wrestling / Columns

Top 7 Worst Wrestling Comebacks

November 17, 2019 | Posted by Steve Cook
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This past week saw one of the most long-awaited returns in the history of professional wrestling. CM Punk hasn’t been seen on WWE programming since the 2014 Royal Rumble. People have chanted his name for years for various reasons. Some want him back. Some just chant his name in protest of a lame angle WWE is doing. A lot of you have complained about it over the years, but the bottom line is that people have missed the Punker.

He’s back. Kind of. If you’ve been hoping to hear CM Punk comment on current WWE storylines in a Fox studio, you’re going to get your wish. He’s not going to wrestle, at least for a little while. He’s just going to tell you how you should feel about the Rusev/Lana/Lashley storyline. That’s what you want him to do, right?

Right?

Today, we take a look at the seven least magnificent returns in wrestling history, along with one that wasn’t really a return but was still terrible.

7. Nikolai Volkoff is bought by Ted DiBiase

This was an interesting little angle when I was a kid in 1994. Nikolai Volkoff was previously a top foreign heel that extolled the virtues of Mother Russia. Things went south for them, and Nikolai needed some funding. So the Million Dollar Man found his price, and used him to help build up the Million Dollar Corporation.

Volkoff’s return could have been good if there was any kind of payoff at all. There wasn’t. Volkoff just wrestled under DiBiase’s guidance for awhile and nothing ever came of it. Just another case of somebody having to work for an entitled boomer that never worked a day in his life. Bad times.

6. Trish Stratus without blonde hair

I’m not gonna lie. Trish Stratus during her main run was the most beautiful woman in the history of professional wrestling, in my eyes. Some of you older heads might want to tell me about Miss Elizabeth, and you younger folks might chime in about…whoever y’all want to chime in about, I really have no idea what. For me, it was Trish. If I had been doing the Hot 100 in those years, she would have been #1 for all of them.

So I should have been all about her coming back, right? Well, not so fast. It was for a completely random program heading into WrestleMania XXVII where she would team with John Morrison & Snooki against…oh, hell, I can’t even remember who. Laycool & somebody. Ah, Dolph Ziggler! N wonder I couldn’t remember. The build involved Trish putting Vickie Guerrero over for no apparent reason. Like most things surrounding that particular WrestleMania, it couldn’t have been less memorable.

5. Finally, the Rock has come back…to take on The Miz & R-Truth?

There was a time during the 2000s where we all assumed that the Rock would never come back to the ring. After all, he was a big movie star. Wrestling was behind him. Well, not quite. He came back to WWE, and John Cena seemed to be first on his agenda. But before they could get to that WrestleMania match, they needed to team at Survivor Series against R-Truth & The Miz.

I understand what WWE was trying to do. Get another big buyrate out of the Rock. But the people didn’t buy into it. Nobody thought this was a big deal, which is pretty shocking considering it was Rock’s first match in seven years. It was a combination of people not wanting to see Rock & Cena team, and people not buying into the opposition.

4. Lou Thesz wrestles at the age of 74

A lot of people like to crap on Dave Meltzer these days. Yet I believe he got the best quote from Lou Thesz in regards to his match with Masahiro Chono in late 1990. “I was old enough to know better.” Indeed. When you step into the ring at this age, you should know better, especially when you’re a seven-time NWA World Champion. You gotta have some self-respect. Lou left his at the door, and he regretted it. Chono tried, but it was a fruitless endeavor.

3. Batista wins the 2014 Royal Rumble

Dave is a lot smarter than people want to give him credit for. He knew going into his return that he should be booked as a heel, because he’d watched enough of the WWE product to know that the people were really behind this Daniel Bryan kid. Batista as a heel against Bryan would have been box office, but the WWE brass ignored Dave and insisted he should come back as a babyface & win the Royal Rumble. It went over like a fart in church, and the rest of Batista’s comeback run was ruined by unbelievable expectations.

To be honest, the career of Batista should have been a lot better than it was. Injuries and questionable booking made it come up short of potential, but there are few men that worked for WWE during this century that had the look, in-ring ability & promo skills of Batista. They tried to book him as a babyface for most of it, when he was 100 times better at being a heel. It’s a shame WWE never figured this out.

2. The Utimate Warrior’s various returns in the 1990s

We all know that the Warrior was a man that the WWF felt they could build around. Maybe the first title run didn’t work out, but there was potential in the future. He peaced out for awhile after SummerSlam 1991, then came back at WrestleMania VIII to rescue Hulk Hogan from Sid Justice & Papa Shango. Hogan was “retiring” at that show, so it made perfect sense. Then Warrior disappeared again in the midst of the Ultimate Maniacs tag team run, which is a shame mostly because of the fantastic promos.

Then he came back for WrestleMania XII, and the WWF was sure that the Warrior would be the top guy at this point, so they cleared the way for him to run wild. That didn’t happen. He ended up no-showing some events and going off into the wilderness again. Then he went to WCW, and the less said about that run, the better. Warrior could have been a top guy on a number of occasions, but he didn’t want to be.

Honorable Mention: Sting’s WWE Run

I’m not really sure how to classify this, mostly because Sting spent the lion’s share of his career outside of WWE. He also managed to keep wrestling for years at a time in spite of actually not having very many matches. So it was like Sting never really left, though when he would appear it meant something. It worked really well for TNA for many years. Sting was the main driving force for that company surviving as long as it has.

But man, when he finally appeared in WWE, things did not go well. People wanted Sting vs. Undertaker for years, but instead we got Sting vs. Triple H so The Game could bury WCW in one fell swoop with DX guys running in for him & NWO guys running in for Sting. Never mind the fact that Sting feuded with the NWO for a couple of years. It was a full display to let us know who won the Monday Night War. Some people loved it. Me…eh, not so much.

Then Sting got a title shot against Seth Rollins, and Rollins managed to end the Stinger’s career on accident. Sting still put the guy over, and will tell you that Seth is a great worker if you ask him, but for God’s sake. WWE put Sting in two matches while he was under contract, and it was to put over two people he had no association with. It wasn’t great, but I’m not sure that wasn’t on purpose.

1. Shawn Michaels returns for some Crown Jewels

The wild thing about this: if we were doing a list of the best wrestling comebacks, HBK’s return in 2002 would most likely top the list. After he had a stellar career in the late 80s & 1990s where many considered him one of the greatest in-ring performers of all-time, Michaels’ second run solidified his spot at or near the top of that mountain. HBK finally hung up the boots after WrestleMania XXVI, and it sure seemed like it was going to be that one retirement that actually stuck. People wanted it for years. There was a brief hope in late 2013 that Michaels would come back to take on Daniel Bryan after Bryan got robbed of the WWE Championship by his teacher, but that storyline issue came and went without HBK lacing up the boots.

Finally, in 2018, Shawn announced he was coming back for one more match. People had been begging for it for years. You would have expected it to be a huge deal that the WWE Universe would get behind 100%. That didn’t happen for a couple of reasons.

-Michaels returned to team with Triple H against Undertaker & Kane. That might have worked for people in 2008 or 1998…not so much in 2018.

-Michaels returned in Saudi Arabia to get some of that sweet money. There was no other real reason for it.

The match was great for my Botched! column & for HBK’s bank account, so I can’t be too mad about it. There’s no denying that it was a gigantic letdown & a disappointment for people that had been hoping & praying for a Shawn Michaels return for nearly a decade. What should have been one of the biggest deals of the 2010s was a complete afterthought. That has to make it the worst return ever.

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Steve Cook