(WTAJ) — Professional wrestling as we know it started more than 150 years ago, — post-Civil War — and a number of famous wrestlers and superstars over the years call Pennsylvania their home.
Pennsylvania is rich in wrestling history from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia along with Allentown and even the Altoona Jaffa Shrine. A number of legends, Hall of Famers, and even an Olympic gold medalist-turned WWE Champion hails from the Keystone state.
Kurt Angle – Mount Lebanon Township, 1968
Probably the most notable person on this list and a 1996 Olympic gold medalist in wrestling. He went through two different qualifying tournaments with a broken neck and managed to go on to win the gold medal in Atlanta. He debuted with the WWE in November 1999 and the rest, as they say, is history. Over 20 years later he’s happily retired from the ring as a multiple-time WWE champion, TNA champion, and WWE Hall of Famer. He’s arguably one of the greatest to ever step into the squared circle. As Kurt would say: “It’s true, it’s d**n true”
Road Warrior Animal (Legion of Doom) – Philadelphia, 1960
Animal, real name Joseph Laurinaitis, got his start as a bouncer in a bar where he met future tag partner, Road Warrior Hawk. The duo was a menacing team that wrestled in smaller companies known as “territories,” like NWA, and in Japan, before going mainstream with WCW, and WWE — changing their name to Legion of Doom in the latter. Animal, along with Hawk, make up what many call the greatest tag team of all time. They were so beloved by the crowd that even 25 years later, a huge crowd reaction is referred to as a “Warrior pop.” Road Warrior Animal died in 2020, 17 years after Road Warrior Hawk.
Adam Cole (BAY-BAY!) – Lancaster, 1989
Adam Cole, real name Austin Jenkins, might be the most popular active wrestler on this list. He rose across the independent scene working for companies in smaller venues, such as Ring of Honor, before joining the WWE on their NXT brand in 2017. He would become one of NXT’s top stars before deciding to leave and join his real-life girlfriend, Britt Baker, in All Elite Wrestling (AEW).
Britt Baker D.M.D – Punxsutawney, 1991
No, it’s not just a character, Britt Baker really is a dentist in the Pittsburgh area. She was born in Punxsy and later went to Penn State University before heading off to the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine… and she still had time to learn to wrestle, get signed by AEW and become possibly one of their biggest women’s champions. Hats off to the good doctor!
Matt Riddle – Allentown, 1986
“Broooo…” Matt Riddle is a dual sport athlete. Starting in MMA and Ultimate Fighter 7 before making his way to the UFC, Riddle left MMA and jumped into professional wrestling in 2014 before being signed with WWE’s NXT brand in 2018. Riddle went on to make waves as a tag partner with Randy Orton (RKBro). The former WWE U.S. Champion was recently released from his contract in 2023.
Bryan Clark – Harrisburg, 1964
You might be thinking “Who?” He’s better known under a few different names, such as Wrath in WCW, being part of WCW tag team Kronik, and maybe most notably WWE’s Adam Bomb in the mid-90s. As Adam Bomb, he was ranked 47 of the top 500 singles wrestlers of the year in the PWI 500 in 1995.
Corey Graves – Pittsburgh, 1984
Corey Graves, real name Matthew Polinsky, cut his teeth, as they say, in the Pittsburgh/Western Pennsylvania wrestling scene under the ring name Sterling James Keenan. As Keenan, Graves made numerous appearances with the WWE before being signed in 2011. In 2014, he announced his retirement from in-ring competition due to concussions. He went on to become part of the NXT Takeover pre-show panel before becoming a full-fledged commentator. You can find him adding his gusto and commentary every Friday night on SmackDown.
Other notable names:
Elias/Ezekial – Pittsburgh, 1987
Big John Studd – Butler, 1948
Brian Knobbs (Nasty Boys) – Allentown, 1964
Jerry Sags (Nasty Boys) – Allentown, 1964
Raven – Philadelphia, 1964
The Blue Meanie – Philadelphia, 1973
The Sandman – Philadelphia, 1963
Shane Douglas – New Brighton, 1964
Drew Gulak – Abington Township, 1987
Wheeler Yuta – Philadelphia, 1996
Gene Snitsky – Nesquehoning, 1970
Lee Moriarty – Pittsburgh, 1994
Lady Front – Erie, 1985
Tony Deppen – Shamokin, 1988
Steve Blackman – Annville, 1963
Action Andretti – Philadelphia, 1998