Goodbyes are a part of the fabric of the professional wrestling business. In earlier days, wrestling was rooted in the territory system. This world leaned heavily on talents working for a time in one regional promotion then moving along after they’d worn out their welcome as main eventers, when they were ready to revamp their gimmick in front of a different set of fans, or when they saw the opportunity for career advancement on another roster. There’s also an expiration date on any wrestler’s career. We nowadays tend to see guys stretch out their careers by taking advantage of the latest in fitness regimens and surgical procedures. Just the same, there’s no escaping father time and there comes a point when even the wrestler in the best condition has to consider hanging up his or her boots for good.
The wrestling world had changed. The territory system is far less equal than it once was, with WWE now offering a truly international platform, New Japan arriving as a legitimate worldwide number two company, and other promotions with national TV deals like Ring of Honor, Impact Wrestling, and Lucha Underground reaching more fans. From there, there are the relatively hot indies like Pro Wrestling Guerilla and Chikara. So, today’s wrestling world sees guys move up. It’s little less emotional to see a guy leave the independents behind to chase a WWE dream, or move up from NXT to the main roster, than it is to see someone retire altogether these days. With that in mind, this article takes a look at fifteen emotional goodbyes from around the wrestling world that fans should ready themselves for in the next year.
15 The Undertaker From WWE
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to any wrestling fan in 2018 that The Undertaker is on his way out. Of late, he surfaces just for WrestleMania season, or maybe a brief stint around one of the other big four PPVs—Survivor Series, the Royal Rumble, or SummerSlam. Rumors have surrounded him the past five years that he’s closing in on retirement. Indeed, at the end of WrestleMania 33, it looked like the moment may have truly arose as suffered only his second ever WrestleMania loss at the hands of Roman Reigns, and proceeded to remove much of the signature Deadman garb.
However, rumors have abounded in recent months that The Undertaker has at least one more match left in him. First, sources speculated he’d get involved in the John Cena-Roman Reigns clash at No Mercy after they invoked his name in their rivalry. Then he was rumored to make a Survivor Series appearance, and actually did show up for the 25th Anniversary episode of Raw, leading to speculation he’d be there for the Royal Rumble six days later. Most recently, word is he may have one more ‘Mania match left in the tank, most likely against Cena.
Particularly after a successful hip surgery, The Phenom may have one more match to go. You have to believe, however, that after nearly three decades on the WWE landscape, one of the greatest and best respected stars of all time is getting set to ride off into the sunset.
14 Christopher Daniels From ROH
As guys like AJ Styles and Samoa Joe have not only signed, but wound up thriving with WWE wrestling fans who follow the indies have questioned why Christopher Daniels didn’t fin his way over. After all, so much of his best work, especially in TNA was linked to either battling against or teaming with his real life close friend Styles, and he genuinely gets lumped in as another top worker from outside WWE’s domain, during an era when the company was reticent to sign indie-bred stars.
The uncomfortable, unavoidable truth? For as good as he still looks, The Fallen Angel is quickly closing in on his 48th birthday.
He had a good run as ROH Champion last year, and it felt a lot like a lifetime achievement award for a highly regarded star who’s deceptively old, and probably on his way out to pasture.
13 Johnny Mundo From Lucha Underground
From its very first episode, Johnny Mundo has been a vitally important part of Lucha Underground. He was that rare WWE star who left the company of his own volition, and still had both the name recognition and athletic talent to be a top tier star. In addition, he proved selfless, willing to give a lot to Prince Puma and other up and coming stars to help establish the new wrestling brand. The guy never seemed to have an issue with waiting over two full seasons before getting his hands on the promotion’s top title—an anomaly for a star of his stature among guys with relatively little national name value.
As the final episodes of season 3 aired, there was a lot of speculation that Lucha Underground may be done. They’d lost funding and lost some of their top talents, including Puma. The announcement has come out since that season four will happen, but it’s yet to be seen if Mundo will last the whole season, or at least be back after that point. As the company has grown disorganized and threatened to close, and as Mundo’s opportunities have only expanded, included starring for Impact Wrestling, Lucha fans may well have to ready themselves for departure of another of their favorites.
12 Daniel Bryan From WWE
There’s a real argument to be made that the degree to which Bryan got over and thrived under the WWE brand was key in shifting the whole company’s philosophy and getting guys like Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Finn Balor not only a foot in the door, but big opportunities.
Bryan and WWE seem to be very much at an impasse. Bryan was forced into retirement due to accumulated head injuries, but claims now to have recovered, worked with the right experts, and knows how to work a style such that a return to the ring would be safe. By all accounts, WWE doesn’t want to take the chance.
Bryan has openly indicated that if WWE doesn’t let him wrestle, he may well go somewhere that does.
As much as Bryan’s return to the ring would be big business, it’s unlikely WWE wants to take the risk, especially with such a beloved figure that the company would face harsh criticism for if something were to happen to him. With this harsh difference of opinions, WWE fans should ready themselves to say goodbye to one of their favorites as soon as his contract is up later this year.
11 Rosemary From Impact
Impact Wrestling has struggled to cultivate new talents, in no small part because of their in between position in the wrestling world. Impact doesn’t have the resources of a WWE, and so WWE can quite reasonably sign away top stars with promises of more money and better exposure. Companies like Ring of Honor and Lucha Underground have national TV deals and can increasingly be viewed as equals to Impact, if not more popular with the hardcore fan base they covet. You can take all of these factors, and Impact is still more restrictive and corporate than the indie scene, making them a less desirable destination for wrestling’s truest vagabonds.
Rosemary is that rare example of a talent Impact has truly made in the last five years. A combination of her talent and unique look have helped her transcend the Impact product, and it’s led to a real question as to whether Impact can hold onto her for much longer. In particular, as WWE grows its women’s brand, she may well find a home there before long, as Impact loses one of its favorite daughters.
10 Goldberg From WWE
This January, Goldberg was announced as a headliner for the 2018 class of the WWE Hall of Fame. He’s a big enough star for no one to question in the induction, having starred for WCW at its peak as one of their few homegrown main event guys, and having gone on to two separate stints with WWE, each of which saw him capture world championship gold.
Goldberg’s most recent run with WWE, was a lot of fun for its nostalgia factor and shrewd booking that capitalized on Goldberg’s explosive power, while protecting the fact that he couldn’t absorb a lot of physical punishment at this stage of his life. Goldberg publicly commented after WreslteMania 33 that he’d be open to another comeback down the road.
The Hall of Fame induction seems to suggest, that WWE has milked Goldberg for what he’s worth as an in ring talent, and made good on his lackluster early 2000s run.
Going into the Hall doesn’t always spell retirement, but it’s an honor typically reserved for guys who have or will soon finish up.
9 Bully Ray From ROH
After decorated runs in in ECW, WWE, overseas, and with TNA, Bully Ray—best known as Bubba Ray Dudley—surfaced in Ring of Honor as a top tier singles star last year. Fans shouldn’t mistaken that for a fresh new chapter. While Bully Ray probably won’t retire completely anytime soon, this signing felt more like a victory lap for him. All the more so, the recent announcement that he and his brother are going into the WWE Hall of Fame feels an awful lot like a harbinger of Bully Ray receding from the ring spotlight.
Even though Bully Ray didn’t work for ROH long enough to really build a legacy, his signing was a good mutually beneficial arrangement to give him one more opportunity to shine as a singles star, and to give ROH the rub of a big name coming in to work matches. It will be sad to see the two sides part ways as an underappreciated legend fades from view.
8 Ember Moon From NXT
NXT has a history of cultivating some truly excellent female talent. Long before the Women’s Revolution, Paige and Emma tore it up on the developmental brand’s first WWE Network special. From there, the Four Horsewomen—Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, and Bayley—emerged as truly great wrestlers, only to be followed by Asuka as a dominant force. The next class of developmental talent had its good wrestlers, but struggled to find its footing in the absence of its defining stars.
Ember Moon has stepped up, first in a rivalry with Asuka, then replacing her as the face of the NXT women's division.
Standout performances over Royal Rumble weekend—first defending her title against Shayna Baszler, then appearing in the women’s Rumble itself—have started to distinguish her above the rest of the developmental women’s roster. Particularly if NXT can properly groom talents Baszler, Kairi Sane, and Abbey Laith to take over moving forward, there’s every reason to think that Ember Moon will be leaving the performance center behind come spring or summer.
7 Alberto El Patron From Impact
The past few years have been nothing if not volatile for Alberto El Patron—best known for his WWE persona, Alberto Del Rio.
El Patron’s WWE notoriety, and particularly the controversy around his relationship with WWE, made him a darling of smaller promotions, including getting a main event push from Impact Wrestling. Even that wave of momentum got cut off, however, when domestic violence charges came up surrounding his relationship with Paige, leading to him being stripped of the company’s world title and suspended.
El Patron and Impact have made nice and are working together again now, but the volatility of both side means that this marriage probably won’t stand the test of time. On the contrary, it feels like a ticking time bomb, and El Patron fans should probably get ready to say goodbye to seeing him on American national television at all.
6 Paige From WWE
After Wellness Policy suspensions, controversies related to her real life relationship with Alberto El Patron, a leaked photo scandal, and neck surgery, Paige made a shocking return to WWE television in late 2017. While she played a heel, it nonetheless came across as a feel-good story of a star getting her life together and getting back on track.
Sadly, that happy ending wasn’t to be, as Paige suffered a freak neck injury at a house show in January.
It’s not immediately clear where Paige falls in terms of agreeing she shouldn’t wrestle, versus having an outlook more like Daniel Bryan’s, that WWE is overly cautious and misguided.
Regardless, as a someone born into a wrestling family who started wrestling as a teenager, and was at the vanguard of the Women’s Revolution, it doesn’t’ seem likely Paige will be happy sitting on the sidelines for long. It seems entirely possible WWE fans will say goodbye to Paige in the months ahead.
5 Kenny Omega From New Japan
It’s rare for a wrestler from outside WWE to have a groundswell of support behind him, suggesting he’s the top wrestler in the world today. It’s rarer still for a wrestler with that kind of buzz to hail from Canada, and to be presently working in Japan. Such is the case, however, for Kenny Omega. In the last two years, his in ring efforts have been met with a sensational reception. For Wrestle Kingdom 12, Omega’s draw was so powerful that it lured Chris Jericho to New Japan for a huge program and another great match.
Omega has been openly critical of WWE, where he squandered an early segment of his career in a developmental system that didn’t know what to do with him. Might he still be persuaded to head back to North America, though, and star for the biggest wrestling company in the world? The jury’s out, but given the money and exposure WWE can offer, plus the corporate shift to feature talents bred overseas and on the indies, 2018 may well be the year WWE wins back Omega’s trust and locks him down.
4 Goldust From WWE
There are WWE veterans, and then there’s Goldust. Technically, he debuted for WWE as Dusty Rhodes’s rookie son in the early 1990s, but after a tour of WCW, he really made his mark upon coming back—rebranded as Goldust.
Understandably, the Goldust character would lose its luster after a few years. The man wound up bouncing back to WCW for a spell in the company’s dying days, before finding his way back to WWE as a veteran hand, and most memorably an oddball tag team partner for Booker T. He headed off for TNA for a time, and many thought he was winding up his career. However, after embracing DDP Yoga and a healthier living style, Goldust beat the odds and returned to WWE television in 2013 as a more svelte, athletic version of himself and has thrived in and under card and backstage mentor role ever since.
There’s no outracing father time, however. Goldust will turn 49 this year, and as the clock keeps ticking, one of WWE’s most unique acts will fade away before too long.
3 Johnny Gargano From NXT
There’s a real argument to be made that Johnny Gargano was the definitive star of NXT in 2017, as a plucky babyface and key member of the sensational #DIY tag team before they split up. Over the course of that year, he delivered outstanding in ring performances with a variety of opponents, in a variety of contexts, to arrive on the short list of best performers in all of WWE, and particularly a great underdog.
2018 kicked off with Garagano earning an NXT Championship shot, putting on an instance classic with Cien Almas on TakeOver: Philadelphia, and relaunching his issue with former tag team partner Tomasso Ciampa.
Once that program is settled, there’s little to hold Gargano back from realizing his destiny as a main roster player.
For the NXT fans who have seen so many of their favorite sons—Neville, Sami Zayn, Finn Balor, etc.—travel this path, they’re getting ready to see another of their best and brightest move on to bigger things.
2 Sexy Star From Lucha Underground
Since the beginnings of Lucha Underground, Sexy Star has been one of the promotion’s signature stars. She has been featured in quite a few significant storylines, and most notably was crowned the first ever female Lucha Underground Champion when she beat the odds to win Aztec Warfare 3. She finished the third season strong, defeating arch rival Taya in a Last Luchadora Standing bout.
What’s next for Star? Given her booking up to this point, you have to assume the powers that be at Lucha Underground meant to keep her strong, and continue to feature her as a central figure. Star became one of the most hated figures in all of wrestling last summer, however, when she intentionally hurt Rosemary using a shoot hold at AAA TripleMania. The incident has seen her blackballed from several promotions. If anyone were willing to forgive her, it would probably be Lucha Underground, which has the most invested in her. However, with the company on the whole struggling to stay afloat and make ends meet, Star is exactly the kind of performer they don’t need on the payroll, let alone in a featured spot. Whether she quietly disappears from The Temple, or is more pointedly written off the show, Lucha Underground will be saying goodbye to Star soon.
1 R-Truth From WWE
At 46 years old, R-Truth is one of the most deceptively experienced performers on the WWE roster. He debuted for WWE in 2000, and while he did have a mid-career stint working for TNA and on the indies, by 2008, WWE had welcomed him back into the fold. He has been a mid card fixture since, first as popular rapper, then peaking in a crazed gimmick that saw him challenge for John Cena’s world title.
Truth has seen his role increasingly marginalized in recent years—transitioned into a tag team with Goldust, and then into a feud with his former partner that was never really properly blown off.
Nowadays, an R-Truth sighting on TV is relatively rare, and he comes across as more of a backstage mentor, and warm body to fill a spot on the card as he’s needed.
While Truth is respected veteran, his use to WWE is clearly running up. Fans can expect to say farewell to him soon.