Since the inception of professional wrestling, the sport has continued to appeal to a wide, mainstream audience, with loyal fans tuning in on a weekly basis to see their favorite superstars perform outrageous feats in the ring.
The athletic capabilities of some of these mass monsters have captured the audience’s imagination and has led to various wrestling entertainment companies like WWE to have their events watched by millions worldwide. But why, over time, have the viewer ratings continued to get exponentially bigger? How has the chief and owner of the company, Vince McMahon, seen his net worth climb to over $1bn USD? Is it because of his marketing and promotional skills? This, of course, has some part to play, but the success of the sport has to be attributed to the athletes themselves.
Who can forget the golden era of the sport in the mid-to-late 1990s, a time when ratings were through the roof. Hulkamania was simmering down, and superstars such as the Rock, The Undertaker and Stone Cold Steve Austin were beginning to make names for themselves and stir up fan-frenzy.
But where are these legends of the sport today? From acting to philanthropy, check out this article and see how some of your favorite stars have spent their time post-wrestling.
15 Stone Cold Steve Austin
Austin, a megastar of the so-called golden era of wrestling in the 1990s, became a poster boy of the Attitude Era, a box office prowess. His achievements in the ring – too much to list here – earned him a legends contract, during a period which saw his popularity surpass that of Hulk Hogan. Austin headlined all the pay-per-view events, achieved legendary status in the sport, and certainly thrived during his time in the limelight.
So what does a man with Austin’s credential do once ring rust has well and truly set in? Stay in front of the cameras, in front of the screaming fans and use his celebrity status to his advantage, that’s what. This means films, and lots of them. Austin dabbled in the movie industry when he was still contracted with WWE, but after his retirement, he’s gone on to star in 14 movies, acting with the likes of Sylvester Stallone and Salma Hayek – topping the box office in yet another industry. Additionally, Austin stars in two hit TV shows for CMT, hosts a weekly podcast, and has started to brew his own beer; he hasn't slowed down one bit.
14 Torrie Wilson
With her all-American good looks, beauty, charm and charisma, Wilson had the skills to back up her beauty. Women like Torrie faced a turbulent time when they first entered the world of professional wrestling. It was once a very sexist place, a male-dominated environment, so any woman who got through these tough times and got out the other side with their heads held high deserve a mention. Despite never holding the Women’s Championship, Wilson still makes this list as she’s certainly one of the most well-known divas to have graced the ring – one of the most desired and impacting wrestlers during her period in WWE.
In her time away from the wrestling, modelling, acting and competing in fitness competitions have kept her busy. In terms of her modelling credentials, she’s perhaps most well-known for appearing as a cover model in the popular lad’s mags FHM and Playboy - appearances which gained her a whole heap of new admirers.
13 Hulk Hogan
Hulkamania gripped the sport of wrestling when this all-American hero was at his peak. He was arguably the sole person responsible for getting millions of fans into the sport, as well as many other wrestlers who aimed to get their hands on similar fame and fortune and follow in the Hulk’s footsteps. Even when the Hulk retired after three decades in the sport, he was always affiliated with wrestling in some capacity.
Whether it’s attending shows, managing, promoting, making guest appearances, the Hulk is never too far away from the ring. But off the back of his success as a wrestler, he’s had numerous other business ventures that have kept the money rolling. He’s got restaurants, energy drinks, and has endorsed pretty much every type of product under the sun, and has also made a successful transition into TV and the film industry. Obviously Hogan went through a bit of a scandal recently, but after winning his privacy lawsuit, Hogan looks to reclaim his squeaky clean image that he lost a few years back.
12 Trish Stratus
The seven-time women’s champion was certainly one of the most highly-renowned divas in WWE. A Hall of Famer, Stratus made a huge impact in the world of women’s wrestling during her seven-year career. She entered the ring at a time when WWE was in the spotlight for objectifying women - Bra and Panties matches were commonplace and derogatory comments being made towards the divas were part and parcel of a showcase event.
Nevertheless, Stratus left the sport with her head held high and post-wrestling, has been actively involved with other aspects of the media. She’s had roles in films and has made numerous TV appearances, but the thing that takes up most of her time is her yoga studio, named Stratusphere, in Ontario, Canada. Renowned for being Canada's largest eco-friendly yoga studio, she’s received numerous business awards since its inception, proving once more that hard work and dedication really do pay off.
11 The Great Khali
You may be wondering why Khali is included on this list, and the answer is that the giant is literally one of the biggest Indian stars in the world. After 14 years in the sport, and with a World Heavyweight Title under his belt, Khali entered the ring as a giant – his ring name was initially "Giant Singh" – and left as an absolutely colossal figure. Khali may not have been inducted into the Hall of Fame or achieved a legend’s contract or anything like that, but he’s certainly accomplished a lot since stepped into the ring – literally and in terms of his accomplishments.
But what’s this mass monster, this giant of a man, up to these days? After his contract expired in 2014, Khali opened his own wrestling school in his home state of Punjab, India, in order to give something back to the country which has adored him through his trials and tribulations. He’s also appeared in a number of films, a couple in Hollywood and the others in Bollywood – an industry into which he walked and instantly achieved stardom.
Although his contract has expired, Dave Batista has not officially retired from the sport, though he did turn down an offer to return to WWE. The six-time world champion wants any possible return to the ring to mean something, but in the meantime, his other pursuits have been keeping him busy.
Fighting is still in the man’s blood, so naturally, like many wrestlers have done, he made the switch to MMA. However, due to the disintegration of contract negotiations, his MMA record remains at 1-0, and he hasn’t fought since 2012 – perhaps wanting to keep his 100%-win record intact. Also, like many of his former wrestling colleagues, the movie industry came calling, and Batista made full use of this opportunity and has appeared in over 18 movies and TV shows to date, not to mention numerous commercials, his endorsement contracts and his biographical DVD released through WWE Productions. Batista is doing quite well for himself, securing a role in two major Hollywood franchises: Guardians of the Galaxy, and James Bond.
9 Diamond Dallas Page
After a wrestling career that spanned two decades, Diamond Dallas Page certainly endeared himself to plenty of people while in the ring, but today he’s having the same effect with his other ventures.
WWE aside – he still makes sporadic appearances – it’s his development of DDP Yoga that many would argue is probably his greatest achievement – something he holds close to his heart. You may think what’s the big deal, many celebrities have their own yoga programs, right? True, but DDP Yoga has been a life changer for many people. There are countless stories of remarkable people, including overweight individuals and disabled war veterans, who have gotten their lives back on track – lost weight and have regained the ability to walk – through the DDP program. Wrestling legends like Scott Hall and Jake Roberts were able to clean their lives up by following the program, so that also allows DDP Yoga to hold a spot in wrestling fans' hearts. So that’s what’s keeping DDP busy these days, as it should – a truly great initiative that has touched the lives of many throughout the world.
8 Stacy Keibler
Stacy Keibler entered the ring a girl, just 19-years-old at the time, and six years later, left a woman, having emerged victorious in what must have been a baptism of fire as such a young competitor.
Although Stacy will be known by many for her exploits in the ring, it’s her accomplishments away from wrestling that have taken her onto the world stage. Yes, many wrestlers do get into movies once they say goodbye to WWE, but not many do so in the capacity with which Stacy has done it. She has been knocking out films and TV appearances at least a couple of times a year - a vast and varied filmography that comprises of roles in How I Met Your Mother and The George Lopez Show. Fitness is also something that Stacy takes very seriously. She was once the Fitness Editor at Stuff magazine and had her own column. She’s an ex-diva who certainly has brains as well as beauty!
Edge is an educated man – no wonder he’s had no problems adjusting to life outside the ring. As one of the most decorated professional wrestlers of all time, walking away from a sport in which he’d won 31 championships must have been hard, but with solid roles in movies and TV shows to fall back on, finding something to fill the time was always going to be relatively easy.
His acting career took off due to his role in the Highlander: Endgame, after which he’s had varied roles, his most notable one being in the SyFy show Haven, a series in which he’s regularly called upon clean up trouble. His show with Christian, The Edge and Christian Show, took him back to WWE and has been a tremendous hit, discussing various topics and giving Edge a chance to show the comedic side to his personality – a far cry from his methods of destruction in the ring.
6 Ric Flair
Sixteen-time world champion Ric Flair also has numerous other titles under his belt during a career that spanned a remarkable four decades. We could write a whole article on Flair’s accomplishments, so for the purpose of this list, lets get straight onto his life after wrestling.
His feature film debut, Magic Mike XXL, was a huge success and he’s also made numerous cameo appearances in television shows. Aside from TV, Flair has dabbled in politics and at one stage even contemplated running for governor of North Carolina, but nothing materialized. It's unfortunate that he did not pursue that, since you could bet your bottom dollar that this authority figure would have had a successful career in that area as well.
Flair has simmered down from his so-called dirty in-ring antics and today enjoys a more laid-back lifestyle, well-deserved at the age of 67, having spent over half of his life in the ring. Although Flair made a brief comeback to the WWE in 2016 with his daughter Charlotte, the former champion has no plans to return to the ring full-time.
5 Jesse Ventura
Jessse Ventura was forced to retire from the ring early in the 80s due to a blood clot, but Vince McMahon kept him on as a color commentator for many years. Ventura's outspoken nature eventually led him to a career in politics and a successful one at that. In his homestate of Minnesota, Ventura ran for governor in 1998 and won. Ventura held that post for several years and unsurprisingly, wasn't exactly a run-of-the-mill governor. He oversaw the reforms of property taxes in Minnesota and also introduced the states first sales tax rebate. He would resign from his post in 2003 once his four-year term expired.
Ventura has continued to be outspoken regarding politics and hasn't ruled out eventually running for office again. He was toying with running for president earlier this year, but nothing came to fruition. We'll have to settle for his opinions.
Bill Goldberg was – and still is – a superstar. Although he no longer graces the ring, he’s associated with various sports and has tried his hand at plenty of things, before and after his retirement from WWE. A former professional footballer, technically a semi-retired professional wrestler, and an MMA commentator, Goldberg is a sports nut and you’ll never see his face too far away from a main event. He currently still makes his presence felt– he makes sporadic appearances in Legends of Wrestling shows, but today he’s most renowned for his acting prowess. Yes, acting – see a familiar pattern here?
Most former WWE stars have found careers in front of the camera after exiting the ring, but for Goldberg, this isn’t just a pastime. He’s a serious actor and has been acting for over two decades, and you’ve most probably seen him make appearances in one of your favorite TV shows or movies.
3 Ricky Steamboat
As a Hall of Fame inductee, Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat was a much loved character in the ring during his heyday. He’s fought in pretty much all the major wrestling promotions, including AWA, NWA, WCW and WWE, and has a wrestling résumé to rival the best in the business.
But what’s the Dragon been doing since he waved sayonara to the ring in 2009? He first started out working in the talent relations department as a trainer, using his expertise to train up-and-coming wrestlers, including his son. When his son was released, Ricky decided to go with him, but later took up a role as an ambassador – a role he still holds to this day. After spending over three decades in the ring, it would be difficult to walk away from wrestling entirely. Ricky spends his time as an ambassador and also holds a Legends contract – travelling the world signing autographs may be a far cry away from life in the ring, but it’s still a great gig.
2 Mick Foley
Author, comedian, color commentator, actor and voice actor, this four-time world champion has plenty of strings to his bow and therefore had no problem keeping busy when he walked away from the main stage and draw of WWE. He still appears sporadically in the independent circuit, but what you might not know, judging Foley purely on his in-ring persona, is that he’s a best-selling author – a multi-time New York Times bestselling author -- quite a contrast from his wild days in the ring. Among his published works are memoirs, children’s fiction and contemporary fiction – check out his works if you’re a bit of a bookworm.
In addition to his literary works, Foley also boasts an impressive filmography – of course he would, he’s a wrestler after all, right?
But his charitable work, which revolves around children, is what keeps his days busy. Make-a-Wish Foundation and ChildFund International have benefited immensely from his contributions and he remains an avid philanthropist.
1 The Rock
If you want to talk about a wrestler who has found success outside of the ring, the conversation starts with The Rock. The man has become the biggest action star in Hollywood. He's even more popular than when he was wrestling full-time. The Rock accomplished pretty much everything there was to do in wrestling by 30 years old and thus pursued another dream of his, of being a movie star.
His dreams have all come true, as Dwayne Johnson is the wealthiest pro wrestler of all time and even at 44 years old, his career is booming. He will be one of Hollywood's biggest stars for a long time and he's the epitome of what everybody dreams of being. He's been a full-time actor for nearly 15 years now and the jobs keep piling up. Perhaps the only thing missing from his list of accomplishments is an Oscar, but let's face it; The Rock's movies aren't exactly the kind that do well at the Academy Awards.
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