Kurt Angle is set to make his WWE return tonight with Raw taking place in his hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Here are 10 of the best WWE homecomings in recent times.
10. Sami Zayn
The now-Bloodline “Honorary Uce” made his main roster on the May 4th 2015 episode of Raw in the most spectacular fashion. He was introduced in his hometown of Montreal by Bret Hart as the surprise opponent in John Cena’s United States Championship Open challenge.
Unfortunately for Zayn, he suffered a rotator cuff tear as he wildly gestured to his adoring home crowd prior to the match. A bittersweet moment but it did make him an instant star on the roster.
9. The Hart Foundation
The last true iteration of The Hart Foundation formed in 1997 and included Bret, Owen, Jim Neidhart, The British Bulldog and Brian Pillman. The group were an anti-American group, creating an interesting dynamic where they were heels in the US and faces in Canada.
This led to wild ovations whenever Raw came to Canada, with the group and namely Bret and Owen being welcomed home as returning heroes.
8. The Rock
The Rock bounced around for most of his childhood, from California and North Carolina to Auckland, New Zealand. He ended up going to the University of Miami on a football scholarship, eventually settling in the area, making it his de facto hometown.
On the Christmas Eve 2001 of Raw, The Rock emerged in his old Miami Hurricanes jersey to his adoring fans. He lost an Undisputed Title match later that night, with losses often coming for homecoming heroes in the Vince McMahon era.
Another example of this strange booking technique was seen with Edge’s return to Toronto as the WWE champion at Unforgiven 2006. The Toronto native had defeated John Cena in his hometown of Boston (spot the trend) the month prior at Summerslam.
The decks were fully stacked in Edge’s favour with the hometown crowd, a TLC match and Lita in his corner. Cena ended up winning but it is one of the matches that fully cemented Edge as a main eventer for life.
6. Trish Stratus
A reverse of the hometown curse came for the purveyor of Stratusfaction at the very same Unforgiven pay per view. Trish defeated her greatest rival Lita with the Sharpshooter, the signature submission manoeuvre of Bret Hart. Oh Canada!
This was Stratus’ farewell match and one in which she earned her seventh and final Women’s Championship, the most in WWE history at the time. She retired on top as champion, a rarity in the industry.
5. Ric Flair
The Nature Boy made his return to the WWE after eight years away in WCW in his hometown of Charlotte, North California, much to the delight of all the residents of “Flair Country.”
In a memorable segment, he interrupted Vince McMahon’s attempt to award Kurt Angle the WWE title following his role in the demise of WCW/ECW alliance.
Flair informed them that when Shane and Stephanie sold their shares in the company to a consortium that “the consortium was me!!!,” making himself and Vince co-owners of the WWE. Woo!
4. The British Bulldog
Summerslam 1992 was the setting of the last WWE stadium show to take place in the UK, and of one of the best main events in event’s history.
The Bulldog defeated Bret Hart to win the Intercontinental Title to near-deafening noise from the sell-out Wembley audience. Could we see similar scenes for Drew McIntyre at Clash at the Castle?
3. Kurt Angle
The Olympic Gold Medalist’s return tonight is unlikely to top what occurred at Unforgiven 2001, where he made Stone Cold tap out (one of few to do so) and captured the WWE title in front of his family and friends in Pittsburgh.
The event took place just 12 days after 9/11, and it was felt that a win for an American hero would be a heart-warming moment for fans both in attendance and at home.
2. Daniel Bryan
During the “Yes” campaign in 2013-14, AEW’s now-Bryan Danielson was the most popular wrestler in the WWE. Bryan returned to Seattle, Washington, the city just up the road from Aberdeen, where he resides.
Bryan was one of the ex-champions selected to stand in the ring for the Championship Ascension ceremony before Randy Orton and John Cena unified the two World Titles.
The audience took over Triple H’s speech with “Daniel Bryan” and “Yes” chants much to the amusement of Bryan and CM Punk, less so The Game. Continued shows of support like this pushed Bryan into the main event of WrestleMania 30.
1. CM Punk
His name may not have been mentioned on WWE TV since his acrimonious departure in 2014 but CM Punk’s hometown return to Chicago at Money in the Bank 2011 will never be erased.
Entering the event, the “Summer of Punk” was well underway, with pipe bombs aplenty and a promise to defeat golden boy John Cena for the WWE title and leave the company with it. In storyline, his contract expired at midnight on the night of the pay per view.
Punk’s entrance is something to behold, with the entire audience losing their collective minds. He lived up to his promise, if only for a few weeks, but it remains one of the best fan reactions in recent memory.