Vince McMahon has always argued that anything can happen in the WWE Universe, and short of deceased wrestlers coming back from the dead to make a comeback, this phrase has been proven almost entirely true time and again. Even wrestlers who were seemingly out of the game forever have appeared from nowhere and taken over the wrestling world all over again, and fans can never predict when something like this will happen. Part of the reason this trend is so prominent relates to the fact that for the most part, wrestlers don’t retire until they absolutely have to, usually because doctors will no longer clear them to compete.
Despite the intense toll they put on their bodies, select wrestlers have somehow kept wrestling into their 50s, 60s, and even 70s, and on a regular enough level for critics and fans alike to still consider them active. Sure, a few of these guys have “retired” once or twice throughout their career, but that word is pretty much meaningless in sports entertainment. If a wrestler accepted a booking within the last year, it’s pretty much a given they can be talked into taking another one sometime soon. Keep reading to discover 20 wrestlers from your youth you had no idea are still competing today.
One of the younger names on this list, X-Pac was arguably a prodigious talent when it came to pro wrestling, first achieving fame as The 1-2-3 Kid when still in his early 20s. He won and went on to unify the WWE Light Heavyweight and WCW Cruiserweight Championships before the time he was 30, in addition to a handful of reigns as European and Tag Team Champion. For this reason, perhaps it isn’t too surprising he’s still wrestling today, only in his mid 40s. However, it may still be a bit of a shock considering he’s not doing so for WWE, where his friend Triple H is running the show and thus could easily give his little buddy a job. Instead, X-Pac has been forced to work for smaller independent companies like Big Time Wrestling or Preston City Wrestling, plus a few international promotions around the world.
19. Billy Gunn
Almost a full ten years older than X-Pac, Billy Gunn was in fact the oldest member of D-Generation X (with the exception of the non-wrestling Rick Rude). This makes it an even more unexpected event to catch him in the wrestling ring, especially considering where it is he’s been practicing his craft these days. Similar to X-Pac, Gunn hasn’t been in WWE lately, which makes sense considering he was fired back in 2015 due to a minor performance-enhancing drug related scandal. While WWE has yet to forgive and forget, Gunn has found a decent amount of work overseas working for New Japan Pro Wrestling, and against some pretty big names at that. Recently, Gunn challenged Hiroshi Tanahashi for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship, and more high profile matches could easily be in his future. Gunn has also made occasional appearances for American independents like House of Hardcore and Big Time Wrestling.
18. Marty Jannetty
During his hilarious introductions at Slamboree 1998, Chris Jericho introduced Shawn Michaels’ former tag team partner Marty Jannetty with the phrase “rock rock ‘till you drop, rock rock never stops.” Little did fans know this was a wholly accurate prediction, as the former Midnight Rocker is still getting in the ring to this day, long after his skills have diminished past the point of usefulness to any mainstream company. There are still plenty of independents out there willing to hire him based on name value alone, including companies like Fighting Evolution Wrestling and Game Changer Wrestling. Given his advanced age and substance abuse issues, it’s highly unlikely Jannetty will ever be seen in WWE again, even in a winking nod to the legendary career of HBK. Nonetheless, it looks like indies will indeed keep hiring the rocker until he drops.
17. Tito Santana
Tito Santana may not have a Def Leppard song to succinctly sum up his fighting spirit, but he does have a single word that offers basically the same message – Arriba! Having wrestled the peak of his career in the 1980s, when he twice won the WWE Intercontinental Championship, Santana was already inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004, typically an honor reserved for retired performers. It would have been completely rational for Santana to tie up the boots back at that point, if not sooner, and yet he continues working for small independent promotions to this day. For the most part, Santana wrestles fellow legends for companies like the Superstars of Wrestling Federation, and until June of 2017, he also occasionally mixed it up with his trainees at the Independent Wrestling Federation.
16. Taka Michinoku
As the youngest wrestler on our list, there’s really not that much about Taka Michinoku still competing today that would come as a shock to his Attitude Era fans. Except, of course, the fact he hasn’t done so in America for almost two decades now. When Taka’s time in WWE began, he was easily the highest-profile cruiserweight in the company, spearheading the Light Heavyweight division with his feud against The Great Sasuke. Taka won a tournament to become the first WWE Light Heavyweight, an honor he held for 10 full months, followed by a hilarious turn as a comedy character in Kai En Tai alongside Funaki, who stuck around for much, much longer. Granted, stories indicate Taka nonetheless felt underutilized in WWE, hence his return to the homeland where he wrestles to this day. In addition to his own company, the Kaientai Dojo, Taka has also made a large number of appearances for New Japan Pro Wrestling.
15. The Hurricane
Stand back, there’s still a Hurricane coming through (and no, we aren’t talking about the many tragic natural disasters currently effecting the southeastern United States). Of course, this particular Hurricane, also known as Shane or Gregory Helms, hasn’t gone by that name in over a decade, which is a big part of why his old fans may not know he’s around anymore. While the faux superhero gimmick Helms portrayed during the Invasion era of WWE was easily his most popular character, leading him to the WWE European, Hardcore, and Tag Team Championships, he’s actually spent far more time in the cockier heel persona he performs under his own name. This is the moniker he uses today when working for WildKat Pro Wrestling and Five Borough Wrestling, not to mention his recent stint in TNA as a part-timer wrestler and the manager of his students Trevor Lee and Andrew Everett in The Helms Dynasty.
14. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express
Similar to Marty Jannetty, the ongoing careers of The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express, Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson, are testaments to the fact rock will truly never die in sports entertainment. Well, that’s one way of looking at it, anyway. Another lens might see that neither Morton nor Gibson have had any gas left in the tank since 1994 at the latest, making the last 23 years pretty dire for fans hoping to see them wrestle. Even so, Ricky and Robert keep teaming up anyway, even after they were finally inducted to the WWE Hall of Fame in early 2017. No one expects to see them actually stepping foot inside a Vince McMahon sanctioned ring, but old school fans can still catch the RnRs mixing it up with the new generation of independent wrestlers for companies like Big Time Wrestling and the Peachstate Wrestling Alliance.
With a tag line boasting he’s homicidal, suicidal, and genocidal, it’s genuinely a bit surprising that Sabu hasn’t accidentally made true on that second description during one of his insane stunts inside the ring. Now that he’s in his early 50s and still defying death by flying over barbed wire ropes with reckless abandon, fans of Sabu are genuinely concerned for the guy’s well being, worried he might break his hip again, or worse. Of course, this is the same guy who once ripped his bicep open, patched it up with duct tape, and went about his day like it was no big deal, so his threshold for pain is obviously higher than the average grappler. Never one to listen to critics, the former ECW Champion ignores all those who doubt him and keeps getting in the ring for VIP Wrestling, Xtreme Intense Championship Wrestling, and a bevy of other independent promotions who focus on the most extreme styles of sports entertainment around.
12. The Great Muta
Even those unfamiliar with Japanese wrestling in general are aware of The Great Muta, or at least they should be if they call themselves wrestling fans. In addition to landmark success in his homeland wrestling for New Japan Pro Wrestling, Muta was one of the first true international superstars of the sport, achieving main event fame in the NWA and WCW during the late ‘80s through early ‘90s. During this time, many American fans were completely wowed by Muta’s style, which still influences new wrestlers to this day. Muta’s unique abilities catapulted him to the NWA Television Championship back when it still meant something, and a later return to WCW in the year 2000 saw him capture the Tag Team Championships with Vampiro, as well. While Muta isn’t quite as innovative as he once was, he’s one of the few names on this list who may well still have a little left to offer, a gift he gives to fans of Wrestle-1 and Pro Wrestling NOAH amongst a few other Japanese indies.
Before anyone goes and points it out, the mere fact he’s appearing on this list doesn’t in mean Haku wouldn’t still be able to destroy most if not all currently active wrestlers in a legitimate fist fight. However, there’s a difference between simply being a tough guy and succeeding in the sports entertainment industry, which is how Haku hit a relatively low ceiling to begin with. Considering his skill was never really in the wrestling ring, it may be a surprise to learn the man who once served as André the Giant’s WWE Tag Team Championship winning partner still gets in the ring now and again as of 2017. Granted, Haku’s character doesn’t need to change all that much, as simply absorbing punishment and screaming in anger is the sort of thing that works at any age. Those who want to see Haku keep up the old act can check out the National Wrasslin’ League or New Japan Pro Wrestling, where he occasionally appears with his nephew, Tama Tonga.
10. Jim Duggan
There will probably never be a version of American pro wrestling where fans aren’t ready to chant the letters “U-S-A” at the top of their lungs, and for that reason alone, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan could probably keep wrestling to the day he dies and remain the most popular person on some cards. Although Hacksaw may not get the same level of cheers as John Cena or some other WWE main event Superstar, he can definitely get a full audience of hardcore independent wrestling fans on his side, and all it takes is a few waves of the flag and a hearty “HOOOOOOOO!” Putting it that way, Duggan’s job almost sounds easy, but that may not be the case considering he’s doing it despite having required a number of serious surgeries within the past few years. Overcoming the pain and recovery process probably wasn’t easy, and yet Duggan did so anyway all so he could keep entertaining crowds for Imperial Wrestling Revolution, the Superstars of Wrestling Federation, and various high school gyms around the country.
9. Bushwhacker Luke
When a wrestler is so connected to a given tag team that his ring name isn’t complete without mention of the group as a whole, one might expect they’d have to end their career the same time their partner calls it quits. With that in mind, fans are still scratching their heads about how exactly Bushwhacker Luke has managed to keep his career going almost a full decade since his partner Bushwhacker Butch retired. Granted, it can’t be all that difficult for him, considering the Bushwhackers have been treated as the world’s goofiest comedy characters since the early 1990s. That said, Luke is in his 70s at this point, and therefore any bump needs to be torture on his aged body. For whatever reason, the lure of sardines and licking people’s heads is strong enough that he keeps going through it, making appearances for organizations like Ultimate Championship Wrestling and the World Association of Wrestling.
8. Greg Valentine
It’s been a remarkably long time since Greg Valentine was considered a main event threat in wrestling, yet his competence in the ring allowed for decades of longevity making him a familiar name to fans of all ages. Those who watched wrestling in the ‘70s know him as a tag team specialist who later feuded against Bob Backlund, slightly younger fans of ‘80s wrestling remember Valentine as a former Intercontinental Champion, and even younger still Attitude Era viewers might recall him appearing on WCW Monday Nitro against top names like Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, and Lex Luger. Valentine was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, which was likely the last time Vince McMahon saw any use for him, but The Hammer’s hard hitting work ethic is still strong enough for him to get jobs at promotions like Primal Conflict Wrestling and Blue Water Championship Wrestling amongst several others.
7. Terry Funk
Anyone who has been a wrestling fan for more than a few years probably isn’t all that shocked by this one, but it’s impossible to make a list about wrestlers we can’t believe are still at it and not include the Funker. Some three decades after his first “retirement” in the early 1980s, Terry Funk made his latest comeback on September 22, 2017, a whopping two weeks prior to the time this article is getting written. Allegedly, this was Funk’s “retirement match,” taking place in Memphis, Tennessee for Big Time Wrestling. On the other hand, every match Funk has wrestled over the past couple decades has been a “retirement” match, and he never stuck to any of those promises, so we doubt he’ll do so any time soon. This is all despite an emotional speech taking place less than a year ago where Funk claimed his own doctors begged him to hang it up, furthering the theory nothing will stop him.
6. Dory Funk, Jr.
All right, so everyone is well aware that Terry Funk can’t give up his passion no matter how many medical professionals implore him to. Somehow, though, fans have failed to notice that Terry’s older brother Dory Funk, Jr., who is a former two time NWA World Champion himself, is also still mixing it up with much, much younger opponents on an even more regular basis. Of course, there are a few caveats to this fact that explain why less people are aware of it. First of all, Dory’s career has been mostly limited to Japan for the past several decades, specifically All Japan Pro Wrestling. On top of that, he generally only competes in six-man tag team matches, where he only needs to play a small role, letting his younger partners do most of the work. With that said, at 76 years young, Dory is also the oldest currently active wrestler we’re aware of, making his continued career a shock to wrestling fans of any generation.
5. Nikolai Volkoff
We gotta hand it to Nikolai Volkoff. Not only is he one of the oldest pro wrestlers not named Funk to still get in the ring on a regular basis, but he’s also stuck to the same Bolshevik gimmick throughout his entire career, long, long, long after the Cold War has ended. It’s weird enough seeing a 69-year-old man falling apart in front of thousands (or, let’s face it, dozens) of fans, and to see him do it decked in bright red hammers and sickles makes the thing an entirely different sort of blast from the past. Obviously, at this age, Volkoff doesn’t have much to offer the major feds like WWE, and thus doesn’t even get to make appearances as a legend like some of his contemporaries. Already in the WWE Hall of Fame, there’s really nothing left for Volkoff to prove anyway, yet he’s been wrestling for the Hardcore Hustle Organization and a variety of other independents on a regular basis.
4. Kevin Sullivan
For most people reading this list, the career of Kevin Sullivan was probably pretty confusing from the time we became fans. Unless you happened to see his work in the 1970s and ‘80s, when he portrayed a demonic cult leader in southern independent promotions that truly believed he was the devil, Sullivan’s sudden push to the top of WCW during the onset of the Monday Night Wars was highly curious. In any event, there he was challenging Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage, looking nothing like the main event threat he was supposed to be. Now in his late 60s, Sullivan’s look has barely changed, and he’s luckily finally stepped away from that level of spotlight. However, he does still make occasional appearances for the Hardcore Hustle Organization, getting in the ring and reminding fans he was one of the first true icons of the extreme genre. Sullivan also makes appearances for Ring of Honor, where he managed Punishment Martinez.
3. Ultimo Dragon
Truth be told, if we were the Ultimo Dragon, and were thus forced to suffer through the same disastrous stint in WWE that the former WCW standout endured, the embarrassment alone might have forced us to call it quits right then and there. Clearly, Ultimo Dragon is far more tenacious, as he managed to not only recover, but also strive in a revived career back in his homeland that continues to this day. In America, Dragon’s success was largely limited to the Attitude Era, when he won the WCW Television and Cruiserweight Championships on multiple occasions. Combined with his Japanese belts, at one point, Dragon held 10 championships at the same time, making him one of the most decorated performers in history. However, as happened all too often with former WCW stars, his stint in WWE was nowhere near as memorable, causing him to more or less leave the country for good. Luckily, there are still plenty of companies in Japan where he can practice his craft, including Michinoku Pro and All Japan Pro Wrestling.
2. Grandmaster Sexay
In some respects, Grandmaster Sexay is one of the more obvious names on this list in regards to the fact he’s still wrestling. The guy was reasonably young during the Attitude Era, and given the fact his father is a wrestling legend who promotes shows in Memphis to this day, it’s practically a given the wrestler who also goes by Brian Christopher would follow in Jerry Lawler’s footsteps. On the other hand, Christopher was always the weakest part of whatever he was doing in WWE, including popular angles like Too Cool and the creation of the Light Heavyweight division. Basically, if Scotty II Hotty is retired, and he is, then Grandmaster Sexay should have given up a solid five years earlier than the Wormy one did. Defying this conventional logic, Christopher keeps lacing up the boots for Empire State Wrestling, Freedom Pro Wrestling, and his father’s promotion in Memphis, hopefully earning slightly larger reactions than the utter silence received during his Scotty-free WWE comeback in 2011.
1. Jerry Lawler
Of all the wrestlers on this list, fans would probably agree Jerry “The King” Lawler has the most obvious reason for why he should have stopped wrestling quite some time ago. At the very latest, most people would likely expect Lawler tied up his boots for the last time somewhere around the summer of 2012, when he infamously suffered a heart attack live on Raw and nearly died. This incident came only a few short moments after Lawler was involved in a match against CM Punk and Dolph Ziggler, with many people believing the heightened activity could have contributed to Lawler’s health scare. Even so, The King himself has brushed off such fears and keeps wrestling a highly vigorous schedule more than five years later. WWE recognizes he’s probably too much of a liability at this point to allow in the ring, but smaller companies including Northeast Wrestling, Modern Vintage, and Lawler’s own Memphis Wrestling seem willing to roll the dice on Lawler’s life.
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