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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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