There’s no mandated retirement age for a professional wrestler. There actually used to be one in Japan, but that was done away with once it became clear the performers would just keep wrestling elsewhere despite the “law.” While most wrestlers seem to start gearing down by their mid 40’s, some have been forced into retirement as early as their 20’s, and others kept going into their 70’s without ever slowing down. Obviously, there’s no one sign that means it’s time for a wrestler to retire, and ultimately it just comes down to whether or not the wrestler believes as an individual they can still perform at a level worth getting paid for.
Unfortunately, wrestlers and their fans don’t always agree on everything, and that can include when it’s time to start thinking about retirement. We don’t necessarily mean all of these wrestlers should retire per se, but it’s genuinely surprising some of them are still performing. Because wrestlers have been known to announce their retirement upwards of dozens of times, we’re saying if they were in a match within the year 2016 and haven’t made a new announcement since, they aren’t really retired yet. As a matter of fact, most of these wrestlers haven’t even made public retirement announcements they’ve needed to take back. Keep reading and discover 15 wrestlers you’ll be shocked aren’t retired.
15. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express
Robert Gibson and Ricky Morton formed arguably the most popular tag team of the 1980s. The Road Warriors had more of a lasting impact, but the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express more or less invented the flashy, high-flying style of tag team wrestling teams like The Rockers and later the Hardy Boyz would take to the extreme. The RNRs themselves were pretty good at taking the female members of the audience to the extreme so to speak, with their screaming fans supporting their every move, celebrating them as wrestling’s first true teen idols. Even when Ricky and Robert were in their 20s, some male fans didn’t quite get the appeal, and now that the boys are pushing 60 and sporting gray hair; not even the women are screaming anymore. That amazingly has yet to cause the team to slow down in the slightest.
14. The Honky Tonk Man
The Honky Tonk Man has been wrestling’s most famous Elvis impersonator for longer than Elvis had a recording career. He’s only been credited with two or three songs during this time, but his record as the longest reigning WWE Intercontinental Championship was more than enough to give him some serious longevity as a wrestler regardless of the silly gimmick. Honky hasn’t made a WWE appearance in several years, but he continues wrestling a heavy schedule on the independent scene. He’s become increasingly known for his controversial statements about other wrestlers and the nature of professional wrestling in general, but he’s managed to keep those statements at least somewhat relevant by staying in the business and constantly interacting with younger talent as a mentoring figure.
13. Tito Santana
Tito Santana is a WWE Hall of Famer, but the extent of his legacy is probably unknown to modern fans. Santana is former WWE Intercontinental and Tag Team Champion, winning his first tag title with Ivan Putski in 1979. Santana was arguably the second most popular WWE star during the early days of Hulkamania, and in the 90s he slowly transitioned to role as enhancement talent for younger stars. He hasn’t made an appearance wrestling for a major company since he appeared on WCW Nitro in 2000, but Santana continues making sporadic wrestling appearances on the indy scene into his mid 60s. Santana obviously can’t wrestle like he could back then, but his ability to make younger talent look good is apparently still high enough that said young wrestlers still want to wrestle him.
Considering the fact some wrestlers retire due to injury in their early 20s, it’s nothing short of a miracle that Sabu is still alive, let along walking and performing. When the average human receives any sort of injury at all they immediately start taking as much time away from physical activity as possible. Sabu on the other hand once dislocated his jaw and duct taped it shut so he could finish a very long match. That was nearly 20 years ago, and Sabu is still wrestling in Death Matches. Sabu mostly wrestles against his former ECW alumni, but on occasion he also brings his insane style to new generations of hardcore, as well. In fact, one of Sabu’s most famous hardcore rivals is continuing to do the same.
11. Shane Douglas
Shane Douglas was the Franchise of ECW, but he never quite took off anywhere else he attempted to wrestle. This hasn’t stopped him from continuing to show up in indy promotions and acting like the biggest star in the world as he ages into his 50s. Douglas mostly continues to wrestle a hardcore style and wrestlers primarily in promotions with an extreme edge. There’s not much of a chance he’ll be carrying any of those promotions for over a year any time soon, but he actually has held minor titles as recently as only a couple months prior to this writing. Douglas has burned his bridges in the only remaining major promotions, but he’ll never get ostracized from wrestling in high school gyms in Philly.
X-Pac is the youngest worker on our list, but special circumstances make it surprising to learn he hasn’t retired. He has a long history of drugs and personal problems, but that’s not the part that really makes it surprising. X-Pac is a well-known close friend of Triple H, and most fans would probably assume that since his close friend is on top of WWE, that’s where Pac would be wrestling these days. The New Age Outlaws and Kevin Nash both had brief WWE runs, and X-Pac was and still is better in the ring than them, so it’s strange he hasn’t at least stopped by in NXT. Whatever the reason, X-Pac instead chooses to wrestle for the indies, both as X-Pac and under his real name, Sean Waltman.
Demolition started off as a blatant rip off of The Road Warriors, but they grew to become a hugely popular tag team in their own right. They held the WWE Tag Team titles longer than any other team, and their legacy was cemented through their intense popularity and hard-hitting feuds against wrestling legends including Bret Hart and Andre the Giant. Ax was 10 years older than Smash from the start, which is why Ax started fading into a background role as early as 1990. Decades later, Crush has passed away, but Ax and Smash reunited on the independent scene and continue teaming to this day. With Ax almost 70 and Smash pushing 60, they aren’t nearly as dominant as they once were, but they continue to entertain fans against opponents new and old.
8. Marty Jannetty
Marty Jannetty was the partner of Shawn Michaels when they famously broke through into the wrestling world as The Rockers. Michaels retired with huge aplomb after WrestleMania XXVI in 2010, but Jannetty continues wrestling into 2016. This is especially shocking considering Michaels was by far the higher performing worker of the two in the long run, and on top of that, Jannetty has suffered a sustained drug problem that has even the drug-filled wrestling world deeply worried about him. Jannetty more than once cleaned himself up for a few brief WWE appearances, but those were over 10 years ago, and he continues to wrestles in sadder and sadder matches around the American independent scene. Rock rock ‘til you drop, rock rock never stops.
7. Bushwhacker Luke
Typically, if a wrestler became a member of an iconic tag team and continued wrestling far past their presumed retirement date, one can assume they kept doing so as a part of that tag team. It’s not that a wrestler can’t reinvent themselves; wrestling has proven it can countless times, but there’s an eventual limit to that as with anything. The Bushwhackers would seem like a team where they definitely hit the limit, and one couldn’t possibly be wrestling without the other. And yet, wrestling is an odd world, which is why Bushwhacker Luke started his solo career in 2001 when Butch suffered a career-ending injury, and it continues to this day. Luke has mostly appeared in comedy and legends style segments, but why promoters would even be hiring him at all is pretty mind boggling, considering he’s nearly 70.
Goldberg has on several occasions loudly told the world he will never return to WWE unless the money is huge and the terms are very specific, but he hasn’t ruled out a return to wrestling in general by any means. He hasn’t wrestled an actual match in over a decade, but in 2015 he started making surprise appearances for a promotion called Legends of Wrestling in New York and Miami. In both appearances, Goldberg attacked Scott Steiner, in essence creating the foundation for his first feud since Brock Lesnar. Goldberg was such a massive star during his brief run in wrestling it’s strange he would come back on such a small scale with so few people noticing, but it could be the small company was just a test run to see if he’s really still not retired. Speaking of Steiner…
5. Scott Steiner
Scott Steiner was one of the biggest names in WCW, and he managed to make a huge impact during his brief run in WWE. Although his impact was huge and featured several main events, Steiner only lasted a little over a year with WWE. He spent a few years with TNA after that, until he departed from there as well in 2012. Steiner has since opened a Shoney’s restaurant, but that hasn’t stopped him from wrestling in his spare time. Steiner is signed to Jeff Jarrett’s Global Force Wrestling, has made the Legends of Wrestling appearances to feud with Goldberg, and continues to wrestle for various indy promotions on top of all that. On rare occasions, he’s even joined by his brother Rick.
4. Greg Valentine
Greg Valentine was a huge heel in the late 1970s and a big name in WWE throughout the 80s. He won the WWE Intercontinental and Tag Team titles and spent a long time feuding with WWE World Champion Bob Backlund. Valentine was also an early tag team partner of Ric Flair, and like Flair, he stuck around for an extremely long time after he was capable of putting on a top-level show in the ring. Valentine just recently started slowing down, but he still wrestles a handful of matches per year, and probably won’t ever stop unless he’s physically forced to do so. Valentine was playing the role of a grizzled veteran over 20 years ago, so they’ll need to find a new world for people with his level of elder statesman pretty soon.
3. The Great Muta
Keiji Muto, or The Great Muta, is arguably the most successful Japanese wrestler to compete in America, and also the most successful wrestler in the world never to work full-time for WWE. Most American wrestling fans probably haven’t seen Muta since he was wrestling for WCW in 2000, but he actually made a few appearances for TNA as recently as 2015. Muta eventually left TNA and returned to Japan, where he wrestles full time for WRESTLE-1. In addition to his schedule being impressively regular for a person in their 50s, Muta continues to impress in the ring as well with his high level performances against wrestlers young and old. For most wrestlers, being well over the hill is a sign their WWE dreams should be over, but fans of Muta could actually still have a shot of seeing their hero have a WrestleMania moment.
Vader is one of the most dominant wrestlers of all time. He’s regularly cited as the most talented super heavyweight in history, and fans don’t even realize that talent was found slightly later in Vader’s life than it usually is with wrestlers. Vader’s peak in the early 90s came when he was already in his mid 30s, and he was almost 40 by the time he debuted in WWE. While wrestlers these days are succeeding past that point, it wasn’t quite the case in Vader’s day, so he left WWE for Japan and independents after a short and explosive tenure with the company. Vader has announced his retirement on a few occasions, but the fact he popped up for a random appearance in TNA in 2015 has fans thinking he still might not quite be done.
1. Jerry Lawler
Jerry Lawler hasn’t wrestled a WWE match since 2012, and with extremely good reason. Shortly after his last nationally televised contest, Lawler suffered a heart attack live on Raw. The terrifying episode inspired Ric Flair to retire, but amazingly, Lawler continues to wrestle possibly the most consistent schedule of any wrestler on this list. Lawler’s modern matches are all on the small scale, typically wrestled in his hometown of Memphis, against either his lifelong friends of people who have respected him their entire lives. Still, the fact he had a heart attack in the ring makes him probably the most surprising entry on this list, even though he’s also the only one on WWE television every single week.