Wrestlers’ shelf lives are short. Wrestling characters’ shelf lives are even shorter. Of course, there are wrestling characters such as Roman Reigns and John Cena, who have hardly undergone any noticeable, but those are the faces – no pun intended – that cater to the casual fans who only watch Royal Rumble and WrestleMania.
Even The Undertaker, despite his legend, might not be as relevant as he’s today if he didn’t go through The American Badass phase. Hulk Hogan needed to become Hollywood Hogan to spice things up. Similarly, Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Booker T, Brock Lesnar, Chris Jericho and Kane all remain major draws thanks to constantly reinventing themselves.
Once wrestlers age, though, there’s no coming back, and their attempts at reinventing themselves only earn them short-lived career revivals, as evinced by the short returns Kevin Nash and Ric Flair make.
A few wrestlers, however, have managed to buck the trend by finding ways that have never been used to remain relevant. Unsurprisingly, they’re heavily reliant on the internet – YouTube, Twitter, podcasts and whatnot – to remain relevant, just like the anti-WWE indie wrestlers.We'll be discussing 15 such wrestlers in the following article.
This article, in no way, aims jabs at these wrestling personalities, but rather is meant to point out their creativity in remaining talking points among fans.
15 Rip Rogers
It’s likely that even the most hardcore wrestling fans had not thought about former WCW and WWE wrestler Rip Rogers in recent times until his recent criticism of the wrestling style indie wrestlers have lately adopted. His tweet comprising a message Daniel Parker, an indie wrestler, had sent him received over 2,000 likes and retweets, with Randy Orton and Ethan Carter III supporting his views.
He, an Ohio Valley Wrestling trainer, has since grown in prominence, with over 25,000 people following him for a daily dose of his preaching, and his preaching ranges from fitness tips to making it in the industry although none of those are delivered in a dulcet tone. Unlike other old wrestlers, though, he’s quite self-aware, as the 63-year-old believes that he hasn’t had a WWE Hall of Fame-worthy career in spite of his notoriety.
14 The Iron Sheik
Few wrestlers from the ‘80s are as popular as Iron Sheikh today, and that speaks volumes about his excellent grasp of the dynamics of the industry. Once he knew that his cussing and yelling drew a strong response from the wrestling fans, he elected to remain in character during public appearances.
His recent works have ensured he’s remained relevant enough to make movie and TV appearances and have a documentary, The Sheik, made about his humbling the jabronis. Plus, his t-shirts reportedly sell like crazy on OneHourTees, and his Twitter account is a gold mine, as most tweets he’s sent out thus far are in kayfabe. Despite popular misconception, though, the jabroni -hating persona isn’t a reflection of his real-life character, as confirmed by the self-professed good man himself.
Virgil is a story that used to spark pity from wrestling fans, given the fact that he’s often spotted at wrestling conventions and various random places trying to sell autographs, looking lonely. He now has to be doing better than he did before becoming a walking meme, with selling a decent amount of tees on OneHourTees. Essentially a side act appearing alongside Ted DiBiase during his wrestling days, Virgil hardly had a memorable career. However, his internet fame has now helped him be as popular as The Million Dollar Man today, at least among the hardcore wrestling fans. It’s a truism that he’s not garnered as much mainstream attention as his former master, but he’s surely capitalized on his f*** money shtick smartly to pay his bills.
12 Jim Cornette
Jim Cornette is easily one of the smartest wrestling personalities, who’s considered outdated and even dumb by a small demographic. It’s a fact that he isn’t a fan of top wrestlers’ fighting blow-up dolls and using their genitals to flip opponents. However, he’s definitely upping his character considerably when he’s in front of cameras or microphones, as he knows that there’s a good number of wrestling fans who are keen to listen a wrestling legend trash today’s product.
He has been embroiled in numerous Twitter feuds with the likes of Vince Russo and Kenny Omega, whose business methods he absolutely resents. His shoot interviews almost always are controversial, and a YouTube channel titled Cornette Talking Sense, which has over 55,000 subscribers, documents his hottest takes on the business. Plus, his internet presence is huge, as he has over 135,000 followers on Twitter, runs one of the most-listened wrestling podcasts, the Jim Cornette Experience, and sells wrestling collectibles.
11 La Parka
The only wrestler from this list to be relevant effortlessly is the Mexican-born La Parka. La Parka was essentially Mexico’s Jushin Thunder Liger, who himself will make an appearance later in this article, and his antics remain entertaining to this day. Every wrestling community seems to share GIFs of his funny moments every now and then, with such GIFs receiving a great deal of upvotes or likes every time they’re posted.
It’s shocking, for the 51-year-old hasn’t wrestled for a major American promotion since 2000 although he has made rare appearances for Impact Wrestling. He doesn’t converse with his American fans either as he tweets predominantly in Spanish. What must amuse younger and casual fans is the fact that the Mexican’s relevant today despite never winning any title with WCW or even Impact Wrestling.
Most wrestlers I’ve discussed in this article have managed to stay positively relevant, but as Eric Bischoff puts it, controversy creates cash; cash buys drugs and alcohol, which Sunny absolutely loves. Although Sunny doesn’t seem to make much, she’s managing to put the food on the table by being popular for all the wrong reasons. Her wrestling fame began waning in 1998, when she left WWE, and she faced a resurgence of sorts when she was inducted into WWE Hall of Fame in 2011.
However, it’s been a downward spiral since. Any dirt sheet story that’s been published on her in the last few years has been has been, more often than not, a story that discusses her sexuality, adult film career, arrests or addictions. The last time she made headlines, for an instance, saw her describe her seven-hour romp with Dolph Ziggler. Stories about her personal life won’t ever stop, though, as she seems a person who’d be upset if she wasn’t given a plethora of attention.
9 Bret Hart
Given his illustrious career and involvement in professional wrestling’s biggest mystery, Montreal Screwjob, it’s not surprising that Bret Hart is still relevant today, but he’s relevant for reasons for which you won’t expect a legend to stay relevant. The Hitman is, in a lot of ways, who a good number of wrestling fans call a bitter old wrestler. He essentially advocates a safe wrestling style and doesn’t seem to share the same views as Internet Wrestling Community.
For instance, his criticism of Seth Rollins doesn’t bode well with the wrestling fans, as they constantly bring up his ‘incorrectly’ claiming he’s an unsafe worker. Additionally, he has been made into a meme of sorts, in light of his rating matches that most fans thoroughly enjoyed 4/10. He’s a true legend, but it seems the second thing on modern wrestling fans’ minds when he’s discussed.
8 Jushin Thunder Liger
For a wrestler who hasn’t wrestled in the USA consistently since 2000, it’s surprising how big a following Jushin Thunder Liger has earned. The hardcore NJPW fans being his huge marks isn’t a big deal but even WWE fans seem to be aware of his work despite his working just one match for WWE’s NXT. His comedic segments constantly are shared in wrestling communities, with the ones in which his anal sphincter taking the centre stage proving the most popular ones. Additionally, his showing up at high schools and other odd places in his full wrestling gear crack up a lot of fans. Comedic acts usually die early deaths; however, the 11-time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion is an excellent in-ring performer before he’s a sports entertainer, so the adoration he receives is well-deserved, indeed.
7 Ric Flair
Very few old wrestlers seem to have the same values as they did during their prime. Shawn Michaels, Kevin Nash and Sting are good cases in point, for they’ve now become born-again Christians after living a drug- and sex-fuelled life during their prime. Ric Flair, however, has refused to change his ways, as he continues to be The Nature Boy even today.
The two-time WWE Hall of Famer caught the attention of the mainstream media when he claimed that he hooked up with Halle Berry shortly after her divorcing first husband David Justice. Most recently, he claimed that he’s slept with over 10,000 women, and he even was given a 30 for 30 ESPN documentary, unprecedented for a professional wrestler. The man deserves props for essentially living the character.
Rob Van Dam is wrestling’s answer to Snoop Dogg. No matter how old he becomes, he’s always going to be cool. With his being always high on marijuana when other wrestlers consume other hard drugs, he’s being seen as an endearing person. His interview at the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony in April 2016, in particular, has received over 356,000 views, with the fans discussing how high he sounds in the comments’ section. He hasn’t let his marijuana use and age hamper his chances of being excellent in the ring, though, as he continues to have great matches for indie promotions such as HOH. As he’s still only 46 years old and a household name, the chances of the wrestling’s coolest dude’s returning to WWE is pretty high.
5 Hulk Hogan
In true Hulk Hogan fashion, he has managed to remain relevant through more amounts of ways than any other wrestler discussed here. His illustrious career definitely warrants a lifetime of being relevant, but what’s he’s done since his in-ring retirement has made him a comedic figure of sorts among the more-informed fans. His tendency to lie pathologically, in particular, has been cracking fans up. He’s lied about an array of things: wrestling 400 days in a year as flying back and forth between the USA and Japan handed him extra days, nearly becoming the bassist for Metallica, giving a Make-A-Wish kid front-row tickets for his world title win at SummerSlam and bodyslamming 700-pound Andre the Giant in front of 93,000 people at Tokyo Dome, to name a few of those.
It remains unknown whether the numerous unprotected shots to the head he’s received have given him selective memory loss or he’s merely lying in hopes of getting away with it.
4 Scott Steiner
A wrestling community called Squared Circle creates a thread on Saturdays titled Steiner Saturdays, with the users cutting Scott Steiner-esque promos. The commenters often make references to his Genetic Freak promo he’d cut during his time with Impact Wrestling. However, they’re not the only wrestling subgroup who have managed to keep him relevant, for fans on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube seem to adore him for not being ‘normal’.
It remains unknown if he’s aware of becoming a comedic act, for he doesn’t seem to be capitalizing on his popularity, but he’s not normal. While he’s often associated with crazy mathematics skills, he proven that he’s truly not normal, when he claimed that he’s slept with over 15,000 women to beat Wilt Chamberlain’s record. What’s up with wrestling legends and lying about sexual conquests?
3 Vince Russo
WCW didn’t die because of any single individual, but a good number of fans seemingly believe that the company is no longer in existence only because of Vince Russo’s booking decisions. He’s since been vilified to an unreal extent and, unlike Vince McMahon, he has absolutely no empathizers. The former WCW World Heavyweight Champion, who has also been attributed to the shambolic state that the company had been in during his time there, however, has refused to let criticism and hate hamper him, as he’s continued to use the popularity to put the food on the table. The Indiana resident capitalizes on the relevancy his haters render him to secure advisory roles with small promotions besides running a popular podcast. Easily one of the top-five popular bookers of all time, he’ll continue to stay relevant for many years to come.
2 Jeff Jarrett
With Impact Wrestling staying relevant for all the wrong reasons, it’s only fitting that its co-founder is also constantly talked about in wrestling circles – also for the wrong reasons. Many expected him to do at least something decent with Global Force Wrestling when he first founded it in 2014; however, his attempts to get his fans to invest in what he called Global Force Gold ensured the company became a laughing stock. He nearly rejuvenated his career when he made his second return to Impact Wrestling earlier this year, but a reported falling out with the management and a battle with addiction means he’s back to square one again. Double J has managed to stay relevant since forever but, sadly, he hasn’t been able to convert it into success.
No one knows if Ryback’s been making outlandish claims to stay relevant or he truly believes the things he spews out, but it’s been working. Since his WWE departure, he’s been making Hulk Hogan-esque claims, and the internet seems to love calling him out on his lies. For instance, he claimed that Vince McMahon himself promised him a world title reign at the end of 2016, the year in which he was also told about squashing AJ Styles at WrestleMania. In his podcast Conversation with the Big Guy, he even bragged about outselling John Cena (yes, the cargos-wearing you-can’t-see-me John Cena) and being called an a-hole by The Cenation Leader himself for that.
However, these lies have nothing on his take on Goldberg’s return; he candidly claimed that WWE only brought back Goldberg to spite him, ignoring the huge gulf between their popularity.