With the recent passing of the legendary wrestler, manager, and broadcaster, Bobby Heenan, we decided to research some of the oldest wrestlers still alive. The wrestling industry can be a brutal place. Healthy athletes can get chewed out in just a few years. We’ve seen it happen with every generation of wrestlers. The constant pounding isn’t for the weak and any wrestlers that stay in the business long enough, are going to have severe health problems when retired.
That’s why it’s incredible these legendary warriors are still ticking today. Most of you weren’t alive when most of these guys were in their prime but that doesn’t mean they don’t have interesting stories. Unfortunately, the wrestling industry and the WWE doesn’t do a good enough job as the other major sports organizations when it comes to shining light on the pioneers of the industry.
You may have heard of Bruno Sammartino but don’t know who he beat to win his first WWE Championship. You might know Ric Flair’s finisher is the figure-four leglock but don’t know where he got it from. This article is all about appreciating the old guys. We’re talking about the real pioneers of the 50s and 60s. The era when kayfabe was still real, winning a championship meant something huge, and no one questioned the booking of a match. Enjoy!
17 Perry Saturn - 50 Years Old
At the age of 50, Saturn is certainly not the oldest on the list and in fact, the youngest out of all the other 16 mentioned, his inclusion is for different reasons. Many forgot the proven WCW Superstar even still exists today given his years of going off the map as both friends and family searched for his whereabouts.
Turns out, Saturn was living homeless, infusing his life with various drugs. He finally resurfaced after a long hiatus and he’s now seeking help with a GoFundMe campaign. Many likely assumed he was down and out, but it turns out, the former WWE and WCW star kicked out just in time to get his life back on track. We wish him well in his recovery and hope it’s for the best.
16 Kamala - 67 Years Old
Inching towards his 70s, it’s somewhat of a miracle that Kamala is still alive today given the various health concerns he’s had to deal with. Problems started way back in 1992 due to high blood pressure and diabetes, with Kamala not identifying the problems early on, he was forced into amputating his left leg years later. Problems would persist in 2012 when his right leg also needed to be sacrificed, but funds made that a problem, for that reason, a campaign was started in order to aid the former pro wrestler.
Nowadays, Kamala is living in poverty making it on disability payments and homemade chairs he’s creating. He also joined the class action lawsuit against the WWE, we wish the former pro wrestler all the best despite his tough times.
15 Johnny Rodz - 79 Years Old
Rodz may be the greatest jobber ever in the wrestling industry and that’s not a knock. He would put over countless wrestlers on the lower to mid-card during his career. It’s not like he was terrible at wrestling either, by all accounts from witnesses, Rodz could fly. A die-hard employee of the WWE, Rodz would make his debut for the company in 1965, three years after the WWE was born.
For decades he would work in the company, helping wrestlers grow, filling the card, and silently becoming a great wrestler. He would retire from the wrestling officially in 1999. His hard work would earn him a WWE Hall of Fame induction in 1996. Although a great wrestler, Rodz is now known for being an excellent coach. Tazz, Tommy Dreamer, Bill DeMott, and Big Cass are just some of the wrestlers he’s trained.
14 Paul Vachon - 70 Years Old
If you grew up with 12 siblings, you’re going to be fighting for what’s yours. Paul would follow his brother, Maurice, into the professional wrestling industry in 1957. The Canadian native would become one of the most notorious heels of his generation. Known as “Mad Dog” and “Butch Vachon,” he would work many promotions, including American Wrestling Association, National Wrestling Alliance, Georgia Championship Wrestling, and the WWE.
The two brothers would win several Tag Team Titles but couldn’t catch one reign in the WWE. After retiring in 1984, Vachon would get into politics and run as a federal candidate. You have to be tough to be a wrestler, but Paul became like Superman after retiring. Vachon would be diagnosed with colon cancer in 1993 and throat cancer in 2003, defeating both, making him one tough cookie.
13 Larry Hennig - 81 Years Old
Hennig would create the perfect boy. So perfect this boy would grow up and be a wrestler. That wrestler would become Mr. Perfect and one of the biggest legends of his era. The Hennig family was built for wrestling and you can thank Larry for that. He would make his professional debut in 1956 after being trained by Verne Gagne. His biggest contributions to the industry would come in American Wrestling Association and National Wrestling Alliance.
He famously tagged with Harley Race and the two would wreak havoc in the industry, especially in the AWA. Before retiring in 1985, Hennig would have a tag team run with his son, Mr. Perfect, and feud with The Road Warriors. He would represent his son in the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2007 and also appeared supporting Randy Orton against Jinder Mahal at this year’s Money in the Bank PPV.
12 Blackjack Lanza - 81 Years Old
Debuting in 1962, Lanza is famously known as one-half of the tag team The Blackjacks. He would get his start in American Wrestling Association when he teamed with Bobby Duncum and was managed by the late Bobby Heenan. In the 70s, he would partner with Blackjack Mulligan, and the two would cement their legacy in the industry. The Blackjacks were internationally known and it didn’t hurt that Heenan was their manager.
They would join the WWE Universe in 1975 and defeated Dominic DeNucci and Pat Barrett for the WWE World Tag Team Championship. He would retire in 1985 and become a road agent for the WWE. Lanza and Heenan were best friends and each one inducted the other into the WWE Hall of Fame. With Heenan recently passing away, we wish him nothing but the best.
11 Bruno Sammartino - 81 Years Old
The most decorated wrestler on this list is still ticking and he looks like he can step right back into the ring if he wanted to. Sammartino is arguably the Babe Ruth of wrestling. The Italian native would have two WWE Championship reigns, which combined for 11 years and 4,040 days. No one, and we mean no one, will ever come close to that record.
If The Rock and John Cena had a baby, that baby wouldn’t come close to breaking Sammartino’s records. He would make his wrestling debut in 1959 for a Pittsburgh promotion. His first WWE title run would come in 1963 when he defeated the original Nature Boy, Buddy Rogers. After a long and successful career, the WWE Hall of Famer would retire in 1987.
10 Jose Lothario - 82 Years Old
A lot of citizens of the WWE Universe don’t remember Lothario as a wrestler but do remember him as the manager of babyface Shawn Michaels. Lothario was the real trainer of Michaels, and WWE decided to bring him in the fold in 1996. Michaels would win his first WWE Championship under Lothario’s tutelage at WrestleMania XII. He would continue to be Michaels' manager until the 1997 Royal Rumble.
Lothario would make his wrestling debut in the 1950s in his home country of Mexico. By the 1960s, he was wrestling in the United States. The National Wrestling Alliance would become his home and he would win countless Tag Team Titles across the different territories. Lothario also once has a losing streak of over 500 matches, but we doubt he cares, the guy is a legend.
9 Mr. Wrestling II - 83 Years Old
His real name is John Francis Walker but everyone knows him by Mr. Wrestling II. He would make his professional wrestling debut in 1955 and some of his best work was in Championship Wrestling from Florida and Georgia Championship Wrestling in the 70s and 80s. In 1972, Mr. Wrestling II would be born when booker Leo Garibaldi asked him to become the masked hero.
He would never take off the mask after that, becoming one of the top wrestlers in the world. He was so devoted to keeping the mask on when President Jimmy Carter invited him to his inauguration, he had to decline because Secret Service told him he wouldn’t be allowed to wear the headgear. Mr. Wrestling II would retire in 1989 and lives in Mililani, Hawaii today.
8 Danny Hodge - 85 Years Old
Hodge is so strong at the age of 80, he could crush an apple with one hand. We don’t kid, he literally crushes an apple with one squeeze. He’s 85 years old now but we don’t doubt that he could do it again if asked. Hodge was born with double tendons in his hands, which gives him the ability to crush things, like an apple. The collegiate wrestler would make his professional wrestling debut in 1959.
He would become a huge commodity in the National Wrestling Alliance and became one of the highest paid wrestling by the early 60s. He’s one of the few legends that never worked for the WWE at any point during his wrestling career. His first appearance in the WWE Universe would be in 2005 when he honored fellow Oklahoma native, Jim Ross.
7 Dominic DeNucci - 85 Years Old
Born in Venice, Italy, in 1932, DeNucci would make his wrestling debut in 1963. Although he came into the industry at 30 years old, he would have a solid career in the WWE. The company would sign him in 1971 and he won the WWE International Tag Team Championships with fellow countrymen Bruno Sammartino.
Sticking in the Tag Division while Bruno went onto bigger and better things, DeNucci would team with Victor Rivera and win the WWE World Tag Team Championship against Jimmy and Johnny Valiant in 1975. DeNucci would win that titles again, this time with Dino Bravo in 1978. Before leaving the WWE in 1978, he would feud with Intercontinental Champion, Pat Patterson, on a number of occasions. DeNucci would eventually get into coaching and would be the mentor of Mick Foley, Shane Douglas, and Brian Hilderbrand.
6 Dick Beyer - 86 Years Old
As a collegiate athlete, Beyer transitioned over to the wrestling business after graduating from Syracuse University. Known as The Destroyer or Doctor X during his career, Beyer would make his professional wrestling debut in 1954 He would begin his journey as a babyface in World Wrestling Associates but wouldn’t don his famous mask as The Destroyer until 1962. It would be a great year for him, he would beat Freddie Blassie and defend the WWA Title for 10 months.
Using the figure-four leglock as a finisher, Beyer would not only make an impact in North America but also in Japan in 1963. He would wrestle the legend Rikidozan in a match watched by 70 million television viewers. Beyer would officially retire in 1993 but has stayed in the wrestling scene since.
5 Don Leo Jonathan - 86 Years Old
At 6 feet 6 inches tall, Jonathan was one of the taller wrestlers in the business when he made his debut in 1949. Born in Utah, he would get the nickname, “The Mormon Giant.” As a second-generation wrestler, his father was Brother Jonathan, he traveled all over the world to compete for different promotions. From South Africa to Australia, to Japan, Jonathan was a true journeyman in the industry.
He would become really big in Canada, winning his first championship under International Wrestling Association. By the 1960s, Jonathan would call Canada his home and representing the country beautifully. He would work every big promotion you can think of, including a championship match against Pedro Morales in the WWE during 1973. His last match would be a six-man tag match involving Andre the Giant and Roddy Piper in 1980.
4 Jacques Rougeau Sr. - 87 Years Old
The WWE Universe is very familiar with the Rougeau brothers, Raymond and Jacques, but they weren’t created out of thin air, somebody had to find a beautiful lady to make those two. That somebody is Jacques Rougeau Sr. He would make his professional wrestling debut in 1956 with his brother Johnny. Working mostly for International Wrestling Association and National Wrestling Federation, he would become one of the most popular Canadian wrestlers of his time.
Some of his epic feuds involved The Sheik, Don Leo Jonathan, and Abdullah the Butcher. Surprisingly, Jacques wasn’t the first family member to get involved in wrestling. His uncle, Edouard Auger, would make his own debut in the mid-1940s under Pierre Lasalle. Before retiring in 1986, Jacques would able to work a match with his sons, making one happy ending for the Canadian.
3 Pampero Firpo - 87 Years Old
The Argentinian native would be trained by Rudy Dusek and he would make his professional wrestling debut in 1953. He’s gone by many names over the years, such as Ivan the Terrible, The Great Pampero, and The Missing Link, but is historically known as Pampero Firpo. Considered one of the pioneers of hardcore wrestling, his look, personality, and style would influence an entire generation of psychos.
Mostly working for American Wrestling Association and National Wrestling Alliance, Firpo would collect several territorial championships before retiring. Some of his best work came in feuds with The Sheik, Nick Bockwinkel, and The Vachons. One other small tidbit about this unsung hero is he was the inspiration of Randy Savage’s “Oh yeaaaah!” catchphrase. Firpo would retire in 1986 and would spend the rest of his working career representing the United States Postal Service in California.
2 "Cowboy" Bob Ellis - 88 Years Old
Born in 1929, this cowboy cemented his legacy in the professional wrestling industry when he invented the commonly used bulldog maneuver. Historians also alleged he was the first man to reverse the figure-four leglock. After serving in the United States Army during the Korean War, Ellis would find wrestling. The industry grabbed him and he became a pretty popular wrestler billed from Texas.
Although young, Ellis would feud with the popular villain, Dick the Bruiser, win the feud and be propelled to a bigger stage. By the late 50s heading into the early 60s, Ellis was known all over the United States. Some of his best work would be in the promotion American Wrestling Association. By 1965, he would be involved in a huge tag team feud with his partner Verne Gagne and the World Tag Champions, Larry Hennig and Harley Race. He would retire by the late 70s and now enjoys time relaxing on his ranch.
1 Carlos Rocha - 90 Years Old
Hailing from Portugal, Rocha is considered one of the international pioneers of the industry. Known as the ‘Portuguese Champion,” he would make his professional wrestling debut in the 1940s. After working the European circuit and South Africa, Rocha would put his nation on his back, come across the great pond, and make something of himself in North America. By the 1960s, Rocha was well known in Canada and the United States.
In 1977, Rocha would become the first Portuguese to be hired by Vince McMahon Sr. and the WWE. He would work with during that era, including tagging with Andre The Giant and feuding with champion Superstar Billy Graham. He would quietly retire towards the end of the 1970s and has been living comfortably in Canada ever since.