The free agent market is hotter than it has been in about two decades for the pro wrestling world. Many stars have left WWE to do great things and make an impressive living on their own terms outside of the biggest promotion. Independent wrestlers have also signed with WWE to become huge stars. Basically, wrestlers can find success doing what they want to do regardless of their situations. Change is vital for most performers looking to find happiness and that has been the story of the free agent market over the past couple of years.
There have been some surprising names trying to find their way back to the WWE. Various interviews and podcasts have revealed bizzare names will want to return to the company that made them famous if an opportunity presents itself. This is due to the potential to make huge money in WWE. On the other side of things, there are those doing well outside of WWE and have no need to return. We'll look at both sides of the names currently outside of WWE along with each of their stories. These are eight of the most bizarre names that want a WWE return and seven that are better off without WWE.
15 Wants to Return: Bobby Lashley
Bobby Lashley has not been on WWE’s radar for quite some time after his horrible run about a decade ago. WWE pushed Lashley huge with the hopes of him becoming a similar success to John Cena. Lashley was too inexperienced and failed to succeed in WWE. After a few runs with Impact Wrestling, Lashley has finally found a groove over the past few years.
Lashley has arguably been the best act in Impact Wrestling during the different regimes. Unfortunately, this came right when fans started to give up on Impact and they lost their deal with Spike TV. Lashley is reportedly going to leave Impact when his contract expires in 2018 and will be looking to sign with WWE. This could happen if WWE doesn’t mind him fighting in MMA on the side.
14 Better Off Without WWE: Batista
The recent rumors about Batista have made it seem like he badly wants to return to WWE. Batista had a terrible run in 2014 with a lot of hostility on both ends regarding how poorly it ended up going. However, it appears that Batista is looking to end this chapter of his life with one more run. Unlike most of the veterans to return, Batista wants to work a full-time schedule traveling for all live events.
This seems like a terrible idea for many reasons. Batista is turning 49 years old and a wrestler his age working every night is quite shocking and possibly improves the risk of injury. The last time he worked for WWE saw him get frustrated at the creative team making him look like a fool. Batista also has a lot more on the line with his acting career thriving. The potential of him suffering an injury and missing the next Avengers film is not worth it.
13 Wants to Return: Michelle McCool
A surprising name to resurface in wrestling circles this past month is Michelle McCool. The retired women’s wrestling star interacted with Charlotte Flair on social media regarding a dream match. Both ladies expressed personal interest in the joy of competing against each other. McCool has remained close with WWE through the years partially thanks to her husband The Undertaker being Vince McMahon’s most loyal performer. She also recently expressed interest in taking part in Women's Royal Rumble.
This came as a shock since McCool has been far removed from the wrestling world since retiring. McCool doesn’t make any appearances and has only showed up to watch The Undertaker wrestle. It allowed her to support him and visit old friends. This interaction with Charlotte showed she still wants to have one more match before retiring. It will likely happen given the connections on her side.
12 Better Off Without WWE: Cody Rhodes
The success of Cody Rhodes has inspired wrestlers all over the world. It proved you no longer must work for WWE to make a great living and a wrestler can actually tell them he wants to leave to find success. Rhodes had the best financial year of his career thanks to the popularity in the Bullet Club dominating both Ring of Honor and New Japan.
There has been fan speculation that Rhodes wanted to have a short run on the independent circuit and return to WWE as a bigger name. While that still is a valid option, he seems to be a happier person outside of WWE. Cody has become close with the Young Bucks and some of the other Bullet Club members. They all seem motivated to run their own wrestling event in a large venue next year. Rhodes isn’t missing WWE one bit these days.
11 Wants to Return: Chris Masters
Chris Masters has struggled for years since his WWE career to an end. The high point of his departure came when CM Punk referenced him during a promo taking WWE to task for firing someone working hard to improve. Unfortunately, Masters has not shown this improvement since leaving WWE. The jacked wrestler has continued wrestling on the independent circuit to minimal success.
Impact Wrestling and Global Force Wrestling each signing Masters during their merging was the biggest break of his career in recent years, which is a rather sad statement. A recent interview saw Masters blame the “diehard” wrestling fan for caring too much about work rate and ruining the industry for the average fan. Masters believes this is the reason he isn’t getting hired by WWE even though he clearly wants to return.
10 Better Off Without WWE: Jack Swagger
The move of Jack Swagger leaving WWE earlier this year proved to be the best thing for his personal happiness. Swagger worked for WWE for many years with the latter stages of his run seeing him failing to get on television. Both WWE and Swagger came to the agreement that they would release him since creative had no plans for him.
Swagger has not achieved the same success as someone like Cody Rhodes, but he is having fun. Smaller independent promotions are consistently booking Swagger and even bring in his wife to be his manager. The happy couple makes money together and Swagger has a stronger sense of pride in getting to showcase his talent. Swagger has been speaking out in defense of independent wrestling due to his belief that WWE was planning shows in certain areas to kill their market.
9 Wants to Return: Kelly Kelly
The WWE career of Kelly Kelly has been basically erased from existence since she represents everything the current women are against. Kelly Kelly signed with WWE at the age of the 19 with Vince McMahon wanting her to strip on live television during the early run of her career. WWE eventually pushed her as a wrestler and made her a Divas Champion despite the lack of wrestling ability.
Kelly Kelly recently teased a return and wanted to return for WrestleMania 33. The rumor never came to fruition despite her training in the ring. Other interviews this year revealed that she still wants to have one more run in WWE today to prove she could hang in the ring. Unfortunately for her, the level of competition seems to be out of her element and WWE won’t give her another run.
8 Better Off Without WWE: Wade Barrett
Wade Barrett has been relatively quiet since leaving WWE in early 2016. The career of Barrett saw his consistently fail to hit his potential in WWE. Once the initial push in Nexus ended, Barrett struggled to get another strong run as a top guy. The decision to leave WWE saw him get burnt out of working the hectic schedule with nothing changing in his favor.
Barrett has been trying to get his acting career going with a few small roles that will be released in 2018. A recent return to wrestling as a character in Defiant Wrestling shows he is getting ready to return sooner than later. Barrett is better off wrestling outside of WWE to build his name value back up rather than returning to stay in the same spot he was in before departure.
7 Wants to Return: Tommy Dreamer
The fact that Tommy Dreamer still regularly wrestles for relevant promotions in 2017 is rather shocking. Dreamer saw his peak run over two decades ago in ECW and is still making a full-time schedule wrestling all over the world along with running his own House of Hardcore promotion. Ring of Honor recently had Dreamer appear in a tag match on their biggest show of the year.
Dreamer has stated he would love to have one more run with WWE. The past few short stints and appearances with the company helped him promote House of Hardcore. Dreamer has a great relationship with just about every promotion due to his professionalism. Most wrestlers at Dreamer’s age would be lucky to get any bookings, but he is trying to find his way back to WWE.
6 Better Off Without WWE: Gail Kim
Gail Kim is one of the greatest women’s wrestlers of all time despite having two terrible runs with WWE. This was back when WWE gave zero respect to the Women’s Division. Kim despised working with Vince McMahon due to the sexism she felt whenever interacting with him. Jim Ross revealed that McMahon never wanted to push Gail because he felt Asian women weren’t attractive and no one wanted to see her.
Kim has recently been on a retirement tour with her final match in Impact Wrestling and a tour working at various independent promotions. The great career of Gail is coming to an end and many fans wanted to see her have one more match in WWE. Kim has remained insistent that she never wants to work for WWE after all the terrible memories she had in the company. Happiness and self-respect is worth more than the spotlight, and Gail is better off retiring on her own terms.
5 Wants to Return: Melina
The return of the WWE brand split in 2016 inspired many wrestlers to try to get a deal back in WWE. Raw and SmackDown each having their own rosters meant more roles would be open for each show to have deep talent lists. Melina is one wrestler that was involved in rumors regarding a potential return during the early stages of the brand split. Nothing came to fruition, but she has been wrestling more often since then.
Melina seems to be trying to get her name value back up along with putting together a body of work that proves she can still wrestle. The in-ring work of Melina and charisma made her a star during her prior WWE run. It allowed her to have a huge push despite backstage issues with the other talent. Melina seems to be working for one more WWE run before she ends her career.
4 Better Off Without WWE: John Morrison
John Morrison has been having the time of his life while working outside of WWE. The mutual decision for him to leave allowed Morrison to open his opportunities. Morrison made his own movie and has been getting consistent roles in various movies and television shows. Along with the acting career gaining some momentum, Morrison has improved his reputation in wrestling.
Morrison has had strong runs with Lucha Underground and Impact Wrestling in recent years. Both companies are working together, and he has a top spot for both promotions trying to take big steps forward. Morrison met his fiancé Taya Valkyrie in Lucha Underground and the couple now works together in most promotions these days. Between traveling with his wife, making good money and getting to work in other fields, JoMo clearly doesn’t need WWE.
3 Wants to Return: Cryme Tyme
The tag team of Cryme Tyme had some success in WWE during their early years together. JTG and Shad had a couple of big moments together working with D-Generation X and John Cena in various segments. Both wrestlers worked well together with different skill sets, but neither man made it far in WWE. Shad got fired and JTG would join him on the free agent market later.
Both Cryme Tyme members have tried their luck in other careers but are trying to get back together. Cryme Tyme has wrestled on a few independent wrestling shows together. Shad and JTG challenged the Young Bucks in hopes of getting a booking in Ring of Honor or New Japan. WWE is the end game for the team looking to reunite for a big run before their wrestling careers end.
2 Better Off Without WWE: Rey Mysterio
Rey Mysterio has been involved in rumors regarding a WWE return for quite some time. WWE needs someone to add credibility to the failing Cruiserweight division. Meanwhile, Mysterio recently saw his Lucha Underground contract expire and contract talks with Impact Wrestling fall apart. The future of Rey is up in the air after the past few years outside of WWE built back up his name value.
Mysterio leaving WWE has seen a lot of positives for his life. The injuries that followed him in WWE have gone with him remaining healthy thanks to working a reduced schedule. Mysterio makes a lot of money to work when he wants to and gets to mix it up with young stars that idolized him such as Will Ospreay and Ricochet. The happiness, freedom and health outside of WWE would make it a tough sell for him to return.
1 Wants to Return: Trish Stratus
A shocking name to tease a return to WWE recently is Trish Stratus. The announcement of the first-ever Women’s Royal Rumble match coming in 2018 led to Stratus posting a tweet expressing excitement about the history being made, but she also referenced wanting to find her wrestling boots again. Royal Rumble matches are the easiest way for a legend to return in an impactful way without having to do much.
Stratus returning as a surprise entrant for one night only would be the biggest realistic move WWE can make regarding the Rumble. Trish lasting long in the match could be helpful to the woman that eliminates her. It doesn’t even matter what she does in the match. Stratus coming back to WWE for the Rumble would be a memorable moment to help make the historic match something special.