Jey Uso recently made a shock announcement on SmackDown that he would be leaving the company, and the WWE proceeded to move his profile to the alumni section of the WWE website. It remains to be seen whether the announcement is part of the larger Bloodline storyline – but if Jey indeed leaves, his final WWE match would be the brutal SummerSlam Universal title match he had with Roman Reigns.
That would mean that Jey would join a short list of WWE superstars who left the company with their last match being a Championship bout. Jeff Jarrett famously left the company in 1999 after losing an Intercontinental title match to Chyna and then promptly jumped ship to WCW.
While superstars typically lose their final matches, Edge was a rare exception as his last match during his initial WWE in-ring run was a successful World Heavyweight Title defense against Alberto Del Rio at WrestleMania 27. However, the medical diagnosis that led to his initial retirement came only after the match and so nobody knew the significance of the WrestleMania bout.
With Edge teasing a second retirement and him not close to the World title picture currently, it is unlikely that history would repeat itself. While Edge’s future is uncertain, this list covers five superstars who left the WWE immediately after a title match.
Chris Jericho – WWE Title Match vs. John Cena
During his first WWE stint from 1999 to 2005, Chris Jericho won all major titles in the company including the Undisputed Championship in 2001. But four years later, having found himself away from the World title picture for years, Y2J decided to take a break from the WWE to pursue an acting career. His final feud would be a program with the new WWE Champion – 27-year-old John Cena.
Cena had won the WWE Championship at that year’s WrestleMania and jumped ship to RAW a few months later to begin a program with Jericho. Y2J would lose to Cena in a Triple threat title match at Vengeance which also involved Christian and then came up short in a singles match at SummerSlam.
With rumors already circulating about his impending departure from the company, Jericho signed a short-term contract extension with the WWE and had the news posted on WWE.com to reassure his fans. But his very next match on RAW would be a ‘loser leaves WWE’ title match against Cena and as most people expected, Jericho lost clean. He wouldn’t return to the company for another 2 years.
Trish Stratus – Women’s Title Match vs. Lita
While Trish Stratus is currently back on RAW engaging in a feud with Becky Lynch, she originally retired from the WWE way back in 2006. Trish was the face of the Women’s division at the time and had earned respect from fans for her rapid improvement in the ring after entering the company as a manager in 2000.
She had already won six Women’s titles but made a shock announcement that she would wrestle her final match at the Unforgiven 2006 PPV in her hometown of Toronto, Canada.
At the event, Trish would challenge her great rival and then Women’s Champion Lita for the title and in a fairytale end to her full-time career, would win the title with her hero Bret Hart’s signature submission move, the Sharpshooter. In a strange twist, Lita too would retire from in-ring competition a few months later, losing another Women’s title match, this time to Mickie James.
Jeff Hardy – World Title Match vs. CM Punk
Jeff Hardy’s first stint in the WWE as part of the Hardy Boyz tag team is rightly considered iconic for the innovative matches that he and his brother put on with the likes of Edge & Christian and the Dudley Boyz.
However, it was during his second stint with the company from 2006-09 that Jeff reached the peak of his singles career. Winning the World title on three separate occasions, Hardy was arguably the most popular wrestler in the WWE at the time, scoring victories over the likes of Shawn Michaels, Triple H, and The Undertaker and reaching main event status.
But Hardy’s wrestling style was starting to catch up with him and the Charismatic Enigma had neck and back injuries that he desperately needed to rehab. So it was decided to have Hardy challenge the then World Heavyweight Champion CM Punk in a Steel cage match on SmackDown. Hardy and Punk had traded the title in the previous months, but this match had an extra stipulation that Hardy would have to leave the company if he lost the match.
Fans were shocked to see Hardy lose the match and he would get laid out by Punk to close the show. While WWE brass expected Hardy to come back to the company after regaining full fitness, he surprised everyone by showing up at TNA less than six months later to start a seven-year run there.
JBL – Intercontinental Title Match vs. Rey Mysterio
After debuting in the WWE in 1995, John Bradshaw Layfield spent several years wrestling in the lower mid-card before getting a break teaming up with Farooq to form the popular APA stable. However, it was in 2004 that a late singles career resurgence would start for the Texan, resulting in him capturing the WWE title, US title, and Intercontinental title to become an unlikely Grand Slam champion in the company.
The last of those titles came in 2009 when he beat the then Intercontinental champion CM Punk. A month later at WrestleMania 25, JBL would put the title on the line against Rey Mysterio and surprisingly lost the match in just 21 seconds. JBL would announce his retirement right after the match, stunning the live crowd. He would return as a commentator two years later, but would never compete on a full-time basis again.
Daniel Bryan – Universal Title Match vs. Roman Reigns
Near the tail end of his WWE run in 2021, the then-Daniel Bryan, now Bryan Danielson, set his sights on Roman Reigns’ Universal Championship. After losing title matches at Elimination Chamber, Fastlane, and the main event of WrestleMania 37, Bryan received his final shot on the April 30 edition of SmackDown. It came with the stipulation that if Bryan lost, he would have to leave the WWE.
Bryan and Reigns had a great match which ended with Bryan passing out to a Guillotine choke. As is the custom in farewell matches, Reigns continued to assault Bryan after the bell, forcing Bryan’s future Blackpool Combat Club teammate Claudio Castagnoli, then known as Cesaro, to rush the ring.
But Claudio was neutralized by Jey Uso and Reigns proceeded to deliver the exclamation point with a vicious Con-Chair-to that left Bryan dazed. Danielson would choose to sign with AEW and made his AEW Dynamite debut a few months later, making the Universal title match the last of his WWE career.
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