It’s no secret that the wrestling industry has claimed the lives of several prominent Superstars at a relatively early age. There’s a hope that the WWE Wellness Policy as well as the industry’s overall improvement to health standards and testing – not to mention a drastic reduction in head-focused bumps – can have an impact on lengthening the lives of present-day Superstars, but that means very little for those who were stars within the industry during the 1980s through to the WWE Attitude Era. There’s only so many times an individual can be dropped on his or her head before suffering long-term repercussions; that’s why 51 former wrestlers filed a joint lawsuit against the WWE over a year ago, and it’s something the company will have to continue to deal with moving forward.
Some of the wrestlers involved in that lawsuit are hoping to help their families out when they’re gone as there doesn’t appear to be much hope in them living a long, healthy life. Beyond those individuals, there’s also a host of former wrestlers who have quite simply let themselves go or suffered from other health issues. Conversely, many Superstars who you might have expected to fall into bad habits in retirement remain in incredible shape. Below are nine former WWE wrestlers we might be forced to say goodbye to in the near future as well as six that appear to be in perfect health.
15. Might Lose Soon: Perry Saturn
A once-talented wrestler who joined WWE during the WCW Invasion angle, Perry Saturn is a two-time WCW World Tag Team Champion, one-time WCW World Television Champion, two-time WWE Hardcore Champion, and one-time WWE European Champion. At the height of his career in 1999 with WCW, he was ranked by Pro Wrestling Illustrated as the 47th best singles wrestler in the world.
In the WWE, he was given some ridiculous assignments, including the Moppy gimmick, in which he talked to a mop that he believed was alive and often used it as a weapon. The gimmick is a lot less funny through the prism of recent revelations as he revealed in 2016 that he’s suffering from a traumatic brain injury due to the many concussions he suffered throughout his career. He even launched a GoFundMe page with a $100,000 goal to help with treatments. On the page, he admitted to suffering from dementia as well as an inability to drive and constant headaches.
14. Might Lose Soon: Terry Funk
Given the amount of bumps he took over the years, it’s almost hard to believe that Terry Funk is still with us today. The 73 year old’s career has spanned five decades, during which time he has won a pair of ECW World Heavyweight Championships, a NWA World Championship, and a WWE Tag Team Championship. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2009.
In fact, as recent as 2015, he was still competing at indie shows and had even planned for in-ring appearances in 2016 and 2017, but was forced to pull out due to health concerns. In 2016, he was scheduled to be in Tommy Dreamer’s corner for a House of Hardcore event, but left early after cutting a promo due to pain following a hernia surgery. He also pulled out of WrestleCon 2017 because he was advised against traveling by doctors.
13. In Perfect Health: Ken Shamrock
“The World’s Most Dangerous Man” just might also be The World’s Most In-Shape Senior. Shamrock, a Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Hall of Famer and former WWE Intercontinental Champion, turned 53 years old last February, but remains in unbelievable shape, which, given his background in training for both mixed martial arts and professional wrestling, is hardly a surprise.
Although he hasn’t been in a WWE ring since 1999, Shamrock has worked briefly with various indie promotions, including Juggalo Championship Wrestling and Costa Rica’s Amo del Haxagono, where he challenged Carlito. He also had a pair of mixed martial arts fights in the past three years as he suffered first-round knockouts to both Kimbo Slice and Royce Gracie in Bellator. He might still be in great shape, but he’s hardly the feared competitor he once was; after all, Father Time is undefeated.
12. Might Lose Soon: Harley Race
Reaching 70 years old is almost a feat in itself for retired professional wrestlers, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that Harley Race, now 74 years old, could be nearing the end. The decorated grappler and NWA Hall of Fame member is best known for his memorable feuds and matches with the likes of Dory Funk Jr., Dusty Rhodes, and Ric Flair. He won the WWE King of the Ring in 1986 and was inducted into its Hall of Fame in 2004.
Yet, as with most aging Superstars, Race is becoming increasingly battered and bruised. He suffered a devastating fall in his home earlier this year which left him with two broken legs. It’s hard to expect the rest of his body to hold up much longer. That said, he’s battling the injury like a true champion: “I’m sitting here now with two legs that aren’t very good,” he told Sports Illustrated. “They’re en route to recovery, and I’m right along with them. In a little amount of time, I’ll be up walking again.”
11. Might Lose Soon: The Iron Sheik
This one might not be much of a surprise if you’re on Twitter, where The Iron Sheik has carved out quite a platform for his hateful, often controversial views (he inspired Internet lists such as The Iron Sheik’s 100 most insanely hilarious tweets and 23 times The Iron Sheik didn’t give a f**k on Twitter). It’s clear following his Twitter feed that he’s perhaps not all there, though those that know him well note he has always been rather eccentric. Maybe Twitter is just the perfect platform for him.
However, behind the sometimes-hilarious tweets is a man who is still hurting from a decades-long career in the ring. In 2013, the 75 year old’s manager crowdfunded over $40,000 to produce a documentary on his life, of which proceeds would be used to fund double knee and ankle surgery. He has been unable to step in the ring since 2010, and it appears unlikely he’ll last much longer outside the ring.
10. In Perfect Health: Sycho Sid
As wrong as he is about Kevin Owen as a top draw in the WWE, you have to give Sycho Sid credit for still being a semi-respected voice in the wrestling community. Although the big man might not have been one of the best in-ring performers of his time, he continues to work despite being 56 years old and with a plethora of injuries behind him. However, it’s hard to question his health these days as he continues to work sporadic indie shows.
In fact, over a decade after retiring, Sid returned to the WWE in great shape back in 2012 to wrestle Heath Slater. That seemed to spark a desire for more work as Sid continues to work to this day. He recently competed in a match for Ontario, Canada’s Great North Wrestling, and proved he can still perform chokeslams and powerbombs; he even drew some cheers from the Canadian fans by blowing his nose in a Donald Trump banner.
9. Might Lose Soon: Kamala
Not to be confused with Democratic Senator Kamala Harris, James Harris is a lifelong wrestler who is best known as WWE’s Kamala, although he also spent time with the USWA and WCW. During the height of his career, Kamala was billed at 6-foot-7 and 375-pounds and, given the fact he’s now 67 years old, it should be no surprise that his life is coming to its conclusion. However, his real-life troubles are nothing like the health issues suffered by the other wrestlers on this list.
A double amputee, Kamala lost his first leg in 2011 due to diabetes. Less than a year later, the disease claimed his right leg as well. Prone to dealing with adversity, he has also lost his son to AIDS, while his sister was murdered. A 2014 Bleacher Report story detailed his current struggle: “Around 6 p.m. each night, usually after dinner, Harris wheels into his bedroom, lifts his shirt and hooks up to a dialysis machine. For the next eight hours, excess fluid and waste flows through a tube that snakes from a hole in Harris’ stomach, across the room and into a commode.”
8. In Perfect Health: Diamond Dallas Page
The career trajectory of Diamond Dallas Page is rather interesting. He didn’t break into the business until 1988 when he was 32 years old and didn’t sign with WCW until he was 35 years old. By the end of his decade-long run with the company, he had held the WCW World Heavyweight Championship on three occasions and later had relatively successful runs in both the WWE and TNA. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2017.
Perhaps due to the fact he got such a late start in the industry, he seems to have an appreciation and commitment for maintaining good health well into his retirement. He first discovered the healing powers of yoga after recovering from back injury in 1998 and has since dedicated his post-wrestling career to turning others onto his innovative DDP Yoga system.
7. Might Lose Soon: Typhoon
Fred Ottman had a wrestling career spanning 16 years in the WWE, WCW, and various promotions worldwide. He was best known in the WWE as Tugboat and later as Typhoon, one-half of the Natural Disasters. He also starred as the Shockmaster in WCW, where he was best known for creating one of the more infamous moments in wrestling history as he tripped over a piece of lumber and fell forward through a wall, losing the helmet he was supposed to wear and exposing his face.
As much as that incident hurt his standing in WCW, he was a valued worker in the WWE who won the WWE Tag Team Championship with Earthquake in 1993. In January of this year, his good friend Luke Williams (Luke of the Bushwhackers) made a Facebook post asking for fans to pray for Ottman as he had been in the hospital for over two weeks with serious health concerns. We’re hopeful he’s moved past the issues, but it’s hard to be positive about the health prospects of overweight wrestlers.
6. In Perfect Health: Ricky The Dragon Steamboat
A WWE Hall of Famer, Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat is a one-time Intercontinental Champion who had the bulk of his success in NWA and WCW, where he was a four-time United States Champion and one-time NWA World Heavyweight Champion. He began wrestling in 1976 and worked steadily for a 20-year period, but has since worked sporadically with the WWE in roles such as road agent, ambassador, and NXT trainer.
Given his continued work with the company, it’s no surprise that, at 64 years old, he’s in great shape. Although a health scare caused him to step away from the ring for good over six years ago, he maintains his muscular frame as well as his affinity for training new wrestlers. “A lot of the young guys today can do a bunch of fantastic stuff, but I find that they are not connecting the dots,” Steamboat told ESPN earlier this year. “It’s not much of storytelling. They are out there just doing stuff to fill in the blanks, just doing stuff to do stuff. I would like them to be able to tell a story so the fans could actually follow the match along.”
5. Might Lose Soon: Rico
Americo Sebastiano Costantino debuted in the WWE during 2002 as Rico, the stylist for the tag team of Billy and Chuck. It’s a testament to his talent that he was able to parlay that awful gimmick into a semi-respectable career in the ring. In fact, before being released by the company in 2004, he had won a pair of Tag Team Championships with Rikishi and Charlie Haas.
Rather than continuing to wrestle for independent promotions, Rico completed law enforcement training in 2005 and began working as a sergeant inspector for the Nevada Taxi Cab Authority. However, in January of 2016, it was announced that he was suffering from a series of heart-related issues and concussions. A GoFundMe page for his rising hospital bills notes that within the past year he has suffered from two leaky heart valves, two blood clots, and traumatic brain issues.
4. In Perfect Health: Shawn Michaels
Most wrestlers battle their personal demons upon retiring from the ring, but “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels did so when he was at the height of his popularity within the WWE. Throughout the 1990s, Michaels battled alcoholism and drug addiction before becoming a Born Again Christian and seemingly turning his life around both in the business and outside of it. Since retiring as a full-time performer in 1998, Michaels has returned to WWE on numerous occasions to play out memorable feuds against the likes of Hulk Hogan and Chris Jericho.
The 52 year old is unwilling to return to the ring, but not for health reasons: “I could never get past the creative character stuff that I enjoyed doing. I just can’t (justify) making money over the perfect sort of arc and ending and everything. It just doesn’t seem right to me,” he explained on the Sam Roberts Wrestling Podcast. However, he recently recreated his ring entrance as The Colonel for the KFC spot at SummerSlam and looked as though he could step in the ring and compete once again without missing a beat.
3. Might Lose Soon: Vader
Vader was one of the most dominating presences in the WWE when he debuted in early 1996 opposite the likes of fellow big men Mabel and Yokozuna. Although those two unfortunately passed away in recent years, Vader continues to wrestle to this day, despite the fact that he turns 63 years old in March of next year. To date, his career in the business spans over 30 years.
Unfortunately, the end is near. Unlike some of the others on this list who we may or may not lose in a few years time, Vader is aware of his impending death. In 2016, he tweeted that he was told by doctors he has two years to live due to congestive heart failure caused by decades of professional wrestling and football. That hasn’t stopped him from getting in the ring, however. He collapsed during an April 2017 show in Japan, leading many to speculate it had something to do with his heart, but he later confirmed it was because he was dropped on his head.
2. In Perfect Health: Bruno Sammartino
There actually may not be any 81 year olds in better shape than Bruno Sammartino. The WWE Hall of Famer, known for his power moves and charisma, was one of the most popular wrestlers in the world, not to mention the World Wide Wrestling Federation’s flag bearer before the company became the WWF in the 1980s. The big man is a two-time WWWF World Heavyweight Champion and three-time Tag Team Champion. He’s also the recipient of five Pro Wrestling Illustrated Match of the Year awards.
It’s hard to survive past 70 if you’re a professional wrestler, but Sammartino continues to look well into his 80s, as evidenced by a recent photo he took with a fan who was named after the wrestling great – Bruno Mars.
1. Might Lose Soon: Ric Flair
The world would be a much worse place if we were to lose the “stylin’, profilin’, limousine riding, jet flying, kiss-stealing, wheelin’ n’ dealin’ son of a gun” Ric Flair, but given recent events it might be best if we prepare for the worst. The 68 year old was hospitalized for routine monitoring in early August, but it was soon after determined he was facing multiple organ issues. Flair was put into a medically-induced coma to the heartbreak of millions of wrestling fans worldwide, who feared the worst, but hoped for the best.
Fortunately, The Nature Boy had successful surgery and came out of the coma feeling fine with a message for fans. He posted an update on Twitter on September 10, and while he’s certainly showing his age, it’s incredible to see him smiling once again. Here’s hoping we’re wrong about this one.
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