The funniest thing about professional wrestling is that returns can often come at a surprising time. The news of Goldberg’s potential return to the WWE ring seemingly came out of nowhere, but it’s just one of many returns to have that kind of feeling. Back when Sting made a surprise appearance at the 2014 Survivor Series, it felt like the sort of return to major wrestling television we never expected.
We also never thought we’d see someone like Goldberg making a return to the WWE after so many years of him making negative comments about his time there. And yet, we are often told to “never say never.” We used to say that about Bret “The Hitman” Hart ever burying the hatchet with Shawn Michaels after the events of the 1997 Survivor Series known as the “Montreal Screwjob.”
We also never thought we would see The Ultimate Warrior make a return to the WWE after years of him verbally attacking the company. Yet we saw him speak to the WWE fans two nights after being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, and one night before his unfortunate passing.
We are often shocked at the names that make their return, but at the same time, not everyone is able to rebuild that bridge with the WWE. Whether it’s the fact that they’ve moved on from the world of wrestling or they are in the middle of legal disputes, fans can be certain of some former WWE superstars who are likely put on the company’s blacklist.
The following are WWE superstars that are likely to return in the relatively near future and those who will never be seen inside a WWE ring again, even with the old “never say never” mantra seen the last few years.
16 Will Return – John Morrison
John Morrison was written off of WWE television back in 2011 following an attack from The Miz. He's since found success touring the independent scene and he has become a mainstay in Lucha Underground, getting over as Johnny Mundo. Morrison has said several times that he doesn't miss the life of being a WWE Superstar as he's now able to work a lighter schedule and is in a more relaxed environment. He also hasn't ruled out a WWE return.
Given that he's now 37 years old, Morrison doesn't have many great years in his prime left, even if he is an athletic freak of nature.
It still wouldn't be surprising to see Morrison enjoy one last run in WWE on a short-term contract before returning to the indies and closing out his career.
15 Never Return – Vickie Guerrero
Vickie Guerrero may have had a rough start in her on-screen career with the WWE because of how new she was to the environment. The WWE didn’t want to give up on her as a way to support the late Eddie Guerrero’s family. That investment would eventually pay off as Vickie would become one of the most hated authority figures during the original brand split. Nine years of being on WWE television ended in 2014 with an ovation from the crowd.
While some might think the WWE could have her come back, it looks like she has moved on with her life. She’s recently remarried and has also gone into work helping processing patients for a pharmaceutical company. Wrestling might have been good for Vickie, but she was able to find life after professional wrestling.
14 Will Return – Carlito
The door is certainly open for Carlito Colon to make a return to the WWE Universe. Some might think the bridge was initially burnt down when he was released in 2010 after refusing to go to a rehabilitation clinic after a Talent Wellness Policy violation, but the recent brand extension certainly does require the WWE needing to bring in more wrestlers to help provide some much needed depth for both RAW and SmackDown.
Carlito has apparently been considered to be a manager for The Shining Stars in Primo and Epico. The duo would certainly need the boost from Carlito’s presence and it would likely help make them a credible tag team that would be needed in WWE’s much weakened tag team division on RAW. Also, who wouldn’t want to see Carlito spit in the face of people who aren’t cool again?
13 Never Return – David Hart Smith
Putting David Hart Smith on the “never going to happen” list doesn’t have much to do with how the WWE views Smith. It has more to do with the fact that Smith wasn’t very well utilized during his stint with the company. The son of The British Bulldog had some success in a tag team with Tyson Kidd from 2009 to 2011 with two tag team title reigns in WWE.
However, after the team was split up, little was done with Smith. He was barely seen on the main roster and would be released in late 2011. He’s found a lot more success working in Japan, where he has become a bigger star than he was able to be in the WWE. With the way professional wrestling is in that part of the globe, it’s hard to imagine Smith ever wanting to have interest in going back to the WWE again.
12 Will Return – Batista
While he was never considered one of the most skilled professional wrestlers in WWE history, Batista was certainly able to find success in the WWE ring since his 2002 debut. Batista was built up slowly and properly through Evolution to become a six-time world champion in the WWE. However, he’s been able to become part of the box office hit as Drax in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy.
Obviously, Batista has become quite busy with the filming schedule for the highly anticipated sequel for his Marvel film debut. There’s also likely going to be a need for him in the future Infinity Wars film. It might be difficult for Batista to find the time and he’s also making plenty of money in Hollywood. Still, if Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson can make the occasional appearance to a WWE ring, it shouldn’t be an excuse for someone like Batista.
11 Never Return – Ryback
While he might not have been the most popular WWE superstar, Ryback was certainly creating a lot of buzz on social media in the months leading to his eventual release from the WWE earlier this year. It’s actually a shame because The Big Guy certainly wasn’t one of the worst powerhouses in recent WWE history. Whether that is necessarily a compliment is another story.
In fact, one can argue that the WWE poorly booked Ryback after his initial undefeated streak that went in 2012. However, he may have found a new life after WWE after his departure. He’s opened up a website with a focus on sports supplements. He’s also likely going to make some big money working for independent promotions and possibly working over in Japan.
10 Will Return – Kurt Angle
For the past few months, WWE fans have hoped that Kurt Angle could meet Triple H or Vince McMahon for a cup of coffee again. There were some rumors about a possible deal to bring Angle back to the WWE. While it’s highly unlikely we will see Angle have a long run in the WWE, fans would likely enjoy watching him have a match or two here and there, maybe one final appearance at WrestleMania.
Despite being up to age 47, Angle has kept himself active through independent wrestling appearances. His body isn’t going to be able to handle a full-time schedule again, but a short-term contract should allow him to finish his career in WWE and have an induction into the company’s Hall of Fame.
9 Never Return – Scott Steiner
There are several reasons Scott Steiner’s return to the WWE will never happen. The first reason is that his time in the WWE from 2002 to 2004 can be considered a complete failure. The former WCW World Heavyweight Champion was unable to maintain the stamina needed to be a main event superstar in the WWE, which was noticed during his championship feud with Triple H.
Now at the age of 54, it’s highly unlikely that his physical conditioning is any better than what it was more than 10 years ago. Then there are the times when he has been extremely critical of the WWE product during interviews earlier this year. The WWE officials are not likely going to appreciate his opinion and are likely going to keep him off of their list of legends they want to bring back at some point.
8 Will Return – Cody Rhodes
The WWE has received a lot of criticism for not taking advantage of the type of superstars they’ve had on their roster. One of the best recent examples is Cody Rhodes. The youngest son of The American Dream Dusty Rhodes was one of the talents developed under WWE since his time in Ohio Valley Wrestling in 2006. He would come to WWE and win several championships as one of the best mid-card talents they’ve had in the last decade.
However, the WWE creative team dropped the ball with Cody by keeping him with the Stardust gimmick with no real payoff for the storyline. He was able to leave the WWE and looks to be able to complete his personal checklist working in TNA and the independent circuit. Still, Rhodes is still pretty young and will likely come back to WWE in a few years.
7 Never Return – Ted DiBiase, Jr.
Some fans might feel that Ted DiBiase, Jr., never got a great push from the WWE creative team during the time after splitting from Cody Rhodes and Randy Orton. Other fans feel like he wasn’t able to take advantage of the opportunities he received as both a heel and a face on WWE television. However, the son of the Million Dollar Man apparently wasn’t happy near the end of his WWE run.
This led to him leaving the company in 2013. Since then, he’s found inspiration through his Christian faith to be able to find a passion outside of professional wrestling. His entrepreneurial efforts have allowed him to find a way to pay it forward. One has to give him credit for being able to find life after the WWE spotlight, which will likely reduce his interest in making any kind of return.
6 Will Return – Rob Van Dam
While the window is beginning to close on the former ECW and WWE Champion, Rob Van Dam is capable of making another short-term run in the WWE. RVD would be a great veteran to come to the WWE for a few months against some of the newer superstars. Imagine seeing him go against Sami Zayn or Kevin Owens for a decent match on RAW. Maybe we could have a dream booking match with him and AJ Styles on WWE – although it already happened in TNA Wrestling.
At age 45, RVD isn’t going to be in the same physical condition that allowed him to be a premier lightweight that entertained fans with moves like the split-legged moonsault and Rolling Thunder. However, there have been a number of other wrestlers older than 40 who have been able to put on some of the best matches of their careers recently. A wrestler like RVD is likely in the physical shape for at least one more run in the WWE.
5 Never Return – Rey Mysterio
Often considered one of the greatest luchadors in the last 20 years, Mysterio has certainly lost a step or two in terms of his overall in-ring skills. That’s not to say that Rey Mysterio has become a terrible wrestler. It’s more to do with the fact that Father Time is not allowing him to be at the top of his game. At age 41, his skills have declined in the final years of his WWE run before leaving in 2015.
Mysterio now works a schedule that is friendlier for a high-flying veteran who has accumulated a lot of injuries over his career. There would really be no reason for Mysterio to want to leave that kind of work schedule. It’s also unlikely the WWE would want to bring him back with an influx of talented superstars who have come in for the newly revived Cruiserweight Division.
4 Will Return – Trish Stratus
Trish Status certainly accomplished a lot during her WWE career that including winning the WWE Women’s Championship seven times. In a May 2016 interview, she spoke about how she felt that she and Lita helped spark the women’s wrestling revolution when they were part of a 2004 RAW main event for the Women’s Championship. Years later, she has admitted a return is possible.
Now having kept herself busy as a fitness entrepreneur and also a mother, it might be difficult for Stratus to put her new life on hold for a return to the WWE. However, she has stated it would be possible if the right opportunity to help boost a current member of the women’s division was there. Stratus is certainly in good physical shape to make another run in the WWE at age 40.
3 Never Return – Alberto Del Rio
The WWE decided to cut ties with Alberto Del Rio last month after both sides came to a mutual agreement. Del Rio has certainly had some issues that led to his first release in 2014 when he was punished for slapping a WWE employee for making racially insensitive jokes. Obviously, there were some fans who thought he wouldn’t return to the company after finding a lot of work in Mexico.
However, we were surprised when he made a return in 2015 with Zeb Colter. While he held the United States Championship, the WWE didn’t give him a good role in the company. Between the awkward booking with Colter and the failed League of Nations faction, he wasn’t treated well. Del Rio’s recent departure is likely for good because he will receive better treatment working for the AAA promotion in Mexico and around the globe independently.
2 Will Return – The Hardys
One of the most popular things in professional wrestling right now is the current storyline with Matt and Jeff Hardy. It’s easily one of the most successful storylines in TNA television in recent memory when Broken Matt Hardy defeated his “obsolete” brother at Final Deletion earlier this year. The transformation of Brother Nero has led to both brothers receiving some praise through fans on social media.
While both have had their issues with drugs and lack of reliability during their time in the WWE, it would be hard to think the WWE hasn’t entertained the idea of bringing back the Hardys on a short-term contract. Both men are getting up in age, but deserve a chance to retire with at least one more WrestleMania match. Considering their contributions to tag team wrestling, they are also deserving of induction in the WWE Hall of Fame.
1 Never Return – CM Punk
For those who have lived under a rock in the last few years, CM Punk has been making noise outside of the WWE. After a very controversial departure in 2014, CM Punk was able to earn a contract with Ultimate Fighting Championship. While his attempted run in mixed martial arts did not yield the results he expected, he certainly earned some respect from many.
Considering how big his name has gotten outside of the WWE, he could work for any other wrestling promotion and make a lot of money doing so. On the other hand, the WWE officials have likely blacklisted him and his wife, AJ Brooks. Punk’s comments on the Art of Wrestling podcast have led to a legal battle between the former WWE Champion and WWE’s medical staff.