The statement that everything old is new again applies to a number of different things. Movies, music and artists will take an idea and recreate it so that it appears newer, fresher and, hopefully, better. But that isn't always the case. Movies are redone, songs are remade or clothing styles of a generation before come back and don't do well. For wrestlers, reinventing who they are and what they do on a yearly basis is what keeps them relevant. It gives them meaning and shows fans that this wrestler is able to adjust and change with the times. That idea is usually a great one! However, when it comes to some wrestlers, sometimes you attempt to recapture old glory and something goes wrong, whether it's bad booking, bad timing, a bad gimmick or just being in the wrong place and at the wrong time.
The wrestlers on this list had successful careers based on a number of reasons: the championships they won or the money they earned. These wrestlers did what they needed to do to turn heads. In the case of some who left WWE, however, their return didn't go as they had probably hoped. Fans may have hoped for a return that was memorable for positive reasons, but sadly some returns were painfully unforgettable. We applaud their attempts to make a successful return, but acknowledge that a return is only effective if everything is just right. Blame it on stars not being aligned or fans just not warming to their returns, but these particular wrestlers fizzled about as quickly as their return was announced. Here are the top 13 less than stellar WWE returns.
Wrestling fans will remember the Wild Samoans, Sika and Afa. What they may not recall was that a couple of years after their time together in the WWE was over, Sika returned and teamed with Kamala for a brief time. He even competed as part of the battle royal at WrestleMania IV. It is hard to imagine Sika without Afa, but the legendary Anoai brothers were separated for a time and Sika tried to blaze his own path. Unfortunately, having him aligned with anyone not named Afa was a bad idea. His run was short-lived.
Matt Bloom was known during his initial run in the WWE as Prince Albert, a big guy with piercings all over his face. But something happened between his departure and return. He returned to the company now known as Tensai and with massive tattoos all over his head and torso. The character never connected with fans and he was shortly reduced to being Big T, one half of the Tons of Funk tag team with Brodus Clay. It was unfortunate because Bloom is a dedicated worker, but his return was poorly handled. It also didn't help that the fans would jump all over him, chanting: "Alllllllllbert" every time he'd come to the ring.
11 Superstar Billy Graham
Many wrestling fans today never saw Billy Graham wrestle. He is considered an influence on wrestlers such as Hulk Hogan, Scott Steiner and Jesse Ventura. But when he returned Graham was in considerable pain. He had received hip replacement surgery and was supposed to be someone that could achieve the popularity that Hogan had because of his look and charisma. He wore brightly coloured clothing and had all the tools that made him popular in the 70s. The problem was that it didn't connect at all and Graham was used as a manager and commentator for the duration of his time with the company.
10 Chris Jericho
While his returns have been special in the past, they seem to be a little less special than they once were. His most recent return has seen him take part in feuds with New Day and AJ Styles. While this may create some amusing television, it lacks the excitement and creativity fans were fortunate to have seen in the past when watching Jericho. Long gone are the days of ‘Save Us Y2J,' and his feud with CM Punk that really pushed the boundaries for Jericho as a heel. His latest return has recently been reduced to chanting “rooty tooty booty.”
9 Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat
As a long time Ricky Steamboat fan, this return pains me. It has little to do with the fact that he came back, it is sadly based on how he was portrayed when he returned. During the 1980s, ‘The Dragon' nickname started because he was known for using martial arts in his matches, and also because he resembled Bruce Lee. When he returned, the nickname was supposed to represent ‘man that breathes fire and dresses like a dragon on his way to the ring'. While I'd like to forget this moment and this return, Steamboat probably would like to as well.
8 Saba Simba
“Mr. USA” Tony Atlas had an incredible physique, and was known for his strength and accomplishments prior to being in the WWE. When he returned to the company, WWE thought it would be a good idea to not only change his name, but have him dress like a lion. Saba Simba was not only stereotypical because of its supposed African references, but it also didn't help fans remember what Atlas was before. This return would have been better left kicked to the curb, but for the fact that the company was committed to make it work.
In the fall of 2013, advertisements came out promoting the return of Batista. Batista had a very successful run with the company prior to leaving them earlier in the decade. After his return, he competed in the 2014 Royal Rumble, where the fans booed him mercilessly. While this had more to do with fans' desire to see Daniel Bryan win the Rumble, it didn't help his cause. The result was Batista turning heel, since fans weren't receptive to him, and losing in the triple threat main event at WrestleMania XXX.
6 Marty Jannetty
As one half of the tag team The Rockers, Marty Jannetty was very successful. But when he left, the fans thought the ship had sailed, and there was little nostalgia for him individually. In 1992, Jannetty returned, renewing his rivalry with long time partner Shawn Michaels. The feud fell flat after he lost to Michaels at the 1993 Royal Rumble. While it was speculated that he was competing under the influence, which he has denied, the quality of the match wasn't what it could have been and Jannetty was released soon after. His comeback in 2009 was more credible as he actually looked pretty good. He wrestled particularly well in a match against The Miz on Raw, but substance abuse issues got him fired...again.
5 Rob Van Dam
He may be one of a kind, but something didn't seem right with Rob Van Dam when he returned to the promotion in 2013. He clearly wasn't in the same shape he was before. This former WWE champion was known by fans for doing spectacular signature moves, but those signature moves just weren't as exciting and didn't have the snap they once did. In 2013 and 2014, Rob Van Dam should have once again created a buzz because he was The Whole Damn Show. Unfortunately, RVD was used more to highlight other's skills than his own.
4 The Ultimate Warrior
In his second return to the company back in 1996, The Ultimate Warrior was supposed to have the same effect on fans that he did when he was among the biggest faces of the company in the late 1980s. He returned and faced off against Hunter Hearst Helmsley at WrestleMania XII. Within minutes of entering the match, he was knocked down and hit with a pedigree, but completely no sold the move and immediately got back up and made quick work of his opponent. But soon after he left the company again, this time never to return until his Hall of Fame induction.
3 Honky Tonk Man
“The Greatest Intercontinental Champion Of All Time” is guilty of one of the worst returns of all-time in WWE. When Honky returned, his role wasn't as a wrestler, but as a manager. Whom did he manage? Billy Gunn! After the split of The Smoking Gunns, Billy was rebranded, taking his first name and doing a play on words with it, and aligning him with The Honky Tonk Man. The result was Rockabilly, a memory we would gladly forget. If there is return that fell flat, it would have been this one for HTM.
2 Scott Steiner
“Big Poppa Pump” was a very successful character during his time in WCW. Before that, he was a very successful tag team wrestler alongside his brother Rick. The problem is when you leave and come back, there has to be something memorable about you. In Steiner's case, they unfortunately will remember him ‘blowing up' during his match against Triple H. As Steiner grew in size and musculature, his workrate suffered and sadly so did his mobility. This wasn't the Steiner fans had become accustomed to watching, just a poor shadow of himself that they were seeing in the WWE.
1 Kevin Nash
If ever there was a return that was less than memorable it was that of Kevin Nash. When he first returned, it was part of the return of the new World order. That quickly dissolved, and the members of the faction left or moved to different things. Upon Nash's second return, he interjected himself in the CM Punk/Triple H feud. Nash has never been known for being the best worker, and while he is a great character his relevance that was less meaningful because of his many departures and returns. He even had his ‘friendship' with Triple H come to an end.