Age Ain't Nothin' but a Number, but How Old Is Too Old to Wrestle?

Kevin WilliamsCorrespondent IAugust 18, 2009

"There is no age limit in the WWE."

These words were uttered by Jerry "The King" Lawler to "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan on a 2008 episode of Raw. Duggan had been contemplating retirement due to his advancing years, but was told that if he still felt the passion to wrestle, he should continue on.

As much as I am all for doing what you love, how old is too old to be wrestling?

At TNA's recent Hard Justice pay-per-view, wrestling legends Mick Foley and Kevin Nash faced off for TNA's Legends Championship.

Nash is 50 years old, while Foley is 44. I couldn't help but cringe as Nash and Foley hit each other with a multitude of weapons and proceeded to bleed.

Neither of these men have any business wrestling anymore. Foley has taken a crazy amount of bumps in his day. At this point in his life, Nash may be made of more metal than actual bone due to his numerous surgeries.

Older wrestlers have a variety of reasons why they continue to put their body on the line well into their 40s, 50s, and in some cases, 60s.

In some cases, wrestlers need the money. I'm sure many independent mainstays would have called it quits a long time ago had they had long careers in the WWE instead of wrestling their careers on the indy circuit.

A wrestler who spends his whole career wrestling in the indies will probably never make half the money of someone who wrestles just a few years in WWE.

This gap became more apparent to me when Scott D'Amore organized A Night of Appreciation for Sabu in 2004.

Sabu contracted a virus while nursing an injury and was unable to pay the outstanding medical fees by himself. It's no wonder he continues to wrestle on the independent circuit today at 44 years of age.

Anyone who has seen Sabu wrestle knows that he has also taken his fair share of bumps. From having his neck broken by Chris Benoit, to having his bicep torn open in a match with Terry Funk, where he proceeded to continue the match with his bicep duct taped together, by all means, Sabu's career should have been over about 10 years ago.

Whether you believe it is a sport or not, wrestlers have to endure more pain and a tougher schedule than any other athlete. There comes a time when a wrestler has taken so many bumps that their bodies will never really be back to 100 percent.

It is becoming more and more common for the older wrestlers to take extended breaks and work lighter schedules, but is this really enough?

Undertaker and Shawn Michaels put on a classic match at Wrestlemania 25 earlier this year at aged 44 and 43.

From the way they performed, no one would be able to tell that Undertaker's knees are quickly giving out on him, or that Michaels once had a back injury that kept him away from the ring for five years.

Soon after, both men took long breaks from the business, with Michaels only returning this past Monday, and with Undertaker yet to be seen. One has to wonder how much longer these two will hold up due to their age and mounting injuries.

Current UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar was just 25 years old when he won his first WWE Championship. In an interview with ESPN, Lesnar said it was at this time that he was wrestling non-stop, and the injuries were piling up. It got to the point where he was taking Vicodin with Vodka to suppress the pain.

Imagine a 25-year-old man, built like Brock Lesnar, who has only been wrestling for a few years, going to such measures to reduce the pain felt from being on the road and taking bumps every night.

Then compare that to one of the elder statesmen who is nearing his mid-40s and probably has two to three times the amount of injuries that someone as young as Brock Lesnar had at the time.

Even if older wrestlers aren't nursing an incredible amount of injuries, there comes a time when it just becomes an embarrassing to see them in the ring.

Jimmy Snuka's performance at Wrestlemania 25 at age 65 was uninspiring, to say the least. Kevin Nash looks as though he needs a cane to aid him on his walk down the ramp at the iMPACT Zone. Mick Foley looks fairly winded after throwing a few punches.

Even Hulk Hogan, who was never that impressive in the ring to begin with, has looked that much worse in his more recent matches, and it doesn't take much to make him bleed naturally in his matches anymore.

Every wrestler's body has been through hell and back, but there are a select few who have managed to take good care of themselves. Dave "Fit" Finlay began his WWE career at the tender age of 47 after wrestling for many other promotions in the past, including WCW.

Currently at 51 years of age, Finlay can still do his fair share in the ring. He has competed in three Wrestlemanias, including to Money in the Bank matches, and is pretty agile for someone his age. I'm sure if Finlay wanted to, he could wrestle another two or three years.

Ricky Steamboat can also be credited as being an over the hill wrestler still capable of putting on good performances.

Steamboat has only wrestled a handful of matches after retiring in 1994. All of them have been in the year 2009, including one at Wrestlemania 25 where he almost stole the show at the age of 56.

I was a bit skeptical about Steamboat wrestling at Wrestlemania, because he looks a bit frail as opposed to other ex-wrestlers. He completely blew me away with the aerial ability that he exhibited, and I was compelled to watch some of his older matches after watching him at Wrestlemania.

It is becoming more and more common for wrestlers to receive the push of their careers after entering their mid-30s. Triple H is 40 years old, and yet he has won 13 World Championships, with his first coming just after he turned 30.

This means that Triple H averages 1.3 title reigns per year. With that kind of push, and the money that comes with it, it's easy to imagine why Triple H would want to wrestle into his mid-40s.

When it comes down to it, wrestlers continue their careers into the 40s and 50s for a variety of reasons, whether it is for the money, passion, or just the inability to walk away for good.

You have your Undertakers, Michaels, and Stings who can perform at a high level on any given night, despite their age working against them. Yet, you also have those who are doing more harm to their bodies than good.

In the end, it is up to each wrestler to decide when to finally call it a career.