The first several months of any calendar year represents the most exciting time of World Wrestling Entertainment programming. WrestleMania season, as it is known among passionate followers of the product, brings with it the conclusions of storylines, the creations of new feuds and also anticipated returns of well-known names and former performers who have worked in the WWE and in other promotions such as New Japan Pro Wrestling, Ring of Honor and even the defunct World Championship Wrestling. In the past, many of these returns occurred during Royal Rumble battle royals, and that trend continued up through the 2018 edition of the event. Not all returns are anything other than one-offs, but some lead to wrestlers getting opportunities to remain with the company because of the reactions they drew from fans.
A couple of the rumored returns mentioned in this piece played out at the 2018 Royal Rumble, and fans posting on social media and in wrestling forums have fantasy booked how their latest, and potentially final WWE runs will play out this year. Other rumors are unconfirmed as of the posting of this piece, but there are more than a few reasons to believe the wrestlers linked with these stories will appear on either Raw or SmackDown at some point between the Monday after the Royal Rumble and the end of 2018. As stacked as the WWE roster is on the main roster down through the NXT brand, there is always room for big-name returns who will get over and sell merchandise on WWE Shop and at house shows.
18 Bella Twins
Both Brie Bella and Nikki Bella made anticipated returns to the WWE during the 2018 Royal Rumble. In somewhat of a surprise, Nikki eliminated Brie when the two were set to toss Asuka, the winner of the first ever women’s Royal Rumble, and some may believe that was meant to set up a potential feud between the two once they sign for either Raw or SmackDown.
We do not envision that story being told. There have, in the past, been numerous occurrences of a wrestler eliminating a teammate or friend from a Rumble because it’s “every man or woman for himself,” only for the two to continue on as normal following the event. That is what we would book for the Bella twins once they return to full-time action, if only for a portion of 2018.
17 The Bellas' Returns: Tag Team Champions
It wasn’t all that long ago when it felt as if the women’s division was filled with a plethora of females who looked good but who couldn’t work all that well. In 2018, there is actually an excessive amount of talented women wrestlers on the roster for only one belt on each of the major brands.
The Bella Twins are over among casual fans who watch Total Divas, and they could wrestle as heels or babyfaces who become the first women’s Tag Team Champions of the modern era. To get this concept over, the WWE could have the Twins defend their titles on both Raw and SmackDown. The could work programs together as an unstoppable duo, and they could make the new championships feels like a big deal in storylines.
There was a time when we were convinced Batista would not entertain the thought of returning to the WWE. He has done well to become a Hollywood star on his own, he doesn’t need the WWE promotional machine to plug his movies or other projects, and he is financially secure without ever working even a single major match inside a WWE ring.
Much like Cody, Batista has recently teased that he would be willing to return to the WWE for a brief run. There were rumors in early January that Batista could return to compete in the 2018 Royal Rumble, but he did not appear at that event. Rather than waste his return on a show only diehard fans would watch, we would save it for the Raw after WrestleMania if his schedule would allow him to do so.
15 Batista's Return: An Animal Among Men?
Batista is a big and jacked dude who should work with another massive wrestler once he returns. We cannot think of a better program for the former champion to have than a feud with Braun Strowman. Strowman, by all accounts, will be out of the main title picture ahead of WrestleMania as Roman Reigns prepares to battle Brock Lesnar at the biggest show of the year, and he likely won’t feud with The Miz for long once the two meet.
Strowman and Batista could produce a couple of great "big guy matches,” and Strowman beating Batista could help keep him over leading up to an anticipated run with the Universal Championship once those making booking decisions realize Reigns shouldn’t hold the top title on the Raw brand.
Arguably the best overall story told in pro wrestling in 2017 was Goldberg serving as the Universal Champion until he dropped that belt to Brock Lesnar at last year’s WrestleMania. The former WCW Champion is in his 50s, and he has publicly talked about how difficult it was to train and get into the shape he wanted to be in for television shows and matches.
With that said, Goldberg appeared to genuinely enjoy his time with the promotion, and it is believed he has another run in him in 2018. It likely wasn’t a mistake that Goldberg did not retire or rule out a return after he walked away from the promotion in the spring. Both he and the WWE realize there is still money to be made in a return and a future run.
13 Goldberg's Return: The Land Of Opportunity
Just like the matches that he had during his last stint in the WWE, Goldberg’s next, and probably final, run in the company should be short, impactful and then end before things get stale. We’ve already seen Goldberg work on the Raw brand and with the likes of Lesnar and Kevin Owens. We would like to see him head over to the SmackDown roster to wrestle against heels he didn’t compete with in late 2016 and 2017.
Goldberg could compete in some interesting matchups against the likes of Baron Corbin, Mojo Rawley, Jinder Mahal and Rusev, before losing a WWE title match to Shinsuke Nakamura. He could then serve as SmackDown’s captain for a Survivor Series showdown with Raw wrestlers before setting up a program with a heel that would culminate at the 2019 edition of WrestleMania.
12 Trish Stratus
She was humbled and honored during her long-awaited return. Trish Stratus appeared during the 2018 Royal Rumble match entering at number 30. Not too shocking, Stratus received a thunderous pop from the crowd.
Now not only did Trish return to the match but she looked to be in fantastic shape, arguably the best of her entire career. What's truly mind-blowing is the fact that she's a mother of two and in her 40s, yup, truly surreal. Rightfully so, the Philly crowd chanted "you still got it" during her appearance, Trish didn't miss a beat performing several of her signature moves along with ousting a couple of female talents from the match. It was a terrific display from the WWE Hall Of Famer and one that had lots of fans talking.
11 Trish's Return: The Boss At WrestleMania
One of top moments from the match featured an epic stare down between a heel Sasha Banks trash-talking the ever so popular babyface Trish Stratus. When the two were looking at each other, the WWE might have teased a future match between the two changing camera angles and showcasing the WrestleMania sign behind the two. Stratus mocked Sasha, although Banks had the last laugh eliminating Trish from the Rumble match.
Seeing as Trish has still got it and given the reaction the two got together, a match between these two would be a perfect way to get Trish back into the mix. It would also add another women's match to the WrestleMania card; seriously, who wouldn't want to see a heel Sasha against the returning Trish on the Grandest Stage of Them All?
A rumored WWE return that may be more wishful thinking than something that will actually occur in 2018. Per multiple credible reports, Neville walked away from the WWE because he was less than pleased with his spot on the roster after he lost the cruiserweight championship and his spot as the top guy on 205 Live, and he hasn’t returned to the company since.
Whatever you think of 205 Live, it’s a safe bet to suggest that show and the division, as a whole, has been worse off since Neville packed up and left. Neville has proven he can get over as a heel or a babyface, he’s a tremendous worker, and the company could use his services on multiple brands heading into WrestleMania and the summer months.
9 Neville's Return: A Glorious Feud
We would actually love to see Neville go back to 205 Live assuming the company is going to continue to produce that show for the foreseeable future. Knowing what we know about how Neville viewed his role in that division and the show, however, we’d like to see him given a chance to feud with Bobby Roode over the United States title.
Just about nobody out there wants or needs to see Dolph Ziggler return to feud with Roode over a title he dropped for no real reason in WWE storyline, Neville is a better heel and a better worker than Ziggler, and it would be a fresh tale to tell on the blue brand. Neville would be one of the better mid-card heels on SmackDown in 2018.
8 Rey Mysterio
If you’re anything like us, you popped big when Rey Mysterio’s music hit during the 2018 Royal Rumble. After all, it had been rumored for some time that Mysterio was on the cusp of signing with Impact Wrestling before the end of 2017. Mysterio looked and moved great during the Royal Rumble, so much so that one may suggest he actually performed better than he did during his last run in the WWE.
Per the Wrestling Observer and other respected outlets, Mysterio’s return to the WWE was a one-night only occurrence, and he has not yet per pen to paper on a deal with the company. Following how he wrestled and got over during the Rumble, we believe his rumored return is something that will occur sooner rather than later.
7 Mysterio's Return: The True King Of The Cruiserweights
Hear us out before you completely trash the idea of Mysterio returning to the WWE to feature on Live 205. By all reports, Live 205 is going to continue even after the Mixed Match Challenge ends, and the Cruiserweight division has been a total disaster following Neville’s departure. With Enzo Amore being fired, that brand desperately needs a star who can carry the cruiserweights and who can produce entertaining title matches on the WWE Network, on Raw and during pay-per-view events.
Mysterio’s mere presence would add legitimacy to the division, and he would instantly be one of the biggest stars who wrestled in Cruiserweight matches on Raw. Besides, we would just add him to the main roster after his time in the Cruiserweight division ended.
For what it's worth, we can even see the scenario of Mysterio perhaps joining forces with fellow Mexican and current NXT Champion Cien Almas.
6 Cody Rhodes
We are adding Cody Rhodes among one of the rumored WWE returns mentioned in this piece even though we don’t expect to see Cody on WWE programming at any point until the fall months. Cody is currently working overseas and in Ring of Honor, and he and the tag team the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega are allegedly planning a big show that they are booking for September of this year.
Once that show ends, however, Cody would, potentially, be free to do whatever he wants to do heading into the Survivor Series and/or the holiday season. Recently, Cody has hinted he would be willing to accept a return to the WWE under the right circumstances. He’s done well to get himself over among independent audiences, and he’d be a star back in WWE.
5 Cody's Return: Bullet Club Brothers
Cody’s gimmick outside of the WWE essentially is that he is wrestling royalty, because of his famous father, and that he is a rich mega-star due to his run in the world’s largest wrestling promotion. He could continue to play this character in the WWE once he makes his return.
Truth be told, Cody could feud with A.J. Styles over the WWE Championship and their roles in the Bullet Club. Cody could claim he got the Club over more than Styles ever did because he’s a bigger name, and he could even suggest that he is the better overall wrestler who deserves to carry the championship and the flag for the SmackDown brand. Cody, working as a heel for this feud, and Styles would create multiple great matches.
4 Daniel Bryan
We absolutely understand, and even appreciate, that the WWE is not willing or wanting to risk Daniel Bryan suffering a serious head injury following his long history of concussions and other head-related traumas. Still, the company has happily cleared Kurt Angle to return to action, and it was long rumored the promotion would never allow him to work even a cautious match, let alone take battles in a Survivor Series contest.
We don’t foresee Bryan going through tables or flying off of a cell during a WWE return, but the company has teased that he will participate in feuds with Miz and, more recently, with Shane McMahon. We know Bryan wants to wrestle again. The WWE should make some money, book him and, in the process, protect him from himself.
3 Bryan's Return: Feud With Shane
As long as Triple H and others are willing to sit down with Shane McMahon and tell him that soaring through the air to deliver a drop kick through a trash can and Bryan’s head is unwise, we want to watch McMahon and Bryan feud over control of the SmackDown brand.
Bryan would be the babyface among audiences regardless of how the company books him, he wouldn’t have to go crazy with stunts during a contest or multiple matches, and he could still remain an on-air authority figure who only worked occasionally. This is what is best for his long-term future even if he would, in a perfect scenario, once again be a full-time worker. We want to see Bryan wrestle again, but we also want to rest easy knowing he is safe and healthy.
2 Hulk Hogan
You know what guys, I don't know what's harder, trying to be a @tussaudsorlando wax figure or locking up in the ring. Good luck staying still. I mean, I tried to hold my breath. It only lasts so long then you get a little wobbly. We got something special for the maniacs to enjoy real soon. HH #hulkhogan #hulkster #hulkamania
Yes, we understand the WWE would have to clear it with sponsors before even considering allowing Hulk Hogan to return following comments the Hulkster made in the past. Time heals all wounds, people have short memories, and Hogan returning to the WWE for a final run in the company seems inevitable. Why not allow it to occur in 2018?
Hogan has been out of the news and the spotlight for long enough, he hasn’t done anything to attract any negative attention in recent memory, and we don’t think a company would have any real issue with the WWE bringing him back as an on-air character. One thing should be clear: Nobody needs to see Hogan have anything resembling a competitive match. His time in the ring is over.
1 Hogan's Return: Raw GM
Hogan should replace Kurt Angle as the main on-air authority figure of Raw. Angle could then have one last run as a wrestler who has feuds with Triple H, A.J. Styles and other wrestlers, and Hogan, the more entertaining of the two (no disrespect meant, Kurt), could replace Angle and, hopefully, be somebody who stands up to Stephanie McMahon during promos.
Hogan as Raw General Manager would spice things up, potentially lead to a brief increase in ratings, and sell some merchandise. It’s a win-win for all involved so long as the WWE doesn’t receive any pushback from sponsors who may not want the company affiliated with Hogan because of his past. Truth be told, we look forward to seeing the Hulkster make a return before leaving the promotion and industry he helped propel to greatness in the 1980s on his own terms.