World Wrestling Entertainment is the last of the major professional wrestling companies left standing in the United States. The WWE has shown over the past several years that the organization is interested in building what may, all things considered, be the strongest and deepest roster in the history of North American pro wrestling. Along with having mainstays such as John Cena, Randy Orton, Chris Jericho and also the three members of what used to be "The Shield" signed to the main roster, the WWE has also acquired talents such as Finn Balor, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Shinsuke Nakamura, A.J. Styles, Asuka and several others.
With all of that said, it would not be an understatement to suggest that it would be downright foolish for any personality, even a star, to burn a bridge that connects him or her to the WWE. Even somebody who is released by the company would do well to do whatever possible to, at the very least, leave the company on good terms and with the knowledge that a return could be in the cards at some point down the road. Just ask Luke Gallows if you don't believe that somebody who was once cast aside by the WWE can make a return to the company and also be treated like a big deal in WWE storylines.
There have, of course, been numerous stories of WWE stars who did not leave the company on good terms for one reason or another. Some have joined up with promotions such as Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, Ring of Honor and/or Lucha Underground, and those individuals may never again make a return to the WWE. Others who left the WWE on bad terms have, however, been welcomed back to the company with open arms. Two of the biggest WWE stars of The Attitude Era walked away from the company on rough terms and both were thankfully able to return home to the organization as if they had never left in the first place.
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15 Hulk Hogan
It makes sense to begin with the person who was famously fired by the WWE in 2015. Hulk Hogan had his contract terminated by the WWE in July 2015 after racist and ugly comments of his were made public. While there are obviously pockets of WWE fans who would happily welcome Hogan back, there is no question that Hogan returning to the WWE anytime soon would be a bad look and would also, intentionally or not, suggest that the company has no problem with the comments made by Hogan years ago.
Those of you who were watching World Championship Wrestling during the “Monday Night Wars” probably remember seeing Madusa, who had been known as Alundra Blayze during her WWE run, literally trash the WWE Women's Championship during an edition of Nitro. That, as you can probably guess, did not make Madusa many friends within the WWE. Things came full circle in March of 2015, however, when Madusa was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. She even took place in a segment where she removed “her belt” from a trash can. It's nice we can laugh about such things now.
13 Alberto Del Rio
It is hard to not side with Alberto Del Rio over the story of his departure from the WWE in the summer of 2014. Del Rio was apparently shown the door because he had slapped a producer backstage after that producer had allegedly made at least one racist remark. Sources such as The Wrestling Observer reported Del Rio's account of the incident, and Del Rio has also spoken about it during interviews. While you can't blame the WWE for firing a wrestler who was technically guilty of assault, we are all happy to see Del Rio back in the company as of 2016.
12 Jeff Jarrett
While “never say never” is a common phrase in the pro wrestling world, it seems safe to assume that we'll never again see Jeff Jarrett in the WWE. As the story goes, Jarrett was the reigning Intercontinental Champion in 1999 when his contract with the company expired. Jarrett, in a position of power, made a deal for money and/or stock options (depending on the version of the story you believe) before he dropped the title to Chyna on his last night with the company. After that infamous match, Jarrett worked for WCW, and he then founded both TNA Wrestling and Global Force Wrestling. When Vince acquired WCW, on the final edition of Nitro, the only wrestler he fired on-air was Double J.
11 The Ultimate Warrior
It is nice that The Ultimate Warrior and WWE were able to patch things up before Warrior's tragic passing in April 2014. Warrior and the WWE had been at odds for nearly two decades before that and the heart of the feud dealt with Warrior's departure from the company in 1996 after he had missed some scheduled appearances. While Warrior claimed he had missed the shows because he was mourning the death of his father, the WWE, mainly Vince McMahon, believed that Warrior was in breach of contract. The rocky relationship was eventually repaired, although fans everywhere will wish that Warrior would have been welcomed back to the WWE with open arms sooner.
10 Earl Hebner
Some might see this portion of the piece and then suggest that karma can strike at different times and in different forms. Nearly eight years after the events of the “Montreal Screwjob,” in which Earl Hebner served as the referee who called for the bell, Hebner was unceremoniously fired from the WWE after it was learned that Hebner had allegedly been involved in selling merchandise without authorization from the company. There seems to be some truth to the story, as Hebner has never been welcomed back to the company despite the fact that everybody else involved in the “Screwjob” has a relationship with the WWE today.
9 Randy Savage
There will always likely be rumors about why the WWE and Randy Savage had such a falling out that Savage was essentially blacklisted from the company even after the death of WCW. According to a DVD released by the WWE, Savage was unhappy about the “Nacho Man” skits, particularly one that hinted that Hulk Hogan may have had an affair with Miss Elizabeth, that aired during the early days of The Attitude Era. Savage was also apparently unhappy with the fact that Triple H had said unflattering things about both Savage and Hogan in the past. “Macho Man” passed away in a car accident in 2011, before he could be officially inducted in the WWE Hall of Fame. A sad ending to a great career.
8 CM Punk
The words that CM Punk spoke on Colt Cabana's Art of Wrestling podcast that was released in November 2014 are still familiar in the minds of wrestling fans who listened to Punk explain why he had walked away from the company earlier that year. Punk complained about royalties that he claimed were owed to him, he hit out at WWE medical staff, and he stated that he no longer had a working relationship with the company. Is it possible that Punk could return to the WWE if his Ultimate Fighting Championship career doesn't work out? We suppose, but we wouldn't advise anybody to anticipate seeing him back on WWE TV anytime soon.
7 Brock Lesnar
It was not all that big of a deal that Brock Lesnar wanted to leave the WWE following WrestleMania XX so that he could pursue other interests. At least it wasn't, until Lesnar was sued by the WWE for allegedly violating a non-competition agreement that he had with the company. This occurred after Lesnar had wrestled in Japan. Lesnar and the WWE ultimately settled, and the terms of that deal were not officially released. Lesnar, as you know, went on to have a successful UFC career before making a return to the WWE in April 2012. “The Beast,” as he is known, remains an active member of the WWE roster.
6 Daniel Bryan
Do not just assume that things between the WWE and Daniel Bryan are fantastic following Bryan's retirement in February 2016. Bryan explained during the WWE 24: Thank You, Daniel special that is available on the WWE Network that he had to retire because of the many concussions he had suffered during his career. The former WWE World Heavyweight Champion also talked about how he was not keen on making his retirement speech in Seattle and that Vince McMahon ultimately convinced Bryan to publicly retire in front of an adoring audience. Bryan was scheduled to make multiple appearances for the WWE leading up to WrestleMania 32, but he was pulled from those events. His status with the WWE is, as far as we know, in limbo.
5 Steve Austin
It is almost hard to believe that it has been 14 years since “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and the WWE went through a public breakup. Austin was upset with what the creative team had come up with for his character in the spring of 2002, so much so that he walked out of shows on multiple occasions. Austin's last walk-out resulted in "Stone Cold" being criticized by Vince McMahon and The Rock during a Raw segment, and the company made it clear that Austin's exit was not part of any storyline. The wounds created at this time were ultimately healed, however, and Austin returned and ultimately had a final match against The Rock at WrestleMania XIX.
4 Zahra Schreiber
There are times where you cannot blame the WWE for parting ways with a talent. That was the case in August 2015 when the company fired Zahra Schreiber, reportedly the then-girlfriend of Seth Rollins, after it was learned that Schreiber posted what appeared to be pro-Nazi art on her personal Instagram page. Some social media activities can, in time, be forgiven. Posting a swastika on what is clearly your personal page apparently does not make the list. Schreiber can really only blame herself for failing to leave the WWE on good terms and there is little reason to expect that we will ever see her on WWE television.
3 Rey Mysterio
You may have missed when Rey Mysterio and the WWE parted ways in February 2015. The reason for this could have been that the company was not willing to allow Mysterio to leave the WWE before his contract expired and yet the WWE also had no desire to use Mysterio in storylines or on WWE programming. The former WWE Champion has since featured for AAA and also for Lucha Underground. While things can change over time, it appears that we have probably seen Mysterio have his last match while working underneath the WWE umbrella.
2 Jim Ross
“Good ol' J.R.,” as he has been affectionately known by WWE fans, reportedly retired from the WWE in the fall of 2013 following the well-known WWE 2K14 roster release that featured, among other people, Ross and “Nature Boy” Ric Flair. Ross, per his own admission, said something negative about a sponsor during that event, while allowing Flair to go off the rails, and Ross has stated that he was given his walking papers by the WWE because of what occurred. Anybody who has questions about whether or not Ross wanted to retire need only look at his busy schedule in 2016, one that has included Ross taking on announcing gigs. We hope to see Ross work one more WrestleMania before he hangs up his headset for good.
1 Bret Hart
It will probably forever be the most-famous case of a WWE star leaving the company on bad terms. Bret “Hitman” Hart had, in his eyes, been mistreated on the night of the infamous “Montreal Screwjob” that occurred before he left the WWE to go to the WCW, and Hart responded by (allegedly) punching Vince McMahon in the face. Nobody could be blamed for believing in the fall of 1997 that Hart would never again work for McMahon or the WWE. Hart was officially welcomed back to WWE television in January 2010, however, and he even had a brief run with the United States Championship.
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