him but there is one word that doesn’t apply, stagnant. Always looking to evolve his character and the way he presents himself, it should come as no surprise that he finds his way here. First joining the ranks of TNA’s roster in 2011, he came in as a somewhat overweight man with multi-coloured braids in his hair. To be frank, it wasn’t the best look he’s had or a time in his career that will likely end up on his highlight reels. Fast forward five years and now we get to watch “Broken” Matt Hardy each week. Even wackier-looking, his poofed out and curly hair has a streak of grey in it, his face looks crazed and he is one of the most interesting figures in the industry.
10 The Sandman
We’re going to call a spade a spade. The Sandman was never a looker whether in the ring or in a mirror. An ECW Original, despite his dubious wrestling ability, The Sandman has had a mind-boggling career. A former five-time ECW World Heavyweight Champion, it is clear that he will always be most associated with that company but he has worked for several others. WCW, the WWE, XPW, and lots of other indies have all availed themselves of his abilities. In 2011, The Sandman was just coming off his final run in TNA to date where he took part in the EV 2.0 storyline. Looking a little bit heavier at the time than some long-time fans would think of him, he never the less was obviously the cane-wielding maniac we all knew from a far distance. Looking every bit his age now, his blonde hair is gone and he looks as though he may have to catch his breath after walking to the fridge and we could easily see ourselves walking right past him in a crowd.
8 Jake “The Snake” Roberts
Renowned as one of the most psychologically ground-breaking wrestlers ever, Jake “The Snake” Roberts is definitely in the conversation when it comes to the best wrestlers who weren’t world champions. However, we’d be lying if we tried to pretend his life isn’t also defined by the substance abuse that drove him mostly out of the business and turned him into a warning story. Fortunately, he is also defined by the incredible comeback he underwent with the aid of long-time friend Diamond Dallas Page. In fact, Jake looks better today than he has since the heyday of his time in the WWE. Five years ago that wasn’t the case. As evidenced by the documentary The Resurrection of Jake the Snake, he’d packed on a whole lot of weight and couldn’t move around without pain at the time.
7 Brian Cage
For those of you who are unaware of Brian Cage, let us introduce you to him. He is predominantly known for his current run in Lucha Underground where he goes under a simplified ring name, Cage, and sports an incredibly muscular frame. Coming off as more machine than man, his physique looks like it is inspired by the unattainable bodies that we see in comic books. Looking back at him in 2011, a couple of years after his short tenure in WWE developmental had come to an end; you’ll see a very different man. Don’t get us wrong, he was totally ripped back then but now he looks like he should require the help of a special effects team to be so large. Even though he became so cartoonishly large, one thing is for certain, he’s built to turn heads.
6 Scott Hall
Scott Hall may have never been given world title feuds like three of his best friends did, Shawn Michaels, Triple H, and Diesel, but he still had a gigantic impact on the business. A former WWE Intercontinental Champion, when he made the jump to WCW, a few weeks ahead of Kevin Nash, it marked the beginning of the nWo, the group that helped make WCW competitive for the first time in its history. Most identified with The Clique for the majority of his career, Hall’s name now brings to mind Jake “The Snake” and Diamond Dallas Page. Another substance abuser who found his world falling apart in 2011, he has since managed to improve it and his looks due to the help of those two friends, exercise, and surgery.
5 The Big Show
It is actually pretty sad but The Big Show does not get the respect he deserves from fans a lot of the time. Someone who debuted in WCW more than twenty years ago, he has mostly been a mainstay of the business ever since, including working the harsh WWE schedule for the majority of that time. A massive man, most performers of his ilk, Andre the Giant and Giant Gonzalez immediately come to mind, were incapable of showing a fraction of his staying power. Additionally able to consistently serve as a mentor to many younger performers over the years, he has a long history of working with guys on the rise that hadn’t quite put it all together yet. Seemingly unwilling to rest on his laurels, he appears poised to turn another chapter even this late in his career as evidenced by his massive weight loss. While we haven’t seen him on TV as of late, anyone who follows him on Twitter can clearly see he is a changed man, which will turn a lot of heads when he eventually returns.
4 Al Snow
The WWE has always been considered to be the home of ungodly muscular wrestlers yet we’re now looking at the second former wrestler of theirs in a row that is far more ripped now than ever before. Formerly best known as the guy who brought a mannequin head to the ring or was the butt of Mick Foley’s jokes, Al is now a TNA employee who predominantly serves an agent role for the company. Despite the massive time suck, such a role would pose, he seems to have zero trouble finding a weight set in his off time. Reintroduced as a manager on their show in the last while, he mostly comes to the ring wearing clothes that cover his arms probably because if he didn’t nobody would be looking at his charges. If anyone familiar with his past looks at any photo of the man flexing his arms today, it is clear that he’s an all new man.
3 Enzo Amore
Enzo Amore is one of the most popular characters on WWE television these days and if you question that notion please pay attention to the arenas that chant along with him each week. A wrestler who actually got into the business when the WWE signed him, a lot of people don’t know it but he once went by Eric Anthony or EA All Day and he looked pretty different at the time. While his trademark gift of the gab was already on display, one of the trademark elements of his character, the over the top hair and clothes, were not what we see today. While we’re not going to pretend that he wouldn’t turn heads when he walked into a room at the time, the clothes were tamer and the hair was nothing like what we see today.
2 Bubba Ray
If you’re a WWE devotee who is unaware of any other company’s product then you, unfortunately, have missed out on the best era in Bubba Ray Dudley’s career. Best known as one-half of The Dudley Boyz, he spent the majority of his career as a rotund wrestler wearing clothes that covered nearly the entirety of his body for good reason. Thrust into a storyline during his time in TNA where his weight was the focus, he worked tirelessly to remake himself and turned himself into the devilishly talented villain Bully Ray. Part and parcel of that character change that took place in the last five years was a massive weight loss and up in intensity that helped opened a lot of eyes to his true potential. Having recently spent time as part of WWE’s tag division with his on-screen brother yet again, he packed the weight back on and if you hadn’t kept up his career, you’d have no idea he ever changed but boy did he ever.
Kamala The Ugandan Warrior is a relic of a bygone era in wrestling. Probably best-known for his time in the WWE, he also worked for WCW, Juggalo Championship Wrestling, TNA, and amazingly enough, he even wrestled Bryan Danielson for the ROH Championship in 2006. If that isn’t a testament to the fact that he made the absolute most of a gimmick that appears to be limited on the surface, we don’t know what is. Unfortunately, in 2011 his life took one hell of a turn. A sufferer of high blood pressure and diabetes, he started out that year like many in his past but before it was through he’d lost a limb. With one leg amputated in November of 2011 and the other following suit the next year, it is safe to say that nobody else on this list underwent a more dramatic transformation in the last five years.