1. CM Punk
Outside of John Cena, CM Punk might have been the most popular Superstar of the last decade. He first had success in WWE’s revival of ECW, winning the brand’s championship back in 2007. In total, he won six Heavyweight Championships (one ECW, three World, two WWE), which included a 434 day reign as WWE Champion.
Punk’s last match in the WWE was the 2014 Royal Rumble match, where he lasted until the final four. After that night, he walked out on the WWE, eventually stating that he would never wrestle again. He wasn’t officially fired until July 14th, which just happened to be on his wedding day. Punk went on his good friend Colt Cobana’s podcast, where he proceeded to go on an angry rant on how the WWE mistreated him.
CM Punk is now trying to start a career in the UFC, with his first fight expected to be sometime later this year. At this point, it looks like there’s a better chance of hell freezing over than CM Punk returning to the WWE, but never say never in the world of professional wrestling.
2. Kurt Angle
It seems like ever since Kurt Angle signed with TNA in 2006, wrestling fans have been counting down the days until he makes his WWE return. Angle surprisingly stayed with TNA for almost a decade, leaving the company in March of this year.
Now that he is no longer under contract with TNA, the rumours of his return to the WWE have ramped up. If he does make his return, don’t expect him to be around too long, considering he is nearly fifty years old. There are so many fresh faces for Angle to feud with in the WWE. It would be nice to see Angle put over younger talent such as Rusev. The U.S. Olympian versus the Bulgarian Brute would make for an excellent showdown.
4. Shawn Michaels
When “The Heartbreak Kid” retired for the second time in 2010, he still seemed like he was at the top of his game. He was just coming off another stellar match against The Undertaker at WrestleMania XXVI. His main reason for his retirement was so that he could spend more time with his son.
Michaels has made many appearances since his retirement, mostly in non-wrestling roles. His latest appearance came at WrestleMania 32, where he was actually wearing his in-ring attire and he looked like he was in amazing shape for a fifty year old. He took some bumps before delivering the Sweet Chin Music a couple times. If Michaels didn’t have a return match at the biggest WrestleMania in his home state, then it is very doubtful that it will ever happen at this point, but fans can always dream.
Goldberg has publicly stated that he wants to have at least one more match in the WWE, so his now grown up kids can see him perform. His first run in WWE was pretty lackluster, ending with him being booed out of the building at WrestleMania XX.
Goldberg was just announced as the special pre-order bonus for the upcoming WWE 2K17 video game. Goldberg signed a deal with 2K Sports, not the WWE, but Vince McMahon still had to sign off on it. It looks like it’s only a matter of time before Goldberg is in a WWE ring and hopefully his second WWE run is better than his first.
7. The Hardy Boyz
he Hardy Boyz are one of the most popular and successful tag teams in WWE history. From 1998 to 2008, they won the WWE Tag Team Championship on six different occasions. Since leaving the WWE they both have gone to have varying degrees of success in TNA. However, TNA’s future as a company is shaky at best and it might be time for The Hardy’s to jump ship.
The Dudley Boyz recently made a WWE return in 2015 and it was clear that the fans still loved them. There is no reason why the fans wouldn’t be just as excited, if not more, if The Hardy Boyz made their return to the WWE. Seeing The Hardy’s and Dudley’s square off one more time would be amazing.
8. Trish Stratus
When talking about the greatest female wrestlers in WWE history, Trish Stratus’ name is right at the top. During her six-plus years, she won a record seven WWE Women’s Championships. She won her last title against Lita at WWE Unforgiven, before retiring from the ring.
Since her retirement, Trish has competed in a few matches, mostly tag matches. As a yoga instructor, she has remained in phenomenal shape. There are more talented women wrestlers in the WWE than ever before, which means there are so many great potential opponents for Trish Stratus. There have also been rumors of her return, making this return more likely than it would’ve been a year ago.
10. Shelton Benjamin
Shelton Benjamin was one of the most exciting and underrated performers during his time in WWE. His run lasted from 2003 to 2010, where he was a three time Intercontinental Champion, two time Tag Team Champion, and a one time United States Champion. Benjamin has been in demand ever since he was released. He has spent time wrestling for Ring of Honor, New Japan Pro Wrestling, and he currently works for Pro Wrestling Noah.
The WWE clearly made a mistake letting him go in the first place. It would be great to see him back in a WWE ring and in the main event picture where he belongs. He’s in a great spot right now wrestling Japan, so he might not be rushing back just so Vince McMahon can waste his talent again. Benjamin isn’t the youngest guy any more at the age of 40, but like his old WWE theme song said, there still “Ain’t No Stoppin” him.
11. Bobby Lashley
Bobby Lashley’s departure from the WWE in 2008 wasn’t on the best of terms. The rumour was that there was a riff between Lashley and Michael Hayes. Lashley felt he wasn’t getting the push that he deserved because Hayes was simply being flat out racist.
Since Lashley left the WWE, he has gone to have success with TNA, as well as compiling an impressive 14-2 MMA record. If Lashley can get over his past issues with the WWE, he would be a great add to their current roster. With his size and legit toughness, he would be a perfect opponent the “Beast Incarnate” Brock Lesnar.
13. John Morrison
Since leaving the WWE at the end of 2011, John Morrison’s stock has risen. He became one of the most sought after wrestlers on the independent scene. In 2014, he joined the upstart promotion Lucha Underground as Johnny Mundo. He immediately established himself as one of the top guys in the promotion. He was the last man eliminated in a 20- Man Battle Royal to determine the first ever Lucha Underground Champion.
Morrison has been very open about a return to the WWE. He has stated that he would love to have a match with Seth Rollins. Morrison and Rollins are some of the most talented workers in the business. If they got in the ring together, they would be sure to bring down the house.
14. Jim Ross
Jim Ross is the greatest wrestling commentator in WWE history. He had a near twelve year run as the voice of Monday Night RAW. In 2008, he was moved over to SmackDown, where he only lasted a year due health complications. Ross officially left the WWE in 2014 and has had a busy life ever since. He currently works for Fox Sports as a writer and he occasionally commentates boxing matches. He is also the lead English announcer for New Japan Pro Wrestling.
It doesn’t look like Jim Ross plans on retiring any time soon, but at the age of 64, he might be too old for the WWE. The WWE looks to be going in a younger direction with their current commentary team. Besides a potential one night appearance, don’t expect to see “Good Ol’ JR” behind a WWE announce table again.
16. Rey Mysterio
Rey Mysterio hasn’t been gone from the WWE for too long. His last match in the WWE was on the RAW after WrestleMania XXX in 2014. Mysterio wasn’t officially released by the WWE until February of 2015, which frustrated Mysterio, who was looking for his release.
Mysterio has kept busy since his release, wrestling for both AAA and Lucha Underground. However, there were contract issues between Mysterio and AAA, so they parted ways in early 2016. If Mysterio wants to make some stable money, there is no better place than the WWE. If he returns, it would mostly be on a part time basis, but the small man would still provide a big boost to the current WWE roster.
17. Eric Bischoff
Eric Bischoff nearly took the down the WWE while he was in charge of WCW, but that didn’t stop Vince McMahon from hiring him in 2002. He had a decent run in the WWE as the RAW General Manager before he was kayfabe “fired” in 2005.
After leaving the WWE, Bischoff joined TNA in a significant on and off screen role. He stayed with the company from 2009 to 2014. Bischoff made his return to WWE televsion in 2015, albeit on the WWE Network in an interview with JBL. It seems like Bischoff is still on good terms with the WWE and with the upcoming brand split, he would make an fantastic authority figure.