Less than a full year after his much-ballyhooed farewell at WrestleMania 32, the wrestling rumor mill is suggesting it might already be time for The Undertaker to make a comeback. Not that anyone would necessarily be loath to see the Dead Man in a wrestling ring once again, but this sort of talk has become all too common in the modern WWE Universe. Whenever a wrestler retires, barely a month passes without someone backstage crossing his or her fingers and praying for the day the wrestler changes his mind (and the process is even faster with fans online).
At this point, it feels like there’s no stopping or slowing down Vince McMahon’s trend of relying on his past superstars to make shocking returns and save the show when ratings start to sag. This is, in part, because ratings are always sagging these days, and he’s apparently given up on finding new things to fix it. Unfortunately, all this has done is proven time and again that not even Vince can capture lightning in a bottle twice, with virtually every major comeback ending with diminishing returns.
Still, Vince isn’t about to stop being Vince anytime soon, so we predict he’s going to keep trying to convince old, retired wrestlers back into the ring for the indefinite future. The good news is that Vince and his executives at least have a little bit of common sense left and realize that not every single wrestler from the past will necessarily work in today’s wintry sports entertainment climate. To separate the good from the bad, keep reading and discover 8 retired wrestlers WWE is begging to make a comeback and 7 they’ll never talk to again.
15 COME BACK: CM Punk
Officially, the WWE Universe is split on the prospect of CM Punk ever returning to the company. According to Vince McMahon, the door is open for discussion, but company doctors have also filed a lawsuit against the guy, which sends mixed signals, to say the least. Either way, it doesn’t really matter to Punk, as he considers himself fully retired from pro wrestling. Well, that’s what he was saying before his infamous UFC debut against Mickey Gall, where he was beaten to a pulp in less than two minutes. Nonetheless, Punk has seemed to remain steadfast in his decision to leave sports entertainment behind, and its highly unlike he’ll do so for McMahon or his “doofus son-in-law.” Quite frankly, though, given how WWE ratings are these days and knowing what fans actually want to see, if Punk were to change his mind, they would be insane not to ask him back immediately.
14 STAY AWAY: Daniel Bryan
In some respects, it doesn’t really make sense that Daniel Bryan is on this list. He’s the only person here who still works for WWE, and if the company wanted Bryan to come out of retirement tomorrow, all they would have to do is ask. However, it’s the fact they clearly don’t want him to do so that makes him a lock for the “stay retired” category, as WWE is basically forcing him to do so until his contract runs out. When that happens, Bryan will probably go back to wrestling for an independent promotion or head to Japan. Right now, it looks like WWE is going to let him, too worried that his history of injuries could be a major liability. For Bryan’s sake, we hope they’re wrong because it really seems like they’re just trying to stop the guy from accidentally paralyzing or killing himself in the ring.
13 COME BACK: Trish Stratus
No matter how far the WWE women’s wrestling revolution goes, there’s one area where male and female wrestlers may well always differ. With very few exceptions, females in the industry tend to retire at much younger ages than the men, and it’s not like WWE is forcing them to do so. For the most part, women leave wrestling to start families they then want to spend all their time with, which is more or less what happened with Trish Stratus. She was married the same year as her retirement, and two subsequent children pretty much cemented she was out of the ring for good. Not that WWE wouldn’t be ecstatic at the opportunity to have one of their greatest female wrestlers back in the ring today, especially since she’s still reasonably young at 41 and more than attractive enough to turn heads once again. That Stratus runs a yoga studio suggests she’s also probably in decent shape, making her a great potential opponent to any woman currently on the roster. Unfortunately for WWE, she doesn’t seem interested in being one.
12 STAY AWAY: Raven
In his own words, Raven says he’s only “semi-retired,” but now that he’s made a practice of wrestling twice a year or less, it looks like that “semi” part is slowly fading away. Not that this really matters to Vince McMahon or anyone else in WWE, as they wouldn’t want the former ECW Champion around no matter how active he thought he could be. This is unfortunate, considering Raven’s incredible gift of gab and brilliant mind for the business could be used to the company's great advantage either as a manager, trainer, or producer. Though Raven was never a huge name in WWE, he was a top star for ECW and occasionally flirted with the main event in WCW, meaning his name still has a little value in it no matter what capacity he’s used in. Again, however, this is all irrelevant because the McMahon family have been open about their distaste for Raven ever since his friendship with Shane ended in the mid-'90s.
11 COME BACK: Beth Phoenix
Only 36 years young at the time this article is being written, there’s arguably a bigger chance for Beth Phoenix to make a comeback than anyone else on this list. That goes double considering the fact she recently became the youngest person inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, a clear-cut sign the company still respects her talents. The one thing stopping her is that similar to Trish Stratus, Beth left the wrestling business primarily to start a family, which she's since done with fellow-Hall of Famer Edge. Not that WWE has ever felt like a wrestler having a personal life should prevent them from being a full-time star, as its commonplace in the industry for performers to leave their families behind while traveling on the road. Beth’s youth also means there’s a chance she’ll spend a few years with her family and decide to step back in the ring later on, a decision WWE would almost certainly welcome with a big smile.
10 STAY AWAY: Mick Foley
Look, we’re not saying that if Mick Foley had another book to promote, he wouldn’t make a short return for the requisite cheap pop and nostalgic run through all the old catchphrases. At this point, though, there’s absolutely nothing WWE can gain out of forcing his broken, defeated body back into the ring one last time. His latest run in the company as the GM of Raw was met with highly mixed emotions from fans, who never felt he quite fit in the role. Not that things would've been any better if Foley was wrestling because, again, he’s just too injured and beaten up to put on a good performance anymore. While Foley used to be able to show up and give an epic promo now and again, even that skill seems to be disappearing now that he’s older and less relevant, so his latest dismissal from the company may well finally be his last.
9 COME BACK: “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
Would Vince McMahon bend over backward doing whatever it took to bring “Stone Cold” Steve Austin back into a WWE ring if the Rattlesnake’s neck allowed it? Oh, hell yeah. While Austin has been out of the ring for close to 15 years now, the most popular star of the Attitude Era still has plenty of fans. Pro wrestling, in general, has always been fond of using nostalgia to its advantage, and as the most popular star of wrestling’s biggest era, Austin is one name that will never really go out of style. Having retired when he was just 36 years old, Austin’s also still relatively young, as plenty of his contemporaries kept getting in the ring until their late 40s or early 50s, which Austin is today. Will he actually come back, though? Given the fact he hasn’t yet, it’s highly unlikely. There have been a handful of occasions when Austin discussed a potential return only to change his mind because of health concerns, and the older he gets, the stronger those concerns will be. Still, there’s no chance in hell Vince McMahon would turn Austin down if he said he was ready for one last run.
8 STAY AWAY: Sid Vicious
Big, bad monsters never go out of style, and as one of the most popular in history, Sid Vicious is the type of beast who could easily become a star if he returned to WWE today. In early 2001, a severe leg break took him out of the ring for over a decade, but he later decided to make a comeback in his early 50s, even making a one-off appearance on an episode of Raw. Fans shouldn’t ever expect another one, though, because Sid would have stuck around a whole lot longer if WWE thought he had something left to give. The Psycho One is still a giant and in good enough shape to squash jobbers with his power bombs, but whether or not his body can take any punishment in return without a bone shattering to pieces is a little more suspect. There’s also the issue Sid has kinda become a joke in retrospect, with his goofy promos and persona taking over his ring persona from back in the day.
7 COME BACK: Kevin Nash
For as much as fans may hope WWE learned their lesson last time Kevin Nash made an unexpected comeback and squashed CM Punk’s momentum in 2011, we regret to inform that he’s still a really good friend of Triple H. History has shown Vince McMahon also heavily respects Nash and his opinions, making it entirely possible that if Big Sexy felt the business could be saved by him making yet another major return, he just may be able to convince the company it’s the right idea. Luckily, Nash hasn’t had such an inclination yet, and as he pushes closer to 60 years old, it doesn’t look like his knees will ever allow him to do so. Nash could still talk his way into a managerial or authority role, not to mention something big behind the scenes, and WWE would be happy to use his name and image all the time should he do so.
6 STAY AWAY: Scott Hall
In many respects, Scott Hall is in the exact same position as his Outsider buddy Kevin Nash. He’s a hugely respected mind from one of wrestling’s most popular eras, and he has friends in high places with Triple H and the other McMahons. There’s a big difference between Hall and Nash, though, in that Hall is a lifelong drug addict, and needing to perform at a high level in front of an audience is one of his biggest triggers. Hanging out with his friends and enjoying the spotlight also gets Hall in the wrong mood, all things WWE has accepted by this point. To ensure Hall doesn’t relapse, WWE pretty much can’t let him come out of retirement for any more than a quick appearance in the audience at NXT or something like that. Even a backstage job might be too much for Hall to handle, a theory WWE probably doesn’t want to test.
5 COME BACK: Edge
More than once, the sports entertainment world has seen borderline miraculous recoveries from injuries, with wrestlers who once could barely walk suddenly able to perform at a top level once again. Quite frankly, with Edge’s retirement more than six years ago at this point, it isn’t very likely that he’ll experience this sort of rehabilitation. When Edge walked away from the ring, he did so because a doctor told him taking the wrong sort of bump could re-break his neck, paralyze him, or even kill him. As far as we’re aware, this is still the case, forcing Edge to continue a much safer lifestyle than he used to. Even if he was the benefactor of some sort of breakthrough in modern medicine, he would need to drastically change up his ring style if he were to ever return. All that said, the fact WWE keeps bringing him back for special segments is a sign that if they could put him in a match or two, they almost definitely would.
4 STAY AWAY: Scott Steiner
Holler if you’ve heard this one before: Scott Steiner is a ticking time bomb of human insanity. Sure, Big Poppa Pump’s unhinged personality is exactly what made him a huge star in the dying days of WCW, and it continued to entertain fans during his stints in TNA/Impact Wrestling. However, most reports indicate Steiner’s mania extends far outside of the ring, making him a public liability to WWE and whoever coworkers would be forced to work with him. On top of that, Steiner himself probably isn’t all that interested in coming back to wrestling, as he’s recently opened a Shoney’s restaurant that seems to be taking up all his time. While become a restaurateur has also had the effect of mellowing Steiner out a bit, WWE probably still sees him as a whack job not worth the time. If not, they would've at least offered him a spot in the Hall of Fame by now, and we’re not even sure that, let alone a comeback in the ring, will ever happen.
3 COME BACK: Shawn Michaels
Seven years ago, Shawn Michaels left the building for the last time, losing one of the greatest matches of his career against The Undertaker and being forced into retirement. At the time, few people expected he would actually stick to the decision, citing wrestlers' propensity for making comebacks ad nauseam until well after fans get sick of them. To everyone’s surprise, HBK kept it going thus far, and he may well stay away from the ring forever, but his buddy Triple H and other executives in the WWE Universe seriously wish this wasn’t the case. Given his dedication to excellence, it’s hard to imagine HBK would give anything less than 100% if he did return to the ring, yet this may be the exact reason he’s choosing not to do so. On the other hand, Michaels left wrestling to be with his son, who's almost 18. When Michaels can’t spend all his time with his kid anymore, he might decide wrestling is the only thing that can fill the hole in his life, making a second, even more spectacular comeback and starting phase three of his career.
2 STAY AWAY: Hulk Hogan
To this day, Hulk Hogan probably considers himself “the biggest icon in wrestling,” and in some respects, he may still be right. As the biggest superstar of the 1980s, Hogan helped put WWE and Vince McMahon on the map, but that was more than 30 years ago now, and he’s gone through too many hip surgeries to ever do it again. Throw in the fact that the Hulkster’s reputation still hasn’t recovered from the release of highly racist statements about whom his daughter Brooke was dating, and it's highly doubtful WWE would want him around even if he could drop an atomic leg drop or two. Worst of all, if Hogan ever did make a comeback, he’d find a way to hog all the spotlight and prevent anyone else from sticking out, which is the last thing WWE needs when the whole point of these stars making a comeback would be to put over someone new.
1 COME BACK: The Undertaker
Reading rumors about The Undertaker making a comeback was the inspiration for this list, so it should be obvious his name would be featured as one of the entries. In all fairness, it was never officially confirmed that the Dead Man wrestled his last match after losing to Roman Reigns at the latest Showcase of Immortals, yet his decision to take off his cloak, gloves, and hat and leave them behind in the ring certainly sent a message that the end was near -- until Taker’s kayfabe brother, Kane, made his own umpteenth comeback, that is. And now, fans and WWE executives alike are thinking it's only natural for the original Phenom to come and join him. This is despite critics pointing out Undertaker’s recent performances at WrestleMania have been pointlessly lackluster and that wrestling once a year and doing the same thing over and over doesn’t really benefit anyone. But hey, anything can happen in the WWE Universe, so don’t be surprised if the GONG sounds once again just in time for WrestleMania 34.