Professional wrestling isn’t the job for everyone, if only because most of us aren’t 250 pounds of solid muscle (175 pounds… definitely). Nor do we have engaging alter egos with loud voices we can trot out whenever the mood hits. And while we’re on the topic, those colorful satiny capes don’t just grow on trees. But even for those with the physical attributes, imagination and wardrobe, the path to the squared circle is often long and winding.
Some professional wrestlers come to it via sports, most often amateur wrestling, which shouldn’t be a surprise. Some play professional football, which also requires considerable size, strength and athleticism. Many many others work more mundane jobs while dreaming of wrestling stardom. Everyone, including soon-to-be legends, has to eat.
Let’s see where some of the current top stars got their start.
1. Brock Lesnar
Lesnar grew up working on his family’s dairy farm in South Dakota. He joined the National Guard out of high school. An extremely successful amateur wrestler, Lesnar finished college with 106-5 record and shelf full of awards.
2. Roman Reigns
Leati Joseph Anoa’i played D1 college football at Georgia Tech, where he was a team captain and named first-team all-ACC in 2006, his senior year. He bounced around the NFL in 2007 and then caught on with the Edmonton Eskimos of the CFL the following season.
3. John Cena
John Cena became an avid weightlifter as a teenager and moved to the West Coast to pursue bodybuilding after college. He supported himself driving a limo and cleaning a Gold’s Gym in Venice Beach.
4. Randy Orton
Randy Orton comes from professional wrestling family, but his first stop after high school was the Marines. He didn’t last there, receiving a Bad Conduct Discharge a year after joining for twice going AWOL. That landed him in military prison for over a month.
5. Dolph Ziggler
Ziggler was another accomplished amateur wrestler who parlayed it into a career. He also had a plan B. While training in college, Ziggler applied and was accepted to law school at Arizona State. He was due to start when WWE brought him on.
Born Stephen Farrelly, Sheamus grew up in Ireland playing sports. He was once an IT technician moonlighting as a nightclub bouncer. Nightclub work led to the occasional bodyguard gig; his clients included Bono and Larry Mullen Jr. of U2 fame.
Norm Elrod likes sports and other sanctioned forms of craziness.