There always comes a time when an athlete must call it quits. Perhaps it’s age, injury, or they simply just think it’s time to move on and move forward toward new endeavors. There are a number of WWE superstars whose best years are far behind them, and some who’ve ended their careers when their best years had just begun.
The difficult thing about being a pro wrestler for the WWE, is that it’s the entertainment business. Pro wrestling doesn’t have an age limit. Some performers may last 5 years and face major injury, and others may last for what seems like a lifetime and fight the urge to retire. The entertaining thing about the WWE is that it’s completely unexpected. That’s what the audience is expecting: the unexpected. And we are well aware that there is no age limit in wrestling, that these professional performers may stay in this business for as long as they physically can, but that doesn’t mean we’re not tired of them.
These pro wrestlers are putting their bodies on the line and they’re lucky if they’re making it to their mid 20s let alone their 40s with their body and their brain still functioning properly … But hey! If you’ve taken that many blows to the face, what can you really expect! Let’s check out 8 Former Wrestlers Who Retired Too Soon And 7 Who Should’ve Retired Sooner.
15. Retired Too Soon: CM Punk
CM Punk took his attitude and his cute wife, and went home. Punk has nothing nice to say about the WWE due to his major public squabble with them. It had been one of the ugliest feuds in WWE history. CM punk had no problems slamming the door in their faces with disgust when he refused to work for them under less than safe circumstances and then publicly bashing them for sending over his retirement papers on his wedding day. What a shame.
14. Retired Too Soon: Tyson Kidd
In 2015, Kidd had suffered a pretty severe neck injury from a freak accident from Samoa Joe’s “muscle buster” as a final move in the ring. As everyone expected him to take the following year off, they didn’t know it would turn into a permanent absence and end his career. Kidd had a promising career to be something special after being the first graduate of Hart dungeon, but nonetheless, he was lucky to get away with his life after he took a shot like that.
13. Should’ve Retired Sooner: The Big Show
If you haven’t seen the accomplishments The Big Show has made in the last year, well… it’s a bit challenging to have to add him to the list when he has spent so much time focusing on rebuilding his body and properly managing his health.
With that said, he is still well over his mark of retirement. As pleasing as it is to the audience to see his recent match be so successful and the hard work he has put into his body, there are also fans who, despite their cheering him on, are also cheering for him to retire. That makes it obvious to all of us, that we must face the hard truth, that there is nothing left for The Big Show to do.
12. Retired Too Soon: Bret Hart
Sometimes, when an athlete leaves the industry of their sport, it can be typical for them to become full of themselves. And that’s exactly what Bret Hart has done. He now has nothing good to say about the WWE, but is full of good things to say about himself. He’s not just bashing the industry, but also other superstars including ones who have “injured” others in the ring and finding it appropriate to call them out all because he is bitter about the way his career ended so abruptly.
He left the WWE in a very public dispute with Vince McMahon and joined the WCW where his career took a turn for the worst. And the match against Goldberg had been the one that ended his career with an errant kick, leaving Bret Hart with a concussion. Hart still had his mojo and years later returned for a match against McMahon once again, but unfortunately it was done incredibly poorly and ruined his career in a big, big way.
11. Retired Too Soon: AJ Lee
AJ was seriously one of many female competitors who could actually wrestle. Not only was she cute and crazy to the audience, she was also highly respected due to her talent in pro wrestling. She was not just another pretty face.
AJ was huge in advocating for equal pay for both men and women and the advancement of women’s wrestling in the WWE. Sadly, the drama from CM Punk and the WWE had her hanging up her sports bra out of support for her new hubby. This firecracker had a lot to offer, but it’s likely the wrestling world will never get to experience it ever again.
10. Should’ve Retired Sooner: Roddy Piper
An old school character and a personality to fit his name, “Rowdy” was a central figure in some of the WWE’s biggest feuds, a mean machine in the ring, and a leader in pro wrestling. He had no problems vocalizing his hatred for Mr. T and his want to destroy Hulk Hogan in the ring, but his career went south once he had gone face to face with Hogan. The feud had brought on a large audience and gained financial success, but it was a big wrestling mess. After that, each match began to end the same for Piper and he eventually became the laughing stock (aside from his comedic sideshows) until he had passed away in 2015 after losing his Legend’s deal with the WWE over a public feud with Steve Austin.
9. Retired Too Soon: Daniel Bryan
When you have a true passion for something, you can never quite let it go. And we see this with Daniel Bryan, well… that and stubbornness. Because if it were up to him, he’d still be in the ring and it wouldn’t be surprising if Bryan joins the independent scene once his WWE contract expires.
Although, we can’t really blame the WWE for keeping Bryan away from being in the ring. After the amount of concussions he’s suffered from, it seems like it was the best bet to keep him safe, because one hit could seriously harm his health and do so permanently. We still don’t blame Bryan for his frustration, and it’s obvious that we want him back to be back dominating in the ring too.
8. Should’ve Retired Sooner: Sting
This “Icon” had a career built around incredible highs and embarrassing lows. The WWE and their audience waited years for Sting to make his debut. He was employed with the WCW, but never with the WWE because, despite the fact that he had made it into the video games, he was really just a shoo-in to be considered as a draw to WrestleMania, because it was so obvious that Sting’s best years were already so far behind him. So once he had made his debut, his career became more embarrassing and shot him down to an all-time low. He was later injured by Seth Rollins and forced to retire.
7. Should’ve Retired Sooner: Kane
Glen Jacobs, or as you may prefer him by his stage name, Kane, is hitting the big 5-0 and hasn’t even retired yet, which he should certainly consider. Kane joined the WWE in 1995, which was called the WWF back then, and we all remember his rise to fame as The Undertaker‘s half brother. He became one of the most terrifying and dynamic figures, ruling the WWE. But now he’s nothing more than a useless gimmick that is brought in from time to time. Kane has successfully applied himself to other opportunities outside the WWE, now it’s just time for him to want to apply himself to his new projects with complete commitment and leave the industry of pro wrestling once and for all.
6. Should’ve Retired Sooner: Goldberg
It’s starting to become a common trend with these wrestlers who have not retired and have dragged on their careers for far too long. Recently, Goldberg made an appearance after a 12 year absence and soon it started to become clear to the audience that what was a nice piece of nostalgia, was now just something that had been overdone.. once again. The WWE and its fans started to turn on Goldberg, which is a bit of a harsh thing when we know his true intentions were to get back in the ring for his son because his family had not seen what the legend of Goldberg could do back in the 90s. Either way, I need to say it… it’s time for retirement.
5. Should’ve Retired Sooner: Hulk Hogan
Apparently, according to IGN, Hulk Hogan is seen as one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. And as it’s no secret he is wildly well-known due to his other professional opportunities. If you’ve seen him preform for TNA, you’d be asking yourself why anyone let him into the ring in the first place. Eventually, he became one of the greatest physical disasters in sports. Leaving the company in constant neglect, as he continued cashing big checks and staying top-dog, well past his talent and popular days. Currently, he’s still only considered ‘Semi-retired” when he should consider retiring for good.
4. Retired Too Soon: Shawn Michaels
The one extraordinary thing about Michaels, is that he left the WWE on his own terms and continues to live a happy and healthy life, vowing to never break the vow that he took to leave. Which is a great commitment for him, but with that said, the WWE and its fans certainly miss him. Although he may not be wrestling, he is still a part of the WWE, as a talent development agent. He’s already a successful face we think of when we think of the industry, but with his current work he’ll be able to put a true mark on the WWE and its history.
3. Retired Too Soon: Stone Cold Steve Austin
This pro performer left the rink as the most profitable superstar in WWE history. Steve Austin’s wrestling career was entering borrowed time after taking a hard hit in 1997 from Owen Hart’s mismanaged piledrive. If it hadn’t been for that one move, there’s no telling how far Steve Austin’s career could have gone and the dream matches that could’ve happened are just too many to count and will make your head whirl with complete anger. But I’m sure Steve Austin would’ve exceeded the expectations of being an even greater pro wrestler than he was in the time that he had spent in the ring.
2. Retired Too Soon: Corey Graves
The heavily tatted man who has been the voice of several wrestling networks and continues to do so today, once had a very promising future for pro-superstardom. But after he suffered from two concussions in one year, the NXT made him publicly show up and announce his retirement from in-ring competition. However, Graves’ career with the WWE and pro wrestling is far from over. His future is looking pretty bright, as he may be in line to be WWE’s main commentator and is currently one of the best announcers in the industry.
1. Should’ve Retired Sooner: The Undertaker
The Undertaker had one of the best careers in WWE history and that’s why it was such a struggle to be honest about this one, but still it’s argued that he hung on for far longer than he should have. Perhaps, if he had retired by WrestleMania 30, his undefeated streak would still be intact and no one would continue to be haunted by his performance at WrestleMania 33, where he proved he no longer had the strength or the physical capabilities to have a main event match. But in the end, the fact that he was okay with it, proved to the fans and the industry that his true love was in pro wrestling, whether he was a winner or a loser. Hence why he was so good for so long.