Top 15 Wrestlers Who Went From Rags to Riches

Rags to Riches, the commonly used phrase for a person who starts at the bottom on the ladder of life, and makes it to the top. In wrestling, it is the same. This list is superstars who, when they began had nothing and were nobodies, but their effort and hard work gave them the success they have achieved. Most on this list have gone past wrestling and are now thriving in other areas of life, from business, to fitness and even writing comics.

It begins with Kurt Angle, and goes through a wide variety, including Stacy Keibler, whose life beyond wrestling and ability to achieve great successes has been noted through the media. Everyone listed here started at the bottom in life and in wrestling, and carved out their own path to success. Some stayed with wrestling, like The Undertaker, others ventured into film like The Rock and Batista, and then there is JBL, who used his god given smarts to make millions and write a book about it.

Either way, the very nature of the business is all about proving yourself from an early point. There used to be no guaranteed contracts in wrestling and when you combine that with guys having to make their own way in the business, it was prone to wrestlers starting with essentially nothing in their pocket.

These stories can be sources of inspiration and motivation to everyone, even if you don't like wrestling, the idea of starting at the bottom, and making sure you hit pay dirt one day is something to be admired.

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15 Kurt Angle

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He won a gold medal for the U.S at the 1996 Olympics, but that was only where his fame came from. The fortune for Angle came from his time as a pro wrestling, as he became one of the most popular in the 90s and in early 2000. Kurt is currently on a Retirement Tour in TNA Wrestling, and also is part owner of a healthy food and fitness store in Pittsburgh, PA. Although he is on a farewell tour from wrestling, there is no question Kurt will find success outside the ring, and continue to add to what he has already achieved.

14 Dean Ambrose

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The man you know on TV as the Lunatic Fringe was born Jonathan Good in Cincinnati Ohio and was raised mostly in public housing. In wrestling, he found an escape from his hardscrabble childhood. He began wrestling in the independent promotions, spending more than half a decade at the Heartland Wrestling Association, another four years at Insanity Pro Wrestling, and others, before making his way to WWE's developmental territory. 

13 Booker T

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As a young man, Booker and three other Wendy's employees in Houston hatched a plan to rob the restaurant. Their attempt was unsuccessful and the four men were arrested and sent to jail. Huffman was sentenced to five years, but only spent 19 months inside and spent the remainder of the time on parole. Shortly after being released from prison, Booker was working at a storage company in Houston when his brother Lane approached him about checking out a new local wrestling school that was being run by former WWE wrestler Ivan "Polish Power" Putski as part of the Western Wrestling Alliance. From there, Booker would grow into a top talent in the business and turned his whole life around, one of the more inspiring redemption stories in the business. 

12 DDP

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His childhood was anything but stable. After his parents divorced when Page was three, he and his siblings went to live with his grandparents, and there were also times when they were housed by family friends. He later moved in with his father, and though the two had a close relationship, Page senior would leave home when Page junior was eight. Then four years later, in a freak accident, Page was hit by a car.

He made a 'bang' in WCW, but wasn't an active wrestler until late into his 30s. He is one of those late bloomers in the business. Since his wrestling career ended, DDP Yoga has become a very successful and is highly used and recommended by a lot of wrestlers in the industry. DDP is repsonsible for restoring the health of Scott Hall and Jake Roberts, and is planning to open a DDP Yoga Fitness Centre.

11 Chyna

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According to her 2001 book, If Only They Knew, Chyna’s childhood was tumultuous to say the least. By the age of four, she had three stepfathers and one stepmother, while her biological father had issues with alcoholism. In her teens, she began purging after eating and later developed an ovarian tumor. Laurer held many jobs in her mid 20s, before entering into bodybuilding in 1996, while also training as a wrestler. She would soon be discovered by Triple H and Shawn Michaels, who convinced WWE to sign her. She would go on to become one of the most popular stars of the Attitude Era.

10 AJ Lee

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AJ Lee has been able to walk away from the wrestling business despite being at a relatively young age. She worked hard to get there, as she was born into a poor family. Lee often had to live in motels and cars to prevent herself from going broke. She even had to drop out of college due to being unable to pay tuition. She invested the money she had into a WWE tryout, which proved to be the break she needed.

“When I ran into financial problems I just figured that when life gives you lemons, you have to make lemonade.To have girls crying over me is surreal.”

9 CM Punk

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CM Punk's background was a rough one, having an alcoholic father and a brother who robbed him. Punk was eventually adopted by a friend's family. He grew up watching the Macho Man, and knew he wanted to do it, and spent years on the indies, and spent more years in Ring of Honor. Punk eventually made it to WWE, but even his first few years in WWE were not the greatest. Things turned for Punk when he delivered the Pipe Bomb promo. Since leaving WWE Punk has written for Marvel Comics and is planning on making a debut in the Octagon for UFC.

8 Ric Flair

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Ric Flair enjoyed every moment of his gimmick, especially since he had a tough upbringing. Flair was raised in the Tennessee Children's Home Society, an orphanage that proved to be one filled with kidnapping scandals. Flair himself admits he went through a lot at the orphanage. Eventually he was adopted by Richard and Kathleen Fleihr and needless to say, it turned his life around. Flair would enjoy a long career in the wrestling business, becoming the stylin' and profilin' man you grew to love.

7 Rowdy Roddy Piper

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Would you believe it if you were told Rowdy Roddy Piper's first wrestling match only earned him $25? That gives you an idea as to where wrestlers have to start off. Piper left home at 13 and spent the next few years living in hostels and on the streets. The $25 pay wasn't the significant part of that match. His opponent was Larry Hennig, who got Piper more work. Piper began his career in Winnipeg, but would soon get breaks down south and over the next decade, built his name before eventually making his way to WWE.

6 Mick Foley

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Foley was inspired to become a Superstar after watching Jimmy Snuka leap from the top of a steel cage in Madison Square Garden, Mick Foley adopted Superfly’s fearlessness when he entered the ring himself. While learning to wrestle, Foley had little money, having to sleep in his car. As Cactus Jack, he earned a fan following not for winning matches, but for surviving them. In match with Vader, part of Foleys ear was ripped off when his head was caught in the ropes, but he managed to keep fighting, and has since become a hall of famer and a best selling author.

5 Bruno Sammartino

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Life wasn’t always so glorious for The Italian Superman. Bruno’s brother and sister both passed away at young ages and Adolf Hitler’s Nazi forces seized their town, but Bruno persevered. He hid in a mountain called Valla Rocca during the German occupation and eventually joined his immigrant father in Pittsburgh in 1950. Sammartino began exercising and quickly became one of most powerful men around, and it was his impressive size and ability that caught the eye of Vince McMahon's father. From there he would be the biggest wrestling star in New York for many years.

4 Andre The Giant

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Raised in a small French farming village, Andre lived a quiet, pastoral life as a child. Born with acromegaly, a disorder that causes bones to grow at an accelerated rate, Andre stood 6-foot-3 and weighed 200 pounds by the time he was 12 years old. Andre decided to use his size to his advantage, and entered professional wrestling, he became a hit in every territory, and was noticed by WWE, where he became an iconic giant of wrestling.

3 Lita

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Lita fell in love with the wrestling business when she saw luchadors wrestling and made it a point to train in Mexico as they did. Lita didn't have much money to do that though and had to earn money by doing a lot of side jobs. Among those jobs was being an exotic dancer in Mexico, going by the name of Misty. Lita would eventually get her break after being signed to WWE, where she would become arguably the greatest WWE Diva of all time.

2 Batista

via wrestlestars.com

He didn’t ask to be born into a rougher part of Washington, D.C. that delivered three early reality checks in the form of homicides committed on his parents’ front lawn. He cannot undo becoming estranged from his parents by age 17 or the assault charges he accrued and probation he served for unleashing his ferocious temper on two unruly patrons at a club where Batista worked as a bouncer. But rather than let his past pull him down, Batista rose above it by setting a goal of becoming an athlete and entertainer and WWE soon came calling. Batista would be one of the top stars in the industry and has now parlayed that into a blossoming acting career.

1 The Rock

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Dwayne Johnson has become the wealthiest professional wrestler of all time, thanks to setting box office records in WWE and then becoming a mega star in Hollywood. From where he started, to where he is now is amazing. He has said in numerous interviews when he first started, all he had was seven dollars in his pocket, as his company references that with its name Seven Bucks Productions. The Rock is living proof that you can get anywhere if you believe, as clearly he believed, and its made him millions.... and millions!

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