We’re all suckers for a good transformation story. In the world of sports entertainment, transformations are common ground, especially due to the fact that performers take on gimmicks requiring different looks. In this article, we explore 20 wrestlers that looked unrecognizable when breaking into the business. We’ll feature side-by-side photos that truly show how much these WWE stars have changed in the last couple of years. For the most part, the 20 on the list have changed for the better. However, we do have a couple of instances of wrestlers going from a lean body type, to a, let’s just say “thicker look”.
From NXT to the main roster, we explore 20 Superstars and what they looked like then compared to now. Get ready to see the likes of Braun Strowman during his teens along with Elias looking like Damien Sandow’s long lost brother before his WWE days. These are some of the craziest transformation stories within the current rosters.
Enjoy folks and like always, be sure to pass the article along to a friend. Without further ado, here are 20 WWE Superstars that transformed into different people. Ring the bell and let’s begin!
Why does young Elias look like Damien Sandow? Okay, we digress, but seriously, let’s applaud the guy for his long road to the top. This is the same dude that started off with the gimmick name of Heavy Metal Jesus... like for real. Elias always had the goal to make it with the WWE, in fact, the 30 year old underwent three failed tryouts with the company. Making matters worse, he paid $1, 000 a pop during his failed trials. To his credit, he took the rejection in a mature manner – with numerous WWE coaches on hand he was at the very least able to pick a couple of brains.
His look filled out significantly and he appeared tailor made for the main roster. Triple H anticipated more success on Raw as opposed to NXT and that's exactly what has happened. Elias went from a lower to mid carder with NXT to working the upper card on the main roster with the likes of Cena, Rollins and Strowman.
19 Corey Graves
Sterling James Keenan. Who’s that, you ask? Well, that’s the name Graves initially used out on the indie circuit when he was aspiring to make it with the WWE. He got a taste of the company early on serving as an extra on a couple of instances. By then, his unrecognizable long hair was gone. His prior look had him better suited for tag team work alongside Heavy Metal Jesus...
Graves would join the WWE in 2011. A hilarious story unveiled by Corey saw him admit that the WWE made a mistake in hiring his brother, they wanted Corey instead – he was released after a couple months only for Graves to join. Both missed out on being with the company together in what was a bitter sweet moment. Concussion issues forced Graves out of the ring but he’s found his true calling as the voice of both Raw and SmackDown Live.
18 Becky Lynch
Becky’s a big time role model to look at especially for those following a dream. Lynch started as a teen training to become a wrestler back in 2002. After a couple of years on the indies, Lynch put her career on the backburner and started working as a flight attendant instead. Wisely, she returned to pro wrestling eventually and in 2013, Lynch earned the opportunity of a lifetime signing with the WWE’s new developmental brand at the time, NXT.
Her story is truly something, especially when you look at the physical changes comparing the Lynch of then to the Lynch of now. Today, Becky looks like an absolutely unique standout star – something that eluded her early on. Age 31, the former Women’s Champion is only scratching the surface at this point.
17 Jinder Mahal
Looking thin and nothing like the current Mahal, Jinder was a different human back when he signed his first WWE deal. He looks like one of the Singh brothers and nothing like a former WWE Champion. Mahal lucked out on earning a WWE deal as he took part in a tryout and was signed based off his height and heelish look alone. His first run with the company was disastrous and it ended with a release everyone saw coming.
Mahal turned to alcohol and his physique worsened. When Jinder stopped feeling sorry for himself everything changed. He completely altered his look and was resigned by the WWE. Physically, he’s got one of the best looks in the entire WWE, something that was a dream just years prior.
16 Sasha Banks
Before the WWE, Banks used the moniker Mercedes KV. Looking at photos of Sasha in the past, she looked like a wrestler that the current Boss would absolutely devour and mock inside of the squared circle. Sasha was extremely young during her pro wrestling debut back in 2010, she entered the ring at 18 and started to train at just 16.
Sasha has morphed into a different human. Still very young at 26, Sasha looks like an absolute standout star - she just has that noticeable star quality you can’t teach. It also helps that she works her tail off inside of the squared circle, her Royal Rumble performance just showed how great she truly is entering at number one and staying till the very end.
15 Big Cass
As you can see above, Big Cass looked more like Big Baby Face Cass back in the day when he made his FCW debut with the WWE’s former developmental brand. He went by the name of Colin Cassady during his first run and although he had some significant height, his physique wasn’t even close to what it is today. Cass was also told he would never make it with such a look – not only did he prove the doubters wrong but he managed to completely alter his physique. As seen on WWE’s Breaking Ground, it took a lot of calories to get there such as consuming a steak every single morning, yes morning never mind supper.
Currently out with an injury, we can expect the 30 year old to be in the best shape of his life once he returns to the company.
14 Braun Strowman
The majority of people on this list look unrecognizable while they were still in the business. The photos feature wrestlers breaking into the business and looking unrecognizable, however, for Strowman, he took to wrestling a lot later in his life.
The picture above is from his teen days when he was already over six feet tall. Braun worked a normal job early on for a security company. His life would change when he was approached to take part in strong man competition due to his size. Braun would completely change paths, practicing for the competitions and downing between 10,000 to 20,000 calories a day! Putting things into perspective, he eats less than half of that nowadays. The training and diet transformed his physique and due to his charisma and personality, Braun caught the eye of the WWE. He got himself a tryout and as they say, the rest is history.
13 Drew McIntyre
This before and after pic is truly hilarious - in truth, McIntyre of today looks like he can pass as the dad of the McIntyre that made his pro wrestling debut back in the early 2000s. Drew started training for wrestling at a very young age, by 15 he was already running the ropes back in the UK. He caught the attention of the WWE in 2007 - at just 22, he was already regarded as a massive prospect.
His physique hadn’t filled out and neither did his WWE potential during the first run. In a move that benefited both sides, Drew left the company and resurfaced his name out on the indies competing for almost every promotion that wasn’t WWE. His work and improved look caught the attention of the WWE and he resigned just last year. Already a former NXT Champion, he’s main roster bound at some point in 2018.
12 Luke Harper
Yes, Luke Harper has aged significantly, he’s the poster boy for this type of article looking like a completely different person nowadays compared to his time spent with the likes of Chikara back in the early 2000s.
Now 38, Harper is a well traveled veteran and that’s an understatement. The dude has a wealth of experience running the ropes with the likes of ROH, Evolve and Dragon – before his time with the WWE. He signed on with the company in 2012 as a member of the Wyatt family, it was at that point that his look started to change significantly. Age 38, he does look a lot older nowadays but his in-ring work hasn’t suffered from it in the slightest – lots of tag team work has kept him young.
11 Tony Nese
Old Tony Nese, aka Matt Maverick (his old gimmick name from the photo above) kind of resembled Finn Balor in terms of his physique. He was extremely lean but more of a skinny body type. Man how times have changed, nowadays, the 32 year old has filled out the same physique from years past and let’s just say he went from looking like Finn Balor to the Masterpiece Chris Masters. That’s the perks of training for quite some time, the more you go, the more muscle you build.
The 32 year old began way back in 2005 wrestling locally in the New York area. He caught the opportunity of a lifetime joining the Cruiserweight Classic. His performance was noteworthy as he dazzled the Full Sail faithful with his tremendous athleticism. He signed a deal with the company and is now one of the most utilized performers on the 205 Live brand.
10 Ruby Riott
Speaking of women from NXT, let’s now turn to Ruby Riott, a current member of the SmackDown Live brand. Unlike most women, Riott endured a short-run with the developmental brand as the WWE looked into adding females on both rosters. With such a wealth of experience, calling Riott up was an easy decision.
The Michigan native made her debut back in 2012 as Dori Prange. The unrecognizable photo of Riott was taken during her days with Beyond Wrestling not that long ago in 2014. She supported a different look with a shorter head of hair. Nowadays, you can clearly see she’s supporting a longer look. Age 27, Riott’s hitting her professional prime but still has so much to prove on the main roster. She’s only scratching the surface over on SmackDown Live.
9 Aleister Black
For the majority of his career, Black was actually known as Tommy End. He would change names once inked to a developmental deal. Surprisingly, Black was a tag team wrestler for the most part during his time away from the WWE. Changing his look drastically helped to turn the Superstar into a solo standout performer. The 32 year old is now considered to be the new face of NXT with Cien Almas set to join the main roster very soon.
We can expect Black likely to be the next in line with a lengthy title run. Back in his days as Tommy End, such a dream would be a long shot, especially with his look you see in the photo above. Young Aleister looks like a dude current Aleister would destroy within seconds at an NXT live event.
8 Johnny Gargano
Long hair and rocking a baby face, Gargano was a different person back in his earlier days when he competed for Absolute Intense Wrestling. Speaking of intense, that ponytail is pretty darn intense; perhaps he was trying to replicate his childhood hero at the time, the great HBK Shawn Michaels. Perhaps Gargano’s pinching himself nowadays seeing as not only is HBK one of the coaches down in NXT but the two have developed a close relationship even going head-to-head in an ab competition. Gargano had a brilliant display looking absolutely shredded. At the age of 30, his body’s priming.
In his physical peak, Gargano looks a lot more shredded nowadays compared to what he looked like earlier in his career. WWE fans are going to get more accustomed with the Superstar as he’s set to make his main roster debut following WrestleMania.
7 Scott Dawson
Young Scott Dawson looks like Mick Foley’s long lost son. Current Scott Dawson looks like a created character from the mind of Jim Cornette. Yes, there’s a major difference in what Dawson looked like then compared to now.
Wrestling since 2004, Dawson has quite the story on the road to signing an improbable WWE deal. With his wife set to give birth, Dawson planned on ending his wrestling journey following a tour in Japan. At the time, he wasn’t on WWE’s radar so getting a steady job was the goal outside of wrestling. However, an email would change his life as William Regal showed interest in acquiring the talent. He reported to the developmental facility and before he knew it, Dawson was living the dream as a proud family man and WWE Superstar.
Oh goodness. In terms of unrecognizable, Rough House O’Reilly looks like a different human being in comparison to his current days on the main roster as Konnor, one half of The Ascension. The veteran initially signed his first WWE deal back in 2005 joining the developmental territory. He had a tremendous physique, though he would eventually opt to leave the company due to personal reasons.
Konnor would return to the WWE in 2010, once again reporting to the developmental brand. This time around, his look was quite different compared to his Deep South days. His figure was a lot bigger and them abs suddenly disappeared. Nowadays, competing over on SmackDown Live - the 38 year old looks like a different person.
5 Jack Gallagher
By the age of 16, Gallagher was already hitting some hit signature drop kicks overseas on the UK indie scene. As you can see in the photo above, Jack Toxic, the name he made his debut with, looked quite different to the Gallagher we know and love today. Toxic lacked any muscle at all along with holding a little bit of baby fat. Nowadays, Gallagher has matured in terms of his facial features along with supporting a chizzled look and one that’s unrecognizable compared to his earlier days in the wrestling business.
Similar to Nese, Jack caught the eye of the WWE during the Cruiserweight Classic. He’s been a mainstay on 205 Live ever since and he can thank his decade long experience for making it with the WWE.
4 Kassius Ohno
Back when he was Chris Hero, Ohno supported a slender look. Nowadays, putting it nicely, Kassius has filled out significantly looking like a different human. Not only is he blessed with some serious height but the dude weighs a lot more nowadays in comparison to his earlier work as a legend on the indie scene with the likes of Ring Of Honor and Chikara.
Inching closer to his 40s, Ohno’s back with the WWE working his craft down in NXT. Despite his dramatic weight increase, Ohno can still work a match and move extremely well inside of the squared circle for a guy his size. We hope to see him on the main roster soon rather than later - though Vince won’t be too thrilled with his current look.
3 Bobby Fish
Albany, New York native Bobby Fish seems brand new to the NXT Galaxy (yes, we just made that up), however, the vets been around for quite some time competing under the names Jerk Jackson and Madden Fisher. Bobby started in the business back in 2002 and judging by the photo above, he was rocking a significantly different look back in the day. He kind of looked like Steve Blackman if Steve decided to grow his hair out.
He would eventually completely change looks and turn into a tag team specialist winning the gold with both New Japan and Ring of Honor. He’s been able to transfer that same success with NXT as the current Tag Team Champion alongside long-time partner Kyle O’Reilly.
2 Lars Sullivan
If Kane had a son in the WWE, he would look exactly like what Lars Sullivan previously looked like when first entering the NXT pipeline. The shocking photo was posted by Lars back in 2014 and it’s scary to see how different he looks nowadays. The guy is truly a freak and the WWE is well aware with the potential of this big man - they’ve taken their time with this home grown product and judging by his recent work with NXT, he’s bound to be a star. Lars has future WWE Champion written all over him – look out Braun you’ve got some serious competition.
Among his other lesser know achievements includes a remarkable second place finish at the NXT combine when he hit 225 for a staggering 40 reps – just six off the leader.
1 Nikki Cross
From wearing Bayley like attire with thunder bolts to looking dark and deranged – Cross looks completely different from when she started to her NXT breakthrough. She actually began as a babyface rocking a generic persona with NXT under the label of Nikki Glencross. She was an afterthought with the persona for the most part, though that changed completely once she joined Sanity. Cross has morphed into a popular act with the developmental brand.
Cross went from looking generic to becoming a standout performer especially visually due to her dark presence, something that the current division lacks. Without a doubt, she’ll join the main roster sooner rather than later and make quite the impact. You have to wonder if she would have made it with her previous look – probably not.