MR. TITO: Happy Easter & Celebrating the Best Pro Wrestler Comebacks of ALL TIME

Happy Easter everyone and in particular, my many longtime readers. For holidays and such, I usually try to pump out a column as a gift to my readers but also with the knowledge that after you eat a big holiday feast, you’re sitting around, digesting it, and looking for something to do. Then, when you get on your Smartphone and go to, there’s a column waiting just for you…

Easter Sunday is about the resurrection of Jesus Christ after being killed on the cross. As the son of God, he’s resurrected and that’s why we celebrate Easter. Now, this is NOT a religious column, but to somewhat share in that experience, I wanted to talk about miraculous comebacks made by Professional Wrestlers who were thought to have ended their careers due to a bad mistake, bad career move, or was just written off entirely before making a big comeback.

I just watched British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith‘s A&E documentary, for example, and he had a tough time following SummerSlam 1992 and during his 1993 WCW run. While he beat Bret Hart for the IC Title at that big event, his push was short lived because he got busted with a shipment of human growth hormone (HGH) at a time when the WWE was heavily investigated for steroid distribution. Bad timing, but good timing because WCW paid him a ton of money as a free agent… But his WCW run sucked, to be honest. It was lifeless and he didn’t thrive in a bad environment.

Bulldog returns to the WWE during the mid-1990s and he was a much needed singles wrestler to strengthen the roster that was about to lose some major free agents (Hall & Nash). He had some nice feuds with Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart to help headline Pay Per Views, and I loved his tag team with Owen Hart. Then in 1997, forming the Hart Foundation stable with Owen, Bret, Pillman, and Anvil was a great experience for him. Surrounding yourself with a great support system helps you thrive, and he probably lacked that with WCW. Sadly, the painful toll of the wrestling industry and working in the “Pill 90s” era did him no favors, as his body broke down and he was often intoxicated by the partying atmosphere (side friend of HBK). Then, he loses the family support when Bret goes to WCW and the Hart Foundation is over thanks to the Montreal Screwjob. Takes a bad bodyslam on a trap door in a ring at WCW Fall Brawl 1998 and it messed him up badly.

Makes me wonder WHY IN THE HELL did neither WWE or WCW have healthcare options back then? Cheap bastards…

Then you have the story of Sid Eudy, also known as “Sid Vicious” in WCW and “Sid Justice” and “Sycho Sid” in WWF/WWE. The man’s WWE run during 1992 didn’t end well, as he disappeared immediately after Wrestlemania 8, while his WCW return right after that was much worse. He got into an altercation at a hotel with Arn Anderson and it go so physical that medical scissors got involved and Arn was stabbed multiple times. Now, those are major red flags for any promotion to consider, but WWE gave him a chance and we saw Sid back in the WWE during 1995 when he replaced Diesel as HBK’s bodyguard. That run built momentum, especially when Sid turned face during 1996, and he won the freakin’ WWE Title at Survivor Series 1996. LOVED IT.

Sid then headlined Wrestlemania 13 as WWE Champion (another run with the title after previously losing it at Royal Rumble 1997, as Sid benefitted most from Shawn “losing his smile”) and I thought that his 1999-2001 WCW run was good. Yeah, he shredded his leg to end it during 2001, but he was a stable main event force at a time when WCW needed it badly. LOVE me some Sid! He deserves to be in the WWE Hall of Fame, period, end of story.

Lex Luger has always been a controversial wrestler, as he certainly got by thanks to the amazing physique and received pushes ahead of many experienced wrestlers. But in WCW, Ric Flair towed the line on who would beat him or not (not Luger), while the WWE run as “All American” Lex Luger was a disaster. It was all made worse because Luger’s heart wasn’t into being a babyface and carrying the responsibilities of that. His character was more in the gray area, who could be a heel or a babyface at a flip of the switch. It just didn’t work in WWE.

But Lex Luger worked well in WCW… Returns on the first ever WCW Nitro and he presents himself as a serious performer by wearing basic black trunks and being mysterious as to where his intentions are… Sometimes he sides with Dungeon of Doom, sometimes he sides with his longtime buddy Sting. It worked… But then when the NWO arrives, he’s the perfect confident fit to push back against that stable. At first, he helps the Giant (Paul Wight, Big Show) get away from the NWO and becomes his friend, while Luger was the first to defeat Hogan for the WCW title while Hogan was with the NWO. That August 1997 win on Nitro was so inspirational, as you wouldn’t have predicted that big moment during 1994 if you tried.

Everyone thought Edge‘s career was over… Bad neck problems caused him to retire during 2011 following that year’s Wrestlemania. Then at Royal Rumble 2020, he made his surprise in-ring return during the Rumble match. Fans went bonkers… It truly makes me wonder how his WWE return could have played out, had COVID-19 not interjected itself and caused WWE to perform in am empty Performance Center and then arena (the “Thunderdome”) for a while. It definitely put a wet blanket on his return… But hey, he’s still wrestling to this day with AEW.

The Ultimate Warrior has had several comebacks, such as at Wrestlemania 8 when he returned after Vince sent him home, 1996 at Wrestlemania 12 that was short-lived due to more problems, and then during 1998 for WCW. Warrior then stirred up controversy by some of his political speeches during the 2000s and the WWE destroyed him with the “Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior” DVD hit piece. However, during 2013, the WWE and Warrior began working together again and by 2014, Warrior made the Hall of Fame. CRAZY thing is that Warrior died on the day following Monday Night RAW after Wrestlemania and he literally gave his own eulogy to the fans before he died on RAW.

Brock Lesnar made a HUGE comeback during 2012, and this came after years of bitter relations between he and the WWE. Lesnar just quit during 2004 in the middle of his contract and signed a non-compete to exit that WWE that would prohibit him from wrestling for other promotions or performing in MMA promotions. Well, he wrestled in Japan and joined the UFC. This put WWE and Lesnar in the courts for years, but they eventually settled… When UFC was no longer an option for Lesnar, after he was sick, he rejoins the WWE. A bit rocky at first during 2012, but by 2013, the BEAST had fully arrived and dominated the 2010s and was the #1 star for that decade. I believe that Lesnar is an all-time great WWE superstar, thanks to this run.

Ditto for Paul Heyman… He returned thanks to Brock Lesnar’s return, as Brock had limited dates in his contract to appear along with Pay Per View exclusive in-ring matches. When Brock couldn’t show, WWE used Paul Heyman as a proxy to speak on behalf of Brock Lesnar. It was PERFECT and Heyman sold Lesnar to the masses as his hype man. PRIOR to rejoining the WWE, Heyman had a rough ending to his WWE tenure. They relieved him of his Smackdown creative team duties, pushed him down to Ohio Valley Wrestling, and then limited him in the ECW brand comeback. Even when Heyman was managing Brock during the 2010s, there was always friction and Vince McMahon did NOT like him as Executive Director of RAW form 2019-2020. Then, WWE puts Heyman with the newly turned heel Roman Reigns and Heyman has truly helped to make Roman a better performer. Funny how WWE leaves him alone now and begins to praise him, as seen by the Hall of Fame.

What can you say about Cody Rhodes? They guy was Stardust and WWE refused to break him from that character. So he leaves them, travels the world as his own self as a character, and does so well at the All In 2018 show that Tony Khan is convinced enough to create the AEW promotion. While the AEW tenure could have gone better, his return to the WWE as a serious wrestler has created a great story to tell. Now, he’s out to prove the WWE wrong about his previous WWE run, out to prove AEW wrong for taking him for granted, and out to prove the Rhodes legacy as a great family dynasty by capturing the WWE Title.

How about Eddie Guerrero? He’s made some mistakes that lost him jobs, particularly losing his WWE job during 2001… But then he returns during 2002 and we witnessed the BEST run of his career. Latino Heat with Chyna, teaming with Chavo, and then going on the big singles push (dude beat Lesnar to win the WWE title!). To this day, people still get emotional about Eddie’s 2002-2005 run and if you ask most wrestlers backstage, they’ll tell you that this run was very inspirational to them becoming wrestlers.

LOVED Rey Mysterio joining the WWE during 2002… Things didn’t end well with WCW. They unmasked him and WCW was a trainwreck from 1999-2001. While Rey-Rey still put on great matches, it wasn’t the same… The guy was like a human Spider-Man out there and with the mask, it just wasn’t the same… Then, however, the WWE brought him in for 2002 and put the mask back on. Add to that, Rey got into the best physical shape of his life and the WWE production staff built a great entrance and theme song to pump up fans before his matches. The guy was instantly a superstar and even bigger than he was ever imagined during the peak Cruiserweight division years. Go watch some of that 2002-2003 stuff from Mysterio and have your head blown. Dude was ON FIRE!

I’m not going to lie, I get a tad emotional when I watch the 2018 Royal Rumble. Great show overall, but the first ever women’s Royal Rumble gets me… You were unsure about the match UNTIL entrant #5 arrives and it’s freakin’ Lita. Then your mind starts racing, “who else could be brought back?”. Then, Torrie Wilson comes out… Yes, I know, not the best wrestler, but she’s so beautiful and that smile is intoxicating. Molly Holly came out and for all of us who watched during the early 2000s and even during late 1990s/early 2000s WCW, we knew she could go and deserved more praise. Michelle McCool returning, as she doesn’t get enough credit for how good she once was. Kelly Kelly, same reaction as Torrie, but you loved her because she was part of the shows you watched. LOVED seeing Jaqueline coming back, as I always felt she was under-appreciated in both WCW and WWE. Tough as nails and looked great doing it! Then, Beth Phoenix comes out to confront Nia Jax! Holy cow! Then to top it all off at #30, Trish Stratus comes out and wrestles for the first time since 2006. She looked great and didn’t miss a beat, but then you get the Mickie James moment… THAT right there makes being a long-time wrestling fan worth it when you get callbacks like that.

I LOVED the Hardy Boyz return at Wrestlemania 33 as surprise additional entrants into the TLC match for the Tag Titles. They were gone from the WWE since 2009 and then came out and delivered another compelling TLC match to win the WWE Tag Titles. They made that match SUPER EXCITING and it seemed like they never missed a beat. Sure, their WWE run didn’t end as well as it could have, but you cannot take away this moment.

I always felt Goldust‘s multiple WWE comebacks were important… Always a solid hand when he returned and the BEAUTY of the Goldust character is that he never ages… It’s exactly like the band KISS, that damn make-up keeps them younger looking. The full bodysuit and paint keeps Dustin looking younger. The tag team with Booker T and then teaming with Cody to defeat the Shield are big moments for me. Then, for Dustin to kick off AEW well with his match against Cody at Double or Nothing 2019, my “match of the year” for that year, just added to Dustin’s highly underrated career. The guy is just a pure worker with absolute skill inside that ring.

Chris Jericho has been written off as a character often, but the guy constantly reinvents himself and proves everyone wrong. I thought that his comeback during 2007 was superb, following his 2005 break, and he had one of the best blood feuds of all time with Shawn Michaels. Jericho would take more breaks for his music and other projects, but then return to the WWE repeatedly as an asset. I still LOVE the dynamic he had with Kevin Owens and his “List” character. That was pure magic and I believe Owens has been riding on that momentum of that storyline ever since. “Why is my name on the list”, just tears you up when you watch it.

Lastly, and I believe this is the biggest comeback of them all… And on this Easter Day, this is a guy who is now big on the man upstairs… At Royal Rumble 1998, Shawn Michaels injured his back on a spot gone wrong when he was flipped to the outside and landed on the casket wrong. To Shawn’s credit, he sucked it up and fought through the pain to put over Steve Austin at Wrestlemania… However, what probably allowed him to wrestle through the pain was the many pills and other substances he was on. Michaels was a ticking timebomb before the back injury, and I often wonder if the time off between 1998-2002 from the WWE may have saved his life from pushing himself further? While HBK had continued struggles with substance abuse, he eventually kicks it thanks to his awesome wife Rebecca and gaining faith as a “born again” Christian. Michaels also gets his back surgically repaired.

At SummerSlam 2002, Michaels wrestled his first WWE match since Wrestlemania 14 in 1998. You CRINGED as Triple H worked on that back, but were inspired when it appeared that Shawn hadn’t missed a beat. From there, HBK kept wrestling in increasing amounts of matches until he became a full-time wrestler again through 2003 (I think Chris Jericho inspired him at Wrestlemania 19) and we gifted many incredible matches throughout the 2010s against Kurt Angle, Triple H/Chris Benoit, Shelton Benjamin, the Undertaker, John Cena, and so much more. His second career after we thought that he was written off due to injury and substance abuses was truly inspirational and proves that a second chance can do a pro wrestler some good.

I could be hear ALL DAY and list MANY more… Share some in the comments.

BUT here is the bigger point. Pro Wrestling is actually a very forgiving world. Guys like Ultimate Warrior and Bruno Sammartino were guys that you’d never think they’d do business with the WWE again, and they did. Hulk Hogan not only testifies in the WWE steroid trial, but he joins WCW to help them beat the WWE in the Monday Night Wars. By 2002, Hogan is back in the WWE. Hogan uses racial slurs and within a few years, he’s back in the WWE. Macho Man Randy Savage had lots of heat with the WWE, particularly his online heated response to Triple H. HHH called Randy a “dinosaur” and Savage replied with a promo cut that included threats to take his girl Stephanie (promo that started all of those Macho/Stephanie rumors). Took about 10 years to calm down from that, but in the year before Savage’s death, they were beginning to work with him again on Merchandise deals.

If you’re someone like Ryback and you’ve had a few bad years of getting into online fights, things can be forgiven… The wrestler just needs to calm down, relax, and show that he can be TRUSTED again to do business. Ronda Rousey, in case you haven’t noticed, Vince McMahon is gone. Why not give Triple H a chance to present you as the performer you believe is worthy of your talents?

For example, CM Punk returning to the WWE… That’s a BIG DEAL and a HUGE comeback because Punk had major heat with various wrestlers backstage and namely with Triple H. However, Punk appeared backstage at a WWE show while he was still with AEW to make amends with the Miz, one whom Punk had been bashing for YEARS, while actively trying to reach out to Triple H. After Punk was fired from AEW, he reaches out to WWE for discussions of a return. HHH and Punk had to discuss TRUSTING each other, and Punk has proven to be a model citizen. Some of the guys who had heat with him, such as Seth Rollins, have come around and Punk is thriving in a more comfortable environment set by Triple H.

Just don’t commit any heinous crimes, and promotions & fans will welcome you back with open arms if you have something to offer.

If it’s just a disagreement or if someone just had a bad attitude, you’re 100% allowed to forgive them. People can evolve and get better, with time. Time heals all wounds, as they say.

Have a great Easter, everyone! Thank you so much for reading!

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