The modern day wrestling industry allows for the talent to stay around for a very long time, sometimes long past the time that they’re welcome to many fans. On the other side of that coin, very often when older talent shows up the “one more match” chants start from a very excited live audience. The WWE enjoys bringing older guys back in on the regular, mostly for fan nostalgia purposes. In the old days, a lot of talent stuck around as long as crowds would have them. Bruno Sammartino worked in the business for over three decades, while the Fabulous Moolah began working in the 1940s and was still making appearances on WWE television in the 1990s. Mae West started working in the 1930s and was still involved with WWE as late as 2013!
The Big Show gets the crowed chanting at him to retire, while The Undertaker brings fans to their knees with emotion at the very suggestion of his retirement. It takes a lot to stay fresh enough to still get into the squared circle, it a young person’s game to be sure. If you’re going to pull off one more leg drop or that wicked frog splash, then your body had better be in top physical condition. What does it take to keep getting into the ring? These guys could tell you. Here are 15 wrestlers that refuse to let go of their in-ring careers.
Rob Van Dam is an absolute machine. He helped change what American fans expect in the ring. He began his career almost thirty years ago, working indie territories, before moving to WCW and eventually making is name in Paul Heyman’s ECW promotion. His extreme ariel style and feuds with other hardcore specialists, like Sabu, elevated him to the main event. He eventually moved up to the WWE after five years with ECW. He has come and gone from the WWE over the years. “Mr. Monday Night” held numerous championships at WWE and when he wasn’t working for Vinnie Mac’s muscle machine he went to TNA for a few years to grace the Impact Zone with his thrilling frog splash. Rob has since returned to the WWE yet again for a run and then continued to battle on the indie scene. Its doubtful we’ve seen the last of him in the squared circle. You never know where he’ll pop-up next!
14. Kevin Nash
Big Sexy is the gift that keeps on giving to the wrestling world. He had an illustrious career as Diesel in the WWE, before defecting over to work for Eric Bischoff, alongside his pal Scott Hall, to form The Outsiders and ultimately the nWo. He has caught a ton of heat over the years, both in the industry and from fans, for helping to book the WCW roster into obscurity. He recovered and moved on into the WWE awhile after the WCW was bought out and reformed the nWo with Hogan and Hall. He continued to make appearances in the WWE from time to time, eventually moving over to TNA and working for many years there, as well. Nash has since moved into acting in films like Magic Mike and garnered more mainstream attention. Nash hasn’t retired from in-ring action still to this day and is rumored to be coming back again soon!
13. Kurt Angle
Kurt Angle is a wrestling legend. He won the Olympic gold with a broken frickin’ neck, after all. He made the WWE Hall of Fame this year and he’s currently residing as the Monday Night Raw general manager. He was also inducted into the International Sports Hall of Fame last year. Angle is the ultimate all-American athlete and since he’s overcome his addiction issues, he’s back on track for many more years in the business.
Angle worked for several years in the WWE, before moving over to TNA and making a huge name for himself wrestling in the Impact Zone. He has also been working the indie promotions around the world, before recently coming back to the WWE. He is far from an in-ring retirement and he’s likely to lace-up his boots for Vinnie Mac sooner than later.
12. Bubba Ray Dudley/Bully Ray
You may know him better as Bubba Ray Dudley, but whenever he leaves the WWE he reverts to his in-ring name of Bully Ray. He was brought into the ECW very early in his career and made his name alongside D-Von as the tag team known as The Dudley Boyz. They dominated in the ECW, before moving up to the WWE for a few years, bringing their table smashing madness to Vinnie Mac. Then, they moved over to TNA where Bully Ray would eventually be born. He spent a decade in TNA, working with big names like AJ Styles and Hulk Hogan. His Bully Ray persona was as popular as a face as it was heel, eventually placing him in the Aces & Eights stable. He has come back to the WWE for a nostalgic Dudley Boyz run and he’s currently working in Ring of Honor.
11. The Hardys
The Hardy brothers worked the indie circuit for a long while before joining the WWE. Once there, Matt and Jeff helped to revolutionize tag team wrestling. Their ladder matches are still the thing of legend. They eventually split and had strong singles runs, before departing in 2010 and working for the competition over at TNA. It was there that they both grew and honed their character work, with Matt realizing his full creative masterpiece, the broken universe. Broken Matt Hardy would generate a gigantic buzz throughout 2016 and soon enough Vinnie Mac came calling. They re-emerged at WrestleMania 33 and have been working as a nostalgia act ever since. Its only a matter of time before they debut their “broken” versions, ensuring a lot more in-ring action for years to come.
10. Mark Henry
Mark Henry made his name as “the world’s strongest man” by winning national weightlifting and powerlifting competitions. He came into the WWE in 1996 and has been a loyal staple of the company ever since. He has feuded with everyone from The Undertaker to Goldberg over the years. Henry has been billed as an unstoppable wrecking machine inducting opponents into his “house of pain” to the highly comical character, Sexual Chocolate. No matter what angle the WWE puts him in, Henry gives it his all like a true professional. It isn’t likely he’ll be leaving action anytime soon, in fact the last time we thought that he was retiring, it was just a way to catch Cena off guard and attack him.
9. Big Show
He was The Giant in WCW, a part of the nWo and the most exciting big man that the WWE had for a very long time. The Big Show has flipped between heel and babyface so often over the years that he sometimes forgets what he’s supposed to be when heading out of gorilla position. Its one of the biggest ongoing jokes in pro-wrestling, when will the Big Show retire? He always seems to show up, just in time to annoy the smarks that boo him, urging him to hang up his boots. Just when you think his time may be coming, Show loses a ton of weight and gets in the best shape he’s been in for two decades. Then, he has some mindblowing matches with Braun Strowman, proving yet again that not only is he a legend, but a true professional. He has eluded to retirement soon, but we’ll believe it when we see it.
8. Shane Douglas
Shane “The Franchise” Douglas is a veteran in the wrestling business. He got his start in the earlier days of WCW and since worked in the WWF, TNA and of course ECW. His major success came in ECW, where he reigned for a few years in the mid 1990s as their main event guy. He’s notorious for disrespecting the NWA title and his all around difficult to get along with attitude. Despite the occasional heat from other wrestlers, Shane has managed to have a fantastic career that has spanned decades. He worked in TNA until 2009, feuding with top talent like Christopher Daniels. Shane is currently working the indie circuit, making regular appearances. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him show up on a major promotion again in the near future!
7. Mick Foley
If Terry Funk is the master of hardcore, then Foley is certainly a hardcore legend. Mick’s body has taken a serious beating over the years, not the least of which includes tables, fire, barbed wire, thumbtacks and being thrown off Hell in a Cell by The Undertaker. That would be enough to kill most people, but not Mick. He has had further runs with the company, before moving off to TNA to further brutalize his body. He has finally taken a calmer role, by taking over as the Monday Night Raw general manager last year. He’s departed from the role or now, to get a hip surgery that he’s been needing for a long while. If all goes well, maybe we’ll get to see Mick in one last match?
6. Hulk Hogan
The Hulkster has had an amazing career full of innovation and rebirth. He’s had lot of personal issues in recent years, but Hogan always finds a way to land on his feet. The WWF is the house that Vince and Hogan built together and even after his glory days of the 1980s babyface were over, he managed to completely shock the world and help shape wrestling yet again for a new decade in WCW by turning heel and forming the nWo with Hall and Nash. He kept the Hollywood Hogan routine going into the WWE after they bought out WCW and has even had babyface runs again in the company. TNA brought him in with Eric Bischoff to try and help re-create the magic of the Monday Night War. He’s been out of the ring lately, but the Hulkster still looks like a million bucks and will take the first chance he can get to hit the squared circle, even if its just on a microphone.
The Demon Kane debuted in 1997 as the brother of the Undertaker and a big red menace in the WWE. The man who portrays Kane, Glenn Jacobs, spent time in the WWE prior to the Kane gimmick, with some goofier characters, but it’s Kane that will define his career. He’s managed to stay relevant by constantly re-inventing himself within the confines of his same character. What began as an otherworldly monster was eventually hugging it out with Daniel Bryan. Jacobs has announced his foray into politics recently, but don’t worry that won’t keep him out of the ring. He’s made it very clear that as long as he can still perform and enjoy himself, he has no intention of hanging up his boots for some time to come.
4. The Undertaker
The Undertaker has been a mainstay in the industry for over 25 years and it was probably time for him to hang his hat long ago now, at least physically, but Mark Calloway refuses to quit. When his WrestleMania streak was broken by Brock Lesnar you would think that was a perfect time to quit, after being brutalized in the ring by The Beast and sent to the hospital. Nothing keeps the Deadman down, he kept on competing at WrestleMania annually and even participated in the Royal Rumble this year. The rumor is that his final match was WrestleMania 33, but even then we have had no official confirmation or word from Taker on the subject, so you never know when the lord of darkness may show is head again….probably when we least expect it. What an amazing pop that would get.
3. Ric Flair
The Nature Boy is possibly one of the most celebrated wrestlers still walking the Earth today. Ric Flair has done it all, he’s won championships in every major promotion (and several minor ones too!) from NWA to WCW and the WWE. Flair styled and profiled his way through decades of pro-wrestling fame and fortune, until what was supposed to be his final match at WrestleMania XXIV against Shawn Michaels. That match is regarded by many fans as one of the most emotional and amazing matches of the last decade. Flair wasn’t done yet, though, not by a longshot. He would continue to work in Ring of Honor and TNA for years. He recently returned to the WWE to valet and support his rising star daughter, Charlotte Flair. Its not likely that Flair will stop making his way to the ring anytime soon.
2. Triple H
There is no greater WWE success story than that of Triple H. Triple H began his career as another big wrestler with a ton of potential. He would rise to infamy during the Monday Night War, alongside Shawn Michaels in D-Generation X. His story could have ended there, but as it turns out Trips fell in love with the daughter of the boss and married into the family and with it the company itself. He’s taken on a corporate role over the last several years, bringing the WWE developmental territory from a failure to a great success with NXT. He still makes the occasional appearance in the ring, but only once or twice a year. Trips is still in amazing shape, so returns are never out of the question, if it’s whats best for business.
1. Daniel Bryan
Daniel Bryan had probably the most wonderfully paced and executed build that fans have been in ages. His ultimate win at WrestleMania XXX could not have been a more glorious moment and the “YES” chants continue to be his everlasting contribution to the industry. He was sidelined by the WWE, due to concern about his physical status, but Bryan insists that his own doctors have cleared him. A recent Twitter post by Bryan eluded to the fact that he has only had his last match in a WWE ring…not necessarily his last match. He’s running SmackDown Live! as the general manager for now, but it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see Daniel jump ship to Ring of Honor or New Japan once his WWE contract is up.
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