WrestleMania 33 is quickly approaching with a lot of pressure on the WWE to keep up the momentum. The past few WrestleMania events have delivered huge success. WrestleMania 32 set the WWE record for attendance making it the biggest show of all-time. One constant for WrestleMania season is the abundance of veterans coming back for the show. Legends and part-time stars are on the card with hopes of it attracting more fans to make it an even bigger destination to attend or order through the WWE Network. That will likely continue in 2017 but fans are not excited for of all potential names out there.
Many of the free agents or retired stars that could possibly appear at WrestleMania in some form are indeed exciting. Everyone loves nostalgia with matches, promos, backstage segments and Hall of Fame prospects making it wide open for a plethora of names to return. The negative aspect provides the wrestlers that have less excitement surrounding their names who might be coming back to the company on the biggest stage of them all. We’ll look at both sides of the potential returns. WrestleMania 33 should give us the best card possible. Some big names can help and others need to remain out. Here are eight wrestlers that should return for WrestleMania and seven that need to stay away.
15 Return: Kurt Angle
Wrestling fans have been dreaming of Kurt Angle returning to the WWE for many years. However, rumors state Triple H personally doesn’t want Angle back and Vince McMahon is afraid of the risks attached with the severe injuries he’s suffered in the past. Despite that, Angle is one of the bigger stars on the free agent market and could make a huge impact with a return.
We badly want to hear Angle’s music play one more time in the WWE, with the fans lovingly chanting “You Suck” and the icon returning to the company that made him a star. Angle could pull off one more match or just participate in a promo segment. Regardless of how they might use him, Angle having any role at WrestleMania 33 would add a lot to the show. Angle is a big enough star and beloved figure to make anything work.
14 Stay Away: Rob Van Dam
Rob Van Dam was one of the most exciting performers of his time. The ECW legend followed his extreme days with a Hall of Fame worthy run in the WWE. Sadly, RVD's time appears to be up, as seen with his past few returns to the WWE a couple of years ago. The lack of passion of Van Dam has for wrestling these days showed in his work.
A recent interview on the Steve Austin Podcast featured RVD saying he flat out doesn’t care about wrestling anymore, but that he would be open to returning for the right of money. If Van Dam has no genuine passion for delivering great moments, there’s really no point to having him back. We’ve seen how pointless his recent returns were and there should be no room for him in today’s WWE, especially at WrestleMania.
13 Return: Steve Austin
One person that always has a place in the WWE landscape is Steve Austin. His legendary run during the Attitude Era made him the biggest star in company history. Today, Austin makes the occasional return with most of his appearances coming at WrestleMania shows. The days of dreaming for one more match out of Austin are over. If he wasn’t coming out of retirement for WrestleMania 32’s record breaking attendance in his home state, there’s no chance of it ever happening.
However, Austin still can contribute in the form of a guest appearance. His legacy makes it a big deal any time he appears on WWE television. WWE’s booking of WrestleMania can easily place him in a role that can benefit one of the matches on the show. Every longtime fan has an attachment to Austin and the crowd response to his music is worth an appearance.
12 Stay Away: Kevin Nash
Kevin Nash’s friendship with Triple H has allowed him to once again become a part of the WWE family. We saw Nash get involved at WrestleMania 31 in the Triple H versus Sting match by having the New World Order reunite for one night only to help their old WCW foe, Sting. Nash was also inducted into the 2015 WWE Hall of Fame class as the headliner.
WWE has developed a tendency to have various Kliq reunions over the years at the Hall of Fame that extend over to WrestleMania. Hopefully that has ended and we will no longer have to witness Nash return. He has hinted at being in the best shape of his life in hopes of possibly having another big WWE match. Despite that, no one needs to see Nash step foot in a ring again.
11 Return: Goldberg
As of this writing, Bill Goldberg is in a program with Brock Lesnar on WWE television and the fan response to Goldberg has been overwhelmingly positive. No one in the WWE could have predicted that a Goldberg return would have this much success. The mainstream attention, along with the fan support, and means there’s more money to be made with an extended WWE run for Goldberg.
Goldberg has only had one WrestleMania match in his career and it was his disappointing WrestleMania XX match against Brock. If everything goes well in their rematch, WWE should bring back Goldberg for one final match on the biggest stage. The fact that WrestleMania 33 is only a few months away means that the momentum from his current return could still be hot enough to deliver something special.
10 Stay Away: Daniel Bryan
Daniel Bryan's retirement is still fresh in the minds of fans, giving them some hope for one more run. Bryan has gone on the record to say he believes he is personally healthy enough to wrestle again. WWE however remains adamant they won’t clear him to wrestle believing his concussion issues are too severe to risk wrestling again. We all need to accept Bryan is not returning, no matter how great it would be.
Bryan working as the SmackDown General Manager is the best we can hope for and that he'll be involved in making the matches that other people will work in at WrestleMania 33. The fact that Bryan and Brie Bella are expecting their first child next spring means the chances of him continuing to fight against WWE’s wishes are coming to an end. Maybe he’ll appear in a backstage segment, but there's no way he should be in in-ring action or anything physical.
9 Return: Vader
The wrestling world was saddened with the news of Vader alerting fans that doctors told him he has less than two years left to live. Many years of wrestling and football apparently damaged his heart to the point of it nearly giving up. We hope Vader can prove the doctors wrong and live many more years, but the time to celebrate him is now. Vader is a wrestling legend that will go down among the most underrated greats.
WWE needs to induct him into the Hall of Fame as soon as possible and WrestleMania 33 weekend is the ideal scenario. Vader getting celebrated in front of his peers and fans at the HOF, along with getting to take the stage at WrestleMania, would make for a special moment. Hopefully WWE does the right thing and makes it happen.
8 Stay Away: Lita
The rise of the women’s division in the WWE has created new stars with many more coming. You can’t celebrate the future without knowing history and Lita is historically one of the greatest female performers in WWE history. The company currently employs her as a broadcaster and in a backstage role. It's nice to see her give her insight as a legendary figure in the sport.
However, Lita does not need to make a return to the ring. Her days of wrestling are over. Despite her incredible track record, Lita does not appear to be in the in-ring shape to compete with today’s stars. Lita worked a few independent appearances in-between her WWE stints and she looked to have lost the magic. It makes no sense to risk a bad ending to her storied career.
7 Return: AJ Lee
One woman that does have the ability to compete with the female stars of today is AJ Lee. Her career ended in 2015 when she made the decision to leave the WWE. Her husband's, CM Punk, war against WWE likely passed over to her making it tough to work with the big company. Lee retired as the biggest women’s wrestling star in the division before the influx of NXT stars were called up.
The potential of a big return could deliver great matches, pitting Lee against the likes of Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks or Bayley. Lee has star power that could benefit the women’s divisions that need to thrive on both Raw and SmackDown Live. WrestleMania 33 is the perfect place for her first match back. Regardless of CM Punk’s status, Lee is a great wrestling talent that would be a key piece to have back.
6 Stay Away: The Dudley Boyz
Bubba Ray and D-Von Dudley returned to WWE in 2015 for a one year run and it did not go well. Aside from nostalgia, The Dudleys did very little of note and failed to make an impact after the emotions d. The problem with them is they didn’t change anything from their prior days in the WWE and tried to rely on their old gimmick connecting. Old school fans appreciated it, but new fans didn’t care.
Both men also struggled to keep up with the younger talents of the company. WWE used them to put over the newer stars like New Day, The Wyatt Family and Big Cass & Enzo Amore. The WWE decided to let their contract run out, giving them a nice sendoff. D-Von now works backstage for the company and Bubba is back to being Bully Ray on the independent wrestling circuit. They're where they belong at the moment and WrestleMania 33 wouldn’t benefit from having them.
5 Return: The Hardy Boyz
One Attitude Era tag team that does a better job connecting with today’s audience is The Hardy Boyz. Matt Hardy has completely reinvented himself in TNA and is one of the hottest acts in the wrestling business. Jeff Hardy is still a tremendous talent that carries a great deal of star power with him. Both Matt and Jeff would provide WWE with a much needed new attraction.
The great part is they can work effectively as a tag team or in singles action. WWE’s best option for WrestleMania 33 would likely be The Hardys coming back as a team to face off with New Day in a dream match. The boost could help the tag division become way more relevant than it is now. Matt and Jeff have cemented themselves as top acts in the industry again and WWE should absolutely bring them in for the biggest show of the year.
4 Stay Away: The Rock
This may sound sacrilegious since The Rock is an obvious all-time wrestling great and one of the biggest stars in all of entertainment today. Sadly, he does not result in compelling television in his WWE returns anymore. His most recent appearance at WrestleMania 32 summed it up best, as The Rock returned by lighting a set piece of his name on fire before entering the ring.
The Rock then proceeded to make the same old jokes before he made a fool out of Bray Wyatt and the rest of The Wyatt Family. They were completely exposed at the expense of giving The Rock a funny moment. He should stay away from WWE for a couple of years until there’s a meaningful role for him. His filming of various movies prevents him from competing in the ring makes his appearances rather pointless.
3 Return: Shawn Michaels
Shawn Michaels has been retired for almost seven years now with no temptation to return to the ring, even though wrestling fans desperately want the legend to come back to the squared circle for one match. Michaels appeared at WrestleMania 32 for an appearance and looked to be in the best shape of his life. There’s no doubt he still has it in him to add another wrestling match to the many classics throughout his career.
Rumors are out that WWE have been knocking on Michaels’ door for quite some time now hoping to convince him to bring his star power out of retirement. A.J. Styles tweeted out a teaser photograph of him facing off with Michaels in a viral hit that caused fans to desperately want to believe it was true. It is unlikely but we all seriously hope Michaels has one more match at WrestleMania 33.
2 Stay Away: Hulk Hogan
The iconic Hulk Hogan has been exiled from WWE for his racist comments being revealed in a leaked sex tape. WWE cut bait with Hogan right away when the news broke but there are rumors circulating that they are considering bringing him back. Hogan will always be synonymous with the WWE brand for his glory years in the 80s and 90s. However, there’s just no place for him in today’s wrestling world.
Hogan can’t wrestle and he is not reliable enough to use in a regular role. Drama has followed Hogan throughout his career and the recent incident proved he still hasn’t learned his lesson. WWE made a stand by getting rid of Hogan. Bringing him back will potentially set a precedent that they no longer believe he did something terrible. They can’t open a can of worms for someone that has very little left to contribute.
1 Return: CM Punk
The biggest name that can possibly return and still deliver greatness for an extended run is CM Punk. WWE saw Punk leave due to frustration in how he was being used and being exhausted from the grind of the schedule. Punk has recharged his batteries training in MMA, but his UFC debut resulted in colossal failure. Punk is a better fit for the wrestling world and there will be a lot of money on the table for him to return.
Punk’s genuine disdain for Triple H and vice versa could correlate in a great angle worthy of main eventing WrestleMania 33. Punk is still young enough to have a few more years of high level production. Wrestling fans still chant “CM Punk,” making it clear they miss him. Punk returning benefits everyone involved and would make WrestleMania a can’t miss event.