WWE made headlines over the past week with a few shocking returns. WrestleMania 33 ending signified the company resetting to tell new stories as the company moves forward. This led to the announcements of big name talents returning to WWE in major ways.
Matt and Jeff Hardy shocked the world at WrestleMania by appearing in the ladder match to win the Raw Tag Team Championship. They were arguably the hottest names on the free agent market with their recent stints of popularity. Another legend to come home was Kurt Angle following his Hall of Fame induction and Angle becoming the Raw General Manager made a huge splash. NXT got in on the action by adding Drew McIntyre to the mix after a few years away from WWE, where he dominated the independent wrestling circuit. All of these names proved WWE is willing to bring back wrestlers that can help the company.
However, there are a few former stars that burned their bridges with Vince McMahon over the course of history. McMahon will make peace with most wrestlers he believes will make him money, but there are some that will just be blacklisted for good. We'll take a look at eight former WWE stars that McMahon would consider bringing back and seven with no chance in hell to come back home.
15 Return: Hulk Hogan
Vince McMahon’s long history with Hulk Hogan has shown that McMahon will always have a soft spot in his heart for Hogan. The two have been through it all as partners during wrestling’s rise to bitter falling outs and everything in-between. Hogan seemed to finally be easing into a full-time role as an ambassador for WWE back in 2014-2015, until a leaked tape with a racist tirade forced the company to fire him.
WWE has tried to keep their distance from Hogan, hoping the negativity surrounding him would diminish. Rumors have circulated that Hogan will be back in WWE sometime soon. McMahon definitely would want to bring Hulk back into the fold to end his final years in the company that he helped make a massive success.
14 No Chance: Brad Maddox
Another person in the headlines for a tape leaking is Brad Maddox. The unfortunate incident of videos and pictures hitting the internet featured Maddox and Paige having intimate moments of the adult nature. Maddox and Paige took these videos and pictures a few years ago when they were an item and it's now haunting them today with the leak being huge news.
Paige and Xavier Woods (featured in one of the videos) are still employed by WWE and it's nearly impossible to punish them for something that leaked without their consent. Maddox being outside of WWE after getting fired for breaking rules in the past means he'll never get back into the company. His decision to leave the wrestling industry is the right call since he will not be welcomed back into WWE again.
13 Return: Cody Rhodes
If you're looking for a success story of someone leaving WWE, it's Cody Rhodes. Everyone was stunned when Rhodes asked for his release to leave WWE and start the next chapter of his career. His Stardust character failed but WWE wanted Rhodes to continue playing it against his wishes. Cody hit the independent circuit without any face paint and has become a huge star wrestling for just about every promotion.
The hit list of Ring of Honor, New Japan, Impact, Evolve, PWG and numerous others has allowed Rhodes to work for every noteworthy promotion outside of WWE in under a year. WWE has been acquiring all of the top talent on the independent scene in recent years, including guys that used to work there in WWE, like Drew Galloway and Kassius Ohno. Rhodes will definitely be welcomed back when the timing is right.
12 No Chance: Scott Steiner
Scott Steiner had a great wrestling career that has been forgotten due to the insane stories surrounding his personality change. Once Steiner adopted the Big Poppa Pump character, he turned into a loose cannon both in the ring and in real life. Backstage fights, impromptu shoot promos and an overall volatile attitude followed Steiner, especially during his final WWE run.
Triple H and Steiner hated each other, leading to Triple H using his power to hold Steiner down. WWE originally signed Steiner to be a main eventer and he spent the majority of his last tenure there in the mid-card before leaving. Steiner trashed Triple H, Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair in the media numerous times following his departure. His harsh words towards Triple H specifically will keep him out of WWE, considering he has little to offer in the ring at his age.
11 Return: Brie Bella
Brie Bella's retirement in 2016 following WrestleMania 32 was done with the intention to start a family with Daniel Bryan. Brie is scheduled to have the couple’s first child at some point this spring, but that doesn’t mean her wrestling days are over. It's no secret that Brie wants to return to the ring at some point in the near future after giving birth and has flirted with the idea of SummerSlam 2017.
The Bella Twins are huge merchandise sellers and the stars of Total Divas, making them very important to WWE despite the time away. Brie is a member of the WWE family at this point and will be back as long as she can get back into ring shape. It's just a matter of when WWE feels she's up to returning, more than anything.
10 No Chance: Cameron
A former women’s wrestler that has no shot at coming back to WWE is Cameron. WWE tried to push her as an original cast member of Total Divas, but her lack of in-ring talent and failure to improve made Cameron one of the worst members of the roster. At one point, she forgot the correct way to pin her opponent on a live episode of Raw.
WWE stuck with her through it all, until she spoke against them on social media. Ryback posted a blog insulting the company for treating their talent unfairly. Cameron decided to join in by agreeing with him, which led to her firing. Rumors indicated that WWE wasn’t planning to let her go until that moment. Cameron made herself an enemy of WWE and Vince McMahon will never bring her back.
9 Return: Gail Kim
Gail Kim had two failed runs in WWE and that was no fault of her own. WWE didn’t view the women’s division as a credible source of competition and often used the better talents poorly. Gail was a product of this, leading to her making TNA her wrestling home. Kim remains insistent that she will never go back to WWE, but there are variables in play here.
TNA is in a terrible state right now and WWE is finally giving the women’s division a platform to thrive. Kim would finally fit into the plans as one of the best female performers of all time. WWE’s new vision makes her far more valuable than ever and the company would absolutely sign her. It's just up to Gail trusting them or not. The recent signing of Mickie James should give her enough confidence that veteran stars can succeed in the division.
8 No Chance: Alex Riley
Alex Riley is one of the biggest flops in recent WWE memory. Riley never did anything of note to stand out or prove he deserved to move up the rankings. WWE finally cut bait in 2016, terminating Riley’s contract. One thing that worked against Riley ever receiving a second push after the first failure was his backstage war with John Cena.
Riley was often ridiculed by Cena backstage and rumors indicated it hurt his career. It didn’t help that Riley also took personal shots at new WWE stars like Kevin Owens, Finn Balor and Shinsuke Nakamura on social media. The negative relationships he formed with the top stars in WWE across the board have unofficially blackballed Riley from returning to the WWE again.
7 Return: Rey Mysterio
Rey Mysterio’s departure from WWE was somewhat controversial, but the two sides tried to end it on a good note. Mysterio wanted out of his contract and waited many months before WWE finally gave him his wish. His current home is Lucha Underground, along with a few other independent promotions to fill his schedule.
Rey looks great with the limited schedule keeping him fresh and allowing him to avoid the injury issues that plagued the end of his WWE time. A part-time or short role on WWE television at some point in the near future would be perfect for Mysterio. Vince McMahon always had a great relationship with Rey that would allow him to come back anytime. It comes down to them finding a middle ground that Mysterio would accept.
6 No Chance: Jeff Jarrett
One wrestler that has remained blackballed from WWE since the days of the Monday Night Wars ending is Jeff Jarrett. Vince McMahon reportedly refused to ever speak to Jarrett again following his WWE departure in 1999. Jarrett was leaving for WCW, but still held the Intercontinental Championship the day after his WWE contract expired. The leverage allowed Jarrett to hold up McMahon for money before dropping the title to Chyna on his last night.
McMahon hasn't forgotten that moment and actually referenced Jarrett never working for WWE again on the night WWE purchased WCW. Jarrett started TNA and later GFW in hopes of competing with WWE, knowing he’d never be welcomed back there for any role.
5 Return: Wade Barrett
Don’t be surprised to see Wade Barrett return to WWE at some point in the future. Barrett underachieved in terms of ever hitting his potential as a future World Champion. Still, the talented wrestler won many mid-card titles and held a consistent spot on WWE television for the entirety of his run. Barrett decided it was time to step away from the ring last year when his WWE contract ended.
Unlike his peers to leave in the same time frame, Barrett has not worked for any independent promotions and is instead focusing on his acting career. The professionalism exhibited by Barrett will help his future options. Barrett has not appeared in any shoot interviews bad mouthing WWE. The company would welcome him back with open arms if he wants to return.
4 No Chance: Ryback
The wrestler most representing the opposite of Wade Barrett’s story is Ryback. Following the end of his WWE contract, Ryback talked a big game, promising to show the wrestling world how talented he truly is. The Big Guy even trashed WWE in a blog while waiting for his contract to expire, in an attempt to paint the company in a negative light.
Instead of backing it all up, Ryback has faded away. The independent promotions to book Ryback are lower tier companies in the overall landscape of independent wrestling. Ryback keeps his name in the news by trashing WWE as a company and top stars like John Cena to make headlines. There is no way Vince McMahon would bring back someone badmouthing the company that much like Ryback.
3 Return: AJ Lee
AJ Lee is underrated when looking back at all she accomplished in her WWE career. AJ became one of the first female wrestlers to get merchandise due to her overwhelming popularity. Many young girls cared more about wrestling with someone relatable to them making it to the top. It helped create the success of the women’s revolution in WWE shortly after she left and other stars were called up.
Lee had a bad falling out with WWE due to how ugly things got between the company and her husband, CM Punk. The awkward situation of having to work for people that are suing your husband caused her to retire at a young age. AJ recently revealed that she misses the ring during her book tour. The door is always open and WWE would definitely bring her back considering that Lee is a draw for the women’s division as they attempt to continue building it.
2 No Chance: Alberto Del Rio
The best case of someone burning all their bridges with WWE in recent history is Alberto Del Rio. A horrible second stint with the company ended with Del Rio requesting his release after getting suspended for violating the Wellness Policy. WWE also wasn’t fond of Alberto being a negative influence on Paige, after the two became a real-life couple against company wishes.
Del Rio has been badmouthing WWE since leaving the company despite his girlfriend still being employed by them. The most negative comments from Alberto saw him actually accuse WWE of being the ones that leaked Paige’s private content to make the couple miserable. Del Rio has also gone on the record to curse out Triple H on live streams with the promise of never working for WWE again. He won’t have to worry about turning down WWE as Vince McMahon is likely done giving him chances.
1 Return: CM Punk
Almost every legend to get into a public war with WWE has ended up coming back through the years. Bret Hart, The Ultimate Warrior and Bruno Sammartino all loathed Vince McMahon at various points before making peace and coming home. CM Punk is someone that is currently in the same position, vowing to never return to WWE again. The company would absolutely bring Punk back considering he was a legitimate main event star before leaving and his name has become bigger since he walked out.
Punk will ultimately be the one to decide if he wants to make peace with WWE after lots of bad blood was spilled. McMahon always had a better relationship with Punk than Triple H did, making it likely to happen under his watch. It's unknown if Punk will ever say yes, but McMahon would be more than willing to discuss bringing back the main event star.