Tattoos are so popular in the culture of 2021; I have multiple across my body. People get them because they love the artwork and detailing them goes into them, or they get them for the sentiment behind them. Wrestlers are no different. When you’re a famous person, no matter the industry, if you have ink, it can become incredibly well known across many platforms. From Mike Tyson’s tribal face ink to Paulo Dybala of Juventus and his solid black rings around his forearm, they, along with others, are iconic due to the bearer’s position in the public eye. Tattoos in wrestling almost become part of someone’s gimmick, and the ink on their skin makes their character and personality whole. For people like myself that love both wrestling and tattoos, there are different outlets that let you explore why these people got them and their stories behind the ink. WWE’s YouTube channel uploaded episodes of ‘Superstar Ink,’ in which Corey Graves interviewed different wrestlers to get the story behind their singular or multiple designs. This list will look at some of the iconic ink we see, or may not see, with the stories that lie behind them.
1. Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan & Sarah Logan—11.12.17 Tattoo
One of the most underrated stables in WWE history, The Riott Squad quickly became the best of friends and of course got matching tattoos. They debuted on SmackDown on the 12th of November 2017 attacking Becky Lynch and Naomi and establishing themselves as heels, but when do we ever boo heels now? The progression of all three women in the company was incredible. They cemented their place and made people love them. Ruby Riott, someone who is not a stranger to tattoos, added this little sentimental piece to her vast collection. All three women got the tattoo ’11.12.17’ on them to commemorate the date they all debuted together. Liv got hers on the back of her neck, Ruby on the back of her ankle and Sarah on top of the join between her foot and leg. What made this even more special for the trio is the time that they got them: the day before WWE Super Showdown 2018 in Australia, a show where they went on to lose to The Bella Twins and Ronda Rousey. But the sentiment is enough to take the bitter sting out of their defeat.
2. Brock Lesnar—Knuckle Duster Sword on his chest
You’d think being the Beast Incarnate is a great thing, right? Being unstoppable, adored and paid a shed tonne of money to wrestle once in a blue moon must be incredible. But it hasn’t always been like that for Brock Lesnar. After Brock left the WWE in 2004, he would be unable to compete for New Japan Pro Wrestling, at the time the only other major company in the world, due to a “no-compete clause” in his contract. Speaking in his 2011 autobiography, Death Clutch: My Story of Determination, Domination, and Survival, he mentioned that he ‘felt like a sword was being held to his throat’. He spoke about how Vince was the one figuratively holding the sword to his throat, stopping his life from moving forward. So, on a drunken night, Brock got the tattoo started to remind him to never be in this situation again. He does speak about how he does want to forget about that chapter of his life but uses the tattoo, and the memory, as motivation. I can’t see him being in that situation again; he has earned the position he is in.
3. Cody Rhodes—Dream on his chest & American Nightmare on his neck
The day Cody unveiled his new tattoo to the AEW faithful was one we won’t forget; the backlash alone was monumental. Cody has a very clean look, but going to a press conference with a bright red, white and blue version of the Nightmare Family logo was just unbelievable. We’ve all become accustomed to it as it feels normal for him to have it now, but on the initial reveal, it was a tattoo he could’ve got anywhere else on his body. The story behind it is simple; he wanted something to represent his personality (the actual symbol itself) and something to represent his American culture and roots (the colour scheme). He did quash all of our questions of ‘why your neck?’ with a very simple answer—‘I wear a lot of brands and I want one of them to be mine’…I feel like a mic drop would be needed after that statement. And it’s true, it’s smart to have it somewhere that will be constantly seen when he is always in a suit. Another tattoo he has is brilliantly simplistic, the word ‘Dream’ across his left pec in tribute to his father’s dream of becoming a champion wrestler. He received it after Dusty had passed away, not only making a tribute of his death but also to the life and memory of his father.
4. Chris Jericho—Entire Left Sleeve Tattoo
The Man of 1004 Holds, Le Champion, the Ayatollah of Rock n Rolla; whatever you want to call him, you can’t deny the legacy and greatness of the man born Chris Irvine. He got tattoos late in his life, in 2012, when he would’ve been 42. His first ‘real tattoo’ as he called it was the Sin & Bones album cover which he had on his forearm. He got matching tattoos with M Shadows, lead singer of Avenged Sevenfold, where they both got pumpkins to represent the band Helloween, one Jericho holds close as its where his name and finishing move, The Walls of Jericho, came from. Jericho would eventually add to his left forearm with Eddie from Iron Maiden, followed by The Beatles walking over Abbey Road but in flames to represent them as the trailblazers of what would become rock ‘n’ roll. The best one though, in my opinion, is the one he got just behind the Sin & Bones emblem and that is the tribute piece to Queen. He used the robot which featured on their News of the World album cover but tweaked it to represent him as well as his love of their music. On the album cover, it’s the robot holding the four band members, whilst on Jericho, it’s the robot holding four iterations of Jericho, paying tribute to his wrestling career at the same time. His entire arm shows how much music means to him and what it did for him.
5. Jon Moxley & Renee Paquette—Marriage Tattoos
Since both Renee and the former Dean Ambrose left WWE, their personal lives have become a bit more open to the public, with Jon Moxley able to dictate his usage of social media, unlike when he was in with WWE. Both have very discreet tattoos but have an extremely personal link to each other; Renee has a tattoo of a love heart on her ring finger whilst Jon has a heartbeat on his ring finger. They’re complimentary tattoos to show their love for each other in the most subtle way possible, and it’s the reason they’re one of my favourite wrestling couples. Jon has said he got the tattoo as not only a sign of his love for his wife and new mother of his child but also so he is able to ‘wear’ a wedding ring whilst in the ring. A lot of wrestling couples have matching tattoos but none of them matches this; Renee has Jon’s heart, and Renee’s heartbeat is what keeps Jon going. Beautiful.
6. Jeff Hardy—Roots
Jeff is one of the most eccentric superstars we’ve ever seen, garnering the nickname of ‘The Charismatic Enigma’. He is also heavily covered in tattoos, including a huge back piece he got in early 2020 as a representation of himself in that year to come. However, the one I love the most and the one that sits with me is the roots he has going from the back of his neck, all down his right arm and finishing on each of his fingers. Jeff is a nature lover, spending a lot of his time landscaping his garden when he’s not wowing us in the ring. The tattoo is a way of showing his connection with nature and a way of showing his love of the great outdoors. Despite his love of nature being one of the reasons he got it, he also explained that tree roots are the same as human veins; they provide sustenance for the overall being. Veins carry blood around the human body, roots carry water from the earth to the tree, so you could say that Jeff has a deep-rooted love for roots. What’s also interesting is that he has a tattoo of a snake wrapping around the roots that go onto his ribs after people kept mistaking his roots tattoo for snakes, an animal Jeff is extremely afraid of.
7. Shawn Spears—Sleeve Tattoo
Since leaving WWE and Tye Dillinger behind, Shawn Spears has drastically changed his look with a jet-black beard and mohawk combination, as well as adding some massive ink down his left arm. When he was with WWE, Spears had one sole tattoo: a panther on the top of his left arm. Once leaving the company, he was able to add to his collection with a full sleeve. He included an ‘X’ in there, the number ten in roman numerals as a nod to his former days in WWE. You don’t usually see wrestlers get that once they leave a company, but Shawn did show love to The Perfect Ten. Along with this and various other designs, he has an angel with his grandmother’s name, keeping her with him wherever he goes. The design he has that is the most harrowingly beautiful is an image of the Grim Reaper with a clock showing the time he was born as a way of showing that death chases us from minute one. In the business he’s in, with the past that’s come before him, that is a great way of motivating yourself to do what’s best for you, like him asking for his release from WWE to join AEW.
8. Baron Corbin—Literally his Whole Body
I know, this is a cop out. But hear me out. After watching a 2016 episode of WWE Superstar Ink, Baron Corbin was interviewed about his various tattoos. To choose just one for this segment would be like choosing between your mum and your dad, there are so many with so many good stories behind them. One of them, which appears on its own on his right bicep, is the letters ‘PA’ standing for Pennsylvania, with that surrounded by ‘RMFD’ and ‘ZMFH’ in tribute to his friends Ryan Dunn and Zachary Hartwell of Jackass fame, who both passed away in 2011. He also has a tattoo on his foot that says ‘shenanigans,’ which he got with these two and another friend in Atlantic City. What’s interesting about Corbin’s left sleeve is the designs is made up of mainly clocks and crows, which looks different to the usual ink of a tattoo lover and would get you questioning. He explains that each clock represents the date that his family members were born, a 13 for himself, being born on the 13th. The crows, believed to be messengers between worlds, were for his father who passed away in 2008, providing protection for both and depositing messages between himself and his father in the afterworld.
9. Batista—Love is Louder
Another extremely heavily tattooed professional wrestler, Batista has successfully branched out into the world of acting whilst also showing all of us what a wholesome guy he really is. Every tweet he sends is always accompanied by ‘#dreamchaser’; he’s always just chasing the dreams he had when he was a bouncer at the age of 30 before joining WWE. Unlike Baron Corbin, I can pinpoint just one tattoo that is brilliant from Dave Bautista, and it is so simplistic. It’s also extremely subtle on his body, sitting on his chest, bending around the existing tribal ink he has on his shoulders. It’s a text that reads ‘love is louder.’ Not only is this a powerful statement about life but it represents a charity that wants to create a world where we all feel supported and connected. Love is Louder is a project by the JED Foundation, a charity that is made to support anyone who feels misunderstood, mistreated, or alone. Batista would put this on social media, wanting to show the founder Brittany Snow his support by saying the words on his chest are like a ‘badge of honour’. A tattoo is a commitment and the project is a commitment, accompanying each other perfectly.
10. Santino Marella—Conan the Barbarian
There is a tattoo on the chest of the ‘Milan Miracle,’ which we didn’t really see as it was usually covered by the straps of his singlet. As well as that, it’s also quite hard to see when he’s moving around the ring; you must see him standing still to see it properly. The tattoo is that of Conan the Barbarian, the character created by Robert E. Howard in 1932. Santino would get the tattoo of Conan as he felt a connection with him. He explained that Conan’s character was born a peasant in a common village who would become king by his own hand. Santino’s WWE debut fitted it like a glove, ‘hand-picked’ by Vince McMahon out of the crowd as a plant before winning the Intercontinental Championship from Umaga. Marella was born into a simple family before embarking on the journey of a WWE superstar, as well as the journey to become a king of his own domain. Having it on his chest allows him to see his connection with the character daily and reminds him he was a king, like Conan the Barbarian.
Tattoos, as shown in this article, are a way of expressing a person’s feelings or stories without having to say a word. They can become part of a wrestler’s character, like Cody Rhodes, or just complete a wrestler’s aesthetic, like Jeff Hardy, because, without them, these wrestlers wouldn’t look the same. There will always be a connection between the wrestling business and tattoos through a wrestlers look and there will always be interesting stories behind those designs.
What are some of your favourite wrestler tattoos? Let us know in the comments!