Back in the day, wrestlers had to pay their dues in the independent scene before hitting the big time and bright lights of WWE. Ever since the WWE Performance Center opened in 2013 all that changed. Performers were trained in a state-of-the-art facility by some of the most respected names in the industry.
William Regal, Shawn Michaels, Sara Del Rey and Matt Bloom among many others have helped shape future generations of wrestlers. Multiple bodybuilders, weight lifters, former pro-athletes, and fitness models have come through the PC without ever putting a foot inside a wrestling ring. But that doesn’t mean they weren’t successful.
Here are five WWE wrestlers who have never wrestled elsewhere.
5. Baron Corbin
Baron Corbin is a two-time regional Golden Gloves Boxing champion and former offensive lineman for the Indianapolis Colts and Arizona Cardinals. Unable to break out in the NFL, Corbin walked away from American Football after getting released for the second time in 2011.
Corbin signed a WWE developmental deal the following year along with fellow former football player, Mojo Rawley. In NXT, Corbin got himself in tremendous shape after losing nearly 50lbs as he transitioned into the world of wrestling.
Corbin adopted the Lone Wolf persona in NXT before having a decent run on the black and gold brand facing the likes of Rhyno, Samoa Joe and Sami Zayn in the process. His main roster debut came at WrestleMania 32 where he won the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. Despite falling on tough times recently, Corbin has enjoyed success in WWE. Since debuting on the main roster he won the Money in the Bank briefcase, the US championship and King of the Ring.
4. Alexa Bliss
After a life-threatening illness, at a young age, Alexa Bliss became involved in fitness competitions as part of her recovery. Hugely successful in that field she went on to become the youngest person to get a pro card and competed at the Arnold Classic in 2013 as an IFBB bikini pro.
A huge fan of wrestling, especially Trish Stratus and Rey Mysterio, Bliss jumped at the chance of a WWE tryout advertised on their website. She sent in a video and was called back to attend the WWE Performance and despite having no in-ring experience she was signed to a developmental deal in May 2013.
From there she became Alexa Bliss, a glitter blowing, tutu-wearing babyface. Despite being the closest thing to her outside of the ring she found success as the heel manager of Blake and Murphy leading them to Tag Team Championship glory.
After three years in NXT, she was called up to SmackDown as part of the 2016 WWE Draft. She made her debut on July 26th and just five months later became the second-ever SmackDown Women’s Champion. She then became the first-ever wrestler to win both the SmackDown and RAW Women’s Championships and the first-ever two-time WWE Women’s Tag Team Champion.
3. Big E
Big E is a former American Footballer and Powerlifter who had never considered wrestling as a career. However, after injuries forced him to give up on his footballing dreams he put in touch with Jim Ross.
After receiving a tryout at FCW, Big E signed a developmental contract in 2009. In FCW Big E put his former football and weightlifting experience to good use and developed his powerhouse style and move set.
As FCW gave way to NXT, Big E began to blossom and become the highly entertaining performer he is today. During his NXT run, he took King Kong Bundy’s old “five count” gimmick, in which he would pin his opponents for five seconds instead of the regular three. Big E reached the pinnacle of NXT when he became the second NXT Champion in history.
After dropping the title to Bo Dallas he made his main roster debut by attacking John Cena and siding with Dolph Ziggler and AJ Lee. From there he won the Intercontinental Championship before joining one of the most popular and much-loved factions of all time, the New Day. Big E is currently Mr Money In The Bank, so more success may be right around the corner…
2. Charlotte Flair
Charlotte Flair didn’t want to be a wrestler. However, when her brother Reid wanted to follow in their father’s footsteps she joined him on his journey. Charlotte had started training with her late brother Reid.
Charlotte joined Reid in a meeting their father set up with John Laurinaitis about a possible deal for Reid. However, it was Charlotte who piqued the interest of the Head of Talent Relations. In the meeting, John Laurinaitis asked Charlotte why she wasn’t involved in wrestling. At the time, Flair was involved in an abusive relationship and saw the opportunity as the chance to move on and better her situation.
The meeting with Laurinaitis led to Charlotte signing a WWE developmental deal on May 17th 2012. Unfortunately, not long after joining FCW, her brother tragically passed away on March 29th 2013. Charlotte dedicated her life to professional wrestling in his honour and 14-months after his passing she won the NXT Women’s Championship.
From there, Flair has gone on to become WWE’s most-decorated women’s wrestler. She has won every women’s title available in the company and continues to cement the Flair legacy in her own right.
1. Roman Reigns
Roman Reigns is the quintessential product of WWE. He has everything the company loves as a wrestler. Good looks, great physique and a strong wrestling legacy.
Surrounded by wrestling from an early age it was inevitable that Reigns would join the family business. But first came American Football.
Reigns signed for the Minnesota Vikings and the Jacksonville Jaguars in the NFL. After his release, he headed to Edmonton Eskimos in the CFL but soon released his football dreams would come into fruition. After retiring from the sport in 2008 he followed in the footsteps of his family and began training to be a wrestler.
In 2010, Reigns signed a WWE developmental deal and reported to FCW as Roman Leakee. He became Roman Reigns in 2012 when FCW rebranded into NXT, but it wasn’t until his main roster debut when made his impact. At Survivor Series he debuted as the powerhouse of the Shield.
The renegade trio was extremely popular and elevated all three into superstardom. However, it was Reigns who received the mega-push after the stable disbanded. Multiple titles, main events and WrestleMania headline spots followed. Reigns continues to proudly carry the Samoan Dynasty into the next generation as the ‘Head of the Table’ and the ‘Tribal Chief’.