For decades, professional wrestling endured a segregation from popular culture – not considered sport but also not welcomed into the realm of entertainment. Instead, it lived on Saturday morning television sandwiched between cartoons and television bingo and the featured stars of those programs often hastily classified by unflattering stereotypes. Even though professional wrestling through its evolution into sports entertainment has come a long way from the cliché ‘smoke-filled arenas, many of those harsh stereotypes remain.
Professional wrestlers are often lampooned as mono-syllabic brutes that approach any challenge before them with gorilla-like strength and a diminished cognitive ability. Slowly, attitudes toward wrestling are changing as the industry becomes more mainstream and the success stories of former wrestlers transitioning back into the world of work after their ring career is over become more prevalent. Today’s wrestling alumni are accomplishing some pretty surprising feats in their professional lives. Here are 20 wrestlers whose careers after wrestling may surprise you.
21 Simon Dean
While many wrestlers aspire to ascend to the WWE, in the case of Simon Dean, his greatest career successes may have occurred for him while wrestling under the name Nova for Extreme Championship Wrestling. On WWE television, cast as a fitness guru hawking a training program of his own design like an annoying infomercial pitch man, it’s possible that fans didn’t appreciate the brilliance of this performer. WWE management saw that there was more than meets the eye with this guy though and promoted him to a role with the talent relations department for a time.
However, since leaving the sport, Mike Bucci has transitioned into a career as a mortgage broker. Now, instead of being concerned with drawing houses and putting butts in seats, he’s helping people to get into their own houses and putting keys in their hands.
20 Hillbilly Jim
One’s professional livelihood can be incredibly short-lived as a character wrestler in the sports entertainment industry. Yes, there have been some long term successes for characters such as The Undertaker and The Honky Tonk Man who continue to make money off of their original WWE characters, but they are exceptions to the rule. For many, after the life span of their gimmick, they fade into obscurity. In the case of Hillbilly Jim, he was able to parlay his visibility and success as one of the industry’s most visible good guys in the 1980s into an ongoing entertainment career. Most notably, Jim has landed a gig as a Sirius radio personality, hosting his own show “Hillbilly Jim’s Moonshine Matinee.”
While some may argue that the hillbilly role was never a big draw in the 1980s, Jim has continued to be one of the most endearing ambassadors for the WWE on television as well as live appearances and is still known by fans today.
19 D’Lo Brown
D’Lo Brown enjoyed a lengthy career in professional wrestling after his first big break in Smoky Mountain Wrestling and a healthy run in the WWE. D’Lo seemed to adapt to multiple roles while with the company, whether as a stable member in the Nation of Domination, a solo competitor, or as a tag team with partner Chaz Warrington as Lo Down. The former four-time WWE European champion and one-time Intercontinental champion is officially designated as semi-retired after more than two decades in the ring, but the 46-year-old has maintained visibility as a guest trainer in recent years with the Future Stars of Wrestling organization.
Outside of the ring though, D’Lo’s career is all about the bottom line. Holding a designation as a Certified Public Accountant, Brown graduated from the University of Maine and has been able to balance his personal and professional commitments with a solid career that will support his family beyond the ring.
18 Don Callis
During his volatile career, it could be said that the former WWE manager Jackyl and the on-screen antagonist in both ECW and TNA as Cyrus the Virus had a very polarizing effect on the folks with whom he worked. Wrestling lore holds that after his release from the WWE, when the company’s schedule brought the tour to Callis’ home town of Winnipeg, Bradshaw declared that if he were to show up at the arena, he would be buried under it. Given his ability to raise the ire of those around him, it is somewhat appropriate that his post-wrestling life has seen him migrate to the world of politics.
After earning a Master’s Degree in Business Administration, Callis secured the role of CEO for the Manitoba Trade and Investment Corporation. In this role, he is tasked with investment attraction and economic development to the Province from domestic and international enterprise.
17 Molly Holly
Minnesota’s Nora Greenwald enjoyed a strong career as one of the most visible women in the industry during the latter part of the 1990s and early 2000s. Trained by Dean Malenko, she had a short stay in WCW before ascending to greater success in the WWE as a multi-time WWE Women’s champion. Billed as a fictional cousin of Bob & Crash Holly, she is perhaps best known for her role as “Mighty Molly” cast in a super hero role alongside “Hurricane” Helms. It is somewhat fitting that her post-wrestling life has also cast her in the role of a hero. Once again home in Minnesota, Nora works for Minnesota Teen Challenge, a drug rehabilitation program for young people.
Having seen too many of her peers and colleagues suffer from drug addiction problems, she is passionate about proactively tackling the issue with the nation’s young people. She works with the young people as an aide during their 12-month placement in the program.
15 Fake Razor Ramon
People may forget about the 10-year career that Calgary’s Rick Bognar enjoyed before his ill-fated stint as the “fake” Razor Ramon following Scott Hall’s defection to WCW. The 6’6, 300 pounder who is best known for his work during 78 tours of Japan as “Big Titan” may simply be remembered by history as a creative misstep that didn’t work, living out the majority of his contract assigned to the Memphis developmental territory. Truly, Bognar has experienced challenges in his life after wrestling, trying to find a career that ignites his passion in the same way and he has succeeded over the past three years.
Known professionally as Rick Titan, Bognar has become a motivational speaker and makes regular appearances on television and at seminars in Calgary and Edmonton aimed at helping people to find inner peace and combat stress and anxiety. Quelling anxiety – that’s the opposite of what he was responsible for when WCW executives heard that Razor Ramon and Diesel were scheduled to appear on WWE television just weeks after they had been locked up by the rival organization.
14 Freddie Blassie
The image of “Classy” Freddie Blassie is one that has been so carefully curated over time that you might believe that from his first match in St. Louis in 1942 until his death in 2003, Freddie Blassie did nothing but wrestle. Regarded as one of the top 50 Superstars of all time by the WWE, they don’t talk about the ventures that Blassie dabbled in outside of the ring, even though his fame afforded him the opportunities to pursue other ventures and see great success. One such endeavour was a stint as a car salesman, as pictured here in the 1960s.
Parlaying his abilities as a promoter, there’s little doubt that his skills to sell tickets came to good use as he built a rapport with customers in the market for a new car. It amuses us to think that Blassie might bellow after a customer that he wasn’t able to close: “What’s the matter with this car, you pencil necked geek?”
Whether you were more a fan of Lisa Marie Varon in the WWE as Victoria or from her later work in TNA as Tara, you can’t deny that there was something about this lady that set her apart from many of her colleagues of her era. By her own admission, she discovered the interest to get involved in wrestling as an adult, then did her homework to find a school with a track record for helping aspiring stars to open the door – the UPW camp in California that also produced John Cena. In her post-wrestling life, she has pursued business ventures in the same way – getting the expertise, then pursue that goal fully.
Her professional life has been decorated with entrepreneurial efforts, opening “Fat Tony’s Pizzeria” in Louisville and more recently a wrestling-themed restaurant in Chicago called “The Squared Circle.” She was also a partner in a custom motorcycle shop for a period of time, which ended rather abruptly after a fire destroyed the premises.
12 Paul Orndorff
One of the greatest travesties in professional wrestling is that Paul “Mr. Wonderful” Orndorff never held a world championship. An intense competitor, known for his jarring ring style and his impeccable physique during his prime, the former footballer factored into the main event mix of the WWE from the first WrestleMania. Orndorff’s eventual ascent to the championship seemed inevitable until he suffered a pinched nerve in his neck which caused his arm to atrophy.
After a two year hiatus from the ring, Orndorff did enjoy a decade with WCW, both as an in-ring performer and as a trainer at the WCW Power Plant. However, beyond the wrestling business, Orndorff’s career couldn’t be further from the realm of sports entertainment. Orndorff owns and operates a bowling alley in Fayetteville, Georgia which has been a staple of the community for several years. Though he has mellowed somewhat in retirement, we don’t expect that anyone gets out of line in “Mr. Wonderful’s” place.
We’ve seen Lita featured on WWE television and pay-per-views again as of late after a lengthy absence from the company, helping to usher in the new era of women’s wrestling that appears to be hotter than ever. However, fans may be curious about she was up to after suffering a neck injury that abruptly brought her wrestling career to a close. After her final match in 2006, she formed a punk band call the Luchagors.
The band released their debut album in 2007 with Lita on vocals and achieved a level of notoriety in part due to the local wrestling fans that followed her into her new career. While not a national act, they were a visible quartet in the Atlanta area during their run. While the band has since parted ways, Lita has also done some vocals for British band JD and the FDC’s. Could Lita parlay her two careers to sing WWE ring entrance themes?
10 Rick Steiner
What does the future hold for a burly individual who is known affectionately as “The Dog-Faced Gremlin?” That handle would certainly seem to close some doors for you, but don’t try to tell that to Rick Steiner. After a meteoric career in the 1980s and 90s, most famously alongside his brother Scott, Rick Steiner has transitioned well out of the sport with multiple roles in his public life, more than we may have expected. Rick has entered the world of real estate as a realtor in Georgia. In addition, he also serves as a school trustee for his local school district.
In the case of a heated negotiation, we’d prefer to have this former wrestling champion in the same corner that we’re in for the battle – perhaps with his dog collar and head gear as well just in case. We wonder if the majority of homes that Rick represents are pet-friendly?
9 Jimmy Garvin
“Gorgeous” Jimmy Garvin wasn’t particularly known for high flying during his wrestling career. Instead, he is best identified for his unruly mane of curly locks and his valet “Precious” at his side. Garvin started his career at a young age in Florida when his mother began dating a wrestler, Ronnie Garvin. Jimmy became a manager for Ronnie and fictional brother Terry and later joined the family as a “brother” in the clan. Later, he partnered with Michael Hayes as a charter member of The Fabulous Freebirds. Incidentally, while he achieved his greatest success in wrestling as a Freebird, including a WWE Hall of Fame induction, he reached greater heights (literally) after retiring from the ring.
Garvin had always planned to retire by age 40 and since we last saw him flying off the ropes, he has taken to the air regularly, having secured certification as a commercial pilot. Since his tenure as a Freebird, one might say that his professional life has really taken flight.
8 Torrie Wilson
Torrie Wilson achieved a great level of visibility during her involvement with professional wrestling. While not blessed with a lick of wrestling ability, her wholesome look provided hours of TV content for the WWE Universe and has propelled her to a place in the collective memories of fans from the Attitude Era. Let’s not hide the fact though that Torrie’s greatest notoriety probably stems from her multiple appearances in Playboy magazine. Since departing from the wrestling industry, Torrie launched her own clothing line “Officially Jaded” in 2007. She and her partner and former Spirit Squad member Nick Mitchell, opened a store associated with the brand in Woodlands, Texas the following year.
Are we the only ones that find a distinct irony in the fact that a personality best known for not wearing clothes launched a fashion line? Now 41, while romantically linked to some high profile athletes, we haven’t seen much publicly from this former WWE wrestler.
7 Demolition Smash
Whether as Crusher Krushchev, Smash, The Repo Man, or the Balcktop Bully, Darsow’s roaring voice may seem to place him as most likely to become a bouncer or a tow truck driver. Instead, since retiring from the ring, Barry Darsow has launched his own business – a printing company called “Added Value Printing” that also develops specialty items for the medical industry and promotional products for marketing. That's a surprisingly tame job for someone who displayed as much intensity as he did.
Surprisingly, after searching the Better Business Bureau, we found no complaints of Demolition Smash threatening unhappy customers by saying he’ll “kick their stinkin’ teeth down their stinkin’ throat,” which was a common declaration during his backstage interviews. It is probably best to remain a babyface when dealing with customers.
6 Trish Stratus
Trish Stratus entered the world of professional wrestling from a rather unique position in 2000 after a successful career as a fitness model with many cover shots to her credit. During her six-year career, she is credited with helping to bring women’s wrestling back to prominence in the company and her seven women’s titles and Hall of Fame induction speak to her short but lasting impact on the division. Since retiring from the ring, Trish has pursued some movie and television roles, but her greatest success may be with the opening of her own yoga studio in a suburb of Toronto.
While not as visible as perhaps Dallas Page and his “DDP Yoga” platform, Trish’s studio has generated a steady client base and has allowed her the opportunity to get involved in a variety of other ventures. From fitness modeling to leading as a model to promote the wellness of others, Trish’s career has come full circle.
Kane is still recognized as an active member of the SmackDown roster, but he is also very visible and public about his professional pursuits beyond the world of wrestling, which will ensure his livelihood when he vacates his spot in the WWE. Often acknowledged by his peers as one of the most educated and well-spoken wrestlers in the history of the industry, Glenn Jacobs has parlayed his success in the world of sports entertainment to open his own insurance agency in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Fans can seek out online videos of the “Big Red Machine” explaining insurance coverage concepts and offering advice to potential clients about how best to protect their assets. We wonder if customers come to him with specific inquiries about the risk of fire or life insurance given Kane’s background with open flames as well as casket matches on prime time television over the past 20 years.
When you look at the early career trajectory of Madusa Miceli, it is hard to imagine that there would ever be a day when she wasn’t involved in the sport of wrestling. From her early days in the AWA to training and touring in Japan as a wrestler, in Thailand as a kick boxer and surviving both the WWE and WCW in the 1990s, Miceli seemed poised to become the Fabulous Moolah of her generation. However, as her career in WCW was beginning to stall, she was approached about trying her hand in the world of Monster Truck competitions. For 17 years, she has been competing as one of the lone females in the male dominated world of motor sports and has laid claim to come championships as well.
While Madusa was never immortalized as an action figure during her wrestling career, fans can get a plush monster truck in the likeness of her custom ride from the monster truck circuit.
3 Ted DiBiase
The “Million Dollar Man” in 1987 and Ted Dibiase today are stark contrasts. Now an evangelist and head of his own Heart of David Ministry, DiBiase travels internationally to speak to congregations and youth groups and share his testimony of his journey and his path back to God. While DiBiase isn’t the only wrestler to travel this path -- others including Tully Blanchard, Nikita Koloff and manager Slick have also answered the calling -- the public and the wrestling community has often viewed this pursuit with a cautious skepticism.
Ted is arguably the most successful in his new occupation and remains in high demand for personal appearances across the country and around the world. This isn’t the destination that we may have predicted for the cackling villain that is best known for vowing that “every man has his price”.
2 Jesse Ventura
Jesse “The Body” Ventura may well be one wrestler whose ring career was the launchpad for his future success, but became a little more than a footnote in his overall professional life. When Ventura ran for Mayor in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, Entertainment Tonight showed up with a camera crew, amused that the former professional wrestler and flamboyant 80s star was running for office. The public was stunned when he won. It was national news when Ventura’s career went to the next level and he was elected governor of the State.
Today, when Ventura makes television appearances, they rarely reference his days in the ring, instead he’s known as “former governor” Jesse Ventura. Even without the feather boas and dangling ear rings, Ventura may be more notorious in the real world than he ever was in wrestling. An actor, author, politician, and host of his own TV series, Ventura has done well in his post-ring life.
1 Dwayne Johnson
A wrestler making the transition to Hollywood; well that move in itself isn’t unique as we have seen several wrestlers make the jump over the past 50 years or more; however, what has been a pleasant surprise is to see The Rock eclipse the success of every other wrestler to enter the realm of acting. In 2016, Dwayne Johnson was recognized as the highest paid actor of the year, commanding $64 million for some of his latest film projects. Johnson has also successfully shattered the pop culture segregation of pro wrestlers by being voted People Magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” this year, putting him in a class among Hollywood A-listers and other mainstream personalities.
What’s more amazing to consider is that he is still on the ascent of his career and has joked about running for President in 2020. Given his outstanding success in all that he has done to date, he might really have a shot.