McGuire’s Mondays: Should retiring wrestlers win or lose on their way out?


By Colin McGuire, Staffer

For as long as time, we have been led to believe that baseball is the athletic activity with the most unwritten rules. To that, pro wrestling tends to say, “Hold my beer.”

One of those age-old beliefs is that if a wrestler is getting ready to finish up his or her time in a company, said wrestler loses. That mostly makes sense from a booking point of view – why make the person staying in your company take a loss when that person is the one who’s actually sticking around – but we’ve also heard this mantra spoken in terms of retirement. If a wrestler is getting ready to hang up the boots (even if it is in pro wrestling, which means nobody ever actually ever hangs up the boots), said wrestler typically goes out after taking a loss.

It’s a whole “leave the place better than it was when you got there” type of thing. If a legend openly states that he or she is going to have one final match, Pro Wrestling 101 says that said legend is encouraged to eat the defeat in the spirit of making someone who might one day be a legend – but isn’t a legend quite yet – look as strong as possible with a credibility-boosting win under his or her belt. It’s pro wrestling’s quintessential passing-the-torch unwritten rule.

And that’s fine. I get it. But so often, it’s not about the win or the loss; rather, it’s about the follow up to giving a youngster a high profile win. Case in point: Solo Sikoa. After John Cena went out in front of the Saudi Arabia crowd a few months ago and made Sikoa look like The New Legend Killer who could never, ever be stopped … well, Sikoa hasn’t earned a single win in 18 matches since then. Singles. Tags. House shows. Smackdowns. You name it. Solo Sikoa has yet to be part of a victory since his early November dominance against the guy WWE insists is The Greatest Of All Time.

A wasted opportunity? Maybe. It depends on patience and planning, really. Is this part of a bigger story WWE wants to tell with Sikoa? Only time can answer that.

Still, the debate about a legend going out on the winning or losing side during his or her (supposed) final match feels like it’s at the forefront again now that at least one person has announced his very last match, set for next month (Sting), while another (The Rock) is doing his best to publicly flirt with the idea of hopping on the horse at least one more time at some point this year. All of it got me thinking: What if some of these legends didn’t lose on their way out? What if one of the most famous unwritten rules of pro wrestling didn’t have to keep a stranglehold on the way business is done in 2024?

And more so: Wouldn’t it be fun if … I don’t know … we, as fans, got to see some of our favorites get their hands raised one last time?

As a result, I thought I’d take a look at Sting, The Rock and a few others who either have hung it up (insert pro wrestling asterisk here) or are approaching their purported quitting time in the pro wrestling business and if their swan songs turned out to be – or perhaps will turn out to be – the prettiest tune. Let’s dive in.

“Stone Cold” Steve Austin

I’m not sure you could have a better sendoff than the one Austin received at WrestleMania 38. Not only was he able to have a match without really admitting to having a match, but his business with Kevin Owens embodied everything that made people fall in love with Stone Cold in the first place. Austin showed no remorse, refused to suffer a fool and, above all else, kept up with Owens as the two brawled throughout what felt like the entire state of Texas.

So, what gives? The beer barely dried on the ring mat before some people started wondering if, how, where or why he could come back and do it again. Why chance it? There have been countless “one more time” instances in pro wrestling that only ends up really tarnishing the legacies of all involved (let’s just forget that Triple H/Shawn Michaels/Kane/Undertaker match ever even happened in Saudi Arabia, OK?). Austin had a chance to call his shot and knocked it out of the park. I understand he’s only 59 – and I say “only 59” because it feels like we constantly see wrestlers keep going well into their sixties – but there isn’t a single good reason for him to leave the ranch and step back into the ring, when you take into account the fabulousness of his Mania match with Owens and the fact that … well, he really doesn’t need to.

Stay home, Stone Cold. Or better yet, fire up another round of the Broken Skull Sessions. Where has that thing been, anyway?

The Undertaker

Speaking of sendoffs that don’t quite go as planned, AJ Styles deserves whatever the pro wrestling equivalent of a Medal of Honor is after pitching a cinematic match with ‘Taker and ultimately erasing the stench that was left after The Dead Man’s match with Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 33. I mean, damn. The company brought in Jim Ross on commentary. The match was designed to further elevate The Next Big Thing in Roman Reigns. And ‘Taker even did the whole “leave the boots (or in his case, scary hat) in the middle of the ring” thing after the match. But, boy was that a stinker.

Thank God AJ stepped in at WrestleMania 36 and The Boneyard Match was born. Not only did we get to ostensibly see all iterations of The Undertaker combine to be The Supertaker, but Mark Calloway, the man, wasn’t hung out to dry in a shroud of another shameful live performance. The only issue now is the same issue that haunts every pro wrestling retirement and that’s staying retired.

Unlike Austin, though, who seems to be content keeping pro wrestling at an arm’s length, there’s something about ‘Taker that feels restless. His one man shows. His fancy new(ish) podcast. I recently read some rumblings about how he’s in great shape. He seems like the kind of guy who would want to prove to himself that he could do it one more time live and in color. To that I say: Don’t get greedy! You had one of the best possible sendoffs The Undertaker could ever have. Keep rehearsing your TED Talks and mind your business.

John Cena

I might be in the minority, but the more I think about it, the more I’d actually like to see Cena break Ric Flair’s title record before he hangs it up. It wasn’t always this way, of course. Back before he lost 50 pounds and found a thinning hairline, it felt like WWE was going too easy on Cena. As pro wrestling crowds tend to do, they turned on him once they realized he was The Chosen One. But unwritten rule No. 592 in pro wrestling says absence makes the heart grow fonder, so these days, Cena kind of feels like someone who might actually deserve that record. For now, at least.

Just consider his last run. He put over Sikoa in a way that nobody expected but everyone respected. He worked dark matches with Dominik Mysterio, for God’s sake. And he gave LA Knight the John Cena rub at what had to be the perfect time for LA Knight to receive the John Cena rub. Plus, unless I’m missing something (and it’s very possible I am), Cena hasn’t gotten a singles win broadcast on WWE programming since 2018, when he beat Triple H at The Greatest Royal Rumble event. You can call him a lot of things, but you can’t call him selfish.

But what about The End? If I ran the world, I’d give him a world title win on a PLE after a six-month build and then go ahead and take it off him the next night on Raw. That way, the memories will be based around the final program and his title win, rather than the loss that retires him. It’s not like he isn’t good at putting people over in memorable fashion and, speaking like I know him personally (which I do not and never will), he seems like the kind of person who wants to help out whomever is next, which would suggest he wouldn’t want to leave a winner.

My only advice? Make sure whoever you put over, John, you have it in your contract that said person won’t lose his next 18 matches.

The Rock

The more The Rock comes around, the more my feelings on him firmly settle in mixed territory. On one hand, I appreciate the fact that he never fully abandoned pro wrestling even after he became the biggest movie star on the planet. On the other, it feels like his movie career isn’t nearly as hot as it once was and as a result, he can come around and pet pro wrestling on the head again, knowing full well he wouldn’t be returning to his side chick if he didn’t just realize his wife was about to divorce him.

So … eh.

Anyway, it’s because of where his priorities seem to lie that I’m willing to believe his anticipated program with Roman Reigns could very well end up being his last. He doesn’t come around to work dark matches and put over younger talent; he comes back to flex his muscle, remind everyone he’s a star and that if he wanted to, he could be a full-time pro wrestler again. The only catch, of course, is that he won’t ever want to.

So, as patronizing as his wrestling appearances feel these days, my hope is he comes in, anoints Reigns, leaves, and stays in Hollywood for the rest of time. That sounds harsh and somewhat like I’m a Rock hater, but I swear I’m not. I just don’t think we need a title reign from the guy at this point, and his love for pro wrestling appears to be wildly overshadowed by his love for being a movie star (or, for that matter, perhaps the President of the United States of America). He’s done enough to elevate the profile of the industry that gave him mainstream life, so he deserves much love for that. But when it’s over, it’s over. And The People’s Champ needs to let the people be.


All right. This is where the trend should be bucked (see what I did there?!). It appears Sting will be tagging with Darby Allin in his final match against The Young Bucks at AEW’s Revolution and if that’s the case, let the guy get his hand raised. At this point, executing a Darby turn would be for shock value only (in theory, there could be no follow up to the turn because of Sting retiring, so why have Sting leave on a downer), and because The Bucks can both make their opponents look great and take a loss without losing much along the way, this one feels like the heart-warming option is the best option.

Plus, don’t forget the way Sting’s career was initially written to end while it was in the evil clutches of WWE. A WrestleMania loss. A scary injury. Good intentions, bad results. For all the documented ups and downs of Sting’s career both in the ring and out of it, he’s earned the right to get one more win before he calls it a career. It feels too good and too right for it to not make sense.

That said, if all of that is followed by Joker Sting turning up at TNA’s Bound For Glory …

Umpf. Let’s pretend I didn’t say that.


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