In previous editions of our Job Opportunities column we’ve focused on wrestling stars — be they from WWE, WCW, NXT, or even New Japan Pro Wrestling — who got their start as “jobbers,” or “enhancement talent,” on TV.
For this week’s column, we’re doing a followup on an edition that focused on future pro wrestling stars who made early appearances on television not in the ring, necessarily, but in “extras” roles. That includes ending up on screen because you’re the son of somebody famous, guest starring as one of a wrestling pimp’s finest prostitutes, and so on. We’ve tossed in a couple of classic “jobber” roles as well.
So here are ten wrestling stars who got their start as children, jobbers, hoes, or extras. Make sure to drop down into our comments section below to let us know which appearances you remember, and any big ones we might’ve missed.
Long before he befriended a karate dinosaur and challenged Chris Jericho on the final Dynamite of 2019, All Elite Wrestling’s Jungle Boy was just 12-year old Jack Perry, son of television star Luke Perry, hanging out with his dad in the front row at SummerSlam 2009. Good to know he’s always had that hair.
The best part of the cameo? Chris Jericho was on that show, teaming up with The Big Show to defend the Unified WWE Tag Team Championship against Cryme Tyme. Funny the difference a decade makes, isn’t it? You never know what child in the front row might be victory rolling you on TNT 10 years later.
Speaking of All Elite Wrestling, here’s an easy one: Cody Rhodes, one of wrestling’s two sons of a son of a plumber. Cody was raised in the business so he shows up several times before he becomes a star — notably during his dad’s WWE Hall of Fame induction, and as part of a Lodi-themed Nitro Party in on WCW Monday Nitro 1999 — but his earliest on-screen appearance, as far as I can tell, is during his dad’s WCW Hall of Fame induction at Slamboree 1995. He pretty much looks the same, except he used to have Hiroyoshi Tenzan’s haircut.
This is a hell of a segment to make your on-screen debut in, too, as it features not only your famous dad, but Gordon Solie, Terry Funk, and Antonio Inoki. Pretty awesome that Cody would pop up as “The American Nightmare” in the company Inoki founded, New Japan Pro Wrestling, 21 years later.
Speaking of children of legendary NWA Heavyweight Champions who made appearances on WCW Monday Nitro in its dying days, here’s Ric Flair’s daughter, Ashley, showing up in a segment on May 15, 2000. You know her better, of course, as The Queen Charlotte Flair. She’s a 10-time Women’s Champion, and has probably held it a dozen more times between when I wrote this and when you read it.
Here, Charlotte is an innocent bystander in the Flair family home as David Flair and Daffney bring Vince Russo in to humiliate and chastise them. As a heartbreaking bonus, her brother Reid, the inspiration for her entire pro wrestling career, also appears in the segment.
Since we’re on the topic of Flairs, let’s take a break from the kid cameos to talk about THIS guy:
Yes, folks, that’s …
… back when he was still trying to be Dusty Rhodes and failing, instead of trying to be Buddy Rogers and succeeding beyond his wildest imagination. Plus, he was THICC. Meet Ramblin’ Ricky Rhodes, an ambitious 23-year old trying to find his footing in Vern Gagne’s AWA. By 25, he’d get the idea to grow out his hair and start bleaching it. In 1975, he’d break his back in three places during a plane crash, and have to change his style if he ever hoped to wrestle again. In 1976, he’d work a more methodical style and develop his “Nature Boy” persona. By 1981, he was the NWA World Heavyweight Champion.
By 2020, he’d be a 16-time champion, a hip hop icon, and generally considered one of the greatest to ever lace up a pair of boots. Woo.
You may have never heard of this guy, but here’s a young Dwayne Johnson looking like Bruno Mars and watching his dad, ‘Soul Man’ Rocky Johnson, wrestle on Championship Wrestling in 1984. You can see a clip of the cameo appearance here.
Baby Dwayne would, of course, end up making his WWE debut 12 years later and go on to become one of the biggest stars in wrestling history. Then he’d go on to become one of the biggest stars in history history. He’d also get to play his dad on TV and reference himself as a child in one of entertainment’s most meta moments.
The most heartwarming and adorable of the “children on wrestling shows who’d go on to become popular and influential champions” appearances has to be the time a 14-year old April Mendez waited in line to get her VHS tape signed by WWE Superstar Lita.
From 2000-2006, Lita would hold the Women’s Championship four times. April would sign with WWE in 2009, become AJ Lee, and hold the Divas Championship three times during 2013 and 2014. Now people wait in line to meet her, and get emotional about it. Reserving this space for a similar paragraph about Bayley and Izzy whenever Izzy becomes a WWE Superstar.
Speaking of Lita …
… she made her on-screen WWE debut in 1999 as part of The Godfather’s Ho Train. Debuting as a prostitute who loves having fun with her pimp is a weird thing to say, but hey, it was good extras work in pro wrestling at the end of the ’90s. She’s not the only future WWF Women’s Champion to be one of The Godfather’s finest hoes, either …
Here’s Victoria, a 2-time Women’s Champion and 5-time TNA Knockouts Champion, as arguably Godfather’s FINEST ho. She made her on-screen debut at WrestleMania 2000, and would become the “head ho” (or “primary ho,” however you want to phrase it) when The Godfather left pimping behind and become the “Goodfather” in the group Right to Censor. Is the ho that kicks people out of the business the “heave ho?” Anyway, she’d protest the decision and organize a “Save the Hos” movement.
In June 2002, she’d get to make her actual debut as Victoria, a fitness model who felt betrayed by Trish Stratus. From there, she’d go on to be a workhorse in an underappreciated women’s division and one of the most accomplished female stars of the era. The Godfather should organize a, “get Victoria into the Hall of Fame” movement.
Finally, let’s talk about some classic jobbers:
He was mentioned in an earlier column when we talked about MVP doing extras work as a police officer, but here’s a young, Ramblin’ Ricky Rhodes looking version of Undisputed Era member Roderick Strong showing up to challenge Kurt Angle for his Olympic gold medal on a 2005 edition of Smackdown.
Strong even slapped Angle to show that he had ruthless aggression, but got his ankle snapped for it. Strong would return to the WWE scene in 2016 with NXT, becoming North American Champion, a 2-time NXT Tag Team Champion, and a sweaty little stamina monster.
For our most recent entry, check out current AEW women’s division star and championship challenger Kris Statlander as one half of the “best tag team in Brooklyn,” the Brooklyn Belles. They won 45 hypothetical matches in a row before quickly losing to The IIconics on Smackdown during Billie and Peyton’s ill-fated Women’s Tag Team Championship run.
Seeing Statlander as a WWE jobber just feels alien now. As a bonus, her partner here is Karissa Rivera, who recently made an appearance on Monday Night Raw as a conscientious objector in a really good and well-received wrestling wedding segment.