The 90s were an era of media excess and visual stimulation, when the MTV generation made their stand, and all things acidic or neon in color became commonplace… it was during this time that a great many of our nostalgic wrestling favorites entered the limelight and the WWE went through significant transition, from a kid-friendly, colorful package, to the hard-hitting, controversy-baiting Attitude era. These competitors were forged in an environment of smashmouth wrestling and media saturation. With that increased level of scrutiny, many more of our heroes became incrementally more jacked up and intensely lean with each passing year…
While doing research for this article, it struck me that, on the whole, wrestlers tend to remain in pretty good shape post retirement and that a good number of our 90s favorites are still going strong. However, this is not always the case, as they say, time halts for no man, and with that in mind, we ask the question; who of our 90s favorites has continued to make fitness a priority? Who still looks great, and who let themselves go?! Here are 8 wrestlers who have done their level best to stem the outgoing tide of time, and 8 who haven’t fared so well…
Great: Kevin Nash
This 300 pound plus, almost 7 foot tall, monster of a man, who is also a hall of famer for the WWE, has had some weight fluctuations over his career, but nothing drastic, and nothing where you could insinuate he’d ‘let himself go’. And much like Al Snow, if anything it seems like Nash has actually become more lean and cut in the last few years than when he was actively wrestling (apparently having imposing mass rather than cardio fitness was the pre-requisite in the growth period of the Attitude Era).
His dedication to his fitness and capability to sculpt his physique according to the role, has also seen him to be one of the more successful wrestlers in transitioning to film and TV work. He has occupied various roles in movies such as John Wick and The Punisher, (where he needed to look big and threatening), through to the Magic Mike movies (where he needed to look far leaner as a stripper). Even now at 57, Nash has a build that many men half his age can only envy.
Go: Val Venis
I can’t think of another wrestlers character that more typified the Attitude Era psychology, than that of Val Venis. Sean Morley was introduced to us in the late 90s as porn star Val Venis! The fact that the WWE was willing to have a wrestler’s persona as that of a porn star, really demonstrates just how much McMahon believed the company needed to go in an edgier, more shocking direction. One of his vignettes actually featured real-life porn star Jenna Jameson.
Val spent most of 2008 on the sidelines due to injury and was let go from the WWE roster in 2009. From 2009 up to present day Val is officially still a member of the independent circuit, however these days you’re far more likely to find him running his ‘Health for Life’ Marijuana dispensary in Arizona, than pumping iron at a gym…
Great: Hardcore Holly
Although best known for his on screen antics with ‘cousins’, Crash and Molly Holly, Bob Holly actually arrived in the WWE in ’94 as Bob ‘Spark Plug’ Holly (the gimmick being as a NASCAR driver which was tied to his real life abilities behind the wheel). He has survived the wrestling game for more than 20 years, despite many nagging injuries and a broken neck at the hands of Brock Lesnar, that required surgery and a 13 month break.
As recently as this very year, at 53 years of age, Bob Holly continues to wrestle in events on the independent circuit. His longevity is testament to his overall fitness level and conditioning, maintained during the intervening years. In fact, the only thing that’s changed about Hollys’ physique since the mid 90s, is the extensive tattoo he now sports from his left shoulder down his upper arm.
David William Heath (Gangrel) first joined the WWE in 1994 as a masked heel known as ‘The Black Phantom’, who was predominantly utilized to put over a multitude of other, established stars such as Razor Ramon, Lex Luger & Tatunka. He went on to appear sporadically for ECW and WCW from ’95 to ’98, before rejoining the WWE in 1998 as Gangrel. He enjoyed a healthy winning streak on arrival to the company and aligned himself with various big names from 1998-2000, such as Edge & Christian, The Hardy Boyz and The Undertaker.
However, although you might never say that Gangrel was especially lean, he was let go from the company in 2001, reportedly due to weight issues. Unfortunately for Heath, those weight problems continued to plague him each time it looked like he might return to the ring, with him being released from re-signing contracts due to recurring weight problems on more than one occasion.
William Scott Goldberg (Bill Goldberg), like others on this list, came from a background of collegiate, and then professional football. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in 1990, playing for them in the subsequent season, followed by a number of seasons in the CFL. However, after apparently ‘tearing his lower abdomen off his pelvis’, he retired from football in 1996, and following conversations with Lex Luger was given an opportunity in WCW.
He has been regarded by many as one of the strongest pound-for-pound wrestlers ever to grace the sport, especially after executing a delayed vertical suplex and jackhammer on The Big Show (440 pounds plus). He had a high number of individual accolades within the business (most notably being the first recognized, undefeated world champion), and has a that undefeated streak of 173-0 from 1997-1998.
He is another on this list who, by managing his physical appearance, has managed to move into film and more extensively television. Even now, at the age of 49, he is still in excellent shape.
Go: Ahmed Johnson
For a man that made a memorable entrance into the WWE by bodyslamming Yokozuna, and was widely heralded as a great prospect and a solid performer, it is sad to see that Anthony Norris (Johnson), has fallen so far physically in the last decade. Johnson won the Intercontinental Championship in 1996, making him the first African American to win a singles WWE Championship, and he was also part of a memorable feud with The Nation of Domination from 1996-98.
Unfortunately for Johnson, his weight issues began around late 98. He soon went to WCW but was let go, due to ongoing weight management problems and injuries. It would appear that although this slide began while he was still wrestling, it has truly continued in his retirement. However, it must be said that while he has allowed his exercise regime to fall away, it seems he has continued to exercise his grey matter, by recently earning a degree in Criminology from Huston – Tillotson University.
Great: Ricky Steamboat
Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat was an absolute specimen of a man during his tenure with the WWE, even competing in bodybuilding contests with Tony Atlas in the late 70s and early 80s. His early feuds with Macho Man in the late 80s and then his undefeated run in 1991 would be some of the clearest memories for fans. Steamboat was a proud man, and was rumored to have quit the WWE in late ’91 rather than lose to The Undertaker.
After this departure from WWE, he would continue to be a big draw as a tag team with Dustin Rhodes for WCW in the early to mid 90s. Unfortunately he was fired unceremoniously by WCW while injured in ’94, which led to his retirement. However, he maintained his fitness in the intervening years, and would not be too proud to re-join the WWE in other capacities in 2005. Up to present day he is still working with the company, and as recently as 2010, at the age of 58, he still took part in active bouts with the company.
Go: D’Lo Brown
Accie Julius Connor (D’Lo Brown) established his ring persona as a tribute to his high school friend who passed away due to cancer. During his first few years with the WWE from 1995-1997, he was mostly a jobber, with his most notable appearance being Ahmed Johnson bodyslamming him into a car. He was predominantly a team wrestler, usually as part of a stable or tag team, but did taste success for an extended period, holding the European title at that time.
Unfortunately for D’Lo, he will be most clearly remembered for the October 1999 incident involving Droz, in which a running powerbomb he was performing went wrong, rendering Droz a quadriplegic. D’Lo continued to wrestle until he was let go from WWE in 2003, at which point he moved to the Japan circuit for a couple of years and then the independent circuit. However, now 46, and over the last 5-10 years, D’Lo has become increasingly doughy in appearance and has definitely let his conditioning slide.
Great: Steve Blackman
Steve Blackman was known as ‘The Lethal Weapon’ during his time with WWE in the mid to late 1990s, and when you watched his matches it wasn’t hard to see why. Although he would’ve only been considered as a solid mid-carder by many, his matches were always entertaining and he actually went undefeated for his first year after debuting with WWE. He went on to dominate the hardcore division for a couple of years between 2000-2002 and had some memorable moments both in and out of the ring.
For the sake of this article and his reputation, we will gloss over the Head Cheese tag team and ensuing nonsense with Al Snow, and instead remember the former bodybuilder who overcame malaria and dysentery and trained in Escrima and Tae Kwon Do. Nowadays Steve is a bail bondsman (an intimidating one at that!) and continues to teach martial arts. It seems that since the 90s he’s barely dropped a step physically.
Go: Rick Steiner
Rick Steiner was a collegiate amateur wrestling standout at Michegan University and attained high honors for many years while attending. His style and appearance, even after joining the WWE had a passing resemblance to the great Dave Schultz of Foxcatcher fame, and he’s stated many times that he had to adjust to the ‘entertainment’ mindset of the WCW and WWE wrestling environment.
After a number of years with WCW, Rick’s brother Scott would accompany him to the ring and get involved in matches, eventually forming a very successful team. It was this team that transferred to the WWE in the early 1990s and for which The Steiner Brothers were most well known. From a physical standpoint, time has been a lot kinder to Scott, who still wrestles and is in peak condition, whereas Rick has returned to real estate and now even serves on the Cherokee County school board, leaving his conditioning and fitness in the past.
Great: Hulk Hogan
The 90s actually kicked off with one of the most memorable matches in its history featuring The Hulkster. WrestleMania VI saw Hogan, as the World Champion face off against The Ultimate Warrior, the Intercontinental Champion. Many of the other matches that night were entirely forgettable, but the champion versus champion match did not disappoint, the 20 minute plus match was highly entertaining and garnered a then-record attendance at the Skydome in Toronto (beaten only by the same event 2 years later).
The Hulkster has led an incredible life both in and out of the ring, from baseball pitcher, to base guitarist, to wrestling superstar, to movie and reality TV star and iconic personality. Sadly for him, some unsavory comments made years earlier surfaced in 2015, and the WWE were essentially forced to let Hogan go to protect the brand. However, considering his age at 63, the Hulkster’s insistence on ‘Vitamins brother’, seem to have extended his youthfulness and conditioning, as he still looks great to present day.
Go: Brutus The Barber Beefcake
Edward Leslie (Brutus) was a solid mid-card and eventually high-card performer in the WWE, who was most notable for his friendship and tag team performances with Hulk Hogan and his gimmick of putting opponents to sleep and cutting their hair. He joined the WWE in 1984 as ‘Brutus Beefcake’ and was introduced as a vain male stripper character, and initially feuded with David Sammartino and Hulk Hogan.
It was in the window of 1987-1990 that the ‘Barber’ character was created and established as one of the most entertaining in WWE history. Anyone that was a regular viewer of wrestling in the late 80s to early 90s couldn’t help but be captivated by the charismatic Barber and his eccentric match ending gimmick. Sadly for Brutus, the last decade or so has not been kind to him physically and his physical peak is now long forgotten.
Great: Triple H
Paul Levesque was another on this list who was a bodybuilder before he made the transition to wrestling, initially gaining traction with WCW in 1994 where he was introduced as ‘Jean-Paul Levesque’, a French Canadian aristocrat. Only a year later he moved to the WWE, where he progressively became known as Hunter Hearst Helmsley and then Triple H. Along with Stone Cold, he could be seen as a pioneer of the Attitude era, as creating D-Generation X and pushing the storylines in this darker direction, were key to moving in a more controversial direction in the late 90s.
Although it’s hard for some of us to accept and overlook the fact that Triple H is the man responsible for ‘retiring’ Mick Foley, there’s no denying his longevity and influence over the wrestling world. In a power marriage to rival that of Schwarzenegger and Shriver, he has been married to Stephanie Mcmahon since 2003 and has been part of front office for the WWE for a number of years. However, he hasn’t allowed his physique to fade away, although there was a period where he piled on a few pounds, in the last year he has been looking leaner than possibly even 10 years ago.
Go: Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase
Theodore DiBiase Sr. wrestled for a number of companies between 1975 and 1987, but it was when established his moniker as ‘The Million Dollar Man’ in June of ’87, with Virgil at his side that he gained widespread recognition. Even to this day, his character is viewed by many as one of the ‘greatest villians’ of pro wrestling history. The catchphrase of ‘everybody has a price’ and the continuous ridiculing and belittling of people less fortunate made him a character people loved to hate.
Even if he may be remembered more for his out-of-ring antics and hilariously insensitive vignettes (highlight being bribing a hotel concierge to kick a couple out of the honeymoon suite), he was in fact a gifted technical wrestler and was more than capable of justifying storylines involving big names like Macho Man Randy Savage and Jake the Snake. DiBiase is now doing good in his community as a Christian Minister, however although never the most jacked individual, he has been sliding physically since around 2004.
Great: Stone Cold Steve Austin
Steve Austin, or simply ‘Stone Cold’ to any fan of his, is seen by many, as almost single-handedly igniting and orchestrating the Attitude Era of the WWE. Aside from perhaps The Rock or Hulk Hogan, his is the name most synonymous with wrestling and the global brand. Supposedly, it was in fact his promo directed at Jake the Snake in 1996, where he uttered the now immortal 3:16 catchphrase, which actually helped start the Attitude era. That catchphrase would be printed on a shirt and would become the best-selling shirt in wrestling history.
He is also one of those representatives of the WWE who has feuded with Vince McMahon over incidents likely related to becoming ‘bigger than the company’, and has managed to transition effectively into film and TV. Since retiring from wrestling he has starred in a number of film roles, most notably The Condemned and The Expendables, and still hosts Redneck Island on Cable Television. He remains in solid physical condition to this day in anticipation of further movie roles.
Go: Lex Luger
A man that began his sporting life playing soccer, Lawrence Pfohl (Lex Luger) made the switch to football and became a talented offensive lineman, even going so far as signing with the Green Bay Packers (sitting on their bench for the 1982-83 season). However, he moved away from football in 1985 and fell into an opportunity of a wrestling contract by chance at a celebrity golfing event. He wrestled for a number of years between 1985 and 1992, primarily with WCW, until ’93 when he began wrestling as ‘The Narcissist’ with the WWE.
His list of accomplishments in wrestling is extensive, having held the United States Championship in WCW for a record 523 days, and winning multiple titles in the WWE once there. He also became a replacement of sorts for Hulk Hogan as an American hero, once the Hulkster departed for WCW, such was his esteem and popularity.
However, between 2005 and present day, unfortunately Luger’s personal problems and addiction issues have taken over, as well as an unfortunate spinal injury, and he is now a mere shell of the man he once was..
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