Lucky 13: Elderly Wrestlers Who Survived A Match

Ric Flair isn’t the only wrestler to compete in the ring in his 70s or beyond! Sometimes it’s a case of “You still got it,” or, sadly, “He hung around way too long.” Here are a lucky thirteen who are amongst the oldest wrestlers to survive and even thrive very late in their careers.

13. Adrian Street (Age 74)

Adrian Street was a Welsh professional wrestler who retired in 2014 at 74 years old. Street was known for his flamboyant personality, sequined ring gear, and mysterious aura Goldust credits for inspiring his gimmick.

Street estimates that he wrestled between 12 and 15 thousand matches throughout his 60-year career. His final match occurred in Birmingham, Alabama, in a winning effort against Aeon Flexx.

To this day, Street is still kicking and as defiant as ever. He defeated his latest opponent, throat cancer, and told the doctor he beat the dreaded disease because there were “still people in the world I hadn’t pissed off yet!”

A recent photo of Adrian Street.
A recent photo of Adrian Street. [Photo: @adrian.street.522 on Facebook]

12. Lou Thesz (74 years, 243 days)

Lou Thesz is one of wrestling’s most legendary stars and is regarded by some as the first real wrestling superstar. He was renowned worldwide for his pure wrestling ability, conditioning and toughness. At 74, just a few months older than Adrian Street, he competed in his last-ever match.

The bout took place against his protege, Masahiro Chono, on December 26th, 1990, in Hamamatsu, Japan and made Thesz (along with Jimmy Valiant) one of the only wrestlers ever to wrestle in seven different decades. Thesz lost the match via submission, but he will always be remembered as a wrestling pioneer and all-time technician.

Lou Thesz hits the original Thesz Press on an opponent in the NWA.
Lou Thesz hits the original Thesz Press on an opponent in the NWA. [Photo: prowrestling.fandom.com]

Watch Lou Thesz in his very last match vs. Masahiro Chono:

Masahiro Chono vs. Lou Thesz (Thesz’s Last Match)

December 26th, 1990. This is an historic date, folks. The day the greatest wrestler in history (maybe along with Ric Flair), Lou Thesz, stepped inside a wrestling for the very last time. At an incredible age of 74, he takes on a man Thesz considers as his student, the great Masahiro Chono.

11. Vince McMahon (76 years old)

Vince McMahon got in the ring at WrestleMania 38 in 2022 at 76 against Pat McAfee.

No, he didn’t look graceful when taking a comically over-the-top stunner from Stone Cold Steve Austin later in the show. But, hey, most CEOs are out on the golf course; the man was 76 and had the guts to get in there.

Controversies aside, a showman he’ll always be.

Vince McMahon, at 78, stepped into the ring against Pat McAfee at WrestleMania 38 in 2022.
Vince McMahon, at 78, stepped into the ring against Pat McAfee at WrestleMania 38 in 2022. [Photo: Cageside Seats]

10. Dory Funk (76 years old)

Dory Funk Jr. took his wrestling career to another level when he competed at 76, making him the oldest Funk to ever wrestle a match.

Admirably, brother Terry’s last match was at the age of 73.

Dory was the second longest reigning NWA World Heavyweight Champion and didn’t retire until 2018.

He gained notoriety wrestling for almost every major promotion during his seven-decade career.

In his last ever match, Funk faced off against Osamu Nishimura in a 10-minute time limit draw in Tokyo.

Funk continued a career in the industry as a trainer at his school.

“In order to make a living in this business,” Dory shared in a recent interview with Villages News, “you have to devote yourself to wrestling. It’s very competitive, and it takes everything you’ve got to make it to the top.”

It’s safe to say that Funk gave everything to the business his legendary father weaned him into.

Dory Funk Jr holding the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in 2019.
Dory Funk Jr holding the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in 2019. [Photo: alliance-wrestling.com]

9. Gypsy Joe (77 years, 36 days)

Gypsy Joe was a Puerto Rican professional wrestler who most notably gained success in the United States and Japan. He is considered a trailblazer in hardcore wrestling, and his toughness and brawling in-ring style kept him in the ring for six decades.

In 2011, Joe wrestled his final match at the “Gypsy Joe Retirement Show” in Tullahoma, Tennessee. The bout marked his 60th year in the wrestling industry as he took a loss to Tajiri.

Joe is still remembered today as one of the toughest in-ring performers of all time.

Gypsy Joe poses after a grueling match in Japan.
Gypsy Joe poses after a grueling match in Japan. [Photo: prowrestling.fandom.com]

8. Mil Máscaras (78 years old)

Legendary luchador Mil Máscaras, known for his gorgeous masks and equally beautiful wrestling moves, was still active well into his 70s.

Born on July 15, 1942, the international superstar can boast that as late as September 13th, 2019, he still competed in major matches as Capitan Atomo, Dragon Lee, and Máscaras defeated La Bestia Del Ring, Rey Bucanero, and Valiente in an LLA event at the Arena Coliseo in Acapulco, Mexico.

Noted wrestling journalist Javier Ojst states, “At 78 years old in July of 2020, Mil had still not officially retired.” Amazing.

Lucha Libre legend Mil Máscaras before battling Samuray Del Sol (formerly known as Kalisto in WWE) in 2017.
Lucha Libre legend Mil Máscaras before battling Samuray Del Sol (formerly known as Kalisto in WWE) in 2017. [Photo: Title Match Wrestling on YouTube]

7. Jimmy Valiant (78 years old)

As one half of the Fabulous Valiant Brothers and later as “The Boogie Woogie Man,” few grapplers have the charisma of Jimmy Valiant. And even fewer have wrestled at his age.

In 2021 he stepped in the ring at age 78 in Burlington, North Carolina, in a steel cage no less. Just another of innumerable accomplishments to add to his hall of fame career.

Advertisement for Jimmy Valiant's steel cage match in 2021.
Advertisement for Jimmy Valiant’s steel cage match in 2021. [Photo provided by Benny Scala]

6. Dave Kidney (79 years old)

Dave Kidney is a British professional wrestler featured in various documentaries, including one by BBC, which followed his journey to his final match at 79.

In the BBC documentary, Kidney shared, “I can’t tell you the feeling of hearing 2,000 people shouting your name when I lifted the [featherweight] title 50 years ago. I was very proud, and it’s something I’ll never forget.”

He later added, “Now I don’t do this for the money. There’s no money in it anymore.”

Kidney’s last known match occurred in Carnoustie, Scotland, in January 2011, at 79.

He is remembered for his passion for wrestling, his never say die attitude, and the toughness that allowed him to continue wrestling well into his late 70s.

Dave Kidney at his wrestling school, where he taught various classes.
Dave Kidney at his wrestling school, where he taught various classes. [Photo: dailyrecord.co.uk]

5. Fabulous Moolah (80 years, 55 days)

The Fabulous Moolah is one of the pioneers of women’s wrestling.

She began her career alongside legendary Hall of Famer Buddy Rogers before she captured the NWA World Women’s Championship in 1956. She shockingly and unbelievably held the title for 28 years.

Her last match came on a 2004 SmackDown taping where she teamed with Mae Young to defeat Dawn Marie and Torrie Wilson.

Although her legacy is a bit complicated, her 28-year title reign will never be replicated.

The Fabulous Moolah celebrates her controversial win over Velvet McIntyre at WrestleMania 2.
The Fabulous Moolah celebrates a win over Velvet McIntyre at WrestleMania 2. [Photo: WWE Network]

4. Dominic DeNucci (80 years, 82 days)

Dominic DeNucci was an Italian pro wrestler who held over a dozen championships in various promotions worldwide in the 1960s and ’70s.

He also helped train wrestling legends like Mick Foley and Shane Douglas.

DeNucci’s final match took place in 2012 when he teamed with his student, Shane Douglas, to take on the team of Lord Zoltan and Shawn Blanchard.

DeNucci would emerge victorious and retire afterward.

Dominic DeNucci with Madison Square Garden in the background, an iconic venue he created many memorable moments in. [Photo of DeNucci: Worthpoint.com / MSG Photo Copyright: 2002 Getty Images]
Dominic DeNucci with Madison Square Garden in the background, an iconic venue he created many memorable moments. [Photo of DeNucci: Worthpoint.com / MSG Photo Copyright: 2002 Getty Images]

3. Bob Armstrong (80 years, 6 months)

The tremendously fit Bullet Bob Armstrong’s fifty-year career featured dozens of championship title wins all over the United States.

Among his many honors, Armstrong held the NWA Continental Championship title.

Armstrong wrestled his last match on May 11th, 2019, for Continental in Dothan, Alabama, where he defeated The Assassin.

Armstrong, unfortunately, passed away just one year after his final match due to cancer. All four of his sons (“Road Dogg” Brian James, Scott Armstrong, Steve Armstrong, and the late Brad Armstrong) worked in the wrestling business, making them one of wrestling’s royal families.

Bullet Bob Armstrong alongside his sons "Road Dogg" Brian James, Scott Armstrong, and Steve Armstrong at the WWE Hall of Fame in 2011.
Bullet Bob Armstrong alongside his sons “Road Dogg” Brian James, Scott Armstrong, and Steve Armstrong at the WWE Hall of Fame in 2011. [Photo: Cageside Seats]

2. The Great Kojika (Age 80)

The Great Kojika is the oldest currently active professional wrestler, having debuted in 1963.

He co-founded Big Japan Pro Wrestling and has wrestled for DDT Pro, NWA, and AJPW.

Kojika has wrestled as recently as August of 2022, where he won a tag team bout for NPW.

The Great Kojika is one of the oldest wrestlers to lace up a pair of wrestling boots.
The Great Kojika is one of the oldest wrestlers to lace up a pair of wrestling boots. [Photo: profightdb.com]

1. Mae Young (87 years, 248 days)

One of the biggest pioneers of women’s wrestling is the record holder for the oldest wrestler to ever compete in a match.

Although Mae Young’s frenetic handicap match on Monday Night RAW barely resembled anything close to a competitive match, the feat is still awe-inspiring as she must’ve prepared physically, mentally, and emotionally for a match at nearly 88 years old.

Sadly, she would pass away just three years later.

The fierce yet wonderful Mae Young.
The fierce yet wonderful Mae Young.

There is arguably no tougher woman than Mae Young, with numerous reports of her beating up her male counterparts.

Young was featured on RAW in a segment with CM Punk the year she died after he interrupted her 90th birthday celebration.

Professional wrestling is one of the most physical and dangerous sports and forms of entertainment one can engage in. Kudos to these greats for their passion, toughness, and unbelievable longevity.

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Ethan Absler is a freelance writer covering professional wrestling for NBC Universal and The USA Network. He is an independent wrestler based out of Chicago with a degree in Broadcast Journalism from the University of Missouri. He can be reached by e-mail at eabsler@gmail.com.