WWE’s recent change of implementing the brand split once again has opened up a new world for the free agent market. There are more opportunities for talent to shine with the WWE having two programs on the USA Network. NXT also provides a third unique brand in need of a capable roster under the WWE umbrella. WWE has signed many of the top independent wrestling stars for NXT or the cruiserweight division. While those signings are pivotal for the future of the company, the need for star power in the short term also exists. Many of the top stars on the market are former WWE talents but not all want to come back.
The wrestling business typically has bitter endings and that is more prevalent with the WWE. More money and a bigger spotlight can create chaos and that has quite a few wrestlers expressing hatred towards the company. Luckily, many of the top stars available still hold a soft spot in their hearts for another WWE run. The legends, veterans, talents in their prime and formerly undervalued performers all have their own specific reasons for their mindsets. We’ll look at all of the stories across both sides of the table with eight stars that would not return to the WWE and another seven that would come back.
15 Would NOT Return: Ryback
The short time span since Ryback departed WWE means there’s a good chance he could change his mind, but he left on very unhappy terms. Ryback knew he was burning a bridge when he unleashed a tirade online about the WWE’s treatment of employees. After years of falling into obscurity, Ryback decided it was time to bolt and he's not looking back. The Big Guy hopes to continue his career in other promotions with his hands in other job fields as well.
14 Would Return: Goldberg
Bill Goldberg had one of the worst WWE runs for a legendary star. WCW made Goldberg the face of the franchise, but WWE had no clue how to use him. There was quite a bit of animosity attached following the bitter ending. Goldberg accused Triple H of trying to sabotage him and the company for wanting to make former WCW stars look bad. The relationship has finally made progressive steps forward after years of trash talk.
13 Would NOT Return: Catrina
Lucha Underground has become a cult hit with a combination of captivating in-ring wrestling and intricate storylines out of the realm of possibility. One of the better characters on the show is Catrina. Most understandably forget her time in the WWE as Maxine, but you have to wonder how WWE dropped the ball so badly on such a great talent. Dusty Rhodes specifically supported her in WWE developmental and viewed her as one of the most promising women to enter the company in quite some time.
12 Would Return: CJ Parker
The WWE developmental system side of NXT has some flaws with the growth of the promotion. Fans want to see NXT and are proving that by selling out large venues. Triple H focused on signing top stars like Kevin Owens, Finn Balor and Hideo Itami to take NXT to the next level by adding talent already good enough for the main roster, who only needed to learn the WWE style. That left wrestlers like CJ Parker in the dark.
11 Would NOT Return: Paul London
The abundance of the great in-ring workers in WWE right now is staggering. An average or undersized physique or height would take away from a young star trying to make it in the WWE back in the day. Somewhere along the line, things have changed completely. WWE is signing all of the top workers from around the world. That just makes it sadder to realize the number of talented stars to get used poorly years ago due to their size.
10 Would Return: Jim Ross
Jim Ross has more reason to resent Vince McMahon and the WWE than anyone else on this list. The greatest commentator of all time was frequently shown disrespect and fired for completely ridiculous reasons. Ross’ latest firing came from not being able to stop a drunk Ric Flair from making a fool of himself at a WWE 2K event. Basically, anyone in his position would lash out against WWE, but Ross keeps everything cordial.
9 Would NOT Return: Jim Cornette
Jim Cornette's hatred towards the WWE is rather intense and he shows no inkling towards ever wanting to repair the broken relationship. Cornette has the reputation for speaking his mind in a very blunt and vulgar manner. No wrestling promotion is safe from Cornette’s verbal tirades, but his WWE rants have a deeper intensity. They fired him for slapping Santino in WWE developmental and that caused a rift that has existed for over a decade now.
8 Would Return: Rey Mysterio
One of the bigger stars to leave the WWE quietly is Rey Mysterio. Everyone knows Mysterio requested to be released from his contract, but there was no bad blood publicly expressed like the other recent departures, despite WWE not releasing him immediately. The legendary luchador dominated the company for quite some time as a groundbreaking performer. Mysterio is happy working for Lucha Underground and experiencing the new life of the independent wrestling scene. The money is good and Mysterio has a much lighter schedule.
7 Would NOT Return: Scott Steiner
Scott Steiner has been contacted in the past year about signing a WWE Legend’s contract. The controversial and unpredictable muscle head is known for going off the rails. All of his rants and threatening messages have made Steiner quite a bit of enemies in the wrestling business. The magic that makes it highly entertaining is the fact that Steiner does not give a damn at all. Everyone bites their tongue to keep ties to a promotion, but Steiner is the exception.
6 Would Return: Ethan Carter III
The debacle of WWE’s poor booking with Derrick Bateman made them miss out on a future star. TNA signed him following his release and rebranded him as Ethan Carter III. The freedom to showcase his natural charisma and aptitude for pro wrestling turned him into the most beloved star in the company today. EC3 is still going strong in TNA, but he may be ready to tackle the WWE challenge once again.
5 Would NOT Return: Jeff Jarrett
WWE typically gives anyone a chance to return to the company in some form following bitter endings. Vince McMahon will try to get every dollar possible before allowing personal vendettas to stop him from booking someone. Jeff Jarrett is one of the few to fall under the exiled list with no olive branch extended to him. During the heated Monday Night Wars, Jarrett demanded a big figure to have him drop the Intercontinental Championship to Chyna and threatened to take it to WCW if they didn't pay him.
4 Would Return: Kurt Angle
Wrestling fans are dying for the patriotic theme to hit, so they shower the beloved Kurt Angle with sarcastic “You suck” chants. Angle has a reputation as one of the most elite in-ring performers in pro wrestling history. It started instantly with arguably the greatest rookie year WWE has ever witnessed. Angle's range provided entertainment from spectacular work rate in his matches to hilarious comedy in his backstage antics. Angle thrived in just about every aspect of the wrestling world.
3 Would NOT Return: Gail Kim
The women’s revolution in the WWE is creating new opportunities for the female performers based off their talent and it's been a welcome change thus far. It still doesn’t erase their many years of terrible decisions regarding the women’s division. One talent that will never forget the old stance in WWE is Gail Kim. The elite in-ring worker was never used well in with the company. Over the course of two stints with the WWE, Kim rarely received any substantial booking behind her.
2 Would Return: Jeff Hardy
Jeff Hardy is the most popular active wrestler to not work for the WWE at the moment. Fans still support Hardy in TNA and at various independent wrestling shows by showing up and buying merchandise. Hardy's popularity would become substantially larger in the WWE with a bigger platform. Hardy’s last run in the company featured him ascending to the top of the company as the most popular face behind John Cena. Fans are still clamoring for one last run in the WWE for everyone’s favorite artistic daredevil.
1 Would NOT Return: CM Punk
The ugliest falling out between a wrestler and promotion in recent years is CM Punk choosing to leave the WWE. Punk has a great deal of confidence and believes in his vision. WWE didn’t always give him the platform to achieve what he wanted and he reacted negatively. The blame can go around on both sides depending on the issue, but the only thing we can all agree on is that Punk loathes the WWE and the people who run it.
Punk is currently chasing a new career with the UFC. Most believe it will fail rather quickly and he’ll have to consider returning to the WWE. Unlike most, his convictions make him who he is and Punk likely will take any other path to avoid going back to the place he bolted from. Punk apparently saved most of his money and would make more than a respectable living working on the independent wrestling scene. We will likely see CM Punk return to pro wrestling at some point, but he’ll never step foot in a WWE ring again.
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