Pro wrestling is a grueling business. While many UFC fans will claim it's much tougher to be an MMA fighter, it's really the opposite. Pro wrestlers fight more than once a week, are constantly training and traveling at the same time, while also doing various duties related to the media. There is simply no respite with the schedule of a wrestler and the long-term effects can be pretty significant.
Many times, wrestlers have become burned out and requested breaks. Without a break, in many cases, the constant work and limited down-time results in nagging injuries that tend to reoccur. Because of this, first and foremost, whoever has made this list deserves massive props for still being an active wrestler, as they have gone through all these struggles for dozens of years.
Being healthy isn't enough. When you're a wrestler who is over 40, you've been around for quite some time. You won't be able to take bumps as often or participate in high risk matches. Along with this is the fact that sometimes characters get stale and when you've been in the business for a while, fans are bound to lose interest in you, no matter how popular you are or were.
In this article, we will be looking at 16 wrestlers, eight of whom are still going strong despite their age, and eight of whom have stayed a bit too long and need to retire. As always, feel free to suggest any other wrestlers or tell us whether you agree or disagree with our choices in the comment section below, as we would love to hear your thoughts on this matter.
Here are 8 wrestlers over 40 who are going strong and 8 wrestlers over 40 who simply need to retire.
4 Going Strong: Goldust
Goldust was rightfully known as the bizarre one with his racy gimmick being one of the highlights of the Attitude Era. While he hasn’t reinvented himself as he is still the same weird gold freak, only more PG these days, he is surprisingly still going strong at 47 years of age. Partnering up with R-Truth to form the Golden Truth, the two relatively speaking old timers have really won over the WWE Universe, getting decent pops when they enter the ring as well as during their funny segments outside of it.
As for in ring ability, Goldust has still got it, and with his bizarre move set and his wonderfully executed powerslam, he could end up being a full-time wrestler well into his fifties at this rate. It’s amazing to think that Goldust has been with the company since 1995 and it’s a testament to his abilities that he is still somewhat relevant.
3 Retire: Mark Henry
Mark Henry is one of the most underrated wrestlers WWE has had, having been featured in every era since the Attitude Era. He was given a huge push in the mid 2000s, but he really started to shine during his Hall of Pain gimmick, which became quite popular with the WWE universe, resulting in him becoming the main champion. However, fast forward a couple of years to the present and now, he is nothing more than a jobber, only performing (if he does show up) to put over other talent.
While it’s nice to have an experienced superstar like that, Henry is getting old and at 45, it doesn’t seem like he has it anymore, especially given his huge frame. It’s not a surprise that Henry is doing more behind the scenes duties lately, recently being WWE’s ambassador for the Olympics. It just might be time for Henry to call it a day.
7. Going Strong: R-Truth
Like Goldust, R-Truth has stayed relevant despite being 44 years old. He's been prone to mostly comedic gimmicks with none more memorable than Little Jimmy, an invisible friend of his. However, Truth got a new gimmick last year in which he’d do wacky things like think he’s part of Money in the Bank when he wasn’t, think he was part of the tournament to crown a new WWE champion when he wasn’t, pull a Steve Harvey at the Slammy Awards and lastly, think the Royal Rumble was a ladder match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
It’s mostly a jobber role, but it definitely works as R-Truth is really over with the fans and as mentioned earlier, his partnership with Goldust has only continued that momentum. Besides all this, Truth can still deliver good matches and can move surprisingly well, like it’s 2001. Expect him to keep fighting until his late forties.
7. Retire: Big Show
The Big Show has already been told to retire by the fans repeatedly. While it’s not nice, they have a point. Despite being rather young at 44 years of age (given how long he’s been wrestling full time), Big Show just isn’t an appeal anymore. He’s done all he can as a character and at this point, featuring him would be a no-win situation. If he wins, he’s not helping the younger talent on the roster, and if he loses, it’d be somewhat hard to believe, especially if it’s too a much smaller guy. It’s telling that despite the roster split, Show hasn’t featured much at all.
On the Stone Cold podcast, he said he’d be retiring in 2018 but with rumors of him potentially facing Shaquille O’Neal in one final match at WrestleMania 33, it looks like the Giant will be calling an end to a historic career sooner rather than later.
2 Going Strong: Tajiri
Tajiri is one of the more endeared cruiserweights of his time, especially after joining WWE from ECW in 2001. With his unpredictable, acrobatic style, along with his infamous green mist which he'd spit on opponents' faces, fans took a liking to the Japanese star as he was one of the constants of SmackDown during his initial run with the company.
Since departing in 2005 (ending a four-year run with the company), Tajiri has wrestled for a number of promotions, including All Japan Pro Wrestling, Smash, TNA, New Japan Pro Wrestling and more. And as of recently, the Japanese Buzzsaw returned to the WWE for the Cruiserweight Classic tournament. Despite getting eliminated, at 45 years of age, he truly proved that he's still got it. He's a real welcome addition to a roster that needs more experienced superstars. We can expect to watch him regularly in a WWE ring when the cruiserweight division well and truly kicks off on RAW.
6. Retire: Rhyno
Like Tajiri, Rhyno is another ECW alumnus who fans grew to like purely for his no nonsense style and his really over finisher move in The Gore. His stint with WWE was short though, only wrestling for about four years before Rhyno moved on to TNA and Ring of Honor.
He returned to NXT in 2015 and as of lately, has been partnering up with Heath Slater for SmackDown, while being a politician at the same time. At 40 years of age, Rhyno is still young, relatively speaking, and can perform a devastating Gore even now, but he’s gained a lot of weight and the fans don’t seem to be too invested in him, with Slater being the more popular of the duo (understandably). It’ll be interesting to see what the future holds for Rhyno, especially if he and Slater win the tag team gold, but as it stands, Rhyno might be better off outside the ring in a developmental role.
5. Going Strong: Rob Van Dam
Rob Van Dam is without a doubt, one of the most popular characters in professional wrestling. Being the only superstar in history to win the WWE Championship, the ECW World Heavyweight Championship, and the TNA World Heavyweight Championship, Van Dam is a fan favorite wherever he goes. The 45-year-old is currently wrestling on the independent scene, following his most recent departure from the WWE in 2014. However, when he initially returned in 2013, Van Dam proved he still had “it” and can still perform all his high-flying moves to perfection.
It’s not a surprise that WWE has reportedly wanted him back for the brand extension and Van Dam himself said if he saw a reason to return, he’d come back. The ECW alumnus would be a great asset for the company, especially in helping put over the younger talent, and at this point, does not appear to be likely to retire any time soon.
5. Retire: Kane
Kane is one of the few superstars on this list who, despite mostly holding on to his gimmick, also reinvented himself. As Corporate Kane in 2015, the 49-year-old was a schizophrenic authority figure who was the director of operations by day and demon by night. It was hilarious for a month, especially when he was feuding with Seth Rollins, before he was ultimately fired and went back to just being Demon Kane.
Kane has been a constant in the WWE ever since his debut in 1997, but at this point, it’s sad to say he is simply irrelevant. Sure, he can still deliver a decent match but when the crowd isn’t invested in you or react to your entrance (despite your pyro), along with the fact that you will pretty much never win a title again, maybe it’s time to call it a day. There’s no doubt, though, that Kane has had a Hall of Fame career.
4. Going Strong: Rey Mysterio
Rey Mysterio is another legend in the industry, first coming to prominence in WCW's cruiserweight division. He joined WWE in 2002 and went on to have a very distinguished career, winning the Royal Rumble in 2006 as well as multiple titles, including the World Heavyweight Championship, something which seemed almost impossible to achieve during his time in WCW. After a 13-year run with WWE, he departed the company to join Lucha Underground in 2015. Donning a new look, Mysterio showed that he still had it, even at 41 years old, and recent pictures of the high flier clearly indicate that Mysterio is in better shape than ever.
It’s no surprise that WWE was interested in bringing him back for the brand extension and may very well keep trying to do so in the near future. Maybe a feud with Kalisto, his likely successor, could be in the cards and would definitely make for a very intriguing contest.
4. Retire: Scott Steiner
The ever controversial Scott Steiner is 54 and he’s still wrestling today. The former WCW star joined WWE in 2002, but it was a stint many would like to forget and Big Poppa Pump has since featured mainly for TNA. Now a free agent, Steiner continues to work independent shows and is part of Jeff Jarrett’s GFW roster.
Despite still looking great and being in good shape for his age, Steiner really hasn’t been doing much for the best part of a year (other than threatening Hulk Hogan and threatening to body slam him). Questions also remain over whether he can still work a good match, with no real likelihood of him appearing for any major promotion. Even his brother, Rick Steiner, has given up wrestling and is now a school board member as well as a real estate salesman. Maybe it’s time Big Poppa Pump called it a day as well?
3. Going Strong: Triple H
Yes, we understand Triple H should no longer be an active wrestler and to some, not even a part-time wrestler. But despite all this, you have to hand it to The Game -- he can still deliver good matches at 47 years old. With the injury curse at WWE last year, Triple H stepped in and won the gold at the Royal Rumble, becoming the main antagonist to Roman Reigns. He delivered a very good match with Dean Ambrose at Roadblock before putting over Reigns at WrestleMania.
With his recent betrayal of Seth Rollins, it all surely leads up to a match with his former protege at WrestleMania 33. Whether you like him or you don’t, it should be more than a decent match and after all, despite being in his late forties, the Cerebral Assassin is in as good of shape as ever. The Game surely has more than a couple of years left in the tank and it should stay that way as he is still an attraction.
3. Retire: Goldberg
Despite your likely indifference to his wrestling ability, there’s no denying that Goldberg is one of the most legendary superstars in the history of professional wrestling. He had an aura about him during the Monday Night Wars and an intensity that very few can match. Of course, he hasn’t been wrestling since 2004, making a couple of appearances on the independent scene here and there.
But with rumors of him returning to the WWE for one more match, possibly against Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania, it has to be said that while it would be cool to watch (hopefully with a better crowd than last time), it could do more damage than good. That match will likely headline WrestleMania, which will send a repeated statement that the current roster isn’t good enough, especially with the last five WrestleManias being headlined by the likes of The Rock, Batista, Lesnar and Triple H. At 49, would it really be necessary for Goldberg to be in the ring again?
2. Going Strong: Matt Hardy
Like another superstar on this list, Matt Hardy has completely reinvented himself, to the extent that he quickly became one of professional wrestling’s hottest acts. With his #Broken Matt Hardy gimmick and his Final Deletion antics with Jeff Hardy (or Brother Nero), TNA suddenly became a bit more watchable (the Final Deletion gave TNA its highest ever ratings) and that’s a testament to the 41-year-old.
With a new crazy look, an accent that came out of nowhere and randomly biting off audience members’ faces, Hardy seems to be given a lot of creative freedom and he’s utilizing it to the fullest. Memes are spreading all over the internet and when The Dudleys recently mentioned the Hardy Boyz, the crowd erupted into "delete, delete, delete" chants. As the “face” of TNA, we can expect him to continue for many more years. Maybe a WWE return could be in the horizon too?
2. Retire: Undertaker
The Undertaker is a legend -- no question about that -- and probably the greatest superstar (or character) in WWE history. Even with a part-time schedule that allows him to only fight one (two to three at best) match per year, The Deadman is a huge attraction, especially at WrestleMania.
However, it’s more than clear now that age is catching up with him. It’s not a surprise though, as Undertaker will turn 52 next year but his recent matches with Brock Lesnar have shown that he might be better off calling it a day. Unable to take repetitive bumps and having had a concussion during his match with Lesnar at WrestleMania XXX as well as passing out following last year’s SummerSlam, it’s not really a sight to which fans have been accustomed over the years.
While he did have a decent match with Shane McMahon at this year’s WrestleMania, he was helped with Shane taking mostly all the bumps. The best course of action at this point is for Taker to have a retirement match at WrestleMania 33. We’d like it to be with John Cena or Sting (hey, we can dream).
1. Going Strong: Chris Jericho
When you’ve been in the business as long as Chris Jericho, it’s absolutely paramount that you constantly reinvent yourself and your gimmick, and that’s exactly what the Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla did. When he returned to the WWE earlier this year as a face, everyone was happy -- there was always going to be a nostalgic pop. But then, Jericho slowly started to become irrelevant and brushed aside from the fans’ perspectives, even getting the nickname of “lame dad” from the IWC, all this despite the fact that at his age, he could still wrestle with the best of them.
A feud with AJ Styles and a heel turn was exactly what the doctor ordered before Jericho really reinvented himself as a comedic heel after WrestleMania. Donning a scarf and a wacky mustache, along with new catchphrases such as the “Gift of Jericho” and even getting words like “It” over with the fans, Y2J’s silly but hilarious antics have now made him one of the most must-see superstars (sorry Miz) on RAW and that’s saying something at 44 years of age.
1 Retire: Kurt Angle
If there’s one superstar who WWE fans have been dying to come back, it’s definitely Kurt Angle. The Olympic Hero abruptly departed the company in 2006 to join TNA in what was a 10-year spell with the company. However, issues with his neck and body in general have continued for Angle. Despite this, since leaving TNA earlier this year, Angle has continued to work independent events, recently facing the likes of Cody Rhodes and Zack Sabre Jr.
His issues seem to be one factor as to why WWE has not finalized a return for Angle, despite all the rumors, and it’s no surprise really. Angle turns 48 later this year and one wrong bump could be disastrous for his long-term future. Angle should just call time on what has been an illustrious career and come back to the WWE in a non-wrestling role, whether it’s managing American Alpha or becoming a GM of RAW or SmackDown. The fans would definitely take that.