Showbiz is a vast landscape. Many entertainers start in one field, get their break in another, all while dabbling in many other forms of expression. The ability to perform is useful in many other avenues of expression. It's really all about getting that first stepping stone out into the public eye. Once that valuable exposure is found, a fanbase can be built and new ventures can be explored. Mick Foley would most likely never become a best-selling author without a wrestling career to back him up. That’s also true for the many acting careers that were made possible and the rash of wrestler-hosted podcasts popping up everywhere you click.
It’s a wonderful thing for wrestlers to support themselves beyond the grueling life of a sports-entertainer. You can’t wrestle over 300 days a year for the rest of your life, battling injuries and other hazards of road-life forever. Even Ric Flair has his limits. Sure wrestlers seem like they make big money in their prime, but that can go quickly without a backup plan, especially if they get accustomed to living a certain way. And I’m sure all that protein powder and ‘other supplements’ aren’t cheap.
How about a Daniel Bryan, who may never wrestle again due to serious injury (though he seems inclined to return). He recently hit his peak and seemed destined for several more years of high-level performance and money. To have that taken away now just seems cruel, but it may be a reality he has to face. He might have a future outside of the ring in the WWE but the itch to perform can be tough to scratch when you’re stuck backstage as a booking agent. We’ve already seen Bryan on television’s Tough Enough reality show, so that could be a direction he pursues.
We’re constantly subjected to terrible acting in the current WWE product’s soap-opera storylines but many wrestlers have managed to carve out film-careers outside the squared circle. The Rock easily sets the bar for box-office potential but film and television have many spots available for those less famous too. Growing up you think it’s Hollywood A-list or bust, but there many many roles to fill, and The Rock is a unique talent that comes around once a lifetime.
So let’s take a look at the wrestlers who have done the best to outgrow the sport that moulded them into the success they are today.
15 Jim Ross
The greatest wrestling broadcaster of all time. Ross was the voice of the Attitude era and added excitement and authenticity to anything he called. He's moved on from the WWE (unceremoniously) but his legacy is still felt every time Cole, JBL, and Lawler open their mouths and remind us how great Ross was.
Perhaps Ross is not completely divorced from wrestling as his successful J.R.'s Family Bar-B-Q is sold on shop.wwe.com and his very popular podcast is mostly wrestling-centric. But Ross could (and has) sold his BBQ products on his own and although listeners of his podcast love his wrestling insight he does the show with zero affiliation with the WWE. Ross is his own man and his fanbase continues to grow.
14 Mick Foley
How to become a New York Times Best Selling Author - get thrown off a Hell in a Cell cage by The Undertaker right? That's what many think as that one incredible incident has followed Foley for nearly 20 years after it happened. An amazing moment for sure but his legendary career is full of many exciting moments in and outside of wrestling.
Foley's first memoir Have a Nice Day was written without the aid of a ghost writer (200,000 words in only 50 days!). It got to number one on The New York Times best-seller list in late 1999, staying on the list for 26 weeks!
His next book Foley is Good also cracked The New York Times list. He has since gone on to publish children's books, two novels, and two more memoirs.
Foley is still friendly with the mic as he tours his stand-up/spoken word comedy act and has appeared on Just for Laughs and the Edinburgh Fringe Fest.
Now could we get a buddy-cop movie reuniting The Rock & Sock connection already?
13 Steve Austin
If Austin was smart with the millions he made during his astronomically popular run (and by all accounts he was) he shouldn't have to work a day in his life. But you get the idea from listening to his two (also popular) podcasts that to him, 'lazy' is a four-letter word. He's dabbled in film acting and makes numerous appearances on television, hosting reality shows and the like. Austin is a proponent of working his ass off. It was immediately apparent in his days as 'Stunning' Steve Austin in the WCW. The guy was immediately one of the best workers in the promotion, but bad timing and management lost them a future star and the world gained Austin 3:16.
If you haven't checked out out his podcast I highly recommend it. If you have the WWE Network you could start with his excellent interview of Vince McMahon. It would have been easy to go soft on a former boss and the owner of the Network the interview was taking place on, but Austin went for the jugular and asked the questions fans wanted to hear. He did the same with John Cena on another episode. He went right ahead and told Cena to do him a favor and 'snug up' on that STF.
Whether providing great analysis of PPVs, thoughts on new talent and the future of wrestling, or even non-wrestling topics, Austin is a proven entertainer that no longer needs to take chair shots to his bald head.
DDP was older than most by the time he truly 'made it' as an in-ring star. After the WCW folded, he spent some time in the WWE but has moved on from wrestling other than sporadic appearances.
Besides some small-budget film acting and motivational speaking his flagship is DDP Yoga.
DDP Yoga is branded as a 'hybrid workout that incorporatessome traditional yoga movements and adds dynamic resistance, active breathing techniques and power movements to make for a more challenging and results oriented workout'
Sounds pretty good, but does it work? Mensjournal.com did a review of the program, and while they were skeptical of the fat-burning promise (due to the heart-rate equivalent of 'walking') they gave a generally positive reception of the program for muscle-building and overall flexibility. They also gave extra marks for affordability.
Chris Jericho and Steve Austin promote the product on their respective podcasts while Scott Hall and Jake Roberts have also used the program to assist with their own personal issues.
If you can handle DDP cutting promos on you while you work out, it could be for you.
11 Trish Stratus
Hall of Famer Trish Stratus is doing just fine after wrestling. She's gone back to her natural brunette color and has gotten significantly leaner with her career in fitness and yoga. Stratus discovered yoga while rehabilitating a back injury and it has become a huge part of her personal brand., selling a myriad of Yoga products on her website to provide the ultimate fitness Stratusfaction.
Stratus has also kept up with acting, appearing in the small-budget film Gridlocked. And if you want to relive the glory days, you can catch her and Lita on their Team Bestie Tour.
Stratus is looking better and healthier than ever and is carving out a career helping people do the same.
10 Randy Savage
They call you Hollywood (hugh hugh) don't make me laughCuz your movies and your actin' skills are both trashYour movies straight to video the box office can't standWhile I got myself a feature role in Spider Man
- 'Be a Man' - Randy Savage feat. DJ Kool
Savage is arguably the greatest wrestler of all time, matching the world-famous appeal and recognition of Hogan, but blowing away the Hulkster with his ring talent and work on the mic.
And work the mic is exactly what he did with his debut Rap album 'Be a Man'. Savage filled the anger with his trademark intensity and anger, dissing Hogan on the title track and honoring the late Curt Hennig on 'Perfect Friend'.
Like the lyrics already mentioned, Savage has some acting on his resume as well, appearing in 2002's Spider-Man as well as numerous television shows and the PS2 video game Cars Race-o-Rama.
Perhaps Savage's most remembered non-wrestling moment was his iconic SlimJim catchphrase. His slogan delivery for the salty snack company lives on 20 years after its debut and they even brought it back in 2014.
9 Brock Lesnar
Lesnar is a genetic freak. But giving the responsibility purely to genetics isn't doing him justice. Without the drive and ambition Lesnar puts into his training, all the genetics in the world wouldn't mean jack. He identifies his goals, prepares, and executes like no other. Sure Michael Jordan was the greatest basketball player off all time and managed to play some baseball, but he was (relative to the MLB) mediocre. Lesnar on the other hand dominated amateur wrestling, professional, and then conquered the 'real' fighting world of the UFC. Not to mention his impressive strides towards his NFL dream.
He caused a bidding war between the WWE and UFC for his services and managed to get an extremely rare sweetheart contract from McMahon that probably only The Rock could match. Even though he wrestles sporadically he constantly proves that he's a major draw and continues to be super over with the fans whether he plays the monster heel or monster face.
Lesnar doesn't need wrestling. Wrestling needs Lesnar.
8 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper
Piper was always an outlaw who did exactly what he wanted. You think Hogan didn't like to lose? Try to find a match where Piper was pinned. The difference is that Piper could believably win those fights, and would have to be knocked out if you wanted a 1-2-3.
He was the driving force of WWE's rise to fame in 1985. His feud with MTV, Cyndi Lauper, and Mr. T brought wrestling into the mainstream and by the time WrestleMania rolled around, everyone wanted to see someone punch Piper in the face. For WrestleMania III he was the heroic face. His antics hadn't changed much but people enjoyed his work so much they couldn't help but cheer for him. It a wonderful moment to see him run out to the ring (his mini-ring car was broken) to the roaring applause of 90,000-plus.
But just as soon as wrestling hit its first peak, he was gone! Instead of sucking everything dollar he could from the business he gave so much to, he changed gears and hit Hollywood for a new challenge. John Carpenter astutely cast him in They Live, an Orwellian, campy, dark-action-comedy romp with the most epic of fight scenes.
Piper would return here and there to wrestling but other than a quick stop in WCW, you got the feeling it wasn't for money, but for the love of the sport. He was regularly working as an actor and his talented mouth and contagious energy would always find him work.
Piper was a fighter and a rebel, never afraid to stand up to anything, and never afraid to walk away either.
7 Stacy Keibler
One of the most beautiful wrestling personalities we've seen, Keibler first hit the industry after winning a WCW competition to become a Nitro Girl. Her long legs and charisma got her noticed and she quickly moved on to to become Ms. Hancock, before winding up in the WWE.
Post-wrestling she first hit the mainstream as George Clooney's girlfriend and for her stint on Dancing with the Stars. But she's since developed a multi-faceted brand that focuses on healthy choices regarding everything recipes to exercise and even maternity clothing.
Throughout her career she's maintained a celebrity within the fitness world as well, writing irregular columns and often appearing on covers.
So if you want to check out what Stacy has been up to or see her post-baby workout regiment (in tight yoga shorts), head on over to stacykeibler.com.
6 Hulk Hogan
Looks like wrestling outgrew Hogan as the WWE quickly distanced themselves from him after his massive racism controversy erupted this year. But before this unfortunate mess, Hogan had a very successful career as a non-wrestler.
He began acting in the 80s, appearing as 'Thunderlips' alongside Stallone in Rocky III and soon found a starring role in the McMahon-produced No Holds Barred. McMahon has joked that Hogan once offered to cover any losses for that film, yet he's still waiting for the cheque.
He left the WWE during its infamous steroid trial and began full-time acting work on the series Thunder in Paradise, but was lured back shortly after, joining WCW for another long run. Since then he's maintained a steady presence in at least one of the major North American wrestling promotions.
He's also ket very busy outside of wrestling with his 'acting' and reality show work. He's perhaps best known for his reality series Hogan Knows Best. A series that highlighted his very awkward 'pride' for his daughter with may inappropriate social media comments. Posting pictures of his daughter's hot legs and re-tweeting a comment about a guy who went 'balls deep' on Brooke is just some of his bizarre behavior. Marrying a woman who looks quite similar to her raised even more eyebrows.
It's a good thing Hogan has a career outside of wrestling because until his latest controversy dies down (if ever) he's on his own.
5 Chris Jericho
After honing his skills around the world Jericho landed in WCW, where he was supremely under-used. With the top-heavy roster calling the shots and a complete lack of leadership, he was lost in the shuffle on a mid-card saturated with talent. Jericho was generally ignored by management and he used that to his advantage. With nothing to gain or lose, he began experimenting with creative and hilarious promos and skits. His 'man of 1,004 holds' was one of the best things on WCW television at the time but unless he made a Jericho World Order, he would be an afterthought.
Of course Vince McMahon saw the potential and the Y2J countdown is still one of the greatest debuts in wrestling history. He was given the attention he deserved and in no time was the World Champion he was destined to be.
Looking back at the entertaining mic-work Jericho produced it came as no surprise to see him expand into show business. His band Fozzy records and tours, he gets regular acting work, and he has one of the best wrestler-hosted podcasts going.
Jericho is still young showbiz-wise and fans should look forward to many more years of the Jeri-Show to come.
4 Adam 'Edge' Copeland
Adam Copeland worked his way up from the Brood to become one of the most highly-decorated and celebrated WWE wrestlers of all time. His 31 championships speak for themselves but he's perhaps most remembered for his hilarious promos and backstage segments. So it should come as no surprise that he's carved out a very successful acting career.
His most recent casting as Atom Smasher in the series The Flash is big news for some, but those in the know have already seen him portray Dwight Hutchinson on Syfy's Haven for the past four seasons.
Copeland's injury-related early retirement from wrestling came as a big surprise, but his continued success in front of a camera should surprise no one.
Want to know what made Batista cry? The gigantic wrestler-turned-actor admitted that he teared up after finding out he landed the role of Drax the Destroyer in the smash-hit Guardians of the Galaxy. The film's success and his excellent performance should mean huge things for the huge man. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is due out in 2017, and we should see his Kickboxer reboot in 2016. But rumors have also swirled that Marvel is restructuring his contract to prepare for big things regarding his Drax character. It's been reported by several non-Marvel sources that Drax will also be appearing in Avengers 3 and even more Marvel Universe films after that.
They may have booed him at the Royal Rumble, but I think he'll be just fine.
2 Shane McMahon
The son of Vince McMahon could probably have taken it easy, especially after the family business became a billion dollar company. Shane was no free-loader though and Vince did everything he could to teach independence and work ethic. He had Shane start at the bottom of the company and refused to give him a raise, prompting Shane to quit at 15 to find a better paying job in construction.
This independent trait has permeated Shane's life. He came back from construction to find huge success within the WWE. He launched their digital foray in 1998 and was responsible for getting the WWE into over 150 countries and 30 different languages. Not to mention the sacrifice and high-risk he took to provide heart-stopping stunts in his own matches.
But Shane decided to leave the billion dollar business to start something of his own. His company YOU on Demand is described as 'China's Netflix' and has become a roaring success. He recently stepped down as CEO (as he would rather live in North America) but still maintains the high-ranking position of Principal Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board.
From the mean streets of Greenwich, Shane-o-Mac did pretty well.
1 The Rock
Steve Austin was the biggest star since Hogan but you could argue that The Rock pushed wrestling forward in a way that's still felt today. His mastery of the crowd, from the way he perched at the ring post to his sing-a-long catch phrases have become the industry standard for how wrestlers perform today.
He felt bigger than wrestling even before the movies.
But then the movies came. He holds the record for highest pay for a first time leading role for his work in The Scorpion King, and it grew from there. He quickly demonstrated his ability to play action or comedy, and eventually landed a spot in the massive franchise Fast and the Furious. 2015 was especially huge for him as he proved his solo box-office draw with San Andreas while Furious 7 did huge numbers as well.
I think wrestling fans take a little pride in seeing how far Dwayne Johnson has come. After all, for 'The Rock' to be born, the fans first had to chant 'DIE ROCKY DIE'.