In sports, an injury can end everything in the blink of an eye. So can somebody better than you taking your spot, leaving you out in the cold. In entertainment, if you’re not drawing audiences and making money, you’re not going to be employed very long. It’s no wonder why there seems to be such a revolving door when it comes to talent who work for the WWE.
Sometimes, it’s painful to see people make their return to wrestling. Those last few times Kevin Nash made appearances in WWE rings it looked more like a giant with arthritis trying to move around. Sometimes, it’s great to see people return. Mickie James took on Asuka at a recent NXT pay-per-view and it seemed like she was better than ever before. Better than the woman who was once mocked as “Piggy James”.
In the movie Beyond the Mat, Jim Ross said he didn’t care what happened inside the ring. The wins, the losses...none of it matters. What mattered was that there was a butt every 18 inches in the seats watching the show. When those butts stop filling the seats or those eyeballs stop tuning in to the show every week, tweaks need to be made. They also need to be made when an injury happens. A storyline that is supposed to last six months may need to be rewritten with only a couple of hours notice. It’s just the nature of the sports entertainment beast.
There are people we miss who once entertained us greatly in WWE rings but who no longer currently work for the company. We hope they’ll be back. Then there are other who we think back upon and thank the universe for taking them off of our TV sets. We never want to see those people back in wrestling. In that spirit, here are 8 wrestlers we hope to see return to the WWE in 2017 and 7 we never want to see again.
15 Please Come Back: CM Punk
OK, now that we get his point that he was serious and it turns out he sucks at MMA, it’s time for everybody to shake hands and welcome CM Punk back to the world of play-fighting, where he belongs. Hopefully he at least makes nice with the WWE or we’re likely never going to see him on a Hall of Fame ceremony stage, which would be a travesty. Yes, we understand the WWE did some uncool stuff to him and treated him poorly (in his opinion) but for that to be a surprise to anybody, especially one who worked for the company as long as Punk did, somebody wasn’t paying attention along the way. We know Punk is hard-headed and stubborn, and we can assure it him it won’t look like swallowing your pride if you return. Just consider your break to be similar to the one Shawn Michaels or Chris Jericho took. You’ve got 5-10 great years left. Put on your big boy pants and come back.
14 Stay Away: Hulk Hogan
WWE likes to pretend Chris Benoit never existed. We get it. They also like to pretend Jimmy Snuka doesn’t exist as long as it’s hanging out there that he may or may not have had something to do with his girlfriend’s death 35 years ago. If a guy is going to have sex with his best friend’s wife, be seen in photos rubbing tanning lotion on his daughter’s butt and can spit out racist rants about whom said daughter is dating, we think the WWE should give the permanent shun treatment to this relic. Yes, he’s the Babe Ruth of wrestling, but from all accounts Babe Ruth wasn’t exactly a saint. Hulk Hogan has his time and place. He looks like an elderly hound dog with sad eyes these days and it’s best for everybody involved if he is kept out of a WWE ring.
13 Please Come Back: Cody Rhodes
You didn’t want to be Stardust. OK. You got that out of your system. You’re the champion of a dozen indies, wrestling in front of dozens of dozens of people every weekend in towns most of us have never heard of with your hot wife, the former WWE ring announcer Eden Stiles, in tow. Here’s the thing you’ve got to remember. You never got over as Cody Rhodes. You were vanilla and the lisping promos did nothing to help. You had your chance as Cody. When the WWE said they wanted you to stick with Stardust, you should have just looked at your brother’s Hall of Fame career, shut your mouth and cashed the checks. Odds are, if you return to the WWE, they’ll give you a big push, either as Cody or Stardust. Then you’ll fade back to the mid-card, where you actually do belong. Sorry, not everybody is Dusty Rhodes. Some people are just his sons.
12 Stay Away: Alberto Del Rio
There’s something about Alberto Del Rio that turns our stomach and has since the day he first stepped foot in a WWE ring. It’s hard to put our finger on it, but it’s been there since Day One. Maybe it’s his dull wrestling, one-dimensional character and obvious dislike of being in the ring in front of a crowd. That last part might not be true, but it sure seems like he doesn’t want to be there and the moment anything doesn’t go well, he leaves. Last time it was because he failed a Wellness Policy drug test. His at-the-time new girlfriend Paige also happened to fail her Wellness test. Coincidence? Truth is, we don’t care. From his defeat of John Cena straight through quietly disappearing after the League of Nations faded into obscurity, Alberto Del Rio’s second WWE run was nothing short of uninspiring. The audience didn’t care he returned and don’t seem to care he left. Hopefully the people who make the hiring decisions notice that.
11 Please Come Back: Trish Stratus
You’ve had a decade to do other things. You were inducted into the Hall of Fame and inducted your best friend, Lita. You got married and had a kid. You’re still young and there is finally a crop of females in the WWE who have the kind of ability your opponents never had during the Attitude Era. These aren’t divas...they are wrestlers. Along with simply being able to display your craft with the proper dance partners, you can also serve as a teacher, much like Lita is doing, training the next generation of WWE wrestlers. Most of the ladies in the ring now were inspired by you. Show them that you don’t need to be 27 to succeed. Mickie James just returned and we know the WWE. It’s time those who are new to the WWE Universe experience why the rest of us fell in love with you in the late ’90s. We all need more Stratusfaction.
10 Stay Away: Hornswoggle
There are those who have had long careers with the WWE and we just can’t figure out why. JTG, The Brooklyn Brawler, Bob Holly and Fandango are all people who are in this category and with the exception of Fandango they have all thankfully left and never come back. Hornswoggle was suspended from the WWE for a wellness violation early in 2016 and was released not long after being eligible to come back. How he managed such a long career is beyond us. From being Fit Findlay’s sidekick to D-X’s mascot to Vince McMahon’s illegitimate son to participating in the greatest minis match of all time (the Wee-LC match), he had a run in WWE almost any other wrestler would be jealous of, but it doesn’t mean we want him back. He may have been little in stature, but he sucked the life out of an area like the biggest wrestler on the roster can’t.
9 Please Come Back: King Barrett
Wade Barrett is one of those guys who should have been a world champion but it was hard for the WWE to get behind him for any real length of time because he spent as much time injured as he did healthy. When he was able to perform there were few others who were as natural at being heels. From the day he debuted in NXT, eventually becoming the leader of Nexus to his final day when the League of Nations beatdown took place, Barrett was one of the best combination of character and performers WWE has seen in the last 20 years. Apparently the WWE and Barrett parted on good terms and hopefully after an extended amount of time off to heal whatever his latest problem was, the two can get back together and figure out a way to have the reigning King of the Ring return to his throne in the WWE.
8 Stay Away: Brie Bella
We know Brie Bella is currently pregnant and will be having a child and we know that usually means staying retired for a woman wrestler, but we have this sneaking suspicion that between her sister, her sister’s boyfriend and her husband, not to mention her new stepfather, there might still be a little piece of that flame that hasn’t been extinguished in Brie Bella’s wrestling soul. If we were around that many people still working actively for the WWE we’d probably get that itch to return to the ring once we recovered from a pregnancy. The problem is that she’s a shell of the talent her sister is and simply doesn’t have the chops to hang with the new divas on the roster. There’s a reason Nikki was a women’s champion multiple times and why Brie walked to the ring with her. There’s a reason the Nikki vs. Brie storyline fell apart. There’s a reason she can’t drive a standard transmission. That reason stares her in the face every morning she looks in the mirror.
7 Please Come Back: Finn Balor
We know the plan is for Finn Balor to come back after his SummerSlam shoulder injury is properly healed. It’s just important how much he recognizes we want him to come back and to make sure he doesn’t fall in love with painting or horseshoes while taking time off. Balor was crowned the first Universal Champion only a few weeks after being called up to the main roster from NXT. Imagine how different WWE would have looked if Kevin Owens had not been the Universal Champion for the second half of 2016. Sure, it probably benefited Chris Jericho, but the fans were denied the kind of excitement a new champion like Balor was going to bring to the table. Bit of trivia for you: Finn Balor trained Becky Lynch. If that doesn’t show his worth to the WWE, nothing can. Get well soon! Come back even sooner!
6 Stay Away: Ryback
Even if we’d lost our job, had our house burn down and seen most of our family lost in a tornado that delivered them to Oz, we still could point to 2016 as a good year because Ryback finally got off our television screens. Why Vince McMahon or anybody else in WWE gave this guy so many chances and so many years on TV is something we’ll never figure out. The fact he left because he didn’t like being on the losing end of an angle with Kalisto is just the last in a long list of black marks against the most annoying, believer-of-his-own hype wrestler we’ve seen dating back to Scott Steiner. The former Ryan Reeves went the Ultimate Warrior route by actually changing his legal name to his wrestling name so he could keep using it. What he doesn’t seem to grasp is that we want to see Ryback as much as we want to see Ryan Reeves.
5 Please Come Back: AJ Lee
We absolutely appreciate it when a husband or wife sticks by their spouse’s side. It’s what you’re supposed to do when you’re married. That said, you should also support your spouse’s dreams and maybe it’s just us, but AJ Lee seemed to be way more into being a wrestler than her husband, CM Punk ever was. She’s also years younger than him. We have this feeling that if something happened to their marriage, we’d be seeing AJ back in a WWE ring within three months. Some of the newest women who have entered the WWE from NXT have showed just how far AJ was behind in terms of wrestling talent, but with her passion, she could absolutely get up to speed. She’s never going to hang with Sasha, but she’s always been better than Nikki and Natalya. Instead of pursuing her passion, she’s busy writing books and watching nobodies mop the MMA mat with her husband.
4 Stay Away: Santino Marella
We’ve got to think that the WWE didn’t originally plan for Santino to be such a dim-witted comedy character. If they did, there’s no way they would have given him the Intercontinental Title so quickly. Once his lack of serious charisma and in-ring believability was found out, both he and the WWE did a good job covering up his inadequacies, but he was nothing more than a time filler and in Emma’s case, almost a career killer. This was the guy who wrestled as his female cousin Santina. This was the guy who ripped off Mr. Socko. This was the guy who had one eyebrow. Injuries sent him packing, making only sporadic appearances in recent years. Santino starred in a USA Network Christmas movie with Larry the Cable Guy. That sentence alone is enough to explain why we never want to see him on our television screens again.
3 Please Come Back: Dudley Boyz
There aren’t enough wrestlers who still have an old school attitude, but Bubba Ray and D-Von Dudley, who have been a tag team for most of the last 20 years, were two of the last who called it a career the day after Summerslam in 2016. Bubba made a great speech thanking the fans for a terrific final year and probably could have left as the conquering heroes, but they left on their backs. The Club came down to the ring and instead of doing one last signature table spot, Gallows and Anderson put the Dudley Boyz through tables. That’s what you’re supposed to do when you’re leaving. You’re supposed to be left looking at the lights, putting over whomever is going to continue in your absence. Obvious first ballot Hall of Famers, we would have liked to see the Dudleyz still part of the mix for a while longer and we’re sure they’re always welcome to change their mind. So guys, change your mind. We need you back.
2 Stay Away: Paige
Six months ago we might have put Paige on the please come back list, but no longer. First, the call-ups from NXT over the last 18 months, from Becky, Charlotte and Sasha to Bayley, Alexa and Carmella can all wrestle circles around Paige. Think about it for a second. She was in the WWE for several years. Did she get any better? No. Did she get worse? Actually, yes, if you compare matches, she did. Then, she goes and hooks up with one of the worst humans ever to inhabit our planet, Alberto Del Rio. Following that mistake she made two more when she had back-to-back Wellness Policy violations resulting in two suspensions. This means if she does come back, she only has to screw up one more time before she is banned for life in the WWE. We want anybody to make a living any way they please, but the women’s division is not worse for her being gone. She and her fiance should simply pack their things and head to TNA so we can say goodbye to them forever.
1 Please Come Back: Shawn Michaels
In the movie Dumb and Dumber, Mary Swanson tells Lloyd Christmas the odds are one-in-a-million that she would ever end up with him. He responds, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance!” We think the odds of Shawn Michaels coming back are probably that good, but in Michaels’ case he’s one of the rare wrestlers who left because they wanted to, not because they had to. Also, he once took several years off from his career to nurse a back injury, only to return as good as ever. He did it once, he certainly can do it again. There were rumors he was going to come back to take on AJ Styles at last year’s WrestleMania in his home state, but if he didn’t do it there, he probably isn’t ever going to. Still, we’re allowed to dream. We’re not asking for a full-time career. He could do The Undertaker or Brock Lesnar schedule. We’d just like to see him work his magic one more time.
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