In today's age of the Internet, it seems as if the majority of the wrestling world is based on Internet rumors. In the past couple of decades, the behind-the-scenes wrestling curtain has been pulled back enough times for everyone to definitively understand that wrestling is a staged circus act. All of the fans in the crowd are in on the act since they know that spoilers for a match and its storylines can be found at the click of a mouse. There are several wrestling dirt sheets online and for many fans, it is infinitely exciting to get the latest scoop on an upcoming WWE event. They get the same rush of adrenaline that the average moviegoer gets from visiting a movie set and watching an actor film a scene for a sequel after their character was killed off in the previous flick (i.e. Henry Cavill on the set of the Justice League movie in his new swanky black Superman attire). Most of those aforementioned scoops have to deal with a wrestler arriving or returning to WWE.
As with most WWE return rumors, it's all based around smoke and mirrors. After all, that is how speculation works. If fans predict long enough that a superstar will walk through WWE's doors, they're bound to show up eventually. Sometimes return rumors are right and sometimes they are wrong, but at the end of the day, no one but the WWE officials know anything for sure. For fans and dirt sheet sites, it's just speculation, which is exactly the case with this list. Our predictions could be right or they could be completely wrong since only time will tell. Check out our list the ex-WWE stars that may or may not return in 2017, and join in on the speculation game on what's to come.
15 Unlikely: Wade Barrett
Earlier this year, Wade "Bad News" Barrett was released from WWE. Not because WWE did not want him anymore, but because he neglected to work out a new contract deal. Barrett chose not to re-sign in order to focus on other business endeavors and goals, such as venturing into the acting world. He hasn't completely closed the lid on his wrestling career and admitted in interviews that he'll return to the ring when the time is right. Apparently, WWE thought that time was sooner rather than later as recent reports claim they've reached out to him to return, despite him only just leaving their company this past June. Considering how Barrett just left the company, we shouldn't be anxious about a return from The British Bull Hammer anytime soon. Maybe a couple of years down the line, but we should expect Barrett to get his feet wet in Hollywood for a bit before he ever puts on a pair of tights again.
14 Likely: The Boogeyman
During the Ruthless Aggression Era, the gimmick of The Boogeyman came off as a little goofy for older wrestling fans. Be that as it may, The Boogeyman would fit right in within the current WWE that's geared towards the entire family demographic. In fact, he might help balance out the material for kids against the material for older audiences. While older audiences can enjoy a juggernaut like Brock Lesnar unleash an unadulterated rampage, younger audiences can watch The Boogeyman lick faces and eat worms. It may be a strange time to bring back The Boogeyman as even a part-time member of the roster, but he did happen to show up last year in the 2015 Royal Rumble match. Since then, he's been used sparingly in WWE. If there is any truth to the recent rumors stating that WWE asked The Boogeyman to come back to the roster, then we could either see him return for a few more one-off appearances, or we may see him on a weekly basis.
13 Unlikely: Shawn Daivari
Fans who watched WWE during their Ruthless Aggression Era will immediately remember Shawn Daivari as the heel manager for the likes of The Great Khali, Muhammad Hassan, and even Kurt Angle. His Arab-American presence in a post 9/11 world earned him major heat from the crowd every week. Whether he was wrestling or managing, he earned a reputation as being one of the most hated characters in WWE at the time. After WWE recently signed his brother, Ariya, it led to minor speculation that Daivari could make a surprise return to be by his brother's side. While the scenario may provide for some interesting storylines, it's unlikely for a number of reasons. For starters, Daivari is a little busy at the moment building a wrestling school with fellow WWE alumni, Mr. Kennedy. Plus, WWE probably realize that Daivari reprising his evil foreigner gimmick may not be politically correct for the 2016 audience. The same role has been provided for Ariya Daivari and Jinder Mahal, but their roles are in muted form at best. WWE wouldn't want a PR nightmare by adding a mouthpiece like Daivari to the mix, even if he was always perfect in the role.
12 Likely: Bubba Ray Dudley
For those who are only familiar with Bubba Ray Dudley's WWE run with frequent tag team partner, D-Von Dudley, the thought of Bubba returning to WWE as a singles competitor may not excite the masses of the WWE Universe. However, if one were to hunt down a few clips of Bubba's TNA run as Bully Ray from a few years ago, one would quickly find out that he proved to be one of the best bad guy wrestling characters in decades. His gift of gab and exceptional in-ring skills led to two World Championship runs and fans who loved to hate the self-proclaimed Calfzilla. During his last run in WWE, since he was forced to once again pal around with D-Von (who has since taken up a job as a WWE agent), Bubba never got the chance to show new fans this brute side of him. Luckily, there have been recent reports claiming that WWE reached out for Bubba to return for a solo run. Even if he was turned off by WWE neglecting to use him properly for the last year, if WWE promised to use him as the proper heel star he's capable of being, we might see Bubba back in WWE soon enough.
11 Unlikely: Bobby Lashley
In 2007, Bobby Lashley was being primed to be the next big thing in WWE. He had a couple ECW World Title runs, and became the focal point of WrestleMania 23's Battle of the Billionaires. He also had a long feud with WWE Chairman, Vince McMahon, and a mini-feud with John Cena over the WWE Championship all in the span of a year. With all of this, it's hard to believe that he didn't already become the next big thing. Unfortunately, an ill-timed injury followed by Lashley asking for his release papers got in the way of that. Nonetheless, he's been doing excellent for himself. No matter how much WWE may be interested in bringing him back, Lashley seems to be happy where he stands as one of the top stars of TNA Wrestling, while simultaneously having an impressive 15-2 record in Bellator MMA. Lashley expressed in a recent ESPN interview that the challenging schedule of a WWE superstar is what rules out the possibility of a WWE return. Unless he and WWE can work out a proper schedule, we definitely won't be seeing The Dominator back in WWE anytime soon.
10 Likely: MVP
This is a tricky one to determine. On one hand, there were reports earlier this summer that stated WWE had approached MVP about returning for their brand split, but he declined. Yet, around that same time, Teddy Long claimed in an interview that he was told by MVP that both he and Shelton Benjamin signed new contracts. MVP would later deny that he told Teddy Long any of that and denied that he signed a new WWE contract. Teddy Long would go on to retract his statements, claiming he only assumed MVP was going to WWE based on a particular conversation. All things considered, WWE did announce a few weeks later that Shelton Benjamin was returning to the company, though he has yet to debut due to injury. This sea of conflicting reports makes it hard to decipher the true situation. If nothing else, as the saying goes, where there's smoke, there's fire and Teddy Long started the fire. Don't be surprised if Long's initial claims turn out to be true, but MVP has to wait on the sidelines to return because Teddy spilled the beans.
9 Unlikely: Carlito
Like with MVP, Caribbean Cool Carlito was allegedly approached to return to WWE. In fact, one report claimed that Carlito was asked to return as a manager to The Shining Stars, a tag team consisting of Carlito's brother, Primo, and his cousin, Epico. Then, suddenly, the reports and speculation stopped. One can assume that it means Carlito declined to return, but it's easy to understand why. For starters, after seeing The Shining Stars consistently being booked as losers, Carlito likely didn't want any part of that angle. Another reason could be because they're making more money on the independent scene, which is the same reason why a lot of wrestlers decline WWE's return offers. As ludicrous as it sounds, well-recognized names that join the indie scene are in a position where they can ask for more money on a per-appearance basis than they would working every week for WWE. This is why a guy like Ryback asks for $4,500 per show on the indies now. Carlito is in a similar situation and it's easy to see why he'd prefer wrestling on the indies, if that is truly the case.
8 Likely: Trish Stratus
Later this month for WWE's NXT Takeover: Toronto event, the NXT Women's Champion Asuka will be defending her championship against a returning Mickie James. As exciting as it is to see the Hardcore Country gal back in a WWE ring, some people may find it strange that WWE would choose Toronto as the comeback battlegrounds for the Virginian Mickie James to return instead of a certain legendary Canadian-born female wrestler. However, the original plan was for Trish Stratus to be in James' role as the hometown hero going up against an emerging heel in Asuka. Plans changed when Stratus found out that she was pregnant. Although, if WWE were planning to bring Trish Stratus back now, they are probably going to try and bring her back again next year. After she has her baby and then gets back into athletic shape, we should all expect Trish Stratus to make a bonafide return sometime in 2017.
7 Unlikely: Gail Kim
One legendary female wrestler we should not expect to return to WWE in the near future is Gail Kim. There were rumors earlier this year claiming that she was in the process of planning to leave TNA to jump ship back to WWE. It's hard to believe these rumors considering how TNA have treated Gail Kim like royalty ever since she first stepped through their doors. With a record six TNA Knockout Championships under her belt and a recent TNA Hall of Fame induction, TNA has firmly placed Gail Kim at the top of their women's division for years now. This is quite the contrast compared to her last run with WWE where she felt like she (and the entire WWE women's division at the time) was being held back and desperately wanted out of her contract as soon as possible. Obviously, even with the recent resurgence of WWE's women's division, it would seem like returning to WWE would be like Gail Kim was going backward with her career.
6 Likely: The Undertaker
Since The Undertaker has been wrestling on a part-time basis for the past few years, it sounds like a no-brainer to say that he'll continue to do the same. However, until most recently, The Undertaker's status as an active wrestler was not so obvious. It all started following his WrestleMania 32 match with Shane McMahon where after the match was over, The Undertaker left his gloves in the ring before leaving. Wrestling insiders noted this as symbolic for him calling it quits. In the later weeks, it was rumored that he had been telling his closest friends that he decided to quietly retire. Apparently, before John Cena went down with an injury right before Mania, The Undertaker was planning to have his swan song at that show against Cena. Settling on Shane McMahon as an opponent, The Undertaker was still dead set on retiring afterward. A recent hip surgery that left him walking around on a cane only highlighted the rumors. Nevertheless, his fans can rest assured that he may have changed his mind about retirement as WWE just announced yesterday that he’ll appear later this month on the 900th episode of SmackDown. Still, don't be surprised if he announces soon that WrestleMania 33 will be his career finale.
5 Unlikely: Cody Rhodes
Much like Wade Barrett, after being saddled with a crappy gimmick and feeling like there were better things outside of WWE waiting for him, Cody Rhodes asked for his release papers. Rhodes has admitted in interviews that he had been wanting to shed his skin of the Stardust gimmick and pitched numerous storylines for his character, but the writers refused to hear him out. Not feeling like his treatment in WWE matched his talent, Rhodes decided to flex his abilities as an independent contractor and took his talents to the independent scene. So far, Rhodes has been loving his time on the indies and has pulled out some incredible matches across numerous promotions. Despite all of this, there are still rumors that WWE has asked Rhodes to return and even speculation that this is all part of some elaborate storyline on WWE's behalf. Instead of stating the obvious as far as why neither could be true, it's important to note just how much Rhodes is enjoying himself on the independent circuit. It's doubtful that he'd be willing to give up all of that so soon after leaving WWE.
4 Likely: Hulk Hogan
As crazy as it may sound, there is a slight chance that audiences could see Hulk Hogan re-hired by WWE as soon as 2017. This is one of those cases where if people wish and predict it to happen long enough, it is bound to happen eventually. Yet, the truth is that Hogan is still in high demand as a performer despite his racist rants being captured on video. Many people have already forgiven him for his tirade. Whether people should be so quick to forgive and whether or not WWE should be so willing to bring him back into the company with open arms is another story. Still, the fact remains that no matter how anyone feels about Hulk Hogan as a man, we cannot deny that there will always be money in Hulk Hogan as a performer. Even if Hulk Hogan releases another racist rant tomorrow, Vince McMahon would probably re-hire Hogan on the same day if he thinks he can make a few bucks off of him. Admittedly, McMahon has brought back wrestlers who have done worse and enough time has passed since the incident where a Hogan return could be back on WWE's table sooner rather than later.
3 Unlikely: Kurt Angle
There is not a wrestling fan on the planet who does not want to see Kurt Angle back in a WWE ring. While he is near the end of his career at the age of 47-years-old, it's hard to tell from his in-ring work. On the independent scene, Angle continues to put in stellar performances against indie darlings like Zack Sabre Jr., and familiar ex-WWE faces like Rey Mysterio. Sadly, it doesn't look like Vince McMahon or Triple H want Angle back in WWE. In 2015, Angle said he had a brief talk with them at WWE HQ and apparently, there wasn't any interest on WWE's part to bring the Olympic Gold Medalist back for one last run. Angle met up again with Triple H this year after running into him at the Arnold Sports Festival, but it looks like nothing came out of that talk from last March. March was also around the time he left TNA and with no other company obligations for Angle, WWE would've swooped him in by now if they wanted him. It's unclear why they don't want him (Angle's nagging injuries could play a factor), but it's unfortunate since it seems like all Angle wants right now is to end his career in a WWE ring.
2 Likely: Matt Hardy
In 2016, Matt Hardy lit the wrestling world on fire and for the first time in ages, wrestling was a hot thing to talk about. His Broken Matt Hardy character has been a surprisingly refreshing update to Matt Hardy's persona that has led to some bizarrely entertaining (or atrocious, depending on the viewer) matches and segments in TNA. Whether you loved or hated The Final Deletion trilogy or any of the other unorthodox skits from the mind of Matt Hardy, it's hard to deny them as unique television. It's no wonder why WWE have expressed interest in Matt Hardy returning, based on recent reports and a recent photo Matt took in front of WWE HQ. Even if he isn't asked to return in a wrestling capacity, the creative team could use an actual creative mind like Matt Hardy on their staff. One would think it could also lead to a Hardy Boyz return to WWE, but considering the checkered past of one Brother Nero, WWE may not want Jeff Hardy back as badly as they do Matt.
1 Unlikely: Jeff Hardy
While it's arguable that Jeff Hardy's return is more anticipated from the WWE Universe than Matt’s based on his exhilarating daredevil antics of the past, it's the risks that Jeff has taken outside of the ring that may have soured him in the eyes of WWE officials. While in WWE, Jeff constantly found himself suspended over his drug abuse during the biggest pushes of his career. The last time that he was mentioned on WWE TV, WWE used CM Punk to address and criticize Jeff's latest arrest for drug trafficking. Considering Jeff married his longtime girlfriend a few years back and has since had two children with her, it seems that he has cleaned up his act. However, WWE officials never forget and they are a hard bunch to persuade to bring in a former employee with such a checkered past. Unless Matt Hardy can put in a good word for his brother, we may never see Jeff in a WWE ring again. Then again, seeing how WWE have spent the last few years rebuilding burnt bridges with guys like Ultimate Warrior and Bruno Sammartino, we should recognize that anything is possible in WWE. We'll just have to wait and see if Jeff finds his way back.