Sometimes in professional wrestling, it's best just to lay low. While it can be tempting for an individual wrestler to try to remain as relevant as possible for the longest amount of time, at times it can just spell disaster. In WWE especially, we've seen many attempts at a career revival, only for it to ultimately prove itself as a mistake. The promises of a comeback can initially seem exciting, but when the wrestler finally gets back in the ring or on the TV screen, everyone can see why they had left the company to begin with.
This has been the case in just about every WWE era, and will continue at the same rate. While several comeback attempts have undoubtedly been successful, there have been many returns that were simply a bad idea. There always comes a time when a wrestler has run their course with a particular promotion. When someone goes past that breaking point in WWE, it's magnified to the largest degree, and embarrassing for everyone involved. Let's take a look at some of the most egregious examples, and why they were complete failures.
Ranked below are 15 WWE career "second winds" that failed miserably.
Starting out in WWE during the mid-'90s as the Johnny Polo character, Raven found far more success as a singles wrestler during stints with ECW and WCW, before finally returning in 2000. Despite his proven ability to be a legitimate champion in the other promotions, WWE management weren't keen on giving him a real title run in his second stint with the company. He was mainly used as hardcore fodder, though he did win a plethora of Hardcore Titles, largely due to the 24/7 rule that was in place at the time.
It turned out to be a wasted opportunity, as he was soon relegated to Sunday Night Heat almost exclusively. It turned out that Raven, though not in his prime anymore, did have some gas left in the tank, and went on to a few more successful years in other promotions, after his departure in 2003.
14 King Kong Bundy
Bundy may have worked as a gargantuan heel in the '80s WWE landscape, but by his return in 1994, the business was changing and he simply didn't have the clout that he once did. An alliance with The Million Dollar Corporation was the angle he was placed in, and never even achieve marginal success. Most notable about his mid-'90s comeback was his WrestleMania loss against The Undertaker, which the fourth win in his streak of WrestleMania victories.
Bundy's massive size may have made him an attraction during the early portion of his career, but 10 years after the fact the interest just wasn't there anymore. He left for good in 1995, and went on to work peripheral Indy promotions for the rest of his career, which did extend into the 2000s.
13 Kevin Nash
It's up to you to pick which Nash comeback was worse, but both his 2002 and 2011 returns were ill-advised attempts at revitalizing his standing with the company. Nash was well past his prime at this point, and it's clear that the whole thing was ham-fisted during both runs. There really was no plan for him other than to show up and just be Kevin Nash, which is obviously not what people wanted to see at that point.
There was just no getting around the fact that Nash was washed up. His first appearance back in WWE came under the re-formation of the nWo, and everything just snowballed from there. The effort just wasn't there, and both times his stay in WWE was relatively short, with no long-term viability.
12 The British Bulldog
Davey Boy Smith never quite fit in with The Attitude Era, and it's not really a surprise. He tried changing up his attire to denim shorts, and a remix of his traditional theme song, but the character was too entrenched in past eras to make much of an impact. Granted, he definitely wasn't in his prime anymore, but the comeback still didn't yield anything noteworthy.
He was a peripheral character at this point, and a far cry from the Intercontinental and Tag Team title-holder that we had seen in years past. A lack of direction hindered Smith's final WWE run in every way possible. Unfortunately, he would pass away in 2002, just after departing from the company.
11 Road Dogg
The New Age Outlaws were one of the marquee teams of The Attitude Era, but they really had no business coming back in this day and age, other than for reasons that were purely nostalgic. Road Dogg himself returned in 2011, and would perform sporadically, before the reformation of the famous tag team. Perhaps it wasn't entirely a train wreck, but it was underwhelming to say the least, and really highlighted the deficiencies in the modern day tag division.
Seriously, there was a time and a place for Road Dogg in WWE, but the 2010s are not it, at least in terms of a consistent presence on the roster. It just reeked of a lack of ideas, and instead of creating new stars, they were relying on cheap cash-ins from old ones. Not a sustainable philosophy, and it showed. Road Dogg left the ring for good in 2015, but remains employed by WWE's SmackDown Live brand as a producer.
10 Tony Atlas
A top tag team star in the '80s, Atlas and Rocky Johnson had the potential to be one of the biggest long-term successes of the decade for WWE. It didn't quite work out that way due to Atlas' unreliability and substance abuse, and he left the company for a while shortly after winning the belts. He would return in 1991, but not under the character that most people would have had him portray.
Atlas donned the persona of Saba Simba, a so-called Ugandan warrior with every stereotypical aspect of such a character implemented. It has gone down in history as one of the worst and most offensive WWE gimmicks of all-time, and was a low-point for the company creatively. Thankfully, the gimmick was short-lived, but so was Atlas' WWE return, as he once again left for indy promotions.
WWE tried for years to carve out a main event role for Test, but it was never really in the cards. An imposing presence he was, but he was always just boring enough as a wrestler to never fully stick out on the roster. After his initial early-2000s run, he would return in 2006 and be slotted on the burgeoning return of the ECW brand. It was a poor idea for an extension of WWE television to begin with, and it didn't do Test any favors trying to re-establish himself within the roster at the time.
Ultimately, his attempted comeback wouldn't last very long, and he would be released the following year. It was a combination of poor-timing and lack of fan interest that doomed the move from the beginning. He would eventually latch on to TNA with a fairly successful run in the late-2000s, but he pass away in 2009.
8 Bob Backlund
This return really hasn't aged well, as Backlund was simply miscast as an upper-tier wrestler on the card during The New Generation. The angles may have seemed acceptable at the time, but he never fit the aesthetic of what the company was trying to move towards at the time. He was a great wrestler, but the character was hokey, and it didn't really elevate any of the younger talent at the time that it should have.
Miraculously, the Backlund return lasted about five years from 1992-97 in some form or another, which is longer than just about anybody had expected. For such a long time on the roster, there was very little actually accomplished, and the good moments were few and far between. Backlund, though certainly one of the biggest stars in the burgeoning days of WWE, shouldn't have been put on a pedestal at that point in his career.
7 Marty Jannetty
No wrestler ever got more mileage out of being a former member of a tag team than Jannetty did with The Rockers. He was able to ride on the coattails of the team's relative success for years, often just being stagnant in the mid-card division, most of the time at least. When he returned in 2005 after being away for nine years, it was completely perplexing, because Jannetty was decidedly over the hill at that point.
And it showed. Not only was Jannetty irrelevant to the modern fans, a series of odd contractual disputes made his appearances on WWE programming sporadic and confusing. There was no cohesive plan on how to use him (if one could have possibly existed), and the entire thing just should have never been attempted to begin with.
6 Mr. Perfect
Many tend to forget Perfect's 2002 return, which did only last a few months, but was yet another example of a directionless return for a former star. It didn't help that he was coming onto a loaded roster at the time, and with no plan in place, he quickly dwindled into the mid-card division.
He was gone a few months later after a physical altercation with Brock Lesnar during the "Plane Ride from Hell," and that was that. Perfect may have been a household name, but in the WWE landscape of the time, he had little chance of re-establishing himself as a legitimate star. He would go on to a run with TNA, before he passed away in 2003. Ultimately, this was a comeback better left untouched.
5 John Tenta
John Tenta, aka Earthquake, was a borderline star in his first run with the company as both a tag and singles wrestler, but by the late-'90s he had deteriorated to the point where he wasn't effective anymore. He became a member of The Oddities stable as the masked Golga character, which was probably the most throwaway position that management could have put him in at the time. It was hardly the kind of return that a veteran WWE star would have expected.
In general, Tenta's work really fell off after he first left WWE in the mid-'90s. He was hampered with bad gimmicks for the rest of his career, and he was never able to match the heights of his Earthquake persona, no matter where he was.
4 Rob Van Dam
Perhaps the most underwhelming return in recent memory, RVD's 2013 return was simply a disaster. Bad feuds, bad wrestling, and the general sense that we had all seen this before, only now it was with a wrestler who was clearly out of his prime. Van Dam just wasn't at his best, and it really hindered how much he was able to accomplish.
Maybe it never had the potential to be great, and as we've seen before, that's often the case with these returns. In RVD's case however, the perception was that it could have worked out, as he wasn't coming off a long hiatus from the ring. Instead, it only took about a year or so for RVD to be back on the indy circuit, where he's stayed since leaving for the last time.
3 Legion Of Doom
The final consistent presence of the LOD in WWE was one of the worst decisions that management has made in the past 20 years. Putting the likes of Heidenreich in one of the most legendary tag teams of all-time is borderline unforgivable. Sure, Hawk's absence (he had just passed away a few years prior) left a spot open, but there had to be better foresight applied that would have determined this to be a poor idea.
The duo of Animal and Heidenreich may have won the Tag Titles, but in a weak tag division that really wasn't anything impressive. Another example of a lack of a cohesive plan, and poor execution of ideas that ultimately led it to being temporary, along with Animal's age at that point.
2 Scott Hall
It's no secret that Hall has battled tons of personal demons during his career, and that wasn't over with when he came back to WWE for the second time in 2002. It was a part of the aforementioned nWo angle of that year, as Hall retuned with Nash and Hogan simultaneously. Unfortunately, Hall's wrestling skills, along with his reliability and health had deteriorated at that point.
He was definitely one of the best wrestlers when on the straight and narrow, but Hall always had trouble remaining on a consistent path. This stint in WWE didn't even come close to lasting the rest of the year, and Hall was released soon after his re-appearance. His return made sense as a part of the initial angle, but it had little potential to carry over for the long-term.
1 Bret Hart
Hart's return in 2009 was one of the most poorly executed angles in WWE history, and embarrassing for everyone involved at the end of the day. There was no hesitation to slot him in the most obvious feud possible with Vince McMahon over the "Montreal Screwjob" incident in 1997 that supposedly sent Hart packing from the company (or more likely was the most elaborate work in wrestling history). Their match at WrestleMania was boring to the extreme, and didn't live up to being on such a high-profile pay-per-view.
The rest of Hart's comeback attempt was largely ineffective and haphazard. It's true that due to cumulative injuries and age that there would have been little chance of having a string of amazing matches, but it should have been booked differently nonetheless, or just not been attempted in the first place. Definitely a low point for WWE in the past 10 years.