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Not Down For The Count: The Greatest WWE Superstar Returns After Serious Injuries

From Seth Rollins to Shawn Michaels, these WWE Superstars faced serious injuries but managed to make their way back to the ring.

By Ethan Absler
Seth Rollins standing in the middle of the ring

WWE Superstars face incredibly real danger in the ring. Every match could be their last and injuries are not uncommon in the world of professional wrestling. However, it's the triumphant return after a bad injury that sticks with most fans. 

The latest major victim of an unfortunate and gruesome wrestling injury was Cody Rhodes. The Superstar recently tore his Pectoral muscle clean off his breastbone, sidelining him for an expected nine months while he deals with the serious surgery and grueling physical therapy. 

Although Cody is currently at home recovering, he didn’t leave before having a third and final match against Seth Rollins at "Hell in a Cell." Rhodes put on one of the gutsiest and most resilient performances in wrestling history when he defeated with the entire right side of his body black, blue, and swollen. Fans are already counting down the days until Rhodes makes his sure-to-be epic return. 

However, his determination to finish his performance in the ring got many thinking about what other Superstars made time stand still when they finally came back after injuries.

Shawn Michaels

At the 1998 Royal Rumble, Shawn Michaels would go one on one with The Undertaker in a casket match. During the match, The Heartbreak Kid fell back-first onto the casket, herniating two discs and completely shattering one. Michaels made sporadic appearances afterward but eventually left a few months later to have back surgery. Michaels reportedly believed his wrestling career was over during this time. He was off WWE television full-time for almost four years. 

On the June 3rd episode of RAW in 2002, though, Michaels made his triumphant return. A few weeks later, he was betrayed by his best friend, Triple H. Fortunately, he went on to win the World Heavyweight Championship in the first-ever Elimination Chamber match at Survivor Series 2002. What makes this return so legendary is the fact that Michaels was not expected to wrestle one more match after his 1998 injury. Not only did he come back but his matches upon returning were fantastic as if HBK hadn’t missed a step. 

Seth Rollins

Much like his rival, Cody Rhodes, Rollins suffered a serious injury at the height of his career. At the time of the injury, he was the reigning WWE Champion. He was on fire in and out of the ring and seemed unstoppable. However, he wasn’t invincible and a Sunset Flip from the top rope tore Rollins’ ACL, MCL and Meniscus. 

Rollins was forced to vacate his WWE Championship due to the injuries and got to work focusing on his rehab. He was expected to miss nine months but after just six and a half, he made his shocking return at Extreme Rules 2016. The crowd and announcers both went wild as Rollins appeared in the ring out of nowhere, planting his former best friend and Shield brother Roman Reigns and then winning the title back just one month later. 

Daniel Bryan

Upon his improbable return, Daniel Bryan began saying, “If you fight for your dreams, your dreams will fight for you.” 

Along with the “YES” chant, this saying became Bryan’s new moniker. After more than two years of being sidelined with a neck and brain injury, Bryan was finally back. His return was partially so special because he was never supposed to wrestle again after the injury.

It took being cleared by three independent neurosurgeons for the WWE to budge and clear Bryan for in-ring competition again. He won his first match back, which was a WrestleMania 34 tag team match against Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. Bryan continued to build momentum before being granted another championship opportunity. On the November 13th episode of SmackDown Live, Bryan captured the WWE Championship for the fourth time in his career. 

John Cena

Royal Rumble matches are known for their surprises, and the 2008 match delivered one of the biggest in WWE history. 

Only three months earlier in October of 2007, John Cena had suffered a torn pectoral muscle on RAW. He was expected to miss nine months and, like Rhodes, had a grueling rehab ahead of him.

Well, at the Royal Rumble 2008, only three months post-injury, the 30th and final entrant into the match was none other than Cena. How was this physically possible? The man had torn his pec clean off his chest and was expected to miss triple the amount of time that he did! 

That clearly didn’t matter and the legend of “Super Cena” was born. His fellow wrestlers already in the ring looked like they had seen a ghost when Cena appeared. The announcers went nuts and the crowd became unglued. This moment was uniquely shocking for fans and was a triumphant and impressive return for an injured Cena. 


Edge’s initial retirement on RAW in 2011 is known as one of the saddest and most emotional moments in WWE history. However, knowing what we know now, the moment is only a setup for one of the greatest returns of all time. 

Edge talked about the dangers and injuries that WWE Superstars experience and disclosed to fans that he was beginning to feel numb in his extremities. He was being forced to retire due to his neck injuries. Fans were devastated with children and adults alike shown crying in the audience. Edge would make occasional appearances for the WWE in the upcoming years but never wrestled again. 

He made it very clear that another neck injury could kill him and that there was no chance he would ever compete again. The beloved Rated-R Superstar was no more. 

However, something changed. In late 2019, rumors began to circulate that Edge was doing something similar to Bryan. He was seeing independent doctors who were reevaluating him after nearly a decade of inaction in the ring. With advancements in medical technology and a new triple-fused, surgically repaired neck, Edge made his shocking and emotional return at the 2020 Royal Rumble. In one of the loudest crowd reactions of all time, Edge made his way to the ring and gave fans a sight they thought they’d never see again. Edge’s return is arguably one of the greatest returns in wrestling history, partly because we were sure we’d never see it happen.