Professional wrestling is a sport unlike any other. For starters there will be many of you who argue that it isn’t a sport at all. Hell, even Vince McMahon insists on it being referred to as sports entertainment. Nevertheless one of the things that separates it from other sports is the potential longevity of wrestlers’ careers. Take a look at the likes of Ric Flair and Terry Funk, spoiler alert both will feature in this list, whose careers both spanned over 30 years each. Due to the pre determined nature of the business it means that what happens in the ring can be planned out, down to the very finest detail if necessary. If a Superstar is old or has a certain injury, their matches can be put together in such a way that those ailments are worked around in order for their careers to continue.
What am I getting at with all this exactly? Well if a wrestler wants to carry on into their fifties and sixties, and promoters still want to use them, then they can. The nature of professional wrestling means that if a wrestler can’t face being away from the business that they’ve been a part of for so long, then they don’t have to. Many try to tear themselves away but keep getting pulled back in. There really is a choice to be made. Either you can treat it like any other sport and make your money then get out, or you’re in for life. This list will run down Superstars on both sides of that fence.
15 Wants To Stay: Daniel Bryan
In 2016 Daniel Bryan had to bid an emotional farewell to the fans as he reluctantly retired from in ring performing. Less than six months later however he was back, not to wrestle but to become General Manager of SmackDown Live. We knew that Bryan would be back in that sort of role eventually, but we weren’t expecting him to be back so soon. Despite his wife Brie Bella also retiring so that the pair of them could start a family he still couldn’t keep himself away from the business. Since returning he has been more than open about his dismay at having to play an authority figure rather than perform in the ring. Much to the frustration of WWE Daniel keeps hinting that if WWE don’t let him wrestle, once his contract is up he’ll go somewhere that he can.
14 Get Away: Sable
Even at the height of Sable’s fame in the late ‘90s it didn’t take long for it to become clear that pro wrestling wasn’t exactly her passion. Her partner at the time, Marc Mero, was the one who got her into the business in the first place, and lucky for Sable she arrived at a time when a woman’s wrestling ability didn’t really come into play. The former Women’s Champion would flaunt her assets on Raw each week and used the platform to get herself on to the cover of Playboy magazine. Eventually Sable escaped from the pro wrestling business in order to pursue things she had more of an interest in, only to come crawling back a few years later when she realized she wasn’t as famous outside the squared circle as she thought she was.
13 Wants To Stay: Chris Jericho
One wrestler who really doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves is Chris Jericho. You may think that I’m crazy for saying that, but think about it. He has been a main stay in WWE now for over 20 years and has won pretty much every title that there has been available to him. Y2J began his career over 25 years ago, and despite most of his peers retiring and he himself having a number of projects that don’t require him to step inside a ring he continues to come back time and time again. He’ll disappear for a tour with his band Fozzy every now and again and fans will speculate as to whether that’s it in the ring for Jericho, yet he always makes an extremely welcome come back.
12 Get Away: Randy Orton
There’s sort of a running joke among more seasoned pro wrestling fans that Randy Orton has been in the business for so long now that he doesn’t particularly want to be there anymore. Rather than wrestling being something he gets to do and loves like most of the people he shares a locker room with, he gives off the feeling that it’s merely a job he does so he can earn money and go home. It might not be the case and he may still love what he does almost 20 years on, but judging by his in ring performances it may very well be true. Randy knows exactly what he has to do for his matches to be good. Never great, and never poor, just that sweet spot. He does all the same moves and the same spots and it’ll work for him until he finally gets to hang up his boots.
11 Wants To Stay: Terry Funk
Of everyone on this list, and let’s be honest every wrestler in the history of the business, there is no one who has had more trouble tearing themselves away from professional wrestling than Terry Funk. The man has retired more times than anyone can remember! By my estimations it’s six times, but I think even that may be low balling it. The latest of those retirements, and one that has stuck so far, came in September of 2016. To give you a little perspective on how insane that is exactly, Funk made his wrestling debut in 1965 and is 73 years old. His first attempt to tear himself away from the ring came in 1997, and it lasted a grand total of three months. Eleven years on and he may have just about convinced himself it’s time to give it up. I don’t for one second believe that he’s done yet though, or that he’ll ever be while he’s still got blood flowing through his veins.
10 Get Away: The Rock
I’m probably going to get a lot of hate for this one, but I’m sticking with it and am going to attempt to sway you. The Rock may have pro wrestling running through his veins, he’s a third generation Superstar and grew up in the business, but I’m of the firm belief he sees having to pop back every now and again as a chore. Nowadays The Rock is one of the biggest movie stars in the world. WWE may have made him but he really doesn’t need them anymore. Whenever he does come back, I as a fan get the feeling in the back of my mind that he feels like he’s throwing WWE a bone by doing it. Rocky is fully invested in the film industry now and who can blame him, he’s earning a lot more money making movies than he ever would of if he had stuck to wrestling.
9 Wants To Stay: Stone Cold Steve Austin
On the other side of the coin to The Rock we have the man who he famously feuded with throughout the majority of his pro wrestling career, Stone Cold Steve Austin. This is a man and a WWE Hall of Famer who will likely never completely separate himself from the business that made him famous. By his own admission Austin says that after he retired from in ring competition in 2003 he felt lost. He had no idea what to do with himself. Eventually Stone Cold found his feet and figured out a way to stay involved with wrestling without physically competing. In the present day Steve has an extremely successful podcast that airs twice a week, plus maintains a strong relationship with WWE.
8 Get Away: Goldberg
At Survivor Series 2016 the wrestling world was treated to the long awaited return of Bill Goldberg. The former WCW Champion stuck around for four or five months and then he headed back off into the sunset. Goldberg made it extremely clear that the only reason he returned to the squared circle was to show his wife and son what he used to do for a living. He even explained during interviews while on this latest run how miserable he was at the time. Rewind back to the very beginning of Goldberg’s career in the ‘90s and you’ll see that he never really wanted to be a wrestler back then either. Bill had to stop doing what he loved most, playing football, and simply took up pro wrestling as a means to an end.
7 Wants To Stay: Jerry Lawler
Terry Funk has a pretty impressive claim to fame at being his age and still wrestling up until last year. Well there is a man who probably has his sights firmly set on surpassing Funk’s landmark, Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler. Funnily enough one of Terry’s final matches was against The King. It came less than a year before Funk hung up his boots and Lawler won by disqualification. At this present moment in time Jerry is 67 years old, so he’s got another six years to go if he wants to beat Funk. He’s showing no signs of slowing down though with a match against Ring Of Honor Champion Cody Rhodes coming up. In 2012 King actually suffered a heart attack live on Raw. You would think that would have been a sign to maybe stop wrestling, but apparently not.
6 Get Away: The Bella Twins
Sable isn’t the only female performer in WWE’s history that has attempted to use professional wrestling as a mere stepping stone to what she perceived to be bigger and better things. The Bella Twins Nikki and Brie have also done that, more the former than the latter. For starters at high school and college the sisters wanted to become soccer stars, not wrestlers. They only landed jobs with WWE via the Diva Search. Due to the evolution of the women’s side of the business Nikki has been forced to become a better wrestler. In the mean time she has been slowly edging her way out however. It’s pretty plain to see that both Bellas are more interested in Total Divas and Total Bellas than wrestling in the ring.
5 Wants To Stay: Shawn Michaels
Shawn Michaels appearance on this list is much in the same vain as Stone Cold’s. While the Heart Break Kid has repeated time and time again that he has no desire to step back into the squared circle, he remains ever present when it comes to WWE. Shawn appears on pre show panels and makes appearances on Raw, and above all else he is currently helping train prospective new talents down at the Performance Center in Orlando, Florida. There are some wrestlers that simply don’t know anything else, and they don’t want to, and that applies to Mr WrestleMania. He recently made a brief foray into Hollywood but I can’t imagine it’ll ever be anything that trumps his work with WWE.
4 Get Away: CM Punk
There was a time where you would have believed that CM Punk would have been nailed on to the opposite side of this list. He grew up loving the business and it was his dream to be a professional wrestler. However WWE and Vince McMahon well and truly killed off that burning passion for the business Punk had inside of him since he was a young boy. By the time he left in 2014 he was absolutely sick of wrestling, and as it stands he doesn’t seem to have fallen back in love with it. Judging by Punk’s comments following his departure from WWE he had actually been fed up with wrestling for a long while before he walked out on Vince and co. He has made it very clear that he wants nothing to do with wrestling and has said that he will never return to WWE. They all come back eventually though, right?
3 Wants To Stay: Ric Flair
It would appear that the longer you’re in the business, the harder it is to tear yourself away. No one is a better example of that than Ric Flair. In 2008 The Nature Boy had an extremely emotional retirement match against Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania the night after he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. It brought the curtain down on one of the greatest careers in pro wrestling history, or did it? Ric later decided that he wasn’t quite done in the ring and made his way to TNA so that he could continue to wrestle a little more. It’s something that Naitch has admitted he regrets doing in hindsight, but nonetheless proof that wrestling was like a drug he couldn’t quit. He may not wrestle any more but he is very much still involved in the business. Up until recently he acted as a valet to his daughter Charlotte.
2 Get Away: Brock Lesnar
Brock Lesnar has got a pretty sweet deal when it comes to WWE. The guy shows up like ten times a year and is likely getting paid more than anyone else on the roster for the privilege. Plus on top of that he gets regular title reigns despite never being around! His reluctance to work a full time schedule is all the evidence you need that The Beast no longer really has much of an interest in the business, and if it wasn’t for WWE throwing money at him he would be long gone. Before pro wrestling Lesnar’s life was dominated by amateur wrestling, and in between his two WWE stints he famously fought in UFC, becoming Heavyweight Champion. Actual combat sport seems much more up Brock’s alley, and his contract with WWE is just a way of making easy money.
1 Wants To Stay: Vince McMahon
No matter what they might say to you, no one in the history of professional wrestling loves the business more than Vince McMahon. Fans may argue that with the way some perceive he treats the product nowadays, but the boss is 100% addicted to what he does with WWE. Anybody else on this list that has previously been mentioned as not being able to tear themselves away would do if their life depended on it, I’d hope, whereas I could not say that about Vince. People often discuss what the company will do when he either dies or gives up the reigns, and I’m pretty certain it will be a case of the former before we see a Vince-less WWE. Fans may give him a hard time but rest assured, it will be a very different business once Mr. McMahon is gone and what he has done over the past 30 years should be admired and appreciated.