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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
15 Daniel Bryan
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.
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.
11 Sean Waltman
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.
9 Marty Jannetty
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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