Wrestlers can't go forever. Although some wrestlers, especially Terry Funk, try to stay in the squared circle as long as they possibly can, the sad reality is that even the most talented ring generals will have to hang up their boots and walk away someday. While some wrestlers, like Kurt Angle, Shawn Michaels, Chris Jericho, and the Undertaker, all of whom had some of their best years over the age of forty, can stay good longer than others, there will eventually be a drop in talent, production, and work rate. As the past few years have shown, with the untimely retirements of Edge and Daniel Bryan, and Ric Flair's beautiful farewell ceremony, the most heart wrenching aspect of this industry (Besides 30 minute long McMahon Family nonsense promos) is seeing wrestlers say goodbye for good.
The WWE is currently in the midst of a transitional period, where many of the old guard, the last remnants of the Attitude and Ruthless Aggression Era, are slowly retiring and leaving the business in the hands of the younger talent (At least every day besides WrestleMania. Right, Goldberg?). In the next few years, we're sure to see even more former players call it quits and leave the business in the hands of the New Generation. So, without further ado, this list will take a look at fifteen wrestlers who could retire in the next five years.
15 Big Show
This one is cheating a little bit, because of all the people on this list, Big Show's impending retirement is the only one that is official. The former pretend son of Andre the Giant (WCW was weird) confirmed it himself that he'll be retiring after his blockbuster match-up against Shaquille O'Neal at WrestleMania 33 (WWE is weird, too). It's fair to say that Big Show's retirement is coming at a good time. He's been wrestling for 22 years and he's been slowing down for a while now. The company usually only uses him for the stupidest angles they can think of and, as a result, many fans have grown tired of his presence on TV, as well as his constant, somewhat hilarious flip flopping between heel and face. Some vocal fans have even taken to chanting "Please retire" at him. Regardless, the World's Largest Athlete will be missed, as he's given his all for the business and has given fans many great, albeit occasionally ridiculous, moments over the years. His monster truck sumo match against Hulk Hogan at Halloween Havoc '95 was inarguably the best match in pro wrestling history and deserves all your love and admiration.
14 Nikki Bella
This one may seem unlikely, as Nikki Bella currently sits as one of the biggest stars of the Smackdown Women's Division, and probably next in line for a title run, but recent history says that the Nikki "I Wish You Had Died in the Womb" Bella won't be in the WWE for too much longer. This time last year, Nikki's future as a wrestler was in question, as she had suffered a devastating neck injury that required surgery and for her to change her finisher. Rumors were flying all over the place that she may never wrestle again or that, at best, she would have to work a reduced schedule for the rest of her career. While she has bounced back nicely, the history of wrestlers with neck injuries tells us that she's probably competing on borrowed time. It's a shame, as she's improved leaps and bounds since joining the company, but given her injury history, it's entirely possible she progressively works less and less over the next five years.
You may not know it, but R-Truth, one of the top five best rappers in WWE history (The other four are Dylan, Dylan, Dylan, and Randy Savage), is 45 years old. He wrestled for the WWE between 2000-2002 as K-Kwik, where he rapped with Road Dogg, then for TNA between 2002-2007 as K-Krush and Ron Killings, where he was tag team champions with Cincinnati Bengals corner back and real life crazy person, Pacman Jones, then finally came back to the WWE in 2008, where he raps alone and occasionally with Goldust. It's fair to say that R-Truth probably won't be an in-ring talent for too much longer. WWE Creative hasn't had anything meaningful for him to do since his inspired heel run and tag team with The Miz, Awesome Truth, in 2011. He's mostly just used for filler and bad comedy skits on RAW and isn't taken seriously as an in-ring competitor. He may retire or leave the company, but it's hard to imagine R-Truth not disappearing in the next five years.
12 Dolph Ziggler
Dolph Ziggler is the poster boy for badly booked superstars. The former male cheerleader/Chavo Guerrero's golf caddy is one of the best technical wrestlers in the WWE, one of the best sellers in the WWE, and very few wrestlers, male or female, have a connection with the crowd like he does. However, the company has never truly gotten behind Ziggles and his considerable talent, often leaving him with nothing to do for long periods of time. While his feud with the Miz over the Intercontinental title was one of the best of 2016, it wouldn't be a surprise for him to become less and less important to the Smackdown ecosystem, as is the WWE way. He's had two world title reigns, but they were mostly uninspired and poorly booked. Now, at 36 years old, he has a burgeoning comedy career outside of the WWE and it wouldn't be crazy to see him leave the ring behind to explore other avenues. It'd be a damn shame, but no one would blame him.
11 Rey Mysterio
One of two non-WWE wrestlers on this list (For the moment, at least; he could pop up at anytime and no one would be surprised), Rey Mysterio has a ton of mileage on him. He's 42 years old and has been wrestling for an astonishing 28 years. He's wrestled for AAA, ECW, WCW, CMLL, WWE, and, most recently, Lucha Underground. As a result, he has an injury history a mile long and his knees may be the worst this side of Kevin Nash. The question of if Rey Mysterio will retire isn't so much "will he?", but "when will he?" He doesn't have anything else to prove: he's a two time World Champion in WWE, a WWE Triple Crown Champion, a Royal Rumble winner, and one of the most beloved high fliers, and baby faces, to ever step into the squared circle. Putting Rey against a big star is an instant big money match for any promotion and he's admittedly still good in the ring, but his time is limited.
10 Brock Lesnar
Brock Lesnar, a mountain turned man who eats live deer whole, is the best special attraction in wrestling today. He doesn't appear on WWE television often, but when he does, all eyes are on him. He works a notoriously brisk schedule, showing up every few months or so to wreck havoc and take main event spots from other dudes, and makes a ton of money. Given his already light schedule, monetary security, possible ambitions for a future in MMA, and a public disdain for travel, it wouldn't be surprising if Brock Lesnar walked away from the squared circle and disappeared altogether. He has nothing left in the wrestling business and while many fans enjoy his particular brand of carnage, many others wouldn't be too sad to see him go, as they're sick of a "part timer" taking away the spotlight from more deserving workers. However, it's impossible to predict what Lesnar will do: he could retire tomorrow and spend the rest of his days in his bone mansion on Murder Mountain, or he could continue to work his limited schedule for the next twenty years. It's Brock's World, he just cower in fear of it.
Please take a moment to celebrate Goldust's brilliance. He's managed to make his insane, androgynous, glitter demon weirdo gimmick work for more than 20 years. Short of The Undertaker and Kane, no one has made more of career out of utter insanity than Goldust (For his sake, let's all forget Black Reign was a thing). With that said, Goldust is 47 years old and while he's still good in the ring and people still like him, he's not getting any younger and retirement's more than likely in the cards. At the moment, he's in a dead-end tag team with R-Truth, Golden Truth, and, like Truth, he's only really used for bad comedy bits and squash matches. Given his prominent role backstage with the company, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Artist Formerly Known as Goldust hang up his boots sooner rather than later. He's earned retirement, and a probable induction into the Hall of Fame; very few people have committed so much to something so bizarre.
Rhyno, currently the only old school ECW guy under active contract with the WWE, has been popular with wrestling fans since his debut in 1994, for many reasons: he's a high energy monster with solid in-ring skills, his finisher is the manliest spear that anyone has ever speared, he has barely aged in two decades, he has beautiful hair, and his theme music encourages people to shout at the top of their lungs (Wrestling fans loves shouting and singing). However, the Man Beast is 41 years old, he's been wrestling for 23 years, and he's worked all over the world, spending the most time in ECW, WWE, TNA, and Ring of Honor. Unlike some men on this list, Rhyno hasn't been booked poorly since returning to the WWE: along with Heath Slater, he was the inaugural Smackdown Tag Team Champion and a storyline where he turns on Slater seems to be on the horizon. However, Rhyno has political ambitions in his home state of Michigan, having recently run for the House of Representatives. He has a post-wrestling career planned out and it's only a matter of time before he turns his attention to that full time.
7 John Cena
If you listen closely, you can actually hear the WWE panicking as John Cena creeps closer and closer to retirement. While the Doctor of Thuganomics isn't a full on part-timer yet, despite what many people have shouted angrily from the reaches of the Internet, he's definitely heading for that territory. To be fair, Cena deserves it: for the best 11 years, he's carried the WWE on his back as the face of the company, doing incomparable amounts of charity and media work while working a full wrestling schedule. He's actually boosted himself back from injury early more than once just so he could fulfill his duties to the company. He clearly loves the business more than just about anyone. While he's actually gotten better in-ring in the past few years, inarguably better than he's ever been, he's also 39, soon-to-be 40, and he has a lot of mileage on him. He'll stay with the company as long as he can, as often as he can, but he, and the WWE, are clearly planning for the end.
Kane, AKA Dr. Isaac Yankem, DDS, AKA The Christmas Creature, AKA Fake Diesel, has been around forever. He's a staple of WWE television and he's an underappreciated master at adapting himself to whatever stupid thing the WWE has him do. Vinny Mac and Co. have subjected Kane too so many goofy storylines and personas, it's almost unethical that he's only a two time World Champion. Still, the Big Red Machine remains one of the most beloved characters on the roster, even though he's used very sparingly nowadays (You know, in case Bray Wyatt needs to take an unnecessary pinfall on PPV). The Devil's Favorite Demon is 49 years old, soon-to-be 50, and it feels like the company's simply waiting out the clock with him. He'll likely disappear around the same time the Undertaker finally retires, for duality's sake. Regardless, it's hard to see him sticking around for too much longer.
5 Chris Jericho
Over the past 27 years, through stints with CMLL, ECW, WCW, and WWE, Chris Jericho has proven better than anyone at adapting himself to the current wrestling climate. He's been a highlight of WWE TV since his debut in 1999 and his current King Scarf Dad gimmick is one of the best things on RAW at the moment. His body of in-ring work is one of the best in wrestling history and he's the best, most decorated Intercontinental Champion of all time. However, he's 46 years old and, as previously stated, has been doing this for 27 years. The fact that he's still performing at such a high level is awe inspiring. His recent history with the WWE tells us that he'll probably leave TV soon to go back to work with his band, Fozzy (Who have an album slated for 2017, so...). Like others with non-WWE jobs on the horizon, it wouldn't be a shocker to see Jericho leave the squared circle for good sooner rather than later.
4 Kurt Angle
With the recent news of Kurt Angle's impending induction into the WWE Hall of Fame, it's time to ask ourselves this question: is Kurt Angle even human? He went from winning a gold medal at the Olympics (With a broken freakin' neck!) to becoming one of the best, most cherished professional wrestlers on the planet. He's good at everything. In the ring, he's damn near flawless, putting on some of the best matches of the 2000's, and on the mic, he's incredible (And genuinely hilarious). People have been speculating about the end of Angle's iconic career for a few years now, even Angle himself, and the general consensus is that he should end it in the WWE. Now, with his induction into the Hall of Fame, we have the opportunity to see Angle maybe put on a few more matches and retire with the company where he started it all. Either way, the end is coming for Angle's career and we should savor it while we can.
3 Triple H
In all honesty, Triple H doesn't need to be wrestling at all anymore. To be fair, he only wrestles once a year, at most, because he's busy trying to create as much new wrestling as he physically can (To be fair, he's doing a pretty good job; the UK Championship Tournament was great), but he could quit cold turkey anytime and no one would question it. He has nothing left to prove. He's one of the most decorated superstars in WWE history, one of the most despicable villains to ever grace WWE TV, and he has three different Motorhead songs to use as theme music. He's made an indelible mark on the business. What's more, he's trying to play a role that doesn't work for him anymore. He wants to be a great villain, but too many fans see him as the guy who brought them NXT, the Cruiserweight Classic, and the UK Championship Tournament. His efforts in those ventures have made him a hero to many fans. It won't be long before he hangs up his boots and becomes that guy for good.
Considering that before this past Survivor Series, Goldberg hadn't wrestled since 2004, it's not exactly a bold prediction to say that he won't be wrestling in 2022. Since he left the WWE in the wake of one of the worst WrestleMania matches of all time, people have been talking about one more run for Goldberg. While he's been denying any interest in a WWE return for 12 years, apparently all it took to lure ol' Bill out of retirement was a video game endorsement, a squash victory over Brock Lesnar, and a limited as hell schedule. He's scheduled for the Royal Rumble, Fastlane, and WrestleMania, and for many fans, he's a sword of Damocles hovering over their heads (Would the WWE really let him win a title in 2017? Is he gonna win the Royal Rumble?). However, the most likely scenario has nothing to do with a title: he'll face Brock Lesnar in a rubber match on the Grandest Stage of Them All, then ride off into the sunset forever. Anything more would be shocking.
1 The Undertaker
And here it is. The inevitable conclusion of this list is also the saddest for many wrestling fans. The Undertaker has been a mainstay of WWE TV for 27 years. He's one of the most beloved, iconic characters in all of professional wrestling and he's put on some of the best matches the company will ever see. Seriously, go back and watch his matches with Shawn Michaels, Batista, Edge, Triple H, and Kurt Angle, among others. The Deadman is, plain and simple, one of the best to ever step into a ring, in any promotion in any country. Even though it's been broken, his undefeated streak at WrestleMania remains one of the best things the WWE has ever done. The Undertaker deserves retirement and although fans the world over would be sad to see him go, it's for the best. He's been slowly down in the ring and his body can only take so much damage. The Deadman deserves one last hoorah at WrestleMania, his kingdom, before he rests in peace for good. No one has earned it more.
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