Looking at the WWE roster nowadays, both Raw and SmackDown look quite thin when it comes to established stars. This factor worried pockets of wrestling fans before the draft and it is now starting to show why it was such a legitimate problem. With so many underdeveloped talents, the company needs to bring in some established stars to help boost the ratings. They recently obliged to this and brought back Goldberg. The move paid off immediately as Raw’s ratings spiked despite the fact that they faced stiff competition against the NFL and other programming. The change in rating and crowd reaction just proved how desperate the fans were for an established face to comeback. Just take a look at Goldberg’s WWE debut; he got half the reaction and that was because the WWE had a deep talent pool. Today, that is not the case and crowds burst into joy when someone they know returns.
This article will take a look at 15 other performers that can potentially have the same impact by returning. Here is a list of 15 shocking comebacks the WWE desperately needs. Enjoy!
15 Vince McMahon
Yes, Vince McMahon is still his old dominant self behind the scenes, despite the fact that he’s into his 70s but his on-air time has gone non-existent since the introduction of the brand split.
Some wrestling fans hate Authority figures, while others understand how crucial they can be to an entire program. Vince’s contributions during the 90s arguably changed the WWE’s entire faith in terms of the competition against WCW. Bischoff’s company was firing at all cylinders with the nWo, and the WWE finally managed to counter them with a 'Boss against Rebel' storyline which featured McMahon and Stone Cold Steve Austin.
On today’s program, the power role seems to be lacking. No disrespect to Mick Foley but his presence hasn’t been the greatest, while Stephanie seems to have taken a backseat as of late. The product is in need of an egomaniac and Vince can be just the answer the WWE is looking for at the moment. Whether you want to admit it or not, having the Vince character on the program is always a plus.
14 Hulk Hogan
I can hear the sighs and moans from some readers that came across Hogan’s name on this list, but before you pass judgment hear us out. Hogan can still play a crucial role in the product today and deserves recognition despite his recent shortcomings. At the end of the day, Hulk is still regarded as one of the greatest champions of all time dominating both WWE and WCW landscapes, something nobody else can say.
Some of you are thinking, “Ok, that’s all great but what would the point of a comeback be?” That question is valid but with some creative thinking surely the WWE can muster something up. For one, with Taker still nursing various injuries and recently going under the knife for hip surgery, his match with Cena for Mania seems unlikely, so how about John turning heel by attaching The Hulkster and setting up a dream WrestleMania clash between the two? Does his possible comeback still sound that bad?
13 Matt Hardy
Here’s a name we never thought we’d include under the umbrella of returns we are “desperate” for. When he left the WWE back in 2010 fans were very “meh” pertaining to his release. No disrespect to Matt, but nobody really cared and it seemed like it was time for him to go.
He took the typical route by signing with TNA. The decision was instantly a flop but that would all change in his second stint starting with a Hardys reunion in 2014. Following his tag run, Hardy excelled as an elite performer winning the TNA World Heavyweight Championship. Things would only get better for Matt who would change his entire persona turning into “Broken” Matt. His evolution was truly remarkable. Hardy now seems like an entirely different wrestler supporting a new look and hitting promos that are WWE caliber. His stock is higher than ever and the WWE can certainly cash in big time by adding the former star to the roster. Under his new gimmick, WWE crowds would mark out!
12 Jeff Hardy
You can’t talk about Matt without discussing his brother, the great high flyer Jeff Hardy. Nowadays, as bizarre as it seems, Jeff is considered the other brother when looking at Matt’s new found success. However, when it comes to the WWE, Jeff will always be the more popular of the two.
Like brother Matt, Jeff is enjoying great success with TNA altering his persona to “Brother Nero”. His character work has been excellent and he recently teamed up with his brother at the Bound for Glory PPV. The crowd popped big time for the two under their new gimmicks. After winning the TNA Tag Titles, Hardy’s persona took another “Twist of Fate” as the wrestler altered during the match going from Brother Nero to Willow. As bizarre as it seems, man is it ever good TV and something refreshing. The word refreshing basically sums up what the WWE desperately needs at the moment. Bringing back Jeff would certainly make the product better no matter what gimmick they chose to bring him back with.
11 Kurt Angle
Shocking to think that Kurt Angle has been obsolete from the WWE scene since he departed a decade ago, man oh man does time ever fly. Since he left, rumors have continuously ran rampant pertaining to a possible return from the former WWE Champion. With Goldberg drawing high ratings in his recent return, you can bet the WWE will be taking a closer look at Angle in the next couple of months with McMahon demanding a ratings increase.
In terms of his usage, rumors are starting to swirl at exactly what it is that he’ll do. Recent rumblings discuss a possibility of Angle leading a dominant six man stable which would feature himself as the leader, American Alpha, Shelton Benjamin, Jack Swagger and Dolph Ziggler. It’s only speculation at this point but you can’t help but to drool a little when thinking about those six performers dominating the SmackDown Live program with their dominant amateur wrestling skills. If this were to happen, thumbs up!
10 Jim Ross
When assessing the product today the company has various blemishes all over the place. Unfortunately, one of them happens to be at the commentary booth with Michael Cole being the lead on Raw. We respect Michael and his longevity in the business and to be quite honest, the guy isn’t all that bad. But at the end of the day, he doesn’t come close to the legendary voice of Jim Ross.
JR officially left the company on quite the sour note when he was released after a controversial WWE 2K14 press conference where he insulted one of the sponsors at the event. Since his bitter departure, the commentary hasn’t been anywhere close to the days of the Attitude Era.
We applaud Saxton and Graves for their contributions on the flagship program, though, the show still desperately needs a lead voice to help add intrigue to some of the great moments that we're witnessing. At the end of the day, nobody did that better than Jim Ross. His return seems highly unlikely at this point but man would it make for some good TV.
9 AJ Lee
As great as the women’s revolution has been, at the end of the day it still lacks credible talents on both shows. Looking at Raw, aside from Bayley, Sasha and Charlotte, who can you really say is another credible talent that can draw numbers? Nobody really. And how long can the WWE continue to feed us feuds between these three? Surely over time, crowds will want something new and in order to fulfill that objective you need to bring in a veteran talent like AJ Lee.
AJ’s contributions would be monumental. We touched up on Raw’s need for established talent but SmackDown is just as desperate, if not, even more so with a thin women's roster which features a handful of prominent names. Adding a veteran like AJ would surely spike the ratings and add intrigue to a division that’s desperate for a woman that can draw. Our next entry is another female star that can help things with a shocking return.
8 Trish Stratus
Like we just discussed in our AJ entry, the WWE is in desperate need of established talent to join the women’s division. The company recently invested into this ideology by bringing Mickie James back into the mix. We discussed SmackDown and Raw’s talent pool lacking but the NXT one needed a female desperately in terms of putting over Asuka even further, hence the return of Mickie.
Rumors however, indicate that Mickie was brought in because of the fact that Trish was unavailable because of her recent pregnancy. The WWE had apparently booked Trish into matches this year and others into the 2017 calendar year. For now, the plan has been put on hold but you have to believe that the Toronto native will eventually appear and return to the company, feuding with the likes of Sasha Banks, which would entail Banks to finally turn heel (a role she’s better suited for). This shocking return would be a major up especially in terms of depth purposes.
7 CWC Superstars: Kota Ibushi & Zack Sabre Jr.
The CWC tournament truly was one of the best concepts the WWE managed to pull off in years. With the success of the tournament, the company is now looking to put on a sequel next year and, a possible women’s tournament in the future.
The CWC will be remembered for the inclusion of some of the greatest wrestlers in the world that are less than 200 pounds. Most of the prominent figures were signed to a WWE deal but two in particular were not. Both Kota Ibushi and Zack Sabre Jr., were arguably the most popular talents in the entire tourney. Both were slated as the favorites but fell short in the Semis. This decision was probably made because of the fact that both performers had not signed a WWE deal.
Looking back, the two shined the brightest. Ibushi was dazzling to watch with his breathtaking moonsault and kicks that you could almost hear in another time zone. Sabre thrived as well using his technical displays to a tee. Both have the makings of being massive stars. Now it’s all up to the WWE to make these guys return and thrive starting with stints down in NXT.
6 Bobby Lashley
Crazy to think that Lashley is already in his 40s. It seems like yesterday the former WWE star was breaking into the business. Like Brock, Bobby started off as amateur wrestler, he almost made the Olympics but a knee injury changed those plans. He’d later sign a WWE deal and was instantly projected to be a major star. The WWE tried to push the big man but the plan seemed to fall flat time and time again. After he sustained an injury, the WWE eventually let the big man go, ending his run with the company.
Partaking in the growing trend, Lashley took his talents to the world of MMA. The former WWE star managed to sustain a brilliant record of 14 wins and two loses. His dominance in an MMA ring would help him skyrocket to the top of TNA in similar fashion to Brock Lesnar crushing his opponents. With Brock starving for suitable opponents and the WWE looking to add another dominant Lesnar-like wrestler, Bobby would seem like the perfect fit for a shocking return.
5 Alberto Del Rio
Before you start hurling your garbage at the computer screen, hear us out for a second. Yes, the wound is still far too fresh but the WWE can certainly benefit from a Del Rio return, especially now with the internet in a buzz about his relationship with Paige. The two are currently regarded as outcasts and man, would that make for some great TV if they brought that outlook onto a WWE screen.
For Del Rio, his talent was always there, his booking however, was not. The WWE ruined Alberto by giving him the most random feuds which caused him to get lost in the shuffle rather quickly. Loses to Kalisto and his involvement with the League of Nations plummeted his WWE status. With a chip on his shoulder and Paige by his side, Del Rio can rewrite his wrongs and sustain a great run that will truly result in some must-see television.
4 CM Punk
Whether you hate him or love him, you can’t deny that CM Punk is a draw. During the WWE’s lackluster days, Punk took it upon himself and became one of the best stars on the roster. From his in-ring work, to legendary proms, the guy just had it all working for him at one point in time.
Eventually, things got sour between the WWE and Punk. Not only did Punk grow frustrated with the direction but he lost his passion for the business as well. Things escalated later on and Punk left the company because of creative differences. He left a huge stamp on his time with the company after he delivered a controversial shoot promo on the Colt Cabana Podcast. Leaving in such a way could be viewed in two ways; one, it can be looked at as Punk and the WWE both shutting the door forever. Or two, as a huge money play that will see both parties get filthy rich in the near future if he does decide to return.
3 Daniel Bryan
His departure from in-ring action felt unreal. At the age of 34 at the time, Bryan was forced to call it quits due to various concussion-like issues throughout his career.
After he left the WWE, Bryan struggled with the realization that he was not a pro wrestler anymore. Doing it his entire life, you can only imagine the kind of void it must have left on his personal life. Thankfully, shortly after the WWE came calling with a CWC commentary spot. Not only did Daniel accept but he thrived in his position. This later opened the door for him to become the new GM of SmackDown Live, alongside Shane McMahon.
Seeing Bryan as a GM is great and all but it still doesn’t hide the fact that he can’t wrestle anymore. With Bryan still craving to get back in the ring, you truly believe he will return to in-ring action sooner rather than later. With the WWE teasing an on-going feud with The Miz, this can open up a chance for Bryan to finally return and man, what a reaction he would get if that would go down.
2 Shawn Michaels
Even though he retired in 2010, rumors have continued to buzz pertaining to a possible return for years now. Just last year, speculation intensified when Ric Flair made a claim that McMahon was begging Michaels to come out of retirement for one more match. Although Shawn turned down the request, he’s still being linked to a return time and time again.
He showed up at WrestleMania last year in his full gear looking phenomenal, which added to future speculation. Today, rumors are fueling at an all-time high with the Royal Rumble set to take place in Shawn’s backyard at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. The company is expecting 60,000 plus and need something big to attract such attention. Rumors indicate that Shawn will return in some capacity and possibly face A.J. Styles in one the biggest dream matches in pro wrestling history. If this goes down, his return would be celebrated as one of the greatest in WWE history. We can hear the chants already, “Let’s go A.J., HBK!”.
1 Stone Cold
Austin represents a time where everything seemed to be right for the business. Ratings were at an all-time high, the content was edgy, exciting and most importantly, always kept the audience guessing.
Today’s product seems to be everything but that. The episodes of Raw consist of PG programming, lackluster booking and content that seems predictable and more scripted than ever before. The brand spit has helped, but it seems like the impact hasn’t been profound enough as of yet.
Steve Austin returning would surely be a catalyst for change and it would spike the ratings at that. Just imagine a build up to a return Steve Austin match. The shock factor of it all would raise the WWE back to supremacy with the greatest Superstar of all-time leading the way for one more bout. The likeliness of Austin returning is probably slim but what a spectacle it would be if it ever happened.