The ‘80s were a wild time for the professional wrestling business. While wrestling had always been popular in certain circles, a combination of ideas and talent formed to trigger a perfect storm for the industry. Suddenly, you were on the outside looking in if you didn’t follow the professional wrestling industry. For the men and women involved with the business during this time, all this sudden attention brought a newfound level of fame and money. Guys who entered the professional wrestling business because they didn’t make it in football, bodybuilding, or the real world were suddenly turned into global stars who fans would go on to describe as legends.
As you can imagine, it’s hard for wrestlers to step away from all that glory. Once you’ve experienced thousands of people chanting your name while a fat paycheck waits for you in the background, how can you ever go back to being just another person? Maybe that’s why some wrestlers never left the business at all. These stars from the ‘80s may have abandoned their primes in that decade, but they decided to call whatever ring will have them home. You can still find them there to this day. These are the 15 wrestlers from the ‘80s who are still wrestling today.
15. Honky Tonk Man
Wrestler Wayne Farris took the Honky Tonk Man gimmick and made it his own. While you wouldn’t think that a wrestling Elvis impersonator would make it very far, Farris found a way to turn the character into a heat machine that drove fans crazy. Honky was famous for his record Intercontinental Title reign, wild promos, and vicious guitar shots. As over as he was, Honky Tonk Man fell off WWE’s radar shortly after he lost the Intercontinental Championship.
After a run WCW that only lasted a couple of weeks, and a brief return to WWE, Honky took to the indies. For the most part, he tends to appear as a manager or special guest. However, Honky still wrestles the occasional match for various promotions and even worked an Impact Pro Wrestling show last year.
14. Hacksaw Jim Duggan
Say what you will about Hacksaw Jim Duggan, but the man managed to turn a stupid WWE character into an incredibly long career. Actually, it’s hard to say what Hacksaw’s gimmick really was. He was kind of stupid, he loved America, and he carried a 2×4. Whatever it was that he did, fans loved his little act and helped turn Duggan into a mainstay member of the WWE roster throughout the ‘80s. Duggan eventually left WWE in 1993 and enjoyed a truly horrible run in WCW which saw him participate in some of the company’s worst storylines.
Duggan didn’t actually hit the indies until around 2009 – he still made sporadic appearances for WWE – but he still occasionally makes appearances for promotions near his home and will sometimes appear for WWE as a comedy character.
13. Kevin Sullivan
Your thoughts on Kevin Sullivan probably depend on when you first started watching the guy wrestle. In the ‘80s, Sullivan was known as one of the toughest grapplers in the business. He worked a kind of satanic gimmick in his early days that perfectly matched his brawling style and evil looks. In the ‘90s, however, Sullivan became booker of WCW and helped lead the company through their most cartoonish period. During this time, he became a Saturday morning cartoon villain and led a stable of equally ridiculous characters known as the Dungeon of Doom. Sullivan assumed more of a backstage role after that and was WCW until shortly before their closure.
12. The Nasty Boys
The Nasty Boys began their career in the AWA, but it wasn’t until they moved to Florida Championship Wrestling that they came up with their Nasty Boys gimmick. Since then, the Nasty Boys established a reputation as one of the toughest tag teams in wrestling. They were particularly fond of hardcore matches and working stiff bouts with various teams. The pair were never really considered to be bigger than the Road Warriors or more talented than the Steiner Brothers, but they enjoyed a pretty decent run in WWE and WCW.
Even though they were well past their prime by the time the team left WCW in 1997, they decided to keep on wrestling in the indies and on TNA. Their TNA run was actually supposed to go longer, but they reportedly embarrassed themselves in front of network presidents. The pair still work the occasional local match.
11. Greg Valentine
Greg Valentine was always kind of a “B+” player. His best years were in the ‘80s when Valentine was a member of Mid-Atlantic Championship wrestling. He worked famous programs with Ric Flair – which is appropriate since Valentine was kind of a poor man’s Ric Flair – and Roddy Piper. The latter of those resulted in that infamous dog collar match at Starrcade 1983. When Valentine made the jump to WWE, he immediately settled into a mid-card role that occasionally allowed him to work an upper card tag match. Valentine rode his mid-card status throughout the ‘90s until he wrestled his final WCW match in 1998. From there, Valentine turned to the independent circuit.
10. Terry Funk
This list could have been about wrestlers from the ‘70s who are still active, and Terry Funk would have still qualified for an entry. Funk began his career as a tag team specialist who wrestled alongside his brother Dory Funk Jr. Eventually, Funk managed to distinguish himself as a singles wrestler and worked a number of championship feuds in the ‘80s with guys like Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair. Somewhere along the way, Funk also became known as a hardcore match specialist, which came in handy when he joined ECW in the ‘90s. Around this time, Funk started to wrestle in a series of “retirement matches” that have become something of a running joke. So, while Funk apparently retired in 2016, you’ll forgive us if we have a hard time believing that he’s wrestled his final match.
9. Lanny Poffo
Poor Lanny Poffo. While Lanny was always a pretty talented wrestler, he was never really able to escape the shadow of his brother Randy. Hey, that’s what happens when your brother is arguably the greatest professional wrestler of all-time. Even though Lanny never achieved as much as the Macho Man, he still managed to piece together a memorable WWE run thanks to his brilliant work as the heel character, The Genius. Lanny jumped to WCW who infamously paid him a six-figure contract to basically never appear or show up for the company. WCW finally released him in 1999, and Lanny quit wrestling for a few years.
8. Big Van Vader
Many fans never even heard of Vader before the ‘90s, but he got his start in the ‘80s. Vader came up through the AWA as a monster heel, but it wasn’t until Vader went to Japan that he really established himself as a true monster heel. Vader’s success in Japan eventually led to him being picked up by WCW where he put on some of his best matches and achieved his greatest fame. WWE picked him up shortly thereafter, but the relationship between the two just never seemed to work out. Even though Vader wouldn’t wrestle for another major American promotion until he wrestled for TNA in 2003, he remained as active as ever in Japan and the American indies. Vader has recently stated that he may only have a couple of years to live, but he is still performing to this day.
7. Jushin Thunder Liger
Before he was Jushin Thunder Liger, Keiichi Yamada was a young amateur wrestling prodigy who learned to be a professional wrestler by showing up every day to the New Japan Dojo and performing tasks in exchange for training. Once Yamada adopted the Jushin Thunder Liger gimmick in the late ‘80s, he immediately became an international sensation. Liger’s only notable run in America came in the early ‘90s when he wrestled for WCW, but he was a perennial contender in Japan throughout the ‘90s and into the 2000s. Liger finally got to wrestle for WWE when he worked an NXT event in 2015, but he’s been wrestling regularly in Japan and in America – particularly for the PWG promotion – for the last several years.
6. The Great Muta
Muta is another guy who owes much of his success to a brilliant gimmick change. Before he was The Great Muta, Keiji Mutoh was a talented young wrestler in Japan trying to establish himself on a roster that included some all-time greats. When he became The Great Muta, Mutoh quickly inserted himself into the main event scene in New Japan Pro Wrestling. He was even invited over to America by WCW in order to work some main event matches with Sting and others. Muta’s is remembered as one of the greatest international stars of his era and one of the best overall performers of all-time.
5. Bob Orton Jr.
While modern fans will likely just know Bob Orton Jr. as Randy Orton’s father, there was a time when Bob Orton was considered to be one of the best heels in the business. Much of Bob’s success came during his time in WWE where Vince McMahon turned him into one of the company’s best bad guys. Orton’s loaded cast and brawler style helped him stand out from the more traditional wrestlers on the roster and even put him in the historic position of main eventing the first WrestleMania alongside Roddy Piper in a tag match vs. Mr. T and Hulk Hogan. That was certainly the peak of Orton’s career, but he did go on to wrestle in WCW as well as the indies. In fact, the 66-year-old Orton was seen working matches for a promotion in Illinois as recently as 2015.
4. The Warlord
Many have always wondered why The Warlord was never a bigger star. As a member of the Jim Crockett Promotions roster in the ‘80s, Warlord – Terry Szopinski – finally managed to break free of the lower card by forming The Powers of Pain tag team alongside Ivan Koloff. These two men quickly became one of the promotion’s best teams, which is why Vince snatched them up in 1988. Warlord got over with his face paint look and unbelievable physique – he looked like a much larger Steve Austin – but never achieved much outside of the tag team scene.
He was actually forced to retire at a young age following a car crash in 1996, but returned to the business in 2003 as an independent wrestler. He still works as a tag team specialist for indie promotions.
3. Jake Roberts
Jake Roberts is certainly one of the most infamous wrestlers on this list. While Roberts was already pretty well-known before he ever stepped into WWE, it was his time as a member of WWE’s roster that really cemented him as a true wrestling legend. Jake “The Snake” Roberts distinguished himself from the rest of the WWE roster from that with his menacing promos and devastating DDT finisher. What many fans didn’t know is that Jake was struggling with severe substance abuse issues during his time on the WWE roster. These issues would haunt Roberts throughout his career in WWE and WCW before following him into his post-2000 indie wrestling career. Jake eventually decided to clean up his act a bit which not only greatly improved his overall health, but helped his still active career.
2. Brutus Beefcake
Brutus Beefcake has had an interesting pro wrestling career to say the very least. For the most part, he’s been booked alongside Hulk Hogan as Hogan’s friend and kayfabe brother. Because Beefcake seemingly knew he was never going to be a main event star, he was willing to play a number of ridiculous characters throughout his career. While Beefcake found a shocking level of success with his “barber” gimmick, he didn’t fare nearly as well in WCW where he played such forgettable characters at The Booty Man.
Eventually, Beefcake’s relationship with Hogan ran its course and he was released from WCW. Beefcake claimed to have retired shortly thereafter, but like many retired wrestlers, he still continued to wrestle occasionally dates. His last known match came in 2016, but he still accepts bookings.
1. Marty Jannetty
There was a time when Marty Jannetty was considered to be the best prospect in The Rockers tag team. Well, at least that’s what Jannetty claims. To be fair, Jannetty and Shawn Michaels were pretty close in overall skill level when they were young. While Michaels eventually distinguished himself as the better singles wrestler, Marty’s history of substance abuse and character problems certainly didn’t help his career prospects. He seemingly fell off the face of the Earth when his WWE career ended in 1996, but Jannetty went on to work for ECW and other promotions.
Following a failed return to WWE in 2005, Jannetty went on to wrestle for the Chikara promotion and other independent organizations. After all these years, he’s still managing to surprise people with just how capable he can still be in the ring.
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