Best of WWE – Retirement in any sport is often short-lived, let alone in sports-entertainment where actual competitive ability means nothing, giving way to careers built on fading appearance and nostalgic charisma. But if nothing else, retirements make for awesome speeches. You know, the kind that tugs at your heart as you think back to a time when your hero had a few less gray hairs and a lot less injuries. So lameness be damned, here’s three of my favourite ones.
1. Stone Cold Steve Austin – WWE Survivor Series 2003
Granted, this one happened when I was still in the ‘mark’ stage of my pro wrestling fandom. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was the undisputed king of badassery, and now he was losing his job for good (yeah, right) in the WWE. Who could forget Shawn Michaels as the last man standing in Team Austin, left to fight off three Team Bischoff cronies? Michaels fought to a bloody finish, only succumbing in the end to an RKO from a pre-Viper Orton. Austin’s farewell was tear-jerking even for Stone Cold, ‘till he flipped the deuces and kicked the asses of Bischoff and his security team. Sure, he came back to that god-awful “sheriff” gimmick, but for a while I believed we’d lost our beer-swilling hero for good.
2. Ric Flair – WWE Monday Night Raw 3/31/2008
Say what you will, but when both Triple H AND Shawn Michaels say that you’re the best ever, then you just fucking might be. After losing a retirement match to Michaels the night before at Wrestlemania XXIV, The Nature Boy said his goodbyes on Raw, touching our emotions in a way that only he can. To add to the drama of this historic moment were all the WWE superstars past and present, face and heel, young and old breaking character to pay tribute to a living legend. The only thing that ruined this great ceremony? Flair jumping ship and tainting his legacy even further on TNA.
3. Shawn Michaels – WWE Monday Night Raw 3/29/2010
And just like his idol before him, Shawn Michaels ended his career at Wrestlemania XXVI at the hands of his perennial rival the Undertaker. Truly we’d watched Michaels mature in the ring, from a starry-eyed Rocker to a born-again Christian and devoted family man. If he’d never come back after the back injury, we’d still remember him as an all-time great. But he came back and gave us eight more years of fond memories and unbelievable matches. Shawn Michaels may have left the building, but his legacy lives on. Let’s just hope he stays retired.