We all know by now that the WWE is currently in the midst of one of their worst ever injury crises. There was a stage where talent was dropping like flies, and not just any talent, but some huge names. Right now, those names are all at various stages of recovery, with questions lingering over just when they’ll be back and in what role they’ll be placed in upon their returns.
When you have the likes of your franchise player John Cena and your World Champion Seth Rollins dropping with injuries, that’s two huge hits for your roster to take. Add to that names like the hugely-decorated Randy Orton and longest-reigning Divas Champion Nikki Bella, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Only a matter of weeks ago, the dynamic and engaging Neville was struck by the WWE’s injury curse, not to mention The Wyatt Family’s Luke Harper now likely will sit on the sidelines for the rest of the year.
Lately, all eyes were on a so-so WrestleMania card, but it’s still always good to have one eye on what’s around the corner, and that’s where the superstars listed here come into play; their returns could and should be difference-makers in varying ways, although that obviously comes down to how they’re used once fit.
So, with that said, let’s take a look at 10 currently ‘out of action’ WWE talents and just how to book them upon their return to the ring.
Neville’s injury came at a horrible time for the former NXT Champion, with him having to sit out WrestleMania and miss out on some potentially show-stealing moments in the IC Title match.
Reportedly out for another 2 or 3 months with ankle and leg injuries, it could make for some great, entertaining matches if the Geordie was inserted into a friendly feud with US Champ Kalisto upon his return should the Lucha Dragon still hold the gold. The two could put on some frenetic and fun matches if given the chance.
Another option for The Man Who Gravity Forgot would be to have him tangle with Ryback. The Big Guy could spend the next few months running through smaller guys and embracing his inner-bully, only for Neville to make a triumphant return and put the hulking Ryback in his place.
9. Nikki Bella
The longest-reigning Divas Champion in history, Nikki Bella has gone under the knife due to some severe neck issues. In fact, it remains to be seen whether the more, err, “curvy” of the Bella Twins can make a full recovery, let alone make a return to the wrestling ring.
Considering the severity of her current injury, not to mention the many other business ventures she has in the pipeline, one would have to think that any Nikki Bella return would be best suited as being one last short run so that she can call it a day on her terms.
Now that the Divas Title has been scrapped, you could have a returning Nikki, the person who is in the history books for her most-recent run as Divas Champion, challenge the Women’s Champion and do the honours in order to signal that the “Divas” are a thing of the past.
8. Randy Orton
Randall Keith Orton is one of the very best performers in the world when motivated, but it’s a tricky one to think of what to do with the 12-time World Champion upon his return to action.
Orton is a talent who has so often switched from heel to babyface, and he can go from being vanilla and bland one week to being engaging and must-see the next. It all depends on whether he’s interested in what he’s doing.
It’s generally seen that The Viper is at his best when he’s a heel, be it a cocksure jerk or a crazed psychopath. So, have him return and butt heads with Dean Ambrose once Ambrose gets done with his upcoming feud against Chris Jericho.
Following bouts with Brock Lesnar and Jericho, overcoming Orton would do wonders for Ambrose, whilst this feud would give Orton something juicy to sink his teeth into.
7. John Cena
Big Match John seems to be inching ever-closer to a full return to action.
Despite helping out The Rock at WrestleMania, Cena is still apparently a little way off from making a full return and being able to compete in an actual match.
His return to full action should hopefully come in the aftermath of the Payback PPV, a show that will likely see Roman Reigns retain the WWE Championship against AJ Styles. From there, you have Cena, the face of the company for the past decade, stepping up and throwing down a challenge to the Big Dog.
This would be a huge way to bring Cena back into the fold, and you could even have him poke fun at Reigns’ horrendous fan response amidst a much-needed Roman heel turn. Tangling with Cena will only help cement Roman Reigns as a true main event talent with the WWE Universe.
6. Tyson Kidd
Tyson Kidd sadly has some huge question marks over his career like if he’ll return to action rather than when he’ll return to action. After a Muscle Buster from Samoa Joe, Kidd suffered some serious spinal problems that required career-threatening surgery.
If Kidd comes back, there’s two options that stand out: re-team with or feud with Cesaro. Hopefully, Cesaro would be in the midst of a strong singles push at that point, so dropping the Swiss Superman back into the tag ranks may not be wise. But a feud between Kidd and Cesaro could do great things for both guys.
For this, Kidd would need to turn heel upon his return. Given how Cesaro has regularly been at his partner’s bedside, you could easily have Kidd come back and attack Cesaro, saying how he didn’t need his sympathy.
And luckily for us fans, the two would put on some fantastic matches.
5. Hideo Itami
Shoulder injuries are a common theme here, and Hideo Itami is another who’s on the shelf with shoulder problems. Initially ruled out for 6 – 8 months, the Japanese superstar has been out for 10 months already.
Itami’s NXT return has been close before, although it’s hopefully not far away now. The former Pro Wrestling NOAH star has so much more to offer than has been seen by WWE and NXT fans so far. Simply put, a fit and healthy Hideo is one of the best wrestlers in the world.
For his return, there’s still the question of who took Itami out ahead of his #1 contender match at TakeOver: Unstoppable. Have it revealed to be Samoa Joe, who debuted that same night, and by Itami’s return have Joe as the NXT Champ. Hideo tearing through the NXT roster in his quest for revenge is a tale that writes itself.
4. Luke Harper
Yes, The Wyatt Family is obviously the baby of Bray Wyatt, but there’s no doubt that Luke Harper is the best in-ring performer amongst the group. Sadly, though, a torn ACL means that the former Brodie Lee is out of action for the rest of 2016.
When it comes to Harper’s return, so much of it depends on what’s happening with the Wyatts. If the group is still together at that point, it’d be hard to bring him back to action as anything but a part of The Wyatt Family unless he underwent a major transformation, like losing the hair and beard.
Harper’s time as second-in-command in the Wyatt Family is a bit of a waste by this point. Ideally, he could return to lead a revolution against Bray and his crew, which would be a move that firmly shines the spotlight on the talented big man.
3. Titus O’Neil
Now whilst Titus O’Neil isn’t injured, he is still out of action.
With Titus ready to return at any time now, common sense says that Shane McMahon could bring O’Neil back into the fold as he looks to stick it to his daddy dearest and to The Authority.
That would be the right way to handle it, with the former Tag Team Champ then dominating the lower part of the card before setting his sights on the US or Intercontinental Title.
As this is WWE, a place where common sense is often lacking, Titus will likely be brought back with no fanfare and merely slipped back into the Primetime Players pairing with Darren Young.
2. William Regal
Make no mistake about it, William Regal is at the very, very tail-end of his in-ring career. Still, it did seem as if there were at least some initial talks of having a farewell match for the English veteran at the NXT TakeOver: London event late last year.
Those plans were derailed by the former King of the Ring and current NXT General Manager having to undergo neck surgery. Given his stellar career and the great work he’s doing with the young talents in NXT, it’s only right that Regal gets to go out on his own terms.
It seemed that they were building towards a potential Regal/Kevin Owens match, and this match could still happen.
It would be fantastic to see KO tackle Regal at a TakeOver show and retire the Englishman, putting further heat on Owens and giving Regal a must-see send-off against the Prizefighter.
1. Seth Rollins
With Seth Rollins having to vacate the WWE Championship following a knee injury during a house show match against Kane, the obvious (and sensible) way to book his return is to play up to the fact that he never actually lost his title.
It’s expected that The Architect will be back in action by SummerSlam, and the thunderous reception he’ll receive upon his return will mark him out as one of the biggest babyfaces in the WWE. Hopefully by this point, Roman Reigns will have turned heel and overcome the likes of AJ Styles and John Cena, cementing his spot as the WWE Champ.
A feud between the two former Shield members could do big business for the company, particularly if the WWE Universe is sick of Roman holding the gold. An all-conquering Rollins returning to slay the Big Dog and reclaim his title would be brilliant.