WWE Fans Should Let A Wrestler’s Legacy Be Without ‘One More Match’


Fans shouldn’t demand retired superstars return for another match and instead should leave their legacy alone

Undertaker. Sting. Ric Flair. Daniel Bryan. All of these men have supposedly “retired” from professional wrestling and yet you can find plenty of fans who will drool over the idea of “one more match” featuring any one of them. What these fans don’t realize is that these men retired for a reason and while it may not be readily apparent the reasons are typically more serious than we may realize.

Whether intentional or not, begging some beloved star to come back into the ring is saying that the current crop of talent simply isn’t enough. Fans who want to see these older wrestlers make a triumphant return are actually looking for a reigniting of the nostalgia such a return would bring. The remixed strings of Bryan’s “Flight of the Valkyries” or the booming sound of Undertaker’s bell illicits an almost Pavlovian response within fans that we want to relive again and again. But what comes after is never as good as we imagined.

The last time Sting entered a WWE ring at Night of Champions in 2015 he left with a severe neck injury at the hands of Seth Rollins. The match itself (for those who remember) was lackluster at best and unsurprising when we consider Sting was 56 years old at that time and was competing against a much younger and healthier Rollins, who has been dubbed the “King of Crossfit”.

Despite his injury which would eventually require neck surgery, Sting appeared on Legends with JBL in 2016 and claimed that he had “unfinished business” in professional wrestling and wanted a match against The Undertaker, who would “retire” the next year after losing to Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 33.

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Like the man himself, rumors surrounding the Dead Man’s return to the WWE refuse to die even though he has been booked to appear at Raw’s 25th anniversary show in January. We sometimes forget these men are past middle-aged and their broken bodies are a testament to a lifetime of performances.

The biggest offender is Ric Flair who has “retired” several times during the latter stages of his career. His first retirement match came at WrestleMania 24 against Shawn Michaels who famously mouthed the words, “I’m sorry, I love you” before giving Flair a superkick and winning the match.

The emotional ending was punctuated with Michaels quickly leaving the ring so Flair and his family could bask in the adulation from the Orlando crowd which rained down like a Florida sun shower.

The next night on Raw, Flair made a farewell speech in the presence of some of the most important people from a career that spanned more than three decades including the Four Horsemen, Ricky Steamboat, and Triple H who all paid him tribute. The locker rooms were cleared as every superstar on the roster showed up regardless of their current heel/face designation. Even The Undertaker – who is notorious for always keeping kayfabe – came out to hug the Nature Boy and then performed his kneeling victory pose as a sign of respect.

My issue with faux retirement matches is that they are a cheap gimmick aimed to tug at your heartstrings despite being ultimately meaningless. Less than three months after the dramatic showcase of love and admiration from superstars, fans, and everyone in-between, Flair challenged Chris Jericho to a street fight.

While never competing in a formal match, Flair was nonetheless physically involved with several matches and storylines until he departed the WWE in 2009 after which he wrestled in ROH and TNA.

Inevitably, our demand for “one more match” leads to another and another because fans are inherently selfish and I mean that in the nicest way possible. We want to see these superstars return so badly that we’ll forget how disappointing their last match was and somehow convince ourselves that this time will be different.

The reality is that older is never better in professional wrestling because the human body doesn’t age like wine; it ages like cheese. While some fans may attempt to refute this fact with chants of “GOLDBERG!” the fact is that he is the exception and not the rule.

Often times, even the wrestlers themselves don’t realize returning is a mistake until well after the bell rings. The allure of crowd pops and the rush of the guerilla position is certainly intoxicating and can be more than enough to override common sense or even a medical diagnosis. In 2016, Shawn Michaels was a guest star on The Ric Flair Show podcast and Flair admitted that it was a mistake for him to have kept wrestling after their match at WrestleMania 24:

"“There [are] a couple of things I regret. Number one was ever going to work for TNA. That’s my own fault. It was just a lot of money to wrestle 65 days a year, right? 65 days and make a lot of money. Do you know what I mean? Not WWE money, but pretty good money to do nothing. And I made a lot of friends. I like Kurt Angle very much and I like [James] Storm and [Bobby] Roode. I liked AJ [Styles]. Everybody treated me great. I mean, I don’t have any bad things to say about TNA or the people there at all. After being in the WWE, it’s pretty hard to work any place else because you’re always comparing them no matter how hard you try not to.”"

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Professional wrestling is a cycle and eventually all of your favorite superstars will move on to retirement in one form or another. We should not allow our desire to relive the glory days of someone’s career with the reality of that career’s end. In that same vein, we should allow these men and women to bow out of the spotlight with grace and dignity knowing that we appreciated their time without us trying to squeeze every drop of blood and sweat from their bodies. Who they are now is not who they were and we should recognize this truth even as we struggle to accept it.