Everybody loves a good comeback story, and nowhere is that more true than in the world of sports entertainment. If a popular WWE superstar has been away for even a few months, their return can easily make headlines and cause fans to react with a burst of applause greater than the performer was receiving when they left in the first place. Bombastic returns and explosive surprises are the stuff that wrestling legends are made of, and there have been a great number of comebacks that revitalized careers and shot superstars to newer and greater heights than ever thought imaginable during their earlier run in WWE.
Unfortunately, not every wrestler has been able to capitalize on the momentum of an explosive return, and in fact on a few occasions they’ve fallen back into the habits that lead to them going away in the first place. Some wrestlers have proven themselves prone to injury, political games, or simply a generally consistent level of low performance and in-ring failure that leads to their returns being more of the diminishing variety than bombastic and exciting in the way the best sports entertainment can be. Read on to learn about 15 superstars who kept making the same mistakes.
15. Tatanka – Surprise Return, Feels Out Of Place, Disappears
Tatanka was a wrestler who briefly became popular in the early to mid 90s WWE as a proud Native American in the tradition of Wahoo McDaniel and Chief Jay Strongbow. Tatanka first left WWE in 1996 and stayed away from wrestling for nearly a decade. While many of the wrestlers on our list have specific patterns they fell into after their big returns, Tatanka’s problem was the nature of his returns in the first place. Tatanka was a cartoony and weird character, but he fit well in the New Generation Era. In any other era of WWE, he’s felt out of place, and his appearances always came out of nowhere. Tatanka first returned in 2005, and the nine years apart made him feel like an anachronism from his first random appearance. He did nothing to update himself or standout in anyway, and disappeared a year later. Tatanka popped up again 10 years after that at WrestleMania 32, again did nothing to stand out, disappearing once more after a single match.
14. Jeff Jarrett – Cuts His Losses and Starts Over
Whether or not Jeff Jarrett has been a truly important presence in the wrestling world is a somewhat controversial topic (although maybe not to him). Jarrett had a considerable deal of success as a wrestler in the 90s, and since 2004 has been making a name for himself as a decently successful promoter through Total Nonstop Action and Global Force Wrestling. The problem is, while these companies may have seemed initially promising, and TNA had a few solid years in their thus-far 14-year run, there has been more bad than good and Jarrett’s leadership is part of the problem. Jarrett has a tendency to cut and run when things start to look bad, and instead of working hard to fix his various management issues, he just starts over with a new promotion and hopes people will forget his past and give him a new chance just because he changed the name. Global Force Wrestling has only existed for slightly over a year and is already showing signs of money problems, and Jarrett might be getting to old to create yet another promotion and build it around himself as the top star.
13. Lex Luger – Reputation As A Choker
Lex Luger is a wrestler who was always on the precipice of becoming a major star, but he early on earned the reputation as a choke artist that he was never able to shake throughout his career. Luger’s first brush with stardom came in the late 80s in National Wrestling Alliance, where he became extremely popular during a feud with The Four Horsemen. Luger’s rise was cut off at Starrcade 1988, when he lost to Ric Flair due to referee stoppage after a small cut on his head was called too severe for him to continue. Luger would face the same problem in WWE, when his patriotic rise up Lex Express was cut off when he only defeated Yokozuna by Count-Out at SummerSlam 1993.
Luger choked once more in 1997 while back in WCW. Although in this final instance Luger did manage to win the WCW World Championship from Hollywood Hogan, he lost it back to the Hulkster only 5 days later and choked as a main event performer yet again.
12. Randy Savage – Always Let Hulk Hogan Overshadow Him
“Macho Man” Randy Savage is one of the greatest and most legendary performers in the history of professional wrestling, but for almost his entire career he let himself get overshadowed by Hulk Hogan. Macho Man almost certainly could’ve lead any wrestling company in the world to the top, but half of his major World Championship wins were either immediately ended or ignored due to the actions of Hogan. Macho Man’s first WWE World Championship victory took place at WrestleMania IV, and Hogan ran into the ring to celebrate and steal the spotlight almost instantly. That wasn’t as bad as what would happen twice in WCW, where Savage would win the WCW World Heavyweight Championship at Pay-Per-Views in 1998 and 1999, only to lose the title to Hogan the next night on Nitro. Savage wasn’t the only one who sacrificed his own popularity for Hogan’s ego, though…
11. Ric Flair – Repeatedly Made Foolish By WCW
“The Nature Boy” Ric Flair just might be the best wrestler of all time, but for a long time it seemed like the higher ups within WCW were doing everything they could to make sure fans were unaware of this fact. From the second Hulk Hogan arrived in WCW, Flair was ignored in favor of the Red & Yellow. Fans would scream “We Want Flair” at the top of their lungs, but whenever Flair actually came back around, it was usually to get beaten down by Hogan and the nWo once again, ruining any comeback he could have had. Flair had a few minor victories throughout their feuds, but it seemed it was only a couple months after every big return to WCW until Flair would be naked, forced into an insane asylum, having his head shaved, or literally being buried in the desert once again to make him look like anything but the Champion he once was.
10. Scott Steiner – Anger Problems Everywhere He Went
Scott Steiner isn’t without his legions of fans in the ring and in his new Shoney’s restaurant franchise, but he also has a rather dangerous reputation behind the scenes that’s been keeping him out of WWE and their Hall of Fame. Steiner’s anger issues first became apparent in WCW, when he would allegedly scream at and attack various wrestlers and WCW employees backstage on a frighteningly regular basis. Steiner seemed to calm down a little bit in WWE at first, but he was back up to his anger issues more recently after an episode at the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony. Steiner apparently screamed at Hulk Hogan’s wife and was once again viewed as violent and potentially dangerous by the company, and has been blackballed for the time being due to his actions.
9. William Regal – Continuous Substance Problems
William Regal has finally become one of the most respected names in the wrestling business for both his abilities on the microphone and in the ring, but it was a long journey before the Englishman became so distinguished. Throughout the 90s, Regal was renowned for his various drug and alcohol problems, which repeatedly got him in trouble while working for both WCW and WWE. Regal’s first chance at a WWE career was cut off in 1998 due to his alcoholism, and an incident in WCW once left him in some serious trouble while he was intoxicated on an airplane. Regal seems to have finally put his demons behind him and is guiding new talents to follow his good examples and avoid suffering his bad ones.
8. Marty Jannetty – Gets A Job Then Gets Really High
Marty Jannetty was Shawn Michaels partner when they broke out in the business together as The Midnight Rockers. Michaels went on to become one of the most famous and successful superstars in WWE history, but Jannetty is more of a footnote in wrestling history. Anyone who follows the wayward Rockers career would be able to realize it’s pretty much entirely his fault, though, as WWE and other companies have given him multiple opportunities that he immediately squandered due to his continued drug use. HBK’s big turn on Jannetty took place in late 1991, but the big match between the two wouldn’t happen until 1993, since Jannetty was busy being arrested and fired in the interim. Jannetty would only last a little over a year before getting fired again, only to be rehired in the mid 90s and have the same thing happen again. He reappeared a decade later in 2005, but drug and legal problems would cut that off again proving Jannetty had yet to shake his reputation.
7. The Ultimate Warrior – Fails and Bails
The Ultimate Warrior finally was forgiven for his erratic personality and inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame only days before his death in 2014, but for a long time his irascible nature was stuff of legends in the sports entertainment world. Warrior had a history of rising to meteoric heights only to instantly let the fame go to his head, expect more than he deserved, and bail from the company once reality started to kick in. Warrior first rose to the top in the late 80s WWE. He bolted from the company for the first time in 1991 after demanding an equal payout to Hulk Hogan, only to return a few months later. Warrior left the company in a huff again amid the steroid controversy of 1992. Warrior returned yet again in 1996 only to leave only a few months later after further disputes with Vince McMahon, and an attempt at joining WCW only lasted a few months when that company’s management couldn’t get along with Warrior, either.
6. Kevin Nash – Trips Over Himself With Constant Injuries
Kevin Nash is a WWE Hall of Famer and multiple time World Champion deserving of his legendary reputation, but his repeated attempts at comebacks nearly ruined his legacy on continuous occasions. Nash’s true fame didn’t come until he was in his late 30s, and as such, his first big “comeback” didn’t come until he was in his mid 40s. Nash returned to WWE from WCW in 2002, but quickly injured his arm and spent several months off television recovering. Once he was ready to make a comeback, Nash injured himself even worse in his return match, tearing his quadriceps while simply walking across the ring. Proving he didn’t learn from his mistake, Nash attempted another return to wrestling in 2011, but once again quickly found himself unable to perform and had to step away from the main events he was being booked in for health reasons.
5. Rey Mysterio, Jr. – Weak Knees For Over 20 Years
Rey Mysterio, Jr. is arguably the best high flying cruiserweight wrestler in history, but his entire career has been marred with an unfortunate reputation as being particularly injury prone. In part due to Rey’s high-level performance style, his knees have taken a pretty repeated beating throughout the years, and other parts of his body seem to be pretty weak and brittle, as well. Rey’s first knee injury took place in WCW in 1997, and many at the time accused him of coming back from his injury too soon, which was proven when he immediately needed to take a few more months off after only one high profile match back. That was nearly 20 years ago, and Rey has repeated his pattern of injuring his knees and rushing back to the ring so many times he claims his left knee no longer contains any cartilage. He continues wrestling despite his weak knees, only raising the risk of further injuries.
4. Terry Funk – Comes Out Of Retirement To Wrestle Retirement Matches
Terry Funk has at times been billed as the greatest wrestler in the history of the sport, and on certain occasions when watching him work, we certainly understand why people would try and make that argument. Unfortunately, that was several decades ago, and his career rages on to this day. Funk’s biggest problem is that he comes out of retirement pretty much just to announce his retirement again, and even his most diehard fans are getting kind of weary of his antics. Funk would pull the same angle in ECW, WWE, and WCW in the late 90s, and continues doing the same thing on independents and in foreign countries to this day. On certain instances, Funk has retired so quickly he didn’t even give himself the chance to truly make a comeback in the first place.
3. Eric Bischoff – Puts All His Chips On The Hulkster
Eric Bischoff was an incredibly successful professional wrestling booker and promoter for a brief period in the mid 1990s, and although short-lived, his success was so historic and extreme that he deserves credit to this day as a genius in the industry. Part of how he managed to achieve his success was by putting all of his eggs in one basket, and that basket was in one way another always adorned with the colors of Hulkamania. Bischoff’s big idea to put WCW on the map when he took over in the mid 90s was Hulk Hogan, and it worked for a while. However, once the years went on and Hogan only managed to reinvent himself once as the leader of the nWo, fans inevitably got bored with the Hulkster over and over again. This didn’t stop Bischoff from continuing to rely on Hogan, so much so that when Bischoff was given creative power in TNA in 2011, he once again fell to Hogan to run the show despite the fact Hogan wasn’t even an active competitor anymore.
2. Hulk Hogan – Destroys Any Company That Gives Him Power
Hulk Hogan is one of the most successful and most famous wrestlers in the history of the sport, and played a huge role in making the industry what it is today. However, he also has a serious history of abusing his status both backstage and in the ring, and has been accused of playing a role in driving more than one company into the ground due to his political games. Hogan is undoubtedly responsible for bringing WCW to the heights it hit during the mid 90s with the New World Order, but his refusal to leave the main event is what inevitably lead that company to failure. Ten years after WCW went out of business, Hogan was at it again, working with Eric Bischoff in TNA as we just mentioned, despite being well past his expiration date as a performer.
1. Vince Russo – Hired And Fired In A Manner Of Days
Vince Russo has made so many mistakes in the wrestling world and dragged his own name through the mud to such a degree it’s hard to remember there was once a time when he was actually respected and successful. Although in reality he was only a small cog in a machine of success, Russo undoubtedly does deserve some level of credit for the success of WWE’s Attitude Era, financially the most successful and arguably the most beloved era in company history. However, as soon as Russo left WWE, he started running a variety of companies into the ground so drastically and irrevocably that it became all he was known for. Russo first destroyed WCW, then nearly did the same to TNA on two separate occasions. His name is so maligned he was almost immediately fired from WWE when Vince McMahon attempted to take mercy on him and give him a job in 2002, only because of how negative the backstage response was to the idea of him putting his stink on WWE.