Nobody stays retired in wrestling. It’s a simple fact. If your favorite wrestler retires, no need to fret. You can bet your bottom dollar that they’ll be back. And that’s a bad thing.
In some instances, when a wrestler never received a chance to formally say goodbye, such as the case of Stone Cold Steve Austin, one last match could be a welcomed thing. It gives the wrestler a chance to put on one last show for their fans, and it gives their fans an opportunity to show their appreciation for a beloved superstar one last time. And that’s great. But I’m not talking about guys like Stone Cold or even Hulk Hogan, who stepped aside because their bodies gave out on them. I’m not speaking of wrestlers like Val Venis or Buff Bagwell, who kind of quietly disappeared from the business due mostly to lack of work. I’m not even referring to those like The Rock or Brock Lesnar, who left the squared circle to pursue other careers. I am talking about are those wrestlers who have retired, only to step back into the ring. The ones who had their last match, said their emotional farewell, and then reneged on their commitment and jumped back into the spotlight. I will never welcome those returns.
The latest in a long line of wrestlers to go back on their word and revoke their retirement is Trish Stratus, and as much as I enjoy watching the Canadian-born diva do her thing, the truth of the matter is she should have stayed at home.
I love Trish Stratus. I really do. She’s easily my favorite woman ever to involve herself in the wrestling industry. That being said, she’s doing herself a disservice with her latest return. Trish had one of the most picturesque send-offs in the history of the WWE. She retired as the Woman’s Champion…after defeating her greatest rival, Lita…on Pay-Per-View…in her hometown of Toronto. It couldn’t be more perfect. It’s what every retirement should be. After the match, she gave a tearful farewell speech backstage, thanked the fans for their support, and rode off into the sunset as the greatest woman wrestler in the history of the industry. What a career.
But Trish couldn’t stay away. In 2008 and 2009, she wrestled two forgettable matches on Monday Night Raw. The operative word there is forgettable, and that’s a good thing, as she’d surely want the final memory she left with fans to be the scene of her awe-inspiring retirement. A few weeks ago, though, Stratus returned again, and any hopes of her match with Lita at Unforgiven 2006 being remembered as her last hurrah were dashed. Since her return, she’s lost to Vickie Guerrero TWICE (once 1-on-1 and once in a handicap match), and now she’s penciled in to compete at WrestleMania. What will likely be her new last match ever will see her team with Jersey Shore star Snooki. This is not how I want to remember Trish Stratus.
Ric Flair is another classic example of this kind of thing. The man had his last match at WrestleMania 24, an instant classic with Shawn Michaels. The match was a roller coaster of emotions for everyone watching, and it was a truly meaningful spectacle to witness. It even won PWI’s match of the year. The next night on Raw, Flair had an in-ring ceremony to celebrate his wildly successful career, he offered a sentimental goodbye to his adoring fans, and the crowd was able to see the Nature Boy off in style. Fast-forward three years, and he’s a part-time wrestler in TNA. He’s jobbed to Jay Lethal, Abyss, and Matt Morgan since he’s been back. His first match back, you’d think would be a blockbuster, saw him team with AJ Styles to wrestle Hulk Hogan & Abyss. This is inexcusable. Wrestlers like Flair and Trish are tarnishing their legacy. They’re demonstrating an inability to leave while they’re on top, and as a result, I fear they’ll always be remembered for their mediocre endings.
When I think of Brett Favre, I’ll always be reminded of his wishy-washy faux retirement announcements. Ask me about surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr and I’ll recall him falling asleep in Seattle’s dugout. John Lennon’s legacy will never be clean of Double Fantasy. You’re only as good as you were the last time we saw you. And now, Trish Stratus will be the Diva who helped Snooki at WrestleMania.