Retirement matches in professional wrestling are rarely the end of a wrestler's career. Even the one man that people believed would remain retired forever -- The Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels -- came back to WWE a decade later for a one-off match in Saudi Arabia last year.
However, retirement matches are still a big sell in professional wrestling. When a wrestler decides to retire and offers up one last match, it usually comes with a lot of fanfare. There are also cases, such as with Michaels, where a "loser has to retire" stipulation is thrown onto the match, making it even more dramatic. While most of these didn't stick over time, here is a look at the 10 best retirement matches of all-time.
10 KURT ANGLE VS. BARON CORBIN
Most people hated the fact that Kurt Angle and Baron Corbin battled at WrestleMania 35 in Angle's WWE retirement match. However, WWE had designs to utilize Kurt Angle to help put over a younger heel. The problem wasn't that Angle was fighting a young heel instead of a long-time rival like John Cena. The problem was no one felt Baron Corbin was ready.
However, at the end of the day, Baron Corbin beat Kurt Angle and moved into a prominent position in WWE, competing for world titles. It wasn't a great match, and Corbin wasn't who fans wanted, but it was a good way to try to push someone new up the card.
9 LITA VS. MICKIE JAMES
Lita was involved in two retirement matches on this list, one when her greatest rival retired and this one, where Lita called it quits. It seemed to be one giant circle, as well. Mickie James made her WWE debut when she showed up as a stalker for Trish Stratus and soon became a top star.
So, it is interesting that Lita retired Trish and then Mickie retired Lita since all three women were tied together as the top stars of their era in WWE. Ther match was at Survivor Series 2006 and Lita announced she was retiring despite coming in as champion. Mickie won, and Lita stepped away as the fans chanted "Thank you, Lita."
8 CACTUS JACK VS. TRIPLE H
This match is one of those cases where a retirement match didn't end the man's career, and he came back almost immediately. At No Way Out 2000, Triple H took on Cactus Jack inside a Hell in a Cell. Triple H was the world champion, and Cactus Jack agreed to put his career on the line and would retire if he did not win the title in the match.
The match had a callback to one of Mick Foley's most memorable moments -- the Hell in a Cell match with Undertaker. In this match, Cactus Jack and Triple H fought to the top of the cell where Triple H backdropped Jack onto the cell, causing it to give way and Jack fell to the ring. Triple H followed him down, hit a Pedigree, and ended Mick Foley's career. However, Linda McMahon allowed Foley to return for WrestleMania 2000.
7 STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN VS. THE ROCK
Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock wrestled each other three different times at WrestleMania events. Stone Cold won the first two matches, including the infamous moment where he joined up with Vince McMahon and turned heel. However, this match was Austin's retirement match due to severe neck injuries.
This retirement match took place at WrestleMania 19. Doctors told Stone Cold if he took many more bumps, he could end up paralyzed. What better way for Austin to retire than to face his greatest opponent in The Rock at WrestleMania. With no title on the line, The Rock finally beat Stone Cold, and one of WWE's most popular stars retired.
6 RODDY PIPER VS. ADRIAN ADONIS
WrestleMania III stands the tests of time as one of the best in WWE history. Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant was a massive moment in wrestling history. Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat vs. Macho Man Randy Savage was the best match in WWE history to that point. One moment that people overlook is the retirement match for Rowdy Roddy Piper.
Piper, who was only 33-years-old at the time, went from being the most hated heel in WWE to a beloved babyface and was still the second most prominent name in the company after Hulk Hogan. However, Piper decided to leave WWE to pursue an acting career, and his match with Adorable Adrian Adonis was his retirement match. Piper won, Adonis was shaved bald, and Piper left wrestling for two years.
5 EDGE VS. ALBERTO DEL RIO
When it comes to Edge vs. Alberto Del Rio at WrestleMania XXVII, WWE did not advertise this as a retirement match, but that is what it was. WWE knew Edge was going to retire due to the same neck problems that ended Stone Cold Steve Austin's career, and they did something surprising.
At WrestleMania XXVII, Edge defended his world title against Del Rio, and even though WWE knew he was retiring the next night on Monday Night Raw, they had Edge win the match and retain his title. This victory allowed Edge to come out one night later, lay the title down in the ring, and walk away from WWE as a champion.
4 TRISH STRATUS VS. LITA
The most significant women's feud in WWE history featured Trish Stratus and Lita, and it isn't even close. It seems crazy too since Trish came in as a fitness model to manage a male tag team and then worked hard to develop her in-ring skills. Lita came in as a valet to Esse Rios but then showed she could do everything he could do.
The two then had one of the best feuds of their era, and it is no surprise that one of their careers ended after wrestling each other. The match took place at Unforgiven 2006, and it was not only Stratus' retirement match but was also a match for Lita's women's title. Trish shocked the world by winning the title in her final match.
3 SHAWN MICHAELS VS. UNDERTAKER
Shawn Michaels battled Undertaker in what might be the greatest match in WWE history at WrestleMania XXV. Michaels came to the ring in all white as the force for "good" and battled Undertaker and his world of darkness. Shawn lost, but that wasn't good enough for him, and he wanted another chance.
To get that opportunity, Shawn agreed to put his career on the line against Undertaker's streak. At WrestleMania XXVI, Shawn Michaels and Undertaker went at it again. While it was not as good as their first match, it was still one of the best you will see on WWE television, and Undertaker won again, retiring Shawn Michaels who would not return for another match for 18 years.
2 RIC FLAIR VS. SHAWN MICHAELS
Shawn Michaels was also on the other end of a retirement match. At WrestleMania XXIV, HBK took on Nature Boy Ric Flair in a match where, if Flair lost, he would have to retire from WWE. This stipulation was not something Shawn wanted, but it was Flair who made the challenge after Mr. McMahon said that he would have to retire if he lost another match in WWE.
Flair said that if he had to retire, it would be an honor to retire after a match with Shawn Michaels. The match was a good one, with Michaels directing the action and he made Flair look great. The moment when Shawn said "I'm sorry, I love you" before hitting Sweet Chin Music is one of WWE's most iconic.
1 RANDY SAVAGE VS. ULTIMATE WARRIOR
The Ultimate Warrior was a WWE superstar more than he was a professional wrestler. However, Macho Man Randy Savage was one of the best wrestlers in the business on top of being an entertaining superstar in his own right. Their match at WrestleMania VII had everything a person who loves professional wrestling could want to watch.
It was a retirement match where the loser had to retire from WWE. Savage was a villain with Sensational Sherri as his manager, and he led Warrior to a great match -- one of the best of his career. Warrior ended up winning, and Savage had to retire. However, what made this number one on the list was the moment after the match when Sherri attacked Savage, and Miss Elizabeth made her return and saved him, wrapping up a story that had captivated WWE audiences for six years.