As wrestling fans, we have seen a lot of wrestlers come and go. Sometimes it’s due to an injury, other times because of age, and of course we have those wrestlers who have left due to unhappiness within the company. As often as it happens, you might think we’d be a little more prepared for these departures. However, when it comes to wrestlers who we’ve held close to our hearts for years, there’s no preparing for the announcement — even in the case that we know it’s coming. The reactions can range from tears to anger, and in some cases we’ll even see denial. But eventually we all have to come around and accept it because the bottom line is that it happens and there’s nothing we can do to change it. What we can do is think back on their careers within the WWE and remember all the great things they accomplished during their time. We can enjoy the memories and respect everything they brought to the company. We can honor their names.
When thinking about a former wrestler’s career, it’s easy to recall their best matches. We have no problem remembering them at their peak; and for many of them, their final matches were some of their greatest. However, not all wrestlers have the ability to go out on top. For some of them, we choose to ignore those final days and instead pretend that their departure came much earlier than it actually did. With that in mind, we decided to make a list where we talk about the final matches of 15 different former WWE stars. Some of them are less than impressive while others will go down in wrestling history. So without further ado, let’s find out if these 15 wrestlers’ final matches represented everything they brought to WWE.
15 Justin Gabriel: Rusev
We never really got to see the full potential that Justin Gabriel had to offer before he left the WWE. Which is unfortunate because now that we've seen him in action with Lucha Underground (where he wrestles under the name P.J. Black) and we know that he's got some serious in-ring skills. If the WWE would have utilized his full potential, then we'd have a great high-flying addition to keep the mid-card interesting. They didn't, though; and that much is obvious based on the fact that his final match wasn't even on a televised event.
Gabriel's last recorded match was on the January 13, 2015 episode of Main Event where he faced Rusev. The match wasn't anything all that spectacular but it wasn't for a lack of ability. It's obvious that the whole purpose of the match was to highlight the brute force of Rusev, but that didn't stop Gabriel from delivering. He and Rusev worked well in the ring together, but in the end, Rusev locked Gabriel in the Accolade and forced the high flyer to tap out. This match definitely did not represent Gabriel the way it could have, but it's probably better than anything we would have seen had he given WWE notice instead of him just quitting.
Gabriel had three more matches after this one, all of which were at house shows and were not recorded. It's always a shame to see Superstars go out as a jobber when we know they offer the company so much more than that.
14 John Morrison: The Miz
Speaking of wrestlers who have moved on to Lucha Underground, John Morrison (now known as Johnny Mundo) had a less than spectacular departure from WWE as well. His final match took place on RAW on November 28th, 2011 and it featured him and The Miz in a Falls Count Anywhere match. This match contained a total of about five seconds of offense from Morrison, while the rest of it was The Miz completely destroying Morrison and kayfabe injuring him so that he could be written off TV. He was even carried off on a stretcher.
Morrison’s release was announced the next day. This was a less than impressive way of sending him off and it did absolutely nothing to showcase everything that he had brought during his career with the WWE.
13 Bobby Lashley: Mr.Kennedy
Bobby Lashley's final match within WWE came about when he needed to take time off in order to have surgery thanks to a shoulder injury obtained at The Great American Bash. The match took place on July 30th, 2007's episode of Raw and featured Lashley taking on Mr. Kennedy. Considering he was working with an injury, this match had a decent amount of athleticism and was actually pretty entertaining. Naturally they played off the injury, showing Kennedy continually targeting and abusing the shoulder so that Lashley's pending surgery made more sense to the crowd. For a pre-injury match, it was good. For a pre-termination match, it wasn't an awesome way to go out. However, Lashley wasn't released until six months after his surgery; therefore, his departure clearly hadn't been planned at the time.
Considering this, Lashley's final match wasn't all that bad. At the very least, it could have been way worse. At least it showed that even with one arm out of commission, Lashley could hold his own in a match.
12 Kurt Angle: Sabu
August 8th, 2006 was the last time that a WWE ring saw the likes of Kurt Angle. The match was on the ECW brand and featured his opponent as Sabu. As we all know, Angle has an amazing set of professional wrestling skills and it's no surprise that the majority of his matches in the WWE were worth talking about. The fact that his final match was against someone like Sabu is something to be proud of and although he didn't go out in a main event during a Pay-Per-View, this was still one that did him justice. The match ended in a No Contest due to an interference by Rob Van Dam who took out both Angle and Sabu, but the whole thing was entertaining and exciting.
After he left, we learned that Angle had been working injured for a while and when you take that into consideration, it makes the match we got from those two even more impressive. The match clearly demonstrated the strength, agility, and athleticism that both Angle and Sabu had. We didn't come away from that one disappointed, so all in all it was a pretty good way to go out.
11 Dusty Rhodes: Randy Orton
Dusty Rhodes was 61 years old when he participated in his final match with WWE. On top of that, he faced one of the bigger and more brutal young talents that WWE had — Randy Orton. The match took place at The Great American Bash in 2007 and it was a Texas Bullrope match where the competitors were tied together with a rope that had a cowbell attached to it, which could be used as a weapon. Dusty Rhodes was known for this match, so it only made sense that he'd go out performing in this kind of match. If you look past the fact that Rhodes lost to Orton, the match was great. Given the age of the legend at the time, we didn't expect too much from this.
However, he did surprisingly well and showed us that he still had it in him to put on a good performance. This was a great way to end his career and the majority of fans were really proud of him.
10 Stone Cold Steve Austin: The Rock
Stone Cold Steve Austin has appeared in beer drinking and Redeck Triathlon competitions in the WWE, but his final match as a wrestler in WWE took place at WrestleMania XIX against The Rock. It really would have been wrong for him to face anyone else in his final match, don't you think?
For this match, Stone Cold brought attitude and a can of whoopass, but, in the end, it was The Rock who emerged victorious. The two performers definitely brought a certain intensity into the match and it was a very enjoyable performance. The two taunted and beat each other until they just couldn't anymore and we even got to see The Rock perform the Stunner on Steve Austin after flipping The Rattlesnake off.
Going out at WrestleMania was definitely the best move for someone like Austin and (as we already stated) it wouldn't have made sense for him to end his wrestling career squaring off against anyone else.
9 Rob Van Dam: Seth Rollins
For someone who sat so high during his time with WWE, it's a bit surprising to know that his final match in WWE took place on an episode of Main Event. On August 14th, 2014, Van Dam faced off against then Money in the Bank winner, Seth Rollins. Putting these two in a match together promised to be a really intense and athletic match, but the ending was about as impressive as the event that it was on.
The match had made its way to the outside of the ring and the countdown ensued as the two hashed it out. Van Dam threw Rollins into the timekeeper's booth and jumped back in the ring at the count of nine, forcing a loss on Rollins a second later when he couldn't make it back into the ring in time. Not a very impressive end to a career with a company that he had given so much to.
8 Ric Flair: Randy Orton
The ending of Ric Flair's career was supposed to be that career-threatening match he lost against Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XXIV. As a final match, that was the kind that any wrestler would want to go out on. It was the perfect ending to his run as a wrestler, but apparently Flair wanted one more go and he ended up facing Randy Orton on June 1st, 2009 during RAW in a Parking Lot Brawl.
The match wasn't bad. In fact, it was pretty good for a 60-year-old who was supposed to be done wrestling — but it wasn't the WrestleMania match. Not by a long shot. The match against Orton featured no rules, no referee, and no possible good end for the legend. It ended with Legacy interfering, Ric Flair being trapped in a steel cage with Orton, and a punt to Flair's head that knocked him out cold. Ric Flair's contract with WWE expired the next day.
7 “Rowdy” Roddy Piper: The Miz
"Rowdy" Roddy Piper's final match in WWE took place on June 13th, 2011 during an episode of RAW. Piper faced off against and defeated The Miz in a very short match that did absolutely nothing when it comes to highlighting the career of Piper. Of course, highlighting his career wasn't exactly the purpose of the match, but since it was the last one he participated in, we wish it would have done his career at least a little bit of justice.
The match became a bet with $5,000 on the line and with Alex Riley as the special guest referee, it wasn't surprising to see him help Piper achieve victory very quickly. So while this match didn't say much in regards to what Piper was capable of in his prime, at least "he won $5,000." This was entertaining, though. And we have plenty of other fantastic matches to remember him by, so we can definitely appreciate Piper shutting Miz up for a minute or two.
6 A.J. Lee: Six-Divas Tag Match
A.J. Lee's entire career within WWE was something to be admired. She took the Women's Division by storm and quickly became a crowd favorite. Her last match took place of RAW, like so many others on this list. It was a Six-Divas Tag Team match where she joined forces with Naomi and Paige to take on Natalya and The Bella Twins on March 30th, 2015. Most of A.J.'s ring time was spent taking abuse and nothing that she did came close to portraying how great she was in the ring. Luckily for us, the previous night at WrestleMania 31 was a much better match.
It featured a victory for A.J. Lee and Paige against The Bella Twins. During this match, we got to see A.J. overcome all the odds (aka the cheating ways of the Bella Twins) and get the Diva's Champion to tap out. So while her last match was rather underwhelming, we choose to remember her performance at WrestleMania 31 instead.
5 Jeff Hardy: CM Punk
Jeff Hardy had a very memorable career with WWE and he will forever be known as a fan favorite. His final match with WWE took place on SmackDown's August 28th episode in 2009. The match consisted of him and CM Punk going head to head in a steel cage match for the World Heavyweight Championship.
In typical CM Punk fashion (at least, at the time), Hardy was attacked before the match started, on the way down to the ring. Once the match started, Punk immediately started climbing the cage while Hardy could barely get up, but he did. He fought very hard to keep Punk down and for a while it seemed as if Hardy was going to overcome the advantage Punk had and take the win. It didn't work out that way, but the match was still amazing. The match had a stipulation where the loser had to leave the WWE, so knowing that Hardy was on his way out to recover from some injuries, the duo did really well in making sure that his final match both impressed and entertained.
4 Lita: Heath Slater
Although her last match technically took place at the 1000th episode of RAW on July 23rd, 2012 against Heath Slater, the last match that she actually fought in was at the 2006 Survivor Series Pay-Per-View. Here she faced Mickie James with the Women's Championship on the line. She lost and unfortunately, it's a match that we're going to remember forever. The match was nothing like anything Lita had delivered during her career within WWE. It was awful and the only good thing that came from it were the laughs we had when Cryme Tyme came out to sell off her stuff.
She went out in a very heel fashion, which we don't see too often when they're actually retiring, but that would have been fine had the match been half as good as we expected it to be. It's probably best for us to remember the match against Heath Slater instead of that one when thinking about her departure. At least we enjoyed that one.
3 Edge: Alberto Del Rio
Edge's final match within WWE was a dark match following SmackDown on April 5th, 2011. The Ten-Person Tag Team match was not aired (aka the meaning of a dark match), therefore we will not be referring to that one as his final match.
Prior to that on April 3rd, 2011, Edge faced off against Alberto Del Rio at WrestleMania XXVII for the World Heavyweight Championship. The match itself was pretty good. Edge showcased a lot of his technical skills and although it wasn't the best match he's ever been in, it is an acceptable one to go out on. Edge did end up retaining the championship that night and closed his time with the company by destroying Del Rio's car with a crowbar. So he definitely went out with a bang.
2 Shawn Michaels: The Undertaker
Shawn Michaels is constantly considered to be one of (if not the) best professional wrestler to ever step foot in a WWE ring. So it only makes sense that he would go out at the hands of someone like The Undertaker.
March 28th, 2010 brought about WrestleMania XXVI and the Streak vs the Career match. This match was arguably the greatest match and the greatest performance of his entire career. It was the perfect ending to a fantastic career and as much as a lot of us did not want that to be the end of The Heartbreak Kid, he has been smart to not get back in the ring because this match would be damn near impossible to top. The two worked each other until they had nothing left and they finished the bout with so much emotion that is unlike anything a lot of us have seen in the WWE. It showcased the brilliance that was Michaels' talent and it was a bittersweet moment for all of us. It was a match that reminded us all why we loved and admired Michaels so much, and it will be remembered forever.
1 CM Punk: Royal Rumble Match
No one expected that the Royal Rumble would be the last time we saw CM Punk in a WWE ring. Even after the fact, we didn't believe it for a while. If we had been asked what we thought CM Punk's last match would look like, we definitely would not have responded by saying it would be him losing in the Royal Rumble match to Batista. But that's what happened. Punk entered at number one and stayed in the match for a total of 49 minutes. The fifth entrant, Kane (whom Punk had eliminated early on), came back out to the ring and pulled Punk over the top rope and choke-slammed him into the announcer's table.
Ignoring the fact that the whole match was just awful in general, it didn't fit well as Punk's last match. Of course, no one knew at the time that it would be his last match (even WWE as far as we could tell), but that just goes to show that what they were doing with Punk at the time did not live up to what he could and had previously brought to the company.