Ask many wrestling fans when they became fans, and the most common response you will receive is, “when I was a child.” The larger-than-life nature of professional wrestling tends to get their hooks into people at a young age and not let go. For young people, professional wrestling is the perfect combination of sports and Saturday morning cartoons. That’s not to say that people don’t discover wrestling later in life, but the truly passionate fans of the business almost always started watching as kids. You start by loving the business when you think the results are legitimate, then you grow to appreciate what the nature of the industry really is. It’s no surprise, then, to learn that many people who chose to become professional wrestlers wanted to become one from a very young age.
However, that’s not always the case. While most professional wrestlers can trace their passion for the craft back to a young age, not everybody who becomes a professional wrestler grew up always wanting to be one. Sometimes, wrestlers choose to become wrestlers for the same reason that many of us choose our jobs. They need the money and they kind of like the work. These are the 15 wrestlers who never wanted to be in the business. Ironically everyone on this list went on to have very successful careers.
15 Lex Luger
Since he entered the wrestling business, promoters have seen Lex Luger as the ultimate blank slate. Even though he wasn’t great on the microphone or in the ring, he had a great look and the kind of physical build that major promotions want their poster boys to have. Of course, Luger’s lack of natural professional wrestling skills is most likely attributed to his disinterest in ever getting in the business. Luger was once a member of the same Miami Hurricanes team that Jim Kelly and Jim Burt played on.
Unfortunately, his career was derailed when he trashed a hotel room during one of the team’s road trips and was kicked off the team. Luger eventually signed with the Green Bay Packers, but he was never able to stay on any football team for long. Eventually, former pro wrestler Bob Roop convinced him to give wrestling a shot.
14 Baron Corbin
Since he entered NXT, Baron Corbin has gotten a lot of mileage out of his “indie killer” gimmick. Corbin has presented himself as the one guy who doesn’t care about the career that some of WWE’s biggest stars had before they entered the company. He’s a brilliant heel character that’s able to get so much mileage out of his persona due to the fact that he doesn’t have to do that much acting. Corbin spent a few years in the NFL as a lineman following a pretty good college run at Northwest Missouri State.
Unfortunately, an alleged altercation during the Arizona Cardinals 2010 training camp led to him being kicked off the team. Corbin then decided to parlay his history as an NFL player and Golden Gloves boxer into a career as a professional wrestler.
People have always said that Leon White is much nicer than his career as Big Van Vader would lead you to believe he might be. Some have even gone so far as to say that if you met White without knowing about his alter-ego, you might think he was an accountant. While White certainly never had plans to be an accountant, he also never really planned to be a professional wrestler. While he was in high school, White was recruited by some of the best football colleges in America as a top-tier center.
He ended up becoming an All-American lineman at the University of Colorado, a 3rd round pick of the Los Angeles Rams, and a Super Bowl participant. Unfortunately, a severe injury ended his football career after a couple of years. At the advice of a former teammate, White decided to become a professional wrestler.
12 The Big Show
When you’re as big as Paul Wight is, people tend to shoehorn you into one of a few potential career paths. While there are seven-foot doctors and lawyers, it’s generally assumed that people that size are going to go on to do something like play basketball. Actually, that’s exactly what Wight tried to do. While bouncing around various career paths that included bounty hunter, receptionist, and bouncer, Wight also played a little basketball on the side. While working as a receptionist for a karaoke company, Wight met actor Danny Bonaduce. Bonaduce eventually recommended Wight for a promotional basketball game WCW was hosting. Hulk Hogan was so impressed by the way that Wight carried himself during the game that he decided to convince him to join WCW full-time.
11 The Iron Sheik
In recent years, The Iron Sheik has become infamous for his colorful language, brutally honest interviews, and one-of-a-kind persona. Before that, though, Sheik was known as one of the greatest pure heels to ever step into the ring. Sheik had an uncanny ability to make people hate him that perfectly complimented the painful in-ring style that he learned during his time as an Olympic athlete. Sheik grew up idolizing amateur wrestlers and dreamed of becoming one himself. He actually did go on to participate in the 1968 Olympics as a member of the Iran team and eventually moved to America where he became an Olympic wrestling coach.
So why did Sheik decide to get into professional wrestling? It’s tough to say, actually. However, we do know that a conversation with Verne Gagne convinced him to give wrestling a shot.
10 Torrie Wilson
While the professional wrestling industry has suffered no shortage of beautiful women over the years, Torrie Wilson seems to stand out among the pack. She looks like the type of person who would more likely become a professional model or actress. Actually, that’s exactly what she tried to do. Wilson first tried to become a professional model but succumbed to anorexia and bulimia in order to maintain a certain appearance. Because of her struggles, she decided to focus on personal fitness. Wilson went on to win Miss Galaxy in 1998 and tried to turn her success into an acting career. Despite securing a few gigs, her acting career never flourished.
The only reason that Wilson got into professional wrestling is because she was spotted at a WCW she attended with her boyfriend in 1999. She was pretty much signed on the spot.
9 Stacy Keibler
Much like Torrie Wilson, Stacy Keibler is an incredibly attractive woman who sometimes seemed out of place in a wrestling ring. Much like Torrie Wilson, Stacy Keibler never really grew up intending to be a professional wrestler. However, her path to professional wrestling is arguably even more fascinating than Wilson's. Keibler was clearly a talented young woman who participated in ballet, jazz, and tap dancing at a young age. In college, she studied journalism and made a few minor film appearances. She spent some time as a Baltimore Ravens cheerleader, but she eventually turned to professional wrestling when, again, much like Torrie Wilson, her boyfriend introduced her to WCW in the late ‘90s.
Unlike Wilson, she wasn’t spotted in a crowd, but rather caught WCW’s attention when she participated in a search for the next Nitro Girl.
8 Kurt Angle
Many of you probably know the story of Kurt Angle’s pre-WWE years. After all, it’s not every day that a gold medal winning Olympic hero becomes a professional wrestler and Kurt Angle spent many years reminding us of that fact. Then again, you’d probably be pretty proud too if you turned your childhood passion of becoming an amateur wrestler into one of the greatest amateur wrestling careers of all-time. The real question is, “Why did Kurt Angle ever decide to become a professional wrestler?”.
Well, at first, he had no interest in ever pursuing that role. In fact, Angle turned down an offer from WWE after his gold medal wins and became disgusted with the dark side of the business following an incident at an ECW show he attended. According to reports, what eventually changed his mind was a generous eight-year contract offer from WWE.
7 Mark Henry
Mark Henry’s career story certainly shares some similarities with Kurt Angle’s. Henry was also an Olympic athlete and wanted to be one from a very young age. While Henry was a professional wrestling fan at a young age, his incredible strength inspired him to pursue a powerlifting career when he was only 10 years old. Henry set records at nearly every competition he participated in and soon became known as arguably the strongest human being in the world.
Henry may very well be the greatest powerlifter to ever live, which is certainly part of the reason why Vince McMahon was so keen on signing him. The other reason, which is sometimes overlooked, has to do with the fact that Henry has never tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. Given that Henry came into WWE at a time when the company was being investigated for steroid use, his clean record was a huge selling point.
6 Dusty Rhodes
In many ways, Dusty Rhodes is synonymous with professional wrestling. He didn’t have a professional wrestler’s build, a professional wrestler’s looks, or even a professional wrestler's skillset, but his ability to capture a crowds attention through his legendary promos and character work make him the embodiment of a wrestling legend. The funny thing about that status is that Rhodes didn’t seem to really want to be a professional wrestler when he was young. Instead, Rhodes, like many young Texas boys, wanted to be a professional football player. While Rhodes did play football at West Texas State and eventually earned a roster spot in the Continental Football League, he eventually had to abandon his dream when the team he played on folded.
So what attracted him to professional wrestling? Fittingly enough for the blue-collard legend, it was a job ad for a promotion called Big Time Wrestling.
5 The Miz
What did young Mike Mizanin want to be when he grew up? Your guess is as good as ours, but it certainly wasn’t a professional wrestler. Actually, The Miz didn’t seem to have a really clear idea what it was he wanted to be either. He was an athlete in high school, but he didn’t pursue any specific sport when he attended Miami University. Instead, Miz dropped out of college so that he could be on the Real World. From there, he spent a few years making some appearances on various MTV reality shows. During that time, Mizanin developed a persona that some people immediately recognized as a dead ringer for a pro wrestling heel. Mizanin may have gotten it into his head during this time that he wanted to be a professional wrestler, but it took years of work before he would achieve that goal.
4 Sting and The Ultimate Warrior
These two are getting grouped together because of their shared history. While Sting and The Ultimate Warrior didn’t know each other growing up, they both shared a similar disinterest in professional wrestling. Sting, however, was at least interested in sports like football and basketball, whereas Warrior really didn’t show much interest in sports of any kind. Eventually, though, each man would discover an interest in bodybuilding. Actually, it was more like an obsession. Both believed that they were going to become professional bodybuilders at some point. The only problem was that there really wasn’t a flourishing market for professional bodybuilders at that time. Both men were training together in California by the time that they realized this. They also realized that they might be able to make a living in the flourishing world of professional wrestling.
Few all-time great professional wrestlers have ever been as far away from becoming a professional wrestler as Bill Goldberg was early in his life. Goldberg was never really exposed to professional wrestling much as a child. That’s what tends to happen when your mother is a classically trained violinist and your father is a Harvard graduated doctor. Still, Goldberg’s obviously impressive physique did lead him to pursue a football career. While he did pretty well as a defensive end for the Georgia Bulldogs, he was never really able to distinguish himself in the NFL. Following an injury that ended his NFL dreams for good, Goldberg began an extended rehab stint. During this time, he was spotted by Sting and Lex Luger who convinced him that he should become a professional wrestler despite his misgivings regarding the business.
2 Hulk Hogan
Whether or not Hulk Hogan is the biggest star in wrestling history is really just a matter of debate, but he is the person who most people with only a faint knowledge of the business are most likely to name when you ask them to name a professional wrestler. While Hogan attended wrestling shows at a young age, even Hogan’s favorite wrestlers like Superstar Billy Graham largely served to get Hogan to hit the gym a little harder. His real interests lied in baseball and music. Unfortunately, Hogan’s baseball prospects were cut short by a devastating injury and his 10 years as a bass player didn’t result in much more than a little success in the Tampa Bay area. His band Ruckus did attract visiting wrestlers, however. In fact, it was Jack and Gerald Brisco that convinced Hogan to give up the band and give wrestling a shot.
1 Andre the Giant
Just about anyone with a vague knowledge of professional wrestling could have taken one look at young Andre the Giant and told him that he could be a great professional wrestler. The problem was that Andre grew up in a part of the world where not many professional wrestling fans lived. Andre’s incredible size proved to be more of a hindrance at a young age than a potential asset. It did, however, make it fairly easy for him to get a number of labor jobs. As you might imagine, Andre excelled at labor intensive positions due largely to the fact that he possessed the strength of several men. Andre tried to expand his skillset a bit by studying woodworking and engine building, but he never found happiness in any of these pursuits. Determined to find his future, Andre moved to Paris at the age of 17. It was there that a professional wrestler promoter spotted him and immediately booked him.