The WWE talent roster is always changing and evolving, and we have seen performers leave the company and come back, or hate the way they were treated and say they’ll never come back, but one thing is more-or-less for certain: everyone comes back. This is evident from wrestlers such as The Ultimate Warrior, Bruno Sammartino, Bret Hart and a plethora of others who have long had their reunions with the company.
What about guys and girls who have left within the past few years? This list takes a look at those performers that quit or were let go within the past decade, and whether or not Vince McMahon and Triple H will bring them back within the next few years, or whether we will never see their faces in a WWE ring again.
15 Will: Gail Kim
The WWE has recently been adding to the speculation that they are searching for past female performers to join their current women’s boom, as there are positions open for Alexa Bliss’ title defense at WrestleMania. One name who hasn’t come up, but definitely should, is that of Gail Kim. She has had several runs with both Impact Wrestling and WWE, and while they haven’t all gone smoothly, her performances in the ring have always been consistent. In fact, they’ve been so good that Impact recently inducted her into their Hall of Fame. But that shouldn’t stop the WWE bringing her back into the fold as a veteran presence on either RAW or Smackdown to help with depth problems. She will probably not be given a reign as Women’s Champion, but having a talent like Kim in the division would always be a good thing for the WWE.
14 Won’t: Wade Barrett
Wade Barrett was never going to be a transcendent star in the WWE, but with his entry into the company as the leader of The Nexus, he should have at least been a main eventer and a World Champion. Unfortunately, the WWE was unwilling to have someone go over John Cena, and Barrett became nothing more than a midcard afterthought. He was then let go in 2016 and although some fans thought he would jump straight into the incredibly hot U.K. wrestling scene, he has stayed away from the business altogether. We have heard that he will be commentating on football (soccer) in the U.S, and is also doing some movies, so it’s safe to say that the WWE will probably be the last thing on Wade’s mind over the next several years.
13 Will: John Morrison
John Morrison has the looks, the in-ring ability and the marketability that WWE looks for, so when he was surprisingly released from the company in 2011, it took everyone by surprise, as he looked like he was finally ascending into the main event scene which he had been primed for over the previous few years. He stayed out of the spotlight in the wrestling world for a few years following that, but resurfaced as Johnny Mundo in the wacky, unique upstart promotion Lucha Underground, and in matches with the likes of Ricochet (Prince Puma), Alberto El Patron and more, he proved that he’s still got it. With the WWE lacking midcard depth on both main roster shows, it’s time the WWE calls him up and bring him back into the fold, as he is just the kind of veteran presence they need.
12 Won’t: Jack Swagger
Jack Swagger was never the most exciting or over wrestler in the WWE, but for a time in 2008, on the back of his ECW title run and Money in the Bank win, it looked like WWE had a legit wrestler and a potential future star on their hands. All that came crashing down with his poor World Title reign following his cash-in, and while the company had their chances to capitalize and make him a star, they passed on it and lost a potentially great mid ard act. After trying to make his jump to SmackDown in 2016 and failing, Swagger realized the WWE was not for him anymore, and after about a decade with the company, he was released. It’s safe to say that at his age and after such a lengthy run with the company, WWE realized he won’t ever be what they hoped, so they won’t be tempted to re-sign him.
11 Will: Bobby Lashley
Bobby Lashley was booked as a very predictable "next big thing" back in 2006, but even an ECW World Title win in the Extreme Elimination Chamber wasn’t enough for fans to get behind the bland babyface, and he was eventually released to little to no fanfare. Since that time, Lashley has competed in a few different stints with Impact Wrestling and even competed in MMA, but it is his recent run as the top, main event heel on Impact programming that has been gaining him rave reviews. With the freedom Impact has given him, Lashley has come into his own as an arrogant heel, and his in-ring style suits this perfectly. With WWE looking for top heels, Bobby is the first person they should call, and if he can continue on his hot streak, he might finally come close to fulfilling the lofty expectations WWE placed on him over a decade ago.
10 Won’t: Sami Callihan
Sami Callihan was never one of the biggest names on the independent circuit (compared to the likes of Tyler Black, Kevin Steen or AJ Styles), but he grew a large, hardcore fan base before coming to WWE. It was all downhill from there. Under the PG limitations of the WWE, his gimmick was never going to work, but his fans still remained positive that his unique personality and in-ring style could get over. Sadly, the higher ups in NXT never saw it that way. They gave the hence-renamed Solomon Crowe a chance with his hacker gimmick, but the fans never bought into it, and he requested and was granted his release shortly after, all but confirming that he won’t be returning to WWE ever.
9 Will: Brodus Clay
We all know that Vince McMahon is a huge fan of big men, which makes it all the more surprising that someone the size of Brodus Clay was never treated as anything more than a comedic midcarder. Like many others have done before him and will continue to do, he went out to the independent scene with a chip on his shoulder, eager to prove what he can do without the restrictive machine behind him, and he proved what many fans knew in Impact. There, he was treated as a true monster heel, and was in the main event scene for quite some time, and if anyone in the WWE has seen his work from this time, they will definitely bring him back soon. If used wisely, he could be used in many interesting feuds.
8 Won’t: AJ Lee
We may be seeing someone close to AJ appear on this list later, and although she had quite a short wrestling career, the treatment of her husband may just be the thing that keeps her from wanting to return to the WWE anytime soon. Despite her fairly short career, she achieved quite a lot, and stood out as a star in a division that once focused entirely on looks, and became one of the biggest female stars in recent memory. Sure, it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see Lee return for a one-night-only appearance, but she has stayed busy since leaving, becoming an author and enjoying her post-wrestling life, so her fans definitely shouldn’t expect to see her back in the WWE on a full time basis, not soon, perhaps ever.
7 Will: EC3
Ethan Carter III is probably the biggest missed opportunity in WWE history (in terms of letting go of a wrestler who makes it bigger elsewhere), as he was treated like nothing more than a lower-card jobber in his short time with the company. But as it’s been proven before, Vince McMahon’s assessment of a wrestler isn’t always the wisest. As Derrick Bateman, EC3 had a ceiling, but after resurfacing in Impact Wrestling as Dixie Carter’s spoiled nephew, he has proven that he is the definition of a main event star (as a heel or babyface), and it’s time that he is given a proper chance to show what he is made of in WWE. With his role in TNA diminishing too, there’s never been a better time for him to make the jump back to his old company, and with a bulked up figure and a proven track record, Vince McMahon’s opinion may be VERY different.
6 Won’t: Ryback
Ryback has made his feelings about WWE and talked about how the company booked him in a disappointing way since leaving. When you leave a company and burn that many bridges, it becomes apparent that the Big Guy doesn’t even care about returning to the promotion that made him a star. From telling the fans that everyone should be paid the same to his story about being told to “squash that little twerp” AJ Styles at WrestleMania, Ryback certainly has some unique insights on the world of pro wrestling, and with the way his last run went down, I doubt the WWE is eager to bring him back. As the saying goes, anything can happen in the world of pro wrestling, but outside of our next "won't" entry, I’d say this one is definitely least likely to happen in the next 5 years.
5 Will: Drew Galloway
Drew Galloway came into the WWE under the moniker of Drew McIntyre, and if his ringing endorsement from Vince McMahon wasn’t obvious enough, the company called the Scotsman "The Chosen One." After a few months, it looked like their investment would pay off tenfold, but as the years went on, they struggled to find ways to capitalize on his unique skillset, and he found himself in the jobber faction 3MB, before he was back on the independent scene. Since that time, he has made good on his promise to "reinvigorate" the U.K.’s wrestling scene, and it’s arguably hotter than it’s ever been. While he may feel like he needs to stay and see it out, he won’t be able to resist when the WWE and its money comes calling. Hopefully this time the WWE will treat Galloway like the legit main event star he is, as it would help both him and the company.
4 Won’t: Alberto El Patron
Alberto Del Rio had several runs with the WWE, but following his first firing (including his second run), nothing went right, and if it wasn’t already guaranteed, his relationship with Paige has almost cemented the fact that he won’t be back with the company anytime soon. After he was first fired for slapping a backstage employee, he went back to Mexico and Lucha Underground and became the biggest star on the independent scene, and he chose to return to the WWE. Sadly, it was soon obvious he would regret that. He was put in the horrendous “Mex-America” gimmick and the League of Nations, and after he was given nothing to do in the few months following, he became as stale and boring as anyone in the company. He then left and has kept busy since, meaning that he definitely won’t be returning.
3 Will: The Hardy Boyz
This one will no doubt be happening in 2017, as one of the most popular tag teams in WWE history, the Hardys, have again made themselves household names due to their amazing work in Impact, so it’s in the interest of both parties to bring Matt’s "Broken Brilliance" to the biggest stage in wrestling. It’s quite unclear at this point whether Vince McMahon wants to bring the duo back into the fold under their old WWE guise, or if he wants to showcase the fantastic, unique and often wacky gimmick that the two have adopted in Impact, which also made them wrestling’s hottest act in the year 2016. Whatever the case may be, the two are returning to WWE no later than 2017, and whichever gimmick they choose to portray, the vast majority of fans will be incredibly happy to see them back regardless.
2 Won’t: CM Punk
This one is probably the most obvious, but after the heated way in which Punk’s final few years and eventual departure from the wrestling business went down, it would be surprising to ever see him back inside a squared circle, let alone a WWE ring. With major heat from Vince McMahon and Triple H and other guys at the top, this one definitely won’t be happening in the next few years, and the most likely scenario for Punk is a Hall of Fame induction or a return in a non-wrestling capacity many years down the road. This list is in regards to the next few years though, and as much as fans want it, as much as they still chant his name weekly, it’s not going to happen. Maybe he will surprise the fans and show up on the independent scene somewhere.
1 Will: Cody Rhodes
In 2016, the struggling Stardust gimmick got to Cody Rhodes, and the "grandson of a plumber" decided to take a risk considering his immense talent. He asked for his release from the WWE, and shortly after the no-compete clause in his contract wore off, he began his journey as an independent wrestler. Since that time, Rhodes has been the hottest and one of the hardest workers on the indy scene, and after capturing titles already in several promotions, he is showing why the WWE isn’t always right about their wrestlers.
After creating the buzz that performers like CM Punk, AJ Styles and others did early in their career, there is little doubt that the WWE will look to bring Rhodes back, and if he was smart, Cody would think about rejoining the ‘E. Sure, he wasn’t treated too well over the past few years, but he has made himself into a superstar in the past six months, and if Triple H keeps gaining influence, Rhodes should be brought back into the fold as a major player.