When people look at professional wrestlers they see talented athletes who are well-paid. Just a quick browse through any WWE star’s Instagram and you will see expensive clothes, fancy restaurants and other expensive things that come as a reward for all their hard work. But for the most part that isn’t the case in professional wrestling. Very few independent wrestlers can command any real fee unless they have appeared on TV and have name value, with wrestlers often traveling to shows that don’t even cover the expenses in getting to the show, which is why merchandise sales are essential for helping lesser known wrestlers earn a living wage.
All Elite Wrestling and Tony Kahn in particular, deserve a lot of credit for easing the financial burden on young talent, with many wrestlers earning a weekly wage from wrestling for the first time in their careers, especially during the pandemic when indie shows were not running, and TV exposure will only help those who have now moved on from the company command a higher fee. But what about those before AEW started? What did wrestlers do to subsidize their wrestling income until they made it?
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10/10 ‘Hangman’ Adam Page: High School Teacher
AEW original Adam Page has been a predominant character in AEW with one of the most successful story arcs in the company’s short history. From a losing effort against Chris Jericho in the 1st AEW title match to winning the belt 3 years later fans have been invested in the Hangman. Before making it as a wrestler, Hangman earned his money as a high school teacher, teaching journalism and graphic design while wrestling on his weekends. Page stepped down from teaching when he joined the Bullet Club, which his students thought was ‘Too Sweet.’
9/10 Dax Harwood: Club DJ
Dax Harwood and his FTR partner, Cash Wheeler, are the hottest tag team in wrestling, their matches with The Briscoes and Young Bucks are all match of the year contenders. While it is hard to imagine Dax as anything other than a hard-nosed old school wrestler, before making it to NXT, Dax would work as a DJ in a club, and it was through that job he would meet his wife.
8/10 Bryan Danielson: Retail Worker
The American Dragon, Bryan Danielson is in many fans’ opinions one of the greatest wrestlers to ever live. Due to his Ring Of Honor fame, Bryan was one of the few who could not only command a decent booking but make a good living from wrestling outside a major company. Before he became the American Dragon, Bryan worked several jobs including McDonald’s, KB Toys, and managed to land a job with Victoria’s Secret, but when he asked to change his start date because it conflicted with a wrestling show the offer was rescinded.
7/10 Thunda Rosa: Social Worker
Current AEW and former NWA world women’s champion Thunda Rosa has quickly become a key figure in the women’s division. In particular, her feud with Britt Baker elevated both women as the top heel and babyface in the division. Their series of matches, including the 1st women’s lights-out match, culminated in Rosa winning the title in her home city of San Antonio, Texas. Thunda Rosa worked in the city for years as an adult social worker, helping those struggling with mental health issues and addiction, only giving it up to commit to her NWA championship obligations.
6/10 Anthony Bowens: Model
Despite working separately on the independents, Anthony Bowens and Max Caster joined AEW together as an AEW original tag team The Acclaimed, and after a shaky start, they have established themselves as one of the most entertaining teams in AEW, with many fans voicing opinions that they should be moved up the card and working with the top tier teams like FTR and the Young Bucks. Anthony Bowens would use his impressive physique to make a little extra money to subsidize his wrestling income by modeling, mainly in fashion magazines.
5/10 Satnam Singh: Basketball Player
The ‘One In A Billion’ seven feet tall Indian Satnam Singh is a recent addition to the AEW roster, forming a group with fellow Indian, Sanjay Dutt and former ROH champion, Jay Lethal, the trio are looking to establish themselves as a meaningful faction, but there can be no doubt that Singh’s sheer size makes him stand out. Due to his size it should come as no surprise Singh played basketball for 5 years, not only representing the Indian national team, but Satnam was also the 1st Indian player ever to be drafted into the NBA.
4/10 Danhausen: Nurse
Danhausen is another interesting part to the AEW roster, working on the independents in his striking face paint and strange obsession with teeth, as well as becoming a YouTube celebrity with his hilarious videos done in character. Before Danhausen donned the face paint and became “very nice, very evil,” Danhausen wrestled under his real name, Donovan Danhausen, who by his own admission was generic wrestler 101. Before everyone loved that Danhausen, Donovan worked as a nurse while training and working as a wrestler, quitting to focus on wrestling in 2019.
3/10 The Butcher: Guitar Player
Known to AEW audiences as one half of The Butcher And The Blade, the two have had a very mixed bag in their AEW career, from an underwhelming debut to wrestling the likes of Sting Darby Allin and The Hardys in Jeff’s 1st AEW match. While training to become a wrestler, The Butcher, real name Andy Williams, would sustain an injury. During his rehab, he learned to play the guitar, and formed the heavy metal band, Every Time I Die, recording and toured with the band untill the band announced its separation in 2022.
2/10 Evil Uno: Government Communications Officer
Masked wrestler Evil Uno is another AEW original as part of the Dark Order tag team with Stu Grayson. This team grew into a faction when the late, great, Brody Lee was unveiled as the exalted one and started adding members. After Mr. Brodie Lee’s untimely passing, the Dark Order became a baby-face team with Evil Uno becoming their unofficial leader. Before this, Uno actually worked for the Canadian Government as a communications officer and a web specialist.
1/10 Britt Baker: Dentist
Britt Baker D.M.D is inarguably the biggest star of the AEW women’s division and a former women’s champion. But unlike Dr. Issac Yankem, for Britt, the wrestling dentist gimmick is real. Baker attended the University Of Pittsburgh Dentistry School for four years, even turning WWE down when they tried to sign her so she could complete her studies. Britt still works as a dentist, shutting her practice on Wednesdays to enable her to travel to Dynamite and Rampage tapings.