5 Superstar returns the WWE Universe instantly regretted wanting
Ever since WWE came under the purview of Triple H, we've seen an influx of returning stars. Wrestlers who were shockingly let go due to "budget cuts" during the last two years of Vince McMahon's tenure are now popping back up on Raw and SmackDown with relative frequency. And it seems like they aren't slowing down anytime soon.
Once the WWE Hall of Famer took the reigns of the company, fans began to excitedly speculate which of these Superstars the new management could coax back into the fold. For the most part, they've gotten their wish - just look at the reactions Karrion Kross, Johnny Gargano, and Braun Strowman have all gotten.
Sometimes, however, things don't work out the way we had hoped. Every now and then, a beloved grappler comes back to WWE and things... just don't work out. Be it unfortunate circumstances, poor booking, or the star in question simply not living up to expectations, things just ended up in disappointment.
So, not to dwell on the negative, but here are five times superstars came back to the 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 if we just bring ECW back altogether?" To which us 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 get much better 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 fly 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 Raw and SmackDown stars as well as performers from WWE's developmental territory at the time, Ohio Valley Wrestling.
It did bring us new stars that would eventually go on to do big things. CM Punk, Bobby Lashley, and Jack Swagger would all go on to World Championship success, for example. In some ways, it was a proto-NXT, getting new talent exposure before putting them on the "main" roster.
Ironically, the show - and the brand - was canceled and replaced with the original version of NXT in 2010.
#5. Shane McMahon (2016)
Shane McMahon, son of former WWE Chairman Vince McMahon (in case you didn't know that already), had been a constant presence in his father's company for decades. He officially began his career in 1988 as a referee, officiating in that year's inaugural Royal Rumble match.
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, gained large amounts of respect for his willingness to perform dangerous stunts, frequently risking his health and livelihood with nearly every match he wrestled.
In January of 2010, McMahon announced he was leaving WWE and set out to make a name for himself outside the company. As they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder, and over the course of over six years, fans began to wonder if they would ever see the former European Champion in the ring again.
During a February 2016 segment of Raw, Shane returned to confront his dad in an attempt to gain control of 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 match.
Between Shane's ring rust and the Deadman's ever-increasing age, the bout simply failed to click. Add to that the fact that this was a match nobody was really asking for, and McMahon's long-awaited return to the family business just felt like a letdown.
We did get this moment, though.
#4. Bobby Lashley (2018)
These days, Bobby Lashley is a marquee attraction. He's accomplished more in the last couple of years - two WWE Championship reigns and main-eventing WrestleMania - than he had in his entire career in the company before that. He's currently the United States Champion and, with Roman Reigns holding both World Championships, is sort of the de facto main singles champ on Raw.
If we had told you this when he returned to WWE in 2018, though, you would be hard-pressed to believe it. Showing up on Raw the night after WrestleMania 34 to beat up Elias for some reason, Lashley would then participate in a weirdly large amount of tag team matches before entering into a feud with Sami Zayn.
A feud that gave us this:
And before you ask, yes, that's Max Caster.
Fortunately for the former ECW Champion, things began to pick up. Following a weird program with Rusev that we're not going to get into here, Lashley would take on MVP as a manager, form the Hurt Business, and then go on to world title success.
#3. Batista (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's Guardians of the Galaxy had made him a household name, and he was already preparing for a role in the James Bond film Spectre. So, having him come back to main event WrestleMania XXX seemed like a no-brainer.
Unfortunately, The Animal's return had one major thing going against it - the Yes Movement.
Daniel Bryan's popularity was skyrocketing ever since defeating John Cena at SummerSlam the previous year for the WWE Championship - and then immediately losing it to Randy Orton in a Money in the Bank cash-in.
Fans clearly wanted to see Bryan in that top 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 stated in an episode of Talk is Jericho that he felt WWE bringing him in as a babyface was a bad idea. It also didn't help that he wasn't exactly in ring shape upon his return. Eventually, the company got the message, turned the Animal heel, and found a way to get Daniel Bryan into the 'Mania main event.
#2. Ultimate Warrior (1996/WWE)
There's no question that the Ultimate Warrior was one of the most iconic and popular pro wrestlers in history. He made an immediate impact upon his WWE debut in 1987, eventually winning the WWE Championship from Hulk Hogan (of all people) at WrestleMania VI. It was a title he would hold for nearly a year.
Following SummerSlam 1991, Warrior had a falling out with Vince McMahon, which kept him away from action for nearly yet another year. We're not going to go into the details of that other than to say that he returned to action at WrestleMania VIII to rescue Hulk Hogan from a post-match attack. Coincidentally (or maybe not so coincidentally), Hogan himself was on his way out of WWE.
Well, jump forward to November of 1992 and guess who's gone from WWE again? This time, Warrior would stay gone - for about four years.
1996 came around, and that 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 came after WrestleMania XII, but WWE was starting to take Ted Turner's promotion seriously as competition. So, at the '96 Show of Shows, Warrior returned to the company once again, defeating Hunter Hearst Helmsley in a match that was shorter than a typical Ultimate Warrior promo.
Unlike his previous return in 1992 - which was highlighted with a WWE Championship match at SummerSlam against Randy Savage - nothing even remotely of note happened here. Despite the nostalgia-fueled excitement Warrior's return brought to fans, he was once again gone from WWE in less than a year.
But even this pales in comparison to Warrior's last foray into a major pro wrestling promotion.
#1. Warrior (1998/WCW)
On the flip, we have Warrior's return in 1998. Yes, this 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 just about everything regarding WCW, we're going to count it. If you disagree, well, you know where the comments section is.
Warrior's WCW debut on a May 1998 episode of Nitro caused the fans in attendance to - no pun intended - explode in excitement. There had been rumors online regarding him signing with the company, but considering this was 1998, that didn't mean a whole lot.
The Ultimate One made his way to the ring to confront his old rival Hulk Hogan at the opening of the episode, and began cutting a classic Warrior promo. And then he kept going. And going. And going. And going. And go... you get it.
Hilariously, this was just a taste of what was to come. We would see Warrior channel Batman - the 1960s TV Batman. 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 though Eric Bischoff couldn't).
All of this would culminate with a Hogan/Warrior rematch from WrestleMania VI at the 1998 Halloween Havoc - a match that is often called one of the worst pro wrestling matches of all time held by a major wrestling company. Because it really is.
Warrior was gone from the company about a month later, but the stink of his time there will live on forever.