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10 Most Unexpected Returns In WWE History

They shouldn't have, but they did...

The inspiration for this article occurred on this week's WWE Raw. Kevin Owens returned to attack Bobby Lashley and in words of Stone Cold Steve Austin, every single member of the WWE Universe didn't know whether to sh*t or wind their watches!

A dejected Owens, fresh off yet another defeat - this time to Seth Rollins in an absolute barnburner of a match - unexpectedly quit WWE. The payoff? A shock return seven nights later. Of course, we can't be guilty of not allowing a story to play out, but it doesn't half feel like WWE have undersold what could have been a really interesting angle played out over a few months here.

Owens' comeback attack on Lashley OUTTA NOWHERE was certainly unexpected, so we can give WWE credit for that. While it won't go down as one of the greats, it certainly did its job of shocking every single person watching the show. Quitting was a bit too far to go, in my opinion, if you're Kevin Owens and didn't have any intention of leaving whatsoever, but horses for courses, each to their own etc. etc. etc. You can make your own minds up on that one.

However, when the time comes that you need to think of the 10 most unexpected comebacks in WWE history, don't worry about it. I'm going to make your mind up for you right now as I run down what I believe to be the GOATs!

10. Brock Lesnar (2012)


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Brock Lesnar left WWE in 2004 following WrestleMania XX because he was sick of life on the road, and the trials and tribulations that come with being a full-time WWE Superstar. He tried to make it in the NFL, and failed. He then headed to UFC and won the Heavyweight Championship in just his third fight.

Fast forward to 2012 and John Cena was in the middle of the ring addressing his 'Mania 28 loss to The Rock. Cena wanted Rocky to join him, but OH MY GOD IT'S GODZILLA! Brock's music played, and The Beast Incarnate made his shocking return to WWE.

I don't know about you, but Brock seems like he's a really stubborn man to deal with. So, when he makes his mind up that he doesn't like something - like life on the road as a pro wrestler for example - more often than not you'd think he's going to stick by his call. But no, he was back doing the thing he loathed so much, with the fella who'd carried the company in his absence the subject of his really, really scary gaze.

Little did we know, of course, that Brock had signed the kind of deal WCW were handing out willy-nilly in the late '90s. Of course he was going to accept all that money for so little work!


9. The Hardy Boyz (2017)


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I was at WrestleMania 33, and bloody hell this return was loud.

There had been a few rumours circulating that Matt and Jeff Hardy were going to make a sensational comeback to WWE, but a match the night before 'Mania 33 seemingly ended any chance of that happening on the Grandest Stage of Them All (POINT). That match, of course, was a ladder match against The Young Bucks with The Hardys' tag team titles on the line - that sounds way too gruelling just reading those words never mind seeing or taking part in a match like that, don't you think? Considering the sheer amount of death-defying stuff the pair of maniacs have done over the past 25 years or so, two ladder matches in less than 24 hours just wasn't a realistic possibility...

"Hold our beers," the pair said, as they not only made one of the greatest and most unlikely returns of all time but won the Raw Tag Team Championships while doing so.

This return isn't just unlikely because of that ROH match, it's unlikely due to the fact that it took the creation of one of the most innovative and entertaining gimmicks I've ever seen to happen. Without the success of the Broken Universe, I don't think Matt and Jeff would be in WWE today. Well done Matt Hardy!

8. Hulk Hogan (2005)


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I thought Hulkamania had died in 2003. A less than successful return for the nWo plus a really horrible storyline revolving around Mr. America sandwiched, but ultimately overshadowed, a wonderful run of nostalgic bliss as Hulk Hogan had a stint with the Undisputed Championship.

It looked like Hogan was done with WWE, as he turned out for New Japan Pro Wrestling and was even strongly linked with a move to TNA as Jeff Jarrett smashed a guitar over his head at a press conference. Injuries meant the TNA appearance didn't happen - we'd have to wait a few more years for that - so The Hulkster was a free agent, a reality star(ish) and seemingly on his way to enjoy retirement.

However, fast forward to WrestleMania 21 and Hogan was back, helping Eugene in his struggles with Muhammad Hassan - goodness me, Hulk, Eugene AND Hassan in one segment together. That's something WWE would have wanted to be brushed under their carpet up until very recently. I'm sure they wouldn't mind if the Hogan part of that trifecta was sticking out now...

You know how this one went. Massive pop, Big Boot, Atomic Leg Drop, Hulk must pose.

7. Edge (2010)


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The Rated R SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOPERSTAR turned Rated Really, Really Injured Superstar after he suffered a torn Achilles Tendon at a live event in July 2009. Reports online around the time stated Edge would be out of action for close to a year, so nobody was expecting to hear Alter Bridge tickle the ivories at the 2010 Royal Rumble just six months later.

Hey, Edge, early returns are John Cena's gimmick brother, brother, brother!

Not only did Edge make a comeback that was against the odds, but he eliminated Chris Jericho - the man he was teaming with when he suffered that Achilles injury - and John Cena to win his first Rumble match. And he did all of that while sporting one of the finest beards the wrestling world has ever seen. Is there anything that man can't do?


6. Shane McMahon (2016)


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Jaws everywhere were on the floor as Shane McMahon's music hit to prevent Stephanie McMahon receiving the Vincent J. McMahon Legacy of Excellence award.

The best thing about this return wasn't the lockbox that was never explained or the OUTTA NOWHERE announcement from Vince that if his Simba wanted control of Raw he'd have to defeat The Undertaker inside Hell in a Cell at WrestleMania 32 in a match that belongs in a WWE 2K video game - it was the fact that no rumours spoiled it. There was no talk of Shane O'Mac returning anywhere online so everything about it was completely out of the blue. I just wish more returns went down like this.

It looked like Shane McMahon was done with WWE for good when he left the company in 2010 to pursue other projects. Six years is a really long time to not appear on something your family owns, but back he came. And the pop (!), my goodness people loved Shane back then!

5. CM Punk (2011)


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The lines between reality and kayfabe haven't been blurred this much - potentially ever. CM Punk won the WWE Championship from John Cena on the same night his contract with the company expired at Money in the Bank 2011 - I'm sure you've all heard about that show before, since it's arguably WWE's best since the turn of the decade.

The shot of Punk blowing a solitary kiss towards a dumbfounded Vince McMahon is one of the iconic images of the Straight Edge Superstar's time in the world of pro wrestling - with the sight of him disappearing into the Chicago crowd seemingly taking us into unprecedented territory in terms of WWE and their premiere title.

In the weeks that followed MITB '11, Punk appeared at a Comic-Con badmouthing Triple H as well as an indy show where he wore the WWE Championship belt, hammering home the message that his contract actually was up and he wasn't with the company in any capacity.

Nobody on the outside knew what was going on - it really looked like Punk was done. A tournament was held on Raw to crown a new WWE Champ, with Rey Mysterio taking the honours. John Cena then took the title from Rey later that same night, before Living Colour's Cult of Personality started to play.

Out came Punk, a smattering of nights after he walked out on WWE with their title. He and Cena held up their WWE titles, and one of the most innovative and captivating storylines potentially ever created was ruined. The Pipebomb, the departure, the extracurricular activities during his time 'away' from the company - he shouldn't have been back on our screens for months, if not longer!

4. The Rock (2011)


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Like the Diamond Cutter, we just didn't see it coming...

Donald Trump, Shawn Michaels and Justin Bieber were all rumoured to be the special guest host of WrestleMania XXVII in Atlanta, with no mention of The Rock whatsoever.

Obviously, Rocky wasn't the biggest star in the world he is today back in 2011, although he was inching closer and closer. He was done with wrestling it seemed, with his movie career starting to take off into the stratosphere, brother. The last time we'd seen The People's Champion on WWE TV occurred a year-and-a-half earlier on the 10-year anniversary episode of SmackDown - he hadn't appeared live on Raw in seven years by that point! Quite frankly, the chances of Rocky being the guest host were as slim as Colin Delaney.

But no, as Raw was heading off the air the lights went out, we heard some form of electricity, then "IF YOU SMEEEEELL" almost blew the roof off the arena. Sometimes being punched in the face feels really, really good.


3. John Cena (2008)


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John Cena is a magician or a wizard - something way more powerful than us bog-standard humanoids. Or, John Cena is a massive liar.

Either way, the leader of the Cenation was forced to relinquish his WWE Championship as we were all told he'd be on the shelf out injured for around seven months. THREE months later at the 2008 Royal Rumble, out he came as the shock number 30 entrant, as he only went and won the bloody thing, didn't he? Oh John, what are you like?

Sometimes being a massive liar is the best thing to do for business. Imagine if John Cena told the truth regarding how long he'd be out for each time he's been injured over the past 15 years? His career would feel only half as special as it actually does!

2. Bret Hart (2010)


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While Bret Hart's return to Raw was announced ahead of time - due to IMPACT Wrestling going live on Monday nights to try and create another Monday Night Wars more than anything - it's simply a day we never thought we'd see happen.

You all know what went down in the late 1990s. The Montreal Screwjob followed by the tragic passing of Bret's brother Owen seemingly saw any relationship between WWE and the Hart family end. However, after Bret was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006, the likes of Natalya, Tyson Kidd and David Hart Smith began to prosper as part of the company's roster.

Not only was the sight of Bret on Raw an absolute disbelief, the sight of him shaking hands with long-term rival Shawn Michaels had us all believing WWE dropped some hallucinogenics in our cups of tea or something.

Of course, with WWE being WWE, it wasn't all roses and ponies for Hart on his big return. As after the Comeback Handjob... I've tried to make a Screwjob pun for the handshake there and it has backfired terribly, Vince McMahon came down to the ring and kicked Bret right in the Sharpshooters.

1. Daniel Bryan (2018)


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Normally, when a doctor tells you that you are retired, you are really retired.

You all know how this one went down as well, I'm sure. After one of the most illustrious yet unlikely careers in professional wrestling history, Daniel Bryan's in-ring style caught up with him and he was forced to call it a day in February 2016. He wrestled, what we thought at the time of his retirement at least, his last match in April 2015 - there was no way back for Bryan, he was done.

"Fight for your dreams, and your dreams will fight for you."

After much in the way of rest, recuperation and rehabilitation work, plus more visits to various doctors than all of us will have to endure in our respective lifetimes, one of the most popular Superstars the wrestling business has ever seen was cleared and back doing what he loved - he even took that Kevin Owens Apron Powerbomb above the night he made his big comeback announcement.

It's a return that's against all the odds, with WWE's medical team refusing to clear the former World Heavyweight Champion despite the fact other medical professionals had given him their respective green lights. Never give up... oh hang on that belongs to somebody else. You know what I mean!

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Ross Tweddell

Written by Ross Tweddell

Presenter over on the Cultaholic Wrestling YouTube channel. Email: [email protected]