What better way to say goodbye to the year 2010 than to count down the 10 biggest stories of the year in professional wrestling?
This 10-part series is designed to do exactly that, and each installment will be dedicated to the stories that fueled the very Internet fodder that makes the dirt-sheet media world go round.
No. 5. Shawn Michaels Retires From Pro Wrestling, Concluding a 26 Year Career
Following Wrestlemania 26, Shawn Michaels simultaneously accomplished some of the rarest feats in professional wrestling. He submitted a performance in that night's main event that rivaled that of his classic match with the Undertaker from the previous year. He retired at the top of his game, with some fuel still left in the tank.
In pro wrestling.
A far cry from the weekly cable tragedy that has become the career of Ric Flair, who coincidentally had his most recent 'retirement' match with Michaels just two years ago at Wrestlemania 24, Michaels' career ended on the highest of highs in 2010.
With Michaels still yet to make his otherwise obligatory return to the ring since his last wresting match in March of 2010, Michaels continues to prove cynics and critics wrong the same way he did throughout his decorated career.
The retirement of Michaels, while a celebratory occasion in many ways, also served as yet another stinging reminder of WWE's lack of depth as Michaels' departure further necessitated a need for new stars.
WWE RAW, the night of Michaels' retirement speech, drew a 3.7 rating. The show has not come close to that number since. Michaels' retirement was the key note departure among a host of veteran performers who became dormant at some point in 2010 due to injury (Undertaker, Triple H, Rey Mysterio) or voluntary leave (Chris Jericho, Batista).
Just as much of a story as Michaels' retirement itself is the continual and coincidental down trending of WWE's business, a trend in which chairman Vince McMahon has directly attributed to departing stars such as Michaels as the WWE continues to regroup with a youth movement.
The adverse effect in which Michaels' retirement has had on WWE's business has to serve as some sort of vindication. Throughout much of his career, Michaels was unfairly pegged as a transitional champion who couldn't draw while WWE was on the verge of going out of business during the early stages of the Monday Night Wars.
Suffering an injury just as WWE was on the precipice of a boom period in the late 90's, and after literally breaking his back while carrying the company, Michaels was forced into early (involuntary) retirement that was thought to be permanent due to a severe back injury.
Continuing to maintain a degree of bitterness, with help from a notoriously massive ego that shaped the character of the Heartbreak Kid, Michaels' eventual return four years later may have been just that. Ego.
Ego, to show WWE what they were missing out on during their peak years during the 'Attitude Era', when Michaels was on the shelf helplessly watching WWE proficiently cultivate what he helped to create.
The same ego that earned him the unfavorable tag of a backstage nightmare. The same ego that made him what he is today, and one of the few things in which that preposterous WWE DVD got right - the greatest in ring performer of all time.
While certainly one of the smaller talents, Michaels was still the quintessential WWE superstar in that he was just as charismatic as he was athletically talented. He said things people were afraid (or were not allowed) to say, and did things most wrestlers dare not do.
The bravado by numbers otherwise known as the Kliq was, in many ways, a personification of Michaels' own personality. Controversy be damned, Michaels would not have succeeded in WWE at his size without such abrasive and pugnacious tendencies.
Michaels' emotional return in 2002 against longtime friend Triple H was a celebration of what was already a legendary career, both past, present and future. What was supposed to be a one time encounter couldn't have been just that, as by the conclusion of that showdown saw Michaels work a flawless contest as if he had never left. There was a sense of unfinished business following Michaels' war with Triple H, even though he had nothing else to prove.
The Back end of Michaels' career was just as awe-inspiring as the front end, if not better. Despite nagging themes of Christianity that at times negatively clashed with the nature of pro wrestling, as well as the once insolent and brash attitude in which Michaels used to wear on his sequined sleeves, Michaels was older, wiser, and - surprise, surprise - he was a draw.
Feuds with Chris Jericho, Triple H, Ric Flair, John Cena, and ultimately the Undertaker, just to name a few, cemented a legacy that needed no epoxy to begin with.
It's worth arguing that the greatest career in WWE history happened twice. From 1988 - 1998 (sans the Jack Funk incident), and from 2002-2010. It goes without saying that WWE sorely misses Michaels' talents, but it's worth saying it. Michaels' legendary ego would appreciate it.
Top Ten of 2010
5. Shawn Michaels Retires from Professional Wrestling