Mount Rushmores of Wrestling is a series that breaks down the cream of the crop of professional wrestling in our quest to come to a consensus on the top 4 of any given category. In today’s edition, we’re talking the biggest surprise returns from 2010-2020.
Finally…The Rock has come back…home
Patrick: 2011 was a pretty dark time for WWE. Perennial anchors like Shawn Michaels and Triple H were retiring or drastically reducing their schedules, and the then-current crop of talent wasn’t quite connecting with the audience. WrestleMania XXVII was set to be a dud (I love The Miz, but main eventing WrestleMania as WWE Champion? To quote the man himself, “really?!”). When it was announced that WrestleMania would have a guest host, names from Stephanie McMahon to Justin Bieber were thrown out, much to the chagrin of the WWE Universe. Then…
“IF YA SMELLLLLLLLLL!!!!”
It almost feels not special to see The Rock in a WWE ring in 2020, but Dwayne Johnson spent most of the aughts distancing himself from pro wrestling completely so that Hollywood would take him more seriously. So when The Great One set foot in that ring for the first time in seven years, it was a jump-out-of-your-seat moment. I get goosebumps just thinking about this moment, and I’m not alone — look at The Rock’s arm when he says “Finally, The Rock has come back…..home”. The Rock may have outgrown the wrestling world, but it will clearly always mean a lot to him. And the millions (…and millions!) of his fans will still cherish every minute he devotes to WWE.
Delete! Delete! Delete!
JJ: I was at Wrestlemania 33 in 2017 and I can still remember that night vividly. The Triple Threat ladder match for the Raw Tag Team Championships was just about to start when suddenly the hosts of the evening, The New Day, appeared to announce that the match was now a Fatal-4-Way. Which meant that there was one more yet to be revealed team involved in the match. Could it be The New Day? They certainly had us going for a second when they mocked walking down the ridiculously long ramp to the ring. But no, it was someone else, and after a few agonizing seconds of teasing us, The New Day stepped aside and the music hit for a tag team who hadn’t been seen in the WWE for eight long years…
TEAM EXTREME!!! The Hardy Boyz finally come home!
I’ve been to a lot of live wrestling events and nothing has come close to the reaction I witnessed that night. The sheer excitement and joy that erupted from the crowd was indescribable. Pat (the co-writer of this article) was standing right next to me and we were both hugging one another, jumping up and down, and screaming like little girls. Heck, Pat was going so wild that he actually fell over his seat. And what makes this return truly insane to me is that within a span of 30 days, the Hardy Boyz were TNA Tag Champs, ROH Tag Champs, and finally, WWE Tag Champs.
Here comes the money (again)
Patrick: Speaking of beloved Attitude Era stars we never thought we’d see in a WWE ring again, no one quite expected much out of the “Legacy of Excellence” award that was suddenly announced for the February 22, 2016 edition of Raw. Stephanie McMahon was set to receive the award, but when she opened her mouth to accept the award, we heard a song we hadn’t heard on WWE television in over five years…
The roof of the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit almost blew off when Shane’s theme song hit, and Shane seemed genuinely surprised and touched by the reaction he received. Shane’s run with the company since returning has been somewhat questionable (what was in that lockbox, “Best in the World”?), but this moment stands out as one of the biggest, most welcome surprises of the decade.
The Rated-R Superstar!
JJ: In the months and weeks leading up Royal Rumble this year (which feels like it was 5 years ago at this point), rumors started circulating that WWE Hall of Famer Edge would be making a return to the ring. The Rated-R Superstar was quick to squash these rumors as funny nonsense, after all the man was forced to retire from professional wrestling after a neck injury required a triple-fusion neck surgery. There’s no way you could return to the ring after something like that. Right? Well…
As the timer ticked down for the #21 entrant of the match at Royal Rumble 2020, I don’t think anyone expected the shredding electric guitar riffs of “Metalingus” to be the music that hit when that timer struck zero. But that didn’t matter, because once it did over 42,000 people collectively lost their f*cking minds. After nine-years away from the ring, Edge somehow made a seemingly impossible return to professional wrestling possible. The emotion on Edge’s face as he took in the crowd while he slowly walked out through the smoke still gives me goosebumps every time I watch it. Not only was Edge back, but he was in the best shape of his life at 46-years old, and as he charged to the ring to reclaim the dream that was stolen from him, wrestling fans showered the Rated-R Superstar with the love he deserved. This was truly one of the most special returns in professional wrestling history.
Devon! Get the tables!
The Dudley Boyz are the most decorated tag team in WWE history, pioneered the use of tables in professional wrestling, and in my opinion are the greatest tag team of all time. After ten years away from WWE, the hall of famers returned to WWE on a random episode of Raw in 2015 to show The New Day and the WWE Universe that they were still a force to be reckoned with. Only in professional wrestling can you find two men like the Dudley Boyz that can get a crowd jumping out of their seats at the chance to collectively shout “Waaazzzuuuuup!” as one of them dives off of the top rope face first into the crotch of whatever poor victim they’ve captured. Wrestling rules.
Become a patron today to get exclusive perks, like access to our exclusive Discord community and our monthly comic book club, ad-free browsing on aiptcomics.com, a physical trade paperback sent to your house every month, and more!