Professional wrestling is fake. It is the comment frequently made by those who criticize or even make fun of the industry. Yes, the outcomes of matches are determined well before the competitors emerge from behind the curtain to make their journeys toward the ring. There would, in a perfect world, never be injuries in a form of entertainment that involves grown men and grown women throwing fake punches and pretend kicks. Everybody involved in a show should theoretically be able to make it home from a wrestling event no worse than they were when they entered the arena hours before the kickoff of the card.
The real world is not so black and white, of course, and thus things do not always go as planned during wrestling events. Accidents occur as they do in any job or walk of life, but those unfortunate incidents are not the only reasons that pro wrestlers get banged up. What are considered to be even standard bumps that are taken night after night and year after year can wear down even those who are in tremendous physical shape, as our bodies are not meant to receive that kind of repeated punishment. Anybody who is not a fan of the business can take their own flat-back bump inside of a ring if they refuse to understand what wrestlers put themselves through whenever they work.
Some of the greatest wrestlers of all time hung around for too long and thus looked downright awful inside of rings. This includes the man who was, in his best days, “the dirtiest player in the game” and one of the best wrestlers to ever perform in the business. Another example is a once beloved figure who helped bring the wrestling industry into the mainstream media and who worked in movies and television shows, a performer who is now no longer welcome by World Wrestling Entertainment because of comments that he made when he thought nobody was watching.
20 Road Warrior Animal
Remember when Road Warrior Animal teamed up with, of all people, Heidenreich to form a new chapter of the Legion of Doom? No WWE fan needed to live through that storyline, nor have we needed to witness Animal return to the ring for squash matches against current members of the company's roster. The Road Warriors were one of the greatest tag teams of their time, and their place in history is cemented in stone. Even the thought of Animal making another appearance on WWE television to confront the Ascension – and you know that moment is coming – is enough to make you roll your eyes.
19 Big Daddy V
Big Daddy V, who also went by the names of Mabel and Viscera in the WWE, never truly had a final retirement match, but he had been away from the business for some time before he sadly passed away in 2014 at the age of 43. Nobody can say with any certainty what could or could not have been, but maybe things could have gone differently for the big man had he retired following his last WWE run and then done whatever possible to slim down and lose the massive amount of weight that ultimately led to his premature and sorrowful demise.
18 Jake Roberts
Jake “The Snake” Roberts had a retirement match years ago, one that came later than it should have and one that should have meant the end of the road for the master of the DDT. It was not, however, as Roberts is scheduled for yet more returns to the ring at events that will take place during the fall of 2015. Roberts has, by all accounts, done well to slam the demons that nearly cost him his life, and he is hopefully happy with whatever he is doing when not performing in front of crowds. Sometimes, though, a wrestler needs to embrace retirement and life away from the business.
17 Scott Hall
There are some people who need to work and stay involved in professional careers in order to have structure in their personal lives. For Scott Hall, though, it has always seemed that the wrestling business only served as a way for him to fall back into the bad habits that negatively affected his career and his health on multiple occasions. Maybe Hall would have been able to get his life together had he retired long before his demons made him a performer who could not be counted on and who will likely never again work a match for the WWE or for any major national promotion.
16 Fabulous Moolah
The Fabulous Moolah was an icon of women's wrestling, the National Wrestling Alliance and the World Wrestling Federation, a champion who held multiple titles over the years. While she would have been good for an occasional appearance during the “Attitude Era” of the WWF, she did not need to be involved in any physical angles or matches while she was in her 70s. Fortunately, noting went too terribly wrong during those segments, but it is difficult to imagine that the current WWE would allow her to do half of the things that Moolah did during what was her final run in the company.
15 Mae Young
All that was written about Fabulous Moolah can be copied and pasted into this segment of the piece. The “cheap heat” that was generated by Mae Young being “attacked” in the late 1990s and the 2000s did not amount to the WWE making any significant money, and thus the segments were essentially an old woman taking bumps and being beaten up for nothing. Good on the WWE for providing paydays to both Young and Moolah, but the company could have gone about things differently and planned segments that did not put these women in any danger.
14 Ultimate Warrior
You have to give credit to The Ultimate Warrior for doing well to earn money off of his previous accomplishments and his name. He did so during a brief and terrible run in World Championship Wrestling, and Warrior had an even shorter stint working for the little-known Nu-Wrestling Evolution company. It made for a positive moment that Warrior and those running the WWE could reunite so Warrior could have his night being inducted into the company's hall of fame before he tragically passed away, but that does not take away from the fact that he should have stayed retired as a wrestler throughout the 2000s.
There is an argument to be made that Edge retired at the right time and before he suffered what could have been a catastrophic injury. The world learned, soon after Edge announced on an edition of Raw that he was walking away from in-ring action, just how fragile his neck had been during his final run in the WWE. It is that knowledge that lands Edge on this list. One wrong spear or one awkward landing could have meant more than just the end of a career for the man, not to mention a complete disaster for the WWE. Edge is now thankfully living his life as a retired wrestler.
12 Mick Foley
It is understandable that one might cringe or even turn away when watching some old Mick Foley matches. The bumps that he took during the heights of his WWE career were ridiculous, but they were at least taking place in the hottest North American wrestling organization in history. Foley working similar matches in the WWE with the likes of Edge and Randy Orton during the 2000s was not needed, and his time in TNA Wrestling should have never included Foley having a match. Fans should, at this rate, just hope that Foley can walk on his own a decade from now.
11 Ricky Steamboat
It was widely believed that Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat was retired for good after he had his final match in the 1990s, as he did not have a return to in-ring action despite being involved in storyline feuds with multiple wrestlers. That changed after he reappeared on WWE television, and he had multiple matches in 2009. Steamboat was also part of a beatdown angle involving heel faction the Nexus, one that may have played a role in the legend being legitimately hospitalized not long after the segment. That served as his true WWE retirement, one that should have happened years before Nexus was a thought in anybody's mind.
10 Andre the Giant
Depending on your age or your knowledge of the history of pro wrestling, you may recall Andre The Giant performing at Madison Square Garden or Andre being body slammed by Hulk Hogan. The final days of Andre's wrestling career were depressing, as the larger-than-life legend could barely get around the ring during matches because of his physical state and the injuries he had suffered during his career. Andre's life probably would not have been prolonged had he retired earlier, but he likely would not have been in such pain had he walked away from the business before the 1990s.
9 Jerry Lawler
It is a blessing that Jerry “The King” Lawler was working for the WWE and at a live Raw show when he had a very real heart attack, one that could have been fatal had he not been able to receive immediate medical attention. That's all well and good, but Lawler still probably should not have been working even as a part-time wrestler in his 60s before he experienced that serious health scare. Lawler has plenty to give to the wrestling business as an instructor and a tutor, but he does not need to be getting into the ring for any real action at this point of his life.
8 William Regal
While he did unofficially announce his retirement at a WWE event years ago, it has been rumored that William Regal could have what would officially be his last match at an NXT event that is scheduled to take place in London near the end of the year. Perhaps, had Regal gone this route earlier, he would have been able to have a program with Daniel Bryan, one that would have wrapped up with the two having an entertaining match. Bryan, who was trained by multiple wrestlers including Regal, is currently sidelined indefinitely, and he may now not be around to work with Regal before the veteran rides off into the sunset.
7 CM Punk
We now know, because of the situations that he described during the podcast episode that went viral, that CM Punk was absolutely miserable during his final days and months of working in the WWE. Punk likely would have been happier and more at peace had he just officially retired as a wrestler similar to the decision that A.J., his wife, made in 2015. Had Punk retired earlier than he did, he would have been able to begin his professional mixed martial arts career sooner. Maybe he would have even found success in the Ultimate Fighting Championship in such a scenario; not that he still cannot win some bouts while working in the UFC in the future.
6 Kurt Angle
There had been rumors throughout 2015 that Kurt Angle would announce, in his own way, that he was stepping away from the wrestling business for some time, and that moment occurred when Angle was making a radio show appearance in September. While Angle is not opposed to making a return to TNA Wrestling and to the ring, he has claimed that he will not be re-signing with the company. It is no secret that Angle is banged up, and it has long been believed that Angle would not pass a WWE physical were he to attempt to return to the company. It would probably be for the best for Angle to have a different role in the industry after his current contract runs out.
5 Dynamite Kid
The harsh truth of the matter may be that Dynamite Kid would have been better off had he never been introduced to the pro wrestling industry in the first place. Dynamite was a respected performer because of his ability to produce noteworthy and memorable matches, but performing maneuvers such as the flying headbutt forever changed the second portion of his life. He is now in a wheelchair and no longer able to walk, a far cry from the man who worked in the World Wrestling Federation and who was part of the British Bulldogs tag team that won gold during their time in the WWF.
4 Bret Hart
It was a nice moment for wrestling fans and for the two men involved when Bret “Hitman” Hart and the “Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels stood face-to-face inside of the middle of the ring and hugged during a segment of Raw. That should have been the most contact that Hart saw during his initial return to the WWE, but the company instead thought it wise to have the former “Excellence of Execution” partake in multiple matches. It was unnecessary and even a little difficult to watch. Hart's first retirement after his stroke should have been his only and last.
3 Terry Funk
We probably won't know that Terry Funk is for sure retired until the day comes when he is placed in the ground. Funk has been involved in the business for over 50 years, and he has been known for having numerous supposed retirement matches that led only to additional contests. The living legend of the business is now over the age of 70 years old, and the harsh truth of the matter is that he does not belong inside of the ring for anything other than some handshakes and maybe an interview segment. You've given more than enough, Mr. Funk. Stay away and enjoy the rest of your life.
2 Ric Flair
The program that the “Nature Boy” had with Shawn Michaels that led to Ric Flair first retiring from the WWE was fantastic, and the WrestleMania match that they had was memorable. It also should have occurred years before the storyline played out on WWE television. Even worse is that Flair could not help himself and that he returned to the ring not long after he was pinned by Michaels. Flair's run in TNA Wrestling was largely forgettable and even a bit unfortunate, and the hope moving forward is that Flair will no longer feel as if he has to continue to work as a wrestler.
1 Hulk Hogan
The man who has been known as Hulk Hogan for decades has made many regrettable decisions over the years, but the one that may haunt him the most is hanging around as an active wrestler for as long as he did. Hogan has gone through surgical procedures because of the wear and tear that the wrestling business has taken on his body, and hitting thousands of leg drops has left him as a shell of what he was during the 1980s. It is somewhat of a miracle and also high praise for modern medicine that Hogan can even walk these days.