Top 15 Wrestlers Who Started Out As Bodybuilders

The pro wrestling industry is one that is based on looks as much as it is based on physical ability and charisma. Owners, promoters and writing staffs have, for decades, yearned to push performers who

The pro wrestling industry is one that is based on looks as much as it is based on physical ability and charisma. Owners, promoters and writing staffs have, for decades, yearned to push performers who have had superhuman physiques that more so resembled comic book figures than professional athletes. The great irony with this method is that there is a long list of former bodybuilders who have entered the pro wrestling world only to then flame out after being pushed to the top of cards for whatever reasons. History has taught that looks alone only mean so much even in pro wrestling.

“Nature Boy” Ric Flair is just one example of a pro wrestler who got over among crowds because of what he was able to do inside of the ring and on the microphone and not because he had such an impressive physique. With that said, even Flair, who is widely perceived by fans and by wrestling insiders as the greatest performer that the industry has ever known, has, at times, been booked to put bodybuilders who became wrestlers over in feuds. One of those individuals would, following his initial feud with Flair, go on to become the face of World Championship Wrestling.

There have, at the other end of the spectrum, been numerous success stories of former bodybuilders making great lives for themselves thanks to the pro wrestling world. That includes a man who was, both during his best days in the WWE on and even after his wrestling career came to an end, a polarizing wrestler who made plenty of enemies in the business during his time. Last but not least is the performer who is currently the top babyface in all of World Wrestling Entertainment even if certain fans do not like to acknowledge that fact, a man who is both booed and cheered in arenas all around the world.

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15 Aksana


Aksana was only a teenager when she first began competing as a professional bodybuilder. She was also a fitness model and a personal trainer when she attracted the eyes of WWE scouts. While she did well to advance all the way through the company's development program, Aksana did not enjoy what most would consider to be a successful fun in the WWE. Her stint on the roster lasted only a few years and she never won a championship outside of Florida Championship Wrestling. She last appeared on WWE television back in the summer of 2014.

14 Nicole Bass


Nicole Bass was never going to be your standard run-of-the-mill diva. The bodybuilder who easily checked in at over 6-feet in height towered over many male performers in the business, and Bass also had the physical strength to toss certain guys around the ring with ease. She is most known as a wrestler for the time that she spent in Extreme Championship Wrestling, during which it was often said that she should have been nicknamed “Russia” due to the fact that she was “so much bigger than Chyna.” There is a lot to miss about the old ECW.

13 Ivan Putski


“The Polish Hammer” was known for having one of the better physiques in the business during the prime of his wrestling career, and that was due to Ivan Putski's love for hitting the gym. A wrestler who was not just interested in working in that business, Putski spent time as a bodybuilder and also as a strongman, during which he participated in competitions. Putski won multiple championships during his run in what was known as Big Time Wrestling and the WWE inducted him into the company's Hall of Fame back in 1995.

12 Earl Maynard


Before he made his way into the film industry and even before he ever stepped foot inside of a ring as an active wrestler, Earl Maynard was an accomplished bodybuilder in the 1960s. Maynard won and placed in multiple competitions across two decades while involved in that industry, and he continued to enter such tournaments even after he became a pro wrestler. He does have a run as a tag team champion on his wrestling resume, but it would not be a stretch to say that Maynard is far more known for what he achieved as a bodybuilder than for the matches that he had during his career.

11 Tony Atlas


It could be argued that Tony Atlas was the most famous former bodybuilder to ever enter the pro wrestling industry. He had multiple successful runs across several wrestling companies, winning championships as both a singles act and as a tag team wrestler. Atlas somewhat out of nowhere made a return to the WWE in 2008 to work as a heel manager on the Extreme Championship Wrestling brand. A member of the WWE Hall of Fame, Atlas was nothing short of tremendous while working as the manager for then ECW Champion Mark Henry.

10 The Great Khali


All one would have to do to be convinced that he was a successful bodybuilder would be to examine pictures of the Great Khali from back in the time when he was in the prime of his athletic career. The giant of a man had the ideal size to take on babyface characters such as John Cena, and Khali was, for a time, one of the top heels in the company and also a champion. His body has since betrayed him, due largely to his massive size, and the days of Khali being able to go for any amount of time inside of the ring have passed. He has since moved on from the WWE.

9 Jessie Godderz


Jessie Godderz is a unique case among the athletes who are featured in this piece in that he became well-known around the world before he ever stepped foot inside of a wrestling ring. Godderz was a professional bodybuilder who was part of several seasons of reality television show Big Brother, but he left that form of entertainment to sign with Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. He learned the ropes while working in Ohio Valley Wrestling and he has found success while with TNA. He is a two-time world tag team champion for that company and he has become an entertaining performer for TNA.

8 Kaitlyn


Before wrestling fans were ever introduced to her, Kaitlyn was a bodybuilder who had much success in that avenue of her life. She was a winner of multiple competitions, and she was also featured in calendars and magazines. Kaitlyn first linked up with the WWE in 2010 and she made her way through the company's developmental system before she was called up to the company's main roster. She had a single run as WWE Divas Champion on her wrestling resume, but she has since left the company and the wrestling business to instead focus on other parts of her life.

7 Chyna


Chyna, a bodybuilder who changed the way that fans viewed female wrestlers during the 1990s, could have gone one of several different routes with her life before she was first seen in the WWE. She had an opportunity to travel around the world while working in the United States Armed Forces, she spent some time as a flight attendant, and Chyna also competed in fitness competitions. It was in the pro wrestling world where she would make her name and large amounts of money, but one cannot now help but wonder, considering all that has happened, if she would have been better off never signing for the WWE in the first place.

6 Triple H


All indications seem to show that the wrestling business was in the blood of Triple H from a young age. He worked hard to become one of the top acts in the WWE, a position he has held for nearly two decades, and he and his real-life wife Stephanie McMahon will soon be tasked with being the leaders of the biggest pro wrestling company on the planet. His infatuation with the business was not always so strong, however, as Triple H was first a bodybuilder who entered competitions during his younger years. He would, fortunately for wrestling fans, eventually abandon that lifestyle to work inside of rings.

5 Batista


Dave Batista had several different jobs before he decided to enter the world of pro wrestling. He worked as a bouncer and also as a lifeguard, and Batista eventually used bodybuilding as a way to stabilize his life that could have gone down a much different path if not for that sport. Something about the wrestling industry appealed to him, however, and even being turned down by WCW did not deter him from pursuing that particular dream. Batista ultimately proved any doubters to be foolish, becoming one of the top stars in the WWE as a singles competitor.

4 Billy Graham


Before he became “Superstar” Billy Graham in the pro wrestling universe, Graham was first a successful bodybuilder who won competitions and who was also featured in magazines. He worked out with well-known individuals in that industry, most notably Arnold Schwarzenegger. While Graham was reportedly scouted by the Canadian Football League, he passed on pro football to instead pursue a career in wrestling. That decision worked out rather well for him, as Graham became an innovator in the business. Many famous wrestlers have modeled themselves after Graham, but there will only ever be one true “superstar.”

3 Sting


There was once a time when Sting, who would go on to become the top star in WCW during the heart of the Monday Night Wars, did not even think of linking up with the pro wrestling business. The former bodybuilder once co-owned a gym, and he was seemingly well on his way to becoming a fitness guru when he attended a WWE show that forever changed his life. Sting would go on to form a team with the individual who is featured next in this piece, but it is his work as a singles performer that made him one of the more popular individuals in the business for several years.

2 The Ultimate Warrior


It is likely not at all a surprise that The Ultimate Warrior spent some time as a bodybuilder before he decided to go all-in on pro wrestling. What you may not know is that Warrior was actually successful during that portion of his life. He competed in many bodybuilder contests, even winning some along the way. Warrior also had dreams of one day becoming a chiropractor. His future plans were forever changed once he accepted an invitation to form a wrestling team and the rest, as the saying goes, is history. Warrior would go on to become one of the biggest wrestling stars of the first half of the 1990s.

1 John Cena


The pro wrestling career of John Cena since he first appeared on WWE television has been fascinating to behold. A former bodybuilder before he entered the pro wrestling world, Cena began as somewhat of a bland babyface in the WWE before he was booked to be a heel rapper. It was during that run that Cena evolved into the most popular character in all of the company, but his storyline turn back to babyface and also the “Super Cena” push that he received backfired among portions of the audience. Some still reject Cena at WWE events even though he has been one of the more consistent performers in the company for years.

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Top 15 Wrestlers Who Started Out As Bodybuilders