Over the past year, one of the many initiatives of WWE has been its developmental process with the reconstruction of NXT and having a younger roster.
The recruitment process and its changes were seen last week during the three-day tryout session in Dallas, Texas. Of the 53 participants at the tryout, no one was over the age of 25 and only eight lacked a collegiate sports background. The ones without a college sports background either competed in mixed martial arts or CrossFit.
While it’s too early to judge the success or failure of the NXT 2.0 model, we thought it would be interesting to look at the average age of this year’s two-night WrestleMania card and compare it with last year’s card, five years ago, and ten years ago.
Below are the cards for both nights with the ages of each performer (Note: Charlotte Flair is listed at 35, although celebrated a birthday yesterday).
WrestleMania 38 – Night 1 (2022)
*The KO Show: Kevin Owens (37) with Steve Austin (57)
*SmackDown Women’s Championship: Charlotte Flair (35) vs. Ronda Rousey (35)
*Raw Women’s Championship: Becky Lynch (35) vs. Bianca Belair (32)
*SmackDown Tag Team Championships: The Usos (36) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (42) & Rick Boogs (34)
*Seth Rollins (35) vs. Cody Rhodes (36)
*The Miz (41) & Logan Paul (27) vs. Rey (47) & Dominik Mysterio (25)
*Drew McIntyre (36) vs. Happy Corbin (37)
Average age: 36.8
WrestleMania 38 – Night 2
*Champion vs. Champion: Roman Reigns (36) vs. Brock Lesnar (44)
*Anything Goes Match: Sami Zayn (37) vs. Johnny Knoxville (51)
*AJ Styles (44) vs. Edge (48)
*Pat McAfee (34) vs. Austin Theory (24)
*Pat McAfee (34) vs. Vince McMahon (76)
*WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships: Carmella (34) & Queen Zelina (31) vs. Naomi (34) & Sasha Banks (30) vs. Rhea Ripley (25) & Liv Morgan (27) vs. Natalya (39) & Shayna Baszler (41)
*Raw Tag Team Championships: Randy Orton (42) & Riddle (36) vs. The Street Profits (31, 31) vs. Chad Gable (36) & Otis (30)
*Omos (27) vs. Bobby Lashley (45)
*Kofi Kingston (40) & Xavier Woods (35) vs. Sheamus (44) & Ridge Holland (33)
Average age: 37.4 (36.0 without Vince McMahon)
Overall average: 37.2 and 36.3 without Vince McMahon
Like any exercise, there can be flaws to this method depending on what information you are trying to seek out. Using the annual WrestleMania card to look at the age of your roster will tend to skew higher because it’s a regular pattern that WWE brings back a lot of older performers for the big show of the year due to their equity with the audience and that’s going to come with older age.
However, it is demonstrative of the larger picture of creating stars to carry WrestleMania, which is the whole point of your work all year. A card that is filled with part-time performers or one-off celebrity matches comes in the absence of everyday regular performers that can benefit that specific weekend of shows, but it is your weekly performers that are relied upon all year.
For this year’s show, the oldest performers were Vince McMahon, Steve Austin, Johnny Knoxville, Edge, and Rey Mysterio. There were fourteen performers over the age of 40 between both nights.
On the other end, the youngest performer on either night was Austin Theory at 24-years of age followed by Rhea Ripley and Dominik Mysterio, who are both 25. There were six performers under the age of 30 with the aforementioned along with Liv Morgan, Omos, and Logan Paul.
If there has been a shift, there is certainly a greater ability for males in their 40s to not only remain on the main roster as weekly performers but be in top spots as seen by the number on this year’s show. It is less so for female performers as Shayna Baszler is the only female over the age of 40 on this year’s show while last year included Tamina.
For the obvious comparison, assessing the main card matches from the last AEW pay-per-view, the average age was 35.6 with a wild range. On the Revolution card, there were seven wrestlers aged 40 or over, topping out with Sting, who was 62 when that card took place. However, the pay-per-view also featured six performers under the age of 30 with Darby Allin, Sammy Guevara, Isiah Kassidy, Jade Cargill, Tay Conti, and Jungle Boy.
Here is our comparison with last year’s two-night event with the individual ages of the performers on the day of the show in 2021:
WrestleMania 37 – Night 1 (2021)
*Bianca Belair (31) vs. Sasha Banks (29)
*Bad Bunny (27) & Damian Priest (38) vs. The Miz (40) & John Morrison (41)
*Braun Strowman (37) vs. Shane McMahon (51)
*AJ Styles (43) & Omos (26) vs. Kofi Kingston (39) & Xavier Woods (34)
*Cesaro (40) vs. Seth Rollins (34)
*Natalaya (38) & Tamina (43) vs. Liv Morgan (26) & Ruby Riott (30) vs. Lana (36) & Naomi (33) vs. Billie Kay (31) & Carmella (33) vs. Dana Brooke (32) & Mandy Rose (30)
*Bobby Lashley (44) vs. Drew McIntyre (35)
Average age: 35.4
WrestleMania 37 – Night 2
*Roman Reigns (35) vs. Edge (47) vs. Daniel Bryan (39)
*Rhea Ripley (24) vs. Asuka (39)
*Apollo Crews (33) vs. Big E. (35)
*Sheamus (43) vs. Riddle (35)
*Kevin Owens (36) vs. Sami Zayn (36)
*Nia Jax (36) & Shayna Baszler (40) vs. Natalya (38) & Tamina (43) (Note: Natalya & Tamina worked both nights)
*Randy Orton (41) vs. The Fiend (33)
Average age: 37.2
NOTE: There was a discrepancy with the original averages for last year which have been updated. A note that Natalya & Tamina worked both nights.
It would be a natural assumption that the overall average would increase by one year from the 2022 averages. However, there has been a lot of turnover in the company with many releases.
Those that wrestled on last year’s WrestleMania and were not on this year’s show included Daniel Bryan, The Fiend, Damian Priest, John Morrison, Shane McMahon, Cesaro, Ruby Riott, Lana, Billie Kay, Dana Brooke, Mandy Rose, Asuka, Big E. (injury), Apollo Crews, Nia Jax, Tamina, and Bad Bunny.
That is a huge turnover especially of talent that was in a significant match last year and were either released or their contract expired.
Going back five years, here is the makeup of the 2017 show (excluding the pre-show) from Orlando, Florida:
WrestleMania 33 (2017)
*Roman Reigns (31) vs. The Undertaker (52)
*Naomi (29) vs. Alexa Bliss (25) vs. Becky Lynch (30) vs. Carmella (29) vs. Mickie James (37) vs. Natalya (34)
*Brock Lesnar (39) vs. Bill Goldberg (50)
*Randy Orton (37) vs. Bray Wyatt (29)
*Seth Rollins (30) vs. Triple H (37)
*John Cena (39) & Nikki Bella (33) vs. The Miz (36) & Maryse (34)
*The Hardys (42, 39) vs. Enzo & Cass (30, 30) vs. Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows (33, 37) vs. Cesaro & Sheamus (36, 39)
*Bayley (27) vs. Charlotte (31) vs. Sasha Banks (25) vs. Nia Jax (32)
*Kevin Owens (32) vs. Chris Jericho (46)
*AJ Styles (39) vs. Shane McMahon (47)
Average age: 35.1
From ten years ago:
WrestleMania 28 (2012)
*The Rock (39) vs. John Cena (34)
*CM Punk (33) vs. Jericho (41)
*David Otunga (31), Dolph Ziggler (31), Drew McIntyre (26), Jack Swagger (30), Mark Henry (40) & The Miz (31) vs. Booker T. (47), Kofi Kingston (30), Great Khali (39), R-Truth (40), Santino Marella (38) & Zack Ryder (26)
*The Undertaker (47) vs. Triple H (42)
*Kelly Kelly (25) & Maria Menounos (33) vs. Beth Phoenix (31) & Eve Torres (27)
*Big Show (40) vs. Cody Rhodes (26)
*Kane (44) vs. Randy Orton (32)
*Sheamus (34) vs. Daniel Bryan (30)
Average age: 34.5
The ultimate goal is having talent get over at a top-level that can headline WrestleMania. It’s the entire impetus behind the recruitment process and securing talent that is young and therefore, can learn the industry and become stars for the longest time possible.
We analyzed the ages of WrestleMania headliners going back to 1985 and how old they were on the day of the show. In some years, the match that went on last was not the true main event of the show such as WrestleMania X-8 where The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan was the main event. In 2007 for the Battle of the Billionaires, it was really unique in that the performers, Umaga and Bobby Lashley, were hardly the draws of the main match. It was the personalities attached to each, Vince McMahon and Donald Trump with referee Steve Austin, that were the largest difference makers. In 2004, you could make the argument that several matches were pushed equally but we went with the match that closed the show.
For the first six editions of WrestleMania, the youngest headliner was Roddy Piper, who headlined the first card in March 1985 just weeks before his 31st birthday. That distinction went to the Ultimate Warrior in 1990 and was trumped by Rodney Anoa’i a.k.a. Yokozuna, who headlined in 1993 at 26 years and six months. In 2003, Brock Lesnar became the youngest WrestleMania headliner at 25 years and eight months, which has yet to be broken.
In an interesting trivia note, Steve Austin and Vince McMahon would now be the oldest performers to headline a WrestleMania card. McMahon would be the oldest at 57 years and six months if you consider his match with Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania 19 as the main event – it didn’t go on last but was the featured match on the promotional material and the match promoted the hardest on either brand that year. Austin would be behind McMahon at 57 years and three months after facing Kevin Owens this past Saturday, which was clearly the main event of that night’s show.
WM 1: Hulk Hogan (31) & Mr. T (32) vs. Roddy Piper (30) & Paul Orndorff (35)
WM 2: Hogan (32) vs. King Kong Bundy (31)
WM 3: Hogan (33) vs. Andre the Giant (40)
WM 4: Hogan (34) vs. Andre (41), Randy Savage (35) vs. Ted DiBiase (34)
WM 5: Savage (36) vs. Hogan (35)
WM 6: Hogan (36) vs. Ultimate Warrior (30)
WM 7: Hogan (37) vs. Sgt. Slaughter (42)
WM 8: Hogan (38) vs. Sid Justice (31), Savage (39) vs. Ric Flair (43)
WM 9: Bret Hart (35) vs. Yokozuna (26), Hogan (39) & Brutus Beefcake (35) vs. DiBiase (39) & I.R.S. (35)
WM 10: Bret Hart (36) vs. Owen Hart (28), Yokozuna (27) vs. Lex Luger (35)
WM 11: Lawrence Taylor (36) vs. Bam Bam Bigelow (33), Diesel (35) vs. Shawn Michaels (29)
WM 12: Bret Hart (38) vs. Shawn Michaels (30)
WM 13: Sid (36) vs. The Undertaker (31)
WM 14: Shawn Michaels (32) vs. Steve Austin (33)
WM 15: The Rock (26) vs. Steve Austin (34)
WM 16: Triple H (30) vs. The Rock (27) vs. Mick Foley (34) vs. Big Show (28)
WM 17: The Rock (28) vs. Steve Austin (36)
WM 18: The Rock (29) vs. Hulk Hogan (48), Chris Jericho (31) vs. Triple H (32)
WM 19: Kurt Angle (34) vs. Brock Lesnar (25), Hulk Hogan (49) vs. Vince McMahon (57)
WM 20: Triple H (34) vs. Shawn Michaels (38) vs. Chris Benoit (36)
WM 21: Triple H (35) vs. Batista (36)
WM 22: John Cena (28) vs. Triple H (36)
WM 23: Bobby Lashley (30) vs. Umaga (34), John Cena (29) vs. Shawn Michaels (41)
WM 24: Big Show (37) vs. Floyd Mayweather Jr. (31), Edge (34) vs. The Undertaker (43)
WM 25: Triple H (39) vs. Randy Orton (29)
WM 26: The Undertaker (45) vs. Shawn Michaels (44)
WM 27: The Miz (30) vs. John Cena (33), The Rock as host
WM 28: The Rock (39) vs. John Cena (34)
WM 29: The Rock (40) vs. John Cena (35)
WM 30: Daniel Bryan (32) vs. Randy Orton (34) vs. Batista (45)
WM 31: Brock Lesnar (37) vs. Roman Reigns (29)
WM 32: Triple H (46) vs. Roman Reigns (30)
WM 33: The Undertaker (52) vs. Roman Reigns (31)
WM 34: Brock Lesnar (40) vs. Roman Reigns (32)
WM 35: Ronda Rousey (32) vs. Charlotte Flair (33) vs. Becky Lynch (32)
WM 36: Brock Lesnar (42) vs. Drew McIntyre (34), The Undertaker (55) vs. AJ Styles (42)
WM 37: Roman Reigns (35) vs. Edge (47) vs. Daniel Bryan (39), Sasha Banks (29) vs. Bianca Belair (32)
WM 38: Roman Reigns (36) vs. Brock Lesnar (44), Steve Austin (57) vs. Kevin Owens (37)