As you can probably imagine, being a professional wrestler is not easy on the body. After years of hitting the mat at full force, contorting one's frame in awkward positions and enduring a career full of physical devastation the sport can have on your arms, legs and everything in-between, many professional wrestlers must retire while still in their 20s and 30s.
Just this weekend, WWE superstar Santino Marella (real name Anthony Carelli) announced his retirement from the organization due to chronic neck issues caused by injuries he sustained while wrestling. Fortunately for him and his fans, though, it is likely that Santino will stay involved with the WWE in some capacity. As wrestling blog Cageside Seats points out, "Santino is a frequent host of YouTube segments and bumpers on WWE Network, does commercial work for the Stamford, Connecticut based company such as the Twisted Tea in-show advertisement on the June 30, 2014 Raw and has recently been a spokesman for an anti-bullying campaign with sponsor Juicy Drops."
Based on these credentials (not to mention the fact that he was a superstar), it seems likely that Santino will stay in the spotlight one way or another. Not all wrestlers are this lucky, however, and some must stay in the game longer than their bodies can handle because of it.
Often times, wrestlers who retire from the WWE join independent wrestling leagues or alternative organizations. One such organization is Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA). The TNA league has been the home to many former WWE stars, including Kurt Angle and Hulk Hogan, amongst other more and less recognizable names. The brand might be different, but the physical toll is still intense.
Some prominent wrestlers leave the wrestling world altogether after retiring from contention. At times this has been by choice, as was the case with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who has become an immensely popular actor since retiring from the WWE. Other times, however, injuries or the aging process have taken wrestlers out of the game prematurely and against their wishes.
X-Pac, who was once actively involved in the WWE competitively, tore his anus during a non-WWE match last year. Shawn Michaels, who was known as "The Heartbreak Kid", retired in 2011 to become a bible teacher in Texas after becoming a born-again Christian. Ex-superstar Scott Harland (known as "Scotty 2 Hotty") retired to Florida in 2007 and is now a licensed firefighter.
As can be seen in these instances, life after wrestling can be quite lucrative for some, but it is by no means a guarantee.
Matthew Roblez is a celebrated wrestling announcer and commentator. He is also the commissioner of Ultra Championship Wrestling Zero. This organization is based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and has been operating for over 12 years; it was recently awarded Utah's "Best of State" title.
Matthew Roblez acknowledged that retirement can be difficult for wrestlers and brought up an important point: it is not only important for professional wrestlers to know when to retire, but also for these people to make sure that they truly want to sign up for the wear and tear that professional wrestling will no doubt bring upon their bodies in the first place.
When asked about the process for a professional wrestler's decision to become a wrestler, Roblez admitted that it is rarely easy.
"Once you come to the decision that it is what you want to do, you have to dedicate yourself more than 100%,” he said. “There is no room for weekend warriors or '40-millers', there is no half-stepping in this business, because if you half step or are not fully committed, you won’t last. Or even worse, you'll get seriously hurt - or hurt someone else.”
For these reasons, as well as the inevitable toll the sport takes on the body, it is important for professional wrestlers to do some serious soul searching before committing to the sport. As wrestling insider Matthew Roblez points out, once you have committed, you must be 100% all in and treat it as a profession, not a recreational activity.
Between the launch of the WWE network, the noticeable growing popularity of the company's superstars, and the talk of which network will air TNA once its current deal is up, it is clear that professional wrestling is not going anywhere. And as long as pro wrestling is around, you will have people who want to participate. The hope is that people will give equal thought to the costs, not just the benefits, and make an educated decision that they will be happy with when they finally have to retire once and for all.