Wrestling is dangerous, and sometimes wrestlers are injured and are forced onto the sidelines for a lengthy amount of time. This happens to some of the best wrestlers at some of the worst times, but luckily, there is always a silver lining, and that is that there will be an epic return in the coming months.
Over the past few decades, WWE has made returns and debuts some of the biggest crowd moments of the company and has gotten to the point where the crowd is always in the palm of their hand when it comes to WWE returns. This could be stars who have been released and made a grand return, or it could be injured wrestlers who have finally been cleared. Either way, there is always a mark out moment when it comes to WWE returns.
This is something that WWE usually always gets right and it has allowed many fans to rank what would be their favourite WWE return of all time. The following is a list of 15 of the best returns that the WWE Universe has been able to witness while watching WWE, these are mainly based on the crowd reactions for each return, with number one definitely being one of the biggest moments of that year.
15. Dean Ambrose
The Lunatic Fringe and The Architect Seth Rollins opened what was an incredible feud after The Shield split back in 2014. Ambrose was put out of action by Seth Rollins when he put his head through some cinder blocks.
This was so that Ambrose could leave WWE and film his scenes for 12 Rounds 3: Lockdown. At Night of Champions a few months later, Rollins didn’t have an opponent because Roman Reigns had been hospitalized after he suffered an incarcerated hernia, so he tried to award himself a victory via forfeit. Dean Ambrose arrived backstage in a taxi and made his way to the ring to take out Seth Rollins. This feud became one of the best ones in WWE that year.
14. Vince McMahon
Vince McMahon is the chairman of WWE and over the past few decades Vince has managed to come and go from WWE many times. One of the best returns that Vince ever made was back in 2000.
Shane McMahon had been using his power against The Rock while Vince was gone and had put him in a huge match against The Big Show. Shane was the referee but he was knocked out when Earl came out to make the three count, and Shane knocked him out as well. Shane then attacked The Rock with a chair, and Vince McMahon appeared backstage and took out Triple H before heading to the ring and taking out Shane with a chair. Vince then put on the referee shirt and counted the pinfall for The Rock to win the match. This signalled the end of Shane and Triple H’s reign of terror.
13. The Dudley Boys
It’s usually the night after WrestleMania that many WWE stars make their returns to the company, but back in 2015, it was the night after SummerSlam that The Dudley Boys made their return to WWE to what was a huge reception from the WWE Universe.
The former nine-time WWE Tag Team Champions made their return to the company to step up to The New Day, who later went on to become the longest reigning Champions in the history of WWE. The Dudley Boys’ return got the reaction that WWE wanted, but the company were unable to continue their run in a creative way. It felt as though the company ran out of things for the legendary team to do, so they walked away from WWE just over a year later.
Edge was The Rated R Superstar in WWE for many years before he was forced to retire from professional wrestling due to a career threatening neck injury, similar to the one that Daniel Bryan suffered a few years later. Edge is now a WWE Hall of Famer along with his wife, former WWE Women’s Champion Beth Phoenix.
Edge was one of the most unpredictable stars in WWE history and his return at the 2010 Royal Rumble just furthers this point. Edge pulled his Achilles tendon in July 2009 and was forced to undergo surgery. Six months later, he shocked the world when he made his return to WWE at the Royal Rumble when he came in at number 29 and ended up winning the match and taking his place in the main event of WrestleMania 26.
11. Brock Lesnar
The Beast Incarnate has been dominating WWE now for more than five years, but before he opened up a feud with Goldberg, suplexed John Cena 16-times at SummerSlam, and defeated Undertaker at WrestleMania, Lesnar made his return to WWE back in 2012.
It was the first time Lesnar had appeared for WWE for around eight years and he decided to make a huge statement with John Cena. The former Champion was calling out The Rock the night after WrestleMania 28 but instead of The Rock, Cena ended up with Brock Lesnar who delivered a thunderous F5 to John and put the entire locker room on notice. It was the beginning of what was set to be an incredible run by Lesnar that would lead him to the biggest title in WWE twice.
10. The Hardys
At WrestleMania 33 a few weeks ago, WWE decided to pull out an incredible moment for the WWE Universe and one that they will remember for the rest of their lives. While The Undertaker seemingly walked away from WWE that night, two former stars decided to return to where it all began for them when they jumped into the Tag Team ladder match.
Matt and Jeff Hardy not only returned to WWE at WrestleMania, but they also managed to win the Tag Team Championships that night when they defeated Enzo, Cass, Sheamus, Cesaro, Luke Gallows, and Karl Anderson. The Hardy Boyz have since reported that they have signed full-time contracts and will be with WWE now for a lengthy amount of time. The Hardys hadn’t been seen in WWE before this for almost eight years, so it was a huge moment for many fans of WWE from the early 2000s.
9. The Rock
The Rock had been away from WWE for a long time when he was asked to return to the company to be the host of WrestleMania 27. The Rock was a huge surprise and once again the pop from the crowd was incredible as the man himself made his way to the ring for the first time in many years.
Of course, The Rock went on to cause friction between himself and John Cena at WrestleMania 27 before he returned for WrestleMania 28 to main event and then again at WrestleMania 29. It was a return that set up what was a fascinating few years for The Rock after a long time away and it allowed Cena to step up his game and challenge one of the best of all time. Many of the WWE Universe have reacted negatively to these matches, but they were matches that defined an entire era in WWE.
8. John Cena
The Royal Rumble is usually the place where some of the biggest returns in WWE history have taken place. None more so than when John Cena shocked the world and made his entrance in the 2008 Royal Rumble match, a match that he went on to win.
John Cena had torn his pectoral muscle a few months before and it was highly unlikely that he was going to be able to take part in the match. It seems that once again WWE had managed to troll the WWE Universe and knew that Cena was going to return all along. Triple H was in the ring when Cena made his entrance and the shock from The Game and the fact that the duo picked up where they left off only served to add to what was a fantastic Rumble moment.
7. The Undertaker
The Undertaker has been around WWE for the past 27 years and during that time he has had many lengthy absences from the company. One of these happened back in 2000 and The Undertaker decided to make an epic return.
The McMahon-Helmsley faction had decided to gang up on The Rock and it seemed like a completely unfair fight until Undertaker made his entrance and took out Shane McMahon, Vince McMahon, and many others. The Deadman then circled the ring on his bike before exiting and leaving Triple H to face The Rock one-on-one. The Rock managed to use this to his advantage and ended up putting Hunter through the announcer table. It was a hot feud that year and Undertaker’s addition managed to further the point of this.
6. Trish Stratus
Trish Stratus is a former seven-time Women’s Champion and still considered to be one of the greatest female wrestlers of all time. When Trish retired from WWE at Unforgiven back in 2006, it was a sad moment for wrestling, since the WWE Universe didn’t think they would ever see Trish wrestle again.
This all changed back in 2011 when John Cena needed a tag team partner to go against Beth Phoenix and Santino Marella. He revealed that Santa had given him an early Christmas present before unveiling Trish to the WWE Universe. Cena and Stratus went on to win the match after an AA to Santino, but for someone who hadn’t wrestled in five years, Trish hardly missed a beat and worked well with the former WWE Champion.
5. Hulk Hogan
Hulk Hogan and the WWE haven’t been on the same page for a while now, but rumours suggest that the company could finally be set to welcome back one of their biggest legends after a huge scandal a few years ago. That being said, he would have to do something big to top his return from 2005.
Fan favourite Shawn Michaels was being attacked by Hassan and Davari and it seemed that there was no one who would come out and help HBK. That was until Hogan’s music hit and the Immortal one cleared the ring before celebrating with the WWE Hall of Famer. The crowd’s reaction that night for Hogan was one of the biggest he had ever received; it seems they really wanted Hogan to save Michaels.
4. Chris Jericho
Chris Jericho has returned and left WWE many times over the past few years as he tries to juggle his career as a singer and a wrestler, but this wasn’t the case back in 2007 when Jericho would make his long-awaited return to the company.
Jericho’s return had been rumoured for a while and there had been videos of “Save Us Y2J” online for weeks. WWE fans were already hyped up, and when Randy Orton stepped into the ring and it was made obvious that there was no one else in WWE left to challenge him in what had been an incredible reign as WWE Champion, up popped Chris Jericho to a noisy reaction from the WWE Universe. WWE could have used the graphics much better with Jericho, but it was still a fantastic return.
3. Seth Rollins
Last year was an incredible year when it came to WWE returns, and Seth Rollins‘ return at Extreme Rules was definitely up there as one of the best. Rollins was WWE World Heavyweight Champion when he was injured on November 4th, 2015 and forced out of action since his knee injury required surgery.
Seven months later and after a whole lot of rehab, the WWE Universe were unaware that Rollins had been cleared for action, but they had just seen Roman Reigns defeat AJ Styles in the main event. Rollins returned as a heel and took out Reigns with a pedigree to a loud roar from the crowd before he lifted the Championship and showed the world that he had returned for the Championship that he had never lost.
Goldberg‘s return to WWE back in October 2016 was something that had been speculated ever since he was used as a playable character in WWE 2K17. It was fantasy warfare becoming reality when Brock Lesnar challenged Goldberg to a match at Survivor Series back in November.
Goldberg had not stepped into a wrestling ring in more than a decade but when he returned that night on Monday Night Raw it was said to have been the loudest crowd reaction of the modern era. He accepted Brock’s challenge and went on to defeat him in record time, before eliminating him from The Royal Rumble and going on to face him at WrestleMania a few weeks ago. Goldberg has left WWE once again now, but has stated that he could return again in the future.
1. Shane McMahon
It was without a doubt the best return of 2016 and perhaps one of the best returns of all time. When it became apparent that John Cena would not be cleared in time to face The Undertaker at WrestleMania 32, Vince McMahon decided it was time for his son to return to the WWE for the first time in seven years.
Shane McMahon returned as a face character and went on to lose to The Undertaker inside Hell In A Cell at WrestleMania. This was just the beginning of the plans that WWE had for Shane though, since he has gone on to become the commissioner of SmackDown Live ever since the brand split back in the Summer of 2016. There were no hints or rumours about a return heading into this episode of Raw in February 2016, which is why it is still considered one of the most shocking and the best.