The Monday Night War often brought out the best television that professional wrestling fans can recall in recent history. It was a ratings war where both promotions wanted to bring out their best to attract the fans and it included some of the better story lines at the time. Not everyone was a winner in terms of booking – like “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, The Rock, Hulk Hogan and Kevin Nash.
Just like we have a number of wrestlers who the large promotions are negatively impacting through booking decisions – i.e. Zack Ryder and Dolph Ziggler – World Wrestling Entertainment (formerly World Wrestling Federation) and World Championship Wrestling were also guilty of ruining wrestlers with characters and storylines that either hurt their momentum or destroyed any chances of becoming a true main-event superstar. These types of decisions have happened in the past, still happen now and will likely continue through the years to come.
There were several wrestlers who were impacted negatively based on how they were handled both in the WWE and the WCW. Some of the following superstars were the type of wrestlers who had plenty of potential but were the victims of poor booking and creative decisions. Some of these wrestlers switched allegiances from one promotion to another and found that the grass was not necessarily greener on the other side of the fence.
20 WWE – Mideon
Well after Dennis Knight wrestled as one of the Godwins, he would become one of the “disciples” within The Undertaker’s ministry. But an injury to the Deadman in 1999 led to the faction disbanding and forcing talents like Mideon to try and find a new character. Unlike Viscera, who was able to work with the company on and off for the next several years, Mideon would not be given the best treatment in terms of booking – most notably as what many fans called “Naked Mideon.”
Sure, the Attitude Era of WWE’s programming in the 1990s always liked to push the envelope. However, a larger man wearing a thong and a fanny pack was likely not the best choice by the creative team at the time. It was a sporadic gimmick that didn’t last very long and Knight was kept off of television until he was released from the company.
19 WCW– Alex Wright
The German superstar in WCW used to be a rising star in the company and was given the nickname “Das Wunderkind” while being one of the best mid-card talents with winning the Cruiserweight and Television championships in the 1990s. He was wrestling against a number of top talents in the company. However, the WCW might have violated the valuable maxim that states “if it isn’t broken, don’t try to fix it” when they decided to rebrand Wright.
Wright was repackaged in 1999 as a villainous Berlyn character where he cut his hair into a mohawk and grew a goatee. The gimmick would end later that year after a minor rivalry with Vampiro and then his former bodyguard called “the Wall.” WCW would then try to bring him back as his original character to be in a tag team with the Disco Inferno, but by then the momentum Wright had built through the 1990s was lost.
18 WWE – Golga (John Tenta)
John Tenta was a decent mid-card talent in WWE and WCW where he wrestled as Earthquake. He went back and forth a few times between the two companies in the 1990s until returning to the WWE in May 1998. However, instead of returning with the familiar blue and black singlet, he was placed in the Oddities faction where he wore some dirty-looking clothes. There were times where he would carry an Eric Cartman doll with him to the ring as well.
The character change was a bit of a surprise and one would have thought the WWE would have been happy to see that Tenta had come back having lost some weight and being in better physical condition. The group had a cult following that was thanks in part to the Insane Clown Posse being included. After the group disbanded, Tenta would be released and only had one final appearance on WWE television as part of the gimmick battle royal at WrestleMania X-Seven.
17 WCW – Mike Awesome
Since WCW made a number of questionable decisions in the final year or so of the company’s history, there was some controversy with Awesome appearing on WCW television while also holding the ECW World Championship in 2000 and facing negative comments about why he didn’t sign a new contract with ECW. He was part of the New Blood faction in WCW but would quickly be changed to the “Fat Chick Thrilla” and then became “That '70s Guy.”
For someone who was one of the biggest stars in ECW, it felt like the WCW didn’t give Awesome a decent character and that killed off some of the momentum that he had in his career. Shortly after going back to the Team Canada faction, he would join WWE after the purchase of WCW. Slowly but surely, this former ECW main eventer would essentially become a jobber on Sunday Night Heat and Velocity before being released in 2002.
16 WWE – Steve Blackman
WWE fans were definitely excited about the notion of having a “Lethal Weapon” in the back in the 1990s when he enjoyed an undefeated streak that lasted for nearly a year and included wins over a number of talents. It was during that time that he earned a signature entrance where he had glow-in-the-dark eskrima sticks that definitely caught the attention of many fans. Shortly after his first loss, he would then go against a number of other mid-card talents.
He obviously had some martial arts skills that the WWE could have utilized, but instead they were used to eventually make him a comedic character that involved a storyline with Al Snow. He also had another failed tag team with Grandmaster Sexay before he was eventually gone from the WWE in 2002. The WWE probably could have continued making Blackman a mid-card staple with the Intercontinental Championship, but he had to settle for having won the Hardcore Championship half a dozen times.
15 WCW – The Public Enemy
While there were several singles stars who flourished in ECW that couldn’t do well when they switched to another company, Public Enemy was a tag team that could have had a lot of success when they made the jump to WCW between 1996 and 1998. Aside from an eight-day WCW Tag Team Championship run, it seemed like their characters were not viewed very highly by the powers that be in WCW, as well as the fans who didn’t seem to really know who they were.
Essentially, Johnny Grunge and Rocco Rock looked like they were fish out of water before they were to leave the company. The team would go to the WWE for a brief stint and then an even briefer stay in WCW in 1999, where they essentially lost in both of their WCW television appearances that year. Neither were able to make a return to television professional wrestling.
14 WWE – Tazz
Extreme Championship Wrestling had a number of talented wrestlers that weren’t always finding the most success in other promotions the way guys like Rob Van Dam did after coming to WWE. Tazz, however, was one of several ECW superstars who had a great start when he made his move. He gave Kurt Angle his first loss in WWE at the 2000 Royal Rumble. But the WWE had missed the opportunity to build him into potential champion.
Near the end of his wrestling career, Tazz was essentially someone who wrestled other former ECW wrestlers before the company made him move to the commentary table. Sure, Tazz has been a great voice for SmackDown for about a decade, but one still has to wonder how the WWE could have handled Tazz better creatively so that he could have been more successful. Maybe he would have never been a WWE Champion, but he was deserving of holding the Intercontinental Championship at least a few times.
13 WCW – Curt Hennig
Once built up as “Mr. Perfect” under the WWE in the early 1990s, he was one of the top-level wrestlers who would jump to ECW as part of the early firing shots in the Monday Night Wars. Hennig was one of the best wrestlers the WWE had while he was climbing the overall rankings with two runs as the Intercontinental Championship. In the WCW, he did claim the company’s United States Heavyweight Championship during his time where he wrestled simply under his name.
His run in WCW wasn’t so perfect considering that he sort of felt out of place when the WCW put him into the New World Order. What was once an iconic group became a place that people felt compelled to try and fit in. For Hennig who was better as the confident athlete who liked to brag about how he would perfectly execute everything in the ring, the move cost him his personality.
12 WWE – 2 Cold Scorpio
One of the best athletes in ECW during the 1990s was looking to make bigger money and climb the ladder to success by jumping to the WWE. Instead of highlighting how good he was in the ring, however, the WWE put him into a zoot suit and brought him to the ring with a dancing gimmick called Flash Funk. This gimmick continues to fail even today as can be seen with Brodus Clay, despite a track record of failures that included Funk which should have compelled the WWE to bury it.
A couple of years later, he would be repackaged as Scorpio and was part of the J.O.B. Squad comprised of lower-tiered superstars like Al Snow and the Blue Meanie. Additionally, he was placed in the Brawl for All tournament – which was the company’s attempt at bringing the world of mixed martial arts to their product – and lost to The Godfather before leaving the WWE. He was able to find work in Japan, but wouldn’t be able to return to televised wrestling again.
11 WCW – Raven
Raven was another example of wrestler who became a top talent in the ECW after small runs in the WCW and WWE. But he would make a return to WCW in 1997 as there seemed to be an interesting story line where he was quietly forming the Flock faction. It was an interesting group to which he could lend his talents. They were considered misfits in the company but its where he would eventually win the United States Championship.
Outside of that, however, Raven was not really provided a lot of opportunities to excel. In fact, the remainder of his time consisted mostly of losing matches, losing the Flock and then a storyline where he refused matches before forming a short-term alliance with the Insane Clown Posse and Vampiro called the Dead Pool. With someone like Raven who had such a distinct personality, WCW could have done a lot more with his charisma as a upper-level heel.
10 WWE – Mark Henry
The World’s Strongest Man in the WWE was successful later in his career, but there was a time when he struggled with poor characterization and bad storylines during the Monday Night Wars. After having been the strongman in the Nation of Domination faction, Mark Henry was billed as Sexual Chocolate in 1998 – a nickname that fans haven’t forgotten over the years. The gimmick had a number of embarrassing moments that took away from the dominance Henry once brought to the ring.
The storyline was that he admitted to being a sex addict that slept with his sister and was also in a relationship with Mae Young who gave birth to a single hand. Henry was then sent to Ohio Valley Wrestling and would essentially become a lower-tier wrestler for several years as the fans just weren’t interested in him at the time. That would remain the case until he finally won the World Heavyweight Championship more than a decade later.
9 WCW – Ultimate Warrior
Known for his colorful face paint and attire, as well as the interesting promos where you really had to question his sanity, the Ultimate Warrior made a surprising jump from WWE to WCW in 1998 and was immediately embroiled in a feud with Hulk Hogan and the New World Order. Re-branded simply as Warrior, he would have one of the worst timed matches against Hogan during Halloween Havoc where a fireball that was supposed to blind Warrior impacted Hogan instead.
With the storyline having gone wrong, the WCW wasn’t able to save it and the Warrior would ultimately leave the WCW on bad terms. As many wrestling fans know, he didn’t necessarily leave the WWE on good terms back in the 1990s either and fans wouldn’t see him in the ring until 2008 in Spain. The bridge was rebuilt just in time for Warrior to join the WWE Hall of Fame, but his in-ring career was severely hurt in WCW.
8 WWE – William Regal
No one can deny the fact that William Regal, or Lord Steven Regal from his days in WCW, was one of the best technical wrestlers that may have been underutilized in his prime years with the WWE. During his run from 1998 to 1999, the WWE gave Regal the “Man's Man” character where the vignettes looked like he was a lumberjack that shaved with a straight razor and hand-squeezed his own juice. Sadly, he would be released after checking into rehab and had another failed stint in WCW.
Regal eventually returned to the WWE, but was placed into a villainous commissioner role where he had a decent run before going back to the mid-card tier. Despite winning the Intercontinental and European championships, it felt like Regal was never really used properly during his career and could have been a bigger star based on his in-ring abilities. If there was a superstar deserving of a world championship run from the 1990s, it was Regal.
7 WCW – Dusty Rhodes
One of the greatest World Heavyweight Champions from the 1980s would return to WCW in the early 1990s to help as one of the company’s booking committee members and was also on television as a broadcast team member. Initially, he was against the New World Order before a surprising swerve where he helped Scott Hall against Larry Zybszko and was revealed wearing the black and white shirt.
Rhodes was a likeable character throughout his wrestling career as the original people’s champion (before The Rock) -- someone who represented the working man. Having him placed into a heel faction that garnered so much hate from the fans (i.e. garbage thrown in the ring the night Hogan, Hall and Nash formed) felt like a terrible move that just didn’t seem like a proper fit. At least Hogan was able to embrace being a bad guy. Rhodes just seemed out of place in the nWo.
6 WWE – Dean Malenko
One of the best cruiserweights from WCW in the 1990s would make the jump to the WWE with Chris Benoit, Perry Saturn and Eddie Guerrero in the final year of the Monday Night Wars. It seemed like a beneficial move for all parties as all would find championship success in their respective singles careers. For Malenko, he would be the WWE’s Light Heavyweight Champion, but was placed into a feud involving Lita and also went up against other female talents like Ivory and Jacqueline.
Malenko’s career in the WWE would begin to drift into nothing more than sporadic appearances as the WCW/ECW invasion story line began in 2001 after WWE bought the competition. Despite Malenko being one of the best technical wrestlers, he would become lost in the shuffle as the WWE roster grew. In the end, it was another lost opportunity for the WWE to focus the new generation of cruiserweights who would come to WWE after the invasion and Malenko would have been a great piece to that division.
5 WCW – Bret Hart
Obviously Bret Hart was not a happy person with how he lost the WWE Championship to Shawn Michaels back at Survivor Series 1997, which led to him make the leap to WCW. It felt like the right fit since he was making more money and working a lighter schedule. But similar to Dusty Rhodes, the WCW creative team took an extremely popular wrestler and placed him in the New World Order – once again a bad fit creatively.
For the man who considered himself the best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be, there really wasn’t a need for him to have assistance when he was first competing for championships and wrestling talents like Chris Benoit and Booker T. Sure, Hart did win two world titles and was a Triple Crown Champion in WCW, but the character took a bit of a hit in terms of being the beloved wrestler he was through the 1980s and 1990s.
4 WWE – Vader
After having established himself as a three-time World Heavyweight Champion in WCW, Vader made the leap to the WWE and was put into a feud with Yokozuna after Jim Cornette brought Vader in to be his new big man – a feud that didn’t really give us the proper conclusion at WrestleMania XII in 1996. Vader would then have matches against the likes of Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker, but didn’t get the push that one would have expected.
In the end, Vader would end up losing to a number of stars that essentially lowered the big man down to a jobber status, even losing to Mark Henry in 1998. Vader would leave the company and find success in Japan after being hurt by WWE's poor bookings. It makes you wonder if Vader would have been better off staying in WCW, where he enjoyed stardom, instead of switching promotions. Unfortunately, we will never know.
3 WCW – Chris Jericho
One former WCW superstar who definitely benefited from making the jump from WCW to WWE was Chris Jericho, even though he enjoyed some great storylines at the WCW. The man who debuted with the “Y2J” countdown clock was a man who fans enjoyed watching in WCW during the 1990s. He was one of the best men on the microphone and was another skilled technician that helped the WCW’s Cruiserweight Division.
But Jericho would call out Goldberg for a match in 1998 that never happened, which was one of the reasons he wanted to leave WCW. Jericho would then struggle in a feud with Perry Saturn for the WCW Television Championship near the end of his run in WCW.
With the jump to WWE, Jericho flourished and became the company’s first Undisputed Champion with wins over The Rock and Steve Austin on the same night – a night he would bring up in promos for several years. Still a great talent in today’s WWE, Jericho is a five-time world champion with several belts in his list of accomplishments that he wouldn’t have achieved if he stayed in WCW.
2 WWE – Marc Mero
The man who was once known as Johnny B. Badd in WCW would make a jump to WWE in the late 1990s during the middle of the Monday Night Wars. He brought his wife Sable to the company as his manager and would become the Intercontinental Championship for a month long reign. Months later, Mero suffered an ACL tear that kept him out of the ring until 1997, at which time he was given a new character that was jealous of the attention Sable was getting.
A once promising wrestler would struggle in a feud with Goldust and went on a losing streak in 1997 and 1998 that led to him eventually promising to retire from the WWE if he couldn’t beat Light Heavyweight Champion Gillberg – a parody of Goldberg. The loss led to him leaving the company. After that, he had sporadic appearances in WCW and even in TNA in late 2004. It turns out that he would become an inspirational speaker for youth to stay away from drugs and other substances after his wrestling career came to an unfortunate end in 2006.
1 WCW – Goldberg
The man who began his professional wrestling career with an undefeated streak of 173 wins – even if the number was questionable in terms of how the record was exaggerated – was the biggest face the WCW had during the Monday Night Wars. Goldberg would then struggle to reclaim the WCW World Heavyweight Championship in his final years with WCW and was placed into a feud with the New World Order.
Goldberg had a brief heel turn to join the New Blood that lasted only a little bit before he feuded with Russo and also had a loss to Scott Steiner. He would be forced to retire with another loss and was written off television after a loss to the team of Buff Bagwell and Lex Luger as Goldberg and would not be seen until well after the Invasion story line concluded. It felt like Goldberg was wasted in the late 1990s and 2000, which might have been part of the fall of WCW.