Corrigan’s Corner: 10 Most Ill-Advised Returns

While Rhyno & Brian Kendrick enjoy second acts, many others have learned you can't go home again.

Last week I looked back on the greatest second acts in wrestling history, reminiscing about the stars who, after at least a calendar year away from a company, returned to great fame and fortune.

The list was inspired by Rhyno, the former ECW World Champion who now runs for political office when not carrying Heath Slater as Smackdown Tag Team Champions.

Today’s list is the opposite of great second acts, and it’s inspired by Rhyno’s ECW peers: the Dudley Boyz. Their past year in the WWE was a waste of time for all parties involved, which I’ll delve into during this list.

Where do they rank on the ten most ill-advised returns in wrestling history?

10. Rick Rude, WWF (1997)

The Ravishing One left the WWF in 1990, right at his prime. He main evented SummerSlam in a steel cage against the Ultimate Warrior for the WWF Championship and then a few weeks later, toured the indy circuit before signing with WCW.

When he returned to the Federation, he was unable to compete due to injury. Shawn Michaels brought him in as D-X’s insurance policy, relegating the former Intercontinental Champion to outside interference and occasional promos. He only lasted for a few months before fleeing to WCW in protest of the Montreal Screwjob.

9. Terry Funk, WWF (1997)

A decade had passed since The Funker competed in a WWF ring, and a lot had changed. The cartoonish characters of the Rock N Wrestling Era had been put out to pasture in favor of edgy, shades of gray personalities of the Attitude Era. In a mind-boggling decision to this day, the former NWA World Champion attempted to fit in with the new generation by wearing pantyhose over his head and wielding a chainsaw. Goodbye, Terry Funk. Hello, Chainsaw Charlie.

Aside from his run as Cactus Jack’s equally nutcase partner, Charlie failed to accomplish much of anything. After Cactus turned into Dude Love and challenged Stone Cold for the WWF Title, Charlie was thrown into random tag teams until leaving again in July.

Obviously, Funk’s age was a detriment in pushing him into the main event scene; however, aimlessly drifting in the midcard is no way to value a living legend.

8. King Kong Bundy, WWF (1994)

Last seen challenging The Hulkster on Saturday Night’s Main Event, King Kong Bundy returned to the Federation some six years later, joining the diabolical Million Dollar Corporation. He got the winning pinfall in the Survivor Series match against Lex Luger’s “Guts and Glory” team, and then it was all downhill for the Walking Condominium.

He was eliminated in 3 minutes at the 1995 Royal Rumble and became another victim in The Streak. In October, Bundy was released.

Talk about an avalanche.

7. The Dudley Boyz, WWE (2015)

It’s admirable that the Dudley Boyz came back to WWE and put over many young teams. They even took an ass whooping on their last night in the company as per the time-honored tradition of leaving on your back. But Bubba Ray and D-Von aren’t senior citizens snoozing at fan fests—they’re still those damn Dudleyz.

When they crashed The New Day’s celebration the night after SummerSlam 2015, the Brooklyn crowd erupted for their long-awaited return. A few weeks later, though, it was evident that they weren’t going to be used to the best of their abilities. A losing feud against the Wyatts, an uneventful heel turn, PPV pre-show relegations, loss after loss, and to top it all off, not a single sniff of the Tag Team Titles.

A WWE homecoming sounded sweet, but in retrospect, it was a year wasted.

6. Sable, WWE (2003)

Considering she sued the company over sexual harassment in 1999, it was shocking to see the Diva of the Attitude Era back just a few years later. She was still a sexy vixen, but her popularity had fallen. She was distant from the women’s division, serving as Vince McMahon’s sidekick and Stephanie’s enemy. She also battled Torrie Wilson in a feud with lesbian overtones that delighted horny teenagers but left critics puzzling as to why she’d participate after the lawsuit.

The most beneficial aspect of her return was her meeting future husband, Brock Lesnar.

5. Scott Hall, WWE (2002)

The Bad Guy returned to WWE as part of the New World Order, the poison a deranged McMahon injected into his company after sharing ownership with Ric Flair. Last seen as Razor Ramon, a multi-time Intercontinental Champion and beloved star of the New Generation, Hall re-emerged a bit older, a bit disheveled and a bit past his prime. After a loss to Stone Cold at WrestleMania X-8, he went on to feud with Bradshaw (pre-JBL era) before departing the company following the infamous Plane Ride from Hell.

4. Gail Kim, WWE (2008)

Winning the Women’s Championship on her first night in WWE, Gail Kim was poised to be the face of the Divas’ division. One year later, she was released by the company due to “cost-cutting measures.”

The Canadian grappler jumped to TNA to ply her trade, putting the Knockouts Division on the map along with Awesome Kong. While WWE Divas engaged in dodgeball games and lingerie battle royals, Kim and Kong established the foundation of the feminist movement in pro wrestling. Their hard-hitting, technical masterpieces are revered as some of the best matches in TNA history, and certainly the best women’s matches of the millennium.

So when Kim re-signed with WWE in 2008, it offered hope to fans that she could bring credibility to the Divas’ division and influence the Kelly Kellys and Alicia Foxes. Unfortunately, WWE didn’t learn from their mistake—Kim drifted from Smackdown to RAW, failing to win any titles and never having a career-defining rivalry with anyone like she had with Kong. Even diehards probably forget her stint as Daniel Bryan’s girlfriend.

During a battle royal on RAW in 2011, Kim eliminated herself and then quit the company, returning to prominence in TNA and vowing to never work for the E again.

3. Alberto Del Rio, WWE (2015)

Another shocking return due to legal issues, Alberto Del Rio showed up at Hell in a Cell last year, answering John Cena’s open challenge and defeating Cena for the U.S. Title. Immediately, fans were confused because Del Rio aligned with racist arch nemesis Zeb Coulter in a pairing that has yet to be fully explained.

For the rest of his disappointing tenure, the Mexican aristocrat milled around in the League of Nations, traded title wins with Kalisto of all people, and drafted to Smackdown before calling it quits.

Del Rio needed a break from WWE the first time he left, and his world tour revitalized his career. Fans clamored to see the reinvigorated veteran especially after he slapped the shit out of a WWE staffer who made a racist remark. Just like the Dudleyz’ return, Del Rio’s return was a waste.

2. Road Warriors, WWF (1997)

Regarded as the most dominant tag team of all time, the Legion of Doom suffered a historic fall from grace during the Attitude Era. When they returned to the WWF in 1997, Hawk and Animal started strong as American defenders in the war against the Hart Foundation. Hell, they even went on to capture the Tag Team Championships again.

But in November of 97, one month after winning the straps, they were upset by the New Age Outlaws and failed to regain their momentum. At WrestleMania XIV, they became LOD 2000, managed by Sunny. This edgier, updated look didn’t affect anything and Sunny soon left.

Then Droz entered the picture—a former defensive end for the Denver Broncos who Vince McMahon famously asked to puke on demand in Beyond The Mat. Animal prepared Droz to replace Hawk, who adopted a struggle with drugs and alcohol, in a storyline that hit too close to home. The angle peaked with Hawk faking a suicide attempt, seemingly jumping off the Titantron.

1. Scott Steiner, WWE (2002)

The hottest free agent of the original brand split should have never come back to WWE in the first place.

When he left McMahonland in 1994, he was in a tag team with his brother Rick, hitting Frankensteiners and sporting long, black hair and neon singlets. When he returned in 2002, he brought his Big Poppa Pump makeover from WCW—short, blonde hair with a ridiculous chain hat hanging down his ears, long tights and muscles upon muscles rippling across his upper body.

Steiner’s remarkable athleticism of the 90s had been replaced for profane, unpredictable monologues. Fans were glad to see him challenge Triple H, hoping that Freakzilla could end The Game’s reign of terror.

Holy shit were they wrong. Steiner and HHH fought in consecutive PPV matches in 2003, both exposing Steiner’s lack of stamina and mobility. The crowds turned on the Big Booty Daddy, and he quickly ended up in a midcard storyline with Test and Stacy Kiebler before being released in 2004.

When you go from challenging for the World Title at the Rumble and No Way Out, to not even making the WrestleMania card, you know you screwed up.

John Corrigan
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John Corrigan

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