I’m a huge fan of professional wrestling and have been for the past 20 years. It’s amazing to me with with so much wrestling content on this website that I’ve never written a piece about the art. I constantly asked myself, what can I add? We already have recaps of all the weekly shows, shoot interviews with various grapplers, and fantasy booking so what the hell else can I say?
Well, professional wrestling, like any sport, is an emotional, physically calculating, and soulsucking profession. Careers don’t last very long unless you’re amazing at what you do. Some former stars though can parlay that knowledge from the road and years of competing in front of thousands of screaming fans into a different profession. Like most athletes, there have been a fair share of ex-wrestlers that have made waves outside the Squared Circle. Let’s take a look at a couple:
No wrestler, not Hulk Hogan, not Ric Flair, not even Steve Austin, has made as much of an impact on Hollywood as the Rock. The third-generation athlete’s large stature instantly gave him the aura of a believable action star, something Hollywood was lacking a lot of at the time. Just two years into his illustrious WWE career, he played his own father, WWE Hall of Famer, Rocky Johnson, on a wrestling-themed episode of “That 70’s Show” where he showed tremendous charisma. This became the blueprint of what his career will soon become. His star in the pro wrestling world was shining so bright that in 2000, he became the second wrestler ever to host Saturday Night Live, an honor no wrestler has received since. His first taste of a Hollywood motion picture was a small role as Mathayus in the 2001 sequel “The Mummy Returns”. The character was so well received that he he got his first starring role in 2002’s spin-off, “The Scorpion King”. The movie was critically panned but it generated huge numbers at the box office grossing over $165 million on a $60 million budget. Rocky however didn’t want to be stereotyped as just an on-screen ass kicker so he decided to broaden his range with several dramas (“Gridiron Gang”), comedies (“The Other Guys”), and children’s films (“Tooth Fairy”). The Rock, now going by his real name, Dwayne Johnson, had such a hectic filming schedule that he quietly took an extended hiatus from the squared circle in 2004. In 2013, Johnson made history by becoming the top-grossing actor of that year with four consecutive number one box office films to his name. Johnson though has not forgotten where he came from, returning to WWE in 2011 where he continues to appear and wrestle for them to this day.
Wrestlers are naturally gifted performers who are used to acting in front of a camera so it’s no surprise to see ex-wrestlers trying to become Hollywood actors. One man though tried a different approach. After scoring some bit parts in horror films, former multi-time WCW Heavyweight champ, Diamond Dallas Page, founded a simple but effective yoga regimen. Originally entitled “Yoga for Regular Guys” or “YRG” , DDP soon rechristened his fitness routine under his own moniker, “DDP Yoga”. The program caught recognition after several success stories of people losing as much as over 100 pounds came to light. It continues to spread worldwide today and help thousands of people drastically improve their lives physically as well as mentally. In recent years, Page has decided to open his home in Atlanta, Georgia, to two fellow wrestlers who have battled demons most of their lives: Scott Hall and Jake “The Snake” Roberts (who actually trained Page for the ring), in an attempt to saves their lives with DDP Yoga. Page and his workout have also been featured on numerous talk show programs including “Good Morning America” and HBO’s “Real Sports”.
After grappling in the AWA and WWE, Jesse “The Body” Ventura retired from active competition in the 1980’s to become one of the most decorated wrestling commentators of all time. It was during this time in the WWE when the Vietnam War veteran starred alongside action legend Arnold Schwarzenegger in the films “Predator” and “The Running Man”. After leaving Vince McMahon’s signature company, Jesse eventually pursued another career: politics. Ventura, while a color commentator for World Championship Wrestling, became Mayor of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota in 1991. After his term ended in 1995, Ventura left wrestling altogether to fry bigger fish in the political game. In 1998, running on the reform party ticket, he shocked the entire world by becoming the 38th Governor of Minnesota, showing everyone that “some wrestling guy” can make a difference in the world as well. He served until 2003 when he voluntarily chose not to run for a second term. More recently, Ventura starred on his own series entitled “Conspiracy Theory” on TruTv. The show followed Ventura as he tried to disprove some of the more famous conspiracy theories such as Global Warming.
Chris Jericho is regarded as one of the most decorated superstars in the history of wrestling. Competing all over the world honing his craft before arriving on the scene in WWE in 1999. After a slow start in McMahonland, Jericho was able to cement his legacy and become one of the all-time greats eventually becoming the first Undisputed WWE champion in 2001. While on top of the company, he pursued his life’s other passion in music. A lifelong fan of classic rock and heavy metal, (hell, his ring name is taken from an album by German metalheads, Helloween), Jericho was able to hook up with guitarist Rich Ward of Stuck Mojo fame backstage at a WCW show in the late 90’s. Both men formed a strong bond and a musical project soon came out of that. Dubbing themselves Fozzy, a hard rocking five-piece that played cover songs. Jericho also wanted to combine elements of his wrestling persona into his music and the result was an alter-ego in frontman Moongoose McQueen. Fozzy’s first album, a self-titled disc containing mostly cover tunes was released in 2000. Jericho wasn’t content with just the Moongoose McQueen character and proceeded to produce a faux history of the band. The story goes that Fozzy signed to a Japanese record label on the promise that they’ll be big stars but the label went under shortly after their arrival and became stranded in the land of the rising sun. Soon, all the significant heavy metal acts such as Twisted Sister and Judas Priest began stole their tunes, claiming them as their own. Fozzy then returned to the states to claim their throne. The band’s “history” was actually captured in a short documentary that aired on MTV. Jericho never spoke out of character during the promotion of the band’s debut effort. By the time their third album, “All That Remains” dropped in 2005, they did away with the back history and stage personas and started exclusively performing original music. Jericho still pursues Fozzy today, releasing their fifth album, “Sin & Bones” in 2012. They share stages with the biggest acts of heavy metal all over the world, made possible by Jericho taking hiatuses from the WWE every few months. Don’t worry Jericholics, the man still wrestles to this day and continues to be damn good at it too.
Mick Foley, the man behind the personas Mankind, Cactus Jack, and Dude Love, may have been known as a deranged individual inside the ring but outside, he was a wisecracking, good-hearted fellow. With a history in wrestling as colorful as his, he decided to put all of his experiences in a memoir released in 1999, entitled “Have A Nice Day”. Foley didn’t hold anything back as he detailed his life from growing up in Long Island to his first WWE championship victory. The book was widely successful, debuting at number three on the New York Times best seller’s list, eventually reaching number one a month after its release. Foley paved the way for other wrestlers to have similar success with autobiographies of their own, a trend that was never truly explored before. He followed it up with three more memoirs, the latest, “Countdown to Lockdown”, being released in 2010. Foley wasn’t content with just writing about his life though, so he later penned several novels and children’s books to similar success. Today, in addition to being an author and still making appearances on WWE television, he has become a critically acclaimed stand-up comedian with has been met with sold out shows across the world.
Brock Lesnar was really a rarity for his time. An accomplished amateur wrestler from Minnesota with an imposing frame, it was no shock that he became a two-time NCAA All-American. At 6 foot 3 and nearly 300 pounds of solid muscle, the Beast had the intensity to transition nicely into a career with WWE. Lesnar debuted on television in 2002 and became the fastest rising star in the company’s history, winning the world title decisively after only five months on the main roster. For the next two years, Lesnar was the federation’s top dog until personal issues caused him to abruptly quit in 2004. From there, he attempted a career in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings but was a late cut during the team’s preseason that same year. After Lesnar’s football dreams were dashed, where else could he go? After wrestling briefly in Japan, the answer was simple: Ultimate Fighting Championship. Things looked bleak for Lesnar after losing his debut match against Frank Mir in 2008 when critics became very critical of “that wrestler guy” competing in their “real” sport. Lesnar shut everyone up by beating MMA legend, Randy Couture, and winning the UFC championship later that year, instantly creating a crossover legacy that is enriched in UFC history and made him an international superstar. He held the title for two years, even defeating Mir in a rematch before dropping the belt to Cain Velasquez in 2010. Brock decided to retire from mixed martial arts in 2011 due to injuries. In 2012, after an eight year hiatus, Lesnar returned to wrestling and the WWE where he has remained since.
Sure, there are more stars that are known to the average non-wrestling viewer but I chose these six specifically because of the areas they went into. Most people believe that many ex-wrestlers either go broke or wind up doing blue collar jobs and while that’s not entirely false, there are people that make a good living combining their smash mouth on-air personalities into a career in music, fitness, or literature. Thankfully for some, there is life after pro ‘rasslin.