The Year of the Comeback: 2019’s Redemption Stories

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Photo: MLW

The year 2018 in pro wrestling has had many big stories – but arguably none as remarkable as the number of comebacks from veterans many had given up on. Whether it was a distancing from the industry, a shortage of bookings, a career of demon chasing, or career-threatening injuries, 2018 saw some pretty big comebacks for several wrestlers this year. Here’s a look at five of the best.

LA PARK

The original La Parka debuted in 1982 in his native Mexico, before breaking out as a star in AAA a decade later. In 1996, he began working in the US with World Championship Wrestling (WCW), where, as “The Chairman of WCW”, he became a cult favorite of the Mexican influx into WCW. Following the demise of WCW, he began working regularly with AAA rival, CMLL. He returned to the US to join Major League Wrestling (MLW) in 2002 at the beginning of the indie revolution, but when MLW folded, he remained in Mexico. By 2014, he was gone from CMLL and working Mexican indie promotions, now known as La Auténtica (LA) Park (he didn’t hold the rights to the name). In 2017, he began to work rising Mexican indie The Crash Lucha Libre and began to get back into the spotlight, but this year, LA Park exploded. He returned to CMLL and AAA and hit the US with a vengeance, working for Absolute Intense Wrestling (AIW) and All American Wrestling (AAW), and returning to US television with a rebooted MLW. Next year could prove to be his biggest yet.

TEDDY HART

For over a decade, Teddy Hart was widely considered the most talented indie wrestler to never have made it to the WWE. But it wasn’t for lack of opportunity. A member of the fabled Hart Family from Canada, nephew of Bret “Hitman” Hart and Owen Hart, cousin of Natalya and Davey Boy Smith Jr., and best friend of Tyson Kidd, Teddy Hart was the youngest WWE main roster signee at 18 years old. But a lack of focus and a fast-living lifestyle with its share of demons, Teddy Hart squandered multiple WWE opportunities before they even started, and by 2016 he was no longer the prophecy but the punch line. But after hitting rock bottom with jail time, Hart has spent the past year and a half rebuilding his life and career, getting clean and becoming a humble student of the game with a renewed passion for the industry that has defined his family. This past year has seen him have a career resurgence with Game Changer Wrestling (GCW), All American Wrestling (AAW), Smash Wrestling and back in AAA. He’s also become a major part of MLW’s product, leading a new era Hart Foundation with cousin Smith Jr. and Brian Pillman Jr., recently capturing the MLW Middleweight Championship.

JAZZ

Photo: NWA

During the end of the Attitude Era, arguably no one brought the Attitude to the WWF Women’s Division like Jazz. Originally from ECW, Jazz debuted in the WWE 2001 but by 2006, the former 2x WWE Women’s Champion was gone from the company for good. While she would become a leading general in the rise of women’s indie wrestling with Women’s Superstars Uncensored (WSU) and Shine early on, the past five years has seen Jazz disappear from the indie scene for the most part. In September of 2016, Jazz captured the NWA Women’s Championship and what would follow would lead to a remarkable change in her career. In 2017, Billy Corgan purchased the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) and began to reboot the brand. While the NWA spent the first year focusing on rebuilding the NWA World’s Heavyweight Championship, at NWA 70, Jazz returned as still the NWA Women’s Champion and defended it against Penelope Ford at the PPV. Now Jazz has emerged as a legend on the indie circuit, defeating Jordynne Grace to retain her title at Women’s Wrestling Revolution (WWR). With the NWA building up for a huge 2019, Jazz will continue to feature into its plans and turn 2019 into her best year in over a decade.

TOMOAKI HONMA

Photo: NJPW

In the late 1990s, Tomoaki Honma graduated from the Big Japan Dojo and debuted with Big Japan Wrestling (BJW) in 1997, becoming a 2x BJW Tag Team Champion and establishing a reputation of toughness as a 2x BJW Death Match Heavyweight Champion. In 2001, he headed to All Japan where he paired with Kazushi Miyamoto in Tumeric Storm before joining NJPW in 2007 where he’s remained ever since. He joined up with Hiroyoshi Tenzan‘s Great Bash Heel, a faction he’s remained with to this day (although only he and Togi Makabe remain). On March 3, 2017, in a 6-man tag match against CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii, Yano and Jado), Honma took a rope-hung DDT from Jado and was immediately non-responsive. He was rushed to the back in a stretcher and taken to the hospital, where it was determined that Honma had suffered a serious neck injury, losing feeling in his extremities. Honma spent over a year in surgeries, rehabilitation and getting back into shape, before making his emotional return to the ring in a tag match at NJPW Kizuna Road this past June. Since then, he’s begun to slowly work back into the road schedule and take back his place on the NJPW roster, a great ending to a tale that had people wondering if he’d even walk again.

PCO

Perhaps the most remarkable – and unexpected – comeback of 2018 was the emergence of PCO as one of the top indie draws of the year. As Pierre Carl Ouellette, he was a part of the WWF tandem The Quebecers in the early 1990s with Jacques Rougeau, winning the WWF World Tag Team titles on three occasions. The two would join WCW briefly in 1996, but by 2000, Ouellette was back working the indie circuit, working for the likes of International Wrestling Syndicate (IWS) in Montreal and IWA in Puerto Rico. In 2008, he debuted with Germany’s Westside Xtreme Wrestling (wXw), where he would first encounter WALTER, but by 2010, it appeared the career of Ouellette was over. He would still make occasional appearances, but he was no longer the active star he was in the 1990s and his appearances were dwindling. It started quietly this year, first working against “All Ego” Ethan Page with Black Label Pro, but it was his hoss fight against WALTER at GCW’s Joey Janela’s Spring Break 2 that put Ouellette – now known simply as PCO – back on the map. He soon began working everywhere from IWA Mid South to AIW, Beyond to Smash Wrestling, House of Glory to CHIKARA, as well as returning to wXw. He debuted with Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (PWG) in this year’s Battle of Los Angeles and returned to television as part of MLW. And he closed out the year by signing a new deal with Ring of Honor, debuting at the last set of December tapings. A pretty remarkable comeback for someone who was but an afterthought to most promoters (and many fans) just one year ago.

Any other comebacks this year you were surprised by? Let us know in the comments below!

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