Thursday, April 18

Wrestlers Whose Second WWE Run Was Their Best

The revolving door that is WWE means that even when a wrestler exits the company, they may not be gone forever. Many performers have managed to come back to the promotion after a period away and have had an even better second run.



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When looking at the wrestlers who left WWE and came back again, there are some who stand out for having a truly bad second run with the promotion.

It is not a guarantee that a wrestler will return as a much better performer, but the time away does seem to sharpen people up and make them more ready for success a second time around. There are several examples of some of the best in WWE’s history cementing their legacy due to a great second run with the company.


Jinder Mahal Became A WWE Champion

He Also Got Into Great Physical Shape During His Time Away

  • Jinder Mahal’s First WWE Run Ended In 2014 After A Stint As Part Of 3MB
  • He Returned To The Company In 2016 As Part Of The Brand Extension, Becoming WWE Champion In 2017

He may not have improved very much between the ropes during his whole WWE career to be honest, but Jinder Mahal did become incredibly jacked during his two years away from the company. This may have influenced WWE to dramatically push him to the top in 2017, when he shockingly defeated Randy Orton to become WWE Champion.


It was one of the more unlikely rises in wrestling history and did not go over well with fans whatsoever, but it is undeniable that it made Mahal’s second run far more successful than his first. He still works in WWE as a part of the midcard, but he will always hold the accolade of being a world champion thanks to this improbable second stint.

Nia Jax Has Crushed Her Second Run

The “Irresistible Force’ Has Been Great Since Returning Last Year

  • Jax First Appeared On The WWE Main Roster In 2016 After A Period In NXT
  • She Left The Company In 2021 But Returned Less Than Two Years Later At The 2023 Royal Rumble

Once known for being a dangerous worker who many fans thought had no place being in a WWE ring, Nia Jax has been a revelation since returning last year. She now garners heat for all the right reasons, having become the most dominant monster figure within the women’s division.


Jax has become more confident on the microphone, whilst also seemingly being a much better worker inside the ring. She headlined a Premium Live Event against Rhea Ripley in Australia, which has been completely earned, having been one of the company’s most solid performers in recent months.

William Regal Managed To Refine His Character

He Went Back To WCW In-Between His Two WWE Runs

  • Regal’s First WWE Run Lasted For Less Than A Year, Leaving To Undergo Rehab In 1999
  • He Returned To WWE In 2000 After A Brief Stint In WCW

William Regal’s first run in WWE was far from memorable, with the highlight being his rather ridiculous builder-inspired gimmick where he was a ‘Real Man’s Man.’ After leaving WWE in early 1999 to attend rehab, Regal would return to the company only a year later after a short run in WCW.


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During his second WWE run, Regal was able to establish himself as a memorable part of the midcard, becoming a European, Intercontinental, and Tag Team Champion. He has become known for his highly technical work, as well as his comedic performances, which endeared him to the WWE audience during the 2000s.

Bobby Lashley Became ‘Almighty’ In His Second Run

He Upgraded From ECW To WWE Champion

  • Bobby Lashley’s First WWE Run Lasted From 2005 To 2008, Where He Became ECW Champion
  • He Returned To WWE In 2018, Becoming WWE Champion In 2021

It is strange that WWE did not capitalize on the talent that Bobby Lashley displayed during his first WWE run, as his physique and in-ring style is exactly what the company usually want from a top guy. Nevertheless, he would leave in 2008 after some highlights, which included his reign as ECW Champion and the ‘Battle of the Billionaires’ match against Umaga at WrestleMania 23.


His return run since 2018 has been far better though, having been the centerpiece of The Hurt Business, and winning the WWE Championship twice. Lashley has managed to become one of the most talented big men in all of wrestling, all whilst maintaining his impressive physique.

Jeff Hardy Became A Major Singles Star

The Hardy Boy Held Both The WWE & World Heavyweight Championships

  • Jeff Has Had Three Stints In WWE, With His First Being In The ‘Attitude Era’ As Part Of The Hardy Boyz
  • He Returned After A Few Years Away In 2006, Which Would End Up Being His Most Successful Run In Wrestling

The Hardy Boyz are one of the most popular tag team acts of the 21st century, but it is Jeff who has always been the star of the tandem. He had to wait until his second run in WWE to demonstrate this, as he became an Intercontinental, WWE and World Heavyweight Champion from 2006 to 2009.


Even during this successful period, Jeff’s career was defined by his issues outside the ring with addiction, which unfortunately hampered his rise. Still, it was good to see how his connection with the crowd helped him to reach the top of his profession during the late 2000s.

Goldberg Was Almost A Bust In WWE

His Second Run Managed To Salvage Some Credibility

  • Goldberg Finally Debuted For WWE In 2003 After The Fall Of WCW In 2001
  • After An Underwhelming First Run, He Came Back In 2016 For What Was Initially A Great Return

The WCW Invasion angle is widely considered to be one of the biggest missed opportunities in wrestling history, due to stars like Goldberg not immediately being able to transition over to WWE due to their contractual obligations with AOL Time Warner. Even when he did show up belatedly in 2003, the promotion’s creative malaise (and Triple H) killed all of his star power, leading to his exit within a year.


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Goldberg was one of WCW’s most protected stars, but he picked up a handful of victories on his way out of the company.

He would make one of the most improbable comebacks in WWE history, challenging Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series 2016 in what would turn out to be the start of a great piece of business. His comeback run would soon grow to be pretty poor as well, with matches in Saudi Arabia and his squashing of stars like ‘The Fiend’ Bray Wyatt being terrible ideas.

Chris Jericho Found His Best Form During His Second Run

His Nick Bockwinkel Inspired Gimmick Was Arguably His Best

  • Y2J Left WWE For A Brief Period In 2005, After A Run Where He Became A WWE Champion
  • He Returned In 2007 And Feuded With Shawn Michaels, Winning The World Championship Shortly After


The apparent master of reinvention, Chris Jericho, has had several memorable character changes which have seen him achieve huge success in multiple decades. His heel character following his return to WWE in 2007 is perhaps the best of them all, as he became the best version of himself inside the ring and on the microphone.

He would have great feuds with the likes of Rey Mysterio and Shawn Michaels, becoming a World Heavyweight Champion as well. The old-fashioned wrestling heel character was inspired by classic champions, particularly Nick Bockwinkel, as Jericho would run down his opponents and the crowd for being inferior to him on every level.

Drew McIntyre Really Was The ‘Chosen One’

After Leaving WWE, McIntyre Became One Of The Best In The Industry

  • McIntyre Did Not Fulfill His Potential During His First WWE Run, Leaving In 2014
  • He Returned To WWE As Part Of The NXT Brand In 2017, Before Winning The WWE Championship In 2020


The transformation of Drew McIntyre during his few years away from WWE is extraordinary, as he finally showed his potential as a main event level talent. He returned to the company in 2017, enjoying a brief stint in NXT before a main roster promotion beckoned.

His momentum continued in the coming years, leading to his Royal Rumble win in 2020 and his bittersweet WWE Championship triumph at WrestleMania 36. He could have the chance to win a world title once more at this year’s WrestleMania, as he is comfortably one of the most entertaining characters in WWE right now.

Eddie Guerrero Almost Didn’t Make It In WWE

‘Latino Heat’ Still Managed To Become WWE Champion

  • Guerrero’s First WWE Run Only Lasted For A Year, Exiting The Company In 2001
  • He Returned A Year Later, Having A Meteoric Rise To The World Title In 2004


After first coming into WWE with The Radicalz, Eddie would achieve some success alongside his former WCW colleagues and Chyna, with whom he formed a partnership. Despite this, Guerrero would be let go from the company in 2001 after a drunk-driving charge, but would return to the promotion a year later.

After a great run as part of the SmackDown Six, he was finally entrusted as a top guy, winning the WWE Championship at No Way Out 2004 to the shock of fans. Sadly, his life and career would be cut short because of his untimely death only a year later, but he had already cemented himself as one of the all-time greats.

Cody Rhodes Has Become Undeniable

The Former Stardust Cast Of His Midcard Shackles


  • After A Decade-Long Stint In The WWE System, Cody Decided To Leave The Company In 2016
  • He Shockingly Returned In 2022 After Leaving AEW, The Company That He Had Helped To Form

Cody Rhodes is on the cusp of “finishing his story,” which caps off an unbelievable turnaround from when he exited WWE in 2016. During his time away, the ‘American Nightmare’ has become one of the most universally beloved babyface stars, not unlike his father, whom he has strived to come out from the shadow of.

The young star that showed promise during his first WWE run has matured and clearly knows what it takes to be able to main event two consecutive WrestleManias. His second stint in WWE could go down as being one of the most important in wrestling history, as Cody has undeniably become the industry’s biggest star.

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