“Never say never.” It’s an old saying that used a lot in sports, usually for teams that are down big but manage to make a great comeback. It also pertains in wrestling as folks you thought were done for good somehow manage to come back. In WWE, there are plenty of people who leave the company on bad terms and you figure that’s it, they are never ever coming back. Hulk Hogan, Goldberg, Brock Lesnar, Bret Hart were all workers who left on terrible terms and spent years bad-mouthing Vince McMahon constantly. Yet they ended up making grand returns and were able to overcome the past issues for great success. With the WWE Hall of Fame offering a better shot at fame and lasting legacy, many workers are willing to return to the company for another shot.
While it seems unlikely, some workers do have a chance of returning to WWE more than others. Even guys who have gone to fame in TNA and other companies still have a shot of coming back to Vince McMahon one day. Time does heal all wounds and many guys are able to come back for a return that most thought would never happen. Here are 15 released wrestlers who have a great chance of coming back to WWE one day and prove anything really can happen in wrestling.
15 Santino Marella
This is a great case of a guy who had a bad start but more than made up for it. A “fan from the crowd” who won the IC belt off Umaga, Santino didn’t click as a babyface. But then he transformed into a goofball idiot heel who massacred the English language and the fans couldn’t get enough of him. While he had a good ring style and runs as champion, Santino was better as the comedic figure fans loved to laugh with. He was released in 2016 after talking of retiring due to a bad neck injury and thus it's unlikely he would return as a full-time worker.
14 Rob Van Dam
13 Cody Rhodes
12 Alberto Del Rio
Some may roll their eyes at this one as surely Del Rio has used up his chances. His initial run was criticized as WWE trying to push him too hard and while he did have good matches, his ego and attitude turned fans off. He did get sympathy for being fired after fighting back against a racist remark and proved himself back in Mexico. There were hopes for his big return but it never quite worked out despite some pushes.
11 John Morrison
Starting off as Johnny Nitro, Morrison was clearly the star of MNM, a great worker who shined in their matches. When they split, he soon showed off in singles work as IC champion and wowed fans with his high flying and parkour skills. His fun attitude and ring entrance got fans going too and led to epic feuds with major stars and a great tag team championship with The Miz. He left in 2011 over creative issues and has been busy with the indies and Lucha Underground.
10 Ken Kennedy
It’s rare to find a man who had “next big thing” written over him only to get massively undone by circumstances. Kennedy was pushed hard by WWE, winning Money in the Bank and the US belt, really set up for the next level. But every time he was set for a push to a title or a big angle, Kennedy would be injured or suspended and ruin his drive. He finally journeyed to TNA as Ken Anderson for runs as champion and although injuries hampered him there as well, he at least had a better run.
9 Bobby Lashley
WWE really pushed Lashley in 2006, wanting him as a new monster face. That included him as Donald Trump’s representative in the “Battle of the Billionaires” and holding the US title. He was hampered by injuries and some bad moves that led to him being slammed by fans (him as the face of ECW was never well received) and he was soon gone. TNA has actually done great with Lashley, building him up as a monster figure who’s reigned as champion and is improving in the ring.
8 Rey Mysterio
This one seems more unlikely than others as Melina apparently took the “Diva” mantle a bit too seriously. Starting off as the manager for MNM, Melina got attention for her sass, outfits and that very memorable split-leg ring entrance. She soon transformed into a great worker, winning both the Women’s and Divas titles on multiple occasions and was a fan favorite for her outfits. But she got into trouble backstage a lot with her ego rubbing folks the wrong way and causing conflict. She was released in a cloud in 2011 and hitting the indie circuit as well as Lucha Underground.
As the son of Carlos Colon, it was natural Carlito got into wrestling himself and did a great job in WWE. He had reigns as IC and US champ and he and brother Primo held the tag titles as well. He was a great worker and terrific on the mic with his “Carlito’s Cabana” interview segments getting big attention. However, Carlito’s reliance on painkillers got him in trouble as his continued refusal to seek help for his addiction led to WWE releasing him. He’s continued his work on the indie circuit and has even returned to Puerto Rico to be a champion.
5 Jeff Hardy
This one truly seems inevitable. Hardy is of course known for his bad behavior and more than once has let WWE down with a poorly timed injury or an arrest when he should have been getting a big push. But this is still one of the most fantastic daredevils alive who loves performing on a huge stage. WWE has that for sure and while Hardy has done a great job in TNA, the idea of him never returning to WWE seems unlikely. This is a man who’s provided some thrilling battles in ladder matches and other great encounters.
4 Drew Galloway
WWE did a bad thing with Drew McIntyre, pushing him far too much as a “chosen one” so fans didn’t accept him. He had runs as IC and tag team champion but never really clicked like the company wanted. After leaving WWE, Galloway spent time back on the indies under his real name. That’s led to success in TNA as World champion, impressing fans with his work and showing the big star he could have been.
3 Evan Bourne
After time in various indies, Bourne finally got his shot in WWE and did a great job there. He reigned as tag team champion with Kofi Kingston and his fantastic high-flying moves wowed fans. However, Bourne got into trouble as he failed the wellness test several times, leading to him being released in 2014. Now going more by his real name of Matt Sydal, he’s spent time in Japan and did a great job in ROH although his tenure in New Japan likewise ended poorly.
Many were surprised when Montel Vontavious Porter suddenly quit WWE in 2010. The man had been a great performer, rising high as tag team and US champion and seemed to be getting more of a push thanks to his flashy promos and drive. He explained his leaving as just feeling burned out and wanting to recharge for a bit. Since then, MVP had runs in Japan and then got a major push in TNA with plans to make him World Champion altered by a sudden knee injury. However, that ended quite badly when he was caught in a contract dispute between TNA and Lucha Underground and left in a major cloud.
1 CM Punk
Yes, this does seem totally impossible. Even when he was with WWE, Punk was brutally outspoken on how he hated the company’s creative direction, what they were doing with him and their overall attitude. It’s been worse since they broke it off, with WWE handing Punk his release papers on his wedding date and basically whitewashing him from their history.
Punk has been just as strident bad-mouthing them as he’s tried his hand at UFC. However the possibility of a Punk return is still out there. He’s much like Brock, leaving on bad terms for a UFC run but coming back as an even bigger star. Punk loves being a performer, that’s obvious and the idea of making a grand return to WWE has to appeal to him somehow. It may take a long while for things to settle down but Punk can make a grand return one day, still proving to everyone he has what it takes and cement himself as one of the best of all time.
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