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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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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