10 Great Wrestlers Who Totally Reinvented Themselves

When old dogs learn new tricks.

Shinsuke Nakamura transformation

Bread's not the only commodity where going stale's a death sentence.

Staying hip and relevant in pro wrestling long term is a tall order for most. With ever-changing expectations and fan interests, wrestlers often have to tweak, or even outright overhaul, their personas and wrestling styles to stay in the game.

Other times, wrestlers pretty much debut in dire need of an immediate reboot. Fans are almost immediately hostile to the performance they're putting on, or, worse still, just not engaging with it at all.

The likes of Baron Corbin and Bray Wyatt have presented polarising, often bizarre reinventions in more recent years. Seemingly playing into what’s drawn their criticism rather than shifting away from it, this trend appears to be becoming the norm more and more in recent years.

While there's an argument that such change-ups can garner heat by sticking it to the critics, there's an argument to be made for rolling with the punches. Will Ospreay, currently one of NJPW's top drawing acts, took fan criticism of his physique, psychology and high-flying to heart. The result's been a beefed-up, strong-style storyteller at the peak of his powers.

Over the years, many stars have displayed a similar commitment to getting or remaining over no matter the cost. Here are 10 of the best...

10. Shinsuke Nakamura

Shinsuke Nakamura transformation

NJPW's Three Musketeers were all starting to get a little long in the tooth by 2002 (even though Keiji Mutoh's still donning The Great Muta warpaint in 2022). Sensing the need for change, Antonio Inoki scouted a new ace for the promotion he was utterly murdering with his MMA obsession.

In standout collegiate wrestler and New Japan Dojo graduate Shinsuke Nakamura, Inoki found everything he was looking for. Pushed as a super rookie, Nakamura skipped the young lion process altogether and got his hands on the IWGP Heavyweight Title at just 23 years old.

While fans were excited to see a new top dog in the promotion, the young shoot fighter was sorely lacking in any real sense of charisma or showmanship. His first two title reigns came and went with middling success. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Nakamura's career rival, wound up passing him by as New Japan's leading man.

Like so many before and since, the future Royal Rumble winner found his niche by turning heel. Reborn as the leather pants-loving 'King of Strong Style', Nakamura enjoyed his third and final run as IWGP Heavyweight Champ to considerably more acclaim and success. A 2013 excursion to Mexico completed his journey from promising but dull work rate guy to wrestling pop star.

Dancing, showboating and boasting increasingly absurd entrance gear, the original leader of CHAOS became a puroresu icon during the 2010s, often drawing huge gates despite headlining with the secondary IWGP Intercontinental Title, and ultimately landing a contract with WWE.


John Cunningham hasn't written a bio just yet, but if they had... it would appear here.