It’s always hard to walk away no matter what your profession is. For wrestlers it may be even harder because nothing can replace the adrenaline rush that one gets every time they step through that curtain or get their hand raised. Not only is it the rush from performing in front of a crowd that is so hard to let go, but it’s also that 6 or 7 figure paycheck that they don’t want to lose. As the old saying goes in regards to athletes, “you shouldn’t walk away unless they force you out” and some wrestlers have taken that to heart by still competing well into their 40s and 50s (and sometimes beyond).
It’s hard to believe that we are less than three years away from the third decade of the 21st century. It’s even harder to believe that there are wrestlers from the 1990s still making a living in the squared circle. Wrestling is a young man’s sport and one that relies just as much on aesthetics as it does actual ability. You know what the only thing worse than seeing a middle-aged man with his shirt off in the center of a ring is? Two middle-aged men with their shirts off wrestling like they are still in the Attitude Era. Yet the rosters of WWE, TNA, and even the independent circuits are filled with guys from the 1990s even though they are well, well past their primes.
These guys just won’t call it quits and they refuse to retire. Here are 20 wrestlers from the 20th century who are still wrestling today. Let’s take a look back at your dad’s favorite wrestlers!
20 Bubba Ray Dudley
What Bill Russell is to rings, The Dudley Boyz are to tag team titles as they are the most prolific tag champions in the history of professional wrestling. Bubba Ray and D-Von have combined to win 23 tag team championships and while D-Von has moved on to the next phase of his life by becoming a WWE backstage producer; Bubba Ray is still putting people through tables. After winning titles in WWE, WCW, ECW, TNA, and New Japan Pro Wrestling, Bubba Ray made his Ring of Honor debut in 2017.
With every possible tag team championship won, Bubba decided to do one better and he won the ROH Six-Man Tag Team Championship along with the Briscoes. The 46-year-old Bubba Ray can keep up with the youngsters both inside and outside of the ring as he is currently dating Velvet Sky who is 10 years his junior.
19 Billy Gunn
In an instance of art imitating life, Gunn was actually a pro bull rider before he adopted a gimmick as a cowboy with the Smoking Gunns in 1993. He had various gimmicks during his initial 11-year run in WWE, like Rockabilly of course, before departing for TNA in 2005. Gunn then rejoined the WWE in 2012 as an NXT trainer with sporadic appearances in the ring alongside longtime partner, Road Dogg. However, he was fired from WWE in 2015 after failing a test for PEDs at a powerlifting meet. Apparently Brock Lesnar is the only one who can test positive for PEDs and still keep his job.
Gunn then went on the independent scene for a while before heading overseas to join New Japan Pro Wrestling in late 2016. His most recent appearance for NJPW came in July 2017 when the 53-year-old Gunn lost to Hiroshi Tanahashi in a match for the Intercontinental Championship.
Despite the success that he experienced during his stints in WWE and especially WCW; The Man They Call Vader made his biggest mark while wrestling in Japan. He was the first non-Japanese wrestler to win the New Japan Pro Wrestling Heavyweight title and was a Triple Crown champion in All Japan Pro Wrestling. But in the last few years Vader has been known more for his health issues than his moonsaults as he underwent a double knee replacement and then was in a coma for 33 days following his surgical wounds becoming infected. Things got even worst in 2016 when Vader said that he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and later said he wanted to die in the ring. He appears to not be bluffing as he continues to perform despite being in his 60s and almost 400 pounds.
He most recently wrestled in April 2017 in Japan where he collapsed during a match. Sticking to his edict about willing to die in the ring, Vader continued to work two more shows on the tour, heart failure be damned.
It may be surprising to some, but Goldust is the longest-performing wrestler in WWE even if you count the Undertaker as Dustin Rhodes made his WWE debut two months before The Deadman in 1990. He is currently on his sixth stint in WWE but it all began as a 21-year-old while his father, Dusty, was donning the hideous polka dot attire with Sapphire by his side. Rhodes spent most of the 1990s hopping back and forth between WWE and WCW and then spent the 2000s hopping back and forth between WWE and TNA/Independents. He even spent a short time as a backstage producer in WWE before giving that up to step back into the squared circle. Dusty wrestled until he was 61 so Dustin has another dozen years in him and he can probably pull it off as long as his physique continues to be hidden by his full bodysuit.
16 Stevie Richards
Best known for his stint in Extreme Championship Wrestling, Richards actually first appeared in Eastern Championship Wrestling as a jobber before it was rebranded as ECW. He was the leader of the bWo which was intended to only be a parody of the NWO and comic relief; but it caught on with the ECW faithful and elevated Richards to main event status. Richards then jumped to WCW for two months before leaving after failing his physical and then latched on with WWE for a hard-to-believe 9 years! He’s struggled with neck injuries throughout his career and has had multiple surgeries on both his neck and throat but continues to perform. His last run with a major promotion was with ROH in 2016 and many of his appearances on the indy circuit often have him match up against other former ECW wrestlers.
15 Sean Waltman
Waltman had various “Kid” nicknames when he first joined the WWE and for good reason as he was just 20 years old when he made his debut. He somehow struck up a friendship with Hall and Nash who were in their mid-30s and thus began a friendship based on loyalty and debauchery. At 45 Waltman is much younger than his Kliq cohorts but his body has been ravaged by abusing drugs and alcohol over the years. He even admitted to attempting suicide after a fight with his girlfriend but ended up blacking out and waking up in a hospital. In April 2017 he was supposed to wrestle for International Pro Wrestling in the United Kingdom but was arrested at LAX for possession of meth.
He was cleared of all charges a month later when tests of the pills came back negative thus clearing him with the WWE and the Legends contract he’s signed to and also allowing him to resume work for the indies.
14 Scott Steiner
While big brother Rick has put away the headgear and gotten into real estate in Atlanta, Scott is still hanging around and recently returned to TNA/Impact Wrestling. Not only has Big Poppa Pump been around since the 90s, but he actually debuted in the 80s and back when his mullet was still in style. Like many others from his era, Scott hopped between WCW and WWE for most of his career and his last appearance for WWE came in 2004. The Steiner Brothers last tag match came in 2014 and the only way Scott will ever make it to WWE’s Hall of Fame is if he and his brother are inducted together.
Speaking of the WWE Hall of Fame; in 2015 Scott was banned from attending the ceremony after accosting Hulk Hogan’s wife at an airport and threatening to kill Hogan. Scott was upset that Hogan was inducting Randy Savage into the Hall of Fame and took his frustrations out on Hogan’s wife. Still, we will likely see Steiner at another WWE Hall of Fame before we see Hogan appear on WWE television again.
13 Chris Jericho
After being trained by the Harts and a brief appearance in ECW, Jericho finally made a name for himself in WCW in 1996. After three years of being under-utilized, Jericho then jumped ship to WWE and had one of the greatest entrances in history with his clock countdown appearing on various Raws preceding his debut. Over the past 18 years he’s established a Hall of Fame wrestling career when it’s not disrupted by Fozzy tours. He’s also dabbled in film and TV hosting in recent years and his acting skills are somewhere in between Hulk Hogan and The Rock. Jericho can still put on 5-star matches and he’s also golden on the mic so it’s unfortunate for wrestling fans that he takes frequent hiatuses for his music group. Nonetheless, the WWE will likely allow him to continue with this type of schedule for as long as he wants as he’s still one of the best in the business despite being in his late 40s.
12 Rey Mysterio
Mysterio is 5’6”and 175 pounds now so just imagine how small he was when he debuted as a 14 year old in 1989. After wrestling in Mexico as a teenager and then following a short stint in ECW, Mysterio made his WCW debut in 1996. He spent his 5 years there as arguably the most famous cruiserweight in the world and became one of the most popular wrestlers due to kids identifying with his small stature. He had an even more successful run in WWE but he is one of the few wrestlers who never seemed to need the WWE as much as the WWE needed him.
With that being said, Mysterio also says he is intrigued by the company’s new cruiserweight division so no one should rule out him appearing on 205 Live one day. But at the moment he says he is very happy working with Lucha Underground which is taped in Los Angeles and not far from Mysterio’s home in San Diego.
11 The Sandman
What Ric Flair is to WCW and John Cena is to WWE; The Sandman is to ECW and that is the man with the most reigns as the company’s heavyweight champion. He is a five-time ECW champion but despite competing in WCW, WWE, and TNA, he never won a single title in any of those promotions. Except for a brief run with WCW in 1999, The Sandman was one of only two wrestlers who were in ECW for the entirety of its run from 1992-2001 (the other was Little Guido). He actually announced his retirement in 2008 on his MySpace page but he has continued to wrestle over the last 9 years including teaming with his son who had various appearances in ECW during its heyday.
Nearly all of The Sandman’s matches these days are against former ECW wrestlers including a cage match vs. Sabu in 2016 and a six-man tag match with New Jack and Justin Credible in 2017.
10 Scott Norton
Norton’s pre-wrestling career was definitely more interesting than his wrestling career as Norton used to be a bodyguard and a pro arm wrestler. He worked as a bodyguard for Prince during two of his tours in the 1980s and also appeared alongside Sylvester Stallone in the arm wrestling movie Over The Top. Norton was your classic mid-carder who wrestled in WCW from 1993 to 1999 but never won a single championship. At 6’3” 360 pounds and with good agility, perhaps he would have been better served in the WWE at that time as he was exactly what Vince McMahon is/was looking for.
After wrestling in Japan from 1999 to 2006, Norton returned to the states and was been wrestling on the independent circuit since then. He’s done some shows for NJPW in 2017 and his last match was against Bull James who was formerly Bull Dempsey in NXT.
9 Chavo Guerrero Jr.
While his uncle, Eddie Guerrero, had to wrestle for 8 years before getting the call to join WCW; Chavo’s big breakthrough came just two years into his career. He joined WCW in 1996 and was immediately thrust into their cruiserweight division in which he often competed against his uncle. Chavo was one of the many WCW wrestlers who joined WWE after being bought out, but he was one of the few he lasted for a decade after the switch. He wrestled in WWE from 2001 to 2011 and could still be there if he had not requested his release.
In 2017 he appeared in the Netflix series GLOW which is a fictionalized look at the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling promotion that ran in the 1980s. Chavo most recently competed in a Lucha Libre tournament and has signed with Lucha Underground as a backstage producer.
8 Shane Douglas
Douglas is one of the few guys on this list who not only has been wrestling since the 1990s, but actually got his start in WCW in the 1980s. Always chasing a bigger payday, Douglas had 3 stints in WCW, 2 stints in WWE, and 2 stints in ECW, all during the 1990s alone. Douglas was with WCW when it was bought out by WWE in 2001 but he was not one of the wrestlers brought over to WWE so he embarked on a tour of the indy circuit. He eventually landed in TNA where he spent 6 years and has been unaffiliated with a promotion since 2009. He has promoted various ECW reunion shows including Hardcore Homecoming and Extreme Reunion. He appeared at various shows for Pro Wrestling All-Stars of Detroit in 2017 and when he’s not wrestling he often serves as a motivational speaker.
Nick Dinsmore, better known as Eugene, got his start in the USWA in the mid-90s when Jerry Lawler was still the promotion’s owner. He appeared in WCW as a jobber in 1999 and then did the same on WWE’s Shotgun Saturday Night later that year. He then had another cup of coffee in 2003 as he and partner Rob Conway appeared as the masked Los Conquistadores on Smackdown. It wasn’t until the memorable character of Eugene in 2004 did Dinsmore finally breakthrough. In what was clearly one of the most politically incorrect gimmicks of all time, Dinsmore portrayed a “special” wrestler, and I have to admit; I didn’t think he was acting at first which is a testament to Dinsmore’s abilities. Dinsmore ran with that gimmick for three years before being fired for failing his second drug test.
After a tour of the indies, he returned to WWE in 2013 as an NXT trainer but lasted just one year in that position. He now runs his own promotion in his home of South Dakota called Midwest All Pro Wrestling and still wrestles from time to time when he isn’t training aspiring wrestlers.
If you are like me, then you would be shocked to learn that R-Truth is 45 years old! 45 may not be too old to wrestle, but it is definitely too old to still be rapping. After some legal issues during his youth, Truth got into the wrestling business in 1997 as a manager while he was still training for an in-ring debut. After sending a highlights videotape to WWE, Truth was signed to the company in 1999.
His first stint with the WWE would last just three years which was then followed by a 5 year stint in TNA. He rejoined the WWE in 2008 and with his two stints he has more years of service than every other active WWE wrestler except for Goldust, Big Show, and John Cena. Speaking of the Golden One, he and Truth have been involved in a feud/storyline/partnership for over a year-and-a-half now as WWE has seemingly no other ideas for them.
5 Taka Michinoku
Best known for that infamous storyline with Val Venis, Michinoku was the first Light Heavyweight Champion in WWE history. But Michinoku and Venis had actually worked together before that as they were both in CMLL in Mexico before coming to the WWE. As the light heavyweight division fizzled out in WWE, so did Michinoku’s time with the company as he left in 2001 which was the same year the title was deactivated. He then returned to his native Japan and has competed in the country’s two biggest promotions, All Japan Pro Wrestling and New Japan Pro Wrestling. He still wrestles in NJPW today, and at the age of 43, he’s still young enough to possibly have one more run in the WWE now that they have brought back the cruiserweight division.
Even the most diehard of Rhyno fans (if there is such a thing), may have been unaware that he was a WCW jobber in the mid-90s at the age of 19! He also appeared as a jobber on Monday Night Raw in 1995 before he went to Germany and then eventually landed in ECW in 1999. Rhyno was actually both the final ECW World Heavyweight champion and the final ECW Television champion when the company folded in 2001. Since then Rhyno has had various stints in WWE, TNA, ROH and various smaller promotions. After leaving WWE in 2005 he finally returned 10 years later and is still rocking the same singlet that he wore back in the 90s.
In 2016 Rhyno (real name Terrance Gerin) ran for the House of Representatives in his native Michigan. He won the primary election but lost in the general election so he has something else in common with Linda McMahon besides being a WWE employee.
3 Big Show
The Big Show was a fresh-faced 23 year old Giant when he made his WCW debut in 1995. In fact, he was initially billed as Andre The Giant’s son in his feud with Hulk Hogan but that was quickly, and smartly, dropped. He spent three-and-a-half years in WCW before letting his contract expire on his 27th birthday in 1999. The very next day he signed a 10-year contract with the WWE which is something that was surprisingly popular at the time as Mark Henry also had a 10-year deal and Bret Hart had a 20-year deal. Show has won just about everything there is to win in WWE and he became the 12th Grand Slam champion in the company’s history in 2012.
But maybe more importantly, he’s also won five Slammy Awards! We should sit back and enjoy the final six months of Show’s career as he’s stated that he plans to retire in February 2018 which will give him a 19-year run with the WWE.
2 Rob Van Dam
Perhaps no other wrestler on this list still looks like the 90s version of himself more so than RVD. Same hair, same wrestling gear, and the same high-flying style that resulted in him being name PWI’s most popular wrestler two years in a row. RVD made his TV debut in WCW as “Robbie V” in 1993 but lasted just a few months. After two-and-a-half years of working the independents in Georgia, he joined ECW in 1996 and within two months was competing for the World Television championship. RVD would become arguably the biggest star in ECW history despite never winning the promotion’s heavyweight championship (He did, however, win the WWE’s version of the ECW World title).
RVD had a couple of appearance in the WWE during his time in ECW and would join the company full-time in 2001. He had a six year run in WWE and since then has bounced from the indies to TNA then back to WWE and then back to the indies. He is also dabbling with acting and recently appeared in a movie with Steven Seagal.
1 The Hardy Boyz
Finally, we get to the only person on this list who’s under the age of 40 as Jeff Hardy has a couple of more weeks in his 30s. Both he and Matt made their WWE debuts, separately, as jobbers in 1994. I’ll save you the math as Matt was 19 and Jeff was just 16 when they first stepped into a WWE ring! As a team the two have won everything there is to win including the WCW Tag Team titles even though they never appeared in the company (they won the WWE versions of the titles). In 2017 they made history as the only team to hold the TNA and ROH Tag Team titles simultaneously thanks to the power of tape delay (That’s not quite to the level of Rick Rude appearing on Raw and Nitro on the same night but it’s close).
They made their WWE return at WrestleMania 33 and are arguably the greatest tag team in WWE history. As long as Matt stays in shape and Jeff stays clean, the two should continue to be one of the most popular tag teams for years to come.