Vince McMahon is not spoken of in the most glowing terms by people. That includes himself. His mantra has long been “wrestling is a rotten business and you have to be a rotten guy to survive in it.” He has not just survived but thrived by often stepping on people left and right and with little care. The list of people broken by Vince and his antics is long and it’s not surprising so many hate his guts.
Yet, several times, Vince has shown a surprising heart. He’s offered free rehab to wrestlers needing it and while he can be brutal, he has also shown an ability to let past differences go. Some of it is business, of course, seeing the potential in bringing a top star back but many times, it can be Vince acting out of actual kindness to give someone a break. They can be people who left in a cloud, hit by personal issues or folks who seemed to have run their careers into the ground in another company. But WWE has been willing to give them a second shot and it can work out well (although, of course, a few duds along the way). It’s always intriguing how someone you thought would never ever grace a WWE ring again not only returns but gets a good push too. Here are 20 workers WWE granted a second chance to and shows even Vince McMahon has some heart.
20 The Dudley Boyz
A recent entry, the Dudleyz had set themselves as one of the biggest teams of the early 2000s, holding multiple tag titles and the TLC battles with the Hardys and Edge & Christian getting crowds hot. They still seemed to have life in them when they were let go in 2005 and moved to TNA, holding gold there as a team while Bubba Ray would establish himself as a good singles star as well.
It was a surprise when Bubba Ray returned at the 2015 Rumble and then reuniting with D-Von on RAW a few months ago. They still get major fan heat and even with reports of them being “phased down,” it was still notable how WWE gave one of the most successful teams of all time another shot at the big belts.
19 Kevin Nash
Nash’s past issues with WWE are well known. He was pushed hard as a singles star, right up to WWE champion in 1995 but then blamed for the bad business of that year despite all the other issues surrounding the company. This led to further clashes. Nash gave Vince a verbal promise he’d re-sign but then jumped right over to WCW. So you’d be forgiven to expect Vince would never give Nash another chance. Yet in 2002, he was back with Hall and Hogan and even pushed in 2003 in a singles run.
He’d make a return in 2011 for a feud with Triple H and another return at Mania this year. Nash has always been cited as a fun guy to be around with his attitude and thus easy to see why, despite his physical drawbacks, WWE is willing to give a big name another try.
18 Scott Hall
After a stint in WCW, Scott Hall was brought in as Razor Ramon, a spin on Al Pacino's Scarface character, Tony Montana. Hall pulled the role off beautifully and won the Intercontinental Championship on multiple occasions. Hall would bolt for WCW in 1996 after getting a contract offer too good to refuse.
The WWE would eventually bring him back in 2002, but Hall's constant drug and alcohol issues would see him released from the company just months after his return.
Recently, Hall was taken in by Diamond Dallas Page to clean up, through DDP Yoga and flushing the toxic out of his body. While addiction remains a battle for Hall, he did enough for WWE to grant him a HOF induction in 2014. He even made an appearance at this year's Mania as part of the nWo. Let's hope Hall stays on the right path, so he can work with WWE, as Hall has one of the sharpest minds in the business when he has his head on straight.
17 William Regal
While he’d had a good run in WCW, Regal was hampered by alcohol and drug addictions, leading to some firings, including 1998. WWE welcomed him in 1998 with the infamous “Real Man” promos but his run was short before he left the company. He returned in 2000 as European champion and a run as the company’s commissioner, having fun being the arrogant Englishman. His runs since have been marred by suspensions due to violations of the Wellness Policy, including one that cut short his funny role as RAW GM in 2007.
Despite that, Regal is still with the company, as they respect his ability and smarts about the business, showing how being good at your job is often enough to forgive some of your more troubling personal issues.
16 The Road Warriors
For years, Hawk and Animal were acclaimed as the most popular and powerful tag team in wrestling, running roughshod over the AWA and NWA with WWE trying to emulate that with Demolition. In 1990, the Warriors finally came in as the Legion of Doom, taking Demolition down and soon with their own tag titles. However, age was catching up to them as were injuries to Animal and Hawk’s personal demons and they split in 1992.
After a few years off, they made a surprise return in 1997, soon back as champions before WWE turned Hawk’s troubles into a storyline in 1998. However, they still had another shot in 2003 which sadly ended by Hawk’s sudden death. But in 2005, Animal was given a chance, working with Heindrich as a new LOD for a tag title run and still pops in now and then. The legend of the Warriors may never truly die and WWE has helped that out with the chances given to them.
15 Daniel Bryan
When the Nexus debuted in 2010, it was a huge thing, these rookies coming out to destroy the RAW workers, announcers, ring, set and go all out in a wild attack. During it, Bryan choked out Justin Roberts with his own tie which Bryan felt just fit in with the assault. However, sponsors were not happy and thus Bryan was immediately fired, throwing off the idea of him as the leader of the group. Thankfully, WWE was able to see this wasn’t his fault and by SummerSlam, Bryan was back to begin his already legendary run as one of the company’s most popular stars. WWE can no doubt be happy they made this choice to push Bryan once more although it’s still sad how his saga eventually ended.
14 The New Age Outlaws
Thrown together as an afterthought, Road Dogg and Billy Gunn forged a terrific team that would hold multiple titles, rock the Attitude Era and give WWE one of its most famous catchphrases. Their fall could be traced to some drug issues from both, with Jesse James leaving for the indie circuit, he and Gunn eventually reuniting in TNA. That included a ridiculous bit where they challenged DX to a fight for a million dollars that Dixie Carter honestly believed WWE would accept.
Despite all that, the two returned in 2012 for a DX reunion and then actually got pushed to winning the tag team titles once again in 2013. Wrestling can be odd like that as HHH was no doubt the big voice in letting these guys get another run at the top which was nice to see for long-time Attitude Era fans.
A rough worker, Batista improved enough to be given a run as World Champion but also got into trouble backstage for fights, his ego and affairs. It built up to his departure from WWE, quitting in the ring and leaving in a massive huff. His return in 2014 was rough, fans not happy about his push to the Rumble win and Mania main event but he did his best with it. It ended up being shorter than expected with injury and the success of Guardians of the Galaxy making him a bigger Hollywood star but Batista did get a better shot at another run than most in WWE do.
12 The Hardy Boyz
Both brothers have gotten numerous shots from WWE even after some bad times. Their runs as tag team champions and stars of the TLC battles built good will before Jeff left in 2003 for a TNA run.
Matt would remain until the infamous Edge/Lita affair came out when he was fired. The massive fan backlash led to Matt making his return for a feud and a good push despite injuries.
Jeff would also return in 2008 and be back on the singles stardom run, set for a title run but a failed drug test ruined that. Still, WWE kept him on as Jeff made a return, teaming with Matt a few times but also holding the WWE Championship on his own. Both brothers have left but WWE showed they had a surprising ability to give them both second chances as testament to their great stardom.
11 Sean Waltman
As part of the “Kliq,” Waltman was a big player in WWE in the 90s, hanging with HBK, Hall and Nash and having a wild party style amid his skills. He joined Hall and Nash in WCW as Syxx but was fired while recovering from injury. That fired him up big-time for his return to WWE in 1998, joining DX and blasting WCW in his opening promo. He would continue for several years as a prime player, getting into various feuds but still earning a return in 2012 and for Mania this year. He may be a jerk at times but the fan heat X-Pac has remains unique and why he’s been given so many shots.
10 Jake Roberts
Jake has always been haunted by his personal demons and while that helped at times with the inner darkness that gave him a unique aura, they interfered in his pushes. While he was terrific in WWE in the 1980s, his addictions got worse, not helped by how Jake could often be drunk or high and not giving the obvious signs. He left in 1992 for a run in WCW that was terrible and only lasted a few months.
After years on the indie circuit, he made a big return in 1996, pushing a clean lifestyle. That included a feud with Jerry Lawler bringing up his drinking problems and inadvertently helping to create “Austin 3:16.” Those demons returned to drive him back out but Jake made a return in 2005 and more recently for a “Legends” RAW. Jake is up front on his problems and it’s good WWE was willing to give him a few more shots to do what he did best.
9 Marty Jannetty
When the Rockers split up in 1992, Shawn Michaels got the major push off the bat while Marty Jannetty was taking time off to “recover from injury” when in truth he was dealing with addiction issues. He made his return in 1992 to fight Shawn, setting up a match at the 1993 Royal Rumble where Jannetty showed up obviously drunk and was fired right afterward. He managed to convince them he was okay after a few months rehab and beat Shawn on RAW for the IC title. Jannetty kept around for a while, holding the tag titles briefly before leaving for a long WCW run but made a return in 2005 for a one-night “Rockers Reunion.” He’s up front on how Shawn was always the better star and seems grateful for the company giving him shots when they didn’t have to.
Truly the first Diva of the Attitude Era, Rena Mero pushed the boundaries in sexual appeal for WWE programming, from bikinis to basically topless. She also showed herself a capable worker to push the revived Women’s title. However, things were rough backstage as her ego got pretty huge and making various demands and in 1999, left the company and hit them with a huge lawsuit.
Bridges were rebuilt and she returned in 2003, pushed back on SmackDown while doing interviews for WWE’s own magazine on how she’d been wrong with her attitude before. She would be gone again in 2004 but it's nice that the lady who paved the way for so many other Divas got a second chance to enjoy some success.
7 Eric Bischoff
It wasn't a second chance in WWE, but it sure was a second chance in the business. It’s still remarkable to see it happen. Throughout the Monday Night War, it was quite obvious how McMahon and Bischoff loathed each other, Bischoff taking it to WWE hard with various methods and gloating over his success. Their off-air beef was well known with Bischoff openly challenging Vince to a fight. When WCW went under, it was natural folks thought that was the end of Bischoff's run in the business.
So it was quite the shock when Vince brought Bischoff out as the general manager of RAW in 2002. Some criticize the move as wasting the potential for Bischoff fighting Vince and most believing it was just Vince getting the ultimate revenge of his rival working for him. But it’s still notable how the guy who helped WCW to its highest point got a chance at WWE as well and even doing stuff after his TNA run.
6 Alberto Del Rio
The most recent name on this list, Del Rio had gotten a good push from WWE in the past but failed to really connect with fans, despite his skills in the ring. It came to a head in 2014 as he got into an altercation backstage with an employee who made a racist joke and was fired. That seemed to be the end of it all with Del Rio going around ROH and Mexico.
However just this October, he made a return at HITC as the surprise challenger to beat Cena for the U.S. title. He got a good reaction in it and seems ready to continue and thus it looks like Del Rio may take advantage of a true second chance to get his career going.
5 Brock Lesnar
It was obvious Vince had big plans for Brock when he debuted in 2002, pushing him hard right off the bat, letting him be WWE champion in record time and putting him over clean on The Rock and Hogan. Brock would be a fantastic star for the company for the next two years before his infamous departure in 2004 following the horrible bout with Goldberg at Mania.
His run at UFC enhanced his reputation so it’s easy to see why Vince would overlook those past issues to have Brock back. He’s done great business since and is still a powerhouse for fans to get behind and proof bringing him back was one of WWE’s better moves of the last few years.
4 Hulk Hogan
Hogan got a tad more chances than most people would. When he first debuted in WWE in 1979, Hogan had a great look but didn’t seem that great in the ring. It took Verne Gagne and the AWA to really make Hogan the star he was. He was brought back to WWE and pushed as champion.
In 1992, Hogan left under a cloud but came back the next year to get the title right back. However, he and Vince had another major falling out over money and promotion and so Hogan left and later took WCW to new heights.
Thus, it was a surprise when WWE brought Hogan back in 2002 and he took off as popular as ever before. He would make a few more returns, even after TNA and shows Vince always had a soft spot for Hogan no matter what despite his personal issues.
It's easy to see why, as Hogan helped push the company to its greatest success, so of course Vince would give him a longer leash. We'll see if the his most recent transgression in the leaked racist audio is the last straw or not.
3 The Ultimate Warrior
Similar to Hogan, Warrior got plenty of chances in the WWE. He was a huge star and champion but it seemed to go poorly for him as Hogan was still the guy and Warrior’s ego led to clashes with Vince and he left the company in 1991.
Vince decided to give him another shot in 1992, pushing the Warrior hard and he seemed ready for a title run again. But just days before he and Randy Savage were to team on a heavily promoted Survivor Series main event, Warrior left.
In 1996 came yet another chance, only lasting a few months before Warrior bolted over issues of money and his push. This led to years of bad blood between him and Vince that included online slams and the “Self-Destruction” DVD.
They finally mended fences in 2014 for a new DVD and the Warrior was inducted in the Hall of Fame just a few days before his shocking death. There was a lot of bad blood but it’s good that he and WWE managed to get over it in the end to give him the fair treatment Warrior's legacy deserved.
2 Shawn Michaels
Michaels had a few chances with WWE. He and Marty Jannetty were signed on in 1987 but only lasted a week before Vince called them into his office, made his famous “boots are made for walking” talk and fired them.
They were back a year later and Shawn is up front on how they should have been fired a dozen times for their antics but saved themselves with their great ring work. As Shawn began his singles push, he got more attention but his hard partying got him into trouble. This led to his suspension over drug use in late 1993 although he did get a fast rehab to return.
We had the “lost my smile” bit and his return again before the 1998 injury that forced him out. He remained with the WWE in a part-time on-screen role, but after showing up to work intoxicated, he was sent home and release. It was a blessing in disguise for Shawn as he used the time to get himself cleaned up.
WWE didn’t have to take him back in 2002 but that proved to be a great move as Shawn exploded as a star once more and back on top. He’s changed his attitude for the better and truly used the second chance from WWE to fix his reputation to be regarded among the greats of the business.
1 Eddie Guerrero
The tragedy of Guerrero’s death is that the man was one of the great success stories of wrestling. He was always amazingly talented for years in WCW but hampered by alcohol and drug issues that became worse after a car accident. When he joined WWE in 2000, it was a good push but his drinking and drug use got out of control and he was fired.
That should have been it but Eddie decided to fight back, getting himself clean and sober, reuniting with his family and making amends for his past. He rejoined WWE and was soon back on top as a multiple time champion, more popular than ever with his “Lie, Cheat, Steal” persona and reaching the pinnacle in 2004 by winning the WWE Championship. He remained one of the bigger stars, truly inspiring how he conquered his demons and thus why his death is all the more tragic.