Saying “goodbye” could be one of the most trying and emotional experiences in a person's life. Detachment has a way of messing with the psyche – causing great sadness and disruption – but such is life. “Goodbye” is inevitable, an every day occurrence which breaks spirits and builds hard personalities.
“Goodbye” can come in many forms: the so-long sendoff of lovers whose romantic haven has become more of a sorry sewer filled with feces and rabid rats. The beloved family dog who has grown too old and too tired to function and needs to be put down. The loss of a family member or friend due to some inconceivable reality of the human condition – taken away by some horrible disease or awful circumstance.
We learn to cope with missing people; sometimes with self-destructive and mutilating behaviors, other times with silent agony and untamed anger … but it all begins at “goodbye.” This is where the power of self-reliance plays a role, not in any form of “self-help” propaganda but merely having the strength to get up and move forward; battered and broken but alive and somewhat well.
In the world of professional wrestling, “goodbyes” come around in bulk. Performers retire only to return or leave a certain promotion only to return; it's a vicious cycle. Of course, in certain cases a wrestler is forced out of the business due to injury or even worse; has passed away. In the following article we will take a look at some of those tearjerker “goodbye” moments that have taken place in the Grand Company of professional wrestling/entertainment … WWE.
Those which were unexpected and abrupt ends to the lives of great wrestlers. Those who reached the end of the road and decided it was time to hang up the wrestling boots. Those who left on controversy and those who were simply unable to performs anymore.
These are the top 15 saddest WWE farewells:
15 Mick Foley
No Way Out 2000: Triple H defends the WWE Championship against Mick Foley, working under his Cactus Jack persona, in a Hell in a Cell Match with the career of Mick Foley hanging in the balance. Triple H would emerge victorious from the bloody and barbaric contest and Mick Foley would have to leave WWE. The scene's at the end of the match were incredibly emotional, as the fans gave Foley the appreciation he deserved.
Aftermath: Mick Foley would in fact leave the WWE … for a few weeks; returning in time to participate in the main event of WrestleMania 2000. Following the match at 'Mania, Foley would not wrestle again for a number of years – remaining semi-retired for the foreseeable future. Mick Foley is now officially retired.
Friday Night SmackDown (January 16, 2009): The former two-time WWE Women's Champion Victoria would take on Michelle McCool in a losing effort in what would be her final match on WWE television. Following the loss, a choked-up Victoria would announcer her retirement – thanking the fans and embracing the staff at ringside.
Aftermath: Victoria (real name: Lisa Maria Varon) would pursue a career in mixed marital arts following her WWE tenure but would ultimately remain in the wrestling industry, returning for a one-night appearance at WrestleMania XXV to participate in the twenty-five Diva Battle Royal. Varon would then sign with TNA but has since left the company and now works the independent circuit.
13 Paul Bearer
Monday Night Raw (March 11, 2013): The entire broadcast was presented as a tribute to the late Paul Bearer (real name: William Moody). The Undertaker ,who was the most notable WWE connection to the Paul Bearer character, would come out to pay tribute but would be interrupted by CM Punk as a build to their match at WrestleMania XXIX (WWE can always turn death into an angle).
WWE Hall of Fame (Class of 2014): Paul Bearer is posthumously inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame and represented by his sons Daniel and Michael. This induction would see The Undertaker (in character) make his way onto the ceremony stage and properly pay tribute to his late friend and manager.
12 Lilian Garcia
Monday Night Raw (September 21, 2009): Jerry “The King” Lawler announces to the live crowd that is was Lilian Garcia's final night with WWE. The longtime ring announcer would deliver an emotional farewell speech to the audience, thanking the fans and all of her co-workers.
Aftermath: Lilian Garcia would make a few sporadic WWE appearances over the years that followed; singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Madison Square Garden prior to an episode of Raw and filling in for Justin Roberts when WWE Superstars and crew members were stranded in Europe due to volcano eruptions in Iceland. Garcia has since returned full-time to WWE.
11 Tommy Dreamer
ECW (December 29, 2009): Tommy Dreamer wrestles Zack Ryder with the added stipulation that should he lose, he would be force to retire form in-ring competition. Dreamer would lose that night and with much humility; the heart-and-soul of the original ECW would deliver a farewell speech, kiss and place his t-shirt which was embroidered with the three letters that meant so much to him in the middle of the ring, and walk up the ramp with his two daughters.
Aftermath: Tommy Dreamer may have left behind the WWE and their watered-down version of Extreme Championship Wrestling, but Tommy Dreamer has yet to call it a day with the professional wrestling industry. Dreamer would spend time in TNA but has really made his rounds on the independent market.
10 Trish Stratus
Unforgiven 2006: Trish Stratus challenges Lita for the WWE Women's Championship in her hometown or Toronto, Ontario, Canada in what was to be her final match with the company. Trish Stratus would capture her seventh Women's Championship (most of all time) by forcing Lita to tap out to the Sharpshooter – retiring as champion.
Aftermath: Trish Stratus would appear sporadically on WWE television over the years, returning to the ring on multiple occasions; one of which included a match where she teamed with John Morrison and Snookie of Jersey Shore fame at WrestleMania XXVII. Stratus would also appear on WWE Tough Enough as a trainer where she worked alongside Booker T, Bill DeMott, and series host, Stone Cold Steve Austin.
9 Jeff Hardy
Friday Night SmackDown (August 28, 2009): Jeff Hardy challenges CM Punk in a Steel Cage Match for the World Heavyweight Championship with the added stipulation that should Hardy fall short on regaining the title he lost to Punk, he would be forced to leave WWE. That night, CM Punk would retain his Championship and send Jeff Hardy packing (Hardy was leaving WWE for a multitude of reasons). In addressing the fans, Hardy would tell his adoring crowd that “this is not goodbye forever, this is only goodbye for now,” as well as owning up to letting anybody down.
Aftermath: Jeff Hardy would take some time off to recover from nagging injuries before making his return to professional wrestling as a member of TNA. Since then, Jeff Hardy would continue to battle personal problems and injuries while also bouncing around the independent scene.
8 Bret Hart
Survivor Series 1997: Bret Hart places the WWE Championship on the line against Shawn Michaels in what would turn out to be the most controversial match in WWE history. Bret Hart, who was set to leave WWE, refused to lose the Championship in Canada which would lead to the infamous “Montreal Screwjob” where Vince McMahon called for the bell when Michaels applied a Sharpshooter on Hart. This would send Hart into a destructive onslaught: spitting in the face of McMahon while destroying company property. This was an unnecessary and sad way for The Hitman and WWE to part ways.
Aftermath: Bret Hart would sign with rival company WCW where he would never quite find the success he had in WWE. While Hart was afforded time as the WCW World Heavyweight Champion, the feeling wasn't right, as though fans knew that Hart didn't belong in WCW. Bret Hart would eventually retire from in-ring competition before returning to WWE in January of 2010, where he buried the hatchet with Shawn Michaels.
7 "Macho Man" Randy Savage
Monday Night Raw (May 23, 2011): Three days after the untimely death of “Macho Man” Randy Savage, WWE honor one of its greatest Superstars with a video tribute. Later that night, CM Punk would pay his own personal respects to Randy Savage by wearing his signature pink trunks and yellow boots to the ring. While this was not an entire episode dedicated to Randy Savage; the sadness felt among fans was overwhelming as “Macho Man” was once a cornerstone of WWE.
Aftermath: Vince McMahon would pay tribute to Randy Savage in a Time magazine article despite their hostile relationship. (Insincerity?) This past year “Macho Man” Randy Savage was officially inducted into the WWE Hal of Fame where he should have been placed years ago. “Macho Man” Randy Savage would have his final wrestling match in TNA which is a shame as fans know that his final bout should have gone down in WWE – if only the past was left behind and both parties were able to reach an agreement.
6 The Ultimate Warrior
Monday Night Raw (April 7, 2014): The Ultimate Warrior makes his first appearance on WWE's flagship program in nearly eighteen years. Warrior who had just been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame two nights prior would deliver an eerie speech to the WWE Universe in which Warrior stated: "Every man's heart one day beats its final beat.” The very next day, The Ultimate Warrior would suddenly and shockingly pass away as a result of heart disease.
Aftermath: The following week on Raw, the program would begin with a tribute video and ten-bell salute in honor of The Ultimate Warrior as the remainder of the night would be dedicated to the fallen WWE Superstar. The Ultimate Warrior has since been immortalized (something he would enjoy) on the WWE Network with specials and tributes.
5 Shawn Michaels
WrestleMania XXVI: Shawn Michaels places his career on the line in order to have one more chance at ending the WrestleMania undefeated streak of The Undertaker. The Heartbreak Kid had tried but was unsuccessful a year prior but was determined to get the job done this time around. While Michaels gave it everything he had, he simply could not overcome The Dean man as The Undertaker would end the career of Shawn Michaels that night in Arizona.
Aftermath: The following night on Monday Night Raw, Shawn Michaels would close the show with an emotional farewell address to the WWE Universe; receiving a tip-of-the-hat form The Undertaker and being greeted at the top of the ramp by his best friend Triple H and riding off into he sunset. Shawn Michaels has since returned to WWE in a number of on-screen fashions, but never as a competitor as Michaels has vowed to remained retired.
WrestleMania XXVII: The Rated-R Superstar, Edge would come into the biggest event of the year as the reigning World Heavyweight Champion set to defend the title against the 2011 Royal Rumble winner, Alberto Del Rio. In the opening contest of the evening, Edge would defeat Del Rio and retain the World Heavyweight Championship in what turned out to be his final match.
Aftermath: The following week on Monday Night Raw, Edge would come out to the ring and address the WWE Universe, informing everybody about his physical aliments and the doctors concerns for his physical well-being. The end result: Edge would be forced to retire at an early age – an eleven-time World Champion and one of the all time greats.
3 Ric Flair
WrestleMania XXIV: Ric Flair goes one-on-one with Shawn Michaels in a match-up for the ages, as the generational lines were drawn and Ric Flair's back was up against the wall. If Flair were to lose then his career would be over – effective immediately. The emotionally charged contest would end with a Super Kick and a kiss on the forehead as Shawn Michaels would leave Ric Flair laying in the middle of the ring.
Aftermath: The following night on Monday Night Raw, the WWE would produce an outstanding farewell to Ric Flair segment which would include all the important people in the life of The Nature Boy: members of The Four Horsemen, old rivals, longtime friends, and the Flair family. What a great sendoff for the greatest wrestler of all time… However, the days of in-ring competition were not over for Ric Flair as he would eventually step back into the ring on the Hulkamania Tour and with TNA Wrestling.
2 Owen Hart
Over the Edge 1999: Owen Hart, performing as the Blue Blazer, was to be lowered from the rafters of the Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Missouri prior to his scheduled Intercontinental Championship match with The Godfather. The malfunctioning of the harness used to lower Hart would cause him to fall to his death in one of the most tragic events in professional wrestling history.
Aftermath: The following night, WWE would pay tribute to Hart with Raw is Owen, an entire episode dedicated to the memory of Owen Hart. The program did not feature any angles but would instead allow Superstars to share their thoughts and feelings about Owen Hart.
1 Eddie Guerrero
Friday Night SmackDown (November 11, 2005): Eddie Guerrero competes in a match against Mr. Kennedy for a spot on Team SmackDown at the upcoming Survivor Series Pay-Per-View. Guerrero wins the match with his famed formula: “lie, cheat, and steal,” which would “earn” him a spot on the team. Unfortunately and unbeknownst to everybody, this would be the final match in the life of Eddie Guerrero as he would pass way two days following the airing of said match.
Aftermath: The WWE Superstars and fans alike would celebrate the life of Eddie Guerrero on a special edition of Monday Night Raw, dedicated solely to the memory and legacy of the great Eddie Guerrero, in what can be considered the most emotional episode of Monday Night Raw to date. The WWE said farewell to one its stars who had vanished too soon.
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