The free agent list in wrestling right now has given us a few huge signings by WWE. Many of the recent WWE signings have featured formerly employed talent returning to the company for another attempt at bigger success. Drew McIntyre won the NXT Championship after a successful independent wrestling run gave him the momentum to return to NXT in a major way. The recent news of Ethan Carter III possibly signing with WWE could see him return to NXT as well. Shelton Benjamin and Mickie James returned in roles that saw them get back on the main roster.
There are quite a few wrestlers on the free agent market that want to return to WWE. Sadly, Vince McMahon will not allow them to return based on either having an ugly falling out with them or just not believing they don’t have it takes to succeed today. The other side of WWE signings features former WWE stars doing well that Triple H would want to bring back. Triple H tries to sign all the top names available on the free agent market. Unfortunately for him, not everyone wants to join the company. We will look at both sides with eight wrestlers that want to return to WWE but will be rejected by Vince McMahon along with seven that Triple H wants to bring back with little hope of it happening.
15 Vince won’t approve: Bobby Lashley
Most fans would believe Vince McMahon wants Bobby Lashley back considering he is a jacked muscle head with talent. Lashley was actually the top prospect of McMahon at one point. Vince viewed Lashley as the next big star to join John Cena and Batista as the faces of the company in 2007. Therefore Lashley represented Donald Trump against Umaga in the Battle of the Billionaires match as a major opportunity to become a star.
Lashley however failed to live up to his potential at the time and wasn’t ready for the major spot. Both parties reportedly parted ways in bitter fashion. Lashley has finally come into his own over the past five years in Impact Wrestling. The contract of Lashley ending has him wanting to return to WWE for a chance at main event money. However, the negative departure last time may prevent Vince from bringing him back.
14 Triple H won’t be able to sign: Cody Rhodes
Cody Rhodes is thriving outside of WWE after being told the company wanted him to work as Stardust for the foreseeable future. The request of Rhodes to be released from his contract was granted. Cody was inspired to change the legacy of his wrestling career. Instant success came with Rhodes working in promotions all over the world before making his home in Ring of Honor and New Japan.
The star power of Cody is hotter than ever as one of the vital members of the Bullet Club. Rhodes is planning a major show in a large venue in September with the money coming out his pocket along with the Young Bucks. Triple H would love to bring Cody back to the company as a bigger star, but this is clearly not happening any time soon. Rhodes is loving his freedom outside of WWE too much.
13 Vince won’t approve: Batista
The recent rumors of Batista wanting to return to WWE are a bit misleading. Batista has confirmed that he wants to return to WWE, but he wants a few guarantees. The 2014 run of Batista was a huge failure with it falling apart right away. Batista felt the booking failed him and it is hard to argue with that. A future return would have Batista making demands as a bigger star than ever before thanks to his acting career.
Batista has stated that his main reason for wanting to return is to have another big match with Triple H. The desire of Batista is to end his career at a major event facing Triple H. Prior talks have seen Batista claim that Vince McMahon has no interest in it. If the match isn’t planned, Batista won’t want to return unless he gets his dream match and Vince doesn’t seem to want to go for it in one of Triple H’s rare yearly matches.
12 Triple H won’t be able to sign: Emma
Emma was one of Triple H’s first projects in the NXT women’s division. It is no coincidence that Triple H went with Paige and Emma as his first two homegrown stars in the women’s division to show to the world. We saw Triple H’s belief in Emma when she was saved from being fired a few years ago. Emma was accused of shoplifting leading to WWE releasing her right after the news broke. Triple H stepped in to help her get rehired hours later when more information came out in her defense.
Emma remained on the WWE roster for years mostly thanks to Triple H seeing something special in her. The time ran out when Emma released her in late 2017. Triple H would clearly love to have her back, but Vince McMahon and others in management seemed to be sick of her. Emma will have to deliver incredible performances on the independent circuit and build back her star power to get a chance to return.
11 Vince won’t approve: Melina
The run of Melina saw her become one of the top women’s wrestlers in WWE. Melina played a great heel character that brought a new level of athleticism to the women’s division at a time when the others settled on just being attractive. Despite the talent and hard work of Melina, the backstage issues hurt her career. Melina was known for being a drama queen leading to drama with the rest of the roster.
Most of the locker room reportedly hated Melina making her one of the bigger train wrecks in WWE history. Melina was working hard at getting back in ring shape over the past few years. She was rumored to be on WWE’s radar for the early stages of the brand split before it was turned down. Vince McMahon will likely not bring her back thanks to the past issues hurting her reputation.
10 Triple H won’t be able to sign: James Storm
James Storm leaving Impact Wrestling has opened the opportunity for him to return to NXT or even the WWE main roster. Triple H gave Storm the chance in NXT with a handful of appearances on NXT TV that received positive attention. Storm ultimately chose to return to Impact Wrestling due to a bigger contract offer. However, Impact continued to fall further down the totem pole hurting his momentum.
Storm is already campaigning for another chance in WWE. The fact that his former Impact peers Bobby Roode, AJ Styles and Samoa Joe have all thrived on the WWE main roster likely gives him regrets for not taking the NXT deal over TNA. Triple H has already signed so many talents on the independent circuit in recent months. Storm is now older and less valuable making it impossible for Triple H to sign him over some better options out there.
9 Vince won’t approve: Ken Shamrock
A random name to talk about his desire to return to WWE in recent months is Ken Shamrock. The former UFC star received a mid-card push in WWE. Shamrock had some memorable matches against The Rock, Shawn Michaels and other top names. The career of Shamrock was always on the verge of moving up the card, but he could never truly become a main eventer.
Shamrock believes he still deserves to be in the Hall of Fame considering wrestlers below him in the Attitude Era pecking order have made it. A few interviews saw him state he wants to wrestle again and end his career in WWE. This doesn’t seem likely since Shamrock is older, beat up and had a bad ending to his WWE stint.
8 Triple H won’t be able to sign: Zack Sabre Jr.
The Cruiserweight Classic was a success for WWE Network. Unfortunately, the decision to bring the Cruiserweight division to the main roster with no build turned into a disaster right away. It has been over a year and the cruiserweights are still struggling to get over. One of the few wrestlers to turn down a WWE contract for the Cruiserweight division was Zack Sabre Jr.
Sabre has proven to be rather intelligent as his star power continued to grow on the independent circuit. Success in PWG, Evolve and New Japan all have made Sabre one of the top indie names today. Meanwhile, the careers of just about every man to sign for 205 Live have fallen downhill. Sabre is a hot commodity but remains insistent has no interest in signing with WWE. Triple H will not be able to acquire Sabre unless he offers a huge contract.
7 Vince won’t approve: Carlito
Carlito was one of the biggest examples of wasted potential in WWE. Vince McMahon wanted to push him as a big star with huge plans for a main event run. To put it in perspective, Carlito defeated John Cena for the United States Championship on his first night in the company during Cena’s run as a popular face rising to the top of WWE. The career of Carlito saw him get a few chances that never led him above the mid-card.
WWE started to sour on him when the reputation being lazy and unmotivated followed him. Carlito fell lower and lower down the card. His WWE career ended when he failed a drug test and refused to go to rehab on the company’s request. Carlito will likely never return if McMahon viewed him as being lazy. This is why he’s never mentioned as being on WWE’s radar despite still wrestling without a contract.
6 Triple H won’t be able to sign: Rey Mysterio
Rey Mysterio is clearly one of the top free agents on the market right now. Triple H loves to acquire anyone with name value to add to his success as the vice president of talent relations. Mysterio has remained healthy and is back to full health wrestling on his own schedule. Lucha Underground was the home of Rey for a few years before his contract expired last year.
Impact Wrestling has been looking to sign Mysterio to a huge contract. Triple H would love to bring Mysterio back to WWE but is unlikely they will offer him a main event level contract. Impact seems like the best for him at this point given the lighter schedule and bigger role. Time will tell if Triple H can convince Vince McMahon to bring out the check book to bring back Rey one more time.
5 Vince won’t approve: Vince Russo
The names to come out for returns to WWE for Raw 25 have featured former backstage personnel such as Bruce Prichard and Eric Bischoff. Both guys have podcasts today that help keep them relevant. Another pundit with hot takes on his own podcast is former WWE head writer Vince Russo. The reputation of Russo is negative, but he did write a lot of the most memorable segments on Raw during the Attitude Era.
Russo recently flat out admitted he wants an invite to Raw 25. No one from WWE reached out to him. Vince McMahon clearly has no time for Russo after he left the company in 1999 and killed his legacy with awful runs in WCW and Impact Wrestling. Russo is doomed to end his career ranting about everyone and everything in vlogs with no acknowledgement from WWE.
4 Triple H won’t be able to sign: Kenny Omega
The top active wrestling name on the market right now is Kenny Omega. New Japan is seeing Omega deliver classic match after classic. Omega is elite enough to have convinced Chris Jericho wrestle outside of WWE for the first time in decades. Everyone is talking about Omega in a way that hasn’t happened for a wrestler outside of WWE in many years.
Omega used to be on WWE’s payroll in developmental at OVW. The time there was miserable for him to leave and make his goal to become a star in New Japan. Omega has been involved in rumors about going to WWE, but nothing has come from it. This would be the biggest signing for Triple H if he can get Omega over the next year or two. However, Omega’s love for NJPW makes it unlikely Triple H will be able to pull it off.
3 Vince won’t approve: Alberto Del Rio
Alberto Del Rio has become one of the most controversial men in wrestling after his 2016 departure from WWE. Following backstage issues over his relationship with Paige and getting suspended for violating the Wellness Policy, Del Rio requested his release from WWE. Since then, we have seen Alberto trash WWE and curse out Triple H every chance he gets.
Del Rio made it his goal to make WWE look as bad as possible in most of his interviews over the past year and a half. We have seen a change following the end of his relationship with Paige. Alberto has stated he wants to come back to WWE and blamed Paige for making him believe things that led to him ripping WWE. There’s no chance in hell of Del Rio returning to WWE again at this point.
2 Triple H won’t be able to sign: CM Punk
CM Punk is one name that will never go away when it comes to wrestlers that fans want to see return to WWE. The legacy Punk left is something that connected with many fans and it still lives on today. Fans will chant for Punk when upset about the things they are watching on the current product. Triple H was the person that Punk most clashed with backstage causing him to leave, but he may be our best hope to get Punk back.
History has shown that Triple H will put business above his ego. Ultimate Warrior, Kurt Angle and a few other wrestlers that Triple H used to have issues with all returned to thanks to him. Triple H will want Punk back at some point for the betterment of WWE. Punk’s hatred of Triple H will sadly likely always prevent it from happening.
1 Vince won’t approve: Hulk Hogan
The legendary Hulk Hogan is arguably the most important star in WWE history. Hogan’s star power and Vince McMahon’s vision helped get WWE to the mainstream spotlight it needed to take over the wrestling industry. WWE brought Hogan back in 2014 to end his career with the company that he found the most success in.
A sex tape leak featuring Hogan saying racist things caused WWE to part ways with him in 2015. Hogan has tried to prove he didn’t mean those things he said and has remained adamant about wanting to come back to WWE. Recent reports have made it clear that McMahon doesn’t want to do business with Hogan after the bad publicity hurt him again. We will likely never see Vince bring back Hogan again.