When your dreams haven't been realized by the age of 40, the line you'll always get from loved ones is, it's never too late. Sometimes we hit a point in our lives where we wonder if we've peaked or if we could have done more in our past. Could we have made our lives a greater success if we had changed a few things?
In professional wrestling, careers tend to peak in a wrestler's late 20s or early 30s. Stone Cold Steve Austin didn't get his big break in the business until he into his mid 30s. Diamond Dallas Page didn't even begin wrestling until his late 30s. Not everybody can be a Brock Lesnar or Randy Orton type, who were both champions by the time they were 25 years old.
There are wrestlers like Hogan and Flair who won their first world titles in their prime years, yet would continue to get world title reigns into their 40s. Sting was the TNA World Champion well into his 50s. Sometimes wrestlers get better as they age, having built up so much experience and being in the game so long that they've mastered ring psychology. Others just get better at politicking their way to "one last" title run.
This list will focus on the oldest wrestlers to win a world title. It will be counted from a wrestler's latest title run, rather than when they first won the title. That means you'll see Hogan's last world title run as his entry, ditto with Flair.
For the purposes of this list, the entries will be composed of WWE, ECW, TNA and the NWA/WCW world champions from major promotions. Also, a wrestler can only appear on this list once, so you won't see Savage, Flair or Hogan five times each.
15 The Rock - 40 years, 270 days
The Rock's gap between world titles lasted over 10 years. Prior to his WWE comeback, The Great One's last world title win came at Vengeance 2002 at the prime age of 30. The Rock retired from full-time competition shortly after that and we thought we'd never see him regain it. Following his return in 2011 and his victory over John Cena at WrestleMania XXVIII, it seemed more plausible. The Rock announced on the 1,000th episode of RAW that he'd be challenging the champion at the 2013 Royal Rumble, whoever it may be.
It turned out to be CM Punk who carried a 434-day reign into the event. Fans have mixed feelings on this one. On one hand, it was great to see The Rock have a big moment, regaining the title after over a decade. On the other hand, Punk's amazing reign came to an end at the hands of a part timer. Either way, The Rock won it and held it until WrestleMania XXIX, where he lost it in the rematch with John Cena.
14 Batista - 41 years, 34 days
Had it not been for Daniel Bryan's epic rise to the top in 2014, Batista may have very well been higher on this list, as you have to believe WWE's original plans were for him to win the title from Orton at the age of 45.
Instead, Batista's last title win came at the age of 41. After John Cena had won the title in an Elimination Chamber match, Batista cashed in on a favor from Vince McMahon, who gave him a title match against an exhausted Cena. Batista quickly beat Cena, setting up a program for WrestleMania XXVI, where The Animal would drop the title right back to Cena. Batista would leave the company two months later.
13 Kane - 43 years, 83 days
It seemed like an odd choice for Kane to win the world championship at 43 years old. After winning the Money in the Bank ladder match at the concept's inaugural PPV in 2010, Kane would cash in that same night on Rey Mysterio, winning his first world title in 12 years. While Kane deserved a title run, it should have happened about 7-10 years earlier, while Kane was still among the best performers in the company. It just seemed to be a tad too late. His reign included his best success against The Undertaker, defeating him at multiple PPVs. He would eventually lose the title to Edge.
12 Mick Foley - 43 years, 317 days
It was safe to think that by 2008, Mick Foley's in-ring wrestling career was done. He had transitioned as an announcer in WWE, but problems with the boss saw Foley leave in the summer of 2008. Foley quickly signed with TNA, presumably just to be an on-screen character and not an active wrestler. However Foley soon found himself wrestling and even received a world title match against Sting at Lockdown 2009. Foley would win the cage match by taking a huge jump from the top of the cage to the outside. He would lose the title to Kurt Angle at that year's Slammiversary.
11 DDP - 44 years, 19 days
A late bloomer in the wrestling business, Diamond Dallas Page only began wrestling in his late 30s. After years of essentially the same guys holding the world title in WCW, Page finally got his first reign in 1999, defeating Sting, Hogan and Flair in a four way dance at Spring Stampede. DDP's last reign is what we're counting here though, which would come on the April 24, 2000 episode of Nitro, defeating Jeff Jarrett for the strap. The reign would only last three days, as David Arquette would win it on Thunder...
10 The Undertaker - 44 years, 194 days
It's amazing that one of Taker's longest world title reigns was his last one, at the age of 44. Undertaker returned at SummerSlam 2009 to begin a feud with CM Punk. After a screwjob finish at the Battleground PPV that September, The Phenom would win the World Heavyweight Championship from Punk at Hell in a Cell that October. Taker would lose the title at Elimination Chamber 2010, thanks to Shawn Michaels, which set up their WrestleMania rematch.
9 Bob Backlund - 45 years, 101 days
Bob Backlund's world title run in WWE at the age of 45 was to transition the title between two faces. Bret Hart had a great year as champion in 1994, but Vince McMahon wanted to head into 1995 with a face Diesel as his top star. In order to keep the two faces from clashing right away, Hart dropped the title to Backlund at Survivor Series 1994, after his corner threw in the towel during an I Quit Match. Backlund would only hold the title for a few days, losing it to Diesel in mere seconds at a house show.
8 Kurt Angle - 46 years, 53 days
Signs point to Kurt Angle's most recent title reign in TNA being his last, as he's announced he's taking a sabbatical from pro wrestling in January when his contract expires. Angle won the TNA World Title on an episode of Impact taped two months in advance. Angle would win his first title in three years, defeating Bobby Lashley. The episode aired in March, but in reality Angle won the title in January. Here's to hoping Kurt has one final run in WWE before he retires for good.
7 Randy Savage - 46 years, 238 days
Randy Savage would win several world titles well into his 40s in WCW, but his latest one is what lands him the seventh spot. The Macho Man's fourth world title reign began at Bash at the Beach 1999. Savage won the title teaming with Sid Vicious in a tag match against Kevin Nash and Sting, with Nash's title on the line. Savage's last reign was forgettable, as he'd lose it to Hogan the next night on Nitro. Classic WCW; Savage wins the title one night, Hogan wins it the next.
6 Lou Thesz - 46 years, 275 days
Lou Thesz won his first world title at the age of 21 and being the mega star that he was, he kept winning titles as he got older, his latest coming at the age of 46. Back in 1963, Thesz was voted by NWA officials to be the man to dethrone Nature Boy Buddy Rogers. Legend has it that Rogers was hesitant to drop the title to Thesz, but Thesz's legitimate shoot fighting skills intimidated Rogers into doing the job.
Promoters from Rogers' territory didn't like the move and as a result, broke away from the national pact and began their own promotion. Which promotion was that? The World Wide Wrestling Federation.
5 Hulk Hogan - 48 years, 253 days
Triple H thought he was the best backstage politician? Eat your heart out Hunter, because here... comes... Hogan, brother! Two months after his WWE return in 2002, Hogan was given a title shot at Triple H's Undisputed Championship, a title he had just won at WrestleMania X-8 in a sentimental comeback story from a torn quad.
Hogan was just riding a tidal wave of nostalgia and it's very likely Vince just decided to run with it while he could. With some help from The Undertaker, Hogan won the WWE Undisputed title at the age of 48. Hogan would drop it to Taker a month later.
4 Ric Flair - 51 years, 94 days
The WCW title in 2000 was essentially a toy being passed around. There seemed to be a different champion every week and unfortunately for Ric Flair, his last world title reign is a mere footnote. On an episode of Nitro, after Nash won the title from Jeff Jarrett, he handed Flair the title, saying that Flair had never really lost it (he was stripped of the title from Russo a week prior). To make matters worse, Flair would lost the title that same night back to Jarrett. That was WCW 2000 in a nutshell.
3 Sting - 52 years, 113 days
Sting's latest world title run came on a July 2011 episode of Impact. Sting is one of the top star's in TNA's history and his run with the company gave it some legitimacy. He had multiple title reigns in his time there, but his latest one came at the age of 52. Sting would win the title from Mr. Anderson, but would lose it to Kurt Angle a month later. It's amazing that a few weeks ago, Sting could have won the title at age 56.
2 Terry Funk - 52 years, 287 days
Terry Funk was the biggest name ECW had for a long time. The company had split from the NWA, but before Funk, it was mostly made up of guys looking for their first break in the wrestling business. In 1997, Funk would win ECW's world title at 52 years old. ECW needed to make some noise at their inaugural PPV, so they decided to have Funk face Raven for their world title. It was a great night for fans of hardcore wrestling.
1 Vince McMahon - 54 years, 23 days
Okay sure, he was "ECW" World Champion at the age of 61, but does the WWE's version of the ECW title really count as a world title? Nonetheless, McMahon was 54 years old when he won his own company's world title on a September 1999 episode of Smackdown. McMahon had returned as a face to confront Triple H, in defense of his wife Linda. Triple H would give McMahon a shot at his title and thanks to help from his old nemesis Stone Cold, McMahon became the WWE's oldest champion ever. He would vacate it a few days later and Triple H would regain it at Unforgiven.