Wrestling fans will always be indebted to the Golden Age of Wrestling. This period, which ran from 1982-1993 made wrestling mainstream and made superstars, themselves, household names. No longer did wrestling fans have to whisper to their friends, “Hey, did you see the wrestling show last week?” out of fear of being laughed at as this period removed the negative stigma of the sport and legitimized it as true entertainment. Wrestling became a show and an event and the godfather who ushered in this era, Vince McMahon, is the one we can thank.
Some 35 years after this period first started, most of the wrestlers from this era are long removed from the ring. (Or, in the case of Terry Funk, SHOULD be removed from the ring). Unfortunately, many of the legends from this era have passed on but Piper, Savage, Dusty, Andre, etc. are having one hell of a battle royal up in heaven. For the ones who are still with us, their best days are clearly behind them as most are in their 60s or 70s. Some have aged reasonably well while others…not so much. The effects of a lifetime in the ring and certain extracurricular activities have clearly taken their toll on your favorite wrestlers growing up.
We’ll take a look back at some of these guys with recent pictures that don’t do them any favors. Hey, not everyone can be like “The Model” Rick Martel and seemingly never age. Here are 15 pictures of Golden Age wrestlers looking old AF.
15 Paul Orndorff
Nicknamed “Mr. Wonderful”, Orndorff had the classic wrestler look with his feathery blond hair and bodybuilder’s physique. He was one of the preeminent heels of his day and was in the main event of the first WrestleMania as he teamed with Roddy Piper against Hulk Hogan and Mr. T. However, Orndorff’s body started to fail him a few years later as a nerve issue in his neck eventually affected his right arm which noticeably atrophied compared to his left. In fact, a scary neck injury in the ring at the 2000 Fall Brawl ended Orndorff’s in-ring career after he suffered a stinger on a piledriver.
Orndorff is now in his late 60s, and it shows, as his body isn’t the only thing that’s seen better days. He somehow climbed back into the ring in May 2017 for one final match but thankfully there’s no footage of that as it would be downright terrifying to see the guy in that picture wrestling again.
14 Superstar Billy Graham
Billy Graham’s nickname couldn’t be more fitting because he was one of the first superstars of the sport. He realized that a wrestler’s physique and charisma were just as important as his in-ring skills and he helped pave the way for the likes of Hulk Hogan and Jesse “The “Body” Ventura. Graham had multiple stints in the WWE during the 1970s and 1980s before a deteriorating him caused him to retire at the age of 44.
As the oldest person on this list at 73, it’s no surprise that Graham looks the way he does. He was also a hardcore steroid user and used to work out with Arnold Schwarzenegger so who knows what kind of other stuff he was on back in the day. He shaved his long golden locks back in 1982 and has been rocking the bald look ever since. If you have ever imagined what Hulk Hogan would look like with a shaved head, just scroll up and take another gander at Superstar Billy Graham!
13 Jesse Ventura
Jesse The Body picked up right where Superstar Billy Graham left off as a flamboyant personality who cared as much about his look as his wrestling abilities. Due to blood clots in his lungs, Ventura retired from wrestling at the age of 34 and before he could even when any WWF championship. But he remained a heel commentator for the company from 1985-1990 and was the perfect yin to Gorilla Monsoon’s yang.
Ventura then had a short stint in WCW before embarking on a career of acting and politics. While he was governor of Minnesota, Ventura shaved his head bald and had a mustache but now that he’s out of office, he appears to be trying to bring back what little hair he has left. Despite wrestling for just 12 years, Ventura’s 4 years as governor may have taken more of a toll on him than countless numbers of back-body drops and headlocks and “The Body” is nothing more than a faded nickname.
12 Wild Samoans
Brothers Afa and Sika comprised the Wild Samoans and they represented the first generation of the legendary Anoa’i Family to step into the squared circle. This family would later produce The Rock, Roman Reigns, and numerous other superstars but Afa and Sika started it all with their savage gimmick during the mid-80s. With the way they were stereotyped and depicted back in the day, they actually don’t look terrible now. Sitting in between the Wild Samoans is Black Pearl who is the nephew of Afa and Sika as well as the first-cousin to Rikishi, Umaga, and others.
That’s Afa in the yellow shirt and Sika with the shades. With the unfortunate demise of many of the younger members of the Anoa’i Family (Yokozuna, Rosey, etc.), it’s just good to see that Afa and Sika are alive and well.
11 Greg Valentine
Greg The Hammer Valentine is a second generation wrestler who spent most of his 40 years in the squared circle as a heel. He had 4 different stints in the WWE with his longest as a mid-carder from 1984-1992. He was the sixth man to win the Intercontinental Championship and his reign of 285 days is the fifth-longest in history. Though he was never a heavyweight or world champion, Valentine elicited enough hate from the fans that he was named by PWI as the Most Hated Wrestler a record three times (since surpassed by Triple H’s 5 wins).
Speaking of Triple H, if you ever imagined how he would look if he kept his long blonde hair, take a look at The Hammer right now. Hammer never had the chiseled physique of many wrestlers of the 1980s and why should he start working on his look now in retirement? That scowl that Valentine had seemingly every time he stepped into the ring remains even when posing for pictures. At least Valentine can take solace in the fact that he’s in better shape than his brother-in-law, Brian Knobbs of the Nasty Boys, despite being 13 years older.
10 Barry Windham
Think about this: while Windham was running with The Four Horseman in the 1980s, Ric Flair of all people said that no one could get as many women as the 6’4” blond from Texas named Barry Windham. While Windham is best known for his time in WCW, he did have two stints in the 1980s in the WWE including one where he teamed with his brother-in-law, Mike Rotunda. He wrestled his first match for WWE at the age of 24 and his last match at the age of 47 in 2008. Still in his mid-50s, Windham looks much older thanks to a heart attack that he suffered in 2011. He was found by Rotunda at his ranch in Texas and it’s a borderline miracle that he’s still alive today. Windham may not be quite the p---y magnet that Flair called him back in the day, but having Big Gold on his shoulder surely won’t hurt him with the ladies.
9 Dan Spivey
A late-bloomer, Spivey was a former football player who didn’t start wrestling until he was in his 30s. He is best-known for being the lesser half of a number of tag teams including teaming with Scott Hall, Sid Vicious, and The Undertaker. During his WWE run in the mid-80s, Spivey adopted a “Golden Boy” gimmick that had him wrestle in gold trunks and somewhat resembled Hulk Hogan. But a lack of charisma never elevated him above mid-card status nor did a return to WWE in 1995 as the mercurial character, Waylon Mercy.
Spivey would retire later in 1995 but then had a one-off match 20 years later in 2015. Look at the picture above, that guy wrestled in a match just two years ago at the age of 62! To Spivey’s credit, he does look better than how he looked in a mugshot in 2007 that was taken after a DUI. He says he then became sober after the incident and one shouldn’t rule out another match or two in the future.
One half (or one third if you count Crush) of Demolition, Ax along with his partner, Smash, were the WWE’s answer to the Road Warriors. They were three-time Tag Team champions on the heels of a very successful singles career for Ax AKA Bill Eadie. As a singles competitor, he revolutionized the industry by participating in iron-man steel-cage matches during the 1980s and was also one of the first wrestlers to ever bodyslam Andre the Giant. After being phased out of Demolition for Crush in 1990, Ax spent the next 17 years participating on the indy circuit before retiring in June 2017.
From the picture above, both Ax (on the right) and Smash have seen better days and not even the war paint can mask a lifetime of battles in the ring. While Smash is holding up reasonably well, Ax looks like your grandfather when he forgets to put pants on. The man is months away from his 70th birthday and it’s kind of scary to think that he was still an active competitor just months ago. Cheers to a great career for Ax and happy retirement and one can only hope that he stays retired.
7 The Barbarian
Contrary to popular belief, The Barbarian (and Haku/Meng) are not related to the Anoa’i Family as they are Tongan not Samoan. Nonetheless, they have earned the reputation as two of the toughest guys in the business and some of the stories about them outside the ring are legendary. While The Barbarian had his last match in WWE in 1995, Haku had one last run with the company in 2002. The reason why The Barbarian earns a spot on this list and not Haku is the fact that Haku looks eerily similar to how he looked during his full-time wrestling days. In fact, he actually looks like he could be the brother of pitcher Bartolo Colon. The Barbarian is just six months older than Haku but looks about six years older than him in this recent picture.
6 Tony Atlas
One of the first men to transition from bodybuilder to wrestler, Tony Atlas was named Mr. USA three times and, naturally (or rather unnaturally), had one of the best physiques in wrestling. It takes a lot to make Rocky Johnson look small, but Atlas was able to do that to his partner when they were known as the Soul Patrol. After leaving the WWE in the mid-80s, Atlas battled a drug addiction and became homeless until returning in 1991 with one of the most racist gimmicks ever, Saba Simba. His physique had also changed by then as he was clearly “softer” and a bit puffier. He appeared on the WWE Network show Legends House in 2014 where he showed off that he still has bulging biceps and a bulging waistline. Don’t expect to see Atlas in any Master’s Division Bodybuilding Contests any time soon.
5 Fred Ottman
The man saddled with some of the worst gimmicks of all-time, Ottman was known as Tugboat and Typhoon in WWE and then gained infamy by being introduced as the Shockmaster in WCW. He’s often confused with other rotund men from that era like Earthquake (now deceased) and Akeem The African Dream, but Ottman had a bit higher profile and even was Hulk Hogan’s partner on occasion. He had one last appearance in the WWE during their gimmick battle royal at Wrestlemania 17 in which he was eliminated by his former Natural Disasters partner, The Earthquake. Listed at nearly 400 pounds during his prime, Ottman has slimmed down in retirement, and thankfully, the mullet is gone. In the picture he's blending gimmicks by rocking the Tugboat red-striped shirt with the Shockmaster helmet. Besides the bulging waistline, Ottman doesn’t look terrible for someone who is now 60.
4 Jake Roberts
Arguably the greatest wrestler to never hold a title in WWE, WCW, or ECW; Jake The Snake Roberts was to wrestling what method actors are to film. He lived and died through his gimmick and it showed every time he stepped in the ring or cut a promo. Unfortunately, Roberts also had his demons and has had a multi-decade battle with drugs and alcohol. In 2007 he checked into a WWE-sponsored rehab but he soon relapsed after leaving the program. Diamond Dallas Page reached out to Roberts in 2012 and Jake ended up moving in with DDP in Atlanta. Page also helped Roberts get clean as well as lose over 50 pounds with the help of his infamous yoga.
Two years later Roberts announced that he had cancer of the knee and after an operation, Roberts declared himself to be cancer-free. Considering all that he’s been through, Roberts actually looks better now than he did about 5 years ago. Now, Damien on the other hand…
3 Tito Santana
There are just two performers who competed at each of the first nine Wrestlemania: one is Hulk Hogan and the other is Tito Santana. Santana also shares the record, along with Goldust, for the most consecutive losses at WrestleMania with seven. He was never a star but was an admirable performer in the lower-card and mid-card ranks for over a decade in the WWE. He also helped the company expand into Central and South America during the Golden Age as the WWE played off his Latino heritage. If you think Santana, now 64, could pass for your high school shop teacher, you would be pretty close as he is currently a high school teacher and basketball coach in New Jersey. In his Strike Force tag team, Rick Martel was always the one known for his looks and it doesn’t look much has changed 30 years later.
2 Shawn Michaels
There’s no nice way to say it: Shawn Michaels will never be confused for Benjamin Button and despite being the youngest person on this list, it’s clear that the “Old Shawn” has wrecked havoc on Michaels’ appearance today. But what else would you expect considering all that he went through (on his own resolve) throughout his Kliq days in the 1990s. Physically, Michaels appears to still be in pretty good shape and could probably hold his own in the ring even seven years after his last match but he’d probably have to be one of those masked wrestlers as that wayward eye isn’t getting any straighter. The Heartbreak Kid is no kid any longer but at least he still has Scott Hall and Sean Waltman holding down the bottom of the looks department for The Kliq.
1 Dynamite Kid
Bret Hart may have been “the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be” but it was Hart of all people who called the Dynamite Kid “the greatest wrestler who ever lived.” With Kid also once being married to Bret Hart’s first wife, he is by marriage a member of the Hart Wrestling Family. He was a tag team partner to his cousin, Davey Boy Smith, before going the singles route and he was known to be just as intense outside the ring as he was in it. His body began to betray him while still in his 30s and he was nearly unrecognizable when he competed in his last match in 1996. Just one year after that match, Kid lost the use of his left leg and has been paralyzed ever since. He also admitted to be a frequent drug user during his wrestling days and nearly died from overdosing on LSD twice in one night. His wife (pictured above) has to be with him 24/7 after Kid suffered a stroke in 2015 and he will be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
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