Then: Hulk Hogan
Hulk Hogan was the face of ‘80s wrestling and is still easily one of the most recognizable wrestlers of all time. Hogan was a pop culture icon that appeared across several magazine covers, talk shows, and even on a few cartoons. Hogan won the Heavyweight Championship a total of six times and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005.
Now: Hulk Hogan
Hogan stayed with the WWE until his contract was terminated in 2015 after a controversial adult video was leaked. Hogan didn’t stay away long, however, and made a guest appearance in 2018 before fully stepping back into the ring in 2019. Hogan’s also appeared on TV with his own reality TV show Hogan Knows Best. He’s even getting his own movie, with Chris Hemsworth portraying him in a biopic that’s to be directed by Todd Phillips.
Then: Lex Luger
Lex Luger was considered the total wrestling package, with one of the most impressive statures in wrestling history. Luger was known in the wrestling circuit as ‘the Narcissist’ because he was so perfect that he couldn’t stop staring at himself. He won several titles such as the World Heavyweight Championship, World Tag Team Championship, and the World TV Championship.
Now: Lex Luger
In 2007, Luger suffered a spinal infarction that left him paralyzed from the neck down. Where he used to be almost 300 pounds of pure muscle, he’s now just under 200 pounds of skin and bones. In recent years, he’s been able to regain some feeling in his body and can even briefly walk with a cane.
Then: Tammy ‘Sunny’ Sytch
Tammy ‘Sunny’ Sytch was a late ‘90s wrestling superstar, who radiated beauty, charisma, and sex appeal that made her so endearing to her fans. Sunny was considered the very first WWE Diva, and in 1996, she was the most downloaded celebrity on the internet. She was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2011.
Now: Tammy ‘Sunny’ Sytch
Like many celebrities, Sytch hit a rough patch in her life that she just couldn’t seem to get out of. All of her charisma and appeal flew out the window as she became a desperate woman dealing with seemingly endless drugs, money, and legal issues. She was arrested several times for various reasons, even going so far as being arrested twice in two days at one point and five times in one month at another time. She’s made most of her money through occasional wrestling gigs and adult movies.
Then: Ric Flair
Ric Flair was a wrestling legend, and he had two decades of international wrestling experience before he finally joined the WWF. Flair wore ornately decorated robes and kept up the appearance of a jet setting, womanizing, playboy all throughout his career. Over the course of his WWE career, he won the World Tag Team Championship, the WWE Intercontinental Championship, WWF World Heavyweight Championship, and several other major titles.
Now: Ric Flair
Flair was inducted into the Hall of Fame not once, but twice: individually and as a member of the Four Horseman. He still occasionally makes appearances on WWE shows and acts as a pop culture icon. The rapper Offset even released a song entitled Ric Flair Drip. Flair’s daughter performs under the name Charlotte Flair and has become a very successful wrestler in the WWE.
Droz debuted with the WWE in 1997, and he became known for his weird and colorful costumes, piercings, and the ability to vomit on command (yuck). However, two years after his debut, his opponent D’Lo Brown botched a move and dropped Droz on his neck, turning him into a quadriplegic.
Droz has made it clear that he’s never blamed Brown for the accident that left him wheelchair-bound since 1999. Over the years, Droz has lost a lot of his muscle and gained a lot of weight. He suffers from muscle spasms and migraines that he treats with a combination of medicines and medical marijuana. Thankfully, Droz can now move most of his upper body, though his legs are still paralyzed.
Then: Diamond Dallas Page
Diamond Dallas Page is known for his long career in the wrestling ring. Page began in World Championship Wrestling from 1991 until 2001, where he won several awards including Heavyweight Champion and World Tag Team Champion. In 2001, he switched to the WWE where he would go on to win many more titles.
Now: Diamond Dallas Page
Page was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in early 2017, and outside the ring, he’s found a new career as a yoga instructor. Page had gotten into yoga to help rehabilitate his own injuries, and he created the Yoga for Regular Guys Workout. Eventually, he turned the workout into a DVD program.
Then: Bret Hart
Bret “The Hitman” Hart came from a family of legendary professional wrestlers, so it’s unsurprising that he too followed that path. Hart and his brother-in-law, Jim Neidhart, formed a powerful tag-team that won them several titles. Hart won awards including the WWF United States Championship, the Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship, the Tag Team Championship, and the World Heavyweight Championship.
Now: Bret Hart
Hart has mostly stayed away from the wrestling ring, only making sporadic appearances since 2011. He suffered a stroke that caused paralysis on his left side in 2002, though he regained his mobility through physical therapy. In 2016, Hart was diagnosed with prostate cancer, but he announced that he’d beaten the disease later that same year. His tag team, the Hart Foundation, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2019, while Hart himself was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006.
Then: John Cena
Cena was known in the industry for being a trash-talking rapper, and he had ruthless aggression that led to several feuds with other wrestlers. He’s easily one of, if not the most, recognizable WWE stars of all time. He’s the ultimate wrestling package. Over the course of his career, he’s won a plethora of titles including United States Champion, World Tag Team Champion, and World Heavyweight Champion.
Now: John Cena
Cena has made sporadic appearances in the ring since 2018. Outside the ring, he’s known for being a successful musician, actor, and philanthropist. Cena recently accepted a role with The Fast and Furious franchise for their upcoming ninth movie.
Then: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
Dwayne Johnson came from a strong wrestling line, with his maternal grandfather and his father being wrestlers themselves. Not to mention his maternal grandmother was one of the few women involved in wrestling promotions. Wrestling is in Johnson’s blood, and after a failed attempt at an NFL career, he seemed to realize that. The Rock won a total of eight WWE titles and several other awards.
Now: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
Johnson has a knack for entertainment on top of his wrestling prowess, so he took that to the big screen and has become a major box office success. Johnson has starred in hits such as The Fast and Furious franchise, GI. Joe: Retaliation, and in the Disney hit Moana. Johnson was even named the top-grossing actor of 2013 by Forbes magazine.
Then: Triple H
There are very few people who’ve had a career as accomplished as Triple H, aka Paul Michael Levesque. Triple H debuted with the WWE in 1996 and racked up 14 world championships. Triple H is also credited in helping usher in the ‘Attitude Era’ of wrestling.
Now: Triple H
Triple H stayed in the wrestling industry but switched over to the business side as the Executive Vice President of Talent, Live Events, and Creative Direction for WWE. His wife Stephanie McMahon credited him with the women’s revolution in the company. While he may have changed from the bright wrestling outfits to a suit, he still occasionally steps back into the ring.
Then: Booker T
Booker T’s career spans several decades and across various promotions. He left his mark on the WWE with several titled including World Heavyweight Champion and WWE Intercontinental Champion. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013 and worked for a bit as Smackdown manager in 2012.
Now: Booker T
Booker T retired from wrestling back in 2016 and now trains pro wrestlers at his World Gym Arena in Texas City. Occasionally he hosts WWE programs and makes cameos. The thing that’s most surprising, however? He put in a bid to run for the mayor of Houston, Texas, in early 2019.
Then: The Undertaker
Mark William Calaway’s career took off when he took on the persona of The Undertaker, a persona of an entity of darkness. During his time with the WWE, he has held 17 championship titles and is known for his streak of 21 unbeaten matches at Wrestlemania. His streak was eventually broken after he lost to Brock Lesnar in 2014.
Now: The Undertaker
The Undertaker has been wrestling since 1990, and he doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. There have been numerous speculations amongst his fans about his retirement, but The Undertaker continues to perform. Even when he does eventually retire, he will still be considered one of the most popular performers of all time.
Kane was known in the wrestling circuit as the fearsome fictional younger brother to The Undertaker. The masked, emotionally disturbed, menacing persona of Kane burst onto the WWE scene in 1997. Throughout his career, Kane racked up several titles including the WCW and WWE Tag Team Championship, World Heavyweight Championship, and several others.
Outside the ring, Glenn Thomas Jacobs (the man behind Kane) works in the insurance industry. Jacobs also made headlines when he announced he was going to run for mayor of Knox County, Tennessee, which he won in 2018. Don’t be fooled, though, he’s still been making sporadic appearances in the ring since 2015.
Then: Shawn Michaels
Shawn Michaels was easily one of the most charming wrestling superstars in history. He had the good looks and a devil-may-care attitude that landed him the nickname the Heartbreak Kid. Michaels started out as half of The Rockers, a popular tag team group, but he eventually parted to become a solo star. Michaels really took on the role as a villain and went on to win every major title at least once.
Now: Shawn Michaels
Michaels is now a born-again Christian and was inducted into the Hall of Fame twice (once in 2011 as a single wrestler and again in 2019 as part of D-Generation X). He’s published an autobiography and is the host of a hunting show on the Outdoor Channel with his longtime friend Keith Mark.
Then: “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
Another super recognizable wrestling star, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was introduced with a formidable, brash, beer-guzzling hulk of a man in 1996. Austin flourished, and he went on to win multiple WWE championship titles. With so many massive titles and awards under his belt, Austin became one of the most recognizable people in the industry.
Now: “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
Austin was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2009, the same year he married his fourth wife. Austin has made sporadic appearances in the ring since 2005. Whenever he’s not in the ring, he has starred in several TV shows and feature films, and he started a podcast in 2013.
Chyna was a Diva powerhouse. She was one of the first female wrestlers and helped paved the way for many women in the industry today. Her reputation doesn’t end there. Chyna was billed as the “Ninth Wonder of the World,” and she was the first woman to participate in the Royal Rumble match and King of the Ring.
After her wrestling career was over, Chyna struggled with addiction. In 2008, she appeared on Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, and in 2010, she was hospitalized after overdosing on sleeping medication. Unfortunately, in 2016, she passed away in her Redondo Beach home at 46. In 2019, she was posthumously inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
Then: Stephanie McMahon
Stephanie McMahon worked for WWE since she was a young girl, making her way from model to receptionist to wrestler. However, many still recognize her as Vince McMahon’s innocent and friendly daughter. In 2003, she and Triple H got married, and they became a power couple (even though their marriage started with a storyline kidnapping). So far, McMahon won the WWF Women’s Championship and two Slammy Awards.
Now: Stephanie McMahon
Stephanie McMahon certainly has come a long way. Now, she’s the chief brand officer for WWE. Wrestling is in her blood, so she can’t imagine doing anything else. Her and Triple H are still together, and they have three children. Being CBO takes a lot of time, but she’s discussed stepping back in the ring in the future.
Then: Charlotte Flair
Ric Flair was a giant in the wrestling business, and his daughter followed in his footsteps. In 2012, Charlotte began training with the WWE and debuted the following year. It didn’t take long for her to start winning awards like the NXT Women’s Championship and Rookie of the Year. After this, she was promoted to the WWE’s main roster in 2015.
Now: Charlotte Flair
The awards kept rolling after PWI readers voted Flair for both Woman of the Year and World’s Top Female Wrestler for 2016. Later that year, she became the first woman to headline a WWE pay-per-view event. Most recently, she broke more records by being the first woman to headline WrestleMania alongside Becky Lynch and Ronda Rousey. Flair shows no sign of slowing down with her wrestling career.
Then: Alexa Bliss
Alexa Bliss signed her contract with WWE in 2013, and she’s been making a name for herself ever since. For the first few years of her career, she worked with NXT. Eventually made her way to SmackDown in 2016, and she became the SmackDown Women’s Champion.
Now: Alexa Bliss
After working a stent in Raw and earning the Raw Women’s Championship, she became the first woman to have won both Raw and SmackDown women’s titles. The following year, she won the first-ever women’s Elimination Chamber Match. Now, she’s part of a tag team with Nikki Cross.
Then: Mickie James
James began her wrestling career back in 1999, where she was known as Alexis Laree, but it wasn’t until 2002 that she gained national attention. She joined The Gathering and was written into storylines—finally! By 2005, she made her WWE debut with Trish Stratus, and she quickly won her first WWE Women’s Championship.
Now: Mickie James
James is one of the strongest women in wrestling, especially since she’s won WWE Women’s Championship five times. Recently, however, she’s been trying to get into singing. She released her first country album in 2010, and in 2011, she performed at the CMA Music Festival. James was later inducted into the Native American Music Awards Hall of Fame. That being said, she’s recently returned to wrestling as of 2018.
Then: Rey Mysterio
Rey Mysterio, aka Óscar Gutiérrez, started his wrestling career at 14. However, he didn’t sign with the WWE until 2002. This high-flying Lucha Libre is most remembered for his special move “the 619,” a fan favorite. During his time in the WWE, he won several wrestling championships, including a Royal Rumble win.
Now: Rey Mysterio
Mysterio departed from the WWE in 2015 and made his return to the Asistencia Asesoría y Administración, which is where he started. It didn’t last long as he found himself in the underground circuit and eventually with Lucha Underground. In 2018, Mysterio returned to the WWE for Royal Rumble and Raw. Outside of wrestling, Mysterio has had trouble with drugs, including being forced into 30- and 60-day wellness programs.
Then: Mick Foley
It’s impossible to forget Mick Foley. He began his wrestling career in ’83 and went by several names, including Cactus Jack, Mankind, Dude Love, and so many more. He participated in some of the most dangerous matches, and this earned him the moniker of “The Hardcore Legend.” Over his career, he’s won dozens of titles from the WWF Championship to the WWE Hall of Fame (Class of 2013).
Now: Mick Foley
Foley has returned to WWF/WWE sporadically throughout the years. However, he spends a lot of time working with charities. He has volunteered with “Camp Adventure” and has participated in numerous Make-a-Wish Foundation events. Foley is also a multi-time New York Times bestselling author, writing both children’s fiction and memoirs. Foley has a busy life, but he always makes time for fans.
Sable was another one of the original WWE Divas that paved the way for women today. It wasn’t an easy journey, though. She filed a lawsuit with the WWE, stating harassment and poor working conditions. She returned briefly in 2003 but left again in 2004 so she could spend more time with her family. Sable is recognized as being a WWE Women’s Champion and one of the top five WWE stars in the Attitude Era, aka the best era of wrestling.
Sable, real name Rena Marlette, is now known for being Mrs. Brock Lesnar, and the couple has two children together. For a moment, the two paired up to duo in New Japan Pro Wrestling, but both would depart in 2007. Every now and then, she’ll appear on a TV show like Pacific Blue, but nothing has stuck. Now, Rena spends most of her time with her family and raising her two boys, Turk and Duke.
Sting is easily one of the best professional wrestlers ever. It’s hard to deny how great he was in the ring as he walked away with 25 total championships, was inducted into the Total Nonstop Action Wrestling Hall of Fame, and headlined one of the highest-grossing pay-per-view events in WCW history. He also shares “Most Popular Wrestler of the Year” with John Cena. It’s also hard to forget Surfer Sting. Never dye your hair again, man.
Sting, Steve Borden, never wanted to be a part of the WWE. He simply didn’t trust the WWE organization, and he saw Booker T’s history of being disrespected as proof that the WWE wanted to bury WCW. Still, he had to work so he went to the WWE eventually. What really changed his career path was a neck injury in 2015 that required several surgeries to correct. In 2016, he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. While he still makes appearances for the WWE, he spends most of his time retired and relaxing with his family.
Edge debuted in the ’90s, and he quickly won the WWF Intercontinental Championship. Most of his matches were with his storyline brother, Christian, but he could easily hold a match on his own. Edge became one of the most decorated wrestlers of all time, with 31 championships in the WWE overall. Due to this, he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2012.
Injuries wreak havoc on wrestlers, and a broken neck caused Edge to retire from wrestling. Thankfully, that didn’t keep Adam “Edge” Copeland away from the cameras. He began appearing in Haven, which lasted until 2015 when the show wrapped. Then, he began hopped to Vikings, which recently concluded. On top of that, he married Beth Phoenix, another WWE star, and started a family.
Then: Randy Orton
Wrestling was in Randy Orton’s blood. His grandfather, father, and uncle all participated in professional wrestling, so it was almost a given. The best part? He was good at it. WWE recognizes Orton as having the fourth-most world championship victories in history behind only Triple H, Ric Flair and John Cena.
Now: Randy Orton
Randy Orton has no plans to go anywhere. He’s still wrestling regularly, although he struggles between choosing a babyface persona or a heel (aka villain). Orton’s attempted to step into the acting business. He’s appeared in movies such as 12 Rounds 2: Reloaded (2013), The Condemned 2 (2015), and the TV show Shooter.
Then: Chris Benoit
Chris Benoit was a wrestler for 22 years and was hailed as being “one of the top 10, maybe even the top 5, all-time greats” by industry journalist Dave Meltzer. Benoit held a total of 22 championships between all his promotions. Unfortunately, his history turned dark in 2007.
Now: Chris Benoit
Benoit’s reputation changed when he became known for the double-murder-suicide of his family in June 2007. Autopsies revealed that “Benoit’s brain was so severely damaged it resembled the brain of an 85-year-old Alzheimer’s patient,” according to the head of neurosurgery at West Virginia University. After finding out, the WWE attempted to remove his name from their website and promotions, but Benoit’s history is still used as proof that wrestling causes severe brain damage. Furthermore, it shows the organization’s lack of support to help wrestlers through these injuries.
Then: Kurt Angle
Angle has been around since the mid-’90s, and he’s undoubtedly a legend in the industry. Between WWF/WWE, Japan, and TNA, he’s won 21 total championships. Before getting started with professional wrestling organizations, Angle also competed in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, where he earned first place in wrestling.
Now: Kurt Angle
There comes a time when the body slows down, and Kurt attributed this as a sign that it was time to retire. Fortunately for fans, he stayed in the WWE circuit. Now, Kurt Angle acts as a backstage producer, but that doesn’t stop him from appearing on camera from time to time. He also enjoys making movies, appearing in films like Pain & Gain, Sharknado 2: The Second One, and The Last Witch Hunter.
Then: Brock Lesnar
Brock Lesnar is one of the biggest attractions in the WWE today. Before getting started with the WWE, Lesnar was a mixed martial artist and a professional football player. Lesnar is known for a lot of things, but one of the biggest is ending the Undertaker’s streak at WrestleMania 30. It’s hard to forget all of his accomplishments, so we’ll sum them up by saying he’s an eight-time world champion in the WWE.
Now: Brock Lesnar
Lesnar has a habit of bouncing around the WWE, UFC, and pro football. All that came to an end when there was suspicion of doping, which is universally disliked in all fields. In 2006, Lesnar married Rena Greek, best known as Sable, and the couple had two children. Lesnar prefers to spend his private time away from the camera.
Then: Trish Stratus
Trish Stratus started her career as a fitness model, but WWE was calling. At first, she had arm-candy storylines, but the longer she spent in the ring, the better everyone could see she was a strong wrestler. Eventually, she gained the title of WWE Hardcore champion, “WWE Babe of the Year” three times, and “Diva of the Decade.”
Now: Trish Stratus
In 2013, Trish became one of the youngest members ever to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. After a brief appearance in 2018, Trish decided to retire from the WWE so she could spend more time with her family. She also wanted to pursue other adventures like acting. She’s already appeared in a couple of movies (Bail Enforcers and Gridlocked), but she hopes to break into mainstream.
Then: Harley Race
It’s hard to summarize all of Harley Race’s career in such a short time. He’s one of six men to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, the NWA Hall of Fame, the WCW Hall of Fame, the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame, and the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame. If that doesn’t attest to his skills and prowess, nothing will.
Now: Harley Race
When Race wasn’t in the ring, he was teaching others how to fight, and he was proud to see how far they went. Over the years, Race needed several surgeries to correct injuries sustained throughout his career, something that would take a significant toll on him. Then, in August 2019, Dustin Rhodes announced that Race had passed away from lung cancer.
Then: Dusty Rhodes
Dusty Rhodes may not have spent a lot of time as a full-time wrestler, but he was still an extremely prominent figure in the sport. Since he didn’t have a wrestler’s physique, he was often billed as the “common man.” Vince McMahon even remarked that no wrestler “personified the essence of charisma quite like Dusty Rhodes.”
Now: Dusty Rhodes
Rhodes spent much of his time in WWE working as a consultant, including his latest being a creative consultant. He made appearances here and there, but nothing too substantial. Then, in 2015, paramedics were called to Rhodes’s home after reports that he had fallen. Sadly, he died the next day. In honor of Rhodes, the WWE announced a tag team tournament, Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, in honor of their friend.