Sometimes you know when a wrestler goes into their final WWE match that the end was coming. When retirement becomes a stipulation of the match, it’s usually a pretty good indicator that a wrestler is going out on their back. Then, there are times when we weren’t aware that a wrestler was having their final match. Whether it be a tragedy, injury or leaving the company unexpectedly, we’ve seen plenty of wrestlers have their last match be unannounced.
No matter the circumstances, it’s always interesting to see how a wrestler ends their career with the world’s largest promotion. Some of them have gone out as a champion while others were willing to put younger talent over. It just so happens that a lot of final matches come at the WrestleMania pay per view.
So let’s take a look back at wrestlers that have had their in-ring careers come to an end and take a glimpse into their final matches. There are some happy endings, some incredibly sad ones and then some unexpected finished. Here are 20 photos of a wrestler’s final match while in a WWE ring. Due to some circumstances outside of the ring, not all of the photos are exactly in high definition.
20 Ted DiBiase
“The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase saw the writing on the wall and that he wouldn’t be around as a full-time wrestler for much longer. After Razor Ramon had turned face in 1993 following his defeat to the 1-2-3 Kid, Ramon and DiBiase were thrown into an angle that culminated with a match at SummerSlam. DiBiase was able to put Ramon over before leaving the WWE, citing that he wanted to focus more on his marriage than his wrestling career.
DiBiase did have plans to return, but ended up becoming injured while wrestling in Japan, leading to his permanent in-ring retirement. In 1994, DiBiase would return as a manager and commentator for two years before heading to WCW. There, he became a member of the nWo and left in 1999.
19 Roddy Piper
After making his way from the WWE to WCW in the mid 1990s, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper returned in 2003 during the WrestleMania XIX event. The next month, Piper would have a match with Hulk Hogan (as Mr. America), and then had a tag team match with Sean O’Haire against Tajiri and Eddie Guerrero. Then, Piper was fired by the company after some comments that he made in an interview with Bryant Gumbel.
It took a couple of years, but Piper returned in 2005 and stuck around for a few more years. 2009 saw Piper’s final feud. Piper teamd up with Jimmy Snuka and Ricky Steamboat for a handicap match against Chris Jericho at WrestleMania 25. The trio was unsuccessful, and it was the official end to Piper’s career. He would make an appearance as a lumberjack later in the year and a few more promo appearances, but WrestleMania was his last official match.
Getting toward the end of his career, JBL started up a rivalry with CM Punk, and on Monday Night Raw in March 2009, he became a Grand Slam Champion after getting his first Intercontinental Championship. It was a good way to set up for a final match, as JBL was pitted against Rey Mysterio at WrestleMania XXV. After losing in just over 20 seconds, JBL seemed extremely upset.
JBL grabbed the microphone and announced that he was quitting wrestling, and it was also made official on the company’s website. JBL then returned in 2011 and teased an in-ring return before Stone Cold Steve Austin shut that down. JBL has been with the company as a broadcaster ever since, and got in the ring to help Lita win a match against Heath Slater, but was not an official entrant.
17 Eddie Guerrero
In one of the more shocking days of professional wrestling that many of us have seen, Eddie Guerrero passed away at the age of 38 on November 13, 2005. Had he been around for just one more day, his final match would have been a win in a triple threat against Batista and Randy Orton on SmackDown that would have given him the World Heavyweight Championship.
Instead, the final match for Guerrero came earlier in the month as he defeated Mr. Kennedy in a singles match to join the Survivor Series team for the brand. Orton ended up taking Guerrero’s spot at the pay per view, and the fact that he came out on top made us think that was supposed to be Guerrero’s time to shine.
16 Daniel Bryan
Most people assume that we haven’t seen the final wrestling match from Daniel Bryan, but that we’ve seen the last one in a WWE ring. Doctors haven’t cleared Bryan due to injuries, and the speculation is that he’ll let his contract run out and decide to wrestle elsewhere. If that’s the case, then Bryan’s last match came on an April 2015 episode of SmackDown when he teamed up with John Cena.
Bryan and Cena took on Tyson Kidd and Cesaro, who were the WWE Tag Team Champions at the time. Bryan and Cena would end up winning, but an injury sustained to Bryan’s head earlier in the month caused him to be pulled from matches. It was in February 2016 that Bryan officially announced his retirement as a WWE wrestler before eventually returning as the SmackDown General Manager.
Pretty much the only way you can have your final match in the WWE be at WrestleMania that ends with a win is if unforeseen circumstances end your career shortly thereafter. That’s what happened to Edge, who was the World Heavyweight Champion heading into WrestleMania XXVII. Edge would face Alberto Del Rio at the biggest pay per view of the year, winning to keep the championship.
Eight days later on Raw, Edge announced that he would be retiring from wrestling after a neck injury caused him to lose feeling in his arm. The next year, Edge became a member of the WWE Hall of Fame and has made appearances with the company in a mostly promotional capacity while also hosting his own show on the WWE Network with Christian.
14 Rey Mysterio
After being employed with the WWE for more than a decade, injuries and some miscommunication started to take their toll on Rey Mysterio’s career. Mysterio had taken some time off due to a knee injury, and then came back in October 2013 at house shows before making his television return later on. Mysterio was the last entrant in the memorable 2014 Royal Rumble, leading to a lot of booing.
Mysterio’s last match would come just a day after the subsequent WrestleMania on an episode of Monday Night Raw. Wade Barrett had returned from injury, defeating Mysterio and also injuring Mysterio in the process. While taking time off to heal his injury, the WWE extended Mysterio’s contract without his knowledge, leading to a fallout where he left to join AAA and Lucha Underground.
13 Trish Stratus
Perhaps the most well known female wrestler of the past quarter century, Trish Stratus was able to combine the right look and in-ring talent that won her several championships. Stratus had retired in 2006 after winning the Women’s Championship, but would continue to make appearances with the WWE and started wrestling again in late 2008. It wasn’t until WrestleMania XXVII, though, that Stratus had her second to last match.
Stratus teamed up with John Morrison and Nicole Polizzi (Snooki from “Jersey Shore”) in a six-person tag match at the event against Dolph Ziggler, Layla and Michelle McCool. The next night on Raw, Stratus had her final match against Vickie Guerrero and Dolph Ziggler, with the three-person team coming out on top. Since then, Stratus has been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
Back in 2010, Batista left the WWE after suffering a legitimate injury and saying that he didn’t like the direction that the company was headed. After he started an acting career by his real name of Dave Bautista, many figured that he really was done for good. January 2014 would prove many people wrong, however, as Batista returned in his first official match at the 2014 Royal Rumble, picking up the win.
Batista’s return could have been handled better, but at least it ended with him putting Daniel Bryan over at WrestleMania XXX. Batista would team up with Evolution for a couple of matches against The Shield, putting the younger team over. The final match with Batista as an official entrant came at the 2014 Payback pay per view, with Batista giving a memorable wave to his teammates and the WWE Universe the next night on Raw.
11 Bret Hart
Bret Hart famously left the WWE in 1997 following the “Montreal Screwjob,” joining WCW for the rest of the 1990s and then retiring. It had seemed like we saw the end of Hart wrestling in a WWE ring. It really seemed that he was going to be done with wrestling altogether after a stroke in 2002, but you could never rule him out. Hart came back in late 2009, signing with the WWE and feuding with Vince McMahon.
Hart’s contract was coming to an end in November 2010, and Hart was mainly wrestling in house shows in Six Man Tag matches with the Hart Dynasty. Before his contract ran out, however, he was able to get involved in a match with members of The Nexus, with the last documented match coming in Cologne in November 2010.
10 Chris Benoit
Had people had any indication that Chris Benoit’s final match would be on an episode of ECW and that the end of his life would be one of the most shocking stories in wrestling history, there might be some better footage. However, the WWE basically refuses to acknowledge that Chris Benoit was ever with the company.
With all of that considered, Benoit had his final match on June 19, 2007, beating Elijah Burke to enter the ECW Championship match at the Vengeance pay per view. Benoit would start to no show house shows and then the pay per view, leaving people wondering what was happening. At this point, you know what was actually happening in Benoit’s personal life, and it shook the wrestling world for years to come.
9 "Macho Man" Randy Savage
Many wrestlers that would end up leaving the WWE for the WCW would eventually return, but that wasn’t the case for Randy Savage. Savage left the company in 1994 to join WCW, and made his final appearances in 2000 before a short stint with TNA from 2004 to 2005. Savage’s last official match with the WWE came at WrestleMania X, where he defeated Crush in a falls count anywhere match.
Savage would stick around the company for a little while afterward, but was mainly doing promotional work, sitting at the commentary booth and making run-ins during matches. Savage would leave in November 1994 to join WCW. His official in-ring retirement wouldn’t come until 2005, though, and he tragically died at 58 years old after suffering from heart disease in 2011.
8 CM Punk
There are still plenty of people out there that think CM Punk will return to the WWE ring as a wrestler, but the more time that goes on, it doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen. After the end of 2013 saw Punk taking on the likes of the Wyatt Family and The Shield (in which he won a three on one handicap match), Punk was entered into the 2014 Royal Rumble as the first entrant in the match.
Punk was eliminated by Kane during the match, and never came back the next night. Instead, it was reported that Punk simply said he was going home and it took 10 months before we finally got to hear Punk’s full side of the story. The two haven’t mended their relationship quite yet, and Punk seems to be happy with retirement from pro wrestling.
7 Mick Foley
Despite the fact that Foley had taken some of the hardest bumps in WWE history, it didn’t seem like he’d ever willingly retire. It seemed that 2008 might be Foley’s final match in WWE as he won a tag team match with Hornswoggle to make it into the Royal Rumble before being tossed out by Triple H in the match. Then, Foley left WWE to join TNA where he would become the World Heavyweight Champion.
After returning, there was speculation that Foley would either be in the 2012 Royal Rumble, but those plans fell through. Plans for Survivor Series and SummerSlam that year also fell through. With that said, Foley’s final WWE match would indeed be that 2008 Royal Rumble, as he was only ever able to come back as a special guest referee on a handful of occasions. At least his tag team match with Hornswoggle wasn’t his last.
6 The Undertaker
As much as a lot of people hated the idea, The Undertaker had to retire eventually, and you just knew that he’d go out on his back. Many fans were hoping it would be a more beloved star that got the huge rub from beating The Undertaker at a WrestleMania event, but that wasn’t the case as the controversial Roman Reigns got the nod. At WrestleMania 33 in 2017, The Undertaker and Reigns pulled off a decent enough match, though not as memorable as some of The Undertaker’s other WrestleMania moments.
The Undertaker hasn’t officially retired just yet, but after losing the match, he left most of his legendary attire in the center of the ring. Also, as he was walking out, the lights were turned off and we heard just a couple of more gong hits, ending WrestleMania.
5 Ric Flair
When people talk about the best final matches that a wrestler has ever had, the one that Ric Flair had against Shawn Michaels is one of the first that comes to mind. After Flair said that he’d never retire in 2007, Vince McMahon told the legend that his next loss would be his last in a WWE ring. Flair would win against some big names, and was then inducted into the 2008 WWE Hall of Fame class.
The very next night is when Michaels and Flair had their match at WrestleMania 24 in Orlando, with Michaels ending Flair’s career. The match was named Match of the Year, and had one of the most memorable moments with Michaels proclaiming “I’m sorry. I love you,” before giving Flair the Sweet Chin Music that would bring his time as an in-ring performer with WWE to an end.
4 Shawn Michaels
After failing to defeat The Undertaker at WrestleMania 25 in one of the best matches that the event has ever seen, the two decided to follow it up with another memorable match at WrestleMania 26. This time, the stakes were high as The Undertaker was putting his WrestleMania winning streak on the line, while Michaels was willing to end his career had he lost the match.
As we know, it was The Undertaker that came out on top to retire Michaels. It was a month before the match that Michaels decided he’d go out on his back since he wanted to be around his son more frequently. Michaels retired from professional wrestling after the match, and has made WWE appearances since then in certain roles, but never as a wrestler.
3 Hulk Hogan
Many thought that Hulk Hogan’s final angle in the WWE would be against Shawn Michaels in 2005 at the SummerSlam pay per view, but the next year saw his final match in the WWE. Michaels and Hogan certainly had their problems, but eventually it was Randy Orton that was the final WWE opponent for Hogan during Orton’s “Legend Killer” gimmick.
Though Orton was the heel in the match, it was assumed that the young star would be put over by Hogan, but history has shown that Hogan’s not willing to put many people over. Hogan would end up winning the 2006 SummerSlam match, but Hogan left shortly after. He cited that the reason for his departure was because he didn’t feel he was paid enough for the match. Eventually, he’d make his way back as an ambassador of sorts, but was run out of the company again after a certain video leaked.
2 The Rock
The Rock could have had his last match against the likes of John Cena or CM Punk, but came back for one more official match. The Rock’s feuds against those two were memorable, but his final appearance (that we can see for now) came at WrestleMania 32. The Rock came out to the ring to announce that the event had broken the attendance record at WrestleMania in what looked like it was going to be a throwaway ballyhoo segment.
Instead, The Wyatt Family came down to the ring, back when Erick Rowan and Braun Strowman were part of the group. Rowan was the one that stepped into the ring to challenge The Rock in what would become the fastest match in the event’s history. In just six second, The Rock was able to pin Rowan, and all indications say that The Rock is done with official matches in the WWE.
1 Stone Cold Steve Austin
Despite being perhaps the biggest name in the history of the WWE, Stone Cold Steve Austin had some tumultuous times with the company’s management toward the end of his run. When The Rock returned to the promotion following a run in Hollywood, he came back as a heel character and had one more WrestleMania showdown against Austin. In a memorable 18 minute match, The Rock would come out on top and it ended up being Austin’s finale as a wrestler.
Injuries were the main reason that Austin decided to retire from wrestling, and would reveal eventually that the injuries were the only reason. Austin stuck around on WWE television for a while as the Sheriff of Raw, but then left in March 2004. Austin’s made appearances with the WWE since then, but hasn’t had an official return to the ring.