The professional wrestling industry is different than legitimate sporting competitions in that the ages of wrestlers can be somewhat masked due to the predetermined nature of matches. Sure, creating matches against top-tier athletes and taking bumps inside of rings becomes less enjoyable with age, or so we’re told by veterans of the industry, but the fact of the matter is that those who work hard to remain in great shape and who have a deep love for the business can perform for an organization such as World Wrestling Entertainment well into their 40s and even their 50s. Heck, “Nature Boy” Ric Flair was unquestionably one of the best wrestlers in the WWE a decade ago when he was closer to 60 years old than to 50!
With that said, age isn’t always only a number even for the all-time greats of their eras. Father Time is undefeated and untied, after all, and he comes calling for different people at different moments. It is, thus, not at all surprising that some big names recently announced, in different ways, that they had stopped wrestling. This includes the icon who will likely go down as the best big man in WWE history, a living legend who unofficially and literally walked away from the ring, probably for the last time, in 2017. Others haven’t officially announced that they have significant plans for when they will stop wrestling, but it seems that it will only be a matter of time before they hang their boots up for good, likely in 2018.
15 Mickie James: Next
It’s been well rumored among journalists and fans that Mickie James, who turned 38 years old this past summer, is enjoying a retirement tour during her current return to the WWE that began when she lost to Asuka at NXT TakeOver: Toronto in the fall of 2016.
James has impressed as a member of the main roster performing as both a babyface and a heel, and she deserves one final run as a champion before her and the company part ways, likely when her current contract expires. The former WWE Women’s Champion who is a mom isn’t being utilized to her full capacity by the promotion, which is yet another reason why we expect she will inform us of her retirement plan at some point in 2018.
14 Bill Goldberg: Stopped
We cannot say for sure that Bill Goldberg definitely stopped wrestling forever following his loss to Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 33, but he hasn’t stepped inside a WWE to perform anything other than a promo since that fateful night. Goldberg, who will be 51 years old by the end of 2017, has discussed in interviews how difficult it was to remain in “superhero” shape and be similar to the man he was during his best days in World Championship Wrestling, and he had one final run as the top champion in the company leading up to his last WrestleMania defeat.
He’s been smart with his money, and he has nothing left to prove even to critics. There’s no reason for him to resume his career, even for one match, in 2018.
13 John Cena: Next
It is likely, if not a guarantee, that John Cena will always have some role within the WWE, perhaps as an ambassador who signs a legends contract with the promotion in the future. Cena is not shy about taking gigs outside of the company these days, and he appears to be well on his way to following The Rock and becoming a Hollywood personality and/or possibly a talk-show host.
NBC’s Today could use a good-looking guy under the age of 50 to serve as the next face of the program leading into the 2020s. Cena has experience hosting the national show, and he has the personality and likability to attract viewers even within homes that ignore pro wrestling 12 months out of the year. His time to stop wrestling could come in 2018.
12 Brie Bella: Stopped
Brie Bella, the sister of Nikki Bella and the real-life wife of former champion Bryan Danielson/Daniel Bryan, stopped wrestling in April 2016 after that year’s WrestleMania for “family reasons.” We now know that she left the active in-ring roster so that her and Bryan could start a family, and the couple welcomed their first daughter into the world in May 2017.
With Bryan’s status up in the air and it not yet known if the WWE will ever let him compete inside a ring underneath the promotion’s umbrella in the future, it seems that Brie is also on the shelf for the foreseeable future. Truth be told, it wouldn’t be the worst thing for all involved if neither Brie nor Bryan ever worked another match.
11 Kurt Angle: Next
You didn’t have to be a wrestling insider or somebody who reads newsletters to understand Kurt Angle was going to do whatever possible to return to the ring after he rejoined the WWE to serve as the on-air Raw General Manager earlier this year. Angle did just that when he performed as a member of The Shield at the 2017 TLC show, and it’s believed the company will allow him to wrestle at one last WrestleMania, probably in 2018.
Let’s not pretend that Angle, maybe the best overall performer of his time when in his prime, is the athlete of old. He’s broken down, he’s slow, and he’ll be 50 years old in December 2018. Angle’s official retirement should come after next year’s WrestleMania if not sooner, if only for his well-being.
10 Gail Kim: Stopped
It’s somewhat of a bummer that many wrestling fans out there may not have realized that Gail Kim is stepping away from the business by the end of 2017. Kim officially announced her retirement from Total Nonstop Action/Impact Wrestling earlier this year before relinquishing the Knockouts Championship, and she explained that she would be ending her active career by 2018.
While she did manage to return to the ring following back surgery, the 40-year-old who is an underrated performer compared to so many in WWE and Impact today is married to celebrity chef Robert Irvine. She certainly isn’t hurting for money, and she has a plethora of reasons for wanting and being able to retire. We just wish the WWE would've used her better and treated her like a true star when she was with the promotion.
9 Rob Van Dam: Next
There has been some misunderstanding among fans about the short-term future of Rob Van Dam as of December 2017. Van Dam explained during the holiday season that he will not be making a return to the WWE because the company would not clear him due to the concussions, head injuries and vision issues he has dealt with throughout his career, similar to the situation involving Daniel Bryan at the moment.
RVD hasn’t completely stopped wrestling, however, as he has recently performed at smaller shows overseas. It does, however, seem Van Dam is slowing down. While we would like to see Van Dam perform at a Royal Rumble or similar WWE show, we understand the company’s stance regarding his safety and the safety of anybody else performing alongside him in the ring.
8 Mark Henry: Stopped
Odds are that the WWE didn’t plan a massive retirement speech for Mark Henry in 2017 because of that awesome fake retirement angle he once had alongside John Cena. As great as that was, Henry probably deserved a little better than a quiet retirement that occurred away from WWE programming and from fans who may not even know that he has wrestled his last match in the company other than the occasional one-off.
Henry left the roster following WrestleMania 33, and he now works for the promotion behind the scenes as a producer. We have to admit “The World’s Strongest Producer” does have a nice ring to it. We just hope he keeps wearing those amazing suits now that he is in a non-wrestling role. Perhaps he’ll be an authority figure, such as a general manager, in the future.
7 Goldust: Next
While Goldust has done well to tease via social media that he has retirement in his eyes over the years, we are attempting to read the writing on the wall and see that he is winding down and facing the light at the end of the tunnel of his career. Goldust will turn 50 years old soon enough, and he has been able to work as “The Natural” Dustin Rhodes during WWE's version of Starrcade.
None of this is to suggest that the WWE should allow Goldust to leave and work on the independent scene at any point in the future. We’d like to see him obtain a gig working in developmental, as did his famous father “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes. Goldust/Dustin would have plenty to offer those down in NXT.
6 Eva Marie: Stopped
We’re confident that the WWE could find something to do with the Eva Marie character were she to yearn to return to the promotion at some point. We’re also struggling to come up with a realistic scenario for why she would want to work for WWE or for any other wrestling organization. She and the WWE parted ways in August of this year, and, unlike others who left the company in 2017 or further back, she hasn’t really shown much interest in continuing a wrestling career.
She isn’t taking independent bookings, and she has found gigs as an actress and a model. Anybody who follows Eva Marie on Instagram will quickly understand why she won’t be hurting for work outside of the WWE and the industry, in general, in 2018.
5 Kane: Next
Depending on how you view the Kane character or what you think about how he has been utilized during the latter stages of 2017, you may find yourself wishing that he would retire before 2017 concludes. That isn’t going to happen, but Kane is clearly beginning to pump the brakes and envision the end of the road as it relates to being a full-time member of the WWE roster or any other wrestling promotion.
Glenn Jacobs will be 51 years old in the spring of 2018, and he is already involved in the world of politics while running for mayor of Knox County. He has a life outside of the WWE ready for him once he stops wrestling for good, either as a politician or as an analyst.
4 Bubba Ray: Stopped
Bubba Ray, who has been known as Bubba Ray Dudley and Bully Ray during his wrestling career, won championships in WWE, Extreme Championship Wrestling and Impact Wrestling, and he recently worked entertaining programs in Ring of Honor. He has sustained multiple noteworthy injuries over the decades, and that played a role in the tag-team legend publicly announcing during the fall that he has stopped wrestling on a full-time basis.
In early December, Bubba Ray claimed that he doesn’t care about his WWE status or about making it into the promotion’s Hall of Fame. That’s fair, but there’s no doubt he deserves that honor and to be part of a future HOF evening alongside his long-time partner Devon. Besides, we need one more “Get the tables!” line at a WWE event.
3 Sheamus: Next
Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer confirmed in December 2017 that Sheamus is currently suffering from spinal stenosis, a serious ailment that has slowed professional athletes such as New York Mets third baseman David Wright in recent memory. It is believed the WWE is doing whatever possible to protect Sheamus as he attempts to deal with this setback, but it’s been largely suggested that he will need to stop wrestling as soon as next spring because there is no full cure for the narrowing of the spinal canal.
In fact, Sheamus could face serious health risks, such as paralysis, if he keeps wrestling on the active roster. We hope the current Raw Tag Team Champion makes the best choice and decides to stop wrestling after WrestleMania at the latest.
2 The Undertaker: Stopped
We understand that wrestling fans around the world do not want The Undertaker’s loss to Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 33 to be his last match in the company, let alone in the business, so much so that some are attempting to will him into making a return. Don’t look now, but all indications are that he has stopped wrestling and isn’t having second thoughts about that decision.
Those who follow the industry have witnessed The Undertaker physically break down over the past several years, and he, simply put, cannot perform to his own standards or to the standards of viewers anymore. Leave the memories alone, fans of the phenom, and remember that you can also go back via the WWE Network and watch his old WrestleMania matches with the likes of Shawn Michaels, Triple H, CM Punk and so many others.
1 Big Show: Next
While anybody can change his mind once the day or occasion arrives, we don’t have to guess when the Big Show will stop wrestling. He told Sports Illustrated earlier this year that he plans to retire in February 2018, which may surprise some since that means he won’t take part in WrestleMania.
That, per the Big Show, isn’t an accident, as he apparently doesn’t want a big sendoff or retirement tour as a member of the roster. He simply wants to quietly bounce in his own way. Show worked hard to get himself into great shape multiple times during his run in the WWE, and he became a tremendous wrestler and an even better character. We hope he has at least some future in the promotion once he stops wrestling during the winter.