When pro-wrestling finally went ‘mainstream’ in the 1980’s, it traded dusty exhibition halls for televised stadium events. As the spotlight shone ever greater, the physiques of the ‘wrasslers’ changed accordingly.

With Rambo and Predator filling cinema screens, the audience demanded muscular action men with six packs rather than tough guys with missing teeth. Beer-bellied brawlers were replaced by towering titans chiseled from stone.


Billy Graham

For many, the first significant connection between bodybuilding and pro-wrestling can actually be traced back as far as the 1960’s. Although there had already been massively built wrestlers lifting weights, none had the physique of one ‘Superstar’ Billy Graham.

Graham was a wrestling champion and close friend of the world’s best known bodybuilder – Arnold Schwarzenegger.  The two were training partners and could often be found at the original Gold’s Gym on Venice Beach. Graham’s colorful ring attire and huge arms would set a trend that remains to this day in the world of ‘sports entertainment’.

Kids are in awe of bulging biceps and young men look up to these statuesque examples of masculinity so it’s no surprise that ‘Superstar’ Billy Graham’s physique influenced many future wrestling stars including Hulk Hogan and Jesse Ventura. 

This ‘action hero’ look still dominates wrestling television shows today and while there has been a small move in modern times towards leaner, lighter bodies – the bulky look still holds strong.

Here are some other examples of the bodybuilding / pro-wrestling connection:


Vince McMahon

The pioneer of wrestling as ‘sports entertainment’, owner of WWE and self made billionaire, Vince has a gym at his office headquarters in Stanford, Connecticut USA. He is a fan of the ‘monster’ look and a keen bodybuilder.

Vince promised to revolutionize the world of bodybuilding in 1990 when he launched the ‘World Body Building Federation’ and signed Tom Platz as a Director of Talent.

Despite the initial hype, the WBF failed to match the success of his wrestling promotion and it ended in 1992.  However bodybuilding is still very much apparent in the physiques of many of today’s WWE wrestlers.

With his personal passion for bodybuilding Vince has also been professionally inclined to push wrestlers that are ‘larger than life’.  Many of his stars such as Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, The Rock and John Cena have sold millions of tickets for the WWE.

Over the years, “betting on the big guy” has often rewarded Vince with commercial success.

#BeatUpJohnCena ?

John Cena

Few WWE wrestlers have been more successful than John Cena. Through his appearances around the world and in the movies he has become a household name. 

The old-school tradition was for a wrestler to become skilled in the art of submission before putting on muscle but these days a great body can be a spring board to a successful in-ring career. Cena fits this mold. 

He’s a respected bodybuilder who made the cross-over to wrestling. In fact, during his early WWE days, he was advised to trim down in size!

John Cena, despite his detractors, has gone on to become a very capable wrestler and with his ‘cartoon-hero’ look has gone on to win 12 world wrestling titles proving that this look is still an attraction to millions of viewers. His incredible displays of strength, lifting guys heavier than himself and throwing them down like rag-dolls, make him an ideal WWE superstar.


Dave Batista

After giving up on a bodybuilding career (he says his height was a disadvantage as shorter people were making the same weight, thus making his muscles look smaller in contrast to his stockier opponents) Batista was told he would never make it as a professional wrestler. He ignored his doubters and enrolled in a different wrestling school. The rest, as they say, is history.

Batista went on to become a six time world champion in WWE before entering the world of MMA.  Last October He was victorious in his debut match with the Classic Entertainment & Sports promotion, defeating Vince Lucero via TKO in the first round.

Batista has also found success in Hollywood, appearing in a number of movies including “The Man with the Iron Fists”.

There’s little argument that bodybuilding and wrestling is an unstoppable combination. Despite this fact, there is a limit to how muscular wrestlers can be. They need to remain flexible and also need to focus on other issues such as cardiovascular training.

Wrestlers are heroes to millions of people around the world and the muscular look elevates wrestlers from being ‘mere mortals’ to superstars. There have been some exceptions over the years but the majority of dominating champions in the world of wrestling are bodybuilders too.