WWE: Top 25 Returns in Monday Night Raw History
There's nothing more exciting than a good old WWE return. And after witnessing the returns of both Mr. McMahon and the man they call Vader this past Monday night, I thought to myself.
I said, "Self, why not compose an epic countdown of superstar returns? And not just any returns. Monday Night Raw returns."
And here we are.
So as the 1000th episode of the show quickly approaches, join me in counting down the top 25 Raw returns in WWE history.
25. Matt Hardy (2005)
We'll kick off this Raw anniversary countdown with none other than Matt Hardy. Although he may be better suited for a countdown involving the biggest disappointments in professional wrestling, he'll suffice here.
Hardy, who was involved in an actual love triangle with Adam "Edge" Copeland and Amy "Lita" Dumas, had his role played through in the script. Here, the boss himself, Mr. McMahon, reintroduces Hardy to the WWE Universe and into the angle with Edge.
24. Jerry "The King" Lawler (2001)
Cheese and wine are two notable items that get better with age. Jerry "The King" Lawler, however, does not.
Don't get me wrong, I certainly respect Lawler as well as the work he's done behind the table for the WWE. But don't you miss the old heel Jerry?
Don't you miss the guy that would verbally ambush the Hart family? The guy that would always make a witty punk or joke whenever he had the opportunity? And as corny or played out as they were, Jerry was still Jerry.
Anyway, Lawler makes a nice return here one night after the 2001 edition of Survivor Series. As McMahon fires Paul Heyman, he brings in his very capable replacement in Lawler.
23. Stone Cold Steve Austin (2011)
I hate to play negative Nancy for the third consecutive slide, but not even an appearance from the great Stone Cold Steve Austin could salvage the insufferable Michael Cole-Jerry Lawler feud.
Nonetheless, this return from Austin was a nice little surprise.
22. Undertaker (1998)
With some help from Kane, Shawn Michaels was able to conquer The Undertaker in their Royal Rumble casket match. Taker was trapped in the coffin, which was later set ablaze.
He then returned after a two-month hiatus and set his sights on Kane. This return on Raw led to their matchup at WrestleMania XIV which Taker, of course, won.
21. Kane (2012)
This return by the Big Red Machine doesn't exactly register in the "exciting" or "surprising" category.
Rather, it falls under the "awesome" file.
We all knew of Kane's 2012 return from watching the weekly vignettes. We also knew he was coming back with a mask. But who knew the mask, as well as the one over it, would be kinda creepy?
20. Shawn Michaels (2007)
Upon his 2007 return, Chris Jericho saved us from Randall Keith Orton. But he wasn't the only one that year.
After being sidelined with a kayfabe concussion injury in his Judgment Day match against Orton, Michaels took the four-month vacation to repair a nagging knee injury.
On Oct. 8, Michaels returned and started some good ol' havoc on the Orton championship ceremony.
19. The Rock (2001)
The WWF or the Alliance? That was the question that was posed to the returning Rock in 2001.
Well to nobody's surprise, the Scorpion King sided with Mr. McMahon and the WWF. The Rock did, however, give us a nice swerve when he delivered a Rock Bottom to Vince.
Didn't get enough Rocky in this slide? Don't worry, I assure you there will be more.
18. Jeff Hardy (2006)
Jeff Hardy had the mic skills of a potato, looked like a mix of a hippie and a clown and was as predictable as the stock market during his WWE days.
And most of all, his drug problems, which ultimately pushed him out, were very alarming. But that didn't stop him from becoming one of the company's biggest superstars.
Just as his brother did about a year prior, Hardy returns to crash Edge's party.
17. Edge (2004)
Speaking of Edge and his parties...
After spending nearly a year on the sidelines with a severe neck injury, the Rated-R Superstar was drafted to the Raw brand by general manager Eric Bischoff.
Edge's return from the injury was nothing short of uplifting. The pumped crowd certainly agreed.
16. Ric Flair (2001)
Mr. McMahon thought he had it all after watching Team WWF push out the Alliance at the 2001 edition of Survivor Series. But he didn't.
In a surprise appearance in his home state of North Carolina, the Nature Boy Ric Flair finally made his WWE comeback. Naitch became the co-owner of the company along with Mr. McMahon.
15. The Rock (2004)
Told you there'd be more Rocky.
Although it wasn't a permanent one, this return saw the Brahma Bull come to the defense of Eugene. Too bad his favorite wrestler was Triple H.
14. The Rock (2003)
Hey, look at that! Yet another Rock return on the countdown.
This time, one half of the Rock n' Sock Connection comes to help out the other half.
13. Kane (2002)
When playing out his in-ring Kane character, Glen Jacobs usually doesn't show much enthusiasm. But in his 2002 return, you can clearly tell Jacobs, or Kane, is incredibly amped up.
Just as Test, Lance Storm and Christian set out to burn the American flag, the devil's favorite demon returns to break it up.
Fortunately for Test, Kane did save him from some jail time. Unfortunately for Test, he caught a whoppin'.
12. The Rock (2004)
Evolution is a mystery. Full of change that no one sees.
Well, Evolution may have been a mystery, but this return wasn't.
As WrestleMania XX crept up, Mick Foley was forced to find some help in his feud with Randy Orton, Ric Flair and Batista. That help came in the form of The Rock.
Just as Orton points out in the segment, just about everyone knew of Rocky's return. That, however, did not stop them from giving up some thunderous pop.
11. Chris Jericho (2012)
When these cryptic "It Begins" vignettes aired, I couldn't be more excited to see what Chris Jericho had in store for us. And at first, he definitely delivered.
The fact that his speechless return promos in the ring forced some crowd heat was absolutely incredible. Watching Jericho annoy the crowd with his pointless cheering, screaming and eventual crying was pure gold.
Jericho and the WWE did a great job of building interest in the curious angle.
Then all the "end of the world" talk really came up stale. Jericho didn't win any pay-per-view matches upon the return, making us wonder why he was brought back.
As one of the most gracious and selfless individuals in the industry, you must commend Jericho for returning to put over CM Punk. But I, as presumably most of you, probably wished he could have had another little WWE title reign.
10. The Rock (2002)
I hope you're not getting tired of seeing The Rock. Then again, who does?
In a move unforeseen by pretty much everybody, The Rock returned in 2002 to confront Mr. McMahon. The "he"was initially thought out to be Austin. But the "he" ended up as Austin's all-time rival, Rock.
This "Austin can take his ball and go home" promo planted the seed for the emergence of Hollywood Rock, one of the best heel characters ever.
9. Bret Hart (2010)
We all know of the "Vince screwed Bret" or the "Bret screwed Bret" saga. So when the best there is, was and ever will be made his return to Monday Night Raw, the moment was that much better.
And luckily for us, Hart's return wasn't a one-night stand. Hart stayed with the company for a number of months and even picked up a United States title victory in the process.
8. Stone Cold Steve Austin (2003)
No one expected it. That's what made this particular return by Stone Cold Steve Austin his best.
Once the glass shattered, the crowd went into a frenzy. Bischoff was stunned, the audience was excited and Bischoff was stunned, again.
7. Shawn Michaels (2002)
After suffering a back injury in 1998, Shawn Michaels was forced out of action for four years. But in June of 2002, Michaels made his WWE return as a member of the nWo.
Even though it was a tad awkward to see the Heartbreak Kid in the nWo black and white, his return was an exciting and much welcomed one.
Fortunately, he got rid of the black and white as well as his weird haircut.
6. Undertaker and Triple H (2011)
Here's a nice little two-for-one deal.
On the Feb. 21 edition of Raw in 2011, The Undertaker was indeed the man behind the creepy 2-21-11 vignettes. And although many thought the vignettes were for both Taker and Sting, we actually got the return of another star: Triple H.
This surprising confrontation led to the two's epic WrestleMania XXVII bout which, of course, went on to their Hell in a Cell match the next year.
5. Kane (2000)
In his third and final appearance, or reappearance, on this countdown, Kane reaches the fifth spot with his 2000 return to Raw.
Along with his daddy Paul Bearer, Kane returned to kick some end and take some names.
The monster gets a huge pop from the fans here as he completely annihilates DX.
4. Chris Jericho (2007)
Not every WWE return can be kept secret. And even though it seemed as if the company wanted to make the second coming of Chris Jericho rather cryptic, it was extremely relevant. (In fact, my friend actually received his issue of WWE magazine, with Y2J on the cover, right before his Monday Night Raw return.)
Regardless, it was a nicely planned and executed segment. We sat through some interesting vignettes, exciting lead-up and of course, an excellent promo from Jericho upon his appearance.
Jericho's return added a much-needed kick to the product and saved us from the robotic personality of Randy Orton.
3. Brock Lesnar (2012)
One night after defeating John Cena at WrestleMania XXVIII, The Rock eased out of the WWE spotlight and was back on his way to Hollywood. So how did the company decide to fill a void left by an uber-popular superstar? With another uber-popular superstar.
John Cena closed out the April 2 edition of Raw by calling out Rocky for a congratulatory handshake. But instead of getting The Rock, Cena got Brock.
Although his return did leak out the night before, the hot Miami crowd carried over their impressive WrestleMania energy 26 hours later onto Raw. And once Lesnar's theme hit, the arena went into straight pandemonium.
2. Triple H (2002)
On the May 21, 2001 edition of Raw, Triple H attempted to break up Y2J's Walls of Jericho implemented on his then-tag team partner, Stone Cold Steve Austin. Unfortunately, he suffered a devastating tear in his left quadriceps muscle in the process.
There was no doubting the severity of The Game's injury, which could have ultimately ended his career.
But after months of recovery and some inspirational U2 music, Triple H made his triumphant return to the WWE on Jan. 7, 2002 at Madison Square Garden. And although his return that night was not a scheduled one, the crowd popped as if it was a complete surprise.
In a career filled with championship reigns and unforgettable matches, this was perhaps the most defining moment of Triple H's career.
1. The Rock (2011)
When you've had upwards of 50 comebacks like The Rock's had, the odds of landing the greatest Monday Night Raw return in WWE history are pretty solid.
But with all joking aside, The Great One's 2011 resurfacing had just about everything you want in a return.
For one, it was a well-executed surprise. The company did an excellent job of keeping the return away from the dirt sheets, a task that is rather difficult in this age of wrestling.
The return also received an incredible pop from the crowd, of course. Once the "If ya smell" hit, the millions and millions went into an immediate frenzy.
And most of all, it was The Rock. Who better to give a rousing return and flawless promo attack on John Cena?
The Rock's 2011 return is the best in Raw history because it had it all.
What Do You Think?
Agree with the countdown? Disagree with the countdown? Didn't see your favorite Raw return?
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