Professional wrestling is unlike many other professional “sports” in several regards. Sports fans would be shocked to see a running back or 3rd basemen play into their 50s or even 60s, but this type of thing has become somewhat common in professional wrestling. It seems that many popular wrestlers never truly leave the sport they love until they are forced out for one reason or another. Take The Undertaker for example, at 50 years old this guy just keeps competing. Guys like The Undertaker and Triple H may only wrestle part time now, but it is still amazing what some of these athletes can do, and how far they can continue to push their aging bodies.
While not just any wrestler can keep competing well into his 50s and beyond, it is even more difficult for someone of that age to actually win a world championship. With so many new young wrestlers entering into the business (just look at NXT) it seems nearly impossible that someone in their 40s, 50s, or even 60s, could keep up with the younger crowd and even defeat the best of them for some of the biggest prizes in wrestling. The men on this list have all achieved a remarkable accomplishment by winning the WWE, WCW, TNA, or ECW Championship well after many pro wrestlers from their era have long retired.
10. The Undertaker – 44 years, 194 days old
The Undertaker seems to be an ageless and timeless superstar, and nobody knows how long he will be able to keep wrestling every year at WrestleMania, let alone throughout the year. In 2015 The Undertaker actually wrestled multiple times thanks in part to feuds with the Wyatt Family and Brock Lesnar. In 2009 The Undertaker won the World Heavyweight Championship at 44 years old. Taker defeated CM Punk at Hell in a Cell, but later lost the championship in the Elimination Chamber match to Chris Jericho in 2010, with the help of Shawn Michaels. That would set up the historic WrestleMania rematch between Michaels and The Undertaker.
9. Bob Backlund – 45 years, 101 days old
Bob Backlund had a pretty good run when he made a comeback in the 1990s. Backlund retired from the WWF in 1984 and worked as a high school wrestling coach. He made his return in 1992 and entered into a feud with champion Bret “The Hitman” Hart, and anything hip in general. Backlund shocked the wrestling world when he defeated Hart for the WWF Championship at Survivor Series in 1994 because Hart’s corner threw in the towel in an “I Quit” match. At the time Backlund won the championship he was 45 years and 101 days old. He only managed to hold onto the title for three days before he would lose it in a match to Diesel in just eight seconds.
8. Kurt Angle – 46 years, 53 days old
Kurt Angle looks to be in the best shape of his career even though he is approaching 50 years old. He has had success in both the WWE and TNA. In fact, he won TNA’s World Title wrestling against Bobby Lashley on impact when he was 46 years and 53 days old. If wrestling fans get their wish, Angle could move up this list by returning to the WWE and once again capturing the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Angle’s contract with TNA is up and he has even speculated that he would be open to being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
7. Randy Savage – 46 years, 238 days old
The “Macho Man” Randy Savage is one of the most colorful characters in the history of professional wrestling. He milked his career for all it was worth, wrestling well into his late 40s. Savage captured his fourth WCW Championship in 1999 at the Bash at the Beach pay-per-view event. He actually won the title in a tag team match, which saw Savage and Sid Vicious team up against champion Kevin Nash and Sting. The stipulation was that Nash’s title was on the line, and Savage pinned him to win it when he was 46 years and 238 days old. The “Macho Man” lost the belt the next night to longtime friend and foe Hulk Hogan on Nitro.
6. Lou Thesz – 46 years, 275 days old
Many young wrestling fans will not likely remember Lou Thesz or even know who he was. You have likely heard announcers referring to the “Lou Thesz press”, which was popularized by “Stone Cold” Steve Austin years after Thesz retired. Lou Thesz made his pro wrestling debut way back in 1932 and didn’t retire until 1990. He won his first world championship at 21 years old and didn’t stop there. At 46 years and 275 days old, Thesz defeated the “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers to win the NWA World Championship in January 1963. A pair of promoters which included Vince McMahon Sr. didn’t like the result of the match and started a new promotion called the World Wide Wrestling Federation, where Rogers would become the first champion.
5. Hulk Hogan – 48 years, 253 days old
“The Hulkster” is another one of those classic timeless wrestlers, that is until the WWE blacklisted him in 2015 for using racist language publicly. For many years Hogan served as the face of professional wrestling, and he certainly wrestled as long as his body could handle it. Hogan made a return to the WWE in 2002 and faced Triple H for the Undisputed Championship. At 48 years and 253 days old, Hogan won again. He would serve as a transitional champion, losing to The Undertaker a month later. There are several Hulkamaniacs that secretly want Hogan to come back into the WWE’s good graces and win the title one last time which would certainly bump him up on this list.
4. Ric Flair – 51 years, 94 days old
For a long time there, Ric Flair seemed like pro wrestling’s version of the Energizer Bunny: he just kept going and going and going. During a particularly sad time for WCW, Flair was the benefactor of Kevin Nash handing him the WCW Championship. Nash defeated Jeff Jarrett and gave the belt back to Flair, claiming that he had never actually lost the title after he was stripped by Vince Russo the previous week. At that time Flair was 51 years and 94 days old, and his reign didn’t last long after he lost the belt to Jarrett on the very same night.
3. Sting – 52 years, 113 days old
The “Stinger” is another timeless wonder. After his comeback attempt in 2015 was cut short due to injury, Sting is finally getting what he deserves by being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. Sting didn’t win his last title in the WWE or WCW, but in TNA, where he defeated Mr. Anderson at 52 years and 113 days old in 2011 to win the TNA Championship. Sting was one of a few superstars that kept TNA relevant, but he lost the title to Kurt Angle about a month later. It’s really too bad that Sting will not likely be able to wrestle again, because he could have defeated Seth Rollins for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in 2015 and climbed up from this spot.
2. Terry Funk – 52 years, 287 days old
Terry Funk was hardcore before being hardcore was popular. He was a big star for ECW in the late 1990s as a veteran mostly competing against fresh young talent. In 1997, at 52 years and 287 days old, Funk would win the ECW Championship by defeating Raven at the company’s first ever pay-per-view event, Barely Lethal. It was amazing to see some of the things that Funk was willing to put his body though in his 50s and that he wasn’t forced to retire earlier than he actually did. Funk even competed on the independent circuit until he retired in 2015 when he was 70 years old!
1. Vince McMahon – 61 years, 248 days old
Let’s face it; Vince McMahon can do anything he wants to do in the WWE because he owns the company. Technically McMahon could hold both the #1 and #2 spots on this list, but we combined them into one. The actual record goes to McMahon, who won the ECW Championship from Bobby Lashley when he was a spry 61 years and 248 days old. This angered true ECW fans, who felt that Vince made a mockery of their beloved championship. Mr. McMahon also holds the #2 spot for winning the WWE Championship from Triple H on Smack Down in 1999 when he was 54 years and 23 days old. McMahon vacated the title a few days later and Triple H eventually won it back. At 70 years of age, it would not be surprising to see Vince give himself the title one more time and shatter his previous two records.