An NFL football player in his late 30s is viewed as past his prime. Baseball, basketball, hockey, same thing. However, in pro wrestling, you see the likes of Terry Funk, Ric Flair and Mae Young competing in the ring in their 60s and beyond.
The heart attack Jerry The King Lawler, 62, suffered during WWE Monday Night Raw’s live TV show in Montreal has begged the question: how old is too old to still be wrestling?
For former WWE writer Court Bauer, the answer isn’t simple. A decade ago Bauer launched Major League Wrestling, which included stars such as Dusty Rhodes, Funk and even Lawler.
“I wish it was as simple as my belief that everyone has a right to work,” Bauer said. “If you can pass your meds, then you should have the right to work. However, there’s no criteria that requires such in pro wrestling. The majority of states have deregulated wrestling, and even those that still maintain a commission are a farce when it comes to their meds and monitoring the wellness of talent.”
Former ECW, WCW and WWE wrestler Lance Storm has seen wrestling evolve in his more than two decades in the business. The veteran currently heads the Storm Wrestling Academy in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. A handful of his students signed with WWE’s developmental group Florida Championship Wrestling (WWE NXT).
When it comes to Lawler, Storm believes it’s important to stress the fact that King worked a fairly full-time schedule on the independent scene with an occasional WWE match. He did all this performing with no known issues.
“To this end I think everything has to be on a case-by-case basis, and at the end of the day if a person can pass the required medicals and wants to wrestle, I don’t see how anyone has the right to stop them,” Storm said.
“If WWE stopped booking Jerry [or anyone else] from wrestling, and they still want to wrestle, they will just get booked somewhere else. Adults are responsible for their own heath, and if you are able, willing and can pass the medicals, why not let them wrestle.
“The key to this for me is passing a physical and getting medical clearance. I think from a safety standpoint, especially someone big like WWE, probably once guys get late 40s, maybe past 50, they should make sure they’ve passed a full medical annually before they allow them to wrestle.”
For high-flyer Sonjay Dutt, currently seen on TNA Impact Wrestling, just because someone is older doesn’t necessarily mean they are unfit to perform in the ring.
“I don’t think there should be an age restriction across the board, but each case should be judged on its own,” Dutt said. “Not every 20-year-old is healthy, and not every 60-year-old is unhealthy. It’s certainly up to each individual.”
Former WCW and WWE wrestler Shane Hurricane Helms added: “I would have to say it’s a case by case basis. It’s still a free country, and everyone deserves the right to make a living as long as they’re capable. If their health is a risk factor, then for sure, a case can be made to limit or not allow them to compete.
“But contrary to a very popular cliché, not everyone is created equal, and if a person still has the ability to perform, then they deserve the right to make that decision for themselves. We all have our limits, and hopefully we realize for ourselves what they are.”