Each passing year, WWE needs to look to the future for the company to continue. Whichever current wrestlers are standing atop the sports entertainment ladder could get injured in an instant, and one never knows when the ravages of time will take them out of the game forever. This means WWE constantly needs to look for new stars to replace and supplement their current roster. For a long time now, rather than do this by actually scouting the independent scene and seeking out new faces, Vince McMahon dips into WWE history and brings back old legends and let them reign supreme over his roster once again.
There are pros and cons to this tendency, as it means WWE still needs new stars, but at least fans will have something interesting to watch, and old favorites to cheer. Some of the stars of yesteryear still have a whole lot left in the gas tank, and might even provide some classic entertainment in the form of dream matches fans never thought could have existed. Not that every potential WWE comeback story needs to be semi-retired, as plenty of wrestlers left the company right before hitting their prime, and now that they have, Vince probably wants them back.
There’s no way to predict the future, especially in regards to the whims and instincts of Vince McMahon. However, it is possible to look at the current wrestling scene compared to that of about 10 years ago and sees whose missing. If some of the popular faces who aren’t up to all that much decide they want to have one more run, Vince McMahon would almost certainly consider the idea. Keep reading to learn about 15 huge comebacks WWE could see in 2018.
15 Alberto Del Rio
Of all the names on this list, Alberto Del Rio may be the least likely to ever return to WWE. Though once a high profile superstar with several WWE Championships to his name, Del Rio has been very open about his distaste for WWE COO Triple H as of late, and he’s not all too pleased with Triple H, either. There’s also the issue of Del Rio’s controversial and seemingly over relationship with Paige, which might make him want to avoid the company. On the other hand, Del Rio had a pretty similar experience just a few years ago, leaving the company when a backstage employee was blatantly racist towards him only to come back the next year and resume his high status role in the company. It’s been another couple years since Del Rio’s latest outburst, and GFW isn’t making any serious efforts at keeping him around, so maybe he’ll change his mind again and give WWE another chance for a few months.
14 John Morrison
Quite frankly, many fans of John Morrison have spent the past six years wondering why exactly Vince McMahon has been ignoring his talents for so long. From the day he debuted, Morrison had the look of a movie star and the ability to fly through the ring like a pro. He was rewarded for it with multiple Intercontinental Championships reigns and a few shots in the main event, as well. In 2011, Morrison decided WWE wasn’t giving him the freedom he desired, leaving the company for the independent scene where he has since flourished. Morrison has especially stood out in Lucha Underground, performing as Johnny Mundo, one of the TV series top stars. Recently, he’s expanded his horizons by appearing in GFW as Johnny Impact as well, which might suggest he’s happy working wherever he can as long as it isn’t WWE. Then again, slightly increasing his profile might be an attempt at getting Vince McMahon’s attention, and a hefty offer could easily follow at some point in the following year.
It was only a few years ago that Batista attempted to make a WWE comeback only for him to find disastrous results. The timing was all wrong when Batista returned in 2013, and WWE pushed the guy way too hard and fast at a time when the audiences desperately wanted to see someone else. Of course, that alone might be reason enough for Batista to try another comeback sometime before it’s too late so he can go out with a bang, making things right for his unsatisfied fans. Batista also wasn’t used well during his latest run, instantly shunted into the reformed Evolution where he was almost immediately the third wheel to Triple H and Randy Orton. Were WWE to bring Batista back, book him in the right way, and actually let the guy be the star he once was, there’s a solid chance another comeback attempt could go a whole lot better. The only question is if Batista has time to do it, as he’s been getting booked for significantly higher paying film roles that might better suit his time.
12 Wade Barrett
Anyone who might have thought former WWE Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett was out of the game, we’re afraid we’ve got some bad news. In anticipation of the 2018 Royal Rumble, the Bare Knuckle Brawler tweeted that it might finally be time for him to make his comeback. By and large, Barrett has been completely out of the wrestling scene since 2015, when he and WWE voluntarily parted ways so he could focus on acting and other outside endeavors. At the time, Barrett immediately pointed out that it wasn’t the end of his career, and that it was just a matter of the timing being right before he made his way back to the squared circle. With all due respect to the guy, acting hasn’t turned out as well for him as say The Rock or Batista, so that time may have come sooner than expected by necessity. On top of that, Barrett started making non-wrestling appearances for independent wrestling companies in 2017, suggesting he’s already on the comeback trail in one way or another.
Despite his status as one of the preeminent legends of the entire professional wrestling industry, six time WCW World Champion Sting wrestled less than five whole WWE matches during his time with the company. Given his accomplishments elsewhere, this was still more than enough for Sting to instantly earn an induction into the WWE Hall of Fame upon arrival, along with a shot at the WWE Championship. Unfortunately, during his first ever shot at Vince McMahon’s greatest prize, Sting also suffered an injury that seemingly took him out of the ring for good. Exactly one year after his WWE debut, Sting was forced to retire, sequestering his decades of serious potential to the few short matches he wrestled before then. The good news is that wrestlers come out of retirement quite often, and Sting has not only said his neck felt great, but that there was “unfinished business” for him to attend to in the ring. When he puts it that way, it certainly sounds like a full WWE comeback could be possible.
10 Bobby Lashley
A curious case in WWE history, Bobby Lashley at times appeared to be Vince McMahon’s next great project, with the CEO working multiple angles with the crossover MMA superstar. Very shortly after his debut, Lashley became WWE United States and then ECW World Champion, followed by the biggest moment of his career when he represented future amateur politician Donald Trump during the Battle of the Billionaires against Vince McMahon at WrestleMania 23. Lashley defeated Umaga to win the match and Trump’s bet over McMahon, leading to the aforementioned family feud between them. Less than a full year after all this happened, Lashley’s prospects in wrestling vanished out of nowhere, released from his contract with little fanfare. Lashley has since completely rebuilt himself as a major star in both GFW and MMA’s Bellator promotion, two facts that could easily have McMahon ready to restart the project if Lashley ever decides to leave those companies behind.
9 Rey Mysterio
Flying off the top rope at speeds no wrestler could ever dare reach, Rey Mysterio was one of the most popular wrestlers of his generation. WWE, WCW, and every other company Mysterio has wrestled for greatly rewarded him for this status, with Cruiserweight, Intercontinental, and even World Championships. Unfortunately, the moment many fans remember as his last in WWE was a serious down note, seeing the career babyface get booed out of the building. At the 2014 Royal Rumble, the only wrestler anyone wanted to see was Daniel Bryan, so when Mysterio walked out at 30 and dashed any hope of Bryan appearing, the crowd focused their vitriol on the master of the 619. Mysterio returned for that year’s André the Giant Battle Royale and one more match, only to leave the company ever since. Rey has appeared in a number of Mexican promotions and maintained his high caliber performances in the ring, but Mysterio admits he occasionally longs for more and thinks about returning to WWE. Last time he tried, things were bogged down due to hostility between Konnan and Vince McMahon, but take out the middle man, and Mysterio might make a comeback to fix his final moments in WWE.
8 The Rock
Always prepared to make a quick one off performance for WrestleMania or when Raw visits Los Angeles, whether or not exactly The Rock has truly “left” WWE is up for debate. The Great One always takes advantage of an open door policy with Vince McMahon, showing up when he feels like it and doing what he wants when there. It’s worth noting, however, that Rocky hasn’t wrestled a real match in almost five years, back when John Cena defeated him for the WWE Championship during their second encounter. Since then, Rock has shown up and thrown some bows, but never stuck around more than a few minutes. His fame outside of wrestling has only ballooned since his latest comeback, so The Rock might be wary of getting injured insult the ring. Then again, his whole life at this point is based on doing whatever he wants and having a hell of a time doing it, suggesting The Rock could make a WWE comeback whenever he feels like it.
Ever since Triple H began climbing the corporate WWE ladder, his friends and allies over the years have slowly been making their way out of the woodwork and asking for jobs. Kevin Nash has done this more than once, Road Dogg now has a cushy producers job, and the D-O-Double-G’s New Age Outlaw partner Billy Gunn returned alongside him to recapture the WWE Tag Team Championships in 2014. One name that has been noticeably absent from this DX/Kliq reunion has been X-Pac, who hasn’t regularly made appearances for WWE since way back in 2002. Rumors have long floated Triple H set X-Pac up with a nice backstage job as well, but that doesn’t make a lot of sense with the former 1-2-3 Kid still tearing it up on the independent scene all over the globe. If anything, X-Pac is the one former HHH ally who still has a little bit to give in the ring, working extra hard as of late to make up for years he lost to drugs and alcohol. Now that X-Pac is relatively clean, maybe 2018 will finally be the year Triple H rolls the dice and let’s his little buddy back on WWE television.
6 John Bradshaw Layfield
It took Vince McMahon a full nine years before he finally struck gold with John Bradshaw Layfield. Until that point, the longest reigning WWE Champion of his era meandered through the midcard in a number of cliché “tough Texan” style gimmicks with names like Bradshaw, John Hawk, and half of The New Blackjacks. Bradshaw found moderate fame as half of The Acolytes with Faarooq, then seriously broke through as a rich billionaire with three professional sounding names. As may have been expected, the downside is that it took JBL so long to get over that he was a bit old by the time he had what it took to actually become a main event superstar. This means he retired only a few years after his first WWE Championship, followed by a long stint in the announce booth with very rare appearances inside the ring. JBL has recently stepped down from his position as a commentator after almost 5 years on the job, making some fans suspect his time in WWE may be over. Another theory however could be that JBL needs time to prepare for one last run inside the ring.
5 Cody Rhodes
Having essentially walked out on WWE relatively recently, Cody Rhodes is another wrestler who isn’t all that likely to make a comeback unless something interesting or desperate happens. Unhappy with his stint in the company for a long time, Rhodes decided to try his fortunes on the independent scene, and thus far has been experiencing the best years of his career because of it. Rhodes immediately became a main event star in Ring of Honor, GFW, and any other promotion that would have him, wrestling great matches while doing so. Of course, Vince McMahon notices when this sort of thing happens, and all of the sudden, he may realize the years he spent ignoring Cody’s talents was a serious mistake. The make or break turning point will be a huge indy show called All Or Nothing, promoted by Rhodes and the Young Bucks. If Vince likes what he sees, he might throw so much money at Rhodes to return he can’t say no. Alternatively, Rhodes might get popular and influential enough to turn him down anyway.
4 Molly Holly
With all due respect to Molly Holly, she kind of stands as a microcosm for all former WWE divas who are still physically capable of getting in the ring. The announcement of the first ever women’s Royal Rumble opened the door for countless returns, comebacks, and surprises, as WWE is already scrambling to find 30 females to serve as match competitors. As one of the better female wrestlers of the Attitude Era, Molly would be a perfect choice for the job. Fans always respected Holly as a wrestler first and “diva” second, exactly the reputation all females in the business are striving for today. By beating them to the bunch, Holly would fight in right at home during the current era as well, whether for a one night return at the Rumble or a longer program.
3 Trish Stratus
For all the developments women’s wrestling has made during the current revolution WWE is attempting to bring to the genre, one ingredient missing from the puzzle has been a guarantee fans will leave Stratusfied. Of course, this is because only woman in WWE history has been able to make such a promise, Hall of Famer and 7 time Women’s Champion Trish Stratus. Things are looking up for anyone who felt this gap in the female WWE roster, though, as the top diva of the Attitude Era may be making a comeback sometime very soon. Upon the announcement the company would be hosting the first ever women’s Royal Rumble, Stratus took to Twitter and acknowledged this would be the perfect time for a comeback if she wanted to make history all over again. When she left WWE 10 years ago, it was mostly out of the desire to start a family, something she and her husband have accomplished with two children thus far. When it comes to wrestling and her personal life, Stratus has more time today than she has had in years, and might use it to get back in the ring.
2 CM Punk
Just shy of four full years since CM Punk walked out on WWE after the 2014 Royal Rumble match, his name still elicits louder and more visceral cheers than just about anyone else in sports entertainment. When Punk decided to leave wrestling, many still felt he was the best in the world at what he did, wrestling incredible matches against almost everyone on the roster and cutting the best promos WWE had seen in decades. Obviously, with this sort of track record, audiences were sad to see Punk go, even if his many complaints about WWE were on point. Because Triple H and Vince McMahon are stubborn people who won’t want to address Punk’s problems with the wrestling business, it might be hard to imagine them apologizing and begging the Straight Edge Superstar back into the company. Unless, of course, they see it as the only option to get fans interested in the product again, which may well be the case. At that point, the ball would be in Punk’s court, and enough money might actually bring him back to the sport he could still easily dominate.
1 Hulk Hogan
No matter what the man says, does, or dribbles out onto his Twitter account, a select contingent of wrestling fans will always worship the ground Hulk Hogan walks on, just as he bragged was the case during the Monday Night Wars. Even when Hogan was caught on tape making racially suggestive comments about an ex-boyfriend of his daughter Brooke, some felt WWE was going way too far in basically erasing the Hulkster from history as retaliation. Since those controversial comments surfaced in 2015, Hogan has remained persona non grata in WWE, yet rumors have long swirled the company may be ready to finally do away with that policy and welcome him back with open arms. Given Hogan’s advanced age, it’s hard to imagine him making a full time return that includes lots of wrestling, but simply seeing his face in WWE again after the latest comfortableness would be a huge surprise some fans even found welcome.