Every year the WWE makes roster cuts. Not far down the road from those cuts, the WWE brings back superstars we haven't seen in a while. They make more cuts, then they bring more back. It's a never ending circle of releases and debuts that make you wonder if anyone ever stays gone from the WWE for long.
Most recently, the WWE has brought back names like the Goldberg, Mickie James, the Hardy's, Kurt Angle, The Dudley's, Jinder Mahal, Curt Hawkins and others. Some have returned with thunderous success. Other's have been nothing more than enhancement talent who just as quickly faded away. Either way, they probably surprised you with their presence on Raw or SmackDown Live.
Who's next? There are names like Hulk Hogan who if and when he does return, will be welcomed with open arms. There are also names like Ryback who will be the luckiest man alive to ever have that door opened again for him. Some deserve another shot. Some don't.
Keep reading to learn about 10 wrestlers that might get another kick at the can. Then read about 10 more who should never be afforded the opportunity. It was hard to make this list and include everyone. The possible choices are endless. That's the beauty of the WWE — you never know from week to week who might show up unexpectedly.
22 Welcome Back: Jim Ross
We start with a man who would very much deserve another opportunity to return to the WWE in almost any capacity. He deserves that much respect. The trick is, would he want to?
After being unceremoniously terminated by the WWE a while ago, Jim Ross has had a very rough year in 2017. His wife passed away and while he attended WrestleMania 33 and called a match on the card (perhaps in a way to deal with the stress of such a monumental loss), he may not be ready to take on a more permanent role with the company. One would only hope that he'd be interested in an announce position as the teams on Raw and SmackDown Live are in the midst of a bit of an overhaul. Jim Ross would bring some much needed veteran stability to either brand.
21 Shouldn't: Alberto Del Rio
There were a few people on the save Alberto Del Rio bandwagon when he was first released in 2014. Reports surfaced that Del Rio physically assaulted a web producer who allegedly made a racist joke about the former world champion. Many fans believed the wrong person was terminated after that incident and came to Del Rio's defense.
Since then, Del Rio has been invited back to the WWE, made an uneventful return and has again departed after being granted his release. During that time, it's become fairly clear that Del Rio is trouble. He's been known to get into altercations with talent, gets in verbal spars with fans and wrestling promoters and has been the subject of some pretty iffy situations that have caused him to miss independent wrestling events. He's now involved with Paige and to say their relationship is full of turmoil would be putting it mildly. Not much time goes by where Del Rio is in the news for all the wrong reasons.
20 Welcome Back: Evan Bourne
Evan Bourne was one of the most entertaining high-flyers in the WWE. His real name is Matt Sydal and since his WWE departure can be found making the rounds on the independent scene with promotions like Ring of Honor (ROH) and is now currently a member of the Impact/TNA roster. In 2012, he was suspended for violating WWE's wellness policy, and then injured his foot in a motorcycle accident, forcing him out of action. He was released from WWE in 2014.
With the Cruiserweight Division looking for a spark, Evan Bourne would be a perfect fit. He can still fly and he has the type of personality that can create a character the WWE Universe might get behind. The division needs to move back to its roots on the WWE Network where it was all about the in-ring wrestling and Bourne would have no trouble making that a reality.
19 Shouldn't: Goldberg
When Goldberg made his return to the WWE, fans were nostalgic for the old Goldberg that ran rough-shot through WCW and was one of the most over superstars in wrestling. What they actually got was a very abbreviated version of that superstar — which was to be expected. At a much more seasoned age, Goldberg couldn't produce in nearly the same way and not for even close to the same amount of time. It grew old quickly.
At his farewell speech, Goldberg made sure to say "never say never", but it's probably best he leave on a high note. His return wasn't a flop, he got to win the Universal Title and he went out still looking pretty good. Another return would definitely risk any legacy he's built. If there's one thing Goldberg is about besides money, it's his legacy.
18 Welcome Back: Carlito
Released by the WWE in 2010 because he refused to seek help and enter rehab for some out-of-the-ring vices, Carlito has been working mainly in Peurto Rico. Despite being off the grid, he's never truly out of the minds of some of wrestling's biggest fans. If he's back on track in terms of his personal life, there is a very obvious opportunity waiting for him on SmackDown Live.
He's an easy fit with Primo and Epico who have been rebranded after their failed Shining Stars gimmick never resonated with fans. The issue for Primo and Epico isn' their wrestling skill, it's their ability to draw heat which Carlito was able to do in abundance. If brought back into the fold, that could be a trio that does some damage in the tag team division and eventually segway into a singles opportunity for Carlito.
17 Shouldn't: Paige
Paige and her status with the WWE are currently a major newstory. Still technically employed by the company, she's out with a long-term injury and isn't being used, advertised or promoted in any capacity. It's a matter of time before the WWE separates themselves from her and her very turbulent out-of-the-ring life.
As unfair as it is that sensitive pictures were leaked and the crime of invading someone's personal information is not to be taken lightly, Paige has never been a model employee. She's had trouble outside the ring in the past, been warned by WWE officials about both her attitude and behavior and while the WWE definitely shouldn't terminate her because of the photos that were stolen, it's the latest in a line of negative press that the WWE would rather distance itself from. Her connection to Alberto Del Rio isn't helping her cause much either.
16 Welcome Back: Jack Swagger
I was never really a Jack Swagger fan. He had the potential to be a big star, offering the right background, look and skill set, but he didn't amount to much even though the WWE was behind him for the longest time. I suppose that's what bothers me. That he had the support of the WWE and still, he didn't produce.
For some unknown reason, that's also why I'd give him another shot. If he could somehow make good on the effort the WWE had put behind him, he could be a big player. That said, it may not happen for a while if it ever happens at all. He recently asked for his release and was granted it. Clearly, he believes there are things he'd rather do besides cashing a pretty easy cheque every two weeks. When he does finally come back, perhaps he'll be more motivated.
15 Shouldn't: Rob Van Dam
If there was ever a wrestler who describes the epitome of someone who should have become more than he amounted to, it's Rob Van Dam. He was an amazing talent in ECW and for a while, one of the most popular WWE Superstars. He never did reach the heights many thought he might and eventually left because he just wasn't on the same page as the WWE when it came to their Wellness Policy.
He's made a couple of returns to the WWE on short-term stints, but he's proven not to be much of a draw and he's prone to phoning in performances. He's not the kind of wrestler you hire other than to put over new talent and there are probably better options for the WWE even in that role.
14 Welcome Back: Low Ki
Low Ki has been around the wrestling industry for years. He's one of the most experienced performers in wrestling not currently in the WWE and honestly, the WWE is where he should be. After all, his release in 2010 was a joke and showed how flawed the idea of NXT was as a reality show meant to break-in new stars.
Low Ki was the veteran on that show. He had far more experience than any other NXT competitor and easily won the competition, only to be jobbed out of the WWE in mere months. The WWE either had it in for him or viewed his size as the back-breaker to keeping him on board. Either way, it was disgraceful. Today, Low Ki would have a much easier time being accepted as part of the Cruiserweight Division. He's innovate and odd and that could mean great feuds with some of the current cruiserweights.
13 Shouldn't Paul London
We've mentioned a lot of cruiserweights as a possible return option for the WWE. It makes sense that a division that could use a boost would look to former stars to help elevate the product. One person the WWE should not call is Paul London.
Despite his previous history with and connection to Brian Kendrick, along with his former success as both a Cruiserweight Champion and Tag Team Champion, London hated the politics of the WWE. He was released for smiling at Vince McMahon during a very serious angle and he's publicly discussed how he didn't get along well with Vince, Triple H, Jamie Noble and others who are still very much a part of the behind-the-curtain scene in the company. The politics aren't ever really going to go away and if London couldn't find a way to make it work then, he won't now. It would simply be a wasted effort to get him over only to see him depart rather quickly.
12 Welcome Back: Wade Barrett
Wade Barrett had everything one could ask for in a WWE Superstar. He had the sculpted physique, the talent to talk, skill set in the ring and was a legitimate tough guy. He was also often injured and the WWE ran out of ideas for him.
When Barrett requested and was granted his release last May. His time and stint in the company had sort of run its course and both he and the WWE knew they needed a break. Despite the separation, it sounded as though his absence from the wrestling industry was only going to be temporary. If that's true, he could be a welcome addition to either the Raw or SmackDown Live brand. He had a unique ability to get over with the WWE audience despite some gimmicks that shouldn't have ever worked. He has every tool to be a champion and the crowd was super into him.
10 Shouldn't: Damien Sandow
There may not be another wrestler who fans see as having been screwed over more than Damien Sandow was. Seemingly able to get over any stupid and ridiculous gimmick he was placed in, the WWE released Sandow as part of a series of roster cuts in 2015 and the WWE Universe was none too pleased about it.
Since that time, however, Sandow has gone on to join Impact Wrestling and wrestle on the independent scene. He appears to be done with Impact and the experiment was short-lived. He's slowly showing that the WWE may have in fact been correct in their assessment of the wrestler. He's not been able to get over as a larger fish in a much smaller pond and Sandow has publicly commented that he may be wondering if it's time to hang up the boots. He seems to have thrown in the towel after some obvious setbacks. Not exactly the type of performers the WWE would be searching for if grabbing the brass ring is really what they're all about these days.
9 Welcome Back: Shelton Benjamin
Shelton Benjamin almost made a return to the WWE when Raw and SmackDown Live split. He was advertised and promoted, ready to re-debut, but a torn rotator cuff forced him away from those plans. He underwent surgery and started on a long road to rehabilitation.
Both Vince McMahon and Triple H have been quite high on the prospect of getting the former United States Champion back and Benjamin recently tweeted that he's healed and cleared and ready to return. Will that mean the WWE Universe will get to see one of the most innovative, technically sound and entertaining performers return? Only time will tell, but don't be surprised if he shows up unexpectedly one week. Benjamin is a regular on many WWE highlight reels and he'd no doubt provide a boost where former returnees like Curt Hawkins is failing. Can you say American Alpha anyone?
8 Shouldn't: John Morrison
I may be in the minority on this one, but John Morrison has only one tool in his toolbox — he looks good. Outside of that, he's about as overrated as it gets. He can't talk, he flies around the ring but isn't a terribly good wrestler and he's so arrogant it will make your head spin. That so many people wanted him to be a champion and felt he never got a fair shake it crazy.
If he did make a WWE return, I can't imagine the WWE would even know what to do with him. What other possible characters could he offer besides the one that played itself out years ago? He'd wind up a mid-carder the likes of Dolph Ziggler and never really go anywhere. I'm sure neither he nor the WWE wants that.
7 Welcome Back: Shawn Daivari
Clearly, the WWE is deciding to put some time and money into its Indian contingency by giving Jinder Mahal a major push in the championship title scene. The WWE social media sites get their largest return from India and as such the WWE wants to recognize that audience. Would it not make sense then to bring back one of the most controversial India-based characters in the last decade?
As a great mic worker and talented wrestler, there are unlimited options for Daivari if he were to return and team up with Mahal and his new stable. Shawn Daivari's younger brother is actually working with the WWE right now. It could breathe new life into a tired championship scene and give the national WWE audience someone to really loathe while giving a large portion of the international audience someone to rally behind.
6 Shouldn't: MVP
There are a variety of guys who enter the WWE on a high note only to leave with no fanfare whatsoever. That describes MVP, who fizzled out so badly that no one really noticed he was even gone. He was an average wrestler at best and he often looked lazy and uninterested. His "baller" character had potential, but also a hard time catching on with fans because Vince McMahon didn't know what a "baller" was. He had to be told that it had nothing to do with basketball. As a result, the WWE never really got behind MVP and moved him over to play a babyface role. It flopped.
He's been making rounds internationally and showed up for a while on Impact where he was again brought in with a lot of backing and publicity. He faded away again and if the WWE is need of mid-card workers, I suppose there are worse options.
4 Welcome Back: Batista
Batista's most recent run in the WWE wasn't something the company nor the performer are probably proud of. The WWE brought him back as a monster babyface who could main event WrestleMania and instead got a guy who drew heat for his quick rise upon returning. The WWE didn't profit on the handsome investment they likely made and Batista was ashamed of how he was booked. He's been pretty vocal about his disappointment.
Still, the bigger the movie star Batista becomes, the more draw he'll have to the WWE product. The WWE could correct their method for booking his return and make him an extremely hateable heel who thinks he's better than the WWE because he's a huge star. If there's one thing fans hate, it's former wrestlers talking down to them. And, if there was ever a character Batista excelled at, it was making fans hate him for being better than everyone else. He's been public about his desire to return and work a program against Triple H. If Triple H takes on the persona of the father of NXT, with Batista playing the heel role, that could have big potential drawing power written all over it.
3 Shouldn't: Josh Matthews
Josh Matthews was able to turn a failed wrestling career into a very successful and lucrative announcing and commentating career. For that, he deserves some credit. Beyond that, he was not a terribly good announcer and once the WWE realized they had a much better-looking and more talented host in Renee Young, Matthews was old news.
Since his release, he's moved on to TNA and Impact Wrestling where he's sort of found a niche as an annoying play-by-play guy and in the process has taken every opportunity to talk negatively about the WWE. He's opened his mouth on occasion only to put his foot in it and the WWE has much better options. I'm sure if it meant employment, Matthews would welcome a return, but his ever coming back seems like an ill-advised choice on the part of the WWE.
2 Welcome Back: AJ Lee
AJ Lee retired too early. Some will say she went out on her own accord and others will say she left thanks to CM Punk, but most will tell you it was too early for her departure and had she been around for the newly publicised women's revolution in the WWE, AJ Lee would have been a major player putting on five-star matches. It's not too late if she ever decided she wanted to return.
Lee would provide an immediate boost to either Raw or SmackDown Live and could hang in the ring with any of the current WWE Superstars the company is so proud to say is among the best crop of female wrestlers ever. She also had a unique personality which made her character fun to watch. Much more so than her husband, AJ would be welcomed back with loving arms. I don't think the WWE holds nearly as much animosity toward her as they do CM Punk.
1 Shouldn't: CM Punk
CM Punk has been very vocal about his ugly breakup with the WWE and the likelihood he returns is slim. He'll be the first to tell you he has a lot bigger and better things on his plate. But, like most wrestlers who said never, money has a way of conveniently making someone change their minds. There may come a time when the WWE and Punk are back on speaking terms and looking to negotiate a return.
I, for one, am in the boat that while he retired too early, I hope a return never happens (or at least isn't a huge event for the WWE). It can be argued there has never been a more entitled superstar in all of the WWE. He didn't get along with many of the performers, he was a handful to deal with as an employee and he basically shunned the entire wrestling business just to hear himself speak. His return would sacrifice the buildup of another superstar who is far more deserving and he'd likely wind up leaving again when things didn't go his way. Punk is far too much trouble for the value he provides. Unlike Brock Lesnar who dominated the UFC, Punk has proven he doesn't have what it takes in the MMA world and would bring back no validity as a tough guy. He'd simply be a short-term shock-value addition.