Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has built a multimillion dollar career off his initial fame fighting in the WWE. But the star of the upcoming “San Andreas” blockbuster is far from the only one.
Former World Wrestling Entertainment stars from Diamond Dallas Page to Chris Jericho to Steve Austin to Mick Foley and Jim Ross are five other former superstars breaking the mold and cashing in with multimillion-dollar ventures in Hollywood and beyond.
Page went from being heavyweight champion of the world to the main advocate of his own brand of yoga, while legendary announcer Jim Ross currently markets a line of barbecue sauces.
Chris Jericho, who sat down with TheWrap for a wide-ranging interview over lunch in Cafe Bouchon at Beverly Hills’ Montage, discussed how he juggles his time between hosting a popular podcast, playing in a rock band and starring in a Comedy Central web series.
“I’ve been very cognizant of working the Chris Jericho brand name over the last 10 years knowing that I wasn’t going to be wrestling until I’m 60,” Jericho said. “When you think of Jericho I want you to think entertainer, not wrestler, or musician or podcaster. It’s a combination of all those things.”
Meanwhile, Mick Foley — a.k.a. “Hardcore Legend” and “King of the Deathmatch” — also recently began appearing across the country as a stand-up comedian.
And last but certainly not least is the “Texas Rattlesnake” himself, Steve Austin, who currently hosts one of the most popular podcasts on the airwaves today, drawing nearly 800,000 listeners a week as well as hosting his own reality competition series.
TheWrap took an in-depth look at these five stars who are building personal brands and achieving new levels of prosperity outside of the professional wrestling world.
Diamond Dallas Page
Diamond Dallas Page became a professional wrestler at the tender age of 35 and even then, his career didn’t truly take off until he was 40. Once it did, though, Page was seemingly unstoppable. He enjoyed multiple runs as the heavyweight champion until a back injury sent him down a very different path.
“I had just signed a multimillion-dollar, three-year deal when I blew my back out,” Page said in an interview with TheWrap. “Three of the top back specialists in the world told me my career was over.”
That’s when Page was introduced to an unlikely form of therapy: yoga. While initially wary of the spiritual aspect of yoga, after a few months he began to see major improvements.
“At 42 years old, they said my career was over. At 43, I was the heavyweight champ of the world,” he said.
Page’s workout eventually became DDPYoga, which he bills as “yoga for regular guys.” He shared it with others and began developing his own exercise program combining traditional positions with physical therapy exercises and calisthenics. “It was a 10-year overnight success,” Page joked.
He built the company into a mail-order DVD business in addition to setting up workshops across the country. He also just completed work on the DDPYoga Performance Center, a 4,000-square-foot facility that includes state-of-the-art soundstages, editing facilities, and a full kitchen that Page uses to conduct and film cooking demonstrations.
He is developing a DDPYoga app and a new animated series of DDPYoga instructional videos for kids, which Page will star in himself “as a Spongebob-esque character.” Page also produced the documentary “The Resurrection of Jake the Snake,” which follows Page’s efforts to help rehab fellow wrestlers Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Scott Hall through sober living as well as DDPYoga.
Jim “JR” Ross
Jim “JR” Ross broke into the wrestling business as a referee, but soon found himself behind a microphone. He would go on to become one of the most celebrated announcers of all time, calling such legendary matches as the 1998 Hell in a Cell Match, in which Mick Foley was thrown off the top of the cage. Ross famously yelled, “As God is my witness, he is broken in half!”
He was let go by WWE in 2013 after a panel discussion about the new WWE video game got out of hand. “Because I was the engineer of that runaway train, I was relieved of my post,” Ross said in an interview with TheWrap. “Such is life.”
He did not, however, allow the setback to get him down.
“I said to myself, ‘This is an opportunity to reinvent yourself. Now let’s see how you can perform in another arena for another team,'” he said. “So I was my own little expansion franchise. I didn’t know exactly what it was going to be, but I had ideas.”
The idea eventually became a line of barbecue sauces, inspired by the sauce Ross’ mother had made when he was a child. He started out with just one sauce but has now expanded into his own mustard, ketchup, beef jerky and an all-purpose seasoning. He is working on getting his products stocked in major grocery chains, and has already secured distribution in the United Kingdom and Ireland through the company American Soda.
“I can’t believe the Food Network hasn’t contacted me yet,” Ross said.
His former employer also supports his entrepreneurship. WWE has started selling Ross’ wares on its website, and he told TheWrap the company sells “significantly more than six figures” worth of his products annually.
He has also kept a hand in broadcasting with his weekly podcast, “The Ross Report.” It’s currently one of the most popular shows produced by Podcast One, and gets an average of 500,000 downloads every week. He also contributes articles to Fox Sports and does the occasional announcing gig for various boxing, MMA, and pro wrestling promotions.
Chris Jericho burst into WWE in 1999. He played a brash rock-star type who nevertheless became a fan favorite. While not the biggest wrestler, Jericho filled stadiums with his personality and charisma, capturing every major championship the promotion had to offer. He ceased wrestling full time for the company in 2005.
Jericho has stayed plenty busy since then, though. He currently performs as the lead singer of the rock band Fozzy, hosts his own podcast, and acts.
“There’s always a lot of stuff going on because I’ve been very cognizant of working the Chris Jericho brand name over the last 10 years knowing that I wasn’t going to be wrestling until I’m 60,” Jericho said in an interview with TheWrap. “When you think of Jericho, I want you to think entertainer, not wrestler, or musician, or podcaster. It’s a combination of all those things.”
Fozzy recently released its sixth album, “Do You Wanna Start a War?” It was the band’s best performing album to date, debuting in the top 100 on the Billboard charts. Jericho also tours with the band regularly, both in the U.S. and abroad.
“Talk Is Jericho,” which streams twice a week, is one of the top 10 podcasts produced by Podcast One. The show debuted in December 2013 and recently surpassed 80 million total downloads.
Jericho also stars in “Nothing to Report,” a comedy web series currently available on Comedy Central’s website and YouTube. The show was developed by the comedy troupe Team Tiger Awesome. Jericho credits wrestling with preparing him for his acting career.
“You have to play a part when you’re in pro wrestling,” he said. “And if you can do it well, being in the WWE is like show-business boot camp. You learn a little bit about everything, every little aspect of show business.”
The goal is to get the show ordered to series, and Jericho said the web series has performed “way above” Comedy Central’s expectations with almost a million views, overall, since six episodes debuted in April.
Mick Foley’s name has become synonymous with the extreme style of wrestling that became popular in the U.S. in the mid- to late-90’s. Foley would often employ chairs, tables and barbed wire-wrapped baseball bats in his matches. Fans loved it, bringing signs reading “Foley is God” to live events. He announced his retirement from in-ring competition in 2013.
While Foley was known for his wild-man antics inside the ring, he is the exact opposite outside of it. He is a soft-spoken father of four who recently launched a new career in the world of stand-up comedy.
“It was just like something clicked,” Foley said in a 2014 documentary about his new career. “And these ideas became stories and those reactions that I loved so much were there for me. And I realized if I didn’t really do this… then I was going to be that guy sitting on my couch ten years later saying, ‘I could have done that.'”
Foley currently performs at over 100 live shows each year. The venues range in size from 300-1,000 seats. He also recently released a one-hour special on the WWE Network.
The former wrestler also produced and appeared in the documentary “I Am Santa Claus” — currently available on Netflix — which explores the lives of several men who portray Santa Claus as they prepare for the holiday season. Foley himself has begun appearing as Saint Nick in recent years as well.
No wrestler is more closely associated with the 1990s’ Attitude Era than Stone Cold Steve Austin. Though he started off as a villain, Austin’s anti-authority persona turned him into a fan favorite. He claimed the WWE championship in 1998 and became the face of the company, with his merchandise becoming the most popular in the WWE history. He retired from wrestling in 2003 after a series of injuries.
While Austin found success with film roles over the years, his greatest achievement since leaving wrestling came when he launched his podcast in 2013, “The Steve Austin Show,” with Podcast One.
Austin currently tapes two shows each week. The shows have proven to be immensely popular, averaging approximately 793,000 downloads per week between both shows. To date, the shows have been downloaded almost 200 million times combined.
Austin also hosts “The Broken Skull Challenge,” a CMT reality competition series in which he has athletes compete against one another in a series of physical challenges for the chance to win $10,000. The second season of the show averaged 4 million viewers per episode across all of the network’s platforms, and has been renewed for a third season.
“I’ve found a much lower impact way to keep paying the bills,” Austin said in an interview with Sports Illustrated. “It gives me a chance to still reach out to the fan base I created while I was still in the ring. That’s very important to me, and life is not as physically hard as it once was.”