Returns from retirement happen, and fans are unable to hold onto the memories of their favorite wrestlers in their prime – left instead with the image of them floundering in the ring at an advanced age, such as Goldberg recently. In this article, we will talk about 10 wrestlers that should have never come out of retirement.
10. Mick Foley
We open the list with a wrestler who might be counted among the greatest wrestlers of all time. Known for his willingness and ability to take extreme bumps, Mick Foley has earned the moniker of being a ‘Hardcore Legend’.
Throughout his career, Foley had matches which could have seen the end of the career of many other wrestlers, but Foley was never just another wrestler. For all it was worth, Mick Foley should have retired after his match against Edge where he was put through a table that was on fire, or his hardcore match with Randy Orton which saw Orton gain another tier in the wrestling world for the quality of match the two had put on.
However, Foley was not done, and he went on to wrestle in Impact Wrestling, then known as TNA, until 2010. He later took a personality role as a General Manager in WWE in 2016, a role he should have taken long back. His return from retirement to wrestle in TNA, spoilt a part of his legacy, and that was a run that the wrestling world could have done without.
9. Mae Young
Mae Young was one of the best women’s wrestlers during her prime. However, she was also a wrestler who simply refused to retire. She was one of those wrestlers who were well past it each time they made their return, but she would not quit and just kept on coming.
While her non-wrestling roles as a personality are memorable, her matches during the Attitude Era, the Ruthless Aggression Era, and the PG Era were matches that the WWE Universe could have easily done without.
They forever marred her legacy, and she is known more as joke than the glorious career that she had previously. As a result, she makes it onto this list as well, and her last match in 2010 will always live in notoriety when she had to be supported to the ring as she was so frail. At 86 years of age, she had no business being anywhere near a wrestling ring.
8. Bob Backlund
Not many fans of the current generation know Bob Backlund for the legend that he was in the wrestling world during his prime. He is definitely a wrestler who returned far too many times. During his original run in WWE, he fought against the likes of Billy Graham, Nick Bockwinkel, and Ivan Koloff among others. He was the second longest holder of the WWE Heavyweight Title during his five-year run with it.
However, he returned and gained and lost the WWE Title within three days. It was a forgettable run. His legacy was further tarnished by his return as a manager for Darren Young, where his role largely forgettable if not annoying. He should definitely have stayed retired so that the fans could hold onto his glorious legacy of the past.
7. Terry Funk
Terry Funk is the definition of a wrestler who has no idea about what is good for him. Known for being a hardcore legend, his legacy lies right alongside that of Mick Foley for pulling off the craziest stunts and taking the most unforgivable blows to his body.
Funk retired in 1999, 2006, 2011, and again in 2013. He then wrestled in Japan again in 2014 at the age of 70. Due to the sort of bumps he had taken over the years, it does not take a genius to realize that Terry Funk’s body was way past it even during the Attitude Era. His returns saw him take even crazier and more unnecessary bumps that the whole WWE Universe and the wrestling world could have done without.
The most iconic name of World Championship Wrestling or WCW was definitely Sting. When WCW went under, and WWE bought them out, with WCW legends arriving in WWE almost each year, the WWE Universe felt it was only a matter of times before Sting showed up. However, he remained the only big WCW wrestler that the WWE was never able to hire. Since 2001 many years passed, and WWE fans made peace with the fact that they would never see Sting arrive in WWE.
However, when Sting finally did arrive it was in 2015 and when he was way past his prime. By that time, Sting had no business entering a ring. Having left other promotions earlier, it was a return that was expected, especially since he has signed on for a WWE game. However, his return was one that the WWE Universe and possibly Sting himself, likes to forget.
Not only does he no longer have the edge that he once had, he was one of those wrestlers who had nothing left to give. Instead of putting him in a match against the Undertaker in the dream match that every WWE fan had ever wanted, he was instead put against Triple H in an underwhelming match. As if that was not enough, he was then injured by Seth Rollins, ending the chance of a Sting vs The Undertaker match forever.
5. The Ultimate Warrior
Heralded as the possible successor to Hulk Hogan, when The Ultimate Warrior had his run in WWE it was one of the greatest of all time. During this time he also pinned Hulk Hogan clean, a feat that not many wrestlers can boast of.
However, when he finally retired post-his second WWE run, it was expected that he would stay retired as he was clearly getting on when it came to his age. Like many others on this list, he did not, and instead signed with WCW and had three matches, all of which were forgettable, before retiring.
4. Bret Hart
“The Best There Was, The Best There Is, and The Best There Ever Will Be.” At one time, Bret Hart’s motto held true. There was no wrestler in the world who had the same technical and physical prowess which Bret boasted of. He could do anything and everything in the ring.
Even when he came to WCW after the Montreal Screwjob, it looked like he could forge a career in the ring. It was not to be. A stiff kick from Goldberg saw Bret Hart suffer a concussion – one that he would not recover from. He had to retire as his condition was severe.
However, when he finally returned to WWE to make amends many years later, in a moment that should have been joyful and legendary, he entered the ring spoiling it altogether. Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart made amends, but when it came to Hart and Mr McMahon WWE wanted a feud. The two old performers entered the ring in a forgettable match which should have never happened. They could have picked representatives from the newer wrestlers with Hart having a single spot with McMahon. Instead they had a match, which spoilt the legacy that Bret Hart had so carefully built. One could say, that at the end of the day, Mr McMahon really did screw Bret Hart – again.
3. The Undertaker
At one point, it really appeared that the Dead Man had really retired. At WrestleMania 33, he faced Roman Reigns in the ring. While clearly the favorite, the Dead Man lost and put over the ‘Big Dog’ of WWE. The match was not bad, and actually a good way to go out. That seemed to be exactly what the Undertaker had in mind during the match.
After the match was over, he put his hat and coat in the middle of the ring with his wrestling gear and left. As symbolic a gesture as any that he had finally called it quits inside the ring. Despite all of that, he went on to return to the ring yet again – a return that should have never taken place at all, as the Undertaker was way past it by this point.
2. Shawn Michaels
If there was a wrestler who went out with an exceptional match, and possibly the only one on this list who retired too early – it’s the Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels. For the second time in his career, Shawn Michaels retired after a match at WrestleMania. In a rematch for the ages, Michaels put his career on the line against Undertaker’s streak and he lost. It was one of the best matches of all time. Shawn Michaels would apparently never return to the ring again – his career was done according to his own words.
At Crown Jewel – of all events, he returned to the ring and had a tag team match with Triple H at his side against the Brothers of Destruction. They defeated them, and Michaels had a victory. But minus his hair and although his performance was good, the match had been an unnecessary one, and one that the fans could have easily lived without.
1. Ric Flair
Ric Flair might just be fairly known as the best wrestler of all time. Wrestling since time immemorial, by the time the PG Era came about in WWE, he was long past it. At WrestleMania 24, he faced Shawn Michaels, in what is considered by many to be the best retirement match of all time.
There Michaels defeated Flair in an emotional superkick, after telling him that he was sorry and that he loved him. It was a heart-warming moment, and one that should have remained the final moments of Ric Flair’s long career.
However, instead he returned to the ring in TNA, and had several ridiculous matches which were not needed. He should never have returned to the ring.