Wrestling all over the world–not just in WWE–is featuring and celebrating stars of years past, and doing so in prominent positions. Is this any different than Hollywood and music?
While much has been said about the ages in the tag team match at Crown Jewel (Shawn Michaels is 53, Triple H 49, The Undertaker 53, and Kane 51) that’s not the only place where guys who could be my older brother are competing. 49 year old Kurt Angle just wrestled on RAW this week after working at Crown Jewel himself.
It’s not just WWE, either!
Chris Jericho is still going in New Japan at the ripe young age of 47 and will be in the second biggest match at Wrestle Kingdom in January when he faces Tetsuya Naito in a defense of the IWGP Intercontinental Championship that he’s held since this summer. Over in Ring of Honor 47 year old Bully Ray is the best heel they have working there (his work this past weekend included a match where he was the manager for Silas Young, who faced the 55 year old Sandman in a no DQ match). But wait, there’s more!
One of the biggest stories on the indie scene this year is the run that 50 year old Pierre Carl Oulette (PCO) is on in 2018. And in AAA 52 year old LA Park, the Chairman from WCW back in the late 90s, has undergone a career resurgence. That’s a whole lot of work for guys who are almost or over 50 and have long since seen their best days. And with that come the obvious questions: (a) Is this bad for business? and (b) Is this a bad sign for their respective companies?
In response to the first question, I give it a resounding no. Of course it’s not bad for business. Bringing in anyone with the name recognition and residual popularity to sell a few more tickets or get a few more views is not only just fine, it has a pretty long history in the business. Bruno Sammartino was working house shows in 1986 ad 87 at 50 years old, often in the main event or second highest match on the card. Verne Gagne won the AWA World Championship at 54 years old (it helped that he was the owner and booker at the time, of course).
Ric Flair worked until he was almost 60. Wahoo McDaniel was US champion at 46 and competed until he was 57. The Rock n Roll Express are still working indie shows now at ages 62 (Ricky Morton) and 60 (Robert Gibson). The list goes on and on. If guys can still get in a ring, move around at all, and still get off one or two of their big moves then there’s a good chance they’re going to keep working.
And they’re not alone. The music industry is chock full of guys that are old enough to have fathered some of these dudes and are still going – Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Tony Bennett, and Bruce Springsteen, to name a few. Liam Neeson is still taking out bad guys into his 60s and the Expendables series is centered around 50 and 60 something year old action stars returning to do their thing. As long as they can pass and we’re still willing to pay it’s not that big of a deal.
But what about the people that are hiring them? Is it any kind of bad omen that there’s a desire or need to keep running these guys out there, whether it’s just every now and then or on a regular basis? To that I answer…….it depends.
Yes, making a 50 something year old your full time top star and putting your top title on them for an extended run is a sign of major desperation or just bad decision making. But nobody’s doing that here. Bully Ray gets a big segment on TV almost every week but he doesn’t main event and he doesn’t challenge for any titles. Angle’s match Monday was booked in order to make him look like an old guy who’s in over his head with Drew McIntyre. P
ark and PCO aren’t working 60 minute Ironman matches. And while the 4 way nursing home tag match looked bad in spots from what I heard, that and it’s predecessor at the Super Show Down were special additions to shows for crowds that hadn’t seen those guys in person before. And while you can argue that they got too much TV time to promote them, to the point that it overshadowed Evolution in very conspicuous fashion, now that those dates are done we’re not seeing them anymore. So I don’t see what the big brouhaha was all about in hindsight outside of the advertising.
So I guess you could say I’m fine with the old guys still working and still getting prominent spots sometimes. On a personal note, when my Dad saw Bruno was still working it took him back to his younger days of watching and gave us one more thing to bond over. And he didn’t say ‘man, Bruno’s still out there? They must be desperate.’ He was happy to see that ‘his guy’ could still go a little and that made me happy.
When I’m in the car with my kids and play some of ‘my music’ to a favorable reaction it makes me feel pretty good. Nothing wrong with giving some of our elders a place on the show as long as it’s managed right. Like all forms of entertainment wrestling and WWE exists on a continuum that spans from my grandparents to my children and there’s room for everyone to participate and enjoy.