WWE is the top of the ladder for many stars and it becomes hard for many to be able to maintain that level and have a lengthy career. This means that many former Champions and current Hall of Famers are forced to retire ahead of time. Sometimes this is because of injury and sometimes this is because wrestlers decide that they have had their 15 minutes of fame and have decided to move on to have families or pursue other avenues of employment.
WWE has been at the top of its game for decades now and has seen many stars walk away from the company over the past few years much sooner than expected after deciding that it was time to pursue something different and unburden themselves from the troubles of life on the road with WWE.
Some of these wrestlers would easily be able to make a return to WWE for another one-off match in the coming years. That is, if the WWE Universe still feels like their story in WWE isn’t truly over.
The following is a list of 15 wrestlers who left WWE much too soon and could easily return once again in the near future.
15. Molly Holly
Molly Holly is a former Divas Champion and one of the members of the female division back in the early 2000s that many of the WWE Universe thought was ahead of her time. Holly is the only female wrestler who has ever been brave enough to compete in a hair vs hair match and actually lost her locks as part of the bout.
Molly decided to hang up her wrestling boots in 2005 when it was reported that Molly had become annoyed that WWE had begun focusing on females looks rather than their wrestling ability. Molly did make many part-time appearances after she departed but she hasn’t had a wrestling match in more than a decade and she would definitely be one woman that the current generation would want to measure up to when it comes to her skills in the ring.
14. John Morrison
John Morrison is a superstar that WWE really dropped the ball with, as part of MNM, the former Tag Team Champion was always the standout star and he proved this after the group eventually went their separate ways. Morrison was a star that someone like Seth Rollins has followed in the footsteps of.
John made the decision not to renew his WWE contract back in 2011 when it was revealed that he was suffering from a recent neck injury and was frustrated with the direction his career was going in creatively. Morrison has since gone on to make a name for himself as Johnny Mundo in Lucha Underground which has proved that if WWE had given Morrison the freedom that he needed then it really could have been different.
13. Beth Phoenix
Beth Phoenix has recently become a WWE Hall of Famer and is also a former Women’s Champion in her own right. When Beth left the company back in 2012 the women’s division went through one of its worse phases in the history of the company before it managed to find its feet again.
Beth has gone on to start a family with fellow WWE Hall of Famer Edge, but Beth is still in shape and could have easily played a part in this year’s WrestleMania as part of the women’s match, but it wasn’t to be. The WWE Universe held its breath and hoped, but maybe Beth will decide to return for a one-off match in the near future instead.
12. Steve Austin
Stone Cold Steve Austin was obviously forced to hang up his boots. He has problems with a neck injury and his knees and if he could have continued to wrestle he would have, but it’s not physically possible.
Austin has returned for special guest referee spots and some of the most memorable promos in WWE over the past few years, but imagine if Austin was never injured, imagine if Austin was still able to wrestle right now? Austin hinted at a Texas Death Match with Brock Lesnar last year and it was something that the WWE Universe were excited about until it was made clear that Austin wouldn’t be cleared, which is sad because the audience would willingly pay for it.
11. Corey Graves
Corey Graves has become one of the best commentators on the WWE roster in recent months and it seems that despite being injured and unable to be cleared to compete as a wrestler anymore, the former NXT Tag Team Champion has managed to build a new career for himself.
Corey was a fantastic Indy wrestler and one that many of the WWE Universe were excited about when it was announced that he had made the switch over to WWE. Graves could have easily become Seth Rollins or Dean Ambrose if he was given the chance, but it seems that once again injuries got in the way and now Graves is stuck behind a table calling the action instead of actually being part of it for the rest of his career.
Kaitlyn is a former Divas Champion and given that she worked as a bodybuilder before she was hired by WWE, it makes sense that she was much bigger than many of the other females at the time and was able to put on some incredible matches.
Kaitlyn and AJ Lee‘s feud back in 2013 was one of the standout female rivalries of the year, so when Kaitlyn decided to leave WWE following the climax of their rivalry, it came as quite a shock to the WWE Universe. Kaitlyn has since gone on to start her own clothing company called Celestial Bodies and it seems that if she was given a chance then she would be open to returning to WWE for a one-off feud with the current crop of women’s wrestlers.
Edge is a former eleven-time World Champion under the WWE umbrella and was considered to be one of the greatest wrestlers of all time before his untimely retirement in 2011. Edge went on to be given his rightful place amongst wrestling’s elite in 2012 but it seems that Edge’s career was cut short because of a neck injury, the same one that stopped Daniel Bryan in his tracks a few years ago.
Edge has since been around WWE and part of many projects with the company he was once contracted to, but it seems that he has found his feet in the world of acting instead, where he doesn’t actually have to do his own stunts. It would be incredible if Edge could return in a much better way than to be attacked by someone, but it seems that is what he has recently been relegated to.
8. The Rock
It does seem crazy having added The Rock to this list despite the fact that he has returned to the company now numerous times for matches and as a way to advertise his upcoming movies or TV series. The Rock was a standout performing during his final years as a full-time employee, and that hasn’t continued into his part-time career.
The Rock could have done much more with WWE before he decided to leave and launch a movie career in Hollywood. It sometimes feels like The Rock used WWE to get into the position he is in and then walked away. The Rock loves the WWE Universe and he loves the company, so it would have been nice if he had remained with the company a little longer.
7. Lance Storm
Lance Storm helped to train many female wrestlers before they made their WWE debut including the likes of Beth Phoenix, Maria, Mickie James, and Melina. Storm made quite the impression during his short stint with WWE before he opened the Storm Wrestling Academy following his departure from WWE in 2005.
Lance has trained some of the best-known wrestlers on the circuit today, but it was his idea to resign from WWE and it seems that right now he isn’t looking to go back. His wrestling academy is going from strength to strength and he is always an authoritative voice on Twitter whenever WWE is live on TV.
6. Trish Stratus
Trish Stratus is a former seven-time Women’s Champion, a record that still stands more than a decade after her departure. Trish is argued to be one of the greatest female wrestlers of all time and she has been a notable miss ever since she took her bow back at Unforgiven in her hometown of Toronto in 2006.
Trish has returned to WWE many times for a number of matches and as a guest host a few years ago, and it seems that the WWE Universe still miss one of the greatest Women’s Champions of all time. Trish was slated to return at NXT Takeover Toronto last year, but her second pregnancy was a problem so Mickie James stepped in instead.
5. AJ Lee
AJ Lee went through WWE like a tornado ever since she was signed to the company back in 2009. She made a name for herself and she decided that everything she did in WWE she would do her own way.
AJ is a former Divas Champion and was once the longest reigning Divas Champion, but it seems that her problems began when she started dating WWE star CM Punk. The couple later married and it seems that following their wedding in 2015, AJ decided to retire from the company. She stated that she had achieved everything she intended to at that point in her career but many of the WWE Universe suspect that there were a lot of problems with people backstage because of the fact that her husband had walked away from the company.
4. Bret Hart
The best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be, was always going to have to hang up his boots someday, but the satisfying part about Bret‘s career now is that he won the US Championship in Canada and he made his return to WWE and forgave Vince McMahon for his antics back in 1997.
It seems that even though Bret left the wrestling business prematurely, he has been able to right a lot of wrongs over the past few years and prove that he really is the bigger person. Right now, his legacy and his career are being continued by his niece Natalya who represents everything that the Hart Family as a whole once stood for.
3. Cody Rhodes
Cody Rhodes is the youngest son of The American Dream, the late, great Dusty Rhodes, and it seems that following his father’s untimely passing, Cody decided to make a few decisions in his life. Cody was always an afterthought in WWE and they decided to dress him up in a spandex suit much like his brother and have him make a fool of himself.
Cody was always a fantastic wrestler but WWE never knew what to do with him. He was another star that the company dropped the ball with and Cody took his wife, WWE ring announcer Eden Stiles, and decided to walk away. Since then, Cody has gone to TNA and Ring of Honor and it seems that he could be open to a return in the future.
Lita may only be a four-time Women’s Champion, but she defined an era of women when she came out and wrestled men with The Hardy Boyz and she proved that women could hit just as hard. Lita was different, she inspired a lot of women to step into the ring and despite working for WWE’s broadcasting team in recent years, Lita is still yet to step back in the ring.
Lita looks like she is still in fantastic shape and a dream match would definitely be someone like Lita up against Charlotte. Lita retired merely months after Trish Stratus and it seems that it was fuelled by a lack of competition, something WWE’s Women’s Division definitely has right now.
1. CM Punk
CM Punk’s departure from WWE made headlines all over the world. Punk hasn’t made an appearance for WWE since the Royal Rumble back in 2014 and it seems that there was a lot of information about Punk that WWE didn’t want to become public knowledge, until Punk did a tell-all podcast with his friend Colt Cabana in November 2014.
Punk was fired from the company on his wedding day and has since moved on to appear for UFC instead. Punk is an athletically gifted star and he could easily make a career for himself anywhere else. It is highly unlikely that he will ever return to WWE, but it’s been over three years now and it was thought that Punk would at least join the Independent Circuit. Some wrestlers must miss wrestling more than others.