If you’ve seen the movie The Wrestler with Mickey Rourke you know there’s truth to the notion that professional wrestlers have a tendency to hold onto to their in-ring careers too long. Far beyond their prime years, even when these talents are no longer stars, they toil around on the independent scene or in small little bingo halls and school gyms. Some are even still employed by the mega-company WWE. The reality is, these past-their-prime wrestlers are trying to scrape together whatever money they can and still feel a touch of the beloved fanfare they felt when they were heroes and villains.
When their in-ring skills diminish or they can’t draw fans the way they once did, it’s better to leave the industry at the top of the game than at the bottom. And, while some wrestlers like Steve Austin, Edge and Christian or Shawn Michaels may do exactly that (despite some injuries helping make their decision easy), there are stars like Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan and many others hanging onto the dream when they should have hung up their boots. Even stars in the WWE today are wrestling well past their prime. It’s not just small arenas in podunk towns that offer wrestlers of yesterday trying to make things look like they once did.
These are 15 wrestlers who probably should have called it quits a long time ago. Some you may not even know still wrestled. Are we right to suggest these wrestlers should step aside? Are they making a mockery of their old legacy?
15. Marty Jannetty
Probably the biggest train wreck on this list is Marty Jannetty. After trying to work with Shawn Michaels to get more money out of the WWE, he learned the hard way that it wasn’t actually him the WWE wanted, but Michaels. He then tried to keep his WWE career alive but failed and now bounces around, still working independent shows.
The kicker is that he looks alright enough, but acts like a maniac. His twitter feed and his social media accounts are full of insane ramblings including everything from telling people he’d like to be intimate with someone he thought was his daughter or exposing himself for a certain amount of money. It’s actually amazing that people still hire this guy. He’s absolutely fallen apart in more ways than one.
There was a time that Demolition was the top of the WWE tag team totem pole. They were considered the most vicious, fierce and wicked team in all of wrestling, holding the WWE Tag Team Titles for a record length of time. Even though they faded out of the WWE, you can still see their legacies on display when the WWE tries to bring in teams like The Ascension.
Amazingly, these two guys are still going and wrestling wherever they can get booked. They don’t look nearly as dangerous as they once did and perhaps it’s better that they hang it up, but for some guys, that’s easier said than done. Each have wrestled as other personas but Demolition was their money-maker and they’re both still trying to capitalize on it.
13. Honky Tonk Man
The Honky Tonk Man still considers himself to be the greatest Intercontinental Champion in the history of the WWE. He might have a case as he was one of the longest reigning title holders in WWE history. While he was never considered to be a wrestler in great shape, he’s not exactly looking like he can go much more than a couple minutes in the ring these days. Thank goodness he can still wear his Elvis costume.
While he wrestles in small arenas and even showed up at Impact Wrestling in June of 2016, he’s milking that gimmick of The Honky Tonk Man for every possible penny he can muster out of companies that will give him any sort of recognition. And when he’s not wrestling, he’s busy trash-talking the rest of the industry on Youtube videos.
12. Bushwhacker Luke
There was a period of time in the 1990’s when the Bushwhackers were popular. They were never great wrestlers and they were never the top tag team in terms of accolades or recognition but kids loved the duo that used to eat sardines and come to the ring and lick ringside fans on a regular basis.
Well, one half of the Bushwackers, Luke, is still going strong and as you can see by this picture he’s using things like hair dye and some potential surgery to try and maintain whatever looks the team had back in the day (not that they were the best-looking team in the world). It would be interesting to see if Luke actually draws a crowd anymore, especially if he’s wrestling without Butch.
11. Billy Gunn
Perhaps it’s not fair to add Billy Gunn to this list because he actually looks decent considering his age. But, he’s probably in as good a shape as he is because until not long ago he was still working with WWE trying to help NXT talents develop. But a falling out with Triple H led to his release from the company and since that time he’s been taking bookings wherever he can.
There comes a time when it’s best to go out on top and Gunn hasn’t done that in any way whatsoever. He’s working in New Japan more now than anywhere else but he’s continually losing early on in tournaments and other matches where people are bringing him in as a recognized name their homegrown talents can get a victory against.
10. Scott Steiner
Considering Scott Steiner is so opinionated about the state of wrestling today you wouldn’t think he’d be too keen to hang onto the dream and wrestle in small schools or halls, but he does and recently came back to wrestle part-time with Impact Wrestling. He’s not nearly the presence he once was.
Still big, his physique is now a mix of muscle that is both built and broken down, and he’s too busy using social media to rant on everyone from Triple H to Hulk Hogan to really mean anything in the business. He’s the first to trash WWE but he’d come running if they ever offered him an opportunity to return. They wouldn’t, but he thinks they would. He’s a prime reason why companies like Impact will continue to look second rate. When you’re counting on guys like Steiner to draw a crowd, you’re in trouble as a company.
9. Hulk Hogan
Hulk Hogan technically isn’t an active wrestler but not by choice. You can find him regularly making videos and blog posts covering everything from what he thinks about wrestling to asking fans if they think he should make a return. Just recently his kids posted a social media post suggesting he’d be coming back for WrestleMania.
That’s a pretty big deal if you ask anyone behind the scenes in WWE. Hogan still has a negative rep in wrestling after he got caught publicly making racist remarks and with the amount of celebrities and personalities getting caught for inappropriate behaviours, Hogan seems ripe to be one of those guys someone comes forward about (keeping in mind we’re not saying he actually did anything).
Rhyno is on this list, not because he can’t still wrestle and not because he actually looks much worse than he did a few years ago, but because the WWE sees him as so much less than he once was, he’d been doing himself a favour by getting out now and saving some of his dignity.
Recently, Rhyno was showcased on Halloween episode of Raw in a costume match versus Gallows and Anderson. It’s just sad that this is where Rhyno’s career has gone. Maybe he had fun with the match but something tells us he’s just saying yes for the paycheque and that if he had a choice, he’d have stayed as far away from the mess as possible.
We called Marty Jannetty the worst train wreck on this list and if he keeps the spot, pushing up a close second is Virgil. The one-time valet/security for The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase, Virgil today can be seen charging for autographs (where no one waits in line), begging for money on the subway or trying to sell off bits of wrestling memorabilia just to make a buck.
If any promotion came calling you know that Virgil would jump to it and that includes wrestling in someone’s backyard. How Virgil got so down is unknown but it’s a sad sight to see when someone who was part of one of the biggest heel ideas in wrestling is now literally begging for money. He’s a far cry from the days of hanging out with a millionaire.
6. Rock N’ Roll Express
Robert and Ricky are still rocking in wrestling, but they’re both moving a little more slowly these days. They actually just recently were a part of the Starrcade revival that took place in Greensboro, North Carolina for a SmackDown Live event and danced in the ring with the New Day.
These are two guys that will probably continue to make their way around the circuit until they drop. Yes, they were one of the most innovative tag teams ever and their chemistry was something the Rockers and other teams emulated but their best days are so far behind them it’s painful to try and watch them act as though they still have it in the ring. Like many of the wrestlers on this list, they should probably hang it up.
5. Ric Flair
Ric Flair has had some awful luck this past year. Almost knocked down and out for good, he’s now recovering and felt well enough to show up at the Starrcade event WWE held just a week ago. It’s great to see he’s doing better. Still, Flair is the kind of guy who would hop back in the ring in a second if someone called and asked.
Flair is so hooked on wrestling and so in need of money that a recent article came out that he charges as much as $15,000 for a personal autograph session. This is a man who was widely known as one of the best-ever in wrestling. Both his financial situation and his health have really turned on him but he still wants to be a part of wrestling in a big way. It’s probably going to eventually be the end of him.
4. Buff Bagwell
Admittedly, Buff Bagwell isn’t awful looking but if you’re going to be known as “Buff the Stuff” you better keep up appearances. Bagwell had a strong run in WCW for a few years and he was about as top-level for midcard guys as one can get. His tenure in WWE wasn’t nearly as impressive and was full of controversy from taking drugs to having his mother (Judy) call in sick for him which led to his quick release from the company.
Today Bagwell can be found doing anything from being a male gigolo to still trying to make a go of the wrestling thing. The good news for Bagwell and his fans, he’s still as conceited as ever and thinks he looks like a million bucks. Some things just don’t change.
3. Jerry Lawler
He had a heart-attack and ringside, yet he’s still chugging along in wrestling and showing up at small arenas to wrestle for small audiences everywhere. Because he’s not being used nearly as much these days in the WWE, chances are he’ll start popping up even more frequently at shows fans might not expect to see him at.
Lawler is still entertaining but his appearances now are likely more about his ability to draw heat on a mic than anything he can still do in the ring. Not to mention, there probably has to be an extra level of cautious something could happen that could affect his health. It’s likely smarter if Lawler just calls is a career in wrestling but his current situation may not allow for that.
Let’s start with a wrestler who has a lot of people irked. Kane doesn’t necessarily look terrible but he’s not nearly in the shape he used to be and he’s taking prime opportunities from wrestlers like Finn Balor or booked to appear on equal footing to a guy like Braun Strowman. That doesn’t have a lot of fans in the WWE Universe jumping for joy.
Kane returned a couple of months ago to the WWE and not as the corporate stooge or washed-up “Big Red Machine” he actually is, but as a demonic unstoppable monster who could take out the entire roster if he wanted to. Considering not even a year ago he was being jobbed out to mid card talents, his booking now doesn’t make a lot of sense.
1. The Undertaker
While this photo was taken during a very difficult period in Undertaker’s life, it certain highlights the fact that he refuses to hang them up no matter what. If you saw Undertaker wrestle at the most recent WrestleMania, you know his best days are behind him. That isn’t stopping people from suggesting he might make another appearance at upcoming WWE shows and possibly has one or two more matches left in him.
Those who have seen recent photos of The Undertaker might be concerned this is not a good idea. Not only is he much slower and can’t do half the moves he used to, he looks much more like an old man who can barely move than “The Deadman” who is an unstoppable force in WWE. It would be great to see The Undertaker again but not if he’s a shell of his former self, which is probably what he will be.
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