One of the more fun things about wrestling is that you can never predict how long someone will be able to perform before retiring. NFL players typically end their careers in their early 30s and that number is shrinking every year with the dreadful injuries in the sport. NBA and MLB stars are often playing into their late 30s before hanging it up. There’s no formula in wrestling, as the scripted aspect works to the advantage there. The most athletic talent gets the top spots in sports because it’s a real competition that sees the late 20-year-olds dominate the game. Wrestling is all about drawing money and legends can work at any age as long as WWE is fine with it.
Many of the wrestlers on the last few WrestleMania cards were up there in age with the selling point of name recognition getting fans to tune in. Sting main evented a PPV for the WWE Championship against Seth Rollins at the age of 56 in 2015. Triple H just main evented WrestleMania as the WWE Champion at 46 years old. The differences in ages create interesting matchups between various talents allowing so many dream matches to be possible. We’ll never be able to see Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James in the NBA due to the age gap, but WWE was able to give us Hulk Hogan vs. The Rock in 2002.
While wrestlers can wrestle longer than other athletes can compete, that doesn’t mean it always makes sense. Between the risks of putting their health on the line with the very real dangers in the ring and the cold landscape of only being worthwhile if drawing money, not everyone will have long careers in WWE. The company is currently having a bit of a youth movement with NXT’s rise creating new stars. Along with the timing, that means many of the current stars are on borrowed time. Looking into the future, we will attempt to forecast the roster changes WWE will see in the next four years and predict the top fifteen wrestlers that will retire by 2020.
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15 The Undertaker
No one has ever been as respected in the eyes of the WWE Universe as The Undertaker. Twenty-five years of dominance and entertainment has made all wrestling fans appreciate the work he has given the company but the 51-year-old can’t continue to defy the aging process for much longer. The one-to-five match per year schedule has convinced The Undertaker to keep going with an annual WrestleMania appearance being the centerpiece of the show. We are likely a couple of matches away from The Undertaker finally retiring and heading into the sunset. An eventual match with John Cena seems like the ideal way to go out on the grandest stage of them all with one more classic. Odds are, Taker won't be on the roster four years from now.
At one point, the WWE looked like they wanted to build the company around Ryback with the hopes that he would blossom into one of their bigger stars, but it really never worked out. Vince McMahon probably would have banked on Ryback being a multiple time World Champion heading into 2020 but Ryback will likely be retired from the wrestling industry without a single main title reign. The Big Guy has expressed his frustrations with the booking of his character over the past few years and threatened to leave if things don’t change in the near future. Ryback’s time is up and he’ll never have another big push, so expect him to leave the wrestling industry in the next few years.
13 Mark Henry
There’s absolutely no chance Mark Henry is still wrestling come 2020. The World’s Strongest Man has been in the WWE system for over two decades and is reaching the age where he’ll have to hang up the boots. Henry has been teasing retirement for quite some time and revealed his goal was to last until WrestleMania 32 in his home state of Texas. The years of wear and tear have added up to the point where it is impossible to envision Henry lasting much longer. Mark seems wise enough to have saved his money and he’ll be able to retire peacefully without wrestling in other promotions once his WWE tenure ends in the near future.
The Hart family is synonymous with greatness in the wrestling industry, Nattie has done the name proud with a respectable WWE career. Natalya was never the centerpiece of the women’s division but she may be the unsung hero in between the Diva and Revolution time periods. At the age of 33, she is on the back end of her WWE career as the female performers are out of the company in their late 30s. Natalya will most likely be done with in-ring wrestling in general and move on to another career along with her husband. Tyson Kidd will be officially forced into retirement due to his neck injury unless something drastically changes and Natalya will join him at some point before 2020.
Goldust is the perfect case of age not always telling the story of a performer’s condition. The second generation Rhodes is 47-years-old but can hang with the younger stars of the WWE when given the chance. Goldust is being used rather inconsistently but he gives a great performance every time and is one of the more popular live event talents. Goldust is currently working a part-time schedule, as the company is keeping him off television and using him more as a live event performer. This may be an indication that his journey is slowly coming to an end. Goldust’s career is on its last legs and he’ll be done working in the ring by 2020. Rhodes is highly respected and could become a head trainer or lead agent for the company.
His ability to continue to work a full time WWE schedule with very little injury is a true badge of honor for Kane. The Big Red Machine is 49-years-old but is as jacked as anyone on the active roster today. Kane’s time has to be coming to an end with new stars replacing him and his dreaded 50th birthday nearing. As much as WWE loves Kane, there’s no way he’ll be able to keep an in-ring career going in 2020 with his body having to catch up to his age at some point. Kane will probably be in the Hall of Fame a year or two after retirement and there’s a better chance of that happening by 2020, rather than him continuing to wrestle.
9 Nikki Bella
Nikki Bella's wrestling career is up in the air following her recent injury issues as documented on Total Divas. Nikki likely has a very short shelf life before her WWE career comes to an end and the Bellas are WWE lifers that will never wrestle in another promotion. The twins were already in the stages of planning for retirement with Brie recently departing the company in early 2016. Nikki may make a return to the squared circle but there’s no chance she lasts until 2020 before hanging it up.
R-Truth has evolved into a veteran on the roster and is a very popular presence in the locker room. The athletic talent is already putting more time and effort into his rapping career with the hopes of setting up a life after wrestling. The writing is on the wall that R-Truth only has a few years left in the WWE and he will be definitely be finished in the next four years. Goldust and R-Truth becoming a comedic tag team seems like the last hurrah for both men on television before they eventually are asked to step aside for new talent to fill all the open roles.
7 Chris Jericho
The highly respected veteran Chris Jericho makes part-time appearances for months at a time and is still in peak physical condition. Jericho may not have the ability to match the young stars of today but he can keep up and carry his own weight. The in-ring career of Jericho has to be on its final legs as the future Hall of Famer may be having his final relevant run. We are definitely seeing a decline from him but it's not noticeable enough to make it embarrassing. Jericho is not one to keep going into a sad state like Ric Flair or Hulk Hogan did. We will see Jericho’s official retirement come in the next couple of years.
Lana is an absolutely stunning beauty and quite the talented actress as seen with her commitment to the WWE gimmick by never breaking her Russian accent. WWE definitely sees her value and have tried to push her in a very ineffective manner. Lana is destined to get more acting roles and very appealing offers outside of the wrestling world. Lana's in-ring progression doesn’t appear to be blooming, as she's seen very little action following her sole match in the ten-woman tag match at WrestleMania 32. Rusev benefits from having her as an on-screen manager but the real life couple will probably both benefit from her retiring from wrestling to enter new fields.
5 Brock Lesnar
Brock Lesnar's wrestling career is always fascinating to watch in terms of his always changing future. Lesnar does not have a love for pro wrestling but happens to be very good at it and loves the money that comes along with the gig. It is nothing more than a job for Brock and he’ll never wrestle unless it’s for major money that only WWE can offer. There will come a time where WWE no longer agrees to pay Lesnar his massive contract for very few appearances. The ratings and Network numbers don’t necessarily improve with Brock’s rare matches. Expect WWE to offer him less money in the next couple of years and for Brock to leave the business after saving his money.
4 Big Show
Big Show is like the “friendly uncle” in WWE. You’re not interested in seeing him every day, but you remember how fun he is when you see him a couple of times a year. Big Show has become one of the more popular live event attractions with fans eating up his antics in the live atmosphere. The lovable giant is 44-years-old and has gone on record to say that he's planning to retire in the next two years. Fans chant “please retire” at Big Show in good fun but everyone will appreciate The World’s Largest Athlete when he departs from the WWE in the next few years.
3 Eva Marie
WWE desperately wants Eva Marie to become one of the faces of the women’s division. The 90s would have seen her become a star due to her unbelievable looks and marketability. The problem is Eva is just awful at wrestling and fans demand a higher level of athlete with the Divas Revolution changing the landscape of the division. One day, the experiment will end as she fails to get a better grasp of the in-ring aspect and Eva will retire to become a full-time model or enter acting field like many other women have previously.
2 The Miz
The Miz's recent push as Intercontinental Champion has us wondering if he’ll be able to return to the main event scene, but it seems rather unlikely. The Miz has taken a huge decline from year to year following his WWE Title reign and it’s become clear WWE doesn’t ever intend to make him a big player but loves what he brings to the table. Miz is the model employee that goes above and beyond to do what the company wants in terms of marketing and doing media work. The master of the microphone also talks a great game with stellar promos as a perfect annoying heel character. The ingredients make Miz the best choice for a color commentator. Miz retiring from active performing for a talking role by 2020 seems like a given and it will be for the best.
1 John Cena
Most of the top stars in the wrestling industry work into their mid-40s unless an injury shortens their career but John Cena has the makings for being the exception to the rule. Cena gives everything he has to the WWE when on the clock but has quite an array of desires outside of the wrestling business. His acting career and business aspect of Cena’s life will only grow as he gets older and attempts to change his priorities. The recent injuries and aging process have to be weighing on Cena’s mind. John may be the richest man in wrestling history (excluding The Rock’s money from acting) and can leave any time he wants to. His effort being put into outside projects makes Cena the prime candidate to retire in the next four years before injuries damage his future endeavors.
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