Wrestlers Who Achieved Awesomeness... Outside the Ring

The phrase “looks can be deceiving” certainly holds true for this unlikely group of overachievers. What follows is a unique assortment of professional wrestlers who gained notoriety not only in the field of smashing other men with chairs, but also achieved awesomeness outside the ring.

JBL/ John Bradshaw Layfield

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In the ring:

Throughout his WWE tenure, this grappler’s personas changed considerably. He went from being a rugged cowboy to a gothic member of Undertaker’s “Ministry of Darkness”. The latter basically consisted of a group of seven foot tall emos all weighing around 300 plus pounds each. You’d likely be too busy s@#$%*ing your pants to make fun of them.

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After one last U-Turn in wrestling gimmick land and we arrive at “JBL” which was something a lot more close to home. JBL was a J.R. Ewing-esque businessman who often dressed in a fine suit complete with a classy cowboy hat.

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Outside the Ring:

John Charles Layfield’s most popular identity was cleverly based on his real-life accomplishments as a stock market investor. Layfield is a regular panelist on Fox News Channel’s “The Cost of Freedom”, has appeared on CNBC, and he has written a best-selling book on financial planning called “Have More Money Now”. Really, who doesn’t want more money now? Layfield also hosts a weekend talk radio program, in which he discusses his conservative political views. Those who disagree with his observations face the possibility of a steel chair to the face or a gorilla press slam onto a filing cabinet.

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Chris Nowinski

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In the ring:

Chris Nowinski made his television debut as one of three finalists on WWE’s popular MTV series “Tough Enough”. He began his official WWE career as Chris Harvard, wisely capitalizing on his Harvard alumni status. He performed with the federation until 2003 when his promising career was unfortunately cut short due to a concussion he sustained at a house show. After a year of post-concussion symptoms, he officially retired. The trauma however led him to his next path in life.

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Outside the Ring:

Chris first made waves outside the squared circle with his book “Head Games: Football’s Concussion Crisis”. This telling book has been credited as the birth of the sports concussion movement. It helped to bring about an awareness which had been sorely needed.

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After the publication of his book he went on to gain a considerable amount of media attention, making appearances on ESPN and CNN where he spoke openly about sports related head injuries. Nowinski (now known as the “Concussion Expert”) also makes public speaking appearances at schools and medical conferences around the world. The work being done at his foundation, “the Sports Legacy Institute” was featured on “60 Minutes” in 2009.


George “The Animal” Steele

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In the ring:

George Steele is known as one of the legendary 1980′s wrestlers who truly was “crazy” in the ring. His most popular stunt was tearing up the turnbuckle with his teeth and either eating the insides or using the stuffing as a weapon to be used as his opponents promptly soiled themselves.

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The green tongued “Animal”, as he was known, had a stooped ape-like posture, bald head and a thick mat of fur on his back (think Robin Williams – but worse). Wrestling broadcasters often called him “The Missing Link.” His interviews basically consisted of him mumbling “Duh-da-dahh”. Still, his ramblings were a great deal more coherent than anything the Ultimate Warrior ever spewed.

Outside the Ring:

Prior to his successful wrestling career, William James Myers (his real identity, shhh) received a Bachelor of Science degree from Michigan State University and a master’s degree from Central Michigan University. Eventually he went on to become a teacher.

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Aside from that, he was also an amateur wrestling coach and a football coach. He was even a member of the Michigan Coaches Hall of Fame. You may also have seen him as Swedish wrestler-turned-actor Tor Johnson in Tim Burton’s awesome flick, Ed Wood.

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His casting was perfect because for many years Steele was often mistaken for Tor Johnson. Steele has even mentioned a story during one interview wherein a store in New York was selling the popular Tor Johnson mask as a George “the Animal” Steele mask. We are fairly certain he “conveniently” left out the part about him mauling the store owner for not cutting him in on the deal. Kidding! We kid!

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El Hijo Del Santo

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In the ring:

Jorge Guzmán Rodríguez, better known as “El Hijo del Santo” (“The Son of the Saint”) is a professional wrestler and Mexico’s most famous living luchador (freestyle wrestler). His long career in the sport has been filled with nothing but success. He even started his own promotion called “Todo x el Todo”. Wrestling runs in the family for the Latino superstar – his father was “El Santo”, the legendary professional wrestler, actor and Mexican folk hero.

Outside the Ring:

Aside from kicking culo, Jorge is also a noted political activist. In the summer of 2007, he gained media attention (and major props) for his campaign to save sea turtles from extinction as the spokesperson for “Wildcoast”, an environmental non-profit organization. He has also been involved on gray whale campaigns as well as Tijuana clean ups.

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Mick Foley

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In the ring:

Mick has worked for all of the major promotions over the years and is currently active in TNA. Wrestling fans know this grizzled and hardcore veteran as a man of many faces.

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Mick is also well known within the wrestling world for his colorful personality, strong opinions and his creative way with words. He’s one of those rare people that can actually keep you from changing the channel during his interview segments.

Outside the Ring:

Foley first broke out successfully into the writing world with his 800 page autobiography, “Have a Nice Day” which topped The New York Times bestseller list for several weeks. The follow-up, “Foley Is Good: And the Real World Is Faker than Wrestling”, also debuted at number one on the Times list. Not bad for someone who spent most of his life with barbed wire and staples embedded in his skull.

Foley has also written three successful children’s books proving kids just love frightening looking authors. He has also authored “Tietam Brown”, a coming-of-age story which was nominated for the WHSmith People’s Choice Award in 2004. You get the point, the man can write.

Interestingly enough Mick is not the most unusual looking person in the world of wrestling…or in writing.

Jesse "The Body" Ventura

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In the Ring

Jesse Ventura was one of the most colorful personalities both as a performer and later as a broadcaster. As a wrestler, he proudly performed as a heel and often spouted the catchphrase “Win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat!” This is a sentiment shared by many on Wall Street nowadays. Much of Jesse’s flamboyant character was directly inspired by “Superstar” Billy Graham.

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In fact the two performers were so similar that even their figures are basically interchangeable.

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Like many wrestlers Ventura honed his craft in smaller promotions before hitting his peak in the big two, the WWE and later in WCW. In 1984, Jesse’s in-ring career nearly came to an end due to blood clots in his lungs. The setback forced him to miss a title match against then Champion Hulk Hogan which certainly could have been a career highlight.

Surprisingly, Jesse made a comeback and thrilled crowds for a few more years before finally settling in as an announcer. His wrestling commentary style was an extension of his in ring persona, thus he was usually partial to the heels. This was notable because it gave the often one-dimensional villains a voice that they otherwise never had. Jesse served as an announcer for both the WWE and WCW. Hilariously, it was in WCW where Ventura was fired for supposedly falling asleep during a taping of “WCW Worldwide”. It was speculated that his departure probably had more to do with Hulk Hogan’s arrival to the company. Hogan was one of many Ventura had a beef with. However, we’d like to think the falling asleep story was the true reason because it’s far more amusing.

Outside the Ring

Upon his departure from the world of madcap hi-jinks and backstabbing, Ventura entered the political arena (a world of madcap hi-jinks and backstabbing – where everyone wears suits and ties). In 1998, he famously ran for governor of Minnesota. Ventura maintained his tough-guy wrestling persona and launched himself into the national spotlight as a unique political figure and pop culture icon.

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Like many politicians, his stretch was far from perfect. During his controversial run as governor Jesse made many enemies and stirred controversy on a number of occasions. As far as accomplishments go, he was the driving force behind the overhaul of the property tax system. Ventura’s push for a simpler system was body-slammed through Legislature. His reforms shifted the cost of education to the state and reduced business and apartment property tax rates. Ventura also persuaded (re: piledrived) the Legislature to cut car license tab fees and gave rebates to billions of taxpayers in what were referred to as “Jesse checks”.

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Also, 900 million in Endowments set up by Ventura were used for smoking prevention, medical education and research. The money came from the state’s tobacco settlement. Jesse is also well known for writing several books and his continued passion for broadcasting. Alas, let’s not forget his memorable role as a non-bleedin’ solder (along side future California governor Schwarzenegger) in Predator.

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Kurt Angle

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In the Ring

“Intensity, Integrity and Intelligence”, these are the three I’s Kurt has often mentioned as his motto. Although we’re sure if we think hard enough, we can come up with some filthy acronyms to use instead. Kurt (sort of) began his professional career in ECW as a guest commentator. We say “sort of” because he was so offended by a controversial gimmick involving the mock crucifixion of a wrestler named Sandman that he immediately hit the road. Ironically, he joined the WWE where storylines were often just as outrageous and crude. In fact, by 2004 the Undertaker was regularly “sacrificing” people by tying them to his “T” symbol, in “non-violent crucifixions”.

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Backed up by his tremendous in-ring ability, Kurt played up the persona of a smug, moralizing character who constantly referenced his Olympic achievements – which we’ll get to shortly. In his first year alone, Angle won numerous WWE titles as well as the King of the Ring tournament. By 2000 he snagged the Heavyweight Championship from The Rock. Kurt wrestled at the top of the WWE’s roster for the next several years, until he was sidelined by serious neck injuries. Eventually, he ended up at TNA where his success has continued as of this writing.

Outside the Ring

Prior to his sports entertainment career, Kurt won the Olympic Gold Medal for wrestling. Okay, so about now you may be thinking such an achievement, while significant, may be too closely related to professional wrestling to apply. We disagree in this instance, mainly because amateur wrestling and professional wrestling as we know it are two very different animals. One involves pure, genuine mat wrestling and the other involves midgets, laser light shows, William Shatner, barbed wire, pantsings, soap opera antics, blabbing on a mic for 20-30 minutes and spankings…

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We’re also giving Angle a bit of a pass based on the fact that he went through quite an ordeal on his road to the gold medal. For example, in 1995 Angle began preparing for the Olympics (between eight and ten hours a day) under the famous Olympic athlete Dave Schultz. Shockingly, in January of 1996, Schultz was murdered by John DuPont: the sponsor of Schultz’s team of Olympic prospects. Angle promptly quit Eleuthère’s team, was forced to find new sponsors, and joined the Dave Schultz Wrestling Club in Schultz’s memory.

However, that was far from the end of Kurt’s issues. During the Olympic Trials he fractured two of his cervical vertebrae, herniated two discs, pulled four muscles…and broke a nail. Surprisingly, he won the trials anyway and spent the next five months rehabilitating. By the time of the Olympics, he was able to compete with the aid of numerous pain-reducing injections to his neck. He won a gold medal in the heavyweight weight class despite his severe injury and setbacks.

As you can see, Angle earned his pass.

Diamond Dallas Page

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In the Ring

Better known as DDP, this veteran’s storied career has spanned two decades. He began with WCW as a manager before finding his true calling as a wrestler in 1991. Page went on to hold the WCW Heavyweight title three times and eventually was dubbed “The People’s Champion” long before The Rock used the namesake. He also enjoyed success in the WWE by winning championships and gaining a new fan base, although his stay there was brief.

As an interesting side note, during his wrestling career DDP created (and copyrighted) the “Diamond Cutter” hand gesture. Basically it was made by joining the thumbs and index fingers on each hand to form a diamond shape. In 2005, (after his wrestling career had ended) DDP filed a lawsuit against hip-hop icon Jay-Z, whom he claimed illegally adopted his hand gesture. Page accused Jay of copyright infringement and sought “prohibitive monetary damages”.

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The suit was settled in 2007 after the court signed off on an agreement reached between the two parties. The settlement included a monetary fee that was paid by Jay to Page. In exchange for the fee, Page agreed to drop all claims in regards to the infringement suit…and stop being a douche about the whole thing. Regardless of his win, the entire internet collectively handed DDP his head for that fiasco.

Outside the Ring

When not suing rappers, DDP has managed to keep himself very busy as an actor, an author and most notably as a successful yoga / fitness guru.

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In 2006, DDP’s program was credited as saving the life of Lee Marshall, a radio DJ and the famous voice of Tony the Tiger. Lee went from being a dynamo capable of bench-pressing 500 pounds to a nearly crippled, 70-pound-overweight heart attack waiting to happen… that was until DDP stepped in. DDP, who had also suffered severe injuries and physical hardships throughout his wrestling career, could relate to Lee. Lee underwent DDP’s exercise therapy program and it worked like a charm.

YRG (aka Yoga for Regular Guys) is a workout routine which is a “hybrid of traditional yoga, calisthenics, isometrics, isokinetincs and breathing methods. Rather than work body parts separately, YRG engages the entire body and mind simultaneously, providing a dynamically effective workout in a third-less time.” You can read all about it on his website. That is unless you are too busy chomping down on a double bacon burger with extra cheese.

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson

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In the Ring

The Rock’s in-ring status is the stuff of legend. He is clearly one of the most popular and recognizable WWE superstars of all time. He’s right up there with Hulk Hogan, Undertaker, Shawn Michaels and Bushwacker Luke. For years, The Rock rocked WWE fans, won numerous titles and pretty much accomplished everything a person could hope to achieve in professional wrestling. Just watch this vid and witness the incredible aura and presence he had… and this was arguably not even his prime.

As we mentioned earlier, he also made use of the “People’s Champ” moniker and took it to whole new level. For some reason DDP never saw fit to sue The Rock. Perhaps DDP failed to copyright the catchphrase on time.

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Outside the Ring

The mega success of The Rock, a.k.a. Dwayne Johnson’s wrestling persona paved the way for his cross over into pop icon / mainstream celeb status. Dwayne (as he is now regularly called) has appeared in numerous TV and film roles. He has also made a variety of guest appearances on Saturday Night Live, reviving his classic character "The Rock Obama".

Although Dwayne has arguably had more ups than downs in Hollywood, we do have to warn him… one more film like this and he’s off the list.

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Antonio Inoki

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In the Ring

Antonio is one of the most famous and popular wrestlers in the history of Japanese professional wrestling. We’re can’t even begin to describe the awesomeness of his jaw alone. He began his historic career in 1966 in Tokyo Pro Wrestling. By 1972, he founded his own promotion called New Japan Pro-Wrestling. He spent his career doing everything in his power to prove that wrestling is a sport worthy of respect. Known as a remarkable grappler in his own right, he had many prominent matches. His most famous bout was a wrestler vs. boxer match in which he battled the legend Muhammad Ali. The odd pairing helped pave the way for Mixed Martial Arts, which has since grown in popularity. UFC fans best recognize!

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WWE welcomed Antonio Inoki into their Hall of Fame Class of 2010. Surprisingly, they didn’t dress him up as a giant turkey, make him dance with Snoop Dogg or get splashed by Hornswoggle as WWE Divas dressed in Baywatch outfits jiggled around in the background.

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Outside the Ring

In 1989, Inoki established the Sports and Peace Party in Japan. He was also elected to the House of Councillors of the National Diet of Japan. During his time in office, Inoki represented his nation in meetings with Fidel Castro and Saddam Hussein, whom he met with for the release of prisoners from Iraq prior to the Gulf War. Saddam respectfully presented the wrestler with a pair of golden swords.

Speaking of respect, during one visit to a school in the 1980s, Inoki was punched twice by a student during a demonstration. Inoki followed up the punches with a strong slap to the student’s face. You know you want to see this…



As it turned out the student, was a big Inoki fan, and couldn’t have been happier for the slap. The outrageous incident became very famous in Japan. Since then, many grapplers have respectfully requested that Inoki slap them to install courage in them. The slap has come to be known as the “Fighting Spirit (or Tōkon) Slap.”

Inoki is always happy to oblige.