Pro Wrestling

10 Most Inspirational Wrestlers Source:

People like to paint a dark picture of professional wrestling. It’s a terrible thing, full of drugs and scandals and violence, and it’s certainly not wholesome or family-friendly. Sometimes, it seems impossible that any good could come out of such a twisted place. Why would any decent human being want to be a part of it? But, just like Darth Vader, there is still good in pro wrestling. There are wrestlers that can inspire you, through their words, their actions, and sometimes, just by being themselves. So, when it seems like there’s a dark cloud over the world of pro wrestling, you can remember some of these examples of how much good there is to be found in this often crazy sport.

10. Dusty Rhodes

So many complimentary words have been spoken and written about Dusty Rhodes since his passing, but there is always room for a few more. Setting aside Dusty’s own wrestling career, where he played a living, breathing version of the American Dream and connected with so many people, there is even more about Dusty’s career after he was done in the ring that is worthy of notice. First of all, while even he admitted that he wasn’t always the greatest of fathers due to his career, Dusty still managed to raise two sons into successful wrestlers, following in their father’s footsteps. He got to both see them reach their goals and actively participate in their respective rises, and both tell them and show them how proud he was. And Dusty has also directly influenced an entire generation of professional wrestlers that are just now breaking into WWE, through his tireless work with NXT and the WWE Performance Center. The sheer number of young wrestlers who have told stories about how Dusty Rhodes was like a second father to them, and helped them become better, is incredible, and ensure that his legacy will live for a very long time. Source:

9. William Regal

William Regal, in his prime, was probably one of the most under-rated wrestlers in the business, and one of the most deserving wrestlers to never have a shot at winning a World title. He also fought with addictions and life-threatening medical conditions for much of his life. In 1999 he was fired from WWE over his addition to painkillers and forced to enter rehab. Years later, having fought his way back into WWE, he was sidelined and nearly forced to retire due to a serious heart condition that prevented him from wrestling. In his autobiography, he also revealed that for many of his years in WCW, he was a barely functioning alcoholic. For William Regal, as for all addicts, every day must be a constant battle with his demons. However, Regal took back his life and his career, earning a position in WWE as a respected veteran, and now, essentially retired from the ring, he acts as NXT General Manager, trainer, and talent scout. And it’s easy to tell, when you watch him on NXT, that he’s having the time of his life. Source:

8. Darren Young

It shouldn’t be meaningful to give Darren Young credit for being himself. But as the first openly gay active pro wrestler in WWE, Young opened himself up to a world of possibilities, both good and bad. And to his and WWE’s credit, it’s been handled incredibly well. In an age where every sport is making a big deal about the first athlete of that type to come out, Young’s revelation was part of a tossed-off interview, a surprising answer to a routine question treated as easily as if he’d been asked what his favorite color was. Fans reacted quickly, and one of their biggest assumptions was that WWE would instantly exploit this for goodwill, and given WWE’s need for good PR, it would be hard to blame them for trumpeting Young’s sexuality from the rooftops. But instead, they did practically nothing. Young’s character on WWE TV remained the same, and although he and his tag partner did make some subtle remarks during promos, the preferences of the character of Darren Young, member of the Prime Time Players, has never come up. On the promotional end of things, WWE has certainly mentioned it a few times, but they haven’t made a big deal about it either. Darren Young is gay, and it doesn’t really matter. Because it shouldn’t. Source:

7. The Miz

All right, nobody likes The Miz. We’ve probably covered that before. But you can’t deny that The Miz is a shining example of someone who followed his dream and succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest expectations. From his not-so-humble beginnings on MTV’s The Real World, where he was known as “the guy who wants to be a pro wrestler”, to getting his foot in the door by entering Tough Enough, losing, and getting a contract out of the deal anyway, all the way to the top of the mountain, when he became WWE Champion, Miz has never given up on his goals. All he ever wanted to do was be a professional wrestler, and he did everything he could to make that a reality. And not only did he make it to WWE, he worked so hard that they made him champion. He even went down in history as having beaten John Cena in the main event of WrestleMania, which, extenuating circumstances or not, is an accomplishment that very few can lay claim to. So, it’s fine to hate The Miz, in fact, it’s encouraged. But it’s also okay to feel happy for him, because he gets to do what he’s wanted to do his entire life. Source:

6. Xavier Woods

If you could say one thing about Xavier Woods, it would be that he is a pretty darned good trombone player. But Xavier Woods is also something that’s incredibly rare to find in professional wrestlers: he’s going to be a doctor. Not of the medical variety, obviously, but during his rise through the ranks of independent wrestling, NXT, and WWE, Woods has earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy, as well as a Master’s Degree in Psychology, and is currently finishing up his PhD in Educational Psychology. That’s right, he’s better educated than most regular people, let alone those who dedicate their lives to pro wrestling. In addition, Woods is a gigantic nerd, another rarity in athletic circles. In NXT, he had his hometown announced as Angel Grove, California, which you may (or may not) know as the hometown of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. He’s also an unabashed fan of My Little Pony, regularly attends comic and gaming conventions in a variety of costumes (yes, the picture below really is Xavier dressed as Jem from Jem and The Holograms), and hosts Up Up Down Down on YouTube, where he plays video games with WWE Superstars. In a world typically more focused on brawn than brain, Woods is in a class all by himself. Source:

5. Diamond Dallas Page

Diamond Dallas Page got into pro wrestling very late, only becoming an active wrestler in his mid-30’s. Despite that, he went on to have a fairly successful wrestling career, winning the WCW World Heavyweight title on multiple occasions. And while he wasn’t the best wrestler in the world, the most important thing to know about DDP is that he was always praised for his incredibly positive attitude. In fact, late in his career, WWE made that his gimmick. But it’s DDP’s post-ring career that makes him an inspiration. After retiring from the ring, DDP developed and popularized DDP Yoga, a program designed to help both athletes and normal people live healthier lives, which has become a wildly successful business. In addition to that, Page started the “Accountability Crib” rehabilitation program, where Page helped retired wrestlers, notably Scott Hall and Jake Roberts, try to overcome crippling substance abuse issues. During his Hall of Fame induction speech, Jake Roberts credited Page’s help with saving his life. Source:

4. Mick Foley

Some would say Mick Foley’s in-ring career is inspirational enough. A weird, unconventional, unique wrestler who fought his way up from Japanese death matches to become a WWE Legend and Hall of Famer, his first WWF Title win is considered one of the most memorable in wrestling history simply for how emotional it was. He also wrote multiple New York Times #1 Bestsellers, notably writing his first autobiography by hand (the book clocked in at over 800 pages), and became a successful stand-up comedian. If that weren’t enough, he’s also massively active with several charities, including RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) and ChildFund International. Finally, and possibly most importantly, he’s a devoted family man, with a loving wife and four children, and shockingly only one of them was crazy enough to follow in their father’s footsteps and train to become a wrestler (Noelle, his only daughter, who has occasionally appeared with Foley during some promotional skits for WWE). Frankly, if more people were like Mick Foley, the world would be a much better place. Source:

3. John Cena

The more cynical people out there will say that John Cena only does charity work because it’s part of his job, because WWE requires Superstars to do it in order to get good publicity for the company. But while WWE certainly is no stranger to using their charitable activities to promote themselves, it’s become apparent that John Cena would do charity work if he were never even a pro wrestler in the first place, and WWE simply allows him to have a greater reach than he would otherwise. Recently, he was honored by the Make-A-Wish Foundation for granting his 500th wish. Sure, you might say, that’s a massive number, but lots of athletes and celebrities take part in Make-A-Wish. Well, that is true, but in all the years of its existence, nobody on the planet has granted more wishes than Cena, and in fact, nobody has even granted half as many. Cena has been tireless in his charitable work since becoming a WWE Superstar, and it seems unlikely that he will ever stop, which is a remarkable level of dedication that we should all aspire to. Source:

2. Daniel Bryan

Daniel Bryan was never supposed to become WWE World Heavyweight Champion. The company itself didn’t ever intend for Bryan to be in the main event of WrestleMania 30. Despite his t-shirt sales and the popularity of the “Yes!” chant, WWE never saw Daniel Bryan as more than a good wrestler who could be used in mid-card feuds to put on great matches with other wrestlers who the company wanted to become big stars. In fact, nobody thought that Daniel Bryan would ever even make it to WWE. He was too short, it was said, with poor promo skills and besides, he was too beaten up after years and years spent on the independent circuit. Then, when he finally made it, his first appearance on Raw as part of the Nexus invasion saw him choke ring announcer Justin Roberts with Roberts’ own tie, a spot which allegedly caused problems with a major WWE sponsor, leading to Bryan’s termination. Even though he was later re-hired, it seemed like outside factors were constantly working against Bryan. But after fans began to loudly protest, to the point of disrupting an entire Pay Per View when it became apparent that Bryan was not in WWE’s plans for WrestleMania, WWE was forced to recognize Bryan’s incredible groundswell of support, and inserted him into the main event, where he showed that he really was the biggest star in the company, and a man deserving of being WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Source:

1. Bayley

Bayley is a really, really good person.

That’s actually it. She’s good, and nice, and cheerful, and something like that just doesn’t exist in professional wrestling. It’s a dark world, full of lies and betrayal, where people fight each other on a regular basis. Even when role models emerge, they’re expected to be slightly “edgy”, lest cynical fans find their upbeat, wholesome personality cloying and start booing relentlessly (see: Cena, John). But here’s Bayley, smiling her way through life, festooned in ribbons and flowers and hairbands, with peppy entrance music and wacky arm-waving inflatable tube men flanking her as she goes to the ring. She doesn’t just high-five people, she actually hugs them. Everything she does puts a smile on your face. Her biggest fan is a young girl named Izzy, who sits at ringside for every NXT taping dressed exactly like her hero. And when Bayley returned to Full Sail after winning the NXT Women’s Title at NXT: TakeOver Brooklyn, she brought Izzy into the ring to celebrate with her. It’s been said that if she joined the main roster tomorrow, she’d blow past John Cena’s Make-A-Wish record in no time, because she’s such an inspiration to young girls everywhere. And not a single second of it feels fake, like she’s playing a character. It’s real, and it’s heartwarming, and it’s almost impossible to believe that it’s possible. But it is, and just like the ring announcer says when she enters the arena, “It’s Bayley!” Source:
Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle is an avid wrestling and film fan. He's been writing about WWE, movies, and video games for Goliath since 2015.