Professional wrestlers are athletes. They have to be in excellent physical shape, perform impressive stunts, have good cardio, possess impressive physiques, and be able to withstand punishment. While there are wrestlers who wrestle into their sixties (and beyond), they generally aren’t very good at that point. And nobody can wrestle in the WWE at that age. (OK, Vince McMahon did.) However, having said all that, professional wrestlers, unlike most athletes, do not compete in a legitimate sport. In most sports, most athletes peak in their twenties. Sometimes in their early twenties, sometimes later. But in professional wrestling, this is rarely the case.
Because in-ring prowess is only half of what can make a wrestler great, few are at their professional peak at the same time their body is at its natural peak. Wrestlers have to learn the tricks of the trade and understand their character and how to “get over” with the audience. Because of this, many wrestlers don’t peak until their mid-thirties, or even later. So when we actually look at the ages of some wrestlers who are on top of their game --or even some who are still ascending-- it can be very surprising to see how old they are already. Alternatively, there are a few wrestlers who seem to have been around for a while who are still quite young. So here are eight WWE stars who are older than you thought and seven who might actually be younger than you realized.
15 Older: Tamina Snuka - 39
At 39, Tamina Snuka is the oldest active female wrestler on the WWE roster. She is even older than Mickie James who debuted in 2006, left for TNA, and returned just last year. Despite her lineage, Tamina did not begin wrestling until the age of 30 and joined the WWE a year later. Though she has been with the company a while, she has not achieved a great deal. Though it hasn’t entirely been her fault, as she has had to deal with a number of injuries and for prolonged periods of time, she has been used in a bodyguard role, or as a “heater” for other female wrestlers. However, she has gained prominence since the brand split last year and has been one of the featured female wrestlers on SmackDown.
14 Younger: Naomi - 29
A wrestler who is probably younger than you realized is Tamina’s former BAD (“Beautiful and Dangerous”) teammate and (as of writing) current SmackDown Women’s Champion, Naomi. Female wrestlers tend to be younger than men. They often reach the WWE earlier and often retire earlier. This is partly due to the fact that, being women, if they want to have a child at some point, they will have to take a long period of time off wrestling. Many female wrestlers choose to retire before they start a family. Furthermore, most of the WWE women’s wrestlers are skinnier than their male counterparts, so there might be a lower limit on how many bumps they can take in their career.
Having said that, it is remarkable how young Naomi is given how long she has been on our television sets. She joined the WWE in 2009 and debuted on the main roster in 2012 as one of Brodus Clay’s Funkadactyls (remember that?). Since then, she has grown a lot as a performer and finally captured Women’s gold earlier this year.
13 Older: Bobby Roode - 40
The current NXT Champion is already in his 40s. This might not be a problem, though it is quite odd given that NXT, at least in theory, is the WWE’s developmental brand. Well, Bobby Roode has developed all he’s going to by this point. Bobby Roode is known best for his time in TNA wrestling. One of the “TNA Originals”, Roode spent 12 years with the company, from 2004 to 2016. Roode was actually a WWE wrestler from 2001-2004, wrestling mostly on Metal, Sunday Night Heat, and Velocity. But it was really in TNA where Roode developed from a green worker to a main event talent, eventually becoming TNA’s longest-reigning World Champion.
As the current NXT Champion, Roode is primed for a move up to the main roster. It’s now just a matter of how long he holds the NXT title, after which he will likely come up.
12 Younger: Jason Jordan - 28
Jason Jordan -or should I say, Jason Angle?- is currently getting the biggest push of his career. After achieving great success with Chad Gable in NXT as American Alpha, the two were called up to SmackDown during last year’s draft. But they never got much focus on SmackDown and never quite clicked. Now Jordan has been moved to Raw and is Kurt Angle’s kayfabe son. It’s true, it’s true.
While the Angle angle might not be well thought out, it does show that Vince McMahon and other WWE brass see something in Jordan. He’s a very good wrestler, has an accomplished amateur wrestling background, he’s good looking, and at only 28, he has many years ahead of him. Provided of course, they don’t ruin his career with dumb storylines.
11 Older: Titus O’Neil - 40
Titus O’Neil has not done a whole lot of wrestling recently, focusing more on managing his “Titus Brand”. And given his age, it makes sense; perhaps Titus is preparing for a post-in-ring career. O'Neill did not sign with WWE until he was 32, having previously been an accomplished College Football and Arena Football player. He debuted on the main roster with Darren Young as the Prime Time Players in 2012. Tall, muscular, with a football background, you’d think Vince McMahon would love O’Neil. But things haven’t been great for Titus, even before he grabbed Vince’s arm and nearly startled the old man to death. But he does have good comedic timing, so maybe he’s smart to focus on more of a talking role right now.
10 Younger: Bo Dallas - 27
This might sound harsh, but it’s surprising to see that Bo Dallas is only 27 because it seems that he’s already washed up. Mind you, Dallas recently formed “the Miztourage” with Curtis Axel, so perhaps a turn as one of Miz’s sidekicks will do Dallas some good. But so far the highlight of his main roster career was competing against Flo Rida in a rap battle (and seeming to best the professional rapper). I say “main roster”, because in NXT, Dallas had a very successful run as the heel NXT champion. Dallas first signed with WWE all the way back in 2008 at the tender age of 18, making his main roster debut in May of 2014 (not including his appearance in the 2013 Royal Rumble). Considering how long he’s been with the company, as well as his family lineage, it seems like Bo must be older. But bo-lieve me, he’s only 27.
9 Older: AJ Styles - 40
If you’ve followed AJ Styles throughout his career, you might not be surprised to hear that he’s 40. But they way he’s portrayed in WWE, you’d think he was 24. Styles began wrestling in 1998, and even appeared on WCW and WWE television back in 2001 and 2002, respectively. But you won’t hear about any of that on WWE programming today. Nor will you hear the letters “TNA”, despite Styles wrestling there for the majority of his career, rising to be the promotion’s top star for a period. On some WWE Network programs, you might get a reference to his Ring of Honor exploits, but generally his pre-WWE work is limited to a mention of his reign as IWGP Heavyweight Champion for New Japan Pro Wrestling.
All of this is to say, as far as Vince McMahon is considered, if you’ve not done it in the WWE, you haven’t done it at all. Thus, why we got Chris Jericho calling him “rookie”, and saw John Cena perceiving Styles as a young upstart. Styles being a whole 40 days younger than Cena.
8 Younger: Rich Swann - 26
Rich Swann has done a lot of living in 26 years. And not all of it good. His father was murdered when Swann was 12, his mother died when he was 16, and after that Swann fell in with a rough crowd and began abusing cocaine. But the native of the Charm City managed to turn things around and was wrestling by age 18 in 2009. Years ago, a man of Swann’s slight stature would never get a look in from the WWE. But things change and in 2016, Swann was brought in for the Cruiserweight Classic (CWC). Swann won two matches before losing in the quarterfinals to eventual winner, TJ Perkins.
Swann’s athleticism, dancing, and charming personality quickly won crowds over and he was signed to the WWE’s cruiserweight division. At the age of jut 25, Swann won the Cruiserweight Championship on the premier episode of 205 Live. But, the less said about 205 Live, the better.
7 Older: R-Truth - 45
Like Swann, R-Truth has dabbled with drugs. Truth, real name Ron Killings, dealt drugs in his younger days and spent 13 months in prison for his troubles. However, this did not deter him. While Killings has had a modicum of success in hip hop, both as a dancer and as a rapper, it’s as a pro wrestler for which he is best known. And he has been a pro wrestler for a long time. Killings began wrestling in 1997, at the age of 25. He even wrestled in the WWE back in 2000 and 2001 as K-Kwik. It was after his release, however, that he rose to prominence. In TNA, Killings had a very successful run, winning the NWA Heavyweight Championship in 2002, making him the first black wrestler to win that title. In 2002. Pro wrestling: breaking down barriers.
Killings re-debuted in WWE in 2008 as R-Truth. Since then, he’s always been around, though he hasn’t done too much. He’s best remembered for a great, though bizarre, one-month title feud with John Cena in 2011 as well as once forgetting the Wisconsin city he was in on Raw.
6 Younger: Alexa Bliss - 26
Alexa Bliss has always been active and sporting. She was a high-level cheerleader and a bodybuilder before she joined NXT in 2013. She was only 22 at this point. As mentioned earlier, female wrestlers tend to retire earlier, so it makes sense for WWE to hire women at younger ages than men. And Bliss was an obvious hire. Athletic and gorgeous from the start, Bliss has also developed into a competent wrestler and a very good talker. While size is not as big an issue for women in the WWE, it is still very rare for a woman of Bliss’s diminutive stature to have so much success. But the “five feet of fury” has become the first (and thus far, only) woman to have won both SmackDown and Raw Women’s titles. Little Miss Bliss may be short, but at still only 25, her future is long.
5 Older: Chris Jericho - 46
Chris Jericho has been around forever, so it’s no surprise that he’s on the old side. But when you look at Jericho’s performances, his physique, his demeanor, and his incredibly busy life, it’s hard to imagine he’s as old as 46. He wrestles and lives like a man half that age. Physically, Jericho has credited DDP Yoga with keeping him in great shape, but the rest must be mental. Listening to Jericho on his podcast, you get the sense he really enjoys palling around with other wrestlers, drinking with the “Good Brothers”, and coming up with great comedic segments as he did with Kevin Owens during Owens’s run as Universal Champion.
Jericho began wrestling way back in 1990, he joined WCW in 1996, WWE in 1999, formed his band Fozzy in 1999, and began acting in 2006. Will the dude ever stop?
4 Younger: Sasha Banks - 25
Look at WWE’s promotional material such as commercials, billboards, characters in games for mobile devices. Who do you see? The big names, of course: John Cena, Roman Reigns, Brock Lesnar, and...Sasha Banks. The WWE has clearly identified Banks as one of their most marketable stars. And it makes sense. With her colorful hair, boss attitude, and beautiful looks, Banks is, well, bankable. Being Snoop Dogg’s cousin doesn’t hurt, either.
So how great is it for the WWE that Banks is only 25? Unlike many female wrestlers, Banks always wanted to be a wrestler. So it’s no surprise that she began wrestling in 2010 at the age of only 18. She signed with NXT in 2012 and debuted on the main roster in 2015. With Banks, Bliss, Naomi, Carmella, and Bayley still all in their twenties, the WWE’s women’s division has a bright future.
3 Older: Goldust - 48
Much like Chris Jericho, it’s no surprise that Goldust is long in the tooth. But to watch him work, it’s hard to imagine he’s as old as 48. Dustin Runnels began following in his father’s footsteps in 1988 at the age of 19. Of the young wrestlers on this list, only Naomi was even alive when Goldust began wrestling. 29 years later, he’s still wrestling. Goldust is currently in his fifth separate stint with the WWE. Unlike Jericho who has always kept himself in good shape, Goldust’s health and motivation has varied over the years. That’s why when he was brought back to the WWE in 2013 after an uninspiring run in TNA and the independents, people were surprised at how well he could still wrestle. Apparently only meant for a one-off match, Goldust looked so good that they ended up hiring him back full time and he and his younger half-brother Cody got a run with the tag titles.
Sadly, that was the highlight of Goldust’s current run. Despite his excellent fitness, he’s been relegated to teaming with R-Truth and a subsequent heel turn and feud that looks to be going nowhere.
2 Younger: The Authors of Pain - 24 & 23
The current NXT Tag Champions are the Authors of Pain. AoP consist of 24-year-old Punjabi-Canadian Akam (Sunny Dhinsa) and 23-year-old Albanian Rezar (Gzim Selmani). Selmani began training in MMA at 15 and had his first professional fight in 2012, at only 18. He signed with NXT in 2015 with an MMA record of 4-2. Dhinsa won gold and silver at the 2009 Canada Summer Games and 2011 Pan American Games respectively in heavyweight freestyle wrestling before joining NXT in 2014.
The unbeaten tag champs have steadily improved during their time in NXT. They are still a bit green and being as large as they are, their mobility is somewhat limited. But they have been involved in great matches with DIY and the Revival and still have plenty more time to learn. Their manager, Paul Ellering, is 16 years older than their combined age.
1 Older: Triple H - 48
Again, like Jericho and Goldust, Triple H has been around forever, so of course he’s on the old side. But 48? Can you name another 48-year-old that’s in the shape that Hunter is? The current Vice President of Talent, Creative, and Live Events, Paul Levesque began wrestling in 1992. After a year in WCW as the hilariously bad Terra Ryzing/Jean-Paul Levesque, he moved to the WWE in 1995 and became Hunter Hearst Helmsley. Two years later, Hunter began to show more of his real personality, aligned with his real-life friend Shawn Michaels, and formed D-Generation X. The rest, as they say, is history.
It’s difficult to imagine a future WWE in which Hunter doesn’t wrestle. Right now, he basically limits himself to WrestleMania, but still, we always know he’s there. Nonetheless, relatively soon, he will retire. Or maybe not. I mean, look at his body; he’s in incredible shape. Apropos of nothing, did you know that part time performers are not subject to WWE’s Wellness Policy? Huh.