The 1980s was a golden decade for the professional wrestling industry. Vince McMahon helped turn the WWE into a national wrestling territory that eventually swallowed up its competitors one by one. World Championship Wrestling went from being a television show and a brand to emerging as its own organization, one that would, in the 1990s, directly compete with the WWE. There were jobs available for stars and also for midcard workers who would not perform in main-event spots, and fans who had plenty of time on their hands and also the ability to record television could watch hours upon hours of different wrestling programs on a weekly basis.
Some wrestlers evolved from being stars to only fans who watched shows put on by the WWE and the National Wrestling Alliance to household names recognized by even casual viewers. Hulk Hogan was one of the wrestlers responsible for making WrestleMania a massive success that propelled the WWE to the top of the industry. 2015 has been rather unkind to the Hulkster, as comments that he made in the past came back to haunt him and led to World Wrestling Entertainment parting ways with the wrestler. “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, on the other hand, still pops up on WWE television every now and again.
Then, there are the stories of the wrestling stars from the 80s that are somewhat hard to read. One man has been on an up-and-down roller coaster ride of a personal life and the hope is that his latest attempt to save himself has been successful. Some others have found jobs working for the WWE, either as agents or as tutors for acts who hope to be the next great stars to work in the wrestling business. The wrestling world is better today than it was in the 1980s in several ways. With that said, it is understandable that fans would feel nostalgic about what was a special time for the industry.
15 Greg Valentine
Take a journey over to the Wikipedia page for Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, and you may be surprised to see that the word “retired” is not mentioned in the introduction. That's because Valentine continues to be active. The star of the 80s has been known for making appearances at independent wrestling shows and he was a member of the “Legends of Wrestling” roster that toured to different spots in the United States during the summer of 2015. Valentine also made news this year when he ripped female wrestlers during an interview. That did not win him over many fans.
14 Tito Santana
Tito Santana won the WWE Intercontinental Championship on multiple occasions as a solo act. Santana also won gold as a tag team wrestler. These days, the star of the 80s has what some would consider to be a more important job: Teaching youths. Santana works as a full-time teacher in New Jersey, where he has been living for decades. He also served as a coach for the school's basketball team. This portion of Santana's life has been featured in stories produced by outlets such as Yahoo Sports and SI.com. Santana's family also owns a salon, where you may see him signing an autograph or two for fans.
13 Ted DiBiase
The “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase played a classic heel, one who had more money than all of us combined, during the 80s. DiBiase, the man, still makes appearances at events such as Minor League Baseball games and conventions. He has also been utilized by the WWE for WWE Network shows now and again. A born-again Christian who has publicly spoken about his faith on numerous occasions, DiBiase is also the founder of the Heart of David Ministry. That foundation, per DiBiase's website, has a goal “of challenging men and women to strive to be dedicated followers of Christ.”
12 Road Warrior Animal
The surviving half of the famous Road Warriors/Legion of Doom tag team that dominated opponents in the 80s still makes appearances at independent wrestling shows. Animal explained during an interview for the “Jobbing Out” podcast (h/t Wrestle Zone) that he approached the WWE about a job before Dusty Rhodes passed away in 2015:
“I’ve approached them. Dusty had approached them on my behalf…But for whatever reason, the office has their favorite guys. I understand that. One of the first deals I made when I signed with Vince McMahon was that I said when I was done that I wanted to coach. But it’s water under the bridge, it ain’t gonna happen. It’s never going to happen.”
11 Jim Duggan
You may be surprised to see just how busy “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan continues to be if you were to search out his name via your favorite Internet search source. Duggan may throw out the first pitch at a Minor League Baseball game on one day and he may then appear on a wrestling podcast the next. His days of being atop of wrestling cards are well in the past, but he continues to be involved in the industry. Duggan is one of the more famous names currently associated with the Global Force Wrestling organization that has been launched by Jeff Jarrett. A company run by Jarrett: What could go wrong?
10 Jesse Ventura
There are all kinds of words that could be used to describe Jesse “The Body” Ventura. “Boring” would not be one of them. The former wrestler who also worked as a commentator for the WWE and WCW went on to enjoy a successful political career, one that saw him become the Governor of Minnesota. Once he left office, Ventura began making headlines for voicing opinions on a variety of conspiracy theories. He now serves as the host of the program Off the Grid that airs on online channel Ora. Ventura and Howard Stern have, in the past, joked on Stern's Sirius XM show that the two should run for office on the same ticket. That would shake up the White House and Washington if they won.
9 Rock 'n' Roll Express
Remember when Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson looked to be well past their primes when they were working as the Rock 'n' Roll Express in WCW during the 1990s? Well, the wrestling stars of the 80s are still at it as of the posting of this piece. One of the best tag teams of their time still makes appearances at wrestling shows, such as one in October of 2015, which will have a main event involving Jerry Lawler and Terry Funk. Any young wrestlers who would one day want to be part of a babyface tag team should go back and watch old Rock 'n' Roll Express matches. Take notes, students, of how its done.
8 Ricky Steamboat
It was not all that long ago when Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat showed that he could still go inside of the wrestling ring. Steamboat worked a program with Chris Jericho back in 2009, and the legend and member of the Hall of Fame looked pretty good during that feud. His participation in such WWE matches came to an end after Steamboat was legitimately hospitalized following a storyline beat-down at the hands of the Nexus. Steamboat has since served as a trainer for the NXT brand and is now an ambassador for the WWE. You can run into Steamboat these days at events such as local Comic Cons.
7 Bob Backlund
The babyface character of Bob Backlund eventually became a throwback gimmick that was no longer over with some fans during the 80s. He enjoyed a second run as a heel in the 90s, and Backlund has, over the years, made appearances with Total Nonstop Action Wrestling and with the WWE. Backlund's name was back in wrestling headlines in the fall of 2015 with the release of his autobiography. Through Backlund: From All-American Boy to Professional Wrestling's World Champion, the retired wrestler shares his feelings on multiple topics. One example is Brock Lesnar, who has a fan in Backlund.
6 Gene Okerlund
“Mean” Gene Okerlund was, for wrestling fans who grew up watching the product in the 80s, the voice of the WWE. Okerlund was part of the WWE Network program Legends' House, a show that aired on the Network in 2014, and he is now somewhat of a spokesman for the company. The former announcer routinely promotes different WWE events and merchandise via his Twitter account. He also uses the social media platform to inform fans about his upcoming appearances. You can, so long as he is healthy and well, count on Okerlund appearing at WrestleMania weekend events.
5 The Iron Sheik
Perhaps the real question here is: “Where isn't the Iron Sheik?” The former world champion who is rarely shy about sharing his opinions about anything supposedly has at least some control of his Twitter page and that account has been responsible for sending out hot takes. Whether he is taking shots at Hulk Hogan or commenting on something in the world of politics, Sheik's 493,000 Twitter followers are seemingly entertained whenever he posts. A documentary about Sheik has been created and wrestling fans can purchase that movie via iTunes.
4 Arn Anderson
The “Enforcer” of pro wrestling stable The Four Horsemen had to retire as an active in-ring performer in the 1990s because of the injuries that he has sustained during his career. Arn Anderson has remained a part of the industry since that time and he is currently employed by the WWE. He works as a road agent for the company and he is seen in the background at shows every now and again. The so-called “Four Horsewomen” who are attempting to forge a path of their own as part of the “Divas Revolution” should seek out Anderson for advice. Who better to help with such a cause?
3 Jim Ross
Before he had any relationship with the WWE and before he was known for creating barbecue sauces, Good Ol' J.R. was making a name for himself as an announcer working for Jim Crockett Promotions, the National Wrestling Alliance and WCW. Jim Ross and the WWE have had an awkward relationship over the years, but the fact that he is no longer with the company does not mean that Ross has put his microphone away for good. Ross has taken on multiple projects since his days in the WWE. He has announced on mixed martial arts shows and also for a New Japan Pro Wrestling event.
2 Terry Funk
Here is some news that should be shocking to absolutely nobody who has followed this man's career: Terry Funk is still wrestling despite the fact that he is 71-years-old. Funk and Jerry “The King” Lawler were scheduled to face off inside of a wrestling ring near the end of October 2015 as of the posting of this piece. Maybe this will be the actual retirement match for the hardcore icon who helped put Extreme Championship Wrestling on the map. It is more likely, however, that Funk will continue having matches now and again so long as he is physically able to enter rings.
1 Jake Roberts
Odds are that you are at least somewhat familiar about the personal battles that Jake “The Snake” Roberts has been through over the decades. The master of the “DDT” finishing move has been downed by his demons time and time again, but he has managed to get back on his feet thanks, in part, to Diamond Dallas Page. Roberts has credited Page and the DDP Yoga program for helping him get and stay clean. “The Resurrection of Jake Roberts” is a documentary about the fall and then rise of “The Snake,” and it is a positive story about one of the biggest wrestling stars of the 80s. Here's hoping the story has a happy ending.
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