Many memorable wrestlers have endured bitter falling outs with WWE over the years. A lot is at stake when working for such a big company as WWE and ego is always involved. Everyone wants to make it to the top of the company and some have struggled to stay on the same page with management. Various stories have unfolded over the years leading to plenty of WWE stars having horrible departures from WWE. Most wrestlers like Kurt Angle, Bret Hart, Bruno Sammartino and Ultimate Warrior eventually returned in some capacity. WWE and the talents each realized it was best for all involved to get something done.
Not all stories play out like that. Randy Savage is the greatest example of someone never getting to return to WWE after a terrible falling out. The death of Savage would see WWE finally embrace his legacy again, but we never saw him back after his exit in 1994. Chyna’s recent death created the similar story. There are currently numerous active performers that had tough exits from WWE still working elsewhere today. We'll take a look at potential stories from both sides with nine wrestlers that might return after a terrible falling out along with six that will sadly never be back.
15 Might return: Batista
The end of Batista’s most recent WWE run back in 2014, it completely destroyed his love of the company. Batista bombed right away as a face being pushed over the fan favorite Daniel Bryan. It forced WWE to turn Batista heel. The reformation of Evolution was worth it as the three legends faced The Shield in back to back PPV main events but he disliked the fact that WWE split them up right after the series of matches.
14 Might return: CM Punk
CM Punk’s MMA career has appeared to hit a roadblock as there are no plans for a second UFC fight. It's rather obvious that Punk doesn’t have a chance to make it in the MMA industry at this stage of his life. The rumors of his return to wrestling are starting to circulate. Punk had one of the most bitter falling outs with WWE ever and has gone on the record stating he never wants to work there again.
13 Won’t return: Ryback
Ryback basically ruined his relationship with WWE towards the end of his run and has burned all bridges since then. The terrible falling out occurred when Ryback publicly insulted WWE in a long blog about how the company is run. According to Ryback, the pay was unfair and they treated their wrestlers with minimal respect.
12 Might return: Hornswoggle
WWE loved using Hornswoggle as an attraction for the younger audience. As a little person playing a comedic character, Hornswoggle connected with that demographic that just wanted to be entertained with harmless fun. Hornswoggle even joined D-Generation X during one of their returns to show how well he was doing. It all fell apart for him when he violated the Wellness Policy towards the end of his run.
11 Might return: Earl Hebner
Earl Hebner is regarded as the most popular referee in WWE history. Almost every major WWE match from the 80s boom period to the Attitude Era was officiated by Hebner. WWE however fired him and his brother Dale Hebner for illegally selling WWE merchandise on the side for extra money. Hebner signed with TNA during the 2000s and has spent the rest of his career after getting blacklisted from WWE.
10 Won’t return: Simon Gotch
The recent release of Simon Gotch came after months of having heat with the other wrestlers on the roster. Gotch reportedly got into a fight with Sin Cara that hurt his standing in WWE. Instead of things progressing for him to improve his career, it continued to get worse. A report suggested he was the most hated man in WWE for a few months before his release.
9 Might return: Hulk Hogan
Hulk Hogan has been involved in multiple terrible falling outs with WWE over the years and they always seem to make peace. Vince McMahon has a soft spot for Hogan after the two were the biggest forces in the company becoming mainstream in the 1980s. Hogan testified against McMahon in court, tried to run WWE out of business with WCW and refused to put over young talents years later.
8 Won’t return: Brad Maddox
Brad Maddox ended his WWE career in lackluster fashion by crossing the line in a promo that didn’t even make television. The dark segment before a SmackDown taping saw Maddox introduce a new heel character in his latest revamp. Maddox however broke a backstage WWE rule by using the term “cocky pricks” in the ring to insult the fans.
7 Might return: Carlito
The career of Carlito should have been so much more in WWE. Expectations were for him to become a future main event star and potential World Champion. Carlito’s backstage antics and poor attitude sunk his chances at moving up the card. Reports of him being viewed as lazy and unmotivated by management and the top stars said everything about his career.
6 Won’t return: Scott Steiner
Scott Steiner has always been vocal about his feelings towards others in the wrestling business. A singles run in 2003-2004 saw Steiner get signed with the talk of being a huge star only to flop instantly. The series of matches with Triple H ended all plans for him becoming a major player. Steiner would get fired after a long stint in the undercard and off television.
5 Might return: AJ Lee
The decision of AJ Lee to retire at a young age was stated to be due to injuries and wanting to find other opportunities. We all know it was due to the hostile relationship between her employer WWE and her husband CM Punk. Lee worked for another year with WWE after Punk quit and it created tension.
4 Won’t return: Gail Kim
Gail Kim worked for WWE on two separate occasions in hopes of creating a better Women’s Division. The talent and body of work from Kim proved she was a superb wrestler. TNA showcased this in between her two stints that made Gail get the reputation as arguably the greatest women’s wrestler in the world. WWE signed her away the second time and Kim looked to prove her worth.
3 Might return: Rey Mysterio
The controversial end of Rey Mysterio’s WWE tenure almost ruined over a decade of a great relationship. WWE tried to keep Mysterio under contract due to a clause that saw his prior injuries that allowed them to retain it. Mysterio wanted to become a free agent wrestling on his own schedule without the wear and tear of the WWE workload.
2 Won’t return: Alberto Del Rio
Alberto Del Rio’s most recent WWE stint ended very publicly and still gets uglier by the day. The relationship between Del Rio and Paige was something the company tried to nip in the bud before it got as serious as it is today. Both wrestlers ended up violating the WWE Wellness Policy for failing a drug test. Alberto requested his release after refusing to return after the suspension.
1 Might return: Cody Rhodes
Cody Rhodes set a precedent as one of the rare wrestlers making great money to choose to leave WWE for the independent circuit. The desire of Cody to leave a legacy in the wrestling industry made him bet on his own passion. WWE wanted him to continue playing the Stardust character that was obviously going nowhere. Rhodes told WWE he wanted out and it made them look bad in the process.
Things have worked out perfectly perfect for Cody about a year into his new career chapter. Rhodes is the current ROH World Champion, a prominent member of Bullet Club in New Japan and a huge star outside of WWE. Between his bookings and a new merchandising deal with Hot Topic, he's allegedly making more money than he did during his WWE days. All of this may lead to WWE offering Cody a great deal when in a year or two. Recent interviews have stated he would be open to it despite being happy where he is now.
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