Whether it’s fair or not, practically everybody who appears on television will at some point be judged for his or her appearance. While this is especially unfair to actors and musicians, there’s at least a little logic behind fans obsessing over what their favorite athletes look like, due to the link between a person’s body type and athletic performance. Being a mixture of sport and entertainment, it could be argued pro wrestling is the field in which an athlete’s appearance matters most, and for this reason, countless wrestlers have spent hours, if not full days, in the gym ensuring they have the best body possible…whatever that may mean to them personally.
With all that in mind, it should go without saying that giving yourself the body of a Greek god isn’t easy. It can take months or even years to shed the pounds, or gain them, which is necessary for someone trying to increase their muscle mass. Certain wrestlers have been more than willing to put in the work, though, and completely changed their bodies in the process. Going against the grain, other wrestlers ignored this idea and slowly gained weight their entire careers, and their lives often suffered because of it. For better or for worse, keep reading to discover the top 20 wrestlers with the most dramatic physical transformations in sports entertainment history.
20 The Big Show
Although reports of The Big Show being André The Giant’s son were nothing more than kayfabe, the two nonetheless had plenty in common as arguably the most memorable Giants in the business. Well after WWE cleared up his parentage, Big Show continued following André’s general career trajectory, starting his career as a rather slim monster and expanding in actual girth as he dominated in the ring. Big Show was long rumored as having trouble losing weight, and had been chastised over the fact by his bosses on numerous occasions. His lowest point came around 2006, when he was perhaps uncoincidentally released by WWE. Taking that as a wakeup call, Big Show lost over 100 pounds before returning the next year, and he’s been in great shape ever since. In fact, nowadays The Big Show is looking the best he has his entire career, flexing abs for the first time.
Billed as the 9th Wonder of the World, Chyna truly lived up to her reputation as a unique performer, and not just because she was the only female Intercontinental Champion in WWE history. Well before she even wrestled a real match, Chyna was imposing and dominant in a manner no woman in wrestling had ever been before, easily holding her own against men with raw power alone. Unfortunately, Chyna’s unique look also lead to severe insecurities about her own appearance, and thus she received large amounts of plastic surgery during her time in the spotlight. While her physique more or less remained the same, Chyna’s face and chest area never stopped changing. Unsurprisingly, this practice continued when she left wrestling for adult entertainment. For what it’s worth, Chyna seemed happier with her new body than her old one, but it wasn’t enough to prevent her tragic early death.
18 The Rock
Even more so than pro athletes, movie stars are world renowned for obsessing over their looks in order to appease the public. Having made the transition from WWE Champion to the highest paid man in Hollywood, The Rock stands as perhaps the best piece of evidence that actors are more body-conscious than wrestlers. Granted, his muscles have been gradually increasing since he debuted, and fans were already seeing a huge difference by the time Rocky Maivia first became The Rock. Well, after he stopped wrestling with a shirt on, at least, a telling distinction considering wrestlers typically only wear shirts to hide flab. Continuing his nonstop dedication to body improvement, The Rock has only gotten bigger since becoming an action star, his arms looking bigger, veinier, and more leading man-like with each passing film.
17 Blue Meanie/"Blue Boy"
Despite a common misconception that Blue Meanies only take no for an answer, there’s apparently some leeway when the question is, “would you lose 100 pounds in order to date an adult film star?” Granted, the opportunity doesn’t come along often, yet that’s exactly what caused wrestling’s Blue Meanie to rapidly lose weight around the year 2000. Meanie lost so much weight in fact that when he returned to ECW after his brief stint in WWE, he needed to change his entire gimmick, going from an overweight buffoon to a conceited jerk and changing his name to Blue Boy. While one of the most dramatic changes on this list, Meanie’s was unfortunately also one of the shorter lived. Confirming he did it all for the girl, once Meanie’s relationship with Jasmin St. Claire ended, he gained back most of his weight, thus returning to his classic look.
16 Matt Hardy
Sometimes being Broken can be a good thing. Prior to revitalizing himself with his bizarrely eccentric gimmick, Matt Hardy appeared to be caught in a downward spiral, both personally and professionally. The worst of it came around 2010, when Matt last left WWE for the independent scene, and it looked like he had entirely let himself go. While critics/bullies gave him crude and obvious nicknames, Matt himself blamed the weight gain on medical problems, and in any event he was ultimately able to put it off before his latest career resurgence. In addition to shedding the pounds and getting back into shape, Hardy also wildly changed his hair and speech patterns, making his transformations one of the most complete on this list. Whether or not he shouted “DELETE” at his stomach every time he did a sit-up remains confirmed.
15 Eddie Guerrero
Pound for pound, Eddie Guerrero was considered one of the greatest wrestlers on the planet pretty much for the entire duration of his career. Guerrero was rewarded for this reputation by being given championships wherever he went, and yet main event status always eluded him, regardless of what gold he held. To many critics, Guerrero’s sole problem was his size, such to the extent he had been derisively cast off as a “vanilla midget” during his time in WCW. Guerrero finally broke through to the top in WWE, defeating Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship. Though still putting on incredible work in the ring, fans couldn’t help noticing Guerrero’s body was exploding in size, specifically around his arms and shoulders. Despite his success, this made certain insiders seriously worried about Guerrero’s health, and lo and behold, he died of a massive heart attack shortly after his muscles matched his abilities.
14 Ric Flair
With 16 World Championships and global recognition as one of the greatest wrestlers of all time, Ric Flair’s image is one of the most iconic in wrestling. Despite over 40 years in the spotlight, Flair’s look hasn’t changed much, the ravages of time and age notwithstanding. However, things were much different before he became a star, and he actually looked like an entirely different person when his career began. Flair has always claimed he wished to emulate Dusty Rhodes, and he was certainly pulling that off in terms of his body shape. Luckily for everyone involved, Flair soon realized he could do much better as himself, and lost a significant amount of weight while he developed his own persona as The Nature Boy. This once again proves the theory that there are indeed health benefits to styling and profiling.
13 Rey Mysterio, Jr.
From the moment he made his wrestling debut, wrestling fans were saying two things about Rey Mysterio, Jr.—the things he could do in the ring were absolutely amazing, and that he nonetheless looked like a child while doing them. In the beginning, part of the issue was that Mysterio really was young, getting his start at a mere 14 years old. Unfortunately for Mysterio, though, his appearance didn’t much change with age, and he continued to look unusually small even when competing in WCW’s cruiserweight division. Mimicking his best friend Eddie Guerrero, it looked like Mysterio finally find his growth spurt upon debuting in the WWE Universe. The more successful Mysterio became, the more muscular he got, and this hasn’t stopped despite the fact he no longer works for the McMahons. If anything, Mysterio is now bigger than ever before, and some fans are beginning to fear he’s going down Guerrero’s dangerous path.
12 Ahmed Johnson
Look up “flash in the pan” in the WWE dictionary, and you just may find Ahmed Johnson’s face. Wildly popular upon his WWE debut due to his unmatched intensity and impressive physique, Johnson soon became the first black Intercontinental Champion in history. For whatever reason, though, WWE was either unable or unwilling to keep this momentum going, and Johnson gradually slid down the card after losing the title. Before long, Johnson was out of the company entirely, and no one even noticed. When he reappeared in WCW as Big T, people noticed, but few even realized who he was because of the incredible amount of weight he had gained. Gone were the well-defined abs, replaced with a large gut he soon hid behind a singlet. Sadly, it looks like Johnson’s weight has continued ballooning since he left the business, making him almost entirely unrecognizable at fan conventions.
Certain things can only happen in wrestling, like a man known for portraying uncouth savages suddenly becoming a megastar by gaining lots of weight and turning into a hip hop dancer. In fairness, change like that doesn’t exactly happen overnight, and there were many steps on the road from Fatu to The Sultan to Rikishi. It would appear there were also quite a few added meals, as Rikishi’s weight continually ballooned with each gimmick change. Truth be told, Fatu could never be described as skinny, but he was still far slimmer and more agile while tagging with his cousin Samu than he was after joining Too Cool. More tellingly, it’s almost impossible to picture a Headshrinker ever pulling off the Stink Face, arguably the move that will forever go down as Rikishi’s signature.
10 Paul Bearer
Managers don’t exactly follow the same rules as wrestlers when it comes to their body types, but for Paul Bearer, image was almost everything. Impossibly pale, histrionically shrill, and aggressively overweight, Paul Bearer attempted to be visually unappealing in every way possible. That said, Bearer’s earlier gimmick Percy Pringle was a different character entirely, in his own words based on Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, his appearance similarly clean and coiffed. Bearer was also significantly thinner when he was Pringle than when he signed with WWE, seemingly due to his lifelong struggles with weight. In a self-degrading reference to this fact, Bearer regularly called himself “the fat man” during promos, a nickname Jim Ross was occasionally guilty of using, as well. In 2003, WWE paid for Bearer to have gastric bypass surgery, helping him lose a lot of the weight, but his body shape continued to fluctuate until his death.
9 Black Reign / Goldust
And you thought Goldust was bizarre. Dustin Rhodes may have had some embarrassing moments while working for WWE, but nothing comes close to the career low that was Black Reign, a character portrayed in TNA from 2007 through 2008. While some fans were aware Rhodes was struggling with drugs and alcohol around this time, no one could have predicted just how bloated and out-of-shape he would look when the dark character made it’s debut. This was especially troubling considering the Black Reign outfit covered Rhodes’s entire body, and the weight gain was still shockingly unavoidable. Rhodes’s in ring work suffered a harsh downslide at this point, as well, and his personal life was no picnic, either. Luckily, WWE offered to pay for Rhodes to go to rehab after he left TNA, and he has been in good shape, and good health, ever since.
8 Ivan Putski
Back before WWE had twice as many championships as TV shows (and they’ve got a bunch of TV shows), wrestlers didn’t need to win much gold to become famous. For example, take Ivan Putski, who’s sole title win in WWE was a Tag Team Championship reign with Tito Santana, but still managed to become one of the most popular wrestlers in the company. Putski was already pretty well liked-prior to jumping to WWE, yet he also looked like an entirely different person. ‘80s wrestling fans probably remember Putski for appearing in seemingly hundreds of pose-downs, but that never could have happened in the AWA, where he appeared oafish and surprisingly overweight. That said, Putski already had huge arms, and one could easily see how he could transform into his more famous body shape by taking the attention he put on his arms and placing it on his entire body.
7 The Big Boss Man
Two years before Law & Order took the TV world by storm, WWE already had the concept covered with The Big Boss Man. Representing the worst stereotypes about police officers and prison guards, Ray Traylor portrayed the character as abusive and uncaring, and it didn’t help that he was pretty overweight when his time in the uniform began. Although his weight slightly helped his persona, Boss Man was aware it also hurt his in-ring performances, and thus he rapidly shed the pounds in the late-‘80s as his WWE career was taking off. It was fine for him to be overweight in the NWA as bodyguard Big Bubba Rogers, but a main event run meant slimming down, something he was more than willing to do. Proving he was in it for the long haul, Boss Man kept his weight off even as he fell back down the card, never falling back on old habits.
6 André The Giant
Recruited to the pro wrestling industry while already one of the world’s largest farmers, André The Giant’s size was always immense and noteworthy. What younger fans may not realize, however, is that while André was obviously always quite tall, his girth gradually expanded over the course of his career. In the beginning, it could be said André was downright svelte, especially during his earliest appearances as Géant Ferré and Monster Roussimoff. André started putting on some bulk when he came to America, the downside being he became less agile in the ring as his size increased. Believe it or not, André once did dropkicks regularly and climbed the top rope, something he could no longer do safely as his gut started to develop. On the other hand, being physically bigger made André an even bigger star, because it looked even more unlikely he could ever be defeated.
5 Bully Ray
With the way his many brothers abused him in ECW, it should be no surprise that Bubba Ray Dudley eventually turned into quite the bully. Taking the name literally, he rebranded himself as Bully Ray in TNA, and took the new gimmick all he way to two reigns as World Champion. While Bubba was already internationally recognized as one of the best tag team wrestlers in the world, the change in appearance was nonetheless vital to him getting accepted as a solo star. When he dropped D-Von as his partner, Bully Ray suddenly needed to do twice the work, and he may not have had the stamina to do so if he hadn’t lost a good deal of weight. Granted, Bubba had been gradually shedding pounds ever since signing with WWE, only truly appearing overweight during his early days in ECW.
4 Captain Lou Albano
When a wrestler makes the decision to become a manager, they also need to decide if and how to change their character to match the move. As one of the most iconic managers in WWE history, Captain Lou Albano may well have set this trend, even though he only spent a few short years in the ring. Granted, Albano didn’t exactly change his appearance the second he became a manager, although he did begin the process by gradually appearing more and more disheveled. Before long, his weight started to balloon significantly, a fact he practically reveled in by wearing shirts to accentuate his always-bloated gut. Albano dug into his image as a fat slob by eating on camera and generally looking homeless, making him all the more vile to the ‘80s WWE announcers. By the time he retired, Albano started losing some of the weight, furthering the idea he purposely got fat to aid his character.
3 Mr. Hughes
Some people will do whatever it takes to be near the World Champion, and for Mr. Hughes, that meant earning a reputation as a perennial bodyguard to whoever held the gold. Hughes initially protected Lex Luger in WCW, then jumped to ECW to guard Shane Douglas, in the interim taking a different kind of gold by stealing The Undertaker’s urn. Despite the company he kept, Hughes never quite became a big name himself, more or less fading away after his ECW run ended. When Hughes reappeared to shield Chris Jericho in the late ‘90s, he had lost a considerable amount of weight, a far cry from the terrifying tank he once was. That isn’t to say Hughes didn’t still look intimidating, though, as few people could make sunglasses look so menacing, regardless of their size.
2 Adrian Adonis
While several of the wrestlers on this list for negative reasons suffered for it, none were punished quite like Adrian Adonis. Prior to signing with WWE, Adonis was known as a tough New York biker, decked head-to-toe in leather and ready to beat the crap out of anyone who mocked him for it. Adonis initially maintained this persona in WWE, winning the Tag Team Championships with Dick Murdoch, but his career hit a snag when they lost the belts and he started gaining weight. Around this same time, Adonis dropped the leather in favor of new pink gear, opened up a flower shop, and started calling himself “Adorable.” Insulting and demeaning as it was, the one upside is that the gimmick got seriously over, giving Adonis the highest profile of his career. Unfortunately, though, it wasn’t meant to last, as he was soon fired by WWE despite his growing infamy.
1 Scott Steiner
With a shout-out to the freaks who stare at his peaks, Scott Steiner is number one with a bullet in terms of a change in appearance forever altering a pro wrestler’s career path. Throughout the 1990s, Scott and his brother Rick dominated absolutely every noteworthy wrestling promotion around, and in all fairness, they looked pretty buff while doing so. Even so, no one could have predicted how gigantic Steiner’s arms would become when he and Rick split, perhaps because no one would have believed a physique like his was even possible. At first, Scott had one or two veins visible in his arm, and by the end, his whole upper body was covered in lumps and bulges, all caused by his ridiculous muscles. The most shocking part was how quickly it happened, with the Steiner Brother turning into Big Poppa Pump almost overnight.