For many professional wrestlers, their career doesn't follow one distinct trajectory. Success or failure often depends so much on surrounding circumstances, and who they're exactly working for. Some are able to overcome a poor start to their career to ultimately be an integral part of a prominent promotion, yet others are doomed to toil in the world of low-level Indie promotions for the rest of their career. It really depends on many other factors around the individual wrestler, but the fact remains that career resurrections are sometimes a possibility.
For WWE, there are numerous talents both within the company and with other promotions that are candidates to revive their career. Wrestlers who have been written off as sub-par often live up to their negative billing, but sometimes they can turn out to be a diamond in the rough. If they play their cards right, WWE could resurrect some of these careers, even if they are bound to run into some duds along the way. Let's take a look at some candidates for this right now, along with some wrestlers that would continue to crash and burn.
Ranked below are 7 wresting train wrecks that can still succeed in WWE, and 8 that have no chance.
15 Damien Sandow (No Chance)
One of the certified utility pieces in WWE's arsenal for years, Sandow has played a variety of gimmicks since he debuted with the company in 2002. He's certainly been useful in certain situations, but there has always been a clear cap on the amount of success he's going to achieve. He recently signed with, and got released by Impact Wrestling, and this likely signifies the downturn of his career, for obvious reasons.
There's just not much chance that Sandow ever returns to WWE as an in-ring competitor. He already had an extensive run with the company, and while he did stick around in some capacity for a long time, he hardly ever did anything memorable. There's just no incentive to desire a return from him at any point in the future.
14 Lance Hoyt (Can Still Succeed)
One of the more underrated big-men of the last 15 years, Hoyt may be getting older, but he can still hold his own in the ring. It's true that he was never able to stick around with any one promotion for very long, which has led to a bit of a scattershot career, but with the right booking, a Hoyt return could definitely work, even if it's on a smaller scale than some other WWE returns.
Hoyt's first run with the company may have been kind of nondescript, but he's a done a lot in the time since then. He's had a successful stable as a member of The Killer Elite Squad, and has been extremely active in NJPW for several years now. This would have potential, but he may not be first on WWE's list of possible acquisitions in the near future.
13 Adam Rose (No Chance)
While everyone certainly empathizes with Rose's troubled childhood, the fact is that he just isn't that good of a wrestler. He had every opportunity to succeed in WWE during his initial run, and just couldn't break through to the point of relevance. Again, multiple gimmick changes were employed here, and nothing worked. He eventually left in 2016, and is now toiling on the Indie scene, and not in the sector of it that is going to have anyone take notice.
Given that he's now a major player in Atomic Wrestling Entertainment, whatever that is, it's unlikely that he'd ever get a chance in WWE to begin with. Unfortunately, Rose is past the point of no return and it's all downhill for him from here.
12 Ken Anderson (Can Still Succeed)
Anderson was one of the better mid-carders during his initial WWE run in the mid-2000s. So much time has passed since then, that at this point he could be thinking of a viable return. There's no doubt that he'd have the mic skills to seamlessly transition back onto the roster, and could be a useful shakeup if used properly. He's not the youngest talent out there, but he'd certainly be capable of one more quality run with the company.
He never did quite break out into the mega-star that some thought he would during the early years of his career. While Anderson has moved around to other promotions, including TNA, he's still looking for one feud to really solidify the latter-half of his career. That could be in WWE, where he'd have an endless stream of new feuding options at his disposal. Not a definite, but not out of the realm of possibility either.
11 Alex Riley (No Chance)
Whether it was when he was associated with The Miz or during his solo career, Riley never was able to cut it as a true WWE talent. He always seemed like a poor man's version of a better wrestler no matter what he tried, never cultivating a sustainable gimmick or image for himself. His lack of experience in the business means that this wasn't a surprise, but at the same time he got plenty of air-time for someone that just didn't have that much talent.
Riley is now out of the business all together, so a return at any point just isn't very likely. There'd be little incentive for WWE to make it happen though, because of all the aforementioned reasons. Unfortunately, Riley never lived up to whatever potential they may have seen in them at the time, in the early-2010s.
10 Melina (Can Still Succeed)
When she was manager of MNM in the mid-2000s, Melina was easily one of the more popular female personnel on the WWE roster. She parlayed that popularity into a singles run in the Women's Division, and eventually ended up with the Divas Title. Granted, the division didn't have the clout that it does now, but it was still formidable compared to some other years in WWE.
Melina has been back on the Indie scene for the past few years, so a return remains in the realm of possibility. We just observed Mickie James making a return after many years off from the company, and with the improved state of the Women's Division, there's no reason why Melina should be excluded from the same thing.
9 Teddy Hart (No Chance)
When you get two chances to succeed in WWE as a member of a famous wrestling family, and still fail miserably, there's going to be no hope for success going forward. Such is the case with Hart, who was dumped twice by WWE because of attitude problems, and a general lack of talent, despite all the opportunities he's inherently had from his namesake.
That downward trajectory has followed him everyone he's gone other than WWE as well. AAA in Mexico clearly saw nothing in him as well, and now he's mainly working low-level Indie promotions on the regular, just barely hanging on to any kind of presence in the industry whatsoever. A return to WWE for a third time is not happening; no two ways about it.
8 Jack Swagger (Can Still Succeed)
One of the foremost pushed talents that WWE used to get them into the 2010s, at his peak, Swagger was one of the top guys in the company. That was a while ago now, and his last few years in the company saw him take a decided step back on the roster's depth chart. He was released earlier this year, but don't rule out a return just yet.
Swagger could certainly come back in a few years, as he didn't leave with any real baggage or bruised reputation. He served the company well for many years, and at one time was one of their premier attractions. WWE has been heavy on comebacks for notable wrestlers in recent years, so Swagger at least fits the bill for that. It could be a few years before we see it, but it remains a distinct possibility to look out for down the road.
7 Brodus Clay (No Chance)
Comedic characters are always necessary in a promotion like WWE. They serve a distinct purpose, and can help add nuance to a show that needs to fill up a lot of TV time every week. The downside is that they are, in many cases, replaceable. There's not a select few people who can portray the gimmicks in play, and they end up getting cut sooner rather than later.
Clay was just another in a long line of comic-relief characters in WWE history, and he had the longevity of just about all of them. Certainly not a detriment, but there was a definite cap on what he was able to do. He went on to work for TNA as Tyrus, and was just released from the company in August of this year. A return to WWE seems unlikely, all things considered.
6 Matt Sydal (Can Still Succeed)
While Sydal is definitely past his prime, he's still very active in the business, and has been since he left WWE for the first time back in 2014. Currently signed with Impact Wrestling, if Sydal ever decides to leave the company, a return to WWE could be a catalyst to jumpstart the Cruiserweight division. Sydal is a ring veteran who's wrestled all over the world, and can have a quality feud with just about anyone if the booking around isn't a complete disaster.
It wouldn't be the most anticipated WWE return, but it would be nice to see one from an active wrestler who has an extensive resume, instead of one-offs from part-time wrestlers who we all know aren't going to be with the company in a year or two. Sydal's first run in WWE as Evan Bourne wasn't very successful, but his track record would warrant giving him another chance.
5 John Morrison (No Chance)
There was a time when Morrison was one of the biggest stars in WWE, and he received a monster push in the mid-2000s. It started off well enough, but eventually the gimmick began to wear thing, and he fizzled out of the company, only to go on to a scattershot career in numerous other promotions. He's been most prominent in Lucha Underground, but somehow hasn't gone on to much fanfare outside of the promotion's biggest fans.
A potential return could have happened, until Morrison signed with Impact Wrestling earlier this year. He was so big at the time in WWE, that it's probably just better for both sides to continue on separate paths. His career since WWE has been spotty at best, but there's just not much chance of a return from him at this point.
4 Chris Harris (Can Still Succeed)
WWE ruined Harris when he finally came over from TNA, and it was really a shame because he was undoubtedly one of the top tag team talents in the world at the time. Giving him the horrific Braden Walker gimmick was a surefire way to erase all legitimacy he had, especially when it was portrayed to an audience that wasn't as familiar with him as the TNA one.
Harris may be older now, but if there was one wrestler knocking on his mid-40s who would be a great comeback story, even if it was just for one angle, this would be it. It's been done before in notable fashion with a wrestler of this age (Terry Funk, etc.), and it would certainly go a long way in righting the wrong that was WWE's fault back in the day.
3 Yoshi Tatsu (No Chance)
There are a lot of great Japanese wrestlers on the planet right now, but Tatsu just isn't one of them. WWE often gets grilled (and rightfully so) for burying international talent more often than not, but in Tatsu's case, it was justified. He just wouldn't have been a good wrestler to throw into the upper-tier of the company.
Upon his departure in 2014, he went on to work in CMLL and is now in AJPW, but isn't making much noise in either promotion. Tatsu just isn't able to sustain any kind of success in a good opportunity, and there's no semblance of a skill set that's able to be pushed in any promotion. Ultimately, he's just a mediocre talent, and WWE will have no incentive to bring him back.
2 Cody Rhodes (Can Still Succeed)
Rhodes had always gotten a raw deal in WWE, and his career sputtered out of control for a while because of the booking and creative decisions that surrounded him. He had to leave WWE to save his career, and didn't really have a choice. The Stardust gimmick would have ruined every wrestler who could have potentially donned it. The question is, after another year or so in NJPW and on the Indie scene, is a potential return possible?
It is, but there are a fair number of things that would have to go right to make it happen. What's guaranteed is that WWE creative wouldn't dare touch Rhodes' character the way it is now, as he's been able to harness his ability to cultivate his own personality and charisma. He's be a bit in the current WWE, but it's still up in the air what his long-term plan is going to be. It's nice to see him have turned his career around all the same.
1 Ryback (No Chance)
The epitome of a generic WWE muscle-head, Ryback is a lesson in recklessly pushing a wrestler who flat-out didn't deserve it. Worse yet, he was made Intercontinental Champion, and wasn't able to garner any kind of legitimate fanbase. In short, Ryback's run in WWE was a complete disaster, and it's not a surprise to see him be buried on the Indie scene at the moment. There's just not a whole lot of skill, in the ring or on the mic.
So with the advent of Braun Strowman, who while not an elite talent, is still basically a better version of Ryback than the original, a return to WWE is pretty much impossible at this point. There is no market in the WWE fanbase for such a return, and he's a terrible draw, even in the aftermath of his WWE run, where he obviously received free publicity for years.
All in all, Ryback is dead weight in the wrestling world, and far too generic to make any sort of legitimate comeback to WWE.