Since WWE transitioned to Triple H, we’ve seen an influx of returning stars. Wrestlers who were shockingly let go due to “budget cuts” in the last two years of Vince McMahon’s tenure are now reappearing on Raw and SmackDown with relative frequency. And it looks like they aren’t slowing down anytime soon.
Once the WWE Hall of Famer took over the reins of the company, fans began to speculate excitedly about which of these superstars the new management might return to the fold. For the most part, they got their wish – just look at the reactions of Karrion Kross, Johnny Gargano and Braun Strowman.
Sometimes, however, things don’t turn out the way we had hoped. Every once in a while, a beloved grappler returns to WWE and things…just don’t work out. Whether it’s unfortunate circumstances, a bad booking or the star in question simply not living up to expectations, things ended in disappointment.
So, not to dwell on the negative, but here are five times superstars returned to WWE and fans quickly wished they hadn’t. But first…
Honorable Mention: WWE’s ECW
WWE’s first ECW reunion show, 2005’s One Night Stand, was an undeniable success. So successful, in fact, that the company basically said, “Hey, how about we just bring ECW back?” To which we, the fans, replied, “Yeah, you should totally do that!”
And so, ECW on SyFy was born – and opened with this (and you can probably guess what we’re about to show you):
Things didn’t improve much after that. SyFy was (and still is) a cable network owned by NBC Universal – a company that was never going to let the type of content ECW was famous for stealing on one of their channels.
A number of ECW originals – Tommy Dreamer, The Sandman and others – were featured, but the brand was mostly made up of existing stars from Raw and SmackDown as well as artists from WWE’s developmental territory at the time, Ohio Valley Wrestling.
This did bring us new stars who would end up doing great things. CM Punk, Bobby Lashley and Jack Swagger would all go on to win the World Championship, for example. In some ways, it was proto-NXT, showcasing new talent before putting them on the “main” roster.
Ironically, the show – and the brand – was canceled and replaced by the original release of NXT in 2010.
#5. Shane McMahon (2016)
Shane McMahon, son of former WWE Chairman Vince McMahon (in case you didn’t already know), was a constant presence in his father’s business for decades. He officially began his career in 1988 as a referee, officiating in the inaugural Royal Rumble match of that year.
Throughout the late 1990s, McMahon would become an on-screen presence and eventually an in-ring performer. Shane O’Mac, as he was called on most of his merchandise, earned great respect for his willingness to perform dangerous stunts, frequently risking his health and livelihood in almost every match he has. disputed.
In January 2010, McMahon announced he was leaving WWE and set out to make a name for himself outside of the business. As they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder, and over the course of more than six years, fans began to wonder if they would like already see the former European champion back in the ring.
During a segment of Raw in February 2016, Shane returned to confront his father in an attempt to take over the show. For some reason, this led to a Hell in a Cell match at WrestleMania 32 against The Undertaker.
It was… not a good game.
Between Shane’s ring rust and the Deadman’s ever-increasing age, the fight just failed to click. Add to that the fact that it was a game no one really asked for, and McMahon’s long-awaited return to the family business looked like a disappointment.
We did get this moment, though.
#4. Bobby Lashley (2018)
These days, Bobby Lashley is a big name attraction. He’s accomplished more in the past two years — two WWE Championship reigns and WrestleMania — than he had in his entire career with the company before that. He’s currently the United States Champion, and with Roman Reigns holding both World Championships, he’s sort of the main de facto singles champion on Raw.
If we had told you this when he returned to WWE in 2018, you would find it hard to believe. Showing up on Raw the night after WrestleMania 34 to beat Elias for some reason, Lashley would then compete in an oddly high number of tag team matches before getting into a feud with Sami Zayn.
A quarrel that gave us this:
And before you ask, yes, it’s Max Caster.
Luckily for the former ECW champion, things started looking up. After a weird program with Rusev that we won’t get into here, Lashley would take the MVP job as manager, form Hurt Business, and then win the world title.
#3. Batiste (2014)
When Batista made his own long-awaited return to WWE in 2014, he was already a big deal in Hollywood. His role in Marvel guardians of the galaxy had made him a household name, and he was already gearing up for a role in the James Bond movie Spectrum. So having him return to the WrestleMania XXX main event seemed like a no-brainer.
Unfortunately, The Animal’s return has hit a major roadblock: the yes movement.
Daniel Bryan’s popularity had skyrocketed since he defeated John Cena at SummerSlam the previous year for the WWE Championship – then immediately lost it to Randy Orton in a Money in the Bank cash-in.
Fans clearly wanted to see Bryan in that first spot. When Batista won the 2014 Royal Rumble (a match Bryan wasn’t even in), fans weren’t just disappointed – they were furious.
To his credit, Batista said on an episode of Talk is Jericho that he thought WWE bringing him in as a babyface was a bad idea. It also didn’t help that he wasn’t exactly ring shaped when he returned. Eventually, the company got the message, turned on Animal’s heels, and found a way to get Daniel Bryan into the ‘Mania’ main event.
#2. Ultimate Warrior (1996/WWE)
There is no doubt that the Ultimate Warrior was one of the most iconic and popular professional wrestlers in history. He had an immediate impact on his WWE debut in 1987, eventually winning the WWE Championship from Hulk Hogan (of all) at WrestleMania VI. It is a title he will retain for almost a year.
After SummerSlam 1991, Warrior had a falling out with Vince McMahon, which kept him out of action for another nearly a year. We’re not going to go into specifics other than to say he returned to action at WrestleMania VIII to save Hulk Hogan from a post-match attack. Coincidentally (or maybe not coincidentally), Hogan himself was about to leave WWE.
Well, jump forward to November 1992 and guess who left WWE again? This time, Warrior would stay gone – for about four years.
1996 arrived, and it was the year Scott Hall and Kevin Nash joined WCW – eventually forming the New World Order with Hulk Hogan.
Now the formation of the nWo has come after WrestleMania XII, but WWE was starting to take the promotion of Ted Turner seriously as a competition. Thus, at the 1996 Show of Shows, Warrior once again returned to the business, defeating Hunter Hearst Helmsley in a shorter match than a typical Ultimate Warrior promo.
Unlike his previous comeback in 1992 – which was highlighted with a WWE Championship match at SummerSlam against Randy Savage – nothing of note happened here. Despite the nostalgia-fueled excitement that Warrior’s return brought to fans, he left WWE again within less than a year.
But even this pale in comparison to Warrior’s latest foray into a major pro wrestling promotion.
#1. Warrior (1998/WCW)
On the other hand, we have the return of Warrior in 1998. Yes, it was for World Championship Wrestling, but considering that a) WCW was as big, if not bigger, than WWE at the time and b ) WWE now owns pretty much everything about WCW, we’ll count it. If you disagree, well, you know where the comment section is.
Warrior’s WCW debut on an episode of Nitro in May 1998 had the fans in attendance exploding with excitement – no pun intended. There had been rumors online about him signing with the company, but considering it was 1998, that didn’t mean much.
The Ultimate One took to the ring to take on former rival Hulk Hogan as the episode opened and began cutting a classic Warrior promo. And then he continued. And go. And go. And go. And go… you will have understood it.
Hilariously, that was just a taste of what was to come. We would see the Warrior Batman Channel – 1960s Batman TV. We would see Warrior kidnap and brainwash Hogan’s best friend, Ed Leslie – aka The Disciple, aka Brutus Beefcake. And we would see Warrior appear in a locker room mirror in front of Hogan (even if Eric Bischoff couldn’t).
This would all culminate in a Hogan/Warrior rematch from WrestleMania VI at the 1998 Halloween Havoc – a match often called one of the worst pro wrestling matches ever hosted by a major wrestling company. Because it really is.
Warrior left the company about a month later, but the stench of his time there will live on forever.
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