In wrestling, nobody ever retires. No-one who has ever had a “last match” has ever stayed retired. Even Shawn Michaels, who stayed away for 10 years, came back for Saudi Millions to compete in one of the worst matches ever.
However, there have been a large amount of retirement matches that made the fans think that this is really it. Whilst it may not be the wrestlers last match, it is usually the last of their full-time career, or the last match of that superstar in a certain company.
WWE has always done their best to promote their retirement matches as some of the biggest on the card. Honouring legends in what looks to be their final go round in the world of wrestling draws huge views on the show and resonates with a large amount of wrestling fans.
Here are five of the best retirement matches in WWE history.
WWE Best Retirement Matches
Randy Savage vs The Ultimate Warrior – Wrestlemania VII
Coming in 1991, Vince McMahon had decided that Randy Savage was done as a wrestler. He was insistent that he had no in-ring future and that he should move permanently the announce table. Of course this was an error, as Savage went on the become a multi-time WCW Champion after he left WWE for WCW in the mid 1990s.
Because of Vince’s insistence on him retiring, Macho Man Randy Savage competed in a retirement match at Wrestlemania VII. Ultimate Warrior had spent 1991 refusing to give Savage a shot at his WWF Championship, which culminated in Savage costing him the championship to Sgt Slaughter. This led to Warrior challenging Savage to a retirement match at Wrestlemania VII, where the loser would have to retire forever.
The actual match was surprisingly good. It was one of the best Ultimate Warrior matches in his career, but even then it was not exempt from his usual bullshit. Warrior hit Savage with a big shoulder tackle after running the ropes three time, before casually stepping on top of his lifeless body to win the match and send him into retirement.
After the match was one of the greatest moments in Wrestlemania history. Savage’s manager, the Sensational Sherri, began to berate and hit Macho Man, as the crowd looked on in horror. However, soon his real-life wife and former manager Miss Elizabeth ran from the crowd, taking out Sherri before reuniting with Randy Savage. The pair embraced and ran off into the sunset as audience members were visibly in tears.
Trish Stratus vs Lita – Unforgiven 2006
Trish Stratus vs Lita pitted two of the most popular women in WWE history against each. They had fought numerous times, but by 2006 both were winding down and were looking toward retirement.
Trish was the first to hang up her boots, and decided that Unforgiven 2006 would be the end of her road. The event took place in Toronto in Canada, the hometown of the Canadian star. Lita was the women’s champion before the match, and Trish Stratus was looking to retire as the Women’s champion to put an end to an illustrious career in wrestling.
To the delight of the hometown crowd, Trish made Lita tap out to Bret Hart’s famous Sharpshooter move, and retired as the women’s champion in the last match of her full time career.
Antonio Cesaro vs William Regal – NXT
One match which may have gone slightly under the radar is the final match of WWE legend William Regal. Regal is one of the best British wrestlers of all time. He was the quintessential villain, being able to be a ruthless, bloodthirsty, evil man or a comedy heel who could work with anyone. His adaptability was a huge asset, and may be a reason why he never became WWE Champion. He did become King of the Ring, however.
His last ever match came in 2013 in WWE’s developmental promotion, NXT. Regal at the time was on commentary for the weekly TV show, and had began a feud with WWE star Antonio Cesaro. Cesaro was a star on the main roster as part of the tag team “The Real American’s” with Jack Swagger, but came down to NXT from time to time to become sort of a “final boss” for the promotion.
The match between the two was one of the most unique matches in WWE. It was a slow, deliberate match. Both men’s technical ability was in full force, with the match more like a match you’d see on World of Sport in the 1980s (pre Big Daddy). Cesaro dominated the older Regal, as he tried and tried but could not get the best of the younger Swiss.
Cesaro won after destroying the knee of Regal, whose selling in this match was world class. You can read more about Cesaro vs William Regal in other article here.
Ric Flair vs Shawn Michaels – Wrestlemania 24
Ric Flair was forced into retirement by Vince McMahon, just like Randy Savage earlier in the article. In later 2007, Vince McMahon was tired of watching a 98 year old Ric Flair wooing and losing every week on Raw. So he gave him an ultimatum. The next match he loses, he was forced to retire from wrestling for good.
Now if it was real, he would lose to Chris Masters on Raw a week later and retire with little fanfare. However, this is wrestling. He went on an incredible run, defeating MVP, Mr Kennedy and even Triple H to save his job and keep on fighting. Ric Flair’s dream was to be a wrestler so he was fighting for his identity and his livelihood.
When it came to Wrestlemania 24, his opponent was Shawn Michaels. Michaels was intent on ending the career of Flair, and vowed to “take old yeller” and put him out of his misery. Michaels was one of the best ever in the ring, and even at 58 years old Flair could tell a story like few others inside the wrestling ring.
And that was what their Wrestlemania 24 match was. Pure Storytelling. Both men hit all their classic spots, and called back through moments of both men’s careers. The highlight being Flair climbing to the top rope and finally hitting a crossbody to get a nearfall on Michaels. It was the move he used to beat Harley Race for the NWA Heavyweight Championship in 1983, and basically failed to hit the move ever since then.
The match ending was one of the most emotional in history. Michaels hit Flair with a Sweet Chin Music, but did not keep the old man down. He slumped into the corner, taking in the weight of what he was about to do. As Flair got to his knees, begging Michaels to keep on fighting and begging him to take him out, Michaels said five simple words before nailing Flair with a Superkick and pinning him for the win.
“I’m Sorry. I Love You”.
Shawn Micheals vs The Undertaker – Wrestlemania 26
Wrestlemania 26 is not just the home to the best retirement in WWE history. It is the home to one of the best WWE matches, and best Wrestlemania matches full stop. Shawn Michaels, one year after failing to end the streak at Wrestlemania 25, challenged the Undertaker one more time. Undertaker initially refused, but after some goading and costing him the World Heavyweight Championship, the Undertaker accepted under one condition.
Shawn Michaels put his career on the line in a Career vs Streak match. The year before’s match was the greatest in Wrestlemania, so it was an impossible task to try and improve upon it. However, they did their best and pulled off an incredible match. It was the first time in many years that made you actually think that the streak would be over and Michaels would live to fight another day.
However, as defiant as Mr Wrestlemania was, all challengers fall to the Undertaker. He fought heroically, and stood tall until the last. As he struggled on his knees, failing to even get onto his feet, he put his throat to his neck to mock the Deadman. Undertaker, now filled with rage, hoisted the former WWE Champion on his shoulders, and hit him with the most brutal jumping Tombstone Piledriver you’ve ever seen.
Just like Ric Flair two years prior, Michaels was covered for the three count, and his long and storied career was over.
Luckily he never came back and ruined it with an awful tag team match, right? Right?!