wrestling / Columns

Top 7 Wrestling Comebacks

March 2, 2019 | Posted by Steve Cook
WWE Daniel Bryan WrestleMania 34

Comebacks are the theme in wrestling right now. By the time you read this, you’ll have seen Roman Reigns make his big return to Monday Night Raw after battling leukemia. My dear friend Larry Csonka has returned to 411mania, and we couldn’t be happier to have him back in the saddle doing what he does better than anybody. There’s nothing like a good comeback to get us all excited.

Fortunately, pro wrestling has a history full of them. Wrestlers we thought were forced into retirement, who suffered downfalls at the worst of times, or we just figured could never come back to a promotion for various reasons, have defied the odds & returned to glory. Today, we look at the seven most magnificent wrestling comebacks.

7. Brock Lesnar returns from a self-imposed absence

It’s easy to forget now, as the last few years of Lesnar’s never-ending title reigns where he isn’t around too often has killed his goodwill with most of the WWE Universe. But that first night he returned? People were going crazy. They were chanting for religious fecal matter when he walked around the ring. We had all given up on Brock returning to pro wrestling after his stint in UFC, where he carved out a reputation that he still lives off of to this day in WWE, and UFC when he occasionally returns there.

Whether you appreciate what Brock’s done since coming back or not, you can’t argue with his success in the ring. Or his success in adding to his finances. And if you’re mad at Brock making the list, don’t worry because Roman’s going to knock him off of it just like he should have knocked him off for the Universal Championship at WrestleMania 34.

6. Triple H comes back from quad injury

Nobody thought that Triple H tearing his quadricep during a match on Raw would lead to the end of his career. They were still impressed with his speed in coming back. I don’t think The Game was ever more over with a crowd than he was on January 7, 2002 in Madison Square Garden. Even the NXT crowd that’s so thankful for the product he gives them doesn’t love him as much as these people did. I’m not sure Madison Square Garden went this crazy when the Rangers won the Stanley Cup. I think Triple H himself wasn’t ready for that sort of a reaction. Also, the added bonus of Kurt Angle coming down for some physicality.

5. Daniel Bryan is cleared by the doctors

Daniel Bryan being forced into retirement in late 2015 was so unfair on so many levels. He had worked so hard to get to the top of WWE, only to get injured early in his WWE World Championship run and have to vacate the title. An attempted return several months later didn’t last so long, and it looked like concussion issues ended Bryan’s career for good.

Everybody thought Daniel Bryan was done except for Daniel Bryan & his wife, Brie. After trying for months & getting cleared by every doctor except the one on WWE’s staff, Bryan was finally cleared in time for a WrestleMania 34 return. Right around this time last year, Bryan’s return was the one we were all buzzing about. Now, he’s WWE Champion & doing his best to promote the environment.

4. Eddie Guerrero recovers from addiction

It’s no secret that Eddie had issues with alcohol & painkillers in his life. After going to rehab in 2001 & getting arrested for drunk driving not long afterward, WWE released Eddie & his wife Vickie left him. That double whammy was enough to get Eddie’s life back on track. After a brief run on the independent circuit where by all accounts he was a model citizen, Eddie returned to WWE in April 2002. Eddie’s career up until that point had certainly been impressive, but his popularity reached new heights in the mid-2000s. He went from becoming a really solid hand to one of WWE’s top stars.

3. Harley Race comes back from a car accident

A young wrestler known at the time as Jack Long was involved in a fatal car accident where his pregnant wife passed away and his leg was broken. The damage was so severe that doctors thought they would have to amputate. Promoter Gust Karras, who had brought Long into the business, rushed to the hospital and kept the doctors from doing the surgery. It’s a darn good thing he did too. After recovery, Long would wrestle under his real name of Harley Race and become a seven-time NWA World Champion.

2. Shawn Michaels returns from back injury

Shawn Michaels’ encounter with Undertaker’s casket at the 1998 Royal Rumble led to a severe back injury & his retirement after WrestleMania XIV. Had the Heartbreak Kid’s career ended then, he would have had a heck of a run & be remembered as one of WWE’s best in-ring performers of all time. Of course, he came back in 2002 and added another eight years of legendary matches to his resume. Now he’s many peoples’ go-to answer for “greatest wrestler of all time”, and he definitely made that argument stronger with his second stint.

Honorable Mention: Bret Hart returns to WWE after the Montreal Screwjob

I left this one off of the top seven because it took place after Bret’s in-ring career had come to an end. (Yes, I know he had some matches after this return. I’m trying to forget them.) But it was definitely one of the least expected comebacks in pro wrestling history. We had given up on the Hitman forgiving Vince McMahon, Shawn Michaels and everybody else involved in that fateful night. Bret’s return to Raw was definitely one of those moments where hell froze over.

1. Ric Flair survives a plane crash

It’s one of the biggest What Ifs in wrestling history. What if young Ric Flair had to leave pro wrestling behind after that 1975 plane crash? He hadn’t even become the Nature Boy at that point, much less the dirtiest player in the game or the limousine riding, jet flying, kiss stealing, wheeling dealing son of a gun. Johnny Valentine had his back broken and was forced into retirement, and legend has it that he & Ric switched seats before getting on.

Pro wrestling would be a lesser place if Ric hadn’t managed to return. Or if anybody else on this list hadn’t pulled off the classic comeback.