The biggest cliche in pro wrestling is 'never say never'. It's always a cop-out answer when a wrestler is asked whether he or she will ever do X or Y again. It's what executives like Vince McMahon and Triple H always answer when asked if they'll ever work with so and so again. Still though, even if we've seen time and time again that anything can happen in wrestling, there are certain instances where we feel comfortable in saying never.
Something that sparked this article is CM Punk's insistence for the past two years that he is never coming back to WWE and even if he does wrestle again, it will be for anybody but WWE. I personally believe Punk will in fact never wrestle for them again, but will one day still be inducted into their Hall of Fame. There have been so many cases where wrestlers were seemingly never going to return to WWE and people who left on far worse terms than Punk who eventually went back. When you build your name in a certain promotion, it's only normal that you would want one last stop there before you leave the wrestling business for good. That's what WWE can offer and why so many wrestlers, who were seemingly never going to return, eventually did. Here are 15 performers who seemed like they were never going back to WWE, but ultimately did.
15 Jim Ross
When a company fires you while you're recovering from a stroke, is that a company that you'd be willing to work for again? That's what happened with Jim Ross, who suffered an attack of Bell's Palsy in February of 1994. Once his contract was up, WWE chose not to renew it. It was disappointing, as anybody who had followed JR in WCW knew how talented he was and knew he would be the perfect successor to Gorilla Monsoon on play-by-play in WWE.
As fate would have it, 1994 was also the year where Vince McMahon had to go to court over the company's steroid scandal. This left the chairman unable to do commentary on a weekly basis, so Ross was re-hired to fill in for McMahon alongside Randy Savage to announce RAW. Ross was again let go after it was revealed he was leaking information to journalists. After a run in Smoky Mountain Wrestling, Ross was again re-hired by WWE in December 1994, where he remained for almost 20 years.
14 Eddie Guerrero
Vince McMahon, for all his faults, is someone who is willing to give second chances. He seems to understand that in a demanding business like pro wrestling, performers are inevitably going to make some mistakes. When dealing with drug and alcohol issues though, it becomes incredibly hard to determine if someone is truly cleaned up.
Guerrero was sent to rehab by the WWE in May of 2001, just a year after he had debuted with the company. In November of that year, he was arrested for drunk driving and it seemed he had blown his chance to become a big star in WWE. Instead, Guerrero's story became one of redemption, as he used the release to get cleaned up, and the WWE welcomed him back in mid 2002.
Not only did Guerrero come back, but he really grew as a performer, as he proved he was more than just a mid-card star, eventually winning the WWE Championship in 2004.
13 Jerry Lawler
Jerry Lawler has now been with the WWE for the better part of the last 25 years. He is currently serving an indefinite suspension until his domestic dispute incident is cleared up by the law. There was a time though when Lawler and WWE parted on bad terms, due to his wife being released by WWE. Following the release of Stacy Carter, Lawler quit the WWE in protest. Lawler has stated that he felt firing his wife was a way for WWE to get rid of him, as they knew he would leave as well. It seemed that Lawler's time was indeed done with the WWE, but that same year, he and his wife split up. The divorce effectively ended Lawler's protest and he was brought back to WWE in November 2001, following the Invasion storyline.
He has now spent the last 15 years in WWE.
12 Daniel Bryan
When Daniel Bryan was released by WWE in 2010 after the incident in which he choked Justin Roberts as part of a Nexus angle, many thought this was extremely hasty by WWE. The WWE in 2010 was in full on PG mode and any display of violence was seen as taboo. Many felt WWE would be petty enough to let this one incident ruin the possibility of getting a big star in Bryan. There was tremendous outrage throughout the summer of how Bryan had been fired so quickly over an incident that probably should have just ended with a warning.
Thankfully, WWE came to their senses and hired Bryan back by SummerSlam 2010. Fans everywhere breathed a collective sigh of relief and Bryan was soon given a solid mid-card push. Bryan eventually became the top star many fans had envisioned and restored a lot of good will for WWE. They're probably relieved they brought Bryan back for five tremendous years with the company.
Madusa was brought in by WWE to spearhead their women's division in the mid-90s, but the problem was WWE had no suitable opponents for her and it was essentially a one-woman show in the women's division. With the WWE phasing the division out, Madusa signed with WCW while she was still the champ. Keeping the belt with her, she appeared on an episode of Nitro with the title belt in hand. On the orders of Bischoff, she proceeded to drop the belt in the garbage can on live television and with that, got herself blacklisted by the WWE.
Madusa would never return to WWE to wrestle a match and it seemed she would never be welcomed back in any way. Thankfully, time healed those wounds and the WWE gave Madusa a rightful Hall of Fame induction in 2015. Madusa has since worked with WWE on Network shows and she looks great at her age. One shouldn't rule out a one-off match from her in the future.
Batista left the WWE in 2010 and soon cited creative differences with the company as the reason for his departure. With the WWE shifting to a PG product, Batista felt that he no longer fit in with the company. Batista then began pursuing an MMA career after his hiatus from wrestling and soon began getting work in movies. In his mid-40s, it seemed Batista was not only done with WWE, but wrestling for good.
In 2014, Batista came back to WWE, winning the Royal Rumble in 2014 and headlining WrestleMania. However it turned out that Batista was right to doubt the creative team, as his return was completely mishandled. Batista suspected he wouldn't be welcomed back as a face by the fans, but the company insisted it would work. Six months later, Batista left WWE again and while we wouldn't say never regarding a possible return, it's clear Batista doesn't need the WWE.
9 The New Age Outlaws
It's hard to believe that Triple H is friends with Road Dogg and Billy Gunn after some of the nasty stuff they said about him a few years back. Road Dogg was fired by WWE in 2001 over substance abuse problems and Billy Gunn was eventually let go in 2004 over failure to get over as a singles star. The two would reunite in TNA as the Voodoo Kin Mafia, taking the initials of VKM, Vincent Kennedy McMahon.
During their time in TNA, the two would relentlessly mock WWE, particularly their old buddy Triple H, when he re-formed D-X with Shawn Michaels. The two not only mocked WWE on-screen, but expressed their resentment for Triple H in various shoot interviews. As Triple H got more and more power in WWE, it seemed the two had burned all their bridges, but the two were eventually welcomed back as road agents, with the tag team even getting a title run a few years ago.
8 Alberto Del Rio
Alberto Del Rio was fired by the WWE in 2014. The release seemed rather abrupt and the story emerged that Del Rio had slapped an employee after he made a racist joke regarding Del Rio's Mexican heritage. Del Rio was released for "unprofessional conduct" but when it was revealed the employee who had made the joke was not disciplined, fans supported Del Rio and this new following made him a hot free agent. He signed with AAA and Lucha Underground, becoming a big babyface. He had the sympathy of fans over how he was treated in WWE and was by all accounts, never going back to WWE.
In late 2015, Del Rio was shockingly re-signed by WWE after being offered a very lucrative contract by the company. Fast forward to now and you're wondering if Del Rio has any regrets, considering how WWE has used him this year. At least his return led to him meeting Paige.
7 Dusty Rhodes
Dusty Rhodes was so horribly mishandled by the WWE when he went there, that once he went back to WCW, you assumed he would never go back to the company that chose to dress him up in polka dots and make a joke out of his American Dream gimmick. Somehow Dusty still got over with the WWE fans, because he was one of the most charismatic wrestlers ever and made it work. It seemed that WWE was punishing Rhodes for being a competitor in a rival promotion for so long.
Dusty would then stay away from WWE for nearly two decades, remaining with WCW until its demise in 2001 and took jobs in other promotions, including TNA, where he helped grow the company in its early years. Eventually Rhodes signed a legends deal with the WWE in 2005 that included a DVD and a Hall of Fame induction. He remained with WWE until his death in 2015.
6 Hulk Hogan
Hulk Hogan and Vince McMahon seemed like former friends turned enemies once Hogan left WWE in 1993, claiming he was done with wrestling, only to sign with WCW a year later. Hogan turning heel helped WCW leapfrog the WWE as the world's no.1 wrestling company and Hogan's handiwork nearly put the WWE out of business. Once WCW folded in 2001, Hogan didn't jump ship right away and it was wondered if personal differences could be put aside for Hogan to come back home. In 2002, Hogan was brought back with the nWo, and soon outgrew the faction and enjoyed a singles run in WWE. He would then remain with WWE on a legends deal and was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 2005.
Hogan eventually signed with TNA to help lead them into a new Monday Night War against WWE. When that failed, Hogan signed back with WWE in 2014 but was fired last year after racist comments he made were leaked. At this point, no one would ever say never regarding a possible Hogan return.
5 Superstar Billy Graham
Superstar Billy Graham was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004 and is credited with being the guy who really paved the way for the over-the-top gimmicks that we saw in the 80s. Elements of Hulk Hogan's character were clearly inspired by Graham and it's clear he was a pioneer for the next era.
After retiring from the ring, Graham severed all ties with WWE and he eventually sued the WWE during their steroid trial, claiming that the company forced him to take steroids. The lawsuit fell apart when it was revealed he had taken steroids prior to his WWE career. He also appeared on The Phil Donahue Show where he claimed he knew that WWE employees had been sexually abusing ring boys. He later admitted he had fabricated his claims and it seemed he had burned bridges with the WWE. They eventually forgave him and gave him his rightful place in the Hall of Fame.
4 Brock Lesnar
Brock Lesnar didn't leave the WWE on the best of terms. From 2002 to 2004, WWE did everything in their power to make Lesnar their next big star and by 2004, he had defeated the likes of The Rock, Hulk Hogan, The Undertaker and Kurt Angle, cementing his spot as the company's biggest young star. Unfortunately Lesnar decided the wrestling business wasn't for him, citing the demanding travel schedule. He went out with a dud, stinking up the joint in a match against Goldberg at WrestleMania XX.
Following his WWE career, Lesnar pursued an NFL career and wrestled in Japan. He had a no-compete clause in his WWE contract that said he could not wrestle anywhere else before June 2010. He challenged this ruling in court, which was followed by a countersuit from WWE. The judge ruled in favor of Lesnar and the two sides eventually reached a settlement. Lesnar then pursued an MMA career and we know how well that worked out for him.
Finally in 2012, following his retirement from MMA, WWE offered him a lucrative contract on a part-time schedule that healed all wounds from Lesnar's previous departure and lawsuit.
3 Bret Hart
Once the Montreal Screwjob occurred, did you ever believe Bret Hart and WWE would patch things up? Bret Hart knocked Vince McMahon out on his way out the door and the two sides bashed each other for years following the incident. Following Owen Hart's death, things got even more complicated, with Bret helping Owen's wife Martha in her lawsuit against WWE.
The relationship finally took a turn for the better when Vince McMahon was one of the first people to call Bret when he suffered his stroke in 2002. The subsequent discussions eventually led to a DVD being made on Bret's career and Hart got a HOF induction in 2006. Still, it didn't feel like a complete return, as Bret refused to show up at WrestleMania alongside the other inductees and remained off of WWE programming.
Finally in 2009, it was revealed Hart has signed with WWE, shortly after Hart had said he was ready to bury the hatchet over previous bad blood with the company. Hart embracing Michaels on RAW in 2010 is an iconic moment and is a big reason why fans don't like to say never.
2 The Ultimate Warrior
An Ultimate Warrior return was probably fancied by wrestling fans before they knew the full story as to why Warrior and WWE hadn't worked together since 1996. When the WWE released The Self Destruction of The Ultimate Warrior it was seen as the end of any possible reunion between the two sides. The DVD was essentially a character assassination against Warrior, and while a lot of what was said on that DVD may have been true, it killed the possibility of the two having a business relationship... or so we thought.
In 2013, Warrior started doing some promotional work for WWE and he was eventually offered a spot in the 2014 Hall of Fame. His return would be one of the most eerie in wrestling history, as Warrior passed away just days following his induction and the very day after his first RAW appearance in 18 years. Whatever ill will was held towards Warrior, it was good to see him one last time before his passing.
1 Bruno Sammartino
Bruno Sammartino and WWE held perhaps the longest grudge in the history of the business. Sammartino was the WWE's biggest star of the 70s, selling out Madison Square Garden countless times and held the WWE Championship for a combined 11 years. Sammartino discovered after his retirement that he had been screwed out of money for years and became one of the most outspoken wrestlers against Vince McMahon.
Sammartino blamed McMahon for the increased use of drugs in wrestling and his resentment for McMahon was furthered by the Attitude Era and Bruno's disgust with what the wrestling business had become.
Bruno didn't talk to WWE for years, but Triple H was able to reach out to the legend and mend the fence. Triple H restored the WWE's relationship with him and Bruno was rightfully inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2013, in New York City, where he had built his name in the business.
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