The WWE, “Then, now, & Forever”, will always be a physical form of sports entertainment. Maybe this is one reason they run their “Please, don’t try this at home” adds.
The outcome, punches and kicks maybe staged, but, the bumps and bruises these superstars take are very real. As sports entertainers, injuries are always lurking. You can’t prepare for it, it happens. Something WWE fans know all too well.
The year 2016 could to be the Injury Era for the WWE, with superstar after superstar getting injured, starting with Seth Rollins blowing his kneecap out, to the latest Albert Del Rio with his lower back. Lucky enough, for these superstars, they are not career threatening injuries. Superstars never want to be injured, but if you are, you rehab the injury and can always return. However, few superstars are that lucky.
There were superstars who didn’t fare well to injury, which led to their early retirement from the squared circle. We say thank you to the injured. Thank you for going out there and putting your body on the line to entertain us.
Then the superstars who gave it everything they had in the ring and left to achieve other goals, whether it be UFC, Hollywood, body building, or parenthood.
All these superstars who retired early are greatly missed, and as fans of the WWE we wish them the best in their future. For those not injured, we continue with the “ONE MORE MATCH” chant.
These are the superstars we hated to see leave the squared circle.
15 Molly Holly
Molly was a much underrated WWE women’s wrestler. She held the Women's Championship twice, and she even held the Hardcore Title which she won by defeating The Hurricane at WrestleMania X-8. She won this during her Mighty Molloy stint.
However, Molly was originally known for her stint with Bob Holly and Crash Holly. Together they were the Holly Cousins. She eventually began her feud with Trish Stratus. During the Crash Cousin stint Molly had an on-screen relationship with Spike Dudley, the brother to Bubba and Devon Dudley, which she said was the best time of her career.
Molly wrestled for eight years before she retired. It was for undisclosed reasons, but many believe it had to do with the way WWE depicted women in 2005.
14 Corey Graves
Corey Graves spent most of his time wrestling on the independent scene. That was until he caught his break when he signed with NXT. While wrestling in NXT he became a huge hit. He even had an amazing match with former WWE Champion Seth Rollins. He was always in the spotlight.
Nonetheless, like stars of the pass, Graves was injury prone. His dreams of becoming a WWE superstar drifted away when he continued to suffer concussion after concussion.
The Wellness Program the WWE has is one of the strictest ever, meant to protect their stars for life threatening injuries. If they don’t think you’re ready, you will not preform. For Graves, that was the exact problem.
Knowing his love for the industry, WWE signed Graves to an announcing contract with NXT.
13 Christopher Nowinski
He received his contract following his efforts on WWE TV series Tough Enough. Chris Nowinski, the Harvard graduate, debuted in WWE in 2001, helping William Regal defeat Bradshaw in a European Championship match.
The WWE was in the middle of their name change, and Nowinski was part of the new talent emerging looking to make a name for himself.
Unfortunately for him, he could never capitalize on his opportunity and never reach superstar status. Chris dealt with concussion problems which set him back.
Debuting in June 2001 and retiring two years later in June 2003, if Chris didn’t suffer from concussions there was no telling where his talents could have taken him.
12 Lance Storm
This wrestler played part of a controversial group in the early 2000s known as The Un-Americans, a group of Canadians who marched around with the American flag upside down on their shirt and on the pole.
He was never a world champion, but he had a bunch of mid-card titles. The greatest feature of Storm was he could always put together a match where he made his opponent shine.
Storm retired from the WWE in 2005 at the age of 36. However, he hasn’t retired from the wrestling scene, as he has opened his own wrestling school. He also has appeared at a bunch of indie shows.
Debuting in 2010 on WWE SmackDown brand, yet her first match wasn’t until January 28, 2011 where she and Kelly Kelly lost to LayCool (Layla and Michelle McCool).
Kaitlyn won her first Divas Championship in 2013 in her hometown when she defeated Eve. Her most famous rivalry came against her former best friend AJ Lee, who played mind games and stopped Kaitlyn’s title reign at 153 days.
With Kaitlyn looking for a rematch, the two divas were involved in the first-ever Divas Championship contract signing on SmackDown. The signing ended in a brawl, and at Money in the Bank, Kaitlyn lost the rematch.
Kaitlyn retired in 2014 and became a business owner. She and her husband opened a smoothie bar inside the Busy Body Fitness Center in Florida.
10 Bret Hart
His career with WWE started in 1984 and he was a superstar at that everyone grew to adore. He was involved with a lot of different WWE storylines and was a top '90s star, yet, he is most famous for, “The Montreal Screwjob.”
Hart was battling his real life rival Shawn Michaels at Survivor Series. Hart was the WWE Champion at the time but his contract was up, so WWE was worried about going to WCW with the title. McMahon screwed Hart out of winning the title which was a huge controversy.
The two eventually put their egos aside and buried the hatchet.
Hart retired in 2000 due to ongoing concussion problems suffered in a match with Goldberg at Starrcade 1999. He then suffered a stroke in 2002, which further worsened his condition. Hart just announced he has been battling prostate cancer. We wish the Hitman nothing but the best.
Goldberg never got the run with WWE like he did in WCW. He signed a one-year contract with the WWE and appeared on Raw the night after WrestleMania XIX. He started his WWE career with a feud with The Rock, claiming The Rock was “Next”.
Just like he did with WCW, Goldberg flew through the WWE roster, going undefeated for the first few months of his contract. He was a one-time World Heavyweight Champion, defeating Triple H for the title at Unforgiven.
Goldberg then feuded with WWE powerhouse Brock Lesnar. The two fought at WrestleMania XX in a very lazy match. During the match the chants of “boring” echoed throughout the arena.
Goldberg wouldn’t sign another contract with WWE after 2004 and hasn't wrestled a match since.
8 Shane McMahon
He was the heir to the WWE empire, yet he has gone in a different direction. Along with his sister Stephanie McMahon, they played a role on WWE TV where most of the time they were trying to show up their father, the most famous, buying WCW right under his dad’s nose. Him and his father faced off a bunch of times and left us with a ton of memories.
Shane was one of the greatest superstars to put his body on the line for entertainment. You can’t forget the SummerSlam 2000 match Shane had against Steve Blackman, where Shane fell at least thirty feet from the top of the scaffolding.
Shane now owns YOU on Damands Holding, INC, based out of China. There is no expectation for his return.
Debuting in the WWE with Team Extreme, Lita became a hit with WWE Fans. Putting her body on the line not only against the other Divas, also against the males.
Lita is remembered two ways in the eyes of WWE fans. One for her amazing battles with best friend Trish Stratus, and how her and Edge had an affair while she was with Matt Hardy.
During her time in the WWE she was a Divas Champion four times and inducted to the WWE Hall of Fame in 2014.
Lita retired in 2006 at the age of 30. She suffered a few injuries in her career, including a major neck one, which could be why it ended early.
6 AJ Lee
AJ Lee started in WWE’s developmental program FCW in 2007. However, once she made it to the main roster she had an immediate impact in the divas division. You can say she was the early start of the Divas Revolution.
AJ Lee is a diva that’s been through a lot in her career. A love triangle with Kane, CM Punk, and Daniel Bryan, and she was Raw General Manager. Along with those story lines AJ Lee has been involved with some feuds in the division. She lost her title to Paige on Paige’s RAW debut, and AJ also feuded with her best friend Kaitlyn.
Lee is a three-time Divas Champion, and three-time Slammy Award winner. AJ retired in April 2015 at the age of 28.
5 Trish Stratus
Trish Status, started off as a model, yet, in 2000 she ended up signing a contract with WWE. She started her career off as the manager of the group T&A. For the first year of her career she was that smoking hot manager.
The second year of her career she turned to wrestling. At first she wasn’t the greatest in the ring. However, she trained and trained and became one of the best female wrestlers of all time. Trish had a very heated rivalry with Lita during her time in WWE, but now the two retired Divas are best of friends.
Trish retired in 2006, making appearances on WWE TV every so often. She has a tremendous amount of accomplishments in WWE. She is a one-time Hardcore Champion, seven time Divas Champion, 2000s Diva of the Decade, Babe of the Year (2001-2003) and inducted to the Hall of Fame in 2013.
4 CM Punk
After debuting in WWE developmental territory in 2005 wrestling for Ohio Valley Wrestling, Punk made his WWE TV debut in 2006 appearing on ECW brand.
During his time in WWE, Punk was a man of many words, he wasn’t afraid to say what he felt when he felt it. You could place him in the category of the PG Era's biggest rebel.
Punk, like the Attitude Era’s Steve Austin, wasn’t afraid to run his mouth to the boss. There was even the time he threated to leave the WWE after beating Cena for the WWE Championship.
In his career with the WWE Punk accomplished a lot, and when he decided he had enough, he retired in 2014. Next for the straight edge superstar, the UFC.
3 The Rock
One of the greatest on the mic, perhaps he didn’t really retire considering his still comes back. Yet, since his loss to Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam 2002, The Rock has been a huge Hollywood star.
He accomplished things everyone in the world could wish for, breaking box office records to being one of the biggest WWE superstars. The Rock had the rare distinction of having accomplished everything in wrestling at a very young age and decided to walk away to start another career.
The Rock has won most of the titles WWE offers. He continues to work part time for WWE making appearances a few times a year. His most recent was RAW on January 25, 2016. His victims, The New Day.
Once officially retired he will without a doubt be a WWE Hall of Famer.
The Rated R superstar grew up loving the sport, going to events with his tag team partner and best friend Christian before they were even WWE superstars.
His career began in 1992 and made it to the WWE in 1996. He and his best friend became a part of a legendary tag team. His time in the tag team division they had a heated rivalry with the tag team the Hardy Boyz, as well as the Dudleys. He then broke out as a singles star, after his real life tension with Matt Hardy over his affair with Lita, Hardy's then girlfriend.
Edge had to hang the boots up a little early due to a serve neck injury he originally returned from. His last match in WWE was a match at WrestleMania XXVII where he defended his title. Eight days later on RAW, he made his retirement speech.
1 Stone Cold Steve Austin
The Rattlesnake began his career in 1989, believe it or not he a was a Paul Haymen Guy. He debuted in the WWE under the name The Ringmaster. His character went through a rebuild in 1996 when he became Stone Cold Steve Austin.
During his Austin 3:16 years, him and Vince McMahon had a heated rivalry. Austin gained the love of the fans by doing what they all wished they could do, beat up their boss.
At SummerSlam 1997 Austin suffered a serve neck injury at the hands of Owen Hart. Austin underwent surgery and returned, but for the Rattlesnake, he also had reoccurring knee problems. He also knew his neck injury meant he was wrestling on borrowed time.
One of the greatest of his time had to hang his boots up in 2003 after his WrestleMania loss to The Rock due to his ongoing injuries.
His list of WWE accomplishments go on and on. Though retired, he runs his Steve Austin Show podcast, with occasional specials on the WWE Network.
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