Ranking the Top 15 WWE and AEW Stars Aged 40 and AboveNovember 7, 2021
Ranking the Top 15 WWE and AEW Stars Aged 40 and Above
On the surface, professional wrestling seems like a young person's game. However, several big names have managed to remain relevant and create some incredible moments in the twilight of their careers.
For example, Mickie James has enjoyed a career resurgence during her latest run with Impact and NWA. The knockouts champion produced a fantastic show in EmPowerrr in the summer, and the 42-year-old has taken part in some great matches with Deonna Purrazzo and Kylie Rae. Her feud with The Virtuosa was quietly the best storyline heading into Bound for Glory this year.
Despite their age, some stars are still competing at a high level and leaving an impact on the industry. These are the top 15 WWE and AEW stars aged 40 and older.
A Pair of Queens
15. Emi Sakura
Emi Sakura recently booked a "one-way ticket" to the U.S. to become a part of AEW's women's division. The Japanese wrestler was among the Joshi performers who were a part of the fledgling division during its maiden year.
Sakura could be an invaluable addition to the roster because of her experience both in the ring and behind the curtain as a founder of Ice Ribbon and Gatoh Move Pro Wrestling. The 45-year-old has held championship gold all over the world and unsuccessfully challenged for the AEW women's title at Full Gear 2019.
Pro Wrestling Illustrated ranked her 75th on this year's PWI Women's 150 list. Additionally, Sakura has trained many notable names, such as Riho, Hikaru Shida and Mei Suruga, among others.
14. Shayna Baszler
Shayna Baszler is one of the best technical wrestlers in the world. The catch-as-catch-can-style practitioner is in a league of her own among female wrestlers.
Her in-ring prowess and vicious tactics made her one of the most dominant NXT women's champions to date. In fact, the 41-year-old boasts the longest combined reign with the title with 548 days under her belt. She's also the first two-time winner in the title's storied history.
She and Nia Jax also hold this designation with the WWE Women's Tag Team Championship. Their cumulative 215-day stint with the tag titles isn't as memorable, but it still puts The Queen of Spades in rarified air.
Internet Fan Favorites
Cesaro is probably your favorite wrestler's favorite wrestler and an unquestionable fan favorite among hardcore viewers thanks to his preternatural athleticism and in-ring ability. It's amazing to see him continue to perform at such a high level at his age.
The 40-year-old is among the best wrestlers in the world. In fact, The Swiss Cyborg showcased his prowess in April when he competed in the biggest match of his career at WrestleMania 37. At the event, he and Seth Rollins delivered one of the best showings of the event.
Cesaro stood tall on The Grandest Stage of Them All, securing a signature win over The Visionary. The victory elevated him past his status as a perennial midcarder and a decorated tag team specialist en route to his shot at the Universal Championship.
The jack of all trades unsuccessfully challenged Roman Reigns for the title at WrestleMania Backlash. Nevertheless, the two produced an incredible match that proved Cesario can still hang with the best.
Edge has been on quite a tear since he got a second lease on life as a surprise entrant in the 2020 men's Royal Rumble match. It was a poignant moment and one of the few lasting impressions in front of a crowd from last year because no one expected to see him wrestle again.
The Rated R Superstar returned to the event in 2021 and excited Tropicana Field as this year's men's Royal Rumble winner. The accomplishment makes the 48-year-old the second-oldest man to win the titular Battle Royal.
At WrestleMania 37, Edge, Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns headlined the second night in a great universal title match. However, the Canadian's crowning achievement of 2021 is his trilogy of phenomenal matches with Seth Rollins.
The Comeback Kids
11. Christian Cage
It has been a treat to watch Christian Cage get another crack at a singles run in 2021. His return to the squared circle has been one of many pleasant surprises in a year full of surreal moments.
In January, the 47-year-old entered the men's Royal Rumble match as entrant No. 24. Then he debuted for AEW at Revolution in March. Ever since, Cage has been on a great run with the company.
He has unexpectedly pinned Kenny Omega to win the Impact World Championship and headlined AEW's biggest pay-per-view of the year, All Out. Those accomplishments have separated him from other big names like CM Punk and Edge, who also recently returned to in-ring competition.
10. Shinsuke Nakamura
Shinsuke Nakamura is possibly the biggest Japanese star on the WWE roster. The stalwart was world-renowned during his time with New Japan Pro-Wrestling as one of the new Three Musketeers.
The King of Strong Style famously became the youngest IWGP heavyweight champion when defeated Hiroyoshi Tenzan in 2003. His more celebrated reign came in 2008 when he beat fellow Musketeer Hiroshi Tanahashi at Wrestle Kingdom II and went on to restore prestige the title when he bested Kurt Angle in a unification match
Still, the three-time IWGP heavyweight champion's biggest contribution to NJPW was his five reigns as with the company's intercontinental title. Nakamura was instrumental in establishing the secondary prize as a heavily sought-after prize.
The 2018 men's Royal Rumble winner's time in the U.S. has still been eventful. Nakamura was the first Japanese man to win the aforementioned Battle Royal, and The Artist has also enjoyed two reigns apiece as NXT, United States and intercontinental champion.
Stalwarts from Across The Pond
9. Meiko Satomura
Meiko Satomura is a legend in Japan thanks in part to her matches with Io Shirai from Stardom and Kana (WWE's Asuka). She's also the co-founder and inaugural world champion for Sendai Girls' Pro Wrestling.
The 41-year-old made her most noteworthy appearance in the U.S. in 2018 as a part of the second annual Mae Young Classic. During the tournament, Satomura delivered two standout matches with Mercedes Martinez and Toni Storm, who defeated her in the semifinals.
In September 2019, The Final Boss ended Jordynne Grace's 259-day reign to became the first Japanese Progress world women's champion. After a short run with the title, Satomura returned to WWE earlier this year as a part of its NXT UK brand.
Both of her matches with Kay Lee Ray were amazing, and she dethroned the longest-reigning NXT UK women's champion on June 10. The victory made Satomura the first Japanese woman to hold the title.
Fans often take Sheamus for granted. There are many long-tenured superstars on the WWE roster who have accomplished as much as him with less fanfare.
The 43-year-old has held just about every main roster title in WWE, and he is also a King of the Ring, Royal Rumble and Money in the Bank winner.
Following his jump to Raw in October 2020, the Irish star contributed a surprisingly strong series of matches ahead of his third United States Championship win at WrestleMania 37. During that time, he was quietly one of the most consistent performers on the brand.
The Empress and a Newly Designated Knight
7. Kofi Kingston
Kofi Kingston has had an illustrious career with WWE. The Ghanaian Grand Slam champion is one of the most highly regarded and decorated babyface characters on the roster.
Early in his career, the 40-year-old won both the Intercontinental and United States Championship multiple times. However, Kingston is probably more well-known for numerous tag title wins as part of The New Day. To date, his 14 reigns put him in a tie with Edge for the most overall reigns and grant him the most cumulative days as a tag team champion.
At WrestleMania 35, the Purveyor of Positivity fulfilled his childhood dream when he defeated Daniel Bryan to become the first African-born WWE champion. In the process, he sparked a renaissance for Black wrestlers and inspired a new generation of fans all over the world.
In just six years, Asuka has accumulated an impressive list of accomplishments with WWE.
The Empress of Tomorrow dominated NXT's women's division as its longest-reigning standard-bearer. In September 2017, Asuka left the brand with her undefeated streak intact and vacated the title. This undoubtedly helped her secure the No. 1 spot in that year's PWI Women's 50 list.
On the main roster, the 40-year-old became a sole survivor, the first women's Royal Rumble winner and Ms. Money in the Bank in 2020. And her Raw, SmackDown and tag team title reigns made her the second women's Grand Slam champion.
This consummate in-ring competitor and a versatile entertainer, she will go down as one of the greatest female wrestlers of this era. On paper, she has already accomplished enough to make a bid for the Hall of Fame.
5. Chris Jericho
Chris Jericho's ability to adapt and stay relevant through his character work has been his greatest strength since his time with WCW. Hate him or love him, but the Canadian star will always find a way to stand out as one of the most entertaining performers on any roster he has been on.
Lionheart, The Man of 1004 Holds, Y2J, The Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla, The King of the World The Paragon of Virtue, The Painmaker and Le Champion are just a few of the monikers he has gone by throughout his career. The 50-year-old is the oldest entry on our list, and his iconic run with WWE and his return to NJPW will see him stand the test of time.
His stint as AEW's inaugural world champion helped raise wrestling's profile among lapsed and casual fans during the promotion's first year. The Demo God was an integral part of WWE programming during the Attitude Era, and his presence made AEW grow into a viable alternative. This makes him one of the most important figures in the industry and a living legend.
4. Bobby Lashley
Bobby Lashley is one of the few men who has held world championship gold for ECW and Impact. This year, he completed the hat trick when he finally attained the WWE title and led the company out of the empty-arena era.
Lashley is only the third Black WWE champion and the first to successfully defend his title at WrestleMania. This gives the CEO of The Hurt Business a spot in the history books among other all-time greats.
The 45-year-old remains in impeccable shape and has finally hit his stride in WWE with the right combination of character and in-ring work. To that end, joining forces with MVP turned out to be a beneficial situation for the The All Mighty.
Starting with his tenure as United States champion, Lashley has been one of the most feared and protected members of the roster. At Crown Jewel, the former MMA fighter also produced the best match featuring Goldberg in years.
3. Randy Orton
Randy Orton is a quintessential WWE wrestler. He has spent his entire 19-year career in the promotion and is consequently synonymous with its house style.
The 41-year-old rose to prominence as the breakout star of Evolution. Orton has gone on to secure 14 world title wins en route to becoming a Grand Slam champion. The Viper is also a two-time Royal Rumble winner and was Mr. Money in the Bank in 2013.
Moreover, many fans consider the third-generation wrestler one of the greatest heels in the history of the company. He revived his Legend Killer persona last year and created some of his most riveting moments as an MVP of the empty-arena era.
Recently, he has been playing the straight man in his popular duo with Riddle, RK-Bro. The unconventional pairing is the reigning Raw tag team champion and the latest example of how Orton can still surprise us after all this time.
2. AJ Styles
PWI named AJ Styles as the Wrestler of the Decade last year for a reason. No one in the industry accomplished more at multiple levels throughout the 2010s.
The 44-year-old has won world championship gold just about everywhere he has gone except Ring of Honor, where he is known for his time as a tag team champion. Over the past decade, Styles has held the TNA world, IWGP, RevPro British heavyweight and WWE titles. He has also competed at Bound for Glory, Wrestle Kingdom and WrestleMania, all within the past 10 years.
The Phenomenal One recently became a Grand Slam champion via his tag title reign with Omos. The two-time WWE champion's 511 combined days as champion cement his status among legendary modern flag-bearers like Randy Savage, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, Triple H, Brock Lesnar and John Cena.
His Hall of Fame-worthy list of accolades alone would be enough to land a spot on this list, but Styles is also one of the best in-ring competitors in the world. Many top stars have had some of their most memorable matches opposite this high-flying technician.
1. Bryan Danielson
One could make a strong case that Bryan Danielson is the best wrestler in the world. The technical savant is certainly one of the most beloved performers in the industry.
We could go on and on about his iconic run with ROH and how it helped to change the face of mainstream wrestling or the impact of the Yes! Movement. We could even wax lyrical about his inspirational and triumphant return to in-ring competition in 2018. However, the common denominator is that the 40-year-old can ignite emotions in viewers as only a select few stars can.
Danielson was an endearing underdog and a grandstanding antagonist during his final run in WWE. The Leader of the Yes! Movement and The Planet's Champion are two drastically different characters, but they both worked because of his commitment to excellent storytelling and high-quality matches.
This year, The American Dragon has competed at both WrestleMania and AEW's biggest show to date, Grand Slam. His debut at All Out will go down as a highlight on the best pay-per-view of the year.
Even more, he has arguably produced three candidates for the Match of the Year: his career vs. title match with Roman Reigns, time-limit draw with Kenny Omega and unexpected showdown with Minoru Suzuki. Danielson hasn't had a bad showing this year, and we don't see any signs of him slowing down with an encounter with Miro set for Full Gear on Saturday.