Whether they accept it or not, every athletic performer’s career has a definitive shelf life. The exact age is different for everyone, but people’s bodies are inevitably bound to start breaking down, making it hard for anyone who relies on their physical prowess to earn a living. This is especially true for professional wrestlers working in the unique field of sports entertainment, although that same uniqueness sometimes allows wrestlers a bit too much leeway in continuing to perform after their body is starting to fail them. Dozens of wrestlers over the years have made it clear that they don’t know when to quit, making each subsequent period of their careers more embarrassing than the last. Granted, a few superstars have managed to get better with age, but these people are most definitely the exception and not the rule, and even these were eventually forced out of the ring, as well.
The good news for any pro wrestlers realizing that they might be getting up there in age is that this isn’t necessarily a sign that their career is over. It is, however, a sign that they should probably slow down in the ring, if not take long stretches of time off in between the rare times they still wrestle. On the other hand, there have been a few exceedingly rare cases where wrestlers have been able to acknowledge their best days may be behind them, adapting their in-ring style to fit their aged bodies. Unfortunately, most superstars are unable or unwilling to adapt, and the result is dwindling performances that gradually deflate the crowd’s interest. Check out our list of which 15 WWE superstars are starting to show their age, and should perhaps leave the ring.
15. Sin Cara – Born September 5, 1977 (Age 39)
As a high-flying luchadore, Sin Cara is one of the younger people on this list. To be clear, we’re talking about the current Sin Cara, formerly known as Hunicio, who replaced the original Sin Cara once and for all in 2013. The current Sin Cara made his WWE debut in 2011 to feud Sin Cara original, although he was already a 12-year veteran of the industry when he did so. Sin Cara has been wrestling his flashy speed-oriented style that entire time, too, which history has proven can destroy a wrestler’s knees faster than usual. When paired with Kalisto in The Lucha Dragons, it was already apparent that Sin Cara was the weaker and slower of the two, and now that WWE is having Sin Cara wrestle even younger and fresher cruiserweights, his deterioration is becoming exponentially more evident. The next oldest regular competitor in the cruiserweight division is Brian Kendrick, who’s gimmick as an older superstar looking for his last bit of glory only serves to make Sin Cara look even older, considering Kendrick is two years younger than he is. WWE may never mention Sin Cara’s age or true identity onscreen, but fans who have been watching the character and current wrestler portraying said character are well aware that he’s been slowing down for a while now.
14. Shelton Benjamin – Born July 9, 1975 (Age 41)
Most fans were excited to hear that Shelton Benjamin was making his return to WWE in the summer of 2016, his slightly advanced age notwithstanding. Fans were quick to remember Benjamin as one of the most underrated wrestlers in recent WWE history, and it looked like he might be getting his second chance at the big time only a few weeks after he turned 41. Benjamin and WWE both thought he was ready to go, and began airing vignettes hyping his return accordingly, only for a routine physical to reveal that he was suffering from a torn rotator cuff, which would need to be operated on in order for WWE to clear him to wrestle. Luckily, WWE has hinted that Benjamin will still be returning once this injury heels, but the fact remains that injuries of this nature are a sign of Benjamin’s body not being what it used to be. Most people would notice if they tore a muscle, and yet Benjamin thought that he was still ready to jump into the ring (a mindset only older wrestlers unconcerned with their well-being tend to portray). Hopefully, Benjamin learned his lesson on this one and is going to be careful when he actually returns, even if it means showing his age in more ways than one.
13. Stephanie McMahon – Born September 24, 1976 (Age 40)
Forty may be the new 30 or even the new 20, but it’s harder to pull off cliché’s like that when video evidence exists of what a person looked like when they actually were 20. Stephanie McMahon has been on WWE television since 1999 when she had just turned 23-years-old. It would be impossible for anybody to look exactly the same for over 17 years and she is no different, especially considering that she gave birth to three kids along the way. While she still has an amazing body for her age, it might be time for her to put away the skintight body suits like the one she wore at WrestleMania. This is especially true since she clearly wore it to show off, and not for any wrestling-related reason. There’s also the issue that she continues to book herself to look stronger than all of the wrestlers, despite never stepping in the ring herself. This is something that could be related to her feeling her youth slipping away and thus deciding to reclaim it by making herself look better than everyone younger than she is. Amazingly, Stephanie isn’t even the worst member of her family in this regard.
12. Shane McMahon – Born January 15, 1970 (Age 46)
The WWE Universe remains split on the return of Shane McMahon, especially in regards to the one time he decided to take his comeback into the ring with The Undertaker. Some fans were simply happy to see him back, but plenty of others noticed something a bit goofy about a middle-aged man with gray hair bouncing around like he was in a 1990’s rap video. It only got worse from there, as Shane started flubbing his lines, kept proving he has the worst punches in the industry, and then delivered a performance at WrestleMania that could only be described as obvious, at best. WWE didn’t help matters by having Michael Cole and other commentators treat Shane like some sort of superhuman, when his entire career up until this point had been based on how he was fairly fragile, but insane enough that he could pull a major upset if he got lucky. Instead of adding advanced age to that persona, WWE did away with it entirely, ultimately causing Shane to look ridiculous and the company to look unaware of reality.
11. JBL – Born November 29, 1966 (Age 49)
Although it’s true that WWE broadcasters don’t exactly have the same age constraints as the wrestlers still getting in the ring, JBL still manages to land on this list by way of his strange and outdated references that practically nobody in the WWE Universe understands except for him. The former WWE Champion retired from the ring in 2009, eventually settling into a second career as one of the worst announcers WWE has ever employed. JBL is constantly referencing wrestling history in his commentary, which wouldn’t be that bad if he kept it to WWE history. However, JBL has gone so far back in time as to crack jokes about Farmer Burns, a competitor who retired around 1900. When JBL isn’t making bizarrely outdated references, all he does is complain about his colleague, Byron Allen, mainly about how Allen is young and therefore doesn’t understand JBL’s old time wisdom. All any of this does is repeatedly distract from the matches JBL calls and makes fans wonder why the hell this old man still has a job in the first place.
10. Jerry Lawler – Born November 29, 1949 (Age 66)
It wouldn’t be fair to mention JBL without bringing up the fact that he’s only the second oldest commentator in WWE, and the honor of most experienced as it were, in fact, goes to Jerry “The King” Lawler. Lawler has been performing commentary on WWE events since before certain superstars were even born, and though his role is consistently diminishing, he continues to show how out of touch and increasingly forgetful he can be with every pre-show analyst appearance he makes. In the ’70s all the way to the early ’90s, The King was one of the best performers wrestling had to offer, but these days Lawler is a caricature of plastic surgery inspired enthusiasm, happily harping whatever WWE pays him to say without adding any original thoughts to the proceedings. Lawler’s commentary has always been somewhat controversial thanks to his rampant sexism and offensive jokes, and now that he’s apparently too old to bother paying attention to the storylines, it might be time for WWE to take him off the announcing table for good.
9. Kane – Born April 26, 1967 (Age 49)
The Undertaker’s demonic brother made his debut through hell, fire, and brimstone way back in 1997, at a time absolutely no one could have predicted the many twists and turns Kane’s career would take. The one thing most fans would have guessed is that the Kane character wouldn’t still be around and defeating rising stars, but yet this is the reality we find ourselves in today. Kane’s debut remains one of the greatest WWE ever contrived, and for many years Kane proved that he was able to live up to the hype with his higher than usual skill level for a man of his size. At the same time, though, Kane always showed a propensity towards laziness in the ring, something that’s only getting worse with his age. Now that the Big Red Machine is pushing 50, he’s only going to get slower and start caring even less, and the sad thing is that no one at WWE seems to notice. Every time Kane makes a comeback, fans assume it’s going to be his last, only for him to pop up again and slow down the main event scene once more.
8. Triple H – Born July 27, 1969 (Age 47)
Even as Triple H slowly but surely takes over the reigns of WWE corporate affairs, he continues to inject himself into the top feuds that are supposed to be bringing his company into the future while he presumably moves backstage. Triple H has been making it pretty clear that he isn’t willing to go away quietly, though, and the fact that he’s a solid 15 years older than anyone he’s been paired with on television in 2016 hasn’t done anything to change that fact. Triple H has been involved in WWE main events since 1998, and his demeanor has made it clear that he isn’t ready to stop being involved with them anytime soon. Standing outside the ring and letting the young guys do the work until he runs in for the kill only serves to make everyone look worse in the process, as dwindling ratings and the crowd’s inability to invest in new champions is repeatedly proving. Worst of all, given Triple H’s infamous ego, there’s always the chance he’ll book himself to be WWE Champion again and make it even more obvious how much slower and weaker he is than he was in the past.
7. R-Truth – Born January 19, 1972 (Age 44)
The two WWE tenures of Ron Killings were so far apart, some younger fans might not even realize just how long R-Truth has been around. Killings actually made his WWE debut in late 2000 as K-Kwik, the rapping partner of The Road Dogg, only to make notably little impact and get released in a matter of months. Killings then dominated the early days of NWA: TNA as one of that company’s first World Champions, a fact unmentioned by WWE when Killings made his return as R-Truth in 2008. Killings has floated around the roster mostly as a comedy character since this return, and though his comedy antics remain strong (at least to his audience), his in-ring skills have been drastically diminishing from what he was capable of as NWA Champion. In fact, Killings never seemed as motivated in WWE as he was during his short NWA stint, at least in terms of in-ring performance. Given his character, maybe R-Truth doesn’t exactly need to perform at the same level he did 10 years ago, but the fact that he apparently can’t is nevertheless a sign that his age is catching up with him.
6. Goldust – Born April 11, 1969 (Age 47)
Speaking of R-Truth, his Golden Truth partner is even older than he is, and Goldust is also starting to show signs of his advanced age at this point in his career. Dustin Runnels started wrestling in 1988, nearly 30 years ago, and even the Goldust character recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of its debut. Goldust has gone through many bizarre iterations throughout his career, and yet the most recent stint with R-Truth stands out as the first time he’s relied on truly sophomoric humor as his only noteworthy quality. Even when Goldust was stuttering, he was backing it up with strong in-ring performances, while now The Golden Truth are typically designated to wrestle the worst match of the night. It wasn’t long ago that Goldust experienced an incredible career revival, and perhaps it’s premature to put him on this list given one bad tag run. Even while they lag in the ring, Goldust and Truth can both still provide entertainment backstage with the right material. However, bringing them into the ring together or separate only serves to prove their best days are behind them.
5. Chris Jericho – Born November 9, 1970 (Age 45)
It was hard including Chris Jericho on this list, considering that out of everyone on this list, he is the only one who consistently brings the goods almost every time he makes his way into the ring. Facts are facts, though, and Jericho can’t deny being a solid decade older than the majority of his opponents as of late, a fact that has been painfully obvious for some time now. Jericho’s latest persona has essentially been a man undergoing a midlife crisis, desperately attempting to regain his youth by attacking people much hipper and younger than he is, while wearing questionable clothes that he believes makes him look current and fresh. Jericho is at least aware of how he comes off and uses it to his advantage (unlike most of the others on this list), and yet that doesn’t excuse him entirely from making it clear that he’s one of the oldest people on the active WWE roster with his every appearance.
4. Mark Henry – Born June 12, 1971 (Age 45)
For the longest time, Mark Henry had the most embarrassing career imaginable. He dated elderly women, unknowingly went to bed with a transgender prostitute, and once made repeated claims about committing incest with his own sister. These have all been rumored to have been storylines written in an attempt to get Henry to break his own lucrative 10-year contract. Henry toughed it out, though, and amazingly managed to experience a career comeback around the same time he turned 40-years-old. Henry was impressive and dominant in his run as World Heavyweight Champion and continued to be such for the next year or two. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before Henry’s fire started to get replaced with fumes. Henry’s most memorable moments as of late have been repeatedly claiming that he has more “gas in the tank,” only to then go on losing streaks in matches that weren’t up to his previous caliber, to begin with. The irony of Henry’s career has been that his microphone skills tend to keep improving even as his in-ring skills begin to wane, so chances are that WWE will keep using Henry in the future even as those abilities continue to disappear.
3. The Big Show – February 8, 1972 (Age 44)
There will always be space in wrestling for destructive giants, and Paul Wight seems happy to fill that role for as long as he is physically capable. Unfortunately for him, now that he’s been in WWE for more than 17 years, fans are starting to grow weary of The Big Show as the most destructive force in WWE. Especially now that we’ve seen Show dress up like a giant baby (not to mention get beaten by virtually every wrestler on the roster), his big, destructive powers are starting to look significantly less impressive. Speaking of those destructive powers, The Big Show has been getting exponentially slower in the ring ever since he jumped to WWE from WCW, and that was nearly two decades ago. He is only getting worse now that he’s reaching his mid-40s, and even WWE is starting to realize this by keeping him out of the ring for increasingly long stretches of time.
2. The Undertaker – Born March 24, 1965 (Age 51)
Vince McMahon himself has called The Undertaker the greatest superstar that WWE has produced, and millions of fans probably agree with his assessment. This doesn’t mean, however, that The Undertaker should never retire, and in fact, many of those same fans have been thinking it might be time for The Dead Man to say goodbye to WWE for good. Each passing WrestleMania, The Undertaker returns from the grave for another match with diminishing returns. His few matches since the end of his undefeated streak, in particular, served as sad displays that proved that he has almost nothing left to give anymore. Although he’s been able to clean himself up whenever he appears on television, the most recent candid photographs of The Undertaker at his leisure, present him as broken down and defeated by the ravages of time. It gets harder with each passing month for fans to picture him getting back in the ring and resuming his destructive ways. The fact that Shane McMahon was even presented as having a chance against him was a clear sign that The Undertaker was not the demon he used to be, and as such there may be genuine questions as to whether or not we’ll see him in the ring again.
1. John Cena – Born April 23, 1977 (Age 39)
As the youngest person on this list, John Cena isn’t showing his age as strongly as most of the others, and yet he still poses perhaps the greatest risk to WWE once his age finishes catching up to him and causes him to step away. Cena has been the franchise player in WWE since at least 2005, and he continues to hold that role even as his 40th birthday looms around the corner. The others on this list prove that 40 isn’t necessarily retirement age for a wrestler, but it is about the time that some of the flashier moves need to get taken out of the repertoire, and nightly marathon main events need to start getting booked around the physical capabilities of the performer rather than the performer’s previous abilities. The good news is that Cena isn’t showing as many signs of aging as the others on this list, although his longtime girlfriend Nikki Bella might be wishing he would, and step out of the ring to spend more time with her. Cena has made it clear that he is all-in with WWE for life, so Nikki probably won’t have her way, and he’ll stay in the ring regardless of how his body starts to wear down. Tenacity alone can’t defeat time, though, so before long Cena will end up with diminished abilities the same as everyone else.