While the outcomes of pro wrestling matches are predetermined, pro wrestling can still be very hard to predict. Even outside of the matches themselves, the trajectory of a given wrestler can shock fans, as minor guys can unexpectedly become superstars and would-be top guys end up flaming out. For example, how many fans watching 3MB expected Drew McIntyre to one day become WWE Champion?
On top of that, there are some wrestlers whose careers take paths that are frankly surprising. Let’s take a look at 10 wrestlers whose careers went in shocking directions — both in wrestling and outside of it.
10 Batista: Actor
Over the years, a number of wrestling stars have become movie stars, with The Rock and John Cena arguably being the most successful and high-profile. That said, Dave Bautista — better known as WWE’s Batista — might actually be the best of the bunch.
After several small roles in films like Riddick and Scorpion King 3, Batista got his breakout role as Drax The Destroyer in Guardians of The Galaxy. Since then, the former six-time world champion has proven himself as a surprisingly great actor in movies by major filmmakers like Denis Villeneuve, Zack Snyder, and M. Night Shyamalan.
9 Nigel McGuinness: Broadcast Talent
For many independent wrestling fans of the 2000s and 2010s, one of the best indie stars was Nigel McGuinness, who impressed in Ring of Honor in bouts with top talent like Bryan Danielson and KENTA. McGuinness seemed destined for greatness, but a disappointing run in Impact Wrestling as Desmond Wolfe followed by a bout with Hepatitis B seemed to hamper his career.
Rather than fade into obscurity, McGuinness found a second life in the wrestling world as a color commentator, which he did in ROH as well as WWE before bringing his talents to AEW.
8 Sasha Banks: Venturing Outside WWE
Given her status as one of the Four Horsewomen of NXT and a subsequent star on the WWE main roster, many fans assumed that Sasha Banks was destined to be a WWE lifer. While she was a popular talent in WWE, creative frustration eventually took hold and Banks shockingly ditched WWE in 2022.
Making her debut in New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s Wrestle Kingdom 17 as Mercedes Moné, the former Sasha Banks embarked on a new journey in her career outside the WWE system. Time will tell if she ever returns to WWE, but it’s nevertheless surprising that she ended up seeking alternative options outside the promotion.
7 Mideon: Chef
During his time in wrestling, Dennis Knight worked under a number of names including Tex Slazenger in WCW, goofy pig farming tag team specialist Phineas I. Godwinn, and Mideon (or Naked Mideon) of the spooky Ministry of Darkness faction.
After leaving WWE in the early 2000s and wrestling in the indies until the middle of the decade, Knight ended up pursuing a completely different line of work in food service, ultimately becoming a chef. After learning the proverbial ropes from an established chef, Knight became a chef himself, eventually founding his own catering company.
First introduced to WWE fans as comedic NXT rookie Derrick Bateman, the privileged heel Ethan Carter III (or EC3) debuted in Impact Wrestling in 2013, proving to fans that he had what it took to be a main eventer. A return to WWE once again failed to yield success, and EC3 was once again released from the company.
Few could have predicted that EC3 would not only totally overhaul his character into a Fight Club-inspired thing, but also found his own promotion to match: Control Your Narrative, a gritty underground production that employs a few too many “canceled” wrestlers for most fans to be comfortable with.
5 Ryback: Nutrition Supplement Entrepreneur & Twitter Troll
Another NXT rookie, the former Skip Sheffield was repackaged as the faux Goldberg known as Ryback and actually managed to get over with fans in the process. However, a questionable heel turn and relegation to the tag team division stymied his momentum, and Ryback was released from WWE in 2016.
While he wrestled on the indie scene for a few years, Ryback — who legally changed his name to Ryback — also embarked on a new career path. While regularly trolling fans on Twitter, Ryback also runs a nutrition supplement business called Feed Me More.
4 AJ Lee: Writer & Actor
In the pre-Divas Revolution days, three-time champion AJ Lee was one of the few bright spots in WWE’s women’s division. As a nerdy, pop-punk-inspired performer with an obvious love for wrestling, AJ Lee seemed like a wonderful anomaly in a roster of ex-models, so it was a shame when she retired due to a cervical spine injury in 2015.
Since then, AJ Lee (now known as AJ Mendez) has done a lot of work as a writer, not only writing her own autobiography but also teaming with actress Aimee Garcia to write a comic book series based on Netflix’s GLOW as well as the screenplay for Blade of the 47 Ronin. She’s ventured into acting too, having recently been cast in the road trip comedy Sacramento.
3 Velveteen Dream: Persona Non Grata
From 2017 to 2020, Tough Enough revival contestant Patrick Clark surprisingly won fans over as the Prince-inspired Velveteen Dream, becoming one of the top stars on NXT. Seemingly destined for main roster greatness, Dream’s career was derailed by not only backstage drama but also a scandal involving alleged grooming behavior eventually leading to his release from WWE in 2021.
Since then, Velveteen Dream has yet to wrestle another match, but Patrick Clark has continued to make the news thanks to incidents like attacking a gym owner.
2 Diamond Dallas Page: Yoga Instructor
Diamond Dallas Page started in-ring competition surprisingly late in his 30s and ended up mostly retiring from pro wrestling in the mid-2000s. Given the amount of charisma he showed off, Page could have been a manager or color commentator but ended up choosing a different path in his post-wrestling years.
Instead, he became a yoga instructor, putting together his own program called DDP Yoga. Given that his wrestling persona was pretty sleazy, his devotion to yoga and wellness was more than a little surprising.
1 Jason Jordan: Producer
In 2015, WWE developmental talent Jason Jordan found his niche as part of the tag team American Alpha with Chad Gable, with whom he captured not only the NXT Tag Team Championships but also the SmackDown Tag Team Championships.
Unfortunately, however, Jordan suffered what turned out to be a career-ending neck injury in 2018. Rather than simply stepping away from wrestling, Jordan ended up getting a backstage role in WWE as a producer, which was surprising given that the job usually goes to retired veterans and the like.