We have finally made it, Wrestlemania 26 is this weekend and it has been quite some time since there has been a Wrestlemania with this much hype behind it. Of course we have the battle of who is the dominant guy in this WWE era with John Cena vs. Batista, the comeback story in Edge vs. Chris Jericho and we have what may possibly be the end of two of the most brilliant careers in wrestling history in what many expect to be Bret Hart’s last ever match against Vince McMahon and Shawn Micheals putting his career up against the Undertaker. When you look at the careers of Hart and Micheals you just have to feel that this Wrestlemania is one of the most monumental in ages?or is it? Does retiring mean anything in wrestling anymore? You?re reading ?Wrestling Rumblings?.
I?m a sports purist and I believe in the sanctity or records and I do believe in legacies. When I think of recent sports history I always seem to think of Micheal Jordan. Micheal as most of you know retired three times but was never really the same MJ to me after the first retirement, sure he won 3 more championships but I always felt like his retirement announcements meant less and less and it’s kind of funny but even though he now is a NBA Hall of Famer and is going to own the Charlotte Bobcats it still wouldn?t surprise me to see him put a jersey on one more time. His initial announcement was almost crippling to the NBA, I vaguely remember his number 23 being initially retired and him being unable to use it, that’s how sure we were that he was gone and we were trying to get past the MJ era. Of course that was not to last and he was to return, more than once. His retirement announcements mean nothing to me anymore. Same thing with my all time favorite football player Bret Favre who has turned retiring into an art form. The first time Favre retired I remembered the big media frenzy that followed and the insane crowd response to have his jersey immediately retired by the Packers. If memory serves me correct there was already a Bret Favre day on the Packers schedule for the following year and of course Bret having already retired twice has still yet to miss a game let alone a season. MLB is no different, who could forget Roger Clemens seemingly having a farewell party in every city and getting all sorts of farewell gifts before deciding to unretire the following season and basically playing that game for a few seasons until Baseball unofficially blackballed him.
If there was ever a sports industry that bastardized retirement it’s professional wrestling. After all professional wrestling being a worked sport has meant many worked retirement angles. There have been many worked retirement angles as real retirements reneged in this industry. Unlike legit sporting contests the retirement has seemingly been a big cash grab in this industry. A chance to run a victory lap not just for the fans but for your peers as well, there are times where I swear wrestlers threaten to retire to see how much they are really worth to the business, not because they actually want to. If you will indulge me I?d like to show you some of the retirements that never were in the last 20 years.
1. Terry Funk- has there ever been a guy who has retired and unretired more than him? I believe the first time he retired he was in his early 30’s and just believed he had enough money to do so, the other times I couldn?t explain it to you if I tried. When Terry Funk retired in 1997 I legitimately at the time believed him. He took in his victory lap in ECW and seemingly was to retire after his Wrestefest event. Then we heard he was doing a farewell tour in Japan and would retire for good, then of course he would come back to WWE and back to WCW and ECW and well needless to say Terry Funk hasn?t wrestled in some time but we still don?t consider him retired and he is going to be 66 years old this year. Terry’s retirements have made him go from that kindly old Grandfather who you just wanted to see happy to that sly Uncle that makes up Vietnam stories when he actually just faked an injury to dodge the draft. You love them both but you feel that one of them is absolutely full of it.
2. Mick Foley- It’s funny but Foley spent most of his career idolizing Funk and may have retired and unretired more times than his mentor. I bashed Mick Foley when he went to TNA over a year ago, not because he went to TNA but just because I was sick of the pattern of retiring and unretiring. After reading his books and hearing accounts of the man you want to believe he was honest when he first decided to retire but I ask myself at times, was he really? Or was he another guy who just wanted to know what his value was to a company and figured he could score great paydays if he retired and unretired at his choosing? In his defense wrestling is hard and I suppose he could have just wanted a break and figured he would never get away with asking for one so this would be the easiest solution, but I always thought he was a bit more honest than that. Maybe I am wrong, or maybe he is smarter than even his biggest fans think he is and knows that the way to a big payday is to have people think this could be your last time out there when it isn?t.
3. Hulk Hogan- Many wrestling fans don?t remember this but Hulk Hogan actually did retire once 18 years ago. The Wrestlemania match he had with Sid Justice at the time was billed as a ?farewell match?. I even remember the segments on what was then Primetime Wrestling but would one day become Monday Night Raw where Vince McMahon was interviewing Hogan and thanking him for Hulkamania, speaking in the way one would at a funeral. Of course at the time that was merely Vince McMahon pushing Hogan out of the company as the steroid trials of 1992 were about to heat up and Hogan’s physique and inability to spin a good lie at the time were both embarrassing and damaging to himself and the WWE but still he did retire and even after he came back he would soon retire again. This time to attempt to become an actor. Speaking honestly I was a big fan at the time of ?Thunder in Paradise? and never understood how it wasn?t more successful than it became. After one season of ?Thunder in Paradise? Hulk would return and while he hasn?t officially retired since he has taken several ?victory laps? and has promised several ?last matches? of course most of us already know that Hulk Hogan won?t ever officially retire from wrestling until he is dead and buried and even then we might see his corpse as part of an angle if the pay is right.
4. ?Rowdy? Roddy Piper- There aren?t many hardcore fans around to really remember it but ?Hot Rod? initially retired all the way back in 1987. Like Hulk Hogan would do after him he wanted to take on the movie world. ?They Live? while one of the biggest underground classics would not help propel Roddy to superstardom and 2 and a half years later he would unretired and return to the ring. Same as Hogan, Piper would be smart enough not to officially retire again but would take several ?victory laps? which would make others feel otherwise. When questioned on this in the past Piper would blame the industry for its lack of security for an old age as his reason for continuing a career in wrestling. I honestly don?t doubt the sincerity of that statement. I still remain one of the biggest ?Rowdy? Roddy Piper fans there is but appearances by him are not met with the ?This may be the last time I see him? response because I know it?ll just be a matter of time before I see him again.
5. ?Macho Man? Randy Savage- While Piper may have been the first guy to retire at a Wrestlemania the ?Macho Man? was the first guy to be forced to via a stipulation. Savage was near 40 when forced to retire at the hands of the Ultimate Warrior at Wrestlemania VII. His retirement wouldn?t last long though as he would be back wrestling again 6 months later. While this was an angle at the time and was never expected to be a serious retirement Vince McMahon would try to scale back Savage’s role in the coming years in an attempt to get him to finally retire, of course Savage would move onto WCW and play a pivotal part in the Monday Night Wars. If it wasn?t for his obscene demands I have no reason to believe that Savage wouldn?t still be putting on the boots and putting his body on the line in the ring every night. Some guys do it for the money and others do it because they can?t get it out of there system. I liken Savage to the latter.
6. Ric Flair- Does anyone remember Ric Flair’s first retirement in professional wrestling? Flair in 1994 already in his mid 40’s was forced to temporarily retire by WCW to help them get out of a poor angle with Hulk Hogan and also to appease Hulk Hogan’s ego. What is seldom mentioned his how Flair was almost ran out of the WWE a few years prior because Vince McMahon was trying to get him to retire even though he was then one of Vince’s top guys in the company. Flair’s initial retirement wouldn?t last very long as he was back in the main events the following year. He always seemed close to hanging it up but never closer than he was when he lost to Shawn Micheals at Wrestlemania XXIV. Ric Flair was probably given the greatest send off ever in professional wrestling at that point and really had no reason to continue. He was still making a decent living in WWE and there was nothing further he could accomplish in a wrestling ring. Of course some would say that while he was gainfully employed in WWE that his alimony payments would swallow up that income and Ric Flair needed more money than that in order to maintain the lifestyle that he grew accustomed to during his years in the spotlight. That may be true to some degree but I personally feel that Ric Flair just doesn?t know how to go back to being Richard Fleihr and that is what really keeps him in the ring. Regardless of the fact he was the last major retiree and the last time I think fans were truly convinced a guy was going to retire and stay retired and flocked in droves to see what would have been his last match. His robe in that match was kept by the Smithsonian Museum that is how sure that people thought they were seeing the end of a legend. I myself ventured to see that last match and wrote a column on the subject that is in large part responsible for how I am here on Wrestleview today. Of course we were all duped and he is still here and like Hogan will not retire till he dies.
7. Shawn Micheals- Isn?t it funny that I am going to close this column out by bringing up one of the very men who may actually retire this weekend? Shawn Micheals has already retired twice and came back in wrestling. He did it once when he claimed to have ?lost his smile? but in my opinion didn?t want to do a job to Bret Hart at Wrestlemania that year. Of course the ?devastating? knee injury that ended his career was so severe that he was back in WWE by June of that year winning the world tag team championships with Steve Austin. His first retirement was a very real moment in wrestling and many thought that this talented wrestler’s career was cut too short and he was taken from us too soon, so we all cut him a pass when he came back. Of course he would have to retire again after a debilitating back injury which ironically occurred in a match with his Wrestlemania XXVI opponent The Undertaker forced him out again. This time he was out for over 4 years and just as with the last injury many fans were just happy to have him back in the ring. Shawn Micheals is not seriously injured this time; this time according to what’s out there he wants to retire. The question is this time will it actually stick?
I don?t want to feel like I am ragging on the above mentioned wrestlers because I am not. While I think it is a shame to have wrestlers like Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair and Terry Funk wrestle into their 60’s I am slowly coming to the realization that there is no such thing as retirement in professional wrestling. With that being said I find it funny how many fans are going to Phoenix this weekend just to see what they feel is Shawn Micheals last match. What will it take for that stigma to wear off? Will it ever wear off? Only time will tell.
On that note I am going to wrap up this week’s column. By the time you all read this I will hopefully be safely in Phoenix for Wrestlemania weekend and you can expect me to have coverage on all the events that will be taking place that weekend. If everything holds up I will be hosting my very own special radio show for that weekend only here on Wrestleview by the name of FYB Radio. I along with my good friend David Miranda will be discussing The Ring of Honor and Dragongate Shows we are attending that weekend along with thoughts on the Hall of Fame which we will also be attending and Wrestlemania as well. I may or may not be doing ?Reality from Ringside Radio? with Doug Lackey and ?The Teachers Lounge? with Anthony ?Mr. V.? Valvo and Dave Stephens and will be a part of the Pro Wrestling Rewind that weekend with Andy Knowles and former Wrestleview columnist Mike Siciliano to give my thoughts on Wrestlemania weekend. So it is going to be a busy weekend for me. I have not forgotten that I promised another ?Outside Interference? column last week and in my defense one was written but it may not go up on the website until the new layout goes into effect which will probably happen this weekend. I am currently working on another of those columns as well so there should be 2 coming your way shortly.
This is the part where I am supposed to give you something to do for the weekend but with Wrestlemania on the horizon I would say it’s a safe bet that most of you are watching that and maybe even some UFC on Saturday. What I will do is give you guys a worthwhile cause to invest your time and money in. I am not a big charity person but when I heard about this it kind of choked me up a bit where I plan to donate myself and would like anyone who can to donate whatever time and energy they could to this. I have an old friend from High School by the name of Naomi Lizardi who has the most adorable son by the name of Antonio. Antonio was born 3 months premature and as a result has had several setbacks in his life. Naomi is marching for the March of Dimes March for Babies walk on and is looking for any sponsors for her or for any person who is willing to be on her Team: Wishing Upon A Goal on April 25th and walk themselves for the purpose of raising money to help children and prevent birth defects. Anyone who can contribute or even just post it on their Facebook, Myspace , or Twitter pages the help would be greatly appreciated. The information can be found at this link and I hope all of you check it out and do your part. If anyone wants to write me on anything wrestling related my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org but don?t expect any quick replies as I will be in Phoenix this weekend. That’s it for this week, enjoy Wrestlemania, next week I will try to do better and until then, I am out.