Dean Ambrose’s recent return was a well-played pro wrestling set piece that popped the crowd, added an extra layer of intrigue to Seth Rollins and Dolph Ziggler’s SummerSlam bout, and set ‘The Lunatic Fringe’ off in an exciting new direction.
Fans were always going to go crazy for his comeback after eight months away, but WWE’s execution was strong. Seemingly stripped of the wackiness that once plagued his babyface character, Ambrose swaggered out with a new haircurt, new muscles, and new attitude: refreshed, revitalised, and ready to go.
Such returns are a key component of WWE’s moments-first storytelling mechanism. They generate an adrenaline rush unlike anything else in the sport, and are the kind of thing fans watch for in the first place. A positive reaction is usually a given, and screwing the return itself up is remarkably difficult, but do WWE hit the mark every single time? Of course not.
The company don’t often succeed at reading their fans’ desires, leading to dozens of miserable comebacks starring old faces whose legacies would’ve been best left in the past, and didn’t need trotted out to an audience that had long since moved on from them. Here are the worst offenders.