When superstars begin their training to become wrestlers, they are aware that their career may not be a lengthy one. Many stars only have a few years at the top level because of injuries or bad decisions, which means that only the select few manage to have lengthy careers with the biggest wrestling promotion in the world.
Some of the most popular stars in the company over the past few decades have retired from WWE prematurely and haven’t stepped foot in a ring ever since, which has come as a shock to many of the WWE Universe who thought that they would go on to wrestle on the Independent Circuit or even stick around the WWE to cement their legacy among the greats.
There seem to be two kinds of wrestlers in WWE, the ones who stay around for too long and the ones who retire too early. Over the years there have been a number of different stars who fall into either of these categories.
The following list looks at eight WWE stars who need to let go and finally make the decision to hang up their wrestling boots, as well as seven that retired way too soon. Some of these stars retired at the top of their game and the WWE Universe have since longed for them to lace up their boots just one more time. We wouldn’t recommend holding your breath while you wait though!
15. Needs To Let Go: The Big Show
The Big Show has been part of the main roster now for a number of decades, with many of the WWE Universe stating that The Giant needs to walk away. Big Show put in the hours at the gym over the past few years and returned to WWE in the best shape of his career recently.
It was thought that The Big Show was going to walk away after his match against Braun Strowman where he was thrown through the cage. Show then underwent surgery that should keep him out of action for a number of months. Big Show hasn’t returned to WWE since but there are rumours that The Giant could be set to return to the company, which has many fans wondering if he will ever walk away.
14. Should Have Held On: Daniel Bryan
Daniel Bryan was once one of the most popular superstars in WWE history. Bryan was forced to retire from WWE last year due to injury much like former World Champion Edge, and much to the disappointment of the WWE Universe.
Bryan has hung around and been able to become the SmackDown General Manager, but even though Bryan wasn’t cleared to return to action in WWE following his injury, it seems that he was cleared by his own doctors which means that if he wants to return to the Independent Circuit when his WWE contract comes to an end next year, then he is well within his rights to. It seems that Bryan is one of many retired WWE stars who could make his return to the ring in the near future.
13. Needs To Let Go: The Undertaker
The Undertaker has become one of the biggest legends in WWE over the past three decades. He is a former World Champion, holds the longest undefeated streak at WrestleMania and is among the longest-tenured superstars in the history of the company.
It was thought that The Undertaker walked away from WWE following this year’s WrestleMania when he lost to Roman Reigns in the main event, but now it was announced that he is returning to WWE in January as part of their 25th Anniversary Celebration, which could set up another match at WrestleMania. Undertaker has nothing left to achieve and nothing left to prove. He has recently undergone hip surgery and many of the WWE Universe are worried that any match he has following the operation could tarnish his legacy if it isn’t up to par with his previous matches.
12. Should Have Held On: Beth Phoenix
Beth Phoenix is still remembered as one of the most dominant female wrestlers in WWE history and definitely left her mark on the women’s division. Beth is a former Women’s Champion and was just the second woman in history to be given the opportunity to compete in the annual Royal Rumble match.
Phoenix left the company back in 2012 when she was on top of her game for family reasons and has since been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. Phoenix has since married fellow WWE star Edge and started a family of her own and recently she has become much more open to returning to the company. Phoenix hasn’t stepped in the ring since 2012, but many of the WWE Universe have wished that she would return at some point.
11. Needs To Let Go: Kurt Angle
Kurt Angle was once one of the biggest stars in WWE and when he left the company back in 2006, he was one of their highest-paid athletes. Angle has since remained active and became a star in Impact Wrestling over the past decade before he returned to WWE earlier this year.
Angle has been the Raw General Manager for the past few months following his Hall of Fame induction and shockingly returned to the ring back at TLC as Roman Reigns’ replacement. He then went on to compete at Survivor Series as well, but the former World Champion is not in the same shape as he used to be. It is being speculated that Angle is set to face Triple H at WrestleMania 34 next year in a match that none of the WWE Universe actually want to see. It is time for Kurt to realize that his best days are now behind him?
10. Should Have Held On: Trish Stratus
Trish Stratus retired from WWE more than a decade ago but she is still considered to be one of the greatest female wrestlers of all time. Trish still holds the record as a seven-time Women’s Champion, a record that could be equalled very soon by Sasha Banks or Charlotte Flair.
While Trish is one of the wrestlers who has returned to WWE a number of times for random matches, she hasn’t returned to the company as a part of the brand for a lengthy amount of time. Trish was supposed to return to WWE as part of NXT Takeover: Toronto last year, but she was pregnant with her second child at the time and couldn’t return. Trish is a mother of two now but that doesn’t mean that she wouldn’t be open to returning to the company sometime in the near future.
9. Needs To Let Go: Ric Flair
Ric Flair is the only two time WWE Hall of Famer in the history of the company, but Ric is one star that doesn’t know how to walk away. Flair has returned to wrestle so many times that the WWE Universe is pretty sure that Flair will never officially retire.
Flair was recently hospitalized and forced to undergo surgery, but it seems that even that didn’t manage to slow The Nature Boy down since he returned to the company last week to congratulate his daughter Charlotte after she won her first SmackDown Women’s Championship. Flair is also set to be part of Raw’s 25th Anniversary in January which means that even though Flair isn’t at one hundred percent right now, he would still be open to being part of a storyline moving forward.
8. Should Have Held On: Kaitlyn
Kaitlyn retired from WWE back in 2014 after what was an incredible feud with her real-life best friend AJ Lee. Kaitlyn has since gone on to become a founder of her own clothing line called Celestial Bodies and has remained in incredible shape, promoting a number of images from fitness magazines on her Instagram page over the past few years.
Kaitlyn is probably in much better shape right now than she was when she was part of the WWE roster, which has had many of the WWE Universe speculating that she could make her return to WWE in the near future. Kaitlyn is another star who shockingly never went on to perform on the Independent Circuit which means that the former Divas Champion hasn’t stepped into a wrestling ring in almost four years.
7. Needs To Let Go: Kane
Kane is another WWE star who is considered to be a legend in the company after more than two decades. The Big Red Machine has recently returned to the WWE once again and is in dominant form as he looks set to face off against Braun Strowman in the coming months.
It was hoped that Kane’s current storyline would lead to his “brother” The Undertaker’s return to the company so that the duo could retire together. Kane and The Undertaker have become two of WWE’s biggest stars and they would have deserved to walk away from the company together. These plans may have changed over the past few months, but it is still hoped that this storyline could lead to Kane’s retirement from the company once and for all.
6. Should Have Held On: CM Punk
CM Punk will always be a WWE star that the WWE Universe will look at and wonder “what if.” Punk walked away from the company back in 2014 when he was at the top of his game and has since stayed as far away as possible from the wrestling business.
Punk instead decided to try his hand at Mixed Martial Arts, something that he quickly realized was a completely different profession to wrestling. Many companies have offered CM Punk the chance to return to the ring over the past four years but it seems that Punk wants to put his career in the squared circle behind him. It’s a shame because Punk will always be considered to be one of the best wrestlers that WWE ever had and now the WWE Universe will never know just what the former World Champion could have actually achieved if he had continued to wrestle over the past few years.
5. Needs To Let Go: Mickie James
Mickie James returned to WWE back in January after a fantastic showing against Asuka at NXT Takeover: Toronto last year. Mickie is one of the most decorated female wrestlers of all time and in the years she was away from WWE, she was furthering her career with Impact Wrestling.
WWE hasn’t been treating Mickie like the veteran she is over the past year, instead opting to put her in storylines where they use her age as something negative. Mickie perhaps thought returning to the company would be much better than it actually has been, but it seems that she is just being used to make up the numbers on the Raw roster, which is unfair to her and her talent. With all the women coming into the company right now, it is highly unlikely that Mickie is going to be given another chance at the Women’s Championship and equalling Trish Stratus’ record.
4. Should Have Held On: Shawn Michaels
Shawn Michaels is widely considered to be one of the greatest WWE wrestlers of all time. He bowed out of WWE following his match against The Undertaker back at WrestleMania 26 and he hasn’t returned in a wrestling capacity since. Michaels has stuck to his word and refused every offer WWE has presented to him for a return match.
This past weekend he was part of the NXT Live Event in San Antonio where he once again stated that he would not be returning to the wrestling ring in the future because he felt that he was too old. The WWE Universe would have loved for him to come back to the company to face someone like Seth Rollins or AJ Styles but it seems that Michaels doesn’t want to tarnish the legacy he created by returning when he doesn’t feel he is capable of performing at that level anymore.
3. Needs To Let Go: Triple H
Triple H is the COO of WWE and the creative mind behind NXT right now, there is no longer a need for the 14-time World Champion to continue to compete at the highest level. It seems that the only thing that forces Triple H to continue to return to WWE for their biggest matches at events like WrestleMania and Survivor Series is his ego.
He has made a number of stars in NXT over the past few years who could easily take his place on the main roster. Triple H hasn’t been a full-time star in a long time and the WWE Universe won’t really miss him as an active competitor. Triple H would be best utilized behind the scenes now since his brain is the reason that NXT has become the worldwide phenomenon it currently is.
2. Should Have Held On: AJ Lee
WWE fans all over the world were left heartbroken back in 2015 when AJ Lee decided to retire from WWE following WrestleMania 31. The former Divas Champion hadn’t hinted at a desire to walk away from the company before she made this decision, but it seems that it was something that she had wanted to do for a long time.
AJ was the best of a bad crop of women’s wrestlers at the time and the women’s division suffered after AJ’s abrupt departure. Incredibly, AJ hasn’t decided to return to the Independent Circuit over the past few years, which means that her talent is going to waste. She has gone on to write a book all about her life so that fans can better understand her decision to walk away from the company, but this hasn’t made fans miss her any less.
1. Needs To Let Go: John Cena
John Cena has been handed more opportunities in his life than anyone else could dream of. He has an entire career outside of WWE to fall back on now and during his time away over the past few years, WWE has adapted and reached the point where they no longer need him.
Many of the WWE Universe recently turned against Cena when he was able to return at Survivor Series without qualifying for the match and then refused to wear the team colours. Cena also went on to no-sell Finn Balor’s Coupe De Grace, which was seen as Cena once again proving that he thinks he’s too good to stay down after just one finisher. NXT has created stars who will go on to eclipse Cena in the coming years, so perhaps it is finally time for Cena to walk away.
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