Professional wrestlers only have so much time to be able to make an impact. We’re not just talking about the 15 to 20 minutes, if they’re lucky, they get to put on a wrestling exhibition with the hope of exciting and entertaining swarms of fans live in attendance. Like any type of professional athlete, time can be an enemy. That shouldn’t be a big shock because timing is important in the ring.
Beyond timing being important to pull off the various strikes, submissions and throws in the wrestling ring, timing is important when it comes to deciding whether wrestlers should continue their career or call it quits. World Wrestling Entertainment certainly has a number of former WWE superstars whom fans would love to see make a return to the ring.
Fans have shown their excitement with the recent announcement that former WWE Women’s and Divas Champion Mickie James will face Asuka at NXT Takeover: Toronto on November 19th. The world is also buzzing about Goldberg coming back and possibly facing Brock Lesnar in a future WWE match.
On the other side of the coin, there are several superstars who remain on the roster years beyond their prime. It’s hard to be mad at them since the money must be worth the nagging injuries that linger during that time, but their time to quit wrestling passed a long time ago.
This article breaks down former WWE superstars that should be expected to return at some point in the near future and current superstars who should retire as soon as possible.
16. Return – Evan Bourne
While wrestling fans outside of the WWE know him better as Matt Sydal, Evan Bourne did establish himself as one of the best small (in size) talents from 2008 to 2014. Before he had dealt with a number of injuries, Bourne excited fans with his version of the Shooting Star Press. While he wasn’t able to win singles gold in WWE, he could have been a perfect fit wrestling in the new Cruiserweight Division.
Considering how the WWE has evolved to account for the diverse styles that have come in from the independent circuit, Bourne would likely have a better chance to succeed in today’s WWE. Bourne would be able to fit into some dream booking rivalries with other ROH alum like Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins and Sami Zayn.
15. Retire – Mark Henry
In a recent interview, Mark Henry has teased that he could be thinking about retirement. While he claims that he has at least one more spot open in his Hall of Pain, many fans have to question how much more he has left in the tank. At age 45, Henry has been a part of the WWE roster since the early days of the Attitude Era.
He was able to do his job well as The World’s Strongest Man. While some might call into question some of the booking decisions that made him a goofy face, Henry was at his best as the heel where he emphatically yelled “That’s what I do.” He even got us back in 2013 when he teased retirement live on television before slamming John Cena to start a feud. Henry does deserve one more run – hopefully sooner rather than later.
14. Return – Chris Masters
During his first run with the WWE from 2005 to 2007, Chris Masters looked to be the type of athlete who may have used more than vitamins and prayers to build his muscles. Over time, he started to lose his mass and it was easily noticeable to WWE fans when he had a second run from 2009 to 2011. Over the years, he might have finally become a more well-rounded wrestler.
He’s competed for multiple promotions for the past few years and there have been a number of wrestling fans who have mentioned that he’s improved greatly overall. That isn’t to say that Masters should be brought in to be a major player. Masters would provide depth that is needed for the current brand split — a veteran presence similar to someone like Jinder Mahal or Curt Hawkins, but more interesting than them.
13. Retire – Kane
Glenn Jacobs has certainly come a long way from portraying an evil dentist hired by Jerry Lawler in the 1990s. Kane has become a staple in the WWE locker room since he debuted as the mysterious brother of The Undertaker in 1997. We are closing in on 20 years of hellfire and brimstone with The Devil’s Favorite Demon.
But over the past few years, the WWE creative team has been inconsistent with Kane’s character. He’s gone from unmasked to masked and switched back and forth between corporate and demon personas. Kane is someone who has proven to be a team player for the WWE, but he’s also getting close to age 50. That corporate suit looks better on him since he could be a great official for WWE moving forward.
12. Return – MVP
One of the more interesting characters the WWE had in 2006 was Montel Vontavious Porter. With a lot of talk about superstar athletes like Terrell Owens, who felt they were greater than the sport, MVP was bringing that style of personality into the world of professional wrestling. He pulled it off well and it led to multiple reigns with the United States Championship before he was released in 2010.
Since then, MVP has found some success wrestling for New Japan Pro Wrestling and throughout the rest of the global independent wrestling scene. MVP is another veteran who could be seen returning to the WWE to provide depth to the roster. He could even be a great manager for someone like Titus O’Neil, who also has shown that pro football star mentality in recent promos.
11. Retire – R-Truth
Something has to be said about Ron Killings’ overall abilities as someone who can entertain fans in various ways. The current pairing with Goldust has been decent for comedic purposes, one of many highly entertaining gimmicks involving R-Truth.
There’s no denying that R-Truth has been a great WWE superstar. He’s won various mid-card championships and even had an entertaining main event feud with John Cena in 2011. But with the influx of talent coming into the WWE and NXT continuing to grow, there is less room for some of the older mid-card talents like R-Truth. It’s tough, but we’re pretty sure he would be able to land on his feet easily and probably deliver some more great moments elsewhere.
10. Return – Carlito
Carlito’s name has come up in various rumor reports and opinion pieces as someone who should have been considered for a return for the recent brand split. During his time with the WWE from 2004 to 2010, Carlio became one of the best mid-card talents on the WWE roster. This led to him winning both the WWE Intercontinental and United States titles.
The problem was that he never quite got the push to the main event that some fans felt he deserved. His issues with violations of the Talent Wellness Program led to his eventual release but Carlito could be a valuable asset, not only to the WWE in terms of roster depth, but would also likely save the WWE futures of both Primo and Epico, who need the boost from selling timeshares.
9. Retire – Goldust
Goldust has had multiple runs in the WWE that actually date back to 1990, when he was Dustin Rhodes. But he was never able to make a huge impact by using the same family name as father Dusty Rhodes. It wasn’t until 1995 when he was able to find his true calling as The Bizarre One, Goldust. Whether he loved or hated the character, Goldust was widely known in the wrestling world.
He had a career resurgence by teaming with his brother, Cody Rhodes, from 2013 to 2015, but since they went their separate ways, Goldust has started to slow down in terms of his overall performance. Similar to his tag team partner R-Truth, Goldust is an older veteran who is viewed as expendable. With Goldust in his late 40s, it’s not asking too much for him to consider retirement from the ring.
8. Return – Trish Stratus
Earlier this year, Trish Stratus revealed that she has been thinking about a return to the WWE. Timing is everything for her and it has to be the right situation. But it seems like with the recent Women’s Revolution being led by Charlotte and Sasha Banks, no one can truly blame her. Stratus probably sees their efforts and compares it to what her and other women like Lita did during the Ruthless Aggression Era of the WWE.
Fans are obviously excited about the possibility of Stratus facing off with Banks, Bayley or Charlotte. She’s kept herself in peak physical condition as a fitness and yoga expert with a large following, but we will all have to wait for awhile as she recently announced she is pregnant with her second child.
7. Retire – Natalya
While she seems to enjoy her role as Mother Hen for the younger members of the women’s division, Natalya has deserved a much better position on the totem pole for a while now. One of the last graduates of Stu Hart’s Dungeon, she’s been one of the best technical female wrestlers not only in WWE, but in all of professional wrestling.
Considering that her husband, Tyson Kidd, is likely going to have to retire soon due to the severity of his neck injuries, Natalya is likely thinking of leaving as well. There’s nothing stopping her since the WWE only gave her one reign with the WWE Divas Championship. It’s also unlikely she will get a run with one of the Women’s Championships in the near future.
6. Return – Kurt Angle
Kurt Angle has accumulated several different types of injuries since he first came to professional wrestling in 1998. The former Olympic gold medalist was always viewed as a great technical wrestler, but he was starting to show wear and tear when he mutually parted ways with WWE in 2006. He was still able to compete at a respectable level for the last decade between TNA Wrestling and other promotions.
Though mostly working independent wrestling promotions for the last year, Angle is a prime candidate to be named to the WWE Hall of Fame in a year or two. That should allow for Angle to have at least one final match with the WWE. While his health has declined, Angle could easily get himself ready for a big match to have his swan song at WrestleMania.
5. Retire – Triple H
There’s no secret that Triple H has been slowly taking on the responsibilities that Vince McMahon has had for decades. This has allowed for some major changes in the landscape of WWE which has given fans the type of booking they never expected under McMahon’s full control. Potentially thanks to Triple H, Kevin Owens and AJ Styles are holding the two main championships in the WWE.
Fans can see Triple H having a feud with Seth Rollins to help put him over for the new generation of WWE. However, maybe after the eventual loss at WrestleMania 33, Triple H should make the full transition to the backstage. While other veterans are likely to be phased out, Triple H is someone who should take the same opportunity. He’s obviously found a way to help the industry long after his wrestling days are over.
4. Return – Matt Hardy
With the recent talks about who is going to buy TNA Wrestling and what the future holds, the most positive thing going for the company has been the change in Matt Hardy. His “Broken” personality has been something different that has provided a resurgence in Matt Hardy’s overall place in wrestling popularity. Whether it’s his always-changing accent or his premonitions, fans really love the character.
With the future of TNA Wrestling up in the air, it’s not hard to picture Matt Hardy becoming a free agent in the near future. It would be best to keep him separate from Brother Nero to allow him to stand out on his own. If booked properly, Broken Matt Hardy could be a big star on WWE’s SmackDown brand. Some of us already knew he’d come; it’s just a matter of when.
3. Retire – Big Show
Excuse us if you have heard this before, but Big Show should retire. Honestly, he should have retired multiple times. His abilities in the ring have slowed down overall and his move set hasn’t really felt fresh for about a decade. Fans have been heard chanting “Please Retire” for years now and there’s not a lot left for Big Show to accomplish.
Big Show has won seven world championships over his career (if you include the WWE’s version of the ECW World Championship). He’s essentially won every championship possible in the WWE since he made the jump from WCW in 1999 and there really isn’t anything else he could accomplish. Big Show is the first aging veteran that needs to leave for the incoming influx of younger talents through NXT.
2. Return – Jeff Hardy
While entertaining as the “obsolete” Brother Nero, Jeff Hardy should be able to have at least one more night as the daredevil WWE fans remember him for being. The high-flyer who says only a few words as The Charismatic Enigma is all the WWE fans truly need to see. Hardy could be a beneficial addition as the recent brand extension.
It would be great to see Jeff Hardy go into singles competition against current WWE superstars like Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and even AJ Styles. But the window of opportunity is slowly closing since he is close to the age of 40. Considering the high-risk style he made famous for decades, his body has likely aged quicker. There might only be time for him to have one, maybe two, WrestleMania matches before retiring.
1. Retire – The Undertaker
This sort of belief seems to be very polarizing in the wrestling community. The Undertaker definitely earned the respect to be able to work one night a year at WrestleMania, but his health is obviously declining to a point where you truly have to wonder if he’s slowly losing his mobility.
At the same time, there really isn’t a reason for The Undertaker to continue competing at WrestleMania. His streak was “conquered” by Brock Lesnar and his matches with Bray Wyatt and Shane McMahon were subpar compared to the standard that he established. This might not be a very popular statement to make, but The Undertaker has needed to retire from wrestling for a few years now.
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