Superstars whose careers ended at WrestleMania

Superstars whose careers ended at WrestleMania

It’s no secret that a WrestleMania match is the goal of every Superstar who steps through the doors of WWE. It’s called The Showcase of the Immortals for a reason — only the best and brightest are featured, and a bout at the big dance can solidify a performer’s reputation as a star of the future or cement him or her as a main-event icon for WWE. But The Show of Shows can also be a bittersweet event, as it is often the night when legends of the highest caliber bid their farewells to the squared circle with one final, epic bout before hanging up their boots.

WrestleMania 29 might just prove to be one of those instances, as Triple H has put his in-ring career on the line in a No Holds Barred Match against Brock Lesnar, a Superstar who beat him to the point of near-retirement once already at SummerSlam 2012. This particular piece of WrestleMania history has yet to be written, but as The King of Kings prepares to set foot on The Grandest Stage of Them All for potentially the last time, looks back at six Superstars who — voluntarily or otherwise — ended their careers under the bright lights of WrestleMania.

Shawn Michaels

The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels - Streak vs. Career No Disqualification Match: WrestleMania XXVI

Shawn Michaels puts his career on the line for a chance to end The Undertaker's Streak.

Shawn Michaels managed to fit several careers’ worth of accolades and pitfalls into his 22 years beneath the WWE banner, but many in the WWE Universe would argue HBK’s finest hour in Vince McMahon’s empire was, in fact, his last. In 2009, the four-time World Champion came within a hair’s breadth of ending The Undertaker’s precious WrestleMania Streak at The 25th Anniversary of WrestleMania, and their rematch at the 2010 Show of Shows was scheduled with the caveat that Michaels would hang up his boots if defeated.

With his iconic career on the line, Michaels put his body and soul on the table in what may be perhaps The Undertaker’s greatest challenge at WrestleMania to date. It took not one but two Tombstones from The Deadman to fell HBK. In the bout’s most emotional moment, Michaels kicked out of the first Tombstone and rose to lay a defiant slap across The Phenom’s face before finally succumbing to a second. Despite the sting of defeat, The Showstopper’s heroic effort was everything a WrestleMania main event should be, and an appropriately epic swan song for a performer who blazed trails for WWE Superstars past, present and future. For the man known as “Mr. WrestleMania,” it really couldn’t have ended any differently, but it was no less heartbreaking to watch it happen.


Ric Flair

On Nov. 26, 2007, Ric Flair came to Monday Night Raw and promised he would never retire. Mr. McMahon, the evil genius that he is, immediately decided to put Flair’s promise to the test: The Chairman decreed that from that evening on, any singles loss suffered by “The Nature Boy” would result in his immediate retirement from the squared circle. True to form, however, defeating The Dirtiest Player in the Game proved to be easier said than done. The 16-time World Champion went unbeaten in singles competition for months, avoiding the proverbial ax all the way into the spring, when he handpicked Shawn Michaels as his opponent for WrestleMania XXIV.

The Showstopper’s acceptance of the bout came with no small amount of trepidation, as he didn’t want to be the one to retire “The Nature Boy.” But he did accept, and what unfolded was a classic in every sense of the word. After 20 minutes of thrilling action, time ran out for Flair when Michaels felled him with a pair of Superkicks for “The Nature Boy’s” final 1-2-3 in a WWE ring. An elaborate retirement ceremony on Raw ( even The Four Horsemen returned to pay tribute to “Naitch”) ensured Flair would be sent off properly, limousine-ridin’, jet-flyin’ and wheelin-dealin’ his way into the sunset as an irreplaceable part of WWE legend, with a final match that any Superstar would be proud to call his own.



JBL quits WWE following loss to Rey Mysterio: WrestleMania 25

JBL quits WWE after losing to Rey Mysterio at WrestleMania 25.

These days JBL is best known to the WWE Universe as a spirited color-commentator and avid mountain climber, but there was a time when the filthy-rich money man from Texas was one of the ring’s most feared competitors. A Superstar who rampaged through The Attitude Era as half of The APA and then held the WWE Championship for a full year, JBL was a force to be reckoned with for the better part of the 2000s, but an unfortunate turn of events at the 25th Anniversary of WrestleMania cut “The Wrestling God’s” career short. On The Grandest Stage of Them All, defending Intercontinental Champion JBL fell to masked rival Rey Mysterio in a mere 21 seconds.

Overcome by frustration, JBL grabbed the mic and quit right then and there. Just because it’s WrestleMania, doesn’t mean some exits are more graceful than others.


Edge vs. Alberto Del Rio: WrestleMania 27 - World Heavyweight Championship Match

In his last match in WWE, Edge goes out a winner — and a champion — by defeating Alberto Del Rio to retain his World Heavyweight Title at WrestleMania 27 on April 3, 2011.

Nobody ever expected Edge’s World Heavyweight Championship defense against Alberto Del Rio at WrestleMania XXVII to be his final contest in a WWE ring. The decorated veteran of The Attitude Era  had reclaimed the coveted prize from Dolph Ziggler only weeks before, and the high-profile contest at The Show of Shows seemed little more than another accolade in a prosperous career that was just entering its second half.

Unbeknownst to the WWE Universe, however, The Ultimate Opportunist was competing under duress, and had been for some time, thanks to an old neck injury. With only a precious few as his confidants, Edge mustered up the fortitude to defeat The Essence of Excellence at The Show of Shows. Following a final conference with his doctors, Edge — true to form — seized the only opportunity left to him and formally retired from WWE a week later on Raw. ( WATCH: THE ULTIMATE GOODBYE



For years, the question on everyone’s lips surrounding Goldberg was “Who’s Next?” Going into WrestleMania XX, however, some behind-the-scenes scuttlebutt that bled into the narrative of the bout changed the question to, “Who’s Last?”

You see, although not explicitly stated, it was widely known among sports-entertainment circles that the contest between Goldberg and Brock Lesnar at The Showcase of the Immortals would be both men’s final bouts before retirement and the pursuit of an NFL career, respectively. The New York City crowd had labeled Lesnar as a quitter and Goldberg as a mercenary hire, and thus had few kind words for either Superstar in the match. Still, Goldberg showed his heart and plowed through both the aggression of the WWE Universe and the fury of Lesnar, defeating The Anomaly in what would be his (but ultimately not Brock’s, who returned in 2012) final match in WWE.

Time has, happily, been kinder to the match, which has obtained greater significance as an important part of wrestling history. And although some in the WWE Universe might argue that Goldberg’s final exit  —  as the recipient of a Stunner from special guest referee “Stone Cold” Steve Austin — was perhaps a tad more ignominious than necessary, one thing remains for certain: Like the rest of Goldberg’s career, it was entertaining, unpredictable and, ultimately, unforgettable.


"Stone Cold" Steve Austin

"Stone Cold" Steve Austin vs. The Rock: WrestleMania XIX

The Rock and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin battle for the final time in their illustrious careers at WrestleMania XIX on March 30, 2003.

For fans weaned on The Attitude Era, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin loomed larger than life even by Superstar standards. He was less a man than an institution, a figure who seemed so synonymous with sports-entertainment it was difficult to imagine WWE without him. As the years went on, though, it became more apparent that the torch would need to be passed, but lingering bad blood between The Rattlesnake and WWE brass nearly robbed Austin of a proper exit. Happily, fences were mended and The Bionic Redneck clawed his way back to WrestleMania XIX, where he faced The Rock in their third showdown on The Grandest Stage of Them All.

With Austin looking to re-cement himself as WWE’s premier icon and The Rock looking to get the proverbial monkey off his back by finally beating Austin at WrestleMania, Austin unleashed hell upon The People’s Champion before a ravenous crowd at Seattle’s Safeco Field. The Rattlesnake kept the bout at a dead heat, beating back The Rock until a frustrated Brahma Bull unleashed a hat trick of Rock Bottoms on Austin to finally secure the pin. If the contest proved nothing else, it was that Austin still had the heart to carry the company on his shoulders, but lingering health concerns ensured that, while he would remain in the WWE fold in various roles (among them the “Sheriff” of Monday Night Raw), he would never compete again.


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