After leaving the WWE years ago following some of the more demeaning storylines a woman had to endure (anyone remember Piggie James?) Mickie James returned at the NXT Takeover: Brooklyn II pay-per-view in the summer of 2016 and killed it with a performance against Asuka. Not only didn't she lose a step after spending a half-decade on the indies; she was also better than ever. The WWE re-signed her, and now, she’s on RAW every week.
Recently, Maria Kanellis made a return to the WWE after doing the ROH and indie thing with her now-husband, Mike Bennett, for a lot of years. One of the last from the “Diva in Playboy” years, it’s going to be interesting to see what she and her husband -- who now goes by Mike Kanellis -- have for an impact on the company a decade after her first major run.
Whether it be pre-show panels, Hall of Fame interview segments or specials on the Network, the WWE seems very interested in getting divas from the past back into the fold with the women’s wrestling superstars of today. Rumor has it, they’ve contacted others to play a bigger role moving forward.
Who should come back? Which divas of the past still have another run in them and could contribute something to the product? Here are 15 WWE Divas We Wouldn’t Mind Seeing the WWE Rehire:
15 AJ Lee
Do the WWE and AJ Lee think the same thing? She has to choose between her love of wrestling or her love of her husband, CM Punk. If either of them think that, it’s stupid, and we know AJ Lee still has so much more to give the wrestling community. She retired shortly after WrestleMania 31, opting to live a quieter life with her MMA-dreaming husband and becoming an author, writing the bestseller “Crazy is My Superpower.” You can’t tell us that the girl who broke down crying as a 13-year-old getting to meet Lita and who clearly loved working for WWE (even if the politics of the place drove her out) really doesn’t ever want to be in a wrestling ring again. It’s time for WWE to sit down with the Punk/Lee family, say sorry, and figure out how to bring these two back.
She’s working as a trainer down at the Performance Center, helping to get the next generation of WWE wrestlers ready, and despite not being great at it, did several pre-show segments in 2016 on the Network, so it’s not like Lita isn’t around and ready to go. Much like Trish Stratus -- and don’t worry, we’ll get to her -- she was ahead of her time in mixing a character who was a strong, beautiful woman with superb technical skill. One of the reasons the WWE had to have Trish and Lita fight so often was because nobody else could keep up with them. We have no idea what her personal relationship is like with the Hardy Boyz these days, but how awesome would it be for a feud against somebody and for that team to bring in Lita as a manager?
13 Trish Stratus
So, continuing from the Lita entry... go with us on this. The Hardy Boyz opponents bring back Lita to get under the brothers’ skin. They, in turn, bring back Trish Stratus to put in their corner to get under Lita’s skin. This, of course, leads to confrontation, a series of six-person mixed tag team matches and the eventual Lita vs. Trish match at WrestleMania next year. Trish coming back for a short run isn’t as crazy an idea as it may sound. When Asuka wrestled Mickie James the day before Summerslam in 2016 on the NXT special, that spot was originally penciled in as Trish Stratus. Unfortunately for fans, Stratus got pregnant again and couldn’t work the match. We’re all for Stratus working only a short program or having a Brock Lesnar-type deal. With the caliber of female athlete that exists today, both Lita and Trish deserve to come back and show off what they can really do.
Hear us out. On the surface, this sounds like a very bad idea, right? She’s had her run-ins with the law, has never quite figured out how to kick her chemical habits, it appears, and looks more like someone who ate the Sunny we remember from 1996. If you can have somebody travel and handle her so she doesn’t go off the deep end, she would be amazing to have back and have her be part of a story where she shows what happens when you think you’re the top woman. Have her play the part of an overweight, boozing glory hound who used to be somebody. She can claim she’s a warning to the girls of today. She could invoke the names of Sherri Martel and Miss Elizabeth, who didn’t make it to old age because of the lifestyle. This could be darkly awesome.
She was never the best wrestler, but in an era of divas who were blonde, giant-chested, and didn’t know which end of the microphone to speak into, she stood out as a true professional. No matter what the storyline was, whether it was cheesy, demeaning, or required serious acting chops, Ivory nailed it. Yet, for some reason, others like Jacqueline and Beth Phoenix have gone into the Hall of Fame before her. The thing is, she was old for a diva at the time she was wrestling. It’s hard to believe, but she’s 55 years old now. She could probably still take a bump or two, but her presence would probably have to be mostly on the microphone, and that’s fine because she was the best talker of her day. When Right to Censor needed a woman’s voice, putting Ivory in that position was brilliant, and we think she could still offer a lot to the product.
10 Kelly Kelly
Some will point to Kelly Kelly and say she was the worst of what the post-Attitude era had to offer, but we would point out that she was green as green gets, making her debut with the WWE in 2006 when she was only 20 years old. Now, she’s 30, and while we have our doubts whether she's improved wildly as a wrestler, she's older, more mature, and has had plenty of fame after appearing on the E! reality show WAGS. Toward the end of her WWE run in 2011-12, she was actually improving and was the champ for just over 100 days. If WWE wants to bring someone in and give her a second chance, someone who's young and still has a tremendous amount of upside, Kelly Kelly is probably their best option.
9 Layla El
While she didn’t fit the mold that WWE used with their divas back in the day and never quite connected with fans, we have a feeling that Layla El was simply before her time. Unfortunately, she was also injury prone and missed chunks of her career because she was hurt. She’s not yet 40 and has only been out of the ring for a couple of years. She was one-half of LayCool, with The Undertaker’s real-life wife Michelle McCool, and we think an argument could be made that they're the best female tag team of the last 20 years. She got her turn with the Divas Title, but there was so much more they could have done with her. Aside from having the sexiest voice of any of the divas (must have been the accent), she was also one of the most original. Somebody should make a call and see if she can come back for a little while.
8 Stacy Keibler
Stacy Keibler left the WWE in 2006 to pursue a career in acting, and she gave it a great shot. She was on Dancing With the Stars, was a guest on many television shows between 2007 and 2013, and even dated George Clooney for a while. For the last several years, though, it’s like she’s fallen off the face of the earth, and that shouldn’t be the legacy of one of the more memorable faces in wrestling. If you added up the score, she probably doesn’t have a Hall of Fame career right now, but it's close. Her website is a self-indulgent Valentine to how deep she thinks she is, and since nothing has a date, it’s hard to know when anything was posted or if she has any projects. She should have one project, and that’s to have a final run with WWE. If they’re going to let Bill Goldberg, The Hardy Boyz, and Mickie James have one last hurrah, we think that Stacy should be on their short list of people to pursue.
7 Torrie Wilson
OK, granted, she was in one of the dumbest storylines in the history of the world, involving her stepfather, Al, and Dawn Marie. She’s commented that she hated the storyline, and it was one of the things that drove her from the WWE. But in the nearly 10 years since she’s been gone, she’s become a yoga guru and despite being 41 years old, looks like she’s in better shape than ever before. We’d think having to date Alex Rodriguez, formerly of the New York Yankees, would have taken years off of her life, but she clearly chose to stay chem-free while he dabbled with the performance-enhancing substances. While she’s got her fingers in several other business endeavors, a solid one-year run with the WWE while she can still physically hang could - much like Stacy Keibler - guarantee her a spot in the WWE Hall of Fame.
6 Marlena/Terri Runnels
She may have had the fakest looking breasts of any diva in WWE history, but she was also one of the more versatile. Unlike many of the models-for-hire of her day, she knew the business, having started out in WCW years before her WWE debut. Being married to Dustin “Goldust” Runnels certainly forced her to live the life, and it only made sense when he debuted his character that she be his manager. That lasted a few years, and then she struck out on her own, which made sense since the two divorced in real life. Goldust is now coming to the end of his career and seems to be returning to the origins of the Goldust character as an androgynous lover of Hollywood. If his last major feud in the WWE is against R-Truth, it would be perfect if they brought back Marlena for one last run.
She may have caused some trouble behind the scenes going behind boyfriend John Morrison’s back and hooking up with Batista, if the rumors are to be believed, but looking back over the WWE over the last 10 or 15 years, Melina seems like one of the most incorrectly used characters they had, even having her in a storyline where she was the object of Mick Foley’s affection. This led to him once losing in an I Quit match to Ric Flair that left a bad taste in fans' mouths. She’s only in her late 30s, and since leaving the WWE in 2011, she’s been working the indie circuit and is probably a better wrestler than she ever was during her WWE run (which did include a period as the diva champion). There’s still more gas left in that tank.
If you read the entry on Ivory, don’t confuse the fact that just because Jacqueline made it into the Hall of Fame before Ivory that we don’t think Jacqueline belongs there. She was one of the best of her day and is arguably the greatest African American female wrestler in history. She was able to put on a great match, but also play the sex card that was necessary of divas during the Attitude Era. She’s also another one that’s up over 50 years old so we’re not sure what her limitations would be physically, but as a character, she would bring some much-needed charisma to the woman’s scene. Her last match was in 2013 for TNA, so it’s not been so long that she couldn’t still get physical to some level, and she certainly brought the “mean” to the Pretty Mean Sisters duo with Terri Runnels.
3 Gail Kim
Kim is 40 and hasn’t been nearly as active in the last two or three years as she was the previous 15 years. She also had two runs with the WWE where she was woefully underused, and according to interviews, that left a bad taste in her mouth. But, she’s also been quoted recently as saying Triple H was very good to her and that she’s a fan of what WWE has done with the women in the last few years. There's absolutely no reason that Kim couldn’t come back and still be a major player in the next few years. She’s not the greatest on the microphone, but her delivery is far better than the likes of Bayley or Dana Brooke. We think that the third time would be the charm, and a return for Gail Kim would certainly set up a certain Hall of Fame induction down the road.
Like so many divas, she retired early to pursue other business ventures with her husband and has actually done well with a clothing line and a Florida juice bar since retiring from the ring a few years ago. But she and the hubby separated earlier this year, and she’s only 30 years old. She was a bit of a victim of timing, coming in after the divas were hot stuff as part of the Attitude Era but also before the Divas Revolution introduced us to people like Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks. We think if Kaitlyn would have had more women around her who were great at their craft when she was peaking during her first run, things might have turned out better. Now that she can mix it up with Charlotte and the other talented women, we would love to see another run.
1 Brie Bella
Brie wanted to retire so she could start a family with Daniel Bryan. Mission accomplished. Hire a nanny and get back into the ring where you belong. While she never quite had the wrestling chops of her sister, she was a fixture in a WWE ring forever and is one of the biggest crossover stars the company has ever had. It’s clear that Daniel Bryan loves wrestling, but since he can’t do it anymore, he could stay home with the kids once his contract runs out. His legacy is only being tarnished serving as a general manager. Brie could work the part-time schedule that her sister has seemed to carve out, and yes, we know they're both closer to the end of their careers than the beginning, but we hate to think the days of Twin Magic are really over.