Becoming a Professional Wrestler With CF

My whole life I pushed myself physically and mentally to achieve my dream in professional wrestling. It turns out I wasn’t dealing with CF. CF was dealing with me.

| 6 min read
A selfie of Dustin Raynor in the car
Dustin Raynor
Dustin Raynor holding a wrestling belt and posing in front of an American flag

I was a healthy-looking baby, until I stopped breathing in bed next to my parents and they rushed me to hospital. Our family physician ran some tests and broke the news to my parents. He referred us to Dr. John Kramer, a cystic fibrosis specialist. He became a big part of my life for the next 21 years until he passed away. He was a great doctor. 

I was in and out of the hospital with IVs everywhere just like many other CF patients. One particular time, I was sick and had a baseball game, but there were only nine players so I stayed to play. When we were done, I went to see Dr. Kramer. He took one look at my gums and knew why I was sick. I was admitted to the hospital that same day with spinal meningitis. I was so sick that all you could see was my black pupil — the rest of my eyes were red. I was on a downward slope and going fast. 

Dr. Kramer came in one day and pulled my dad aside to tell him about a new drug. It was called Pulmozyme®. He said it was our last option — it's either going to heal me or kill me. Dr. Kramer was always upfront and didn't sugarcoat anything. They decided to give it to me. I hadn’t eaten for three weeks, and the day after taking Pulmozyme I sat up and wanted a burger.

Growing up, my mother worked in the nursing field, and she took care of me and worked hard for years. My dad was always positive no matter how bad the situation was. For example, when I was in the hospital, he would always ask what I wanted to do when I got out. One time he asked what I wanted to do when I got older. My response was, "I want to be a professional wrestler."

I started my wrestling career in 2004 at the age of 18. A guy named Dexter started teaching me bumps and how to run the ropes. Bumping means taking falls, and no matter how you land that canvas is hard. But I picked up on it quick. The first day I was bumping properly and also running the ropes. 

I wanted to further my career, so I looked at other options. I was watching WWE one Monday night and the announcer said that this wrestler was trained by Harley Race, a legend in the business. So I made a call and by 2006, I started training under Harley. The tryout was brutal. If you made it through the tryout, you got your tuition cut in half. Guys were dropping out left and right, but I made it through. It was a killer, but I did it. The next day I couldn't even lift my legs to get into the shower. Still, I had to go back. 

We trained three days a week, and it was extremely intense. Starting out was 150 push-ups, 150 crunches, 150 jumping jacks, 50 half squats, 250-400 free squats. All that took about 45 minutes. Then it was ring conditioning, which was very brutal. But I was always at the top of the class. I went through that for years. 

After nine months, I had my debut match for Harley which was great. My dad was there, and he was so happy. All while growing up, this is all I wanted to do and talked about. And it was finally here. I worked for Harley for almost 10 years on and off. I remember working out in the gravel doing push–ups, squats and crunches in 98–degree weather. That's how hard it was at some points. 

Then in 2009, I moved up to the WWE as an extra. Harley thought it was time for me to be seen, and it went well. But they didn’t just hire people instantly back then, so I continued to travel and work in the ring. I went back to WWE in 2011 and had my first match with them in front of 15,000 people at the BOK Park Plaza in Oklahoma City. It was great, and I went on to work for them several more times, but not under contract. 

I landed a spot on a reality show called "Steve Austin's Broken Skull Ranch." I was flown out to Los Angeles to film the show, and it was long and intense. The showed aired in January 2015. I was in season two, episode one. I made it past the first round but lost in the second round. I weighed 240 pounds at the time and my opponents were around 180–190 pounds, so I was carrying some weight. I did the show, and it got a lot of views on national TV. 

I emailed the show after it aired and decided to come out with my CF story. I thought it was time to use my story as a platform for other people, not for myself. They decided to publish an article about it, but it wasn't much.

I think about all those years of busting my ass and working hard — nobody knew I had CF. I never told anyone while I was in the business. I had to prove myself and I damn well did!

I have been in the wrestling business for 19 years now. I was an assistant coach at The Team Fearless Academy. One of my best friends, Lodi, runs that place, and I was happy to help him. I recently moved to Florida along with my wife, Samantha Starr, who is also a professional wrestler. To this day, I am healthy and still in great shape.

Interested in sharing your story? The CF Community Blog wants to hear from you.

This site contains general information about cystic fibrosis, as well as personal insight from the CF community. Opinions and experiences shared by members of our community, including but not limited to people with CF and their families, belong solely to the blog post author and do not represent those of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, unless explicitly stated. In addition, the site is not intended as a substitute for treatment advice from a medical professional. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your treatment.

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A selfie of Dustin Raynor in the car

Dustin was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when he was 8 weeks old. He trains as a professional wrestler and has performed for WWE and many other organizations across the country. He now lives in Coral Springs, Fla. with his wife, Samantha Starr, who is also a professional wrestler. 

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