This shtick in the realm of World Wrestling Entertainment is actually a surprisingly frequently used one, though it is not always effective to be sure. There's something about making an incredible impression on a fan base, milking their adulation for as long as possible, and then ripping their hearts out by saying that it's been great, but it's over... only to show up years, months, weeks, days, hours, and sometimes even only minutes later just to say it was all an act (very much like the rest of this soap-opera-in-spandex), and that people needn't worry (even if they already spent their life savings to come to what they thought was that performer's last match), that must really fire up a professional wrestler.
Unfortunately, some not-yet-superstars have had a go at this trick without having the requisite fan base, and thus an incredible lack of care for their feigned departure is more frequently the result as opposed to tears and tearing of garments.
That being said, this trick has also been done piss-poorly by some of the very greatest superstars in WWE history. Sure, some of them had indeed very real injuries and needed the time off, or were shooting some film, but some have seemingly no significance, especially once the star's shine seems to have faded, as is the case with such... brilliant... performers like Hulk Hogan.
15 Hulk Hogan
So back when there was still Impact Wrestling, and Hulk Hogan was still trying to relevant, having previously retired and returned at least once before, Hogan came to what conceivably could have been the end of the line. Given that the Hulkster, by the time the above video was shot, was virtually a muscular dinosaur with bleached hair, and a smoker's cough for a voice, one really could have been persuaded that it was over for him. That being said, of course he can't ruin the surprise, but people did once so love Hulkamania, that they reached out to him, saying they had to take ten-hour drives to see him if he really was retiring, not to mention that then Eric Bischoff makes a passing comment about the locals selling off their trailer park homes just to see Hogan... apart from that and the women-with-no-teeth-comment, it's entirely likely that some people did spend a small fortune for a chance to see the legend one last time. And sure, it's customary to prod and poke fun at the audience, wherever the show travels, but that's some of the harshest mocking of a crowd, save for when they go to Canada, that's been put out in the wrestling world. Maybe if Hogan was a better actor, it wouldn't have been so bad, but he gives it all away in an atrocious manner.
14 Mark Henry
Now Mark Henry has been a lot of things: he's been the world's strongest man, he's been a champion several times over... he's been sexual chocolate, but one thing no one ever pegged him to be was a good actor. Though his speech is littered with giveaways about how he's definitely staying for one more title run, Mark Henry genuinely puts together a believable, and emotional performance here. And who better to have come out and emotionally deal with the situation than the world's most loved and simultaneously hated wrestler in professional wrestling: John Cena? It was the perfect way to drag Cena out and use him as a means of showing that Henry still has some gas in the tank. And that aside, it's for sure that people weren't driving over ten hours to see Mark Henry's last day. He might be loved by many, but he sat just right in the mid-card spot for performers people care for, but not enough to sell their trailers for. This retirement lie was at least in relatively good taste; boosting the care people had for Henry's last run at the belt.
13 Sasha Banks
This overdone, melodramatic whine about retirement is unfortunately not only seen as a pitiful attempt by the audience to be a relevant part of the show, but even some of the heads of the company commented on just how poorly it was done, and how bad an idea it was. Sasha Banks, while a relevant part of the WWE, especially given her feud with Charlotte Flair of late, which has just seemingly come to an end, has not got the weight to throw around yet, with regards to making a big deal of her retirement. Wrestlers come and go pretty quickly through the business: even with many top tier performers, and though they're missed by some, they haven't got the impact of wrestlers like Hogan who have been in the business for over thirty years. Now, Sasha hearkens back to wrestlers of old who forged their way to make a name for themselves as women in the WWE, but almost in a way that she seemed to compare herself, and she's sadly not there yet. Tweeting before the event, Sasha foreshadowed some bad news about her career, and while she never gets a chance to say she's retiring, it's clear she was building to it in order to lure Charlotte or her lackey to spring some vicious surprise on one of them. She could have done better without the silly pretense, and gone for it like a wrestler would... with action... not "acting".
12 Randy Orton
One of the dreams that most of the new wrestlers coming into the business for the past fifteen to twenty years share is the dream to face the Undertaker in some sort of WWE Pay Per View match (if not the biggest of them all: WrestleMania). This was certainly no different for Randy Orton, and Orton got the big day to face, and lose to, the Undertaker. Of course that being said, Randy used the pretense of retirement in order to goad the Undertaker into the ring, whereupon Orton took him to task and beat him bloody for over five solid minutes. Given the record that Orton had up to that point and the amount of time he had been a part of the WWE, it was pretty clear that Randy had no intention of retiring, but the story has to be progressed somehow in order to clear the road to WrestleMania, and apparently the well of feigned retirement never quite runs dry, even if the water might be a little too stagnant and full of shit.
11 The Undertaker
Now here is a man who never really left the WWE on the pretense of retirement in the same way as others in that, it may as well be said that he's retired, but he will always keep coming back. For some years now, Taker may appear once or twice in the regular season of wrestling, on RAW, or Smackdown, but then, of course, he'll appear for his epic WrestleMania matches, and then disappear yet again. Now that Taker's incredible record has been broken (though it should have remained intact, or broken by a more worthy opponent), there's nothing really keeping him from just cutting his ties with professional wrestling, but he seems unable to get enough of it, and the fans will never tire of the dead man, and nor will, it seems, any of the wrestlers who have yet to really bring a good fight to the Taker. All in all, he may not have feigned his retirement, in character, but he's been toying with the idea, and with the fans for a number of years now.
10 John Cena
The above speech has a second part that drags on even further than he already has here. To be fair though, the first minute and a half of part 1 is just Cena's god forsaken intro that everyone can mimic, but that everyone decidedly hates. The rest is an increasingly emotional rambling that, given the ridiculousness of his past acting credits, is surprisingly committed, even to the point of dragging his family into his speech, being able to celebrate his mom's birthday with her; ever the wholesome face of the WWE. However, it's more than obvious that when Cena does finally leave professional wrestling for good, there will be the biggest of celebrations because, in spite of the vitriol that people have for this superstar, he has indeed turned the tide of World Wrestling Entertainment and brought it into the twenty first century in a whole new light, seen by a much larger demographic than ever before. Without his work with kids and the troops, the WWE would have stayed standing, but would not be riding as high as it is. When Cena leaves, everyone will know he's for sure leaving. All of professional wrestling will weep.
9 Mick Foley
Mick Foley... Dude Love... Cactus Jack... Mankind... whichever name you want to give him, has left and returned to professional wrestling so many times that there is no point in recalling all of them and explaining each. One could write a book on the disappearances and reappearances of the most famous of hardcore wrestlers. The above clip is the return of one Mick Foley at the behest of Linda McMahon whom, for very good reasons made plain above, stays off the mic, and backstage most of the time. Surprising the crowd with a final title run (as is the usual reasoning for a retirement shtick), Foley came back to face The Rock, HHH, and The Bigshow in a fatal four-way match at WrestleMania 2000. Of course the way in which Foley left was a trumped up "I Quit" match, which made everything no less emotional at the time, given how loved Foley has always been. After WrestleMania, Mick came back as commissioner, and did wrestle again, of course. Now typically staying out of combat, Mick Foley is still a main stay on RAW, not like to leave anytime soon.
The fact that the video is called a "retirement promo" must say it all. They're not so much promoting retirement, as they are promoting a sudden shift in the wrestler's career via the ruse of retirement. To be fair to Hunter, Brock Lesnar has actually seriously injured several wrestlers, and wanting to leave after fighting a fake match with that kind of asshole, and coming out with real broken skin and bones, is completely understandable. Of course the above video was how they started off an episode of RAW, and it is no shock to anyone that he did not stray far from the ring, and continues to organize, manage, and fight within the gigantic company that he has been afforded powers for by way of his wife Stephanie McMahon. In fact, just now, there is a long run, likely to WrestleMania, with Seth "freakin" Rollins on the hunt for HHH for screwing him over. It's amazing just how many times new wrestlers can use the same old rehashed storylines to keep things afloat... even old wrestlers rehash their own old storylines to keep things going. How many times has HHH been "screwed" by management?
7 Shawn Michaels
So back in 2006, when Shawn Michaels clearly needed to get out of professional wrestling, he had a signing ceremony so that Vince McMahon could get his rocks off during the proceedings, and of course so the story could play through that Michaels, feeling like he might have the strength for another run (sound at all familiar?), could rip up the papers in front of Vince's face, and in front of the huge crowd, causing an incredible uproar full of hopeful cheers from fans young and old. Vince, true to his overbearing and embarrassingly melodramatic fashion, growls evil threats to Michaels as he leaves up the ramp, while Shawn Michaels, in an uncharacteristically stoic manner, stands motionless and emotionless, having seemingly lost much of the fire from his youth, where such ridiculous growling from one Vince McMahon would have sparked a whole lot of flash from the Heartbreak Kid. I suppose when one fakes retirement that late in one's career... it's just going through the motions.
6 Trish Stratus
Now look... Trish Stratus... first and foremost, she's Canadian, and ended her retirement match with Bret 'The Hitman' Hart's signature move, The Sharpshooter... in Toronto. That is, to be sure, a fantastic way to finish off a career; retiring with the Women's Championship no less, and for the seventh time, breaking a record in the WWE. However, since that incredible retirement match, which left things so perfectly for her career, in addition to ridding herself of her implants and starting up a yoga studio, Trish has graced the WWE several times: attacking Jillian Hall (because why not— she was probably trying to sing), teaming up with John Cena to wrestle two performers no one cares about anymore, and even teaming up with Mark Henry and some other nobody, to face Bigshow, Jericho, and another nobody. Then she lost a match to Vickie Guerrero... if only Trish Stratus had left things well enough alone, fans could look back at an amazing end to a pretty fiery career that took the women's division further ahead... oh but there was that time that she stripped, and got on all fours to bark like a dog for the shameless piece of shit, Vince McMahon.
5 Kevin Nash
Kevin Nash, or Diesel, or Vinnie Vegas, Oz, Big Daddy Cool, Big Sexy, The Silver Fox... whatever you want to call him, has been in and out of World Wrestling Entertainment so many times that he may even top Mic Foley for appearances, reappearances, and personas (which he does seemingly swap at random). Now the video above isn't his direct return from retirement, or him giving his retirement speech— it's just nice to see him walk down the ramp with a sledge hammer, after listening to someone ramble on about how good they think they are. Nash, at that specific point, returned at Summerslam as Kevin Nash, having appeared not long before that as Diesel, and if it's not confusing enough to sort out who he is when, he doesn't bother to change his outfits from one character to another, and simply changes the billing on the screen whenever he appears. It's nice to see him back in the ring every once in a while as he's more comfortable there than on the silver screen, but he's got to make up his mind. Rather than leave for years at a time without warning, only to show up when some cool NWO reference could be made.
Goldust has made more than five big returns to World Wrestling Entertainment. It's unbelievable how these superstars get away with it... not to mention how Goldust still manages to get away with his ridiculous shtick, especially now that he talks way too much, and like a complete sap, with no creepy edge like he used to have. Teaming with an unmasked, re-masked, un-burnt, chubby and talking Kane was probably the worst buddy-horror-comedy to have ever come out of the WWE, and it's no wonder that Goldust was eventually given time away from that, but this coming back as a more intense wimp each time is depressing considering how ridiculous yet engaging Goldust used to be as a wrestler. No one really liked him, but everyone liked to watch what he'd do next in a match. There was some chance of saving grace when teamed up with his brother Cody Rhodes (Stardust), but the simpering, tear-filled, makeup streaked Goldust, losing his brother's job due to his loss of a match was pathetic, and poorly scripted... likely because Rhodes just couldn't wait to get out of that jumpsuit and makeup, but Goldust, after "losing his job" then as well, is still fighting a battle he most likely can no longer win.
After what seemed to be a good run with the "Rhodes Scholars" tag team, it looked like Cody Rhodes was finally going to get his moment to really shine... little did he know that the writers for the WWE would make that shine come in the form of a matching jumpsuit and makeup job to his brother Goldust's. Cody had been in and out of professional wrestling a few times (though not as many times as some stars), but coming back to take up the role of Stardust certainly must have killed him, and definitely killed his career. There was no way that he'd come back to professional wrestling after requesting to be written out of the show, right? Of course not, otherwise he wouldn't be on the list. Taken in with Ring of Honour and TNA, Cody has been able to come back with his own name in a manner that is less humiliating... though he did request to leave, making it known to the world, then came back not very long after. These wrestlers just can't keep away from the ring.
Steve Borden even says that finally there is something "for sure" about Sting and what he plans to do. He states that in his retirement speech, not even in character, at the Hall of Fame event. There's no reason to doubt him there, without makeup and seemingly without agenda, but sure enough, he comes out with his signature baseball bat and says that the journey is at an end. The second wrestler to be inducted into the Hall of Fame while still active on the roster, after all of his talk of retiring, Sting decided to forego surgery for his cervical spinal stenosis, you know, just in case he wanted to still be able to wrestle and subsequently be rendered unable to walk. Regardless, Sting left the door open for his career by not undergoing surgery, hoping that somewhere in the cards there is still that chance for an epic final match between him and, one may have already guessed it: The Undertaker! Everyone's favourite target, especially now that he is beyond broken.
Bill Goldberg made one hell of a name for himself in WCW before vanishing for a little while and then hitting up WWE. After a time, Goldberg decided he wasn't having fun anymore, showing up to work without a smile on his face (surely many people show up to work without a smile on their faces, but they're not all as well off as Bill), and not enjoying taking orders from Vince McMahon (which is absolutely no surprise). Goldberg also mentioned that he felt like a hypocrite for wrestling in the WWE because even though he was like a superhero to so many kids, the match just before or after his would be some sexist display (much like Trish Stratus barking like a dog on all fours for Vince "master of all" McMahon), or some bloody match that kids really shouldn't be watching.
So, after a good number of years in that sordid business, Goldberg decided that was it. And that's a well-reasoned decision. However, not very long ago at all, Goldberg came out to challenge Brock Lesnar (the man who's been responsible for more blood and broken bones in the past few years than any other wrestler). Their match didn't end up with blood or a broken anything other than Lesnar's broken pride, having lost to Goldberg in under two minutes. And now that he's got that thrill back, it looks like, surprise, surprise... Goldberg will be coming back for another run.