There have been countless men and women to wrestle matches for major promotions like the WWE and WCW, but only so many of them can have legendary careers. Only so many of them can leave lasting legacies that are talked about forever. And only a small portion of them get to have perfect sendoffs.
Shortly after Ric Flair lost to Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 24, he was given an epic good-bye party on Monday Night Raw. Guys like The Rock are always in-and-out of the WWE, so you don't have to worry about a permanent good-bye from the company any time soon.
But many wrestlers who built names for themselves didn't quite get the perfect ending they could have envisioned. In fact, many of them had disappointing, embarrassing or heartbreaking endings. For more reasons than one, some of the most well-known wrestlers were given terrible sendoffs. Here are 15 of those wrestlers.
*Rankings are based on how big the wrestler was and depend on the circumstances of the ending*
15 The Undertaker
Some of you may be surprised that either A) The Undertaker is on this list to begin with or B) He should be higher on the list. Well, I'll explain why his career didn't end properly, but the fact he helped put a current star over doesn't exactly make for the "worst" ending, either.
So any who, The Undertaker may very well be the best wrestler ever. His legacy was made at WrestleMania, where he started out 21-0 before Brock Lesnar ended it at WrestleMania XXX. But Vince McMahon (who has said Undertaker is his favourite wrestler), had to give his main man a terrible ending.
That ending was WrestleMania 33 in Orlando, where McMahon had Undertaker face Roman Reigns -- a guy that fans have booed every night for two years (and counting) that only Mr. McMahon himself seems sold on as "the guy".
Not only was it silly to see Taker lose to Reigns on the Grandest Stage of Them All -- but it was a horrible match to begin with. Reigns is 20 years younger than The Phenom (and it showed), which didn't make for a good match. If 'Taker had faced an opponent capable of putting on a good match against him, then the ending would have been appropriate.
But we all got to see McMahon shove Reigns down our throats again by beating our favourite wrestler at WrestleMania. Boo you, sir.
14 Muhammad Hassan
There's a man named Marc J. Copani who is a former wrestler that was born in the United States. But this is the WWE, and the creative control team (beginning with Mr. McMahon), decided to come up with a controversial angle and character that is only offensive all these years later.
Copani portrayed Muhammad Hassan (an Arab American), and they tied in the 9/11 terrorist attacks into his character. And yeah, you can guess that the fans instantly began to accept him as a heel -- hating on Hassan as he feuded with some of the top stars.
But Hassan's character came to an end after the city of London was attacked by terrorist bombings. WWE sent him packing by having him lose to The Undertaker at The Great American Bash, as Hassan had said in storyline that he would leave the company if he retired.
Just a disastrous all-around end to a career that never stood a chance to last that long.
13 Dean Malenko
Dean Malenko is one of the most forgotten Superstars of the '90s, and fans should take a moment to applaud his remarkable career. He was in every major wrestling promotion at some point: WWE/F, WCW, NJPW and ECW. Malenko won six championships during his time in WCW and helped launch the Cruiserweight division with Rey Mysterio, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Jericho and others.
Folks won't talk about Malenko's great career much, but the Cruiserweight division wouldn't be the same two decades later without his contributions. Remember, the Cruiserweights who went from WCW to WWE formed a key turning point in the Monday Night Wars.
Malenko quietly faded out of the WWE spotlight during The Invasion storyline. His last official bout was a dark match against Sin Cara in 2007. Oh, Malenko really deserved a more notable ending to his career. Instead, it just ended quietly and unexpectedly.
12 John Bradshaw Layfield
Alright, so JBL wasn't exactly much of a true professional wrestler, but few heels were so great on the microphone like him. This is a guy who dressed up in rich suits and arrived in a flashy limousine before every match. JBL was a stereotypical arrogant, big-mouth rich cowboy from Texas and was great at getting under the skin of fans. He embarked on a nine-month run as WWE champion, cementing his legacy as one of the better wrestlers from his era.
But even though JBL had some good years with the WWE, he didn't get to close out his in-ring career properly. He lost a match to Rey Mysterio at WrestleMania XXV and told the live crowd that he had quit.
And just like that, JBL's run as a wrestler for the WWE was over. It's great to see him on the commentating team today (where he truly is succeeding), but it would have been better if he had one more championship run of some sort before hanging up the hat.
11 The Ultimate Warrior
The Ultimate Warrior wasn't that great of a performer in the ring, and many came to dislike the man for becoming a full-out racist in the years leading up to his death. But there's no denying the incredible contributions that Warrior made to the WWE in the '80s and '90s.
The fans just loved seeing this man sprint to the ring in his iconic face paint. The Ultimate Warrior knew how to apply to the fans and was one of the most lovable Superstars of his time. Unfortunately, Warrior and Vince McMahon had a falling out, causing the star wrestler to leave in 1992. He would return in 1996 but left after coming to arguments with Vince about skipping house shows. Warrior then joined WCW in 1998, but the run wasn't anything close to what he put on in the WWE.
Ultimate Warrior really did his job in helping Vince McMahon expand the business of WWE, but the complicated relationship between these two men prevented us fans from seeing him put one more epic match or segment to close out the great career. At least we saw him get inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014, though.
10 Randy Savage
The Macho Man...OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!
Besides Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage was the biggest superstar Vince McMahon used to launch the WWE into a world-wide sports entertainment juggernaut. Savage and Hogan formed the legendary "Mega Powers" tag team, and the former's relationship with Miss Elizabeth made him one of the most beloved stars in the company's history.
But McMahon wasn't buying Savage as a main event show as the latter approached his mid-40s. Some time after being moved to commentating, Savage chose to depart from the WWE and joined WCW.
Savage did have some good moments in WCW, but his time there ended when he joined The Millionaire's Club in 2000, only to never appear on their company again. Savage never returned to WWE and spent a bit of time in TNA, but chose to retire for health reasons.
The Macho Man is one of the greatest men to ever step into a wrestling ring. But he never got the great and iconic sendoff in the WWE, WCW or TNA. It's a shame, cause he did a whole lot for the industry.
9 Kurt Angle
Has any other wrestling theme been as awesome as that of Kurt Angle's? He's among the greatest wrestlers in WWE history, fighting back neck injuries and winning a gold medal at the 1996 Olympics. Angle had tremendous in-ring athleticism and was one of the best personalities on the microphone (be it a hilarious guy backstage, or a heel general manager/wrestler).
Angle was able to put on top-notch matches against the likes of Eddie Guerrero, Brock Lesnar and others. Though it's nice to see Kurt Angle crushing it as the Raw general manager today (while also coming off a Hall of Fame induction), the Olympic gold medalist didn't have the best of endings during his original run with WWE.
In 2006, Angle sought time off to recover from a neck injury and would eventually be released by the WWE. His last match was against Sabu on a taping of...ECW. If Angle got a pay-per-view main event match against a top Superstar, then that would have been a great ending. Instead, he left the WWE on somewhat bitter terms without a proper good-bye match.
8 Daniel Bryan
As fans in The PG Era started to get bored of John Cena, Daniel Bryan emerged and became the new face of the WWE. He was so universally accepted that fans were disgusted and booed Batista and Roman Reigns for winning the 2014 and 2015 Royal Rumbles -- hoping Bryan would win both events.
Bryan, a three-time World Heavyweight Champion, was on top of the wrestling world when he forced Batista to tap out in the main event at WrestleMania XXX. Little did anyone know that he was going to announce his in-ring retirement two years later.
With neck and concussion injuries, Bryan (who would still probably be the top face in WWE today if he was wrestling), had to hang up the wrestling gear. It was such a remarkable run in such short time, but doctors advised him it was time to step down.
If only Bryan could have had one more true epic and great match to end his career. He deserved the storybook finale to what was a remarkable career.
Along with her real-life friend Trish Stratus, Lita was able to launch the Diva's division in the WWE during the Attitude Era. Both of them were among the very few female wrestlers who were actually talented in the ring and not just used for eye candy. Lita was a four-time Women's Champion and among the most beloved divas ever. But unfortunately, many fans decided to judge Lita for her personal relationships.
You see, she had a real-life and on-screen relationship with Matt Hardy, but eventually fell in love with Edge (one of Matt's real-life friends). Matt spoke out against the relationship and got fired from the WWE. This led to fans viciously harassing Lita and Edge on the internet and during shows -- instead of letting her be happy with the man she truly loved.
As fans turned their backs on Lita and directed terrible slurs at her, she chose to retire after losing to Mickie James at Survivor Series 2006. Not the way a Hall of Famer's career should have ended by any means.
'The Animal' may not have been that much of a true wrestler, but he sure got over with the crowd during The Ruthless Aggression Era. Batista made a name for himself as Triple H's enforcer in the Evolution alliance. Once he betrayed The Game and became World Heavyweight Champion at WrestleMania 21, Batista was officially one of the top faces in wrestling.
But Batista eventually got frustrated with the direction of WWE and left in 2010. He came back in 2014 as a face, looking to revive his career. Batista won the Royal Rumble but was rejected and booed heavily by the fans, who were hoping Daniel Bryan would return to win it.
WWE had to reluctantly turn Batista into a heel, where he reformed Evolution with Triple H and Randy Orton. Batista once again got frustrated with the creative team and left after a few months to continue his successful Hollywood career.
Batista has since expressed frustration with how his 2014 return went and that he knew he would fail as a face. Now that he's big in Hollywood, it's tough to believe that he'll get a proper sendoff with the WWE.
5 Hulk Hogan
It's been how long since Hogan last wrestled a match in the WWE?
Doesn't matter, he was signed under a legends contract and you had to believe The Hulkster would have at least one more match in him. Hulk Hogan was the reason that the WWE became a huge part of sports entertainment; he gave children of the '70s, '80s and '90s an American hero to cheer for every single night. Hulk Hogan was the WWE.
But Hogan and Vince McMahon always had a rocky relationship, leading to the former leaving the company on multiple occasions. No time did it show more than two years ago, when McMahon fired Hogan after tapes of him using racial slurs against black people were released.
Some may say that McMahon made the wrong decision, but many now look up to Hogan as a disgraced racist who damaged his own reputation. Hogan and McMahon worked to build WCW together for decades, but Hogan getting fired two years ago may be the final chapter of their complicated relationship.
4 CM Punk
CM Punk may not have quite been as polarizing as John Cena or The Undertaker, but he sure as heck constructed a Hall of Fame-caliber career. The best heel of his era was able to go head-to-head with top-end talent like Cena, Undertaker, The Rock, Rey Mysterio, Jeff Hardy and others. Punk won three World Heavyweight Championships and a pair of WWE Championships -- further evidence that he was one of a kind.
But unfortunately, Punk rightfully felt that Vince McMahon and Triple H were lying and not using him properly. He never got to headline a WrestleMania, and eventually got so frustrated that he walked out just before the January, 2014 edition of Monday Night Raw.
This eventually led to the WWE firing Punk on his wedding day with A.J. Lee. They've refused to mention his great career and try to pretend he doesn't exist anymore. ls that how a great career should end? We didn't think so.
3 Bret Hart
The Hitman is easily one of the most iconic wrestlers Vince McMahon ever employed. Bret Hart came from the legendary Hart wrestling family and the impact he had for his home country of Canada cannot be emphasized enough. Hart truly did so much to help the WWE grow into the world's biggest wrestling promotion -- putting on great matches against The British Bulldog, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels and others.
But Hart's wrestling career ended quite miserably to say the least. He reluctantly went to WCW following the fallout of The Montreal Screwjob, and his tenure with Ted Turner's company was nothing close to impressive.
Hart suffered a severe concussion in a match against Goldberg (at Starrcade 1999 for the WCW Championship), and it ultimately led to him retiring. Had that Montreal Screwjob not taken place, Hart could have hung up the wrestling gear in much better fashion. It's a shame he didn't get to.
Sting was the face of WCW and was a key reason why they led the Monday Night Wars for some time -- to the point where they almost put WCW out of business. He also put TNA on the wrestling map, and you could make a case that he's the best wrestler Jeff Jarrett and co. ever had.
But Sting had one thing missing on his resume -- a tenure with the WWE. That was marked off after he debuted for them at Survivor Series 2014. But Vince McMahon appeared to have zero interest in having Sting win anything. He lost his WrestleMania 31 match to Triple H, but was given a WWE World Heavyweight Championship match against Seth Rollins at Night of Champions 2015.
Sting suffered a legitimate neck injury during the match, and lost to Seth Rollins. Little did we know at the time that Sting would retire, get inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame and never return to wrestling. So a top-five all-time wrestler (in my books, at least), was mistreated by WWE and went out by losing a match which resulted in a career-ending injury.
The Vigilante deserved so much better.
1 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin
You just need to ask Mr. McMahon himself about who he thinks the greatest wrestler of all-time is. The boss man would tell you that his name is 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin -- the man who almost single-handedly launched the WWE into The Attitude Era (which helped put WCW out of business).
The Texas Rattlesnake became the biggest babyface of the late '90s and early 2000s for WWE, as his rule-breaking and heavy beer-drinking character would define The Attitude Era. Austin put on top quality matches against some of the biggest wrestling legends like The Rock and Shawn Michaels.
But Austin's great career ended unexpectedly, and he didn't get the sendoff he deserved. He lost to The Rock at WrestleMania XIX and essentially walked out on the company on rather bad terms.
Not the way WWE's best star should have ended his career. It deserved a much happier ending.