9 Wrestlers Who Left WWE & Came Back Totally Different
It does seem from time to time that there is no rhyme or reason behind who gets released and why in the world of WWE. But whenever a superstar does get released or sent to developmental for extra training, that’s when most wrestlers rethink their presentation and take Good Ol’ JR’s advice and “go off and learn a new hold.”
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Whether it takes wrestlers reinventing themselves for years on the independent scene or simply returning to Vince with a new idea they have for themselves )or one Vince has for them), they can return completely different than their first or second or perhaps third run with the WWE.
Both the look and attitude of Drew McIntyre changed significantly over the years. He is the epitome of the boy who left home and returned a man. He debuted on the main roster very quickly after getting signed in 2007, but the debut that is more widely acknowledged as his WWE debut was in 2009, when Vince McMahon dubbed him The Chosen One.
After failing to live up to such a moniker, he was put into 3MB. After being released in 2014, he spent just a few short years rebuilding his body and mindset in order to get back to the WWE, which has clearly paid off in droves. He is a main event star, and one of the most imposing figures in the company today.
One of the most drastic changes in WWE history was when Dustin Rhodes left after a brief stint keeping his dad company. But once the family patriarch headed back to the NWA to be the booker, Dustin went with him, where he became The Natural for several years.
When he returned to the WWE, he was virtually unrecognizable as Goldust, instantly becoming one of the most controversial, and then beloved WWE superstars for the better part of the next two decades.
While Britt Baker might be an (potentially) demented dentist in reality, it was Glenn Jacobs who first brought the gimmick to life, debuting as Jerry Lawler’s twisted DDS, Isaac Yankem.
While that character quickly fizzled out, as did Jacobs’ version of Diesel, The Mayor of Knox County would come back to the WWE just two years later as his most famous character, Kane. The rest as they say, was history, as Kane quickly established himself as one of the most prominent figures in the industry.
Growing up in a sports entertainment family certainly has its advantages. Windham Rotunda has been consistently employed with WWE, in one form or another. He debuted as part of their developmental territory, FCW before being called up as Husky Harris, part of the Nexus.
After Randy Orton punted his fellow third generation superstar in the head, Harris was sent back to FCW. It during this time that he started formulating the early stages of The Wyatt Family, which ultimately evolved into Firefly Bray and The Fiend.
Hulk Hogan was one of, if not THE reason the WWE was able to explode during the mid-to-late-eighties. But by the early nineties, Hogan’s popularity was waning up north and he decided to try his hand in WCW. By 1996, he had arguably run out of steam there too.
That prompted a heel turn and hebecame the leader of the nWo. Just like that everything changed and he became the scourge of WCW. When the nWo made their debut in WWE, Hogan actually stayed a nasty heel and even tried to murder the Rock with a semi. This was a far cry from the ultimate babyface WWE fans had grown accustomed to in the years before.
When Y2J returned to WWE in 2007, it didn’t seem like his character had undergone any major changes. But then his war with Shawn Michaels began. It was clear that Jericho had returned to the WWE with a nasty plan and an evil new character.
No more long trunks, no more “come on baby!” Just a suit wearing, soft talking, egomaniac. One that wasn’t afraid to reveal truths about his enemies, and that he was the only honest man left in the WWE.
From being an underdog the entire WWE Universe could get behind, to selling out and becoming a sniveling heel with the Million Dollar Corporation, the 1-2-3 Kid had made a pretty decent name for himself with the WWE.
But he was truly able to let loose and become a big name when he left for WCW and joined the nWo with his buddies, Hall and Nash. When he returned to the WWE, The Attitude Era was in full swing, which meant the 1-2-3 Kid was a relic of the past, paving the way for one of the best (and funniest) members of DX to make an impact.
Thanks to the likeness and relatively same height of Brian Lee and Mark Calloway, Lee was brought into the WWE in mid-1994 to play the returning Deadman. Until of course, Paul Bearer let the world know that Ted DiBiase’s Deadman was a phony.
Once the real Phenom returned and vanquished ‘The Underfaker’, Lee headed to SMW and ECW for a while before getting called back to the WWE, this time to become Chainz of DOA. In a weird twist, several years later, The Undertaker would return as a biker who looked similar to Chainz.
With a whopping four character changes, no star on this list has left and come back vastly different more times than Bryan Adams, aka Crush. Other than the name not changing, Crush started as the third member of Demolition. When that team’s legendary run ended, he became the big man from Kona, Hawaii. When it was clear that wasn’t going to work, he debuted as a villain paired with Mr. Fuji.
In between this stint and his last in WWE, he unfortunately got into some trouble and was sentenced to five years probation which led to a faux-jail tattoo on his face, as he became part of the Nation and then DOA.