In the modern WWE landscape – full of not just weekly TV tapings and house shows, but also frequent international tours – staying healthy and in good “ring shape” is particularly difficult. And indeed, the wear and tear of wrestling, an increasingly physical style, has taken its toll on many members of the WWE roster. The company has had to recalibrate and readjust on quite a few occasions when its top performers have succumbed to injury. In several cases, this has upset plans for major storylines, and even caused recently crowned champions to relinquish their titles (see: Daniel Bryan, Finn Balor, etc.).
These accidents have underscored the importance of always having a plan B – as well as the value of wrestlers who, by hook or by crook, are somehow able to avoid being placed on the disabled list. While there aren’t a ton of top tier wrestlers in WWE who haven’t missed significant amounts of ring time in recent years, there are a select few who’ve (for the most part) managed to stay healthy. The performers on this list have all experienced their fair share of bumps and bruises – sometimes even causing them to take a month or two off. But, by and large, they’ve endured years of in-ring competition and still been able to report to work most of the time.
15. Heath Slater
Despite currently being one-half of Smackdown‘s tag team champions, Heath Slater rarely finds himself achieving such success for long periods of time. In fact, in the grand scheme of things, his win-loss record looks a lot more like it belongs to the Brooklyn Brawler than to Shawn Michaels. Still, despite not having heaps of championship wins to include in his resume, Slater has consistently been in the mix of WWE programming. From being a member of several prominent factions (the Nexus, the Corre, Three Man Band, etc.) to his less successful solo outings, the self-proclaimed “One Man Rock Band” always seems to have something going on. If that seems surprising, consider the fact that Slater is very good at taking care of himself. Considering he’s been such a dependable hand since his 2010 main roster debut, it’s no wonder that Slater is given so many chances to show his stuff in the ring.
14. Sin Cara
Though the Sin Cara character has been a fixture of WWE programming since 2011, the man who currently portrays him (Jorge Arias, aka Hunico) has been active for more than a decade – dating back to his 2004 debut for Mexico’s AAA promotion. Beginning with his 2007 debut for former WWE developmental territory Florida Championship Wrestling (an early version of NXT), Arias has thrived despite a high risk style. He did finally need some time off earlier this year when, while competing as one half of the Lucha Dragons, he dislocated his shoulder. The injury occurred at the tail end of December 2015 and, by early February, the former NXT tag champion was back in action. That’s a pretty impressive recovery, to be sure. And Sin Cara hasn’t lost a step. Currently a member of the Raw roster, he’s a part of the Cruiserweight division – a position in which he’ll once again have a real chance to prove himself as a singles competitor.
In a women’s locker room that often sees competitors come and go within a couple years, Natalya has remained a stable presence. Though she was already well established on the independent circuit prior to signing with WWE in early 2007, she’s been such a constant presence for the past nine years that it’s almost easy to forget about her earlier successes. The former Diva’s champion has gone through many phases, starting out as an ally of Victoria and eventually forming the Hart Dynasty with her now-husband Tyson Kidd and real-life cousin David Hart Smith. She’s feuded with many different wrestlers since then, providing a solid, technical grounding for the women’s division even when some of her rivals didn’t possess nearly the same level of in-ring skill. And through each of these phases, Natalya has consistently been able to deliver without missing any significant time due to injury. In fact, her first major absence came when she missed three months last year, as she was by Tyson Kidd’s side following his serious, career threatening injury.
12. Xavier Woods
In the minds of some, Xavier Woods may be considered more of a mouthpiece than a full-time member of The New Day. Thanks in part to his entertaining ringside antics, Woods often plays the part of the cheerleader in televised matches – nominally co-holding the WWE tag team championship as his partners, Kofi and Big E, take care of business in the ring. But that doesn’t mean Woods can’t go, as fans have seen time and time again. And indeed, the charismatic Xavier competes quite a bit at house shows. Perhaps more importantly, he’s been able to wrestle while dodging any serious breaks or tears since his 2013 main roster debut. His ability to consistently deliver is, in a way, almost as important as his personality and in-ring acumen. For that reason, don’t expect Woods’ WWE stock to drop any time in the near future. If he continues to play his cards right, he could be in for a memorable singles run whenever The New Day decides to part ways (which, hopefully, won’t be for a long time).
11. Bobby Roode
Bobby Roode’s current run in NXT is the culmination of a nearly 20-year journey. He cut his teeth on the Canadian independent circuit, before establishing himself as a major name in TNA following an impressive 2004 debut as a member of “Team Canada.” For the next 12 years, he was a consistently strong presence on the TNA roster. Whether portraying a heel or a babyface, in a tag team or as a singles wrestler, Roode always delivered. And the fact that he even remained relatively injury free sure didn’t hurt, either. Now, as he continues to rise up the NXT ranks (maintaining an undefeated streak as of NXT Takeover: Toronto), he’s got an opportunity to become as important to WWE as he was to TNA.
He may not be the most celebrated member of Raw‘s tag team division but, throughout the years, Primo (of the famous Colón wrestling family) has kept a steadfast presence at WWE TV tapings and house shows. He’s currently one half of the Shooting Stars with his cousin Epico (the team previously wrestled as the masked Los Matadores). Though they’re not currently in top contention, the two men (then competing as The Colóns) actually held the WWE tag title back in 2012. Prior to that reign, Primo was a two-time tag team champ with his brother Carlito. When Carlito was released by WWE in 2010, the younger Colón didn’t lose a step. And when Epico was sidelined for a good chunk of 2014, Primo remained active – sometimes teaming with El Torito and, on many house shows, picking up a number of wins in singles matches. Nearly two decades after beginning his wrestling career in Puerto Rico, staying healthy is no small feat.
9. Luke Gallows
Currently a part of the Raw brand, where he and Karl Anderson have established themselves as major contenders in the tag team division, the towering 6’8”, nearly 300 pound Luke Gallows is a hard man to keep down. After being unceremoniously released by WWE in late 2010 – just as he’d begun to establish himself, following some early missteps (Fake Kane, Festus) – Gallows vowed to make a name for himself elsewhere. And he did, first as a member of TNA faction Aces & Eights and then, more significantly, as an enforcer for the hugely popular New Japan stable the Bullet Club. The latter got the attention of WWE who, in 2016, offered contracts to both him and Anderson. Just as he was emotionally resilient following his 2010 release, Gallows is physically resilient. He doesn’t injure easily and, if he does, he shows very few signs that he’s hurting. His current WWE run is already shaping up to be better than the last, and he’s just getting started.
8. Kevin Owens
While he hasn’t been on the road with WWE for very long, Kevin Owens has shown remarkable potential as a dependable member of any locker room, who isn’t likely to spend much time away from the ring licking his wounds. After spending nearly 15 years on the independent scene, competing in hard-hitting contests all over the globe, he proved his toughness and resilience. And his physique, which is sturdy but not overly muscular, enables him to endure quite a bit of punishment. If his independent and NXT runs have proven anything, it’s that K.O. is a real workhorse. Sure, the gruelling WWE travel schedule, coupled with the demand to deliver in matches watched by millions, will be a huge test, but Owens has already demonstrated his ability to weather a world of hurt. With a bit of luck, and without pushing himself too hard, he should be able continue to perform consistently for many years to come.
7. Jimmy Uso
Ever since their main roster debut back in 2010, The Usos (Jimmy & Jey) have played a significant role in WWE’s tag division. The sons of WWE Hall of Famer Rikishi, The Usos are two-time tag team champions, as well as two-time winners of the Slammy Award for Tag Team of the Year. Even with their high risk, high impact in-ring style, they’ve consistently been one of the most prominent teams in the company. Of course, the team’s momentum was briefly halted in 2015, when Jey missed more than six months while recuperating from a dislocated shoulder. Jimmy briefly tried to keep things moving by teaming up with Zack Ryder, but ultimately wound up spending most of that time period as a color commentator on WWE’s Main Event. The team returned last November and, though they haven’t quite picked up where they left off, they’ve at least kept healthy. Jimmy has remained healthy and ready to compete the entire time.
6. Big E
Though The New Day’s resident powerhouse experienced a serious injury that limited his college football career, Big E has been much more fortunate in his wrestling career thus far. Well before finding his niche as a member of the longest running WWE tag champs ever, he established himself as a charismatic and resilient performer in the company’s developmental territories. And the former NXT champ has been a ubiquitous presence on the main roster’s TV programming since the end of 2012. In fact, the big man has not missed any significant amount of time since his debut. Sure, he was briefly sidelined by Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson this past August. But even then, it was a storyline injury, and E returned to competition within a matter of weeks. For such a large, muscular competitor with a rigorous schedule, remaining injury-free is no small feat. But so far, Big E has managed just fine, thanks.
5. Brock Lesnar
Despite preferring such an intense physical style (and possessing such a large frame) throughout his careers in both pro wrestling and the octagon, Brock Lesnar hasn’t missed any significant ring time due to injury – not in his early WWE career, and not since his return to the company in 2012. This isn’t to say he hasn’t had a health concern or two, though. After departing WWE for the first time to try out for the NFL, Lesnar injured his groin in a motorcycle accident. It didn’t stop him from trying out, but, famously, he also couldn’t find a spot on the roster of any NFL team. And then, of course, there was Brock’s famous bout with diverticulitis, which temporarily put a halt to his MMA career. Lesnar battled through that, ultimately making an epic WWE return and, later, even once again stepping foot into the octagon. Essentially, Brock just can’t be sidelined.
4. Kofi Kingston
One would think that someone with as high risk a style as Kofi Kingston would regularly find himself on the injured reserve list. On the contrary, Kofi is very much like his New Day teammates in that he consistently shows up ready to perform – regardless of the aches and pains, he’s surely had to power through over the years. Kingston is a twelve-time champion in WWE, and holds the record for cumulative days as a tag team champion. Of course, a competitor doesn’t come by such accomplishments while recuperating from injuries, and Kofi has thankfully never needed to spend much time doing this. Apart from taking a couple months off in the summer of 2013 to heal his elbow, Kingston has more or less been a constant fixture of WWE programming since his 2007 main roster debut. Just showing up doesn’t guarantee title reigns, of course, but it certainly hasn’t hindered this talented wrestler in his pursuit of in-ring success.
3. Big Show
More than two decades after wrestling his first match, the Big Show is still at it. And, when his career is viewed as a whole, it’s actually remarkable how much of the time the 7-foot tall, 400-pound plus giant has been active. It’s not easy for any wrestler to keep going for so long, let alone someone so large. After all, the adage about the bigger guys falling harder wasn’t based on conjecture. Show has certainly taken a few breaks, including one in 2007 when he needed time off, finally, to heal some nagging injuries. During that time, his WWE contract expired. Show used the opportunity to lose a massive amount of weight. When he returned to the company the following year, he was in better shape than he had been in years. And, since then, the Big Show has more or less not stopped – taking short breaks to pursue outside interests but, ultimately, never succumbing to injury. At age 44, it’s fair to say that Show’s best years are behind him, but he could likely go on to performing occasionally for quite a few more years.
2. The Miz
Shortly after the 2016 WWE Draft, The Miz was the talk of the internet, following a heated change with Daniel Bryan on the WWE Network show Talkin’ Smack that seemed, for lack of a better word, “real.” Bryan accused Miz of having a “soft” in-ring style, which led Miz to reply that he preferred to work safe in order to avoid injury – thereby more consistently performing for his fans than other wrestlers with high risk offensive arsenals. Whichever wrestler you side with in that scenario, there’s no denying that Miz had a point. Whenever WWE has occasionally referred to Miz being “injured,” it’s typically been a scripted excuse to allow him to go shoot a movie. In reality, Miz’s conscientious in-ring approach has allowed to avoid being sidelined with injury for virtually his entire career – leading him to several major championship runs and, quite possibly, a longer career than many of his colleagues.
1. Dolph Ziggler
WWE fans connect with Dolph Ziggler for a number of reasons, including his technical skill, his charisma, and his ability to bring out the best in his fellow wrestlers. But fans are likely also drawn to Ziggler because they appreciate his work ethic. Not only does he leave it all in the ring every single night, but he has been doing so for more than a decade. And since his call up to the main roster in 2005, he’s been a strong, consistent member of the WWE roster. When he’s banged up or injured, Ziggler tends to continue to perform, rarely taking any time off. Even when he’s not being used to his fullest potential, Dolph works as hard as anyone else on the roster. While fans wonder why a man of his skill isn’t a permanent fixture of the main event, they’d be every bit as justified to question why such a reliable, workhorse performer gets overlooked so often in a locker room so beset by injuries.