Everybody loves seeing a wrestling legend make an appearance in WWE. Whether it’s a Royal Rumble surprise or a quick one-off run that features a few matches, the fans always pop like crazy and the sense of nostalgia hits them like a Big Show KO punch.
However, while these moments are always enjoyable, the fact is that a lot of those legends don’t just pop up every now and then in WWE and then sit at home every day. No, they are still actively working on a regular basis, traveling the country and making a living. While it might seem surprising to some, there are many wrestlers who simply can’t give it up, even if their bodies have told them they should for the benefit of their health. For some, they simply just love the business and wouldn’t know what to do without it.
But for others, there is an actual need to perform to pay the bills after wasting away their money during the prime of their careers. At times seeing these old timers work a match can be entertaining as some can still work a solid match, yet for some, it can also be quite sad. Watching some of these legends can be a reminder of what they used to be during their prime when they hit a signature pose or catchphrase. But when it comes time to work in the ring they simply can’t perform anymore.
This list will look at a mix of those, searching for 15 old wrestlers who simply need to keep wrestling to survive.
Bloodsucking vampires and wrestling, what more could you want? Things like this simply do not age and that’s why Gangrel is able to still compete on the independent scene to this day.
Gangrel was never really known for his in-ring work, but thankfully for him, he had a great gimmick that was able to connect with an audience and still does to this day. Gangrel has even teamed with Broken Matt Hardy in the past, creating an amazing moment for fans in attendance. Still putting in the teeth and competing, he will likely do so until his body tells him he can no longer work, which should still be several years away.
14. Grandmaster Sexay
In terms of age, it is not exactly shocking to find out that Grandmaster Sexay is still wrestling. But when you consider how little impact he had during his time in WWE and the fact that he never really established himself outside of Too Cool, it is shocking in a sense to know he still gets plenty of bookings.
Of course, Sexay’s real-life father is wrestling legend, Jerry Lawler, which probably doesn’t hurt him, but does anyone really want to see him wrestle in 2017 unless it’s a Too Cool reunion? Even then it’s only to see the dance. His return to WWE in 2011 confirmed that the WWE Universe had no interest in seeing him when he received no reaction at all from fans, but hopefully, he gets more response on the indie scene where he still earns a living.
13. The Rock ‘N’ Roll Express
The popular tag team “Rock ‘n’ Roll Express” were inducted into the WWE Hall Of Fame in 2017, honouring a legendary career that was one of the greatest tag teams of all time. Younger fans might not be aware of who exactly they are, but they still have an opportunity to see them wrestle to this day.
However, if you were to see the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express today you would realize they are nothing like they used to be, having lost more than a step or two of in-ring sharpness due to their age. But, the tag team have always lived out their name to the fullest and they do say that rock and roll will never die so you can expect to see them wrestling for many years to come.
12. Marty Jannetty
The former rocker has plenty of name value to add to any independent show which is likely why he still keeps getting added to shows. That doesn’t mean he is any condition to actually work a match or at least a memorable match.
Because of Marty Janetty’s age and years of substance abuse, he looks a shell of his former self. Anybody hoping to see anything like Shawn Michaels will be bitterly disappointed as he hasn’t kept himself in the same condition as his former partner. Marty does work fairly regularly though and will likely continue to do so as he simply can’t give up the rock and roll lifestyle that he has always taken so serious.
11. Tito Santana
The former Intercontinental Champion made a name for himself during the 1980’s and over 30 years later he is still competing on the indie scene today, not something you would have expected when he first burst onto the scene.
The fact that he now wrestles in a t-shirt is a telling sign that his body is no longer in peak condition. Although that is a lesson that many people on this list could do with learning from for everyone’s sake. Tito Santana often wrestlers fellow legends who are in a similar situation to him, although Santana also competes against young trainees, something that will certainly provide a great lesson to the young wrestlers.
10. Billy Gunn
Of everyone on this list, Billy Gunn has probably aged the best and is actually still working great matches at this stage in his career. After being let go by WWE over a PED violation, Gunn made the best of the situation and got back into the ring.
However, there was one change, the location. Instead of going around the usual independent circuit, the former DX member took himself over to Japan to wrestle against totally new competitors in a brand new style. The fact that at this point in his life, Gunn is able to work in Japan, where strong style wrestling reigns supreme is very impressive, and if you haven’t seen any of his work in Japan it is worth searching for.
9. Bushwhacker Luke
The problem with being in a historic tag team throughout your career and being known specifically for being in the tag team is that when you make appearances, people want to see you as that tag team, not as a singles star.
When you think about The Bushwhackers, you picture both men and if you had to see them wrestle in the modern day, you would want to both Luke and Butch. However, with Butch retired from wrestling, Bushwhacker Luke still feels the need to compete as a singles star. He still does the same comedic elements he is known for, often with different tag partners. Seeing a man in his 70’s still doing the same old routine without his partner just doesn’t quite work.
8. Greg Valentine
If you watched wrestling in the 1970s or 80s, Greg ‘The Hammer’ Valentine is a name that will be very familiar to you. A tag team specialist, Valentine was one of the very best during his time and that saw him earn an induction into the WWE HallOfFame.
While many thought that would be the last time they saw Valentine in wrestling, some fans might have seen him pop up at a local independent show where he still performs. Having no real need to work anymore, Valentine simply does it for enjoyment and his love of wrestling. Whether wrestling fans are really searching and hoping for a Greg Valentine match in 2017 remains to be known, but people are still getting it.
The fact that somebody who has wrestled the way that Sabu has during his career into the present is quite frankly a miracle. One of the most extreme wrestlers in history has put his body through torture for the sport and he has all the scars to prove it.
Because of all the bumps he has suffered, you could forgive Sabu for relaxing and taking things a little slower and more carefully. But, that is not the case for the ECW legend. If you are set to see Sabu at any point in the future then it’s safe to say you can expect him to be as hardcore as ever. He actually competes for some of the most extreme independent companies on a regular basis.
6. Jim Duggan
The man who won the first ever Royal Rumble match can still be seen being as patriotic as ever on a regular basis around the indie scene. With his trademark wooden plank and his popular catchphrase, Jim Duggan still knows how to entertain an audience.
He might be a little slower than he used to be, but Duggan can still put on a good quality match, hence why WWE still use him from time to time in a wrestling capacity, something they only do for people who can still compete. One of wrestlings all-time greats just simply can’t stop competing and it looks like he has no sign of slowing down in his future.
5. Jerry Lawler
Jerry Lawler is one of the all-time greats and when he had his final run with TheMizit was actually very entertaining, with the pair putting on some good matches, proving that The King hadn’t lost his crown.
However, then came that fateful night on an episode of Monday Night Raw when Jerry Lawler suffered a heart attack live on air and actually died for a brief period of time. That would be enough to stop anyone from wrestling, right? Wrong. While WWE will never allow him to step into the ring and take a bump again (for obvious reasons) Lawler uses the independent scene to get his fix of wrestling and still works regularly to this day.
4. Terry Funk
It should come as no surprise to see Terry Funk on this list. The man will seemingly never retire, despite the fact he has been telling people he is hanging up the boots since the 1980s. Here we are, in 2017 and Funk is still performing in the ring.
Funk has become the boy who cried wolf of the wrestling world, promising he is calling it a day and having more ‘retirement’ matches than anybody in the history of wrestling. Whenever he does call it a day, nobody will believe it. While he clearly can’t work to the same level he did in his prime, Funk still puts himself out there and takes some hardcore bumps to please the paying crowds. He is just a case of a man who absolutely loves professional wrestling and isn’t prepared to give it up just yet.
3. Jushin Thunder Liger
Out of everybody on this list, Jushin Thunder Liger is working at the highest level. He is still competing on a regular basis for New Japan Pro Wrestling against some of the worlds absolute best talent. Liger is a wrestling legend and one of the most talented masked wrestlers to ever lace up a pair of boots and given that he can still put on a more entertaining match than most people half his age, it’s no surprise that he doesn’t want to retire anytime soon.
The fact that Liger was able to make his WWE debut in an NXT TakeOver match against Tyler Breeze towards the end of his career and not look out of place should tell you why he won’t stop anytime soon. Wrestling is all the better for it.
At 50-years-old, the fact that Kane is still performing at the very highest level in WWE is quite impressive. Unlike other people on this list, he still looks in good shape and can work a decent match. Even though some fans no longer want to see the Big Red Machine, he can provide entertainment and his latest feud with Braun Strowman has had some fun moments. He doesn’t need to do it anymore, which makes it obvious that he is doing it because he wants to.
Kane is now working on a career in politics and after so many years at the very top of the industry, he has made more than enough money to live comfortably. He may need wrestling to survive more in the sense of not being able to live a life that doesn’t have wrestling in it than for money at this point.
Vader is literally wrestling with death every time he steps into the ring right now, which shows you just how much he needs wrestling. It’s been over a year since Vader was told that he had a serious heart condition and only had two years to live, yet the man is still lacing up his boots for the independent scene.
You would think being given such shocking news that putting yourself through such physical work would be the last thing you would want to do, as it also can’t be good for his heart, but that isn’t the case. Vader is a wrestling legend and should one day find his place in the WWE Hall Of Fame, so getting to see him one last time is cool for an audience as his power moves are still easily doable for him. However, the fact that he could fall fatally ill at any moment is something that no wrestling fan wants to see.
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