Ranking the Top WWE and AEW Stars Age 40 and over

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistAugust 4, 2020

Ranking the Top WWE and AEW Stars Age 40 and over

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    Credit: WWE.com

    Age is but a number.

    It is a lesson today's wrestling fans are learning quickly as an unprecedented number of competitors are thriving over the age of 40.

    From current champions to the most consistent and engaging performers on either the WWE or All Elite Wrestling roster, they are changing the game and proving that smarter work leads to greater longevity. In better shape than their predecessors, they have taken care of their bodies with the goal of working in their desired profession as long as they possibly can.

    Now, they reign atop an industry once considered a young man's business.

    Who are these Superstars and elite performers, thriving on the other side of the big 4-0? 

    Find out for yourself with this list of the best WWE and AEW stars age 40 and over.

Honorable Mentions

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    While they may not have made the top 10, these stars of WWE and All Elite Wrestling deserve recognition for continued excellence beyond their 40th birthday.

        

    • Big Show
    • Billy Gunn
    • Bobby Fish
    • Bobby Lashley
    • Bobby Roode
    • Brodie Lee
    • Christopher Daniels
    • CIMA
    • Colt Cabana
    • Dr. Luther
    • Emi Sakura
    • Frankie Kazarian
    • Kane
    • Lance Archer
    • Matt Hardy
    • Michael Nakazawa
    • Mickie James
    • MVP
    • R-Truth
    • Samoa Joe
    • Sheamus
    • Shelton Benjamin
    • Shinsuke Nakamura
    • Tamina
    • The Blade
    • Titus O'Neil

        

    In years past, the idea of 40 year-olds striving in the wrestling industry to the extent that these men and women are was laughable. After all, pro wrestling was a young man's business. Today, though, there are competitors just now hitting their primes.

    Brodie Lee received his first AEW World Heavyweight Championship at Double or Nothing just this past Memorial Day weekend. SCU's Frankie Kazarian and Christopher Daniels have seemingly discovered the Fountain of Youth.

    MVP has reinvigorated his career thanks to his ability to put others over while remaining a shining star in his own right.

    Sheamus and Shinsuke Nakamura continue to perform at high levels on the SmackDown brand while Bobby Lashley is fresh off a main event program with Drew McIntyre over the WWE Championship on Raw.

    That this many talented individuals made the honorable mention list is an indicator to just how many stars are finding success later in their professional careers.

10. Jeff Hardy

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    Jeff Hardy may be a step or two slower than he was when he and brother Matt were revolutionizing tag team wrestling at the height of the Attitude Era, but he is still one of the better and more creative wrestlers on the WWE roster.

    His willingness to try something new, never allowing age to get in the way of a crowd-pleasing stunt or hamper his ability to think up some clever spot to insert at just the right time.

    He is still explosive in spurts and has learned the value of facial expressions and body language as his career has advanced and his desire to throw his body around every five seconds has waned. He is a smarter worker now than he was during his formative years in the ring and the result is his ability to continue working despite a career full of painful and agonizing bumps.

    That he remains hugely popular with wrestling fans is a testament to his connection with them, the effort he constantly puts in and his desire to continue expressing his artistry.

9. Dustin Rhodes

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    If you find yourself questioning whether Dustin Rhodes belongs in the top 10 of this list, just look back to May 2019 and his match with brother Cody at Double or Nothing. That match was a masterpiece of professional wrestling. It was physical, it was violent and it featured extraordinary storytelling.

    So good was it that Pro Wrestling Illustrated named it Match of the Year in its year-end issue. 

    Dustin bled buckets in that match but still turned in one of the defining performances of his career and has continued to show the sort of motivation to prove himself one hopes a star on the other side of 40 would. 

    In battles with The Young Bucks, Jake Hager and Lance Archer, Rhodes has demonstrated a refusal to rest on his laurels. He has broken out Canadian Destroyers, Code Reds and topes as he looks to prove he belongs in the land of youth.

    His understanding that the industry is changing and as a result, he must implement new and exciting into his skills set, while continuing to showcase the storytelling that has long made him one of the most engaging stars in the business, makes Rhodes indispensable.

8. John Morrison

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    It is easy to forget that John Morrison is 40 years old, especially as he continues to show off his rare athletic gifts and knack for all things parkour. Still charismatic, still chiseled like a Greek god, he looks as good, if not better, than he did at the height of his career 10 years ago.

    And his in-ring game has certainly not lost a step.

    Morrison has stolen the show more than once in recent months. First, there was the Ladder Match for the SmackDown Tag Team Championships against Kofi Kingston and Jimmy Uso at WrestleMania 36. Then there was the TV Match of the Year Candidate against Matt Riddle. In both, Morrison reminded fans why he was a coveted free agent and more importantly, why so many pushed for him to get a main event run with the company in his first go-round.

    It remains to be seen if The Shaman of Sexy will ever get that elusive push to the top of SmackDown but everything about him suggests he should. Considering that is the case this late in his career, with the style he works and its toll on the body is awe-inspiring.

7. Dolph Ziggler

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    Whether 25 or 40, Dolph Ziggler is a picture of consistency.

    A workhorse for WWE, he can come and go from the main event scene, delivering bangers with the top stars in the company. Then, he can settle into the midcard and work a program with someone like Otis, elevating the big man’s stock in the business and setting him up for a significant role as Mr. Money in the Bank.

    Ziggler’s selflessness and his superb in-ring skill set has helped make him one of WWE’s longest-tenured Superstars and on his 40th birthday, even saw him headline Raw against Drew McIntyre in a very good Extreme Rules Match.

    It remains to be seen if WWE will ever give him one last, great run with one of the two heavyweight titles but if the Ziggler that fans saw as part of Raw Underground can translate into the squared circle, with his amateur mat skills and vicious sleeper hold, he may get the opportunity sooner than anyone could have imagined.

6. Brock Lesnar

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    If Brock Lesnar was working more regularly, and longer than five minutes at a time, he would be No. 1 on this list without question.

    As it is, The Beast Incarnate is still one of WWE’s greatest draws and a genuine Superstar in an industry looking for the next big one. That he is only 42 is almost inconceivable considering how long he has been kicking ass in the squared circle.

    The former WWE and Universal Champion is a threat to win one of those titles every time he pops back up on Raw or SmackDown and that is a testament to the trust management has in him, as well as his own brand. Lesnar is a world-class destroyer. He is legitimate, punishing and makes fans believe because of it.

    At only 42, with the limited schedule he works and the lack of toll on his body that his style demands, do not be surprised if Lesnar is introducing opponents to Suplex City at 52.

5. Edge

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    Edge’s return to the ring may not have been what he or the fans imagined it would look like, but there is no denying that the Rated R Superstar is still one of the best workers and storytellers in WWE at age 46.

    He showcased the physically intense side of his work at WrestleMania 36 against Randy Orton in a sprawling brawl that ended with him as the Last Man Standing. From there, he wrestled a more traditional wrestling match at Backlash, delivering a bout that may not have lived up to the “Greatest Wrestling Match Ever” tagline, but was still one of the best of the year.

    Unfortunately, the third match in his trilogy with Orton has been delayed due to injury but when Edge returns to the squared circle, expect him to be every bit as driven to prove he is still one of the very best in the industry, no matter the date on his birth certificate.

4. Rey Mysterio

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    Rey Mysterio is every bit as good now as he was when he exploded onto the North American scene back in 1995. Though he is a touch slower and takes less risks, he is a smarter worker than he ever had been. He values the little things, ups his intensity and finishes opponents off with the 619 and West Coast Pop to send the fans home happy.

    At last November’s Survivor Series, we saw his knack for storytelling and the placement of certain spots to elicit the desired reaction when he battled Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship. We also saw it at The Horror Show at Extreme Rules in the absurd An Eye for an Eye Match against Seth Rollins, which was infinitely better than it had any right to be.

    With his son Dominik just now getting exposure in WWE, his first match ever upcoming at SummerSlam against Rollins, expect Mysterio to hang around for a while. And if he can’t come to terms with WWE on a new contract, do not be surprised if Rey Rey pops up in AEW, looking to end his career against some of the elite competition over on that show.

3. Chris Jericho

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    We knew that Chris Jericho signing with All Elite Wrestling would provide that company a huge dose of star power and a performer it could use to lure fans to the exciting new product. What we did not know was just how much of a career renaissance it would be for Jericho.

    Yes, he had enjoyed considerable success in New Japan Pro-Wrestling in his matches with Tetsuya Naito, Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada, but the last time fans in North American had seen him, he was wrapping up his latest okay-ish run in WWE.

    The advent of AEW allowed Jericho to become the egotistical veteran who wanted all the adulation and credit for the company’s early success. He because the self-centered heel around whom shows were built and eventually, he became the inaugural AEW world champion.

    Along the way, he instituted “a little bit of the bubbly,” “Le Champion” and became the leader of The Inner Circle faction.

    Throw in his stellar commentary work and you have a performer, at age 49, who is as valuable, creative and entertaining now as he has ever been. And AEW is incredibly lucky to have him.

2. Randy Orton

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    At age 40, Randy Orton is as great as he ever has been.

    Finding renewed purpose as one of WWE’s lead heels, he has spent 2020 erasing all doubts about his passion for the business. He has cut some of his best promos to date and has, again, established himself as one of the smartest and most compelling in-ring storytellers, thanks to a penchant for the little details.

    His work with Edge, in particular, has been extraordinary. His dive back into his Legend Killer persona was a ton of fun and his SummerSlam date with WWE champion Drew McIntyre has fans expecting continued excellence out of The Viper.

    Whether it is sustainable creatively, given the inconsistency in that department, remains to be seen but one thing that is for sure: this is the Orton that so many knew he could be when he was selected as one of the faces of WWE’s future some 18 years ago.



1. AJ Styles

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    There was a time when the idea of AJ Styles working for WWE and becoming a genuine main event attraction was laughable. He was that small guy from TNA, a big fish in a small pond. He was talented, sure, but he was not at all what WWE looked for in stars.

    Flash forward to 2020, where Styles has been a top star for Vince McMahon’s company since his arrival in 2016 and one of the very best professional wrestlers in the world. He still shows off that athleticism that earned him the attention of fans early in his TNA run, but has also settled down, executing a mat-based style that allows him to preserve his health and body.

    He is smarter now than he was, with better storytelling instincts, and the result is a more complete performer. A two-time WWE champion, three-time United States champion and the current Intercontinental champion, he has spent his run in McMahonland elevated the importance of championships and proving that he can play both babyface and heel at a high level.

    At a time when WWE continues to search for stars of the future, to no avail, Styles has emerged from the pack as, arguably, the company’s MVP and most consistent performer.