Goldust and 8 Superstars Who've Made Great WWE Comebacks
Goldust has been doing outstanding work ever since returning the WWE television last month; some of the best of his 25-year career.
He is, of course, not the only man to have been out of the WWE only to return to reach equally as high, if not higher, than they did before.
This list details eight great WWE comeback stories, but note that it's not simply a return from injury—these stars were fired, retired or otherwise took it upon themselves to distance themselves from the company and the wrestling business.
Goldust and his brother Cody are currently the hottest acts in the company, eclipsing even the WWE Championship feud between Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton.
Now is the perfect time to look back at Goldust and seven other great WWE comebacks.
Hulk Hogan had a huge hand in building the WWE empire, which made it all the more interesting when he signed a Turner Broadcasting contract back in 1994. He was undoubtedly one of the biggest stars of the '90s.
Hogan, along with Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, made a massive impact at the NWO, but that faction had certainly ran its course by the time Vince McMahon announced that he'd be injecting their poison into his own company in 2002.
It should definitely be acknowledged that a lot of Hogan's '02-'03 and '05-'07 stints weren't great, such as his month-long run as WWE Champion or the Mr. America gimmick.
Still, for every bad moment, there was a great one; most notably, his clash at WrestleMania 18 with The Rock.
Hogan did more good than people will often credit him for. The Rock, Kurt Angle and especially Brock Lesnar were all put over by Hogan in a big way.
When you consider how unremarkable 90 percent of the WCW stars' stints with the WWE were, Hulk Hogan's run is all the more impressive.
Jeff Hardy was released from his WWE contract on April 22, 2003, due to his increasing unreliability (he no-showed several events), drug abuse and refusal to go to drug rehab.
By that time, he and his brother Matt had already established themselves as one of the best tag teams of the modern era—maybe even of all time.
He was a six-time tag team champion and had won many singles titles, including the Intercontinental, European and Hardcore Championships.
However, it was only in his second run with the company that he truly got over as a singles wrestling superstar.
The Charismatic Enigma worked his way up to become a two-time World Heavyweight Champion and one-time WWE Champion. He had terrific feuds with Triple H, Edge and, of course, the Straight Edge Saviour himself, CM Punk.
Okay, this is a tricky one. Daniel Bryan was part of the Nexus invasion angle that kicked off on the June 7, 2010, edition of Raw but was infamously fired less than a week later.
Fans initially speculated it was part of an angle, but nope, he was let go because his choking of Justin Roberts was seen as too violent for WWE's PG programming.
It was a devastating hit to hardcore wrestling fans everywhere. But luckily, The American Dragon wouldn't be gone for long; he returned at SummerSlam 2010.
Three years later, he'd defeat John Cena clean at that same event.
It's strange to classify this as a comeback because his initial run was so short, and he was only fired for about two months.
But still, Bryan showed tremendous potential on the first season on NXT, and for all intents and purposes, he was gone—even if it was for only two months.
Brock Lesnar's first run in the WWE was a monumental one. He did everything. Here's a list of some of his accomplishments:
- Won King of the Ring
- Completely destroyed Hulk Hogan
- Beat The Rock to become WWE Champion
- Retained that title against The Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell match
- Won the Royal Rumble
- Defeated Kurt Angle in the main event of WrestleMania XIX
All of that was done in his first year on WWE programming. Alberto Del Rio, eat your heart out.
All of that was great for Lesnar but not for the WWE. They obviously invested a lot in The Next Big Thing, but his value wasn't long-term; he left the WWE for the NFL in 2004.
It seemed like Brock Lesnar would be a black-eye that Vince McMahon would always have to hide. Brock left the company, engaged in a legal dispute with the WWE and then went on to become UFC Heavyweight Champion. It seemed he was definitively done with professional wrestling.
Then, eight years after leaving the company, The Beast returned on the April 2, 2012, edition of Raw, the night after WrestleMania XXVIII.
Despite bizarrely losing his return match, Brock is one of the company's greatest assets and best performers.
Some hardcore fans may call foul on his ridiculously lucrative contract that sees him work a very limited schedule, but ever since returning last year, Brock has delivered every time he steps into a WWE ring.
Christian's position here is almost identical to Jeff Hardy's.
He was part of the Attitude Era's wonderful tag team division (even if the titles changed hands way too much) and was a part of (and won) the triangle ladder and TLC matches that revolutionized the business.
He had a tough time transitioning to singles competition; he found his place on the midcard but struggled to propel himself to the main event. Eventually, he would leave the company to join TNA.
Captain Charisma returned in 2009 on ECW and was put in a feud with Jack Swagger. It seemed like the midcard was where he was destined to be.
Fortunately for Christian, he caught a break. Following Edge's untimely retirement, Christian won his first World Heavyweight Championship, though he would lose it only two days later.
What followed was a spectacular rivalry with Randy Orton that stands as one of the best in recent memory.
No, his two runs with the big gold belt didn't etch out a permanent place for him in the main event scene, but he deserves his classification as a 'former world champion'.
Not only that, though, Christian has become one of the best and most consistent workers on the roster. If only he wasn't so injury prone.
Goldust may actually be immortal.
His fist stint in the WWE as Dustin Rhodes began in 1990 but lasted only a few months, as he and his father would migrate to WCW in January of 1991.
He then returned to the company in 1995 as Goldust, having famous feuds with the likes of Razor Ramon, Roddy Piper and The Undertaker.
He would once again jump ship to WCW in 1999, but that ship would end up sinking two years later. The Bizarre One once again returned to the WWE in 2002's Royal Rumble match.
He did some of the best work of his career when he formed a tag team with Booker T. The two would win the Tag Team Championships and, more importantly, provide many hilarious segments together.
Goldust's contract would expire in 2003, and he would spend the next five years working the independents and TNA.
He wrestled for the WWE again as a full-time performer from 2008-2011, though his role was certainly not a prominent one at this time. It seemed like we had already seen the best from The Son of the Son of a Plumber.
Then 2013 hit. Goldust was a surprise entrant in the Royal Rumble, battling Cody Rhodes and providing a highlight for the event. Cody was "fired" eight months later, and we all know what happened after that.
Everything Goldust has touched in 2013 has, well, turned to gold.
Chris Jericho put himself through a self-imposed exile of sorts when he left the WWE in 2005.
Citing mental and physical fatigue, Y2J took time off to devote time to his musical and literary pursuits.
No one knew when, where or even if Jericho would return. He spoke up over the Chris Benoit tragedy, but otherwise, strongly separated himself from the world of wrestling.
He returned to the WWE in November of 2007 but didn't exactly light the world on fire. He faced Randy Orton for the WWE Championship at Armageddon 2007 but then quickly dropped into the midcard.
Enter HBK. In June 2008, Jericho turned heel by attacking Shawn Michaels, morphed his character from an energetic showman into the one you see in the video above.
For hardcore fans, it was glorious, and Jericho vs. Michaels was unarguably the best feud of 2008.
That would only be the beginning; he's won multiple championships (including three world championships), had several terrific rivalries and shined in the sub-main events of WrestleMania XXVI and XXVIII.
He still has sporadic runs with the company, most recently one that lasted this year from January until July—and he's still arguably the best in the world at what he does.
Shawn Michaels suffered a career-threatening back injury in January 1998 in a casket match against The Undertaker. I use that phrase "career-threatening" retrospectively because, at the time, it wasn't; it was career ending.
Michaels retired from wrestling after dropping the WWE Championship to Stone Cold Steve Austin at WrestleMania XIV, though he would still make on-screen appearances as the WWF commissioner up until June 2000.
The story is now relatively well-known. HBK found God and believed he had one more match in him, which would happen at SummerSlam 2002 against real-life best friend, Triple H.
As things would turn out, he would go on to have several hundred more matches—of which, some are cited as some of the best of all time.
Michaels already had a Hall of Fame career before his back injury in 1998, and his run from 2002-2010 was equally, if not more, legendary.
There's a good case that one could put forth for Shawn Michaels being the man to have made the greatest comeback of all time.
Follow Daniel on Twitter @dvanboom