All of us look forward to a time when we can sit back, and enjoy the fruits of our labor. No one wants to work well into their 60s; in professional wrestling, the shelf life of a competitor is considerably smaller. A 40-year-old wrestler is considered to be knocking on the doors of retirement, while an injury or even the cumulative effect of previous knocks could bring down the curtains on the career of a wrestler.
WWE superstars, especially of this generation, are much wiser and plan to get out of the business before they turn 40. While the WWE superstars love their job and love to entertain the WWE Universe, the decision about when to retire isn’t always left up to them.
Sometimes, the body starts shutting down, forcing the performer to call it a day. Today, we take a look at the top 10 retirement matches in WWE history.
Honorable mentions: Lita versus Mickie James
Although Lita will go down as one of the greatest women’s wrestlers of all time and a true revolutionary in the business, her final match wasn’t as memorable as one would expect. Lita carried the women’s division along with Trish Stratus, but her personal life caught up with her, forcing the WWE Universe to turn on the former WWE Women’s Champion.
While Lita’s final match was impressive, it wasn’t the best way to bring down the curtains on a glittering career, with the fans booing Lita out of the building. For this reason, she finds herself out of our top 10 list.
Victoria versus Michelle McCool
Victoria was one of the best female wrestlers of her generation. However, with Lita and Trish getting involved in perhaps the greatest rivalry in women’s wrestling, the spotlight wasn’t always on her. Victoria is a two-time WWE Women’s Champion, and was a formidable heel, known for her smash mouth style and aggressive nature in the ring.
In early 2009, Victoria took on Michelle McCool on SmackDown, and after suffering a loss at the hands of one-half of LayCool, Victoria announced her retirement from WWE. Victoria thanked the fans with tears in her eyes, as one of the most underrated women’s wrestlers brought down the curtains on her illustrious WWE career.
Tommy Dreamer versus Zack Ryder
Tommy Dreamer personified ECW, and what it stood for. With his “never say die” attitude and his refusal to lay down for anyone, he embodied the fight the original ECW promotion put up in the 90s. Tommy Dreamer was also one of the most beloved superstars, and his time with ECW made him one of the most respectable performers in the business.
When WWE decided to bring back ECW, they also hired the ECW Originals, including Dreamer. Dreamer was then involved in multiple storylines, including the “ECW Originals versus The New Breed” angle. In late 2009, Dreamer was involved in an angle where he went up against William Regal, resulting in Dreamer putting his WWE career on the line against Zack Ryder.
Ryder shocked the world when he pinned Tommy Dreamer, forcing the former ECW Champion to retire from WWE. While this was a part of the storyline, Dreamer was released from his contract in January 2010.
Trish Stratus versus Lita
Two of the greatest adversaries in the ring, but best of friends off camera; Trish Stratus faced Lita in the final match of her career. Trish also had the opportunity that very few receive – she had the chance to walk away from the industry as a champion. Trish Stratus took on the then WWE Women’s Champion Lita, with her final match being for the WWE Women’s Championship.
The WWE Universe expected Lita to win the match, as it was unheard of for someone to walk away from the business as the champion. However, in September 2006, Trish Stratus defeated Lita after putting her in a Sharpshooter in front of her hometown crowd in Toronto, as Lita tapped out.
Trish became the WWE Women’s Champion for the seventh time – the most in WWE history, and walked away as the champion.
Edge versus Alberto Del Rio
There was perhaps no other superstar who could play heel better than the “Rated R Superstar”. While Edge’s heel turn came about due to the personal turmoil stemming from his relationship with Lita, Edge made the most of the situation, becoming the most hated superstar in WWE. Edge went on to become a multiple time WWE/World Champion, defeating the likes of John Cena and The Undertaker in the process.
However, no one could’ve foreshadowed the events that unfolded in 2011. Edge defended the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 27 against Alberto Del Rio and managed to walk out with the title. However, on April 11th edition of RAW, Edge announced that he would be retiring due to cervical spinal stenosis, and relinquished the World Heavyweight title on SmackDown.
Considering the fact that Edge’s final match was at WrestleMania, he later said that he couldn’t have scripted a better ending, with Edge retiring as the Heavyweight Champion of the world.
Randy Savage versus The Ultimate Warrior
Drawing a genuine reaction from the crowd is a difficult feat. However, at WrestleMania 7, Randy Savage was involved in perhaps the greatest “feel good” moment in professional wrestling history. Savage and The Ultimate Warrior were involved in a retirement match, with the stipulation that if Savage lost, he would be forced to retire from WWE.
At WrestleMania, Warrior faced Savage with Queen Sherri in Savage’s corner. However, Warrior somehow managed to defy the odds and beat Randy. Queen Sherri didn’t take the loss too kindly, and attacked Savage, leading to Savage’s former valet Miss Elizabeth entering the ring and saving Savage from Sherri’s assault.
Savage and Elizabeth then embraced, with tears in their eyes, as the WWE Universe shed tears of joy. With the Pomp and Circumstance playing in the background, Savage lifted Elizabeth and placed her on top of his shoulder, as the fans couldn’t control their tears. Savage and Elizabeth were involved in a moment that will forever be etched in the minds of the fans.
Daniel Bryan and John Cena versus Cesaro and Tyson Kidd
Since the meteoric rise of Steve Austin during the Attitude Era, no other superstar managed to capture the imagination of the fans quite like Daniel Bryan. Standing at 5’10” and weighing mere 210 pounds (billed), Bryan did not have the typical “superstar” look. However, Bryan became the most beloved superstar of this generation and got over with the fans organically.
The WWE Universe turned on the company, and forced the WWE management to put Bryan in the main event of WrestleMania 30. However, Bryan’s body began shutting down, forcing the WWE management – including Vince McMahon – to make the unpopular choice of forcing Bryan to stay away from the WWE ring. Bryan, however, returned in 2015 and won the WWE Intercontinental title at WrestleMania.
However, it was then reported that Bryan had to decide between competing in the ring, or risk getting injured or worse. Bryan competed on an edition of SmackDown, which turned out to be his last, as he teamed up with John Cena to take on Cesaro and Tyson Kidd. Bryan locked Kidd in the Yes Lock as Kidd tapped out, giving Bryan’s team the victory in his final WWE match.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin versus The Rock
There will never be two greater rivals, who brought the best out of each other as Austin and Rock did during the Attitude Era. Both the superstars thrived when they worked together, and their chemistry was obvious for everyone to see. The Rock and Steve Austin were two of the best mic workers in the industry, and their verbal exchanges produced some of the best moments in the company’s history.
The on–screen rivalry between The Rock and Austin has been well documented. With Austin’s personal life and a long list of injuries catching up with The Rattlesnake, Steve entered the ring one final time against his arch nemesis at WrestleMania 19. Austin and Rock put on yet another memorable match, and in the end, The Brahma Bull managed to pin The Rattlesnake, and walked out with the victory.
This match was also considered by many to have marked the end of the Attitude Era.
Cactus Jack versus Triple H
Mick Foley, much like Daniel Bryan is one of the most beloved wrestlers, and an underdog that nobody thought would make it in WWE. Foley scratched and clawed his way to the top, and in the process, put his body through unimaginable pain. After years of sacrifice, Foley finally won “the big one”, when he became the WWE Champion.
In 2000, the rivalry between Triple H and Mick Foley escalated, with Foley demanding a match against Triple H at No Way Out. Triple H then told Mick that he would face him at No Way Out if he would put his career on the line, to which Foley agreed, and told Triple H that the WWE title would be up for grabs as well. Foley then informed Triple H that they would face off in a match that nearly ended Foley’s career – a Hell In A Cell match.
Triple H and Cactus fought their way to the top of the cage, resulting in Triple H back body dropping Cactus through the cell. Triple H then delivered a Pedigree to Cactus Jack, picking up the victory and ending Foley’s career in the process.
Shawn Michaels versus The Undertaker
At WrestleMania 26, Shawn Michaels’ obsession with beating The Undertaker led to a “Streak versus career” match, with Shawn Michaels’ career on the line. Shawn came close to beating The Undertaker the previous year, and claimed that he did not have a career if he couldn’t beat The Deadman at WrestleMania.
Both the legends put on an incredible match at WrestleMania, with great near fall predicaments and sequences. Towards the end of the match, ‘Taker asked Shawn to stay down, to which Shawn responded by slapping The Undertaker. “The Phenom” dropped Shawn with a devastating Tombstone piledriver, and pinned “The Showstopper”, to bring down the curtains on his glittering career.
The following night, Shawn Michaels delivered an impassioned speech, followed by the WWE superstars thanking Michaels for his contributions.
Ric Flair versus Shawn Michaels
The number one spot on the list goes to the WrestleMania bout between Shawn Michaels, and the “Dirtiest player in the game”, Ric Flair. With Vince McMahon telling Flair that the next match he loses would be his last, Flair wanted to go out with a bang, and requested Michaels to face him at WrestleMania. While Shawn initially hesitated, Flair forced Michaels to accept the challenge, and both the legends met at WrestleMania 24 with Ric’s career on the line.
Both the superstars put on an amazing match, with the fans on their feet for nearly the entirety of the bout. In the end, Flair begged Shawn to end it, with Shawn mouthing the words, “I’m sorry. I love you”, before connecting with the Superkick. Shawn then pinned Flair to win the encounter, as the fans started shedding tears, and thanked Ric for his services.
The next night on RAW, the WWE superstars and crew paid homage to Ric Flair, with even The Undertaker breaking character and embracing “The Nature Boy”.