Whether you like the term or not, “sports entertainment” is a perfect term for what wrestling has become. Professional wrestling is designed to bridge the gap between athletic competition and storytelling, and no company does more to push the latter than Vince McMahon’s industry giant.
In order to hit the top, a performer must supplement their athletic abilities by playing an effective character, following a script, and telling a good story. For better or worse, wrestling’s dramatic side has become just as important as the action itself, and a well-rounded skillset is essential
WWE’s cast are actors playing a role, but the line between “real” and “fake” has never been blurrier. Social media has made it almost impossible for wrestlers to maintain their double lives, and just like you wouldn’t expect Bryan Cranston to act like Heisenberg off-screen, you wouldn’t necessarily expect to be greeted by Dolph Ziggler if you ran into Nick Nemeth in real-life.
With all that said, some of the best characters in wrestling history have been a reflection of the performer’s own personality. Guys like Steve Austin, CM Punk, and countless others have found success this way, but others take things to the extreme.
Some wrestlers are so committed to their role that they become their characters. Whether deliberate or not, here are those performers for whom playing their character wasn’t a job, but a way of life: 10 WWE wrestlers who lived their gimmicks.