Wrestlers Who Got Ripped For Their Return

While things like athletic ability and promo skills have always been integral elements of what makes a professional wrestler successful, sometimes, you just have to look the part. For a long time, companies like WWE preferred wrestlers who looked like they had enough muscle to compensate for the entire live audience. This meant that becoming ripped, swole or jacked was an essential part of becoming a successful performer, with a number of wrestlers often taking shortcuts on how they got in such shape.


With such a rigorous schedule of traveling around the world, a number of WWE stars don't always get to stay on top of their physique, as there simply aren't enough hours in the day for them to fit in a full session at the gym, or three meals large enough to accommodate their daily caloric intake. Because of this, lengthy periods away from the ring, whether it's for personal reasons or a severe injury, become the perfect time for wrestlers to zone in on becoming the best possible versions of themselves from an aesthetic perspective.

With that in mind, here are a few WWE stars who returned to the ring looking better than they ever had before.

Triple H

Triple H's tearing his quad in May 2001 couldn't have come at a worse time for the WWF. The company no longer had to worry about WCW or ECW, The Rock had began to dip his toes into the waters of Hollywood, and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin turning heel had left a gaping hole at the top of the card for a top babyface that was too large to fill with the likes of Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho, or Chris Benoit. "The Game" had been an integral part of the main event scene throughout the Attitude Era, meaning that the wear-and-tear of the business had taken its toll. So when he came back in January 2002, even WWF fans were surprised by how good he looked.


"The Cerebral Assassin" returned to at Madison Square Garden to one of the loudest ovations ever heard in the world's most famous arena. Triple H looked like he had spent every waking hour in the gym since he got hurt, to the point where he literally looked like he was going to burst out of his denim jacket that had already lost its sleeves. When he eventually returned to the ring less than two weeks later, he looked like an entirely new person, and performed in the ring with even more physicality than what he was already known for.

All of Triple H's hard work paid off that year, as he had one of the most dominant years of his entire career. He would win the 2002 Royal Rumble, the Undisputed WWF Championship at WrestleMania 18, and was crowned as the first-ever World Heavyweight Champion in September once the brand extension necessitated a "WWE Raw" exclusive prize.


Drew McIntyre

Drew McIntyre's current run with WWE has been the topic of a lot of conversations as of late, as he is yet to ink a new deal with the company. While many people expect him to stay put, if he does leave and ever return to WWE for a third time, he would have a tough time topping the physique he had when he made his initial return in 2017.


McIntyre was released from his contract in 2014 after a combination of falling down the card and personal issues left him surplus to requirements in WWE. From there, he embarked on a world tour, appearing in various major and independent promotions under his real name of Drew Galloway, with the intention of becoming the best wrestler in the world, and making WWE regret their decision to let him go. From TNA, to Dragon Gate USA and EVOLVE, all the way through to his home country of Scotland and Insane Championship Wrestling, Galloway put together a resume of matches that many consider some of the best of his career, while also getting into tremendous shape along the way. When it was finally time for him to drop his last name and become Drew McIntyre again, he was a completely different man.


The Scotsman returned to WWE in 2017 on "WWE NXT," looking like the previous version of McIntyre had been put in the machine Captain America was placed in to make him a super soldier. Within a few months, McIntyre had won the "NXT" Championship, and would move to the main roster after WrestleMania 34, where he has remained ever since, proving himself the main event star everyone in WWE knew he could be.

Jinder Mahal

You know you've gotten yourself into good shape when you have people accusing you of taking steroids because of how ripped you are. That's exactly what happened when Jinder Mahal went from a lower-midcard talent with seemingly no direction, to the WWE Championship in 2017. Before his eventual switch to "WWE SmackDown," a number of people started to notice that the former 3MB member had bulked up significantly, to the point where people around the world collectively thought 'would you look at the size of Jinder? Something isn't right there.' However, Mahal himself has stated that he decided to stop drinking and eating junk food after hitting rock bottom on the indies, which ultimately led to him changing his entire diet and workout regimen and aided him in being re-signed to WWE in 2016.


By the time he moved over to "SmackDown," Mahal looked like he had eaten the previous version of himself, and was quickly inserted into the main event scene, where he would win the WWE Championship from Randy Orton at Backlash. He would hold the title for six months before dropping it to AJ Styles in November, and has been able to maintain his physique to this day, albeit with a little less definition than when he originally returned to WWE.

Mahal was recently released from WWE for a second time due to budget cuts. However, given how he's managed to stay in such great shape for such a long time, a potential second return to WWE in the future could result in the Modern Day Maharaja looking even more ripped than his time as "SmackDown's" top guy in 2017.


Rey Mysterio

You don't have to be the biggest man in the room in order to be the most ripped, which was evident in 2018 when Rey Mysterio looked like he had travelled through a time machine before his arrival at that year's Royal Rumble. By the time Mysterio left WWE in 2015, it had almost become common knowledge that he was not able to perform at the same level he once was due to a series of knee injuries. His high-flying style had become severely limited, and his overall effort levels seemed to have diminished in his final few appearances with WWE. Fast forward to his time on the indies, as well as promotions like AAA and Lucha Underground, and Mysterio looked like he had found the fountain of youth.


He flowed through the ring with the same grace he did during his breakthrough years in the 1990s, was able to keep up with virtually everyone he faced, and had completely rejuvenated his career to the point where was entertaining offers to rejoin WWE as early as 2017. Mysterio shocked the world at the 2018 Royal Rumble when he entered at number 27, with the commentary team even mentioning that the former WWE World Champion looked the best he had in many years. He would appear at that year's Greatest Royal Rumble event in Saudi Arabia, before making more appearances in NJPW, and even the All In event in September 2018.

Mysterio has noted on multiple occasions that his career resurgence over the past few years has been aided by the use of stem cell treatment, which has allowed him to get into shape without feeling the pain in his joints that he once had. Here's hoping that Mysterio continues this treatment so fans can enjoy his work for many more years to come.


Dean Ambrose

For fans who have only gotten into professional wrestling over the last few years, it might sound strange to hear the name Dean Ambrose knowing that he is now one of the aces of AEW. However, the transformation into the man everyone knows as Jon Moxley today actually began when he made his return to WWE in 2018. During his time in The Shield, and even before his time in WWE, Ambrose was never in bad shape, but he was never shredded with a six-pack or had muscles the size of some people's entire heads. He worked with a wiry frame on the indies to lean into his scrappy fighting style in the ring, which became a bit more defined in WWE when he was the mouthpiece for The Shield and eventually, the Lunatic Fringe.


Ambrose suffered a triceps injury at the end of 2017 that kept him out for eight months, and when he strolled out on the entrance ramp of "WWE Raw" in August 2018, he had turned from the Lunatic Fringe to the Lunatic Fridge as he was a whole lot bigger than when people last saw him. Gone was the wiry frame, the messy hair and the clean-shaven face, the new version of Ambrose had a beard, short hair, and enough muscle to throw even the biggest of individuals through a brick wall.

The former WWE Champion got himself into great shape during his time away from the ring, but sadly his final run in WWE didn't fill him with much excitement, leading him to let his contract expire in 2019, retire the Ambrose moniker all together, and bring a new era of violence to AEW, NJPW, and the wider wrestling world as Moxley.



Given how The Rated-R Superstar has performed over the past few years, you would be forgiven in thinking Adam 'Edge' Copeland had never been medically retired for nine years and had been active the entire time. Edge was forced into an early retirement in 2011 after doctors noted that his consistent neck issues had become so bad, he would risk paralysis or death if he continued to perform. From there, he would make sporadic appearances in WWE over the next nine years, only ever getting physical on a handful of occasions, but enough to make people think that there was a chance, even it was small, but a chance that Edge could return to the ring.


That is exactly what happened in 2020 when Edge's music hit at that year's Royal Rumble. He burst through the smoke looking as if he had been living in the woods for nine years eating nothing but raw meat and fighting bears to stay alive. His physique wasn't exactly the biggest, nor was he ever the biggest guy on the roster, but Edge was shredded for his first match back, giving people the confidence that he was ready for one more run just based on his look.

He would stick around in WWE for another three years, winning the 2021 Royal Rumble and main-eventing his second WrestleMania in the process. The Rated-R Superstar would become a founding member of The Judgment Day, which has since gone on to be one of the most dominant factions in all of wrestling, and he is now enjoying his time wrestling under his real name in AEW, where he is the reigning TNT Champion, and is still as shredded as he was at the 2020 Royal Rumble.


Braun Strowman

The COVID-19 pandemic was a difficult time for professional wrestling. Fans weren't allowed to attend shows, entire companies ceased to exist due to the lengthy spell of inactivity, and in WWE, dozens of wrestlers lost their jobs due to budget cuts. One of the more surprising cuts happened in 2021 when Braun Strowman, a man who at one point looked set to be the most dominant Universal Champion in history, became just another casualty of the company's gutting of its roster.


During his time away from WWE, he would make sporadic appearances across the indies, as well as appearing in ROH, and became a core member of the Control Your Narrative promotion. Amongst his travels, Strowman began to get himself into incredible shape, with a number of people noting how different he looked compared to his initial debut as a member of the Wyatt Family in 2015.

This new physique was on full display when it was announced that Strowman had re-signed with WWE, appearing on the September 5, 2022 episode of "Raw" with a much leaner look. Strowman had managed to slim down to 335 pounds, with his body fat being in the single digits. Strowman has yet to reclaim any gold since returning to WWE after his run with the company was cut short in order for him to have neck surgery, but if he returns from injury in as good shape as he did when he initially returned to the company, it might only be a matter of time before Strowman finds himself in the main event scene once again.


Randy Orton

With a nickname like "The Viper," many would imagine Randy Orton having a lean physique similar to a snake. However, since returning to WWE in November 2023, Orton looks like he has been eating snakes for breakfast as he is currently the most jacked he has ever been. Orton has always had a strong look since he was made a member of Evolution in 2003. Being paired with people like Triple H and Batista, Orton knew he had to look good when stood next to two absolute units, which he did in his rise through the company during the 2000s. However, the one thing that has stopped him from becoming overwhelmingly jacked is his persistent battles with injury.


The former WWE Champion was so beaten up by the time he stepped away from the ring in May 2022 that doctors had told him he may need to call it a day on his in-ring career. Never one to back down from a challenge, Orton underwent surgery on his injured back and vowed to get back into the ring, while also looking and feeling the best he ever had. Orton eventually returned to WWE at Survivor Series 2023 for the Men's WarGames match, which was handy considering that Orton looked so big during his entrance that he probably needed two rings just to fit all his muscles in the match.

Since his return, Orton has challenged for both the United States Championship, and Undisputed WWE Universal Championship, all while looking the best he's looked in many years, and with a new lease on life, only he knows how long he'll be able to keep up with the pace of the WWE roster in 2024.


AJ Styles

People who have followed the career of AJ Styles since his humble beginnings as a WCW enhancement talent will tell you that he has never been the biggest or most muscular, primarily because his high-flying style simply wouldn't have worked if he had the physique of a heavyweight. His runs as a world champion in TNA, NJPW, and even his two reigns as WWE Champion saw Styles represent the type of wrestler that didn't need to think about how many abs they had, they just needed to rely on their natural ability in the ring. However, age waits for no one and as time has gone on, Styles has toned down his high-flying style in order to still perform at the highest level, while also working a style (no pun intended) that is a lot safer and less taxing on his body.


To go along with this, Styles used his two months away from WWE towards the back end of 2023 to add on so much muscle mass that he genuinely looks like someone has inflated the regular Styles. This has all been by design, as Styles made his return to WWE in December 2023 with a mean streak and much more physical style to compliment the fact he looks like he spent two months living in a prison yard.

Since his return, Styles has already challenged for the Undisputed WWE (Universal) Championship against both Roman Reigns and Cody Rhodes, and judging by how phenomenal he looks (pun very much intended this time), Styles might have one more championship run in him yet.