With a billion dollar company in his grasp, Vince McMahon has a lot of employees underneath his feet. Most of his employees have never stepped foot in a ring and you shouldn’t be surprised about it. From the production crew to the executive officers and senior managers, most, if not all the employees never had a wrestling match in their life.
That doesn’t mean Vince never hires former wrestlers. Many of our beloved wrestlers have traded their trunks in for a suit. WWE hires former wrestlers as producers, trainers, road agents, or on-air personality talents. You may know some of them, such as Arn Anderson (Producer), Lex Luger (Wellness Counselor), and Road Dogg (lead Producer for SmackDown Live!).
This list is about employees you may never have thought were professional wrestlers at one point in their lives. For some, it’s been decades since they last strapped on boots and worked in a ring, for others, it’s only been a few years. Some of these employees have been top guys for a promotion while others never amounted to anything more than a mid-card in some high school gym. Each employee broke their tails trying to be wrestlers and although they aren’t today, that hard work has paid off as they work for the biggest promotion of them all. Enjoy!
15 John Laurinaitis
Most wrestling fans falling into the older generations category probably know about John Laurinaitis’ career as a wrestler, however, his real claim to fame in the WWE Universe came as an authority figure for the WWE. Since being hired by the company in 2001, Laurinaitis name would spring up every once in a while, however, his name wasn’t circulating until CM Punk’s infamous “pipe bomb.” Punk would describe him as “glad-handing, nonsensical, d**che bag yes-man.”
Before working backstage for WWE, Laurinaitis had spent years earning his merit in Japan for All Japan Pro Wrestling. He would make his wrestling debut in 1986 as Johnny Ace and eventually became the creator of one of the greatest moves in the business, the cutter. His best years came in the mid-1990s when he was battling Steve Williams in five-star matches rated by Wrestling Observer Newsletter.
14 Steve Keirn
Steve Keirn is another example of a former wrestler that had a small impact in the ring but a larger one outside of it. He would make his professional debut in 1972 and become known as one half of The Fabulous Ones. Working mostly in the southern territories throughout his career, Keirn would bring his services to the WWE in 1991.
You may remember him jobbing as Skinner or Doink the Clown. After leaving the company in 1993, Keirn wouldn’t come back to the WWE until 2011, where he’s been heavily involved behind the scenes ever since. He was the original President of FCW, WWE’s development organization before NXT, and now works as a trainer for the brand. Keirn’s coaching dates back to the 1980s, where he trained talents such as Diamond Dallas Page, Dustin Rhodes, and Mike Awesome.
13 Paul Ellering
Paul Ellering has had a storied career as a manager in professional wrestling. Arguably his biggest impact in the industry came as the mouthpiece for the Legion of Doom, also known as The Road Warriors, from 1981 to 1997. Throughout those years, the three would work for several promotions, including American Wrestling Association, NJPW, and WWE.
Before becoming an iconic manager, Ellering was a successful powerlifter in the 1970s. He would train to become a wrestler at a Minnesota camp ran by the promoter of AWA, Verne Gange. Ellering would end up feuding with legends such as Jerry Lawler and Jimmy Valiant before hanging up the shoes due to a knee injury in 1982. Although his career as a wrestler ended, it opened up the door as a historic managing career.
12 Robbie Brookside
Liverpool might be known as the birthplace of The Beatles, but when it comes to professional wrestling, it’s the birthplace of Robbie Brookside. Brookside would make his debut in 1984 and quickly was spotted by the biggest promotion in England at the time, All-Star Wrestling. He would eventually become a champion for several promotions in Europe.
He also became part of a famous tag team with Doc Dean called The Liverpool Lads. His first taste of wrestling in the states came in 1997 as a member of WCW. Although he was regulated to jobber duties, he did have a WCW Cruiserweight Title match with Dean Malenko that lasted almost three minutes. Brookside would retire in 2013 and became a full-time scout for the WWE. Today, he works as a trainer for WWE’s performance center.
11 Adam Pearce
Masked Spymaster II, El Hijo de Matt Classic, and Tommy Lee Ridgeway are just some of the names Adam Pearce went by as a professional wrestler. A few weeks after graduating from high school in 1996, Pearce would make his wrestling debut. Although very young and inexperienced, the WWE would use him as a jobber several times from 1997 to 2000.
As the world moved into a new century and decade, Pearce would make a name for himself on the California indie circuit. His hard work would earn him a spot in Ring of Honor, National Wrestling Alliance, and New Japan Pro Wrestling. Pearce would retire in 2014 and already had worked with the WWE as a guest coach by that time. In 2015, he would sign a full-time contract as an NXT trainer with the WWE and has worked his way up to a Producer role.
10 Johnny Moss
Hailing from England, Johnny Moss would be trained by Andre Baker in 1998. His first match would be for the National Wrestling Alliance the following year. Mostly known on the English indie circuit, Moss would dazzle fans with excellent technical skills on the mat. Known as “The Vigilante,” he has worked for promotions such as Premier British Wrestling, Insane Championship Wrestling and Pro Wrestling Elite.
Not only does Moss work as a trainer for NXT, he still performs on the indie circuit and has founded his own wrestling school. Moss is a perfect example of an individual that never had a massive contract or match but still leaves a mark in the industry. Maybe a trainer versus student in NXT could be a booking down the road but until then - Moss is going to keep working his tail off behind the scenes.
9 Jessika Heiser
Anyone watch WWE’s Mae Young Classic and notice the female referee? Going by Jessika Carr in the WWE, the talented lady was mixing it up in the ring as a wrestler before signing a development deal with the company. In 2012, Heiser would start training at Gillberg’s (Yes, that Gillberg) Academy of Professional Wrestling. Not only did Duane Gillberg train her but also the newly inducted Hall of Famers, The Dudley Boys.
She would go by ring names Jessie Kaye and Kennadi Brink during her tenure as a wrestler. At 26 years old, Heiser had worked for some of the best indie promotions in the country. Her time in the ring and being trained by a few legends have given her the tools to become the most recognizable female referee in the history of the industry.
8 Scott Armstrong
Debuting in the industry in 1983, Scott Armstrong would become a household name in the Georgia and Alabama territories. As a second generation wrestler, Scott would be trained by his father, Bob, and would form a team with his brother, Steve, called The James Boys. He would work in several promotions in the south, including Jim Crockett Promotions.
From 1992 to 2001, Armstrong would be a familiar face in WCW but never won a title for the company. You may have also remembered him as Dixie Dy-no-mite in Smoky Mountain Wrestling. After retiring as a wrestler, Armstrong would work as a referee. He would be a fixture in the WWE from 2006 to early 2010 and then would return in February of 2011. Currently, Armstrong is listed as one of WWE’s Producers.
7 Robert Evans
Hailing from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, Robert Evans made his wrestling debut in 2001. Some of the names he went by were The Mysterious and Handsome, Stranger, Archibald Peck, and R.D. Evans. For almost a decade, Evans would work the Texas indie circuit but got a big break when Ring of Honor gave him a deal in 2010. Considered one of the funniest wrestlers of his generation, Evan’s charisma would illuminate an entire venue.
Clever and creative, Evans didn’t disappoint in the entertainment category. A good wrestler with excellent mic skills can get you far in this industry and Evans is a perfect example. His comedic and out-of-the-box thinking landed him a creative gig with the WWE in 2016. If you ever laugh at a segment on Raw, Evans is most likely is behind it.
6 Drake Younger
We’ve heard stories about our favorite Superstars going to a huge event and becoming inspired to work in the industry. Drake Younger is one of those people. Younger would attend WrestleMania VIII and become hooked on professional wrestling. In 2001, he would make his debut as a professional wrestler and live out his dream. He was more on the hardcore side and worked for promotions such as Insanity Pro Wrestling and Combat Zone Wrestling (Hall of Famer).
Before signing with the WWE in 2013, Younger would help Pro Wrestling Guerrilla become one of the hottest attractions in indie wrestling. Although WWE signed Younger as a wrestler, he would quickly transition into a referee. Although he won’t be able to perform at WrestleMania as a wrestler, he could be there as a referee, an accomplishment in its own.
5 Mickey Keegan
The Massachusetts native would make his wrestling debut in 2005 for Chaotic Wrestling. His wrestling career would be cut short due to his spinal stenosis in 2013. The decision to leave the ring would open up a door as a creative assistant for the NXT brand. His hard work would pay off and he earned a writing position at Full Sail University.
Keegan would become a popular star on around the northeast indie circuit. He would make a real mark on the industry as a member of New England Championship. WWE took notice and would offer him a development deal in 2012. NXT has been on fire and although Triple H deserves a ton of credit, guys like Keegan also deserve a pat on the back.
4 Ryan Katz
Better known as GQ Money in his wrestling days, Ryan Smiley Katz made his professional wrestling debut in 1999. Trained by Dan Magnus and Bobby Black, Katz would make a big impact in Xtreme Pro Wrestling. The guy was hardcore to the bone and even was tossed off a 30-foot tower during his time with the promotion. WWE would him hire for several positions in the last decade.
He would work in a motion-capture suit for WWE’s video games WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2007 and WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011. In 2012, you may have noticed him as the talent in the “anger management class” involving Kane and Daniel Bryan. WWE would officially hire Katz as a Creative Producer in 2015. Outside the WWE, Katz runs his own performance center called The Fit Pit Pro Wrestling School in California.
3 Darryl Sharma
Born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in 1984, Sharma would become a professional wrestler in 2002. He would train under wrestlers such as Negro Casas, Notorious T.I.D., and Yuki Ishikawa. Some of the promotions he worked for over the years include Dragon Gate, All-Star Wrestling, CMLL, ROH, Chikara, and All Pro Wrestling. WWE would hire Sharma in 2014 as a Rosebud in the Exotic Express but it would be short-lived.
In 2016, WWE would once again hire Sharma, but this time as a referee in NXT. That same year, Sharma would officially retire as a professional wrestling. He’s becoming a fixture on NXT and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Outside of wrestling, Sharma founded his own construction company, which has become a success. His love for wrestling keeps him out of the ring instead of in it apparently.
2 Ryan Tran
Born in Malaysia, Ryan Tran would come to the United States during his childhood in the 1980s and eventually live out his American dream. He grew up as a super fan of Ricky Steamboat and wanted nothing more than to be a professional wrestler. Tran would take the right steps and actually had the legend, Harley Race personally train him.
He would make his professional wrestling debut in 2002 and go by several names, such as Bonzai, Bruce Bukakake, Bao Nguyen, and Bonzai Bruce. Although he never made it big as a wrestler, he did have a match against Tyson Kidd on ECW. Tran would switch over to referring in 2010 and would be signed by the WWE. He would make his debut in NXT and has worked his way up both Raw and SmackDown Live.
1 Sebastian Hackl
Usually, during a women’s match on a WWE PPV, the company likes to let the fans know they’re a global brand. They roll out the camera and allow each international broadcasting team to say something. WWE fans may be familiar with former wrestlers like Funaki (Japan) and Raymond Rougeau (French Canadian) - but do they know about Sebastian Hackl? Born and raised in Germany, Hackl broke into the industry after being trained by the greatest dancer in wrestling, Alex Wright.
He performed for Wright’s promotion, New European Championship Wrestling, as well as other European promotions before dedicating his time to broadcasting. Usually seen on PPVs, Hackl also commentates on SmackDown Live episodes for ProSieben Maxx and can be heard on Raw occasionally. If any international broadcaster was going to take a bump like Michael Cole, count Hackl in.