Once the pressure of looking larger-than-life on TV every week goes away, many pro wrestlers start looking very different. Whether they lose the muscle, change their hairstyle, stop wearing outlandish clothing, or all of the above, many wrestlers are virtually unrecognizable after they hang up their boots.
From 2008 to 2012, WWE fans got to know Russian bruiser Vladimir Kozlov very well. He started as a super-stoic monster, then evolved (maybe) into a wacky, fun-loving big man, prone to dancing, having tea parties, and tooting on invisible trombones with his tag partner and BFF, the equally wacky Santino Marella.
Since leaving the ring, Kozlov has slimmed his body but jacked up his muscles. Plus, he’s grown a big, bushy beard that makes him look like a Russian Hugh Jackman. Why would he spend his retirement getting into better shape than during his day job? Because he’s looking to make it big in Hollywood as an action-movie tough. He’s making some good progress, having appeared in Fast 6 as a stunt double. (Between him and the Rock, that movie is full up with WWE refugees.) He was also in The Wire, Burn Notice, and the Chinese mega-smash Wolf Warrior II. He even founded a production company in 2014 called Quasar Entertainment, where he currently serves as vice president. Now that Hugh Jackman is done with Wolverine, maybe he’ll join up.
Between WCW and WWF, Debrah Miceli was an undisputed pioneer. As Madusa in WCW, she proved women could both look beautiful and fight every bit as hard as men. As Alundra Blayze, she spearheaded the new WWF Women’s division and gave us classic matches with Japanese sensations like Bull Nakano, Aja Kong, Luna Vachon, and Monster Ripper (known in the WWF as trailer park princess Bertha Faye). But after re-joining WCW in 1995 and throwing the WWF Women’s Championship belt in the trash on live TV (something she says WCW scripted her to do), she became persona non grata to Vince McMahon and company. Once WCW became WWF property in 2001, Madusa elected to retire rather than deal with backlash from her former company.
Since then, Blayze has become a tattooed Renaissance woman. She got into monster trucks and quickly turned into a champion driver, winning international contests in her truck (which she naturally named "Madusa") and even serving as vice president of her own monster truck league for a year. In addition, she opened up a pet spa and doggie bakery, and serves as commissioner of a Japanese women’s wrestling promotion called World Wonder Ring Stardom. She might not look like she did in the ring, but she’s clearly as successful as ever.
Anyone with even a passing knowledge of ’80s and ’90s WWF knows of the Ultimate Warrior. With his humongous biceps, wild face paint, endlessly high energy, and incomprehensible-yet-exciting interview style, Warrior was the personification of wrestling’s cartoonish superhero side. But as he continued to burn bridges with wrestling companies and wrestlers alike, Warrior found himself in the ring less and less.
Warrior (that became his legal name in 1993, by the way) became a controversial right-wing motivational speaker and blogger, and if the caption below his TV appearances didn’t identify him as "Warrior," you probably wouldn’t recognize him. He had a goatee, no face paint, far fewer muscles, and his hair wasn’t nearly as teased as it was when he was body slamming fools at WrestleMania. His final public appearance, at WWE Raw in 2014 just a day before his death, showed a short-haired guy with a white goatee who only looked like the Ultimate Warrior when he put on a mask resembling his old face-paint and began to talk like him. He’s gone now, but it’s good he was able to remind fans who he truly was one more time before he went.
As the "slightly off-center" half of the Steiner Brothers, Rick quickly endeared himself to fans in both WCW and WWF. He called himself the "Dogface Gremlin" and acted the part, too, always barking and running around on all fours before wrestling circles around his opponents and either stretching them within an inch of their lives or dropping them square on their heads, whichever felt most right at the time. His trademark amateur wrestling headgear (often worn loosely and unstrapped because, again, he was off-center) made him a memorable character long after he retired from full-time competition in 2008.
Since then, Steiner has become a shockingly regular-looking guy. He still has his goatee, but his hair is short-cropped and his headgear is probably in his garage somewhere. What’s more, he now has regular-guy jobs and interests. He runs a successful real estate company in Georgia (he’s even less recognizable when wearing a suit) and served on the Cherokee County school board for a time. Probably the only way you’d recognize him in public is if he barked at you, something you likely don’t want him (or anyone else) to do.
"The Total Package" Lex Luger had one of the most impressive physiques in wrestling history. In WWF, they called him the Narcissist, because his body was so perfect he couldn’t stop staring at himself. It wasn’t even close to an exaggeration.
Those days are, sadly, gone forever. Present-day Luger is a literal shell of his former self. That’s because in 2007, he suffered a spinal infraction that left him paralyzed from the neck down. He’s since gained feeling in his body and can even briefly walk with a cane, but all his muscle mass is gone. Where once he was 275 pounds of solid strength, he’s now roughly 185 pounds of skin and bones. As he explained it in 2008, "I was one of the strongest guys on the planet. … I was bench-pressing 450 pounds my senior year of high school. I was a freak. Now I can’t lift a 1-pound dumbbell." He can probably lift at least a few pounds these days, but the only way he’ll grasp 450 pounds is if he travels to England and hits the ATM.
Since then, he’s been focusing on family, his faith (he’s been a born-again Christian since 2006), and rebuilding his life outside wrestling. He has far more personal strength than physical at this point, and that’s almost certainly for the best.
Fans of late-’90s WWF will remember Val Venis, especially the ladies his gimmick was geared toward. He was supposedly a male porn star-turned-wrestler, with flowing hair, an exquisite body, writhing hips, endless naughty innuendos (including his last name), and entrance gear that made it look like he was wearing nothing but a towel. More often than not, he would feud with a wrestler after "filming a movie" with that wrestler’s girlfriend or valet. And yes, because this was the "Attitude Era," he was a good guy.
Today, Venis looks less like an adult film star and more like a high school substitute teacher. His long, curly hair is completely gone, and while he’s still handsome enough for risque roles, he’s too busy for that (and for most wrestling). His main interest appears to be marijuana legalization. As he told the Inquisitr in 2015, he feels pot saved his life, and he believes medical marijuana can save many more lives as well. He even runs his own pot business, Health 4 Life Dispensary based out of Mesa, Arizona. Not a bad retirement path for a guy who got famous for seductively placed hot dogs in his entrance video.
In 2007, Eve Torres won WWE’s Diva Search, a competition designed to find new female superstars. Over a six-year career, Torres won the Diva’s Championship three times and became a popular weekly fixture, though she was rarely presented as a true physical threat, as this was during a period in WWE when Divas were, sadly, more about physical beauty than ring prowess.
Today, however, Torres could be considered a true physical threat. She looks largely the same, but she’s now a full-fledged fighter. Married to Brazilian jiu-jitsu icon Rener Gracie, Torres is a purple belt in the martial art. She’s also a trained kickboxer and the head instructor of a women’s self-defense program called Gracie Women Empowered, helping other girls become as tough and brave as she is. When in a less bruising mode, Torres works as a party planner with her sister-in-law. Together, they run an event rental company called "inJOY The Party." In addition, according to a leaked WWE Raw script from 2014, Torres worked (and possibly still works) as an ambassador for WWE after retiring from the ring. If she does return, however, she could absolutely be a believable WWE Women’s Champion, especially now that the company is focusing on women who can actually wrestle.
In the late ’90s, few wrestling women could match Tammy "Sunny" Sytch in pure popularity. Her beauty, charisma, and sex appeal endeared her to millions, and at one time (according to WWE.com), she was even the most downloaded woman in all of America Online. (Yep, this was definitely the ’90s.) She wasn’t a great wrestler, but she was an amazing personality, and just about every fan’s dream girl come true.
Today, however, you’d be hard-pressed to figure why; today’s Sunny is a shell of her former self. She’s gained a lot of weight, as many wrestlers do, but in addition, almost all her charisma, personality, and sunniness is gone, replaced by a desperate woman battling seemingly endless drug, money, and legal issues (as recapped in The Gossip Life). She’s been arrested several times, including a stint in 2012 (documented in the video above) where she found herself arrested twice in two days (for stalking an ex-boyfriend), and five times in one month. In 2013, she found herself in jail for 114 days, after violating a restraining order put out by that same ex-boyfriend.
She makes money these days through the odd independent wrestling gig, but also through less savory methods, like adult films, sexy Skype chats, and charging fans money to cuddle with her in bed. Here’s hoping sunnier days are ahead for the WWE Hall of Famer who countless fans no doubt consider their first crush.
In his prime, Scott Hall was the coolest. In the WWF, he was Razor Ramon: basically Al Pacino in Scarface if he wrestled. In WCW, under his real name, he was one of the tough-talking, rebellious founders of the New World Order. Unfortunately, like many a grappler, drugs and alcohol overtook Hall, and he’s been struggling to become himself again for a long time.
Today’s Scott Hall looks like Scott Hall in the face, but that’s about it. His famously wet, curly hair is now gray and scraggly, and he’s heavier than he used to be. But amazingly, a few years ago he looked even worse. In 2011, Hall was drunk in public, completely out of shape, and could barely walk — by 2013, he looked pale, tired, bloated, and was using a wheelchair. That was the year (as recapped by Jim Ross for Fox Sports) that he finally began to turn his life around, thanks to fellow retired wrestler Diamond Dallas Page. He began religiously working out and living healthier through Dallas’s DDP Yoga program, and not only regained much of his strength and mobility, he stopped drinking as much. By 2017, he was showing off a ripped physique on Twitter, one that could very well signal a return to the ring sooner or later. Wrestling needs more bad guys anyway.
Sycho Sid was a monster throughout the ’90s. With his curly blond hair, ripped physique, creepy theme music, crazy eyes, and super-intense "talk softly then yell ferociously" style of speaking, Sid was just plain awesome. He played "cool bad guy who kicked ass while wearing black trunks and black boots" years before Stone Cold Steve Austin made it trendy. But in 2001, "The Man Who Rules The World" shattered his leg in an in-ring accident. (His injury was so gruesome we’re not linking to it here.) He wrestled sporadically since then, officially retiring for good in August 2017. The transfer of world ownership to a new ruler is still pending.
Sid today kind of resembles Prime Sid, but not really. He’s not as jacked anymore, and his blonde hair is shorter yet still curly, making him look something like a burly Art Garfunkel. But that’s nothing compared to his most drastic post-fame change: bodybuilder. Yes, in 2012, at the age of 51, Sid took a stab at bodybuilding, getting ripped, oiled up, and fat-free against competitors far younger than he. It worked so well, he apparently did it once and then never again. It’s hard to fill the void after no longer ruling the world.
Few wrestlers were as imposing in their prime as Vader. At over 450 pounds of muscle and a knack for legitimately injuring people he wrestled, Vader was a scary, scary man. There’s a reason WWF nicknamed him "The Mastodon" when he worked for them. He was basically a human elephant.
Since 2007, Vader has been mostly retired, and you can tell. He now looks less like a huge muscleman, and more like just a big, bald, tired dude. He’s been through a lot that would explain his haggard appearance, however. Around 2007, he had double knee surgery, which became infected and forced him into bed for six months. Then he fell unconscious during a flight and was comatose for a month; he lost 112 pounds in the most effective diet plan no one should ever try. In 2016, Vader tweeted he’d been diagnosed with congestive heart failure and had two years to live. He later retracted that timeline, but sadly it turned out to be pretty accurate. He died June 18, 2018.
Before he passed, he kept fighting and kept inspiring as a motivational speaker for the Wounded Warriors Alliance. As he told WWE.com, "These guys may have one arm or one leg, may have been shot in the shoulder or the chest. … I stand up in front of them and tell them [what I’ve been through]. … If this old man can do what he did and come out on the other side and actually be here tonight, then what can someone do at 23 with their whole life ahead of them?" Let’s face it: When a mastodon speaks, you listen.
Mr. Bob Backlund is an old-school legend. In the ’70s and ’80s, he was a clean-cut, technically brilliant, low-key strong world champion. In the ’90s, he had reinvented himself as a crazy, out-of-touch old man who wanted to teach young kids what true morality was. He even ran for president in 1996 (in storyline), and then he actually ran for Congress after all but retiring from wrestling in 2000.
Since leaving wrestling, Backlund has slimmed down considerably, to the point where he doesn’t even look like an ex-wrestler, never mind a wrestler. In 2012, he had a one-off showdown with WWE wrestler Heath Slater (shown in the video above, and he looked almost emaciated). He looked more himself several years later, when briefly "life coaching" Darren Young, though that was likely due to his wearing a shirt and bow tie. Sans clothing, you’re still likely to wonder why that Bob guy doesn’t eat a sandwich and hit the gym.
For much of Kamala’s career, he was billed as the Ugandan Giant, a cannibal from Deepest, Darkest Africa. He spoke no English, barely seemed to understand what a wrestling match was, wore tribal facepaint and a loincloth, and would do things like eat a live chicken on the air. Later, he was "saved" by Slick, a pimp-turned-preacher, who convinced Kamala that he was a man, not an animal. Then they went bowling because wrestling is weird.
Since his retirement from full-time wrestling in 1993, however, life has not been kind to Kamala, according to People. He was diagnosed with diabetes, and in 2011 it resulted in his leg being amputated. The following year, he lost his other leg, leaving him permanently confined to a wheelchair. Aside from that, he’s still a big man, just not the bruiser he used to portray in the ring. He doesn’t sound like Kamala either, as the character’s grunts and shrieks have been replaced by a sweet baritone he uses to record soul music. He’s clearly living his life in the best way a man in his position can hope to.
As one half of the Nasty Boys, Brian Knobbs was appropriately nasty. Wearing all-black gear with graffiti lettering, sporting a mohawk, and indulging in his favorite activity — shoving an opponent’s face into his partner’s stinky armpit — Knobbs was the epitome of a big, burly schoolyard bully. He was never ripped, but he was still clearly a muscular, tough dude.
Today, Knobbs doesn’t look anything like that. He still has the mohawk, but he’s far from the big bully he used to portray. He’s far fatter than he used to be, and just comes across as a guy pretending to be a punk, rather than an actual punk. In a way that makes modern-day Brian Knobbs wrestling’s answer to modern-day Johnny Rotten.
Fred Ottman is most famous for portraying one of two characters: the friendly Tugboat, or the menacing Typhoon. (He’s most infamous, meanwhile, for portraying the Shockmaster, who never met a wall he couldn’t trip over.) However you prefer your Fred, he was a monster of a man — nearly 400 pounds of power and a menacing mug that struck fear in opponents’ hearst even as he walked around the ring yelling "toot toot!"
Today, the retired Ottman doesn’t look anything like he used to. His long hair is now cut close, and he’s got a goatee. Both hair and goatee are chalk-white. He looks less like Tugboat or Typhoon and more like a 400-pound Kevin Nash. He looks good and healthy for his age, though, and that’s really what counts most. He does look a lot like Shockmaster still though, though that’s likely due to his wearing a mask and remaining adept at bumping into everything.
Darren Drozdov is perhaps the ultimate pro wrestling cautionary tale. Debuting in 1997, he quickly became known for his weird, colorful costumes, multiple piercings, and ability to vomit on command (seriously). But two years later, after his opponent, D’Lo Brown, botched a powerbomb and dropped Droz square on his neck, he found himself a quadriplegic. According to a 2014 Jim Ross article about Droz for Fox Sports, he’s never blamed D’Lo for the life-changing incident, recognizing it for the total accident it was. It doesn’t change the fact that Darren Drozdov has not walked since 1999.
You can see the physical changes quite readily. Droz, unable to work out, has lost muscle and gained weight. His facial hair is now a big, bushy chin-only goatee, as opposed to the thin wrap-around beard he sported in the WWF. He suffers from regular muscle spasms and painful migraines, which he suppresses and treats with a combination of pills and medical marijuana. And while he can move most of his upper body now, his legs are still paralyzed. Luckily for him, his college roommate was Kevin Plank, who’s now the CEO of Under Armour. The two are still friends, and Plank designed an awesome tank-looking contraption called the Ripchair so Droz can move around, hunt, and enjoy life again. It doesn’t make up for being paralyzed, but hey, not everyone gets to ride around in a tank.
Whether he was Haku in the WWF or Meng in WCW, Tonga Fifita played the same character: a tough-as-nails Tongan you’d rather not fight if you didn’t have to. Stories of the man’s legitimate toughness are legendary, though possibly exaggerated. That said, if an anecdote like "Meng bit off a man’s nose during a bar brawl" is even half-true (Tonga insists it’s all true, but you know how wrestlers lie), that still makes him tougher than most anyone you’ve ever met.
Today, Meng looks as close to a normal guy as someone that tough can look. His famously wild hair is cut super-short, he’s traded his ring robes and islander-inspired tights for sensible polo shirts, and he works as a car spa director for David Maus Toyota in Sanford, Florida. And no one loses a nose at his dealership, even if they wreck a new car during the test drive … probably.
The legendary Bret "Hitman" Hart is one of the most recognizable faces in wrestling history. With long, wet hair, a pink-and-black leather jacket, and pink wraparound sunglasses, Hart made wearing pink cool for guys for the first time in a long time.
Sadly, Hart looks and acts a lot differently now, and not just because he’s gotten older. He was forced to retire in 2000 after a severe concussion brought about thanks to a stiff kick to the head from Goldberg. Two years later, he suffered a major stroke that caused paralysis on the left side of his body. He recovered after months of therapy, but his body has clearly changed. In the video above, he’s much slower, his hair is mostly white, and even his glasses have reverted to "normal" shades. It’s a look in sharp contrast to even the drawing of Prime Bret seen on the shirt of his niece, Natalya. But it could’ve been a lot worse — he could’ve not been with us at all.
Brutus Beefcake turned one of the silliest ideas ever — "he’s a barber, but he also wrestles" — into an actual success. Between his shredded tights, conspicuous bow tie, giant garden shears, and wide-eyed, psychotic grin, he came across like a legitimately dangerous, crazy person than a guy who gently evens out your sides by day and bashes the Iron Sheik’s skull in by night.
Today, Beefcake is mostly retired, though he still works the occasional independent show. But if he’s not wearing his gear and wielding those shears like his life depends on chopping off some heel’s precious ponytail, you’d hardly know it was him. He’s much heavier now, and his hair is far shorter, almost like he did a barber-job on himself. He, like many wrestlers before him, battled drug issues — in 2004, the Boston Herald reported that Beefcake caused a scare on the Boston subway system, by leaving behind a bag of his cocaine that passengers feared was anthrax. He checked himself into rehab shortly thereafter and appears to have mostly taken care of himself since. He may not look as great as he did in the ’80s, but considering his face was all but shattered in a 1990 parasailing accident, the fact that he’s still kicking period is nothing short of a miracle.
King Kong Bundy
King Kong Bundy was an ’80s wrestling monster. At 450 pounds, with a big bald head, no visible neck, and an evil glare in his eyes, he was Hulk Hogan’s first "giant" opponent, and the footage of him injuring Hogan’s ribs in 1986 is still etched into many an aging Hulkamaniac’s brain.
For the rest of his life, Bundy, retired since 2006, was still big and bald, but he stopped looking much like the Bundy of old. He definitely lost some weight, and simply walking around with normal facial expressions made him look far more like a regular person than a guy so mean and strong that calling him "King Kong" was no exaggeration. Plus, he dabbled in stand-up comedy, not exactly the expected career path for a villain. But it makes sense, as interviews like this one from 1985 show that Bundy, despite most "monster" wrestlers staying ominously silent, could always talk up a storm. Turning "I will break your ribs" into "I will tickle your ribs" isn’t too difficult for a guy like him.
Sadly, King Kong Bundy died in March 2019. News of his passing brought an outpouring of support, including from colleagues like Hurricane Helms, who posted the above photo along with the tribute, "RIP my friend. Thanks for your humor and kindness."
Awesome Kong was a mammoth of a woman who could (and still can) mix it up with both guys and girls. Her brief WWE run as Kharma was cut short by a pregnancy, which sadly ended in her baby’s death, and since then she’s been a part-timer in wrestling.
Since her WWE and TNA runs, Kong has become a totally different person. She’s dropped tons of weight, which she proudly shows off in her Twitter profile picture. She isn’t wrestling much anymore, but she still plays a wrestler in TV. That’s because she’s signed onto the Netflix revival of GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling), playing a character called Tamee who’s forced to portray a wrestling welfare queen. As she told TV Guide, she can relate to Tamee because she too was saddled with a character she initially didn’t like: being called Kong, which can be a huge insult for an African-American person. But, as she said "[Being Kong was] this big opportunity, just like Tamee has, but the price is she’s gonna portray a welfare queen. … I decided, and I believe Tamee would identify with what I did, [to] take that name and own it and make it mean something of respect." If she ever does return to full-time wrestling, she’ll have just as much respect as she did when she left.
Gene Snitsky had two main looks as a WWE superstar: hulking monster with hair and a long, ponytailed beard, or hulking monster with no hair at all — not even eyebrows — along with yellow teeth and a generally "ugly" appearance. Since 2008, though, Snitsky’s been mostly gone from wrestling, and focusing on several other ventures.
These days, Snitsky looks mostly like he did when he started in WWE, meaning he grew his hair, beard, and eyebrows back. But he acts totally differently, no more so than when he served as a pitchman for the Power Pressure Cooker XL in 2014. Yes, that’s real: He went on YouTube and taught us how to use the XL to make delicious buffalo wings and surf-n-turf on one, easy-to-use pot. In addition, he’s been using his size in more apropos ways, like bodyguarding. In 2013, according to CBS Local, Snitsky was serving as a member of Yankees legend Alex Rodriguez’s security team. When a 6’8" behemoth warns fans, as he did when speaking to Pennlive.com, "Hopefully for the fans’ sake, they stay in the stands. Because if they don’t, there could be a problem. Not for me, but for them. So my advice would be: stay in the stands, ’cause if not, you might get hurt," people take him seriously, no matter how nice he seems off the clock.