Every man and woman that steps inside a professional wrestling ring does so with the hopes that by the time they hang up the boots they will leave behind a legacy. The idea is that they will get to have an element of control over what they leave behind. Not everything will be in the control of the wrestler of course, a lot depends upon the opportunities granted to them by companies and whether audiences actually take to them and their act. One thing you would hope to be in control of though is how you go out of the industry.
To retire in grand fashion is to give a finality to a career, and in some cases can even elevate an already illustrious career to a new height. What wrestling fan could forget Ric Flair's retirement weekend across WrestleMania XXIV? Or Shawn Michaels putting his career at stake to get one final shot at Undertaker's WrestleMania undefeated streak?
A retirement angle is amazing when it's executed right (and when the retirement actually sticks. Randy Savage's loss in a retirement match at WrestleMania VII had him out of the ring for just about six months. In WCW, there seemed to be a retirement match every other week, only for them to return the next week as if nothing happened. That made a mockery of the whole 'retirement' angle, but Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels brought the art back to that kind of angle. Don't forget Trish Stratus either, who announced that she was going to retire following her match at Unforgiven 2006 against Lita. In a break from tradition, the WWE booked her to win the match and Women's Championship in her hometown of Toronto, allowing her to retire as champion.
With concerns that Sting's in-ring career could be forced to a stop following his Night of Champions injury, we felt inclined to look at some other wrestlers whose careers were cut short suddenly - by injury or otherwise.
There are a variety of reasons included in this list, but deaths have been omitted as this is not the purpose of this article.
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15 Sid Vicious
Sid went under several different ring names in his career - Sycho Sid, Sid Justice, Sid Vicious - and received several big pushes from both WWE and WCW despite a limited in-ring ability. Despite being a chronic overachiever that resulted in multiple World Championship reigns across the two companies, one of the most memorable moments of his career was the one that ended it.
In a match against Scott Steiner, Jeff Jarrett, and Road Warrior Animal on an episode of Nitro, Sid - allegedly on the encouragement of WCW management - attempted an uncharacteristic aerial move. He jumped from the second rope with a big boot but his landing leg snapped in half through both his tibia and fibia in arguably the most visually disgusting injuries in the history of all sports, not just professional wrestling. No matter how you feel about a performer's in-ring ability, no one deserves to have their career end that way.
Darren Drozdov only had a short wrestling career in the late 90s, but he had one of the most sudden exits from the sport. Droz was initially brought into WWE as a sidekick to the Legion of Doom but the allegiance was short-lived and he soon broke away into a singles act, where he began putting together his own stable.
This was ended almost immediately though, after Droz suffered a neck injury from a botched powerbomb in a match with D'Lo Brown. The injury was so devastating that it left him as a quadriplegic - without any movement beneath the neck. Fortunately, in the years since Drozdov has regained some movement in his upper body.
13 Ultimate Warrior
The man formerly known as Jim Hellwig was a controversial figure as a person and a talent but nevertheless he was one of the biggest names in the history of professional wrestling. The larger than life character with bright war paint, energetic entrance and near indecipherable promos demanded attention yet his career ended in the opposite possible fashion.
After joining WCW, Warrior immediately rivaled Hollywood Hogan. This was to build up to the big rematch from their WrestleMania VI encounter. Unfortunately for those involved, the Halloween Havoc clash was an absolute disaster. Warrior soon vanished afterwards and never wrestled again.
12 Monty Brown
'The Alpha Male' was a charismatic big man who seemed to have a bright future ahead of him when he joined WWE. After two years spent in TNA around the World Championship scene, Brown made the move to WWE's relaunched ECW under the new ring name Marcus Cor Von. He soon became part of the Mr. McMahon approved New Breed stable and made his WrestleMania debut after two months.
Six months into his WWE career, Cor Von vanished from television - with "family issues" the only reason provided. Three months later, with no further sighting of Cor Von, WWE released him from his contract. He would then quietly retire and has not been seen in the industry since.
Few wrestlers reached the heights of NFL player-turned-wrestler Bill Goldberg. His undefeated streak upon his arrival on WCW television saw him as one of the hottest acts in the entirety of professional wrestling and became a Triple Crown Champion within his first two years.
After an unsuccessful heel turn, WCW struggled to utilize their star player. This problem reared its head once again after Goldberg joined WWE in 2003, and despite a main event run that saw him win the World Heavyweight Championship, fans, Goldberg and WWE were left disappointed. This culminated in his WrestleMania XX match with Brock Lesnar, after which both men departed. Goldberg has not wrestled a match since.
For those who don't know Hayabusa, he was one of the hottest wrestlers on the independent scene during the 1990s. He became the franchise player in Japanese promotion FMW, but also wrestled in Mexico's AAA promotion, the Super J Cup, and even challenged for the ECW Tag Team Championships at the 1998 Heat Wave pay-per-view.
His career would come to a premature end in 2001, after slipping on the second rope while attempting a springboard moonsault. The move cracked two of his vertebrae, forcing his retirement and leaving him wheelchair bound.
He has still managed to remain active behind the scenes though, helping out in Dragon Gate and also recently announcing the rebirth of the FMW promotion - which had folded not long after his injury.
9 AJ Lee
The 'Divas Revolution' may be a hot topic of discussion right now, but four years ago the WWE fandom was only talking about one woman - AJ Lee. With her involvement in the WWE Championship storyline - throwing herself in with the likes of CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, and Kane - Lee was so over with fans that she even became the Raw General Manager at one point. She would return to the Divas division, where she became a three-time champion and, until very recently, the longest reign in Divas Championship history.
Towards the end of her WWE run she was effectively working a part-time schedule due to her marriage and honeymoon to controversial former WWE star, CM Punk. After calling out Stephanie McMahon and WWE on Twitter for their gender inequalities, she briefly teamed with "frenemy" Paige at WrestleMania 31 against The Bellas. Five days later, WWE announced her retirement on their website and fans were left in shock.
8 Magnum TA
In the early-mid '80s Magnum TA was a hot prospect for Jim Crockett Promotions. A year into signing for the company, he had won the United States Championship from Wahoo McDaniel. He would soon move on to feud with The Four Horsemen, even challenging Ric Flair for his NWA World Heavyweight Championship in a fantastic clash. He also regained his U.S. Championship from Tully Blanchard in a legendary 'I Quit' Match, all within an excellent debut year.
Then NWA booker Dusty Rhodes had big plans for Magnum that would see him win the U.S. Title for the third time before moving on to become World Champion.
These plans would never come to fruition though, as Magnum's incredibly promising career was cut short by a car accident in late 1986. With his C-4 and C-5 vertebrae "exploded" it was doubtful he would even walk again, let alone wrestle.
When Christian finally captured WWE's World Championship in 2011, many fans felt that Captain Charisma had managed to finally catch a break with management after his legendary career. Months later though, Christian would injure his ankle. Ever since then, he has only appeared sporadically.
In March last year though, Christian seemed to be back full-time and began a chase for Big E's Intercontinental Championship. A mild concussion saw him pull out of the match though, and he has not competed since. Christian's retirement is so underwhelming that it is still uncertain whether he is officially retired or not. Jerry Lawler referred to him on TV as retired, and the Stone Cold Network podcast suggested as much, but it is still only an assumption.
Christian's long-time tag team partner, Edge, has no question mark over his status. In 2011, Edge surprisingly saw off the challenge of Royal Rumble winner Alberto Del Rio at WrestleMania and remained World Heavyweight Champion.
Weeks later though it was revealed that WWE medical staff had told him that he would not be cleared to wrestle following the results of an MRI test - fearing paralysis or even death. Edge retired as World Champion, a rare honor even if an unfortunate one.
5 Bret Hart
Rarer than retiring as a World Champion is managing to win a World Championship after suffering a career-ending injury. Thanks to WCW's chaotic booking, The Hitman managed just that.
Hart's first WCW World Championship reign was ended by Bill Goldberg, and at the same time his career was ended too. A stiff kick to the head gave Bret a severe concussion, which in combination with prior ones, meant Bret had to retire. He did continue to appear in matches, including another reign, but WCW finally conceded that his career was over and he vacated the belt and a few months later his contract was terminated. Bret would announce his retirement shortly after his release.
4 Randy Savage
The Macho Man Randy Savage had an indisputably excellent career that rightly culminated in a (sadly) posthumous Hall of Fame induction. There were a couple of times that Savage's career appeared to be over - first of all in 1991. Having lost a 'career ending' match to the Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VII, Savage took up a career as a color commentator.
That, however, would only last a matter of months and the Macho Man would get back inside the ring. Nineteen years later, fans had once again assumed Savage had hung up the boots - after quietly departing from WCW during their Millionaire's Club storyline.
Once again though, Savage would resurface, this time four years later in TNA. Savage's return to wrestling was huge news, entering the promotion by instantly going after its champion - and behind the scenes owner - Jeff Jarrett. This led to a six-man tag team match against Jarrett's Kings of Wrestling stable that Savage, AJ Styles and Jeff Hardy would win but plans for the two to meet one-on-one for the championship had to be scrapped due to concerns over Savage's health. The Macho Man promptly, and quietly, retired.
3 CM Punk
You knew that he had to be on here somewhere, the volatile and controversial superstar was never someone to rest on his laurels. Punk's infamous 'pipebomb' promo awakened the wrestling world and ushered in a 'reality era' of wrestling, simultaneously transcending Punk from an under-appreciated heel to the fan favorite - the first to outsell John Cena in merchandise since Cena's monopoly took effect.
Three years later, with numerous additional frustrations arising even during his success, Punk decided that enough was enough. Unhappy with plans for him to face Triple H at WrestleMania, Punk famously rocked the wrestling world once again by walking out of the WWE the day after the Royal Rumble and no-showed Monday Night Raw.
Punk now has his sights set on the octagon of UFC and proclaims that he will never return to wrestling, and it doesn't get much more sudden an exit than that.
2 Stone Cold Steve Austin
There is arguably no bigger star in wrestling history than Stone Cold Steve Austin. The Rock may have become more of a household name thanks to his post-wrestling acting career, but on just wrestling alone, few can come close to The Texas Rattlesnake.
Like Punk after him, Austin had walked out on the WWE at the height of his career although it would not end that way as he would return eight months later. Having said that, his career wasn't extended by a great amount.
At the following WrestleMania, Austin would compete against arch-nemesis The Rock to finish their trilogy on the biggest stage. Rock finally managed to better Austin but the real shock came the night after, when Eric Bischoff 'fired' Austin on medical grounds. The man himself would admit the next day that he had in fact retired due to his former neck injury, and would only remain with WWE in a non-wrestling capacity.
1 Ricky Steamboat
Ask wrestling fans what the greatest match in WrestleMania history is and one match that will come up time and time again is Randy Savage versus Ricky Steamboat at WrestleMania III. Many wrestlers also cite Steamboat as one of the greatest workers inside the squared circle.
Hence why it was such a shame that he was forced to retire while still in the height of his prime, relinquishing the United States Championship during a feud with 'Stunning' Steve Austin thanks to a back injury. Steamboat was released by WCW and subsequently retired, not wrestling again besides a one month return during a storyline with Chris Jericho in 2009.
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