In the business of professional wrestling, people have the potential to come and go at the drop of a hat. Whether for monetary disputes, disagreement with creative decisions, or personal reasons, most wrestlers, even some main event players, are subject to leave a company at any time. However, as we've seen in the past, they also have the possibly to return.
This was a common occurrence during the days of the territories with wrestlers like Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, and many others that would bounce around between different promotions. This continued into the 90s when wrestlers would jump between WWE, WCW, and ECW primarily. Fast forward to the present and wrestlers come and go between the WWE and various independent and international promotions.
Just as there are several reasons why a wrestler would leave a promotion, there are a myriad of reasons as to why they would return also. Sometimes, they’re just wrestlers looking for more work and bigger paychecks, but other times, it’s for interesting storylines to develop or to increase their star power.
With that said, returns don't always work out for the best. Even some of the bigger 90s stars like The Ultimate Warrior and Mr. Perfect who come back for underwhelming use can attest to that.
This article will look back at the 15 times the WRONG wrestler came back to the WWE, enjoy!
15 Batista - 2014
Now a year prior, the only main eventers were CM Punk, John Cena, and The Rock (who was on a part-time schedule). So with such a thin pool of main event stars you'd figure Batista’s return would’ve been much more welcomed. However, it was obvious that Daniel Bryan was the wrestler who the fans wanted to see main event. To this day, fans still hold a grudge against "The Animal" for almost stealing Bryan’s thunder, but what actually happened made for an intriguing WrestleMania story.
Hypothetically, if Bryan won the Royal Rumble match and beat Randy Orton for the title, that would’ve been the 15th match between the two competitors; even less intriguing when a good portion of their encounters ended in Bryan’s victory.
The WrestleMania buildup and the dynamic between Evolution helped the story, and thus made the main event better when Bryan made Batista tap out rather than Orton. So instead of saying he beat Orton again, Bryan can say he defeated three/fourth's of Evolution in one night.
14 Jinder Mahal and Curt Hawkins – 2016
Since these two men both came back to the WWE in the same year and were both at the same level, this next point will address both Superstars.
When the WWE announced the return of the Brand Split, many fans were hoping for NXT’s best and brightest stars to intermingle with the current roster as well as some former faces to be added into the mix, with the likes Shelton Benjamin, Kurt Angle, Carlito, and several others being rumored to return.
What occurred instead was only one big star from NXT getting drafted and a bunch of returns no one asked for. Prior to their departure from the company, Jinder Mahal and Curt Hawkins were nothing more than enhancement talents. Mahal’s most interesting run was with "3MB," while Hawkins is best remembered best for his time as Zack Ryder’s tag team partner.
Neither man had a strong fan following, neither man was really missed when they left, and neither man is needed nor wanted.
13 Road Warrior Animal - 2005
The Road Warriors were a great tag team wrestler who made a name for themselves in WWE throughout various periods. In the early 90s, they had an eight-month reign as the Tag Team Champions. They returned and stayed during the Attitude Era feuding with the likes of The Hart Foundation and The New Age Outlaws. Following the duos 90s stint, they made a brief return in 2003. Sadly, this was the year when Road Warrior Hawk would pass away. Animal came back in 2005 and teamed up with Heidenreich as his new partner.
Since these two men had little to nothing in common, seeing Heidenreich morphed into a Road Warrior seemed extremely forced. The gimmick came to an end when Heidenreich was released by the company. With no other wrestler to tag with and reform the duo, Animal’s role was reduced and ultimately led to his release in 2006.
12 Tatanka- 2005
Tatanka can easily make the claim to be one of the most well-known Native American Wrestlers in history. Though he wasn’t the in the upper echelon of the WWE, Tatanka still managed to sustain some nice accomplishments, such as his victory at WrestleMania VIII against Rick Martel, his Intercontinental Championship match against Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania IX that ended via count-out, and getting honored by fellow Native American wrestler Chief Jay Strongbow on an episode of Raw. His accomplishments were minimal, but he was still enjoyed by fans. In 2005, the WWE brought him back and his run was forgettable to say the least this time around.
He returned on Raw facing Eugene for Kurt Angle’s Gold Medal, but lost the match via interference. He also feuded with MNM and teamed up with Matt Hardy, but all they did was win a non-title match and lose the other encounter for the Tag Titles. The only memorable moment that did occur was footage of Tatanka being adopted by a Native American tribe.
Good for him, not very exciting for the fans.
11 Chris Masters - 2009
During the Ruthless Aggression Era, Chris Masters was a good addition to Raw’s mid-card scene. He wasn’t as popular as Shelton Benjamin or Rob Van Dam nor did he ever win any championships, but he was definitely an interesting character on their roster at the time. He had the look of a true Adonis and his "Masterlock Challenge" got over big time with the fans; even to the point where he got a WWE Championship match based on his rising popularity. Ultimately it all went downhill for Chris who was released after his second Wellness Policy violation in 2007.
When he returned to the WWE in 2009, there wasn’t much fanfare or promotion about it and he quickly fell into the rut of being just another face on television. He competed sporadically, never really beat wrestlers higher on the card than Chavo Guerrero. At that point, he was being used more so as an enhancement talent than a legit mid-carder.
He was released by the WWE in 2011 ending his terrible return.
10 Sable - 2003
While the women of the WWE today are superior in-ring competitors than the women of the Attitude Era, The Four Horsewomen’s current status pales in comparison to the popularity of women like Sunny and Sable during the 90s.
Sable made her debut escorting Hunter Hearst Helmsley to the ring at WrestleMania XII, but her rise to fame came as Marc Mero’s valet. Once he got injured, the fans took to her in and made Sable one of the most popular women’s wrestlers of all time. One of her most notable career highlights came when she finally left Marc Mero and feuded with Jacqueline. She steadily increased in popularity until her heel turn and eventual release in 1999.
Upon her return, she feuded with Torrie Wilson, who was the new Playboy cover girl at the time. After that feud, her storylines and appearances were a lot more sporadic and a lot less interesting, aside from her involvement in the Vince McMahon and Stephanie McMahon feud. A series of random feuds, back to back face/heel turns, and some uninteresting feuds made her return something to forget about.
9 Rob Van Dam - 2014
When it was announced that Rob Van Dam would be returning to the WWE in 2013, fans were excited to see one of the great high-flyers and hardcore wrestlers come back after being gone for so long. The ovation and chants he got at the 2013 Money in the Bank PPV were great and his performances following that show were even greater to the point that fans were hoping they would put the World Title on him. Unfortunately, this would not come to pass and RVD would leave after only being back for just three months. But whatever you thought of his 2013 run, his 2014 run was much worse.
Aside from putting on some good matches for both the main WWE roster and in NXT, RVD did absolutely nothing of significance upon his return in 2014. He put over Seth Rollins, Neville, and Cesaro, but the follow-up booking made those losses insignificant.
An uneventful return to say the least.
8 Marty Jannetty - 2006
Much like The Ultimate Warrior, the relationship between the WWE and Marty Jannetty was dicey to say the least. Whether it was domestic incidents, assaulting police officers, or just "no-showing" events, Jannetty seemed to cause just as much trouble for the WWE as he did them good.
Jannetty is mostly remembered for being Shawn Michaels’ tag team partner in The Rockers. Their team was heavily praised all the way up to their shocking breakup when Michaels hit Sweet Chin Music and launched Jannetty through the glass. After that point, the career of Marty would bounce between WWE and whatever company accepted him. He returned and left the WWE multiple times over the years, but his return in 2006 was pretty awful.
During this time, Michaels was feuding with The McMahon family and always found himself getting outnumbered due to the Spirit Squad’s involvement. The first couple of segments were good, but the storyline completely fell apart when Jannetty just didn’t show up. So instead of The Rockers reuniting, we got the return of D-Generation X.
Good for the fans, but it didn’t reflect well on Jannetty.
7 Albert/Tensai - 2012
Albert’s first run with the WWE falls somewhere inbetween decent and forgettable. On one hand, he managed to fight The Undertaker at WrestleMania XIX, but on the other hand, he was a part of X-Factor. It was inevitable that he would probably leave or get released and sadly, the latter occurred while he was out with an injury. He went over to All Japan Pro Wrestling and New Japan Pro Wrestling after his stint with the WWE and caught the WWE’s attention, which led to his reintroduction in 2012 as Lord Tensai.
Ultimately fans just couldn’t buy into the fact that he was supposed to be this new guy just because he shaved his chest and drew the Kanji on his face. Anyone thinking he could be something greater than a mid-carder at the time was kidding themselves with John Cena, Brock Lesnar, and CM Punk in the mix. He eventually became a comedy act and was ultimately dropped from television altogether.
6 Scott Steiner - 2002
The Steiner Brothers were a great tag team pretty much anywhere they went. Whether it was WCW, WWE, or ECW, their ability and energy made them stand out amongst other tag teams. Down the road, Scott Steiner would become the stand out of their team when he transformed into “Big Poppa Pump.” His initial run with the WWE was good for a tag team wrestler, but his return in 2002 was a major disappointment considering his stock at the time.
He received a massive ovation upon his return at the Survivor Series and had some interesting segments, such as his advances towards Stephanie McMahon and his pose-down with Triple H. Unfortunately his televised matches were big letdowns. His series of matches against Triple H were extremely disappointing and he was immediately dropped to the mid-card following his horrific in-ring displays.
Anyone wanting Steiner to have a run like he did in WCW was greatly disappointed.
5 Mick Foley - 2016
Mick Foley is more often than not a very entertaining individual. From a wrestling standpoint, he knows his way around the ring and Foley constantly put his body on the line with death-defying stunts. From a talking standpoint, his mic skills are up there with some of the best. Even in just a commissioner capacity, he proved to be entertaining. Unfortunately, his new role as the General Manager has not added to the show that much.
First off, his dynamic with Stephanie McMahon is more of the same emasculating garbage that people are tired of seeing her do. Second, his attempts at passionate promos seem to be extremely forced nowadays, especially due to the fact that the promos in today's WWE are generally scripted from top to bottom. And lastly, his obnoxious defense of a product he constantly criticized just months prior makes him seem like a hypocrite.
He may be a good talker and a fan favorite, but that doesn’t make him the right man for the job.
4 Curt Hennig - 2002
Though Curt Hennig is mostly associated with the WWE, he wrestled for AWA and bounced between those promotions until the fall of 1988 where the gimmick of “Mr. Perfect” was born. His reigns as the Intercontinental Champion and his feuds with Bret Hart and Hulk Hogan were well remembered by the fans and helped him to be viewed as one of the all-time greats. He left the WWE in 1996 and went to WCW followed by a few independent promotions for a couple of years until his return to the WWE in 2002.
He had a very strong showing at the 2002 Royal Rumble, but that would be the highest point of his return. Rather than coming back and possibly being elevated, he was pushed further down after a couple of weeks. He didn’t do anything really memorable and ended up losing a lot; even on shows like Sunday Night Heat.
His run lasted less than six months as he was released on May 5th, 2002 due an incident with Brock on the infamous "Plan Ride From Hell."
3 Alberto Del Rio - 2015
Alberto Del Rio’s initial run with the WWE was more a fault on their booking and creative decisions then on the actual Superstar. Del Rio’s gimmick as the cocky, rich man worked, his mic skills were good enough, and he was a great in-ring performer. However, following his failed face run in 2013, the WWE didn’t book him as prominently and he lost a lot of his luster. He managed to reinvigorate himself in Lucha Underground upon his release under the name of Alberto El Patron. This apparently caught the WWE’s attention as they brought him back into the fold in 2015.
His run from 2015 to 2016 was awful in comparison to his first run with the company. It started off well, as he beat John Cena clean for the first time, only to be booked into irrelevancy afterwards. His return completely fell flat when Kalisto won the United States Championship from him in a series of botch-ridden matches. His last memorable act was as a member of The League of Nations where Stone Cold Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels, and Mick Foley beat up all the members of the group.
All things considered, he probably should’ve stuck with his gig in Lucha Underground.
2 The Ultimate Warrior - 1996
The relationship between the WWE and The Ultimate Warrior was interesting to say the least. Having departed from the company twice before returning for his run in 1996, Warrior's previous runs with the company were much more engaging and entertaining. His time as the Intercontinental Champion and the WWE Champion were well-received by fans and even his short return in 1992 was interesting, as he renewed his old rivalry against Macho Man Randy Savage for the WWE Championship. But his last run was utterly forgettable aside from one match and one odd segment.
The Ultimate Warrior’s return to the WWE for WrestleMania XII was nothing more than a squash match with no real hype or buildup. The only other memorable event that occurred aside from that was his feud with Jerry Lawler which saw The Warrior come out with a baseball cap on. Aside from those two moments, his last run with the WWE in a wrestling capacity was rather uneventful.
1 Kevin Nash - 2011
Kevin Nash could’ve made for a great opponent for CM Punk at some point. After all, Punk was an independent wrestler who closely resembled an average guy rather than a bodybuilder. With that in mind, Nash coined the phrase “vanilla midget.” Their entertaining exchanges on Raw made for great TV. Looking at the two individually, you'd think Nash and Punk feuding would be great on paper, but this feud never came to pass.
What fans got instead was a feud between Nash and Triple H that no one was really interested in. Any fans who wanted to see this feud probably got their fill of it back in 2003. To see Nash return to the WWE to reignite a less than stellar feud was disappointing to say the least.
At least his Royal Rumble return in 2014 was more enjoyable to fans, giving them a positive, nostalgic feeling.