"Turn off the lights... the party's over."
In the world of pro wrestling, the warm glow of the spotlight can be like an addictive aphrodisiac. The cheers and adulation, or in some cases, the roar of boos can provide an adrenaline rush like no other.
That same rush can become addictive to the point of being destructive, however.
In the long history of the sport, many legends have stubbornly clung to their celebrity status in the ring, while their fame continues to fade with the crowd. Crisp arm drags become blown spots, and once-muscular physiques become flabby and doughy. Suddenly the luster is off what used to be considered a wrestling diamond.
In some cases, a wrestler's refusal to quit can be rewarded, but more than often, it leaves them a shell of their former selves.
Whether because of age, injury, or simply becoming irrelevant, every star has had the "R word" come across their radar. How they've handled it has been either their christening or their downfall.
With that in mind, here's a look at 15 Pro Wrestlers Who Refused To Retire:
15 Gypsy Joe
While Gypsy Joe isn't a household name, he most certainly made a reputation for himself in Tennessee wrestling lore as The Man Who Never Went Away.
Gypsy Joe is known for his grueling longevity in the wrestling business, and for good reason. In a career that spanned seven decades, the tough old bird fought opponents often half his age and is remembered as a hardcore brawler. Joe was also reportedly the first wrestler ever to jump successfully off the top a steel cage onto his opponent.
He's also remembered for an infamous YouTube video that went viral, The footage showed of New Jack going berserk and shooting on him in an indy match.
Despite that vicious attack, Gypsy Joe lived to fight many more days, before his passing last June at the age of 82.
14 Adrian Adonis
The late Adrian Adonis is remembered for two things: being one of the most talented, handsome, young workers in the business. And then, he's also remembered for that "other thing".
Adonis' starting transformation into being 'Adorable" was not only a shocking transformation in character,it was also an incredible change in appearance.
Battling years of injuries, Adonis' weight had ballooned, and as a wrestler, he was a shell of his former greatness. Rather than retire (even temporarily), he traded in his leather jacket for a lipstick case for one last payday.
Perhaps the great Adrian Adonis should have walked away for a while and into semi-retirement. Given time, he could have refined his skills, re-charged his batteries and perhaps given the sport another go.
Because he decided to avoid retirement, he will always be remembered as more of a sideshow act to mainstream fans, rather than the spectacular performer he was as a youth.
Tragically, Keith Franke (aka Adrian Adonis) was killed in 1988, in an auto accident involving three other wrestlers. He was 33.
13 Fritz Von Erich
The reign of the Von Erich family ended in Texas sometime around the start of the '90s. After years of being portrayed as Dallas' ultimate heroes, the claw-wielding clan had begun to fade off into the sunset.
As early as a few years before, the company's patriarch, Fritz Von Erich, began fading out of the main event picture. Having passed the role of star to his talented sons, Von Erich seemed to be content to work as the mind and the money behind World Class Championship Wrestling.
But like every old sheriff, Fritz would occasionally dust off his star. Often teaming in six man matches with his sons, he was a shadow of his former self while still managing to OVERSHADOW his children. It became a series of matches that were more about reliving past glory, than focusing on today and the future.
Several angles that involved him getting back into the mix, including a poorly-received heart attack storyline, proved that Fritz's time in the Texas sun had set. It's unfortunate that he didn't just settle in out at the ranch sooner.
12 Mark Henry
Mark Henry makes this list for a very different reason than most.
When Henry entered the WWE in the late '90s, many experts scoffed at him. He was considered nothing more than a novelty act, an attempt by Vince McMahon to add some legitimacy to his circus act by signing a legitimate Olympian.
After a decade in the company playing little more than a sideshow act, he had fulfilled the initial ten-year deal he inked in 1996. At the time, several sources close to WWE speculated that The World's Strongest Man had made his money and would walk away from the business.
Instead, the massive mauler from Texas found greater success as a veteran. Because he didn't give up, Henry made the second half of his career much better than the first one. For his perseverance and refusal to retire, Henry will be remembered as one of the sport's great powerhouses and a likely WWE Hall of Famer.
11 Carlos Colon
As respected as Carlos Colon has been on the isle of Puerto Rico, he is often reviled outside of his home country. As the promoter of the World Wrestling Council, he booked himself on top with the company's top prize, The Universal title, more times than anyone can count.
Colon is also associated with the stabbing death of Bruiser Brody by his wrestler and booker Jose Gonzales (Invader I). The 1988 murder was dismissed by an island court as self-defense, but has left many in the industry bitter- even three decades later.
In essence, Colon and his promotion has worn out its welcome with a handful of wrestlers in the States. Based on working conditions in Puerto Rico, and the fact that they had to make Colon look strong at every appearance, many wrestlers avoided trips to Puerto Rico or simply wished Colon would go away.
Perhaps no human being has inflicted more bodily harm- to themselves or others- than the homicidal, suicidal, genocidal maniac. As the nephew of the legendary Sheik, the man known as Sabu knew he would have to take things to the extreme to carve out some famous scars of his own.
And, boy... does he. When the lights come on, you better believe that somebody is going to get hurt.
Due to his crazy style, many people thought that his career would have been over several years ago. It's been over 20 years since Chris Benoit earned the name "Crippler" by breaking Sabu's neck, yet he continues with a breakneck style to this day.
Call him crazy or fearless, but Sabu made a name for himself by taking a licking and keeping on ticking. It's almost stunning that he had the willingness to keep going after three decades of abuse.
9 The Fabulous Moolah & Mae Young
These two Hall of Fame females are so closely associated with one another, they have to share a spot. Not only did they have a friendship and a life the wrestling business in common, they also both had another similarity: they never really got old.
Moolah was considered 'done' as wrestler by the '80s.... only to still be performing nearly into her '80s. She and Young became part of the comical angles of the late 90's WWF, introducing the pair to a new audience. In many ways, the two ladies cemented their great wrestling careers by being willing to be good sports in the end.
And when they actually got into the ring, they showed (albeit at a much slower pace) that they hadn't forgotten any wrestling holds.
Poking fun at the fact that the were as old school as it gets, these two legendary ladies refused to retire and were willing to laugh about it. Luckily for the audience, they let us in on the joke.
8 Abdullah the Butcher
Abdullah the Butcher shouldn't have retired because of his eroding skills. He never really had any. And, he never had to worry about his character being over,because it always will. So, why should this legend have retired sooner?
Because he became a physical liability. Or, at least according to some of his co-workers.
With his ring moniker literally letting you know he is an infamous bleeder, Abdullah spilled buckets of plasma on nearly every continent with anyone who ever dared call themselves 'hardcore'. His non-wrestling wrestling style, was marked by foreign objects and no-holds-barred mayhem.
In 2011, Canadian wrestler Devon Nicholson filed suit alleging that Larry Shreve (Abby's real name) had passed the Hepatitis-C virus to him in a match where both men were bleeding. Nicholson alleged that Abdullah had bladed him without his permission. Three years later, a court upheld a ruling of over two million dollars in damages to Nicholson.
CLEARLY, the Butcher should have recognized the dangers of his illness and stepped away from the sport, rather than risk the well-being of his co-workers.
7 Dusty Rhodes
Many times in wrestling history, the company's booker and top star were one in the same. This was the case in Jim Crockett Promotions, when Dusty Rhodes arrived to the Carolinas by way of Florida.
Having a ton of charisma and credibility, The Dream set out to create a powerhouse promotion, and he clearly succeeded in doing so. Along the way, he tried to groom new stars like Magnum TA and Nikita Koloff, but for different reasons, neither succeed Rhodes and nemesis at the top of the card.
Having little left in the tank and with his own skills eroded, Dusty would at least try to give young stars the rub, before ultimately outshining them. After finally taking some time away from the ring, he returned a few years later to be brutalized in ECW.
In reality, Rhodes probably should have probably stopped wrestling on top of the card around 1988. But, no one was around to tell him to get his cowboy boots to walkin'.
6 Daniel Bryan
This isn't really a case of a guy who refusED to retire. It's more like refusING... sort of.
As most wrestling fans are aware of, Bryan was forced into an early retirement because of the effects of concussion syndrome. Everyone knows... because his loyal following, and Bryan himself, have taken issue with the doctor's analysis.
In many instances during his time on Smackdown and especially on the WWE Network post-show, Talkin' Smack, Bryan has floated the idea of a ring return. This cause the internet community to salivate, as they are just waiting for Bryan to say he's climbing back into a WWE ring- or any ring, for that matter.
Some cautionary tales are available to Bryan on this very list. If he is truly healthy enough to pursue his dream, then by all means, he should do so. But if not, he might be better served to earn a check by tormenting WWE superstars from behind a microphone.
5 Verne Gagne
Verne Gagne christened himself the world champion of his upstart Minnesota promotion, the American Wrestling Association, back in 1960. He had his last reign in 1980, when he retired while still holding on to the title.
Those who defend Gagne for his ridiculous run on top can point to the facts that he was an incredible in-ring worker, the fans always reacted to him, and, as a promoter, he was the one wrestler he knew he could on.
Unfortunately, by the time Verne was being AWA Champion, his company had no stars left. They had all departed for greener, and hippe pastures.
Critics point out that in the early '80s, the NWA had a glamorous champion like Ric Flair and the WWF was already becoming a cast of characters, the AWA had an old guy as their champion. At that point, before finally handing along the title one more time to Nick Bockwinkel, Gagne looked like a lost man in a strange new world.
4 Mick Foley
Mick Foley retired from wrestling originally in his 30s, only to be lured back by the smell of burning flesh. For a guy who promised his family and fans that he knew when to quit, he seemed like a drunk reaching for one more bottle.
Subjecting his body to even more punishment, Foley returned to WWE rings to take a beating from Randy Orton and try to elevate some younger talent. And, just when everyone breathed a sigh of relief and considered his career FINALLY over, he risked his safety even further by more hardcore matches in TNA.
Always ready to take a bump to please his fans, the audience is starting to see the effects on Foley's posture and memory since he has been an authority role on RAW. One can only hope that his refusal to retire hasn't further damaged Foley for his golden years.
3 Hulk Hogan
In his time as the face of TNA, it became almost sad to watch Hulk Hogan make his way to the ring. His noticeable limp, compounded by dozens of knee and back surgeries, made him look much smaller than the magnificent figure that once rocked Madison Square Garden.
In what has been a career filled with comebacks, Hogan had finally turned his last trick Rejuvenated several times over (including the most famous heel turn in history), Hogan seemed to be wrestling's version of the Cinderella Man--- he always managed to come back on top.
But not anymore.
On several Hogan wore out his welcome at different points in his career, but was able to win the fans back. After his miserable and downright awkward time in TNA, he returned to WWE only to face a racism scandal.
Hogan is a clear-cut case of refusing to go away gracefully.In many cases, he has been rewarded for his perseverance. But eventually, even Hulkamania wore out its welcome.
2 Terry Funk
There may be no human being in any industry that has retired more times than Terry Funk. No one.
Much like Muhammad Ali or Michael Jordan, Funk is one of those rare guys who can show you those same old flashes of brilliance, no matter how many miles are on his odometer. He's had career comebacks in the '80s, '90s, and even the 2000s. It was as if the legendary Funker just wouldn't die.
Certainly, wrestling fans don't wish death on Funk, merely a peaceful retirement. Over 25 years ago, he was told that his knees were shot, and he risked life and limb to help push upstart ECW. He continued to be an ambassador for the sport through physical anguish.
At some point, Terry Funk will slow down. But, until the day he dies, there will always be a part of the Funker that believes in his double-crossed heart that he has one more match left in him.
1 Ric Flair
Why, Ric? Why?
There are probably many wrestling fans and historians who wish they could have just erased Flair's ill-received run in the Hogan-Bischoff version of TNA. As a matter of fact, most people would just like to forget that two-year period, as a whole, ever existed.
But, it did. And it tarnished the legacy of a man that many regard as the bets to ever perform.
After a swan song at WrestleMania, and being sent to retirement by the most emotional Superkick of all time, Flair was supposed to fade into glory. Instead, he took one more shot at the limelight by signing as part of a group of aging stars who were looking for a payday from Dixie Clark.
And while there were some good times in TNA (the Jay Lethal showdown was fantastic), the fact that Flair wrestled again after such a glorious send-off was too much for many fans to bear. Most wrestling observers consider Flair's clear grasping at straws to be almost unmentionable.
Performing on-camera was fine, but his in-ring career ended with an HBK hug years before... at least in the eyes of the fans.
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