Caption: Wrestlers are drawn to excitement, which is why many of them enjoy playing poker
Wrestlers rarely shy away from spectacles and excitement. Vince McMahon, the former professional wrestler, and current chairman of the WWE is certainly a great showman. On two occasions, he’s tried to bring the flair of wrestling to football, creating the XFL.
One of his former employees, Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson has followed in his footsteps, buying the XFL in the hopes to resurrect it from financial ruin. Before becoming a wrestler, Johnson was also an American football player, competing at the college level for the Miami Hurricanes and at the professional level in the Canadian Football League.
So it should come as no surprise that many professional wrestlers with all their charisma and various interests have shown a keen interest in poker, either taking up the sport after leaving the ring or competing in both at the same time.
In 2019, many of the WWE’s biggest names came together to celebrate the brand’s 25th anniversary by playing a game of poker together. They took to social media to share photos of them all backstage with a deck of cards and some stacks of chips.
But some players have taken a much keener interest than that, either taking up poker professionally or regularly playing online.
Dash Dudley is perhaps one of the most famous poker players that have also enjoyed success in wrestling. However, in the early 2000s, at the height of the poker boom, a period when playing poker online became popular, Dudley decided to give up the sport he’d loved for much of his life to play Texas Hold’em professionally.
Many of his wrestling teammates and his friends questioned his move, partly because they didn’t think playing poker was a viable career option, and also because he was giving up another sport he’d excelled at.
With the benefit of hindsight, choosing a career in poker seems to have been the right decision. Dudley has won two bracelets at the World Series of Poker, with 39 cash placements while playing Texas Hold ’em. His best finish was in a pot-limit Omaha hi-lo game where he walked away with more than $1 million.
He’s currently ranked 1,830th in the Global Poker Index, down from his highest ever position of 354th. While according to The Hendon Mob, he’s the 8th highest-earning player from Michigan.
John Cena is another big name in WWE wrestling. Although he doesn’t appear in many wrestling matches anymore, he’s still with the WWE, making sporadic appearances. There have even been rumors that he’s moving to AEW. Earlier in his career, he won several titles, including World Heavyweight Champion and WWE Champion.
His feud with AJ Styles was one of the most iconic rivalries of the 2010s and led to another WWE Championship for him in 2018.
Outside the ring, Cena has appeared in many films, including 12 Rounds, Bumblebee, and The Marine. He’s also released a music album called You Can’t See Me, which contains wrestling-related tracks.
He loves sports of all kinds and is a proud supporter of the New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics, and Tottenham Hotspur FC. This penchant for competition has also led him to poker. He reportedly organizes many games at his home, playing mostly Texas Hold’em.
He became interested in the sport during the poker boom and felt inspired to play after watching the World Series of Poker on TV. This led him to play online, and in-person with his fellow WWE stars while on the road.
Perhaps this was a good thing, since, given his size, anyone but a fellow wrestler would struggle to not be intimidated by him at the table.
Caption: Some of the wrestling’s biggest names enjoy poker quite regularly
Michael Mizrachi, who is known to most as The Miz, is another WWE player who has taken a keen interest in poker. He rose to fame in the early 2000s before signing with the WWE in 2004. He became the United States Champion in 2009 after defeating Kofi Kingston.
He later won the WWE Championship in 2010 and 2011, followed by his first Intercontinental Championship in 2012. His Skull Crushing Finale, Reality Check, and It Kicks finishing moves have helped him to great success in the ring.
That’s not been enough for him, though. The Miz has been cashing in on his brand with several roles in Hollywood movies and TV shows, including The Campaign, The Marine 3: Homefront, Christmas Bounty, Supernatural, and Santa’s Little Helper.
Still not satisfied, The Miz has turned to poker, taking part in a few live events.
Confusingly, there’s also an incredibly successful professional poker player of the same name. This Mizrachi goes by the name “The Grinder”, which wouldn’t look out of place in a wrestling match.
Samoa Joe is another WWE wrestler that’s enjoyed plenty of success in the ring but has also turned to poker. In 2020, he told a story of his time while competing in TNA he was on tour in the United Kingdom. He, AJ Styles, and Christopher Daniels sat down together to play a high stakes game of poker in their hotel.
However, he felt something hit him from behind and as he turned around, he saw a man running away. In the heat of the moment, Joe chased the man down and confronted him, assuming that he had tried to rob the three burly wrestlers.
The hotel staff called the police, and it later turned out that the man had been trying to pull a prank on Joe and his friends.
Joe didn’t disclose who this unfortunate prankster was, but it has been rumored that it may have been another wrestler. This hasn’t deterred him from playing poker since though, and it is something he continues to enjoy on a regular basis.