Ah World Championship Wrestling (WCW) -- it was once the bastion of great wrestlers, but the company’s mismanagement is legendary in the annals of biggest sports boners, bested by when the Orlando Magic couldn’t keep Shaq from moving to the LA Lakers.
At its apex, WCW’s locker room was stacked with some of the greatest talent to grace the wrestling business: Booker T, Curt Hennig, and 2 Cold Scorpio were just a few among many. Former executive Eric Bischoff made absolutely no secret of the fact that he wanted to have a deep roster, particularly during the whirlwind Monday Night Wars with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) that pitted WCW’s Monday Nitro against Monday Night Raw.
While it’s difficult to say that it was completely Bischoff’s fault, it’s hard not to look at the monster that was the NWO and notice that their collective presence pretty much eclipsed every wrestler on the roster. While someone like Rey Mysterio was a big name, he didn’t get the kind of main event push he deserved until he went to the WWE. It’s sadly a story that wrestling fans saw all too often, though there were certainly some great wrestlers who didn’t get that spotlight once they moved on away from WCW.
For every Rey Mysterio or Chris Benoit, sports entertainers who got main event pushes in spite of the NWO, there were probably about five or six wrestlers who barely got on the radar of upper management. This list is for those hard workers who deserved so much more.
15 Lance Storm
As one of Canada’s greatest imports, Lance Storm got a pretty quick push once he joined the WCW ranks, only it didn’t really last more than a few months and the end of WCW certainly killed any momentum that he had.
A staple of territories and ECW, Lance Storm is an enjoyable technical wrestler who works stiff and was incredibly entertaining when he played up his Canadian heritage when he was paired up with fellow un-pushed star, Mike Awesome in Team Canada.
Still, Storm’s WCW run was anything but memorable and although he received a push to start, he never got past the midcard and his excellent matches are lost to the other boners that WCW pulled in its storied history.
14 William Regal
Before he was bringing up the kids on NXT and one of the more memorable inductees into the “Vince McMahon Kiss My Ass Club,” William Regal had the unique royal blue blood gimmick as Lord Steven Regal in WCW.
Paired with Jean-Paul Levesque (later known as Triple H) and tag teaming as the Blue Bloods, Regal was one of the more interesting bad guys in WCW using his English smarm to enrage the American audience. It was really quite entertaining.
After the disbanding of the Blue Bloods, Regal, like many WCW wrestlers at this time, was lost in the shuffle of Bischoff’s primary project, the NWO. As memory serves, Regal’s TV appearances were few and far between until the day he showed up on WWE TV.
13 Alex Wright
A staple of WCW Saturday Night and the undercard of Monday Nitro, German superstar Alex Wright was a solid performer and easily one of the better workers that WCW had on their roster. Unfortunately, his talent at being a good hand never got Wright very far in the company, not unlike another European wrestler who’s on the current WWE roster, Cesaro.
Realistically, Wright just needed the right gimmick and a push to have made it onto the level of Chris Jericho or any one of the cruiserweight wrestlers who had main event potential. But all we’ll have are our memories of him doing that really awkward dance in a leather jacket as he walked towards the ring.
12 Billy Kidman
Billy Kidman was one of our favorite WCW wrestlers and while it’s arguable that he shouldn’t be on this list because he got a push prior to the company’s demise, we’d offer to say that it was too little, too late.
As part of Raven’s Flock, Kidman was just a background player overshadowed by Raven’s massive ego and less-than-stellar wrestling moves. However, once Kidman broke out as a singles wrestler and started to go against the luchadores and Japanese performers, it was obvious that the he was a special talent.
Though his grunge-y Flock persona was about three years too late, Kidman took a stale gimmick and punctuated it with being an absolutely phenomenal wrestler, which is more than we can write about 70% of the wrestlers who made up the NWO.
11 Mike Awesome
Mike Awesome was a big powerhouse who went to Atlanta after making an impact in Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW). He was getting a headlining push in ECW and went to WCW while the company was in completely disarray, so much so that he later wrestled Taz for the ECW Heavyweight Title on an ECW house show while still under contract with Turner. That’s how much Awesome did not care about his run in WCW, or maybe it speaks volumes about his respect for Paul Heyman and ECW. Probably both.
In hindsight, it’s amazing how WCW was able to acquire someone like Mike Awesome and just let him falter, but that certainly is a running theme with many of the wrestlers who appear on this list. It wasn’t for a lack of talent or even fandom, but WCW had painted themselves into a corner where hungry, young performers had nowhere to go, which was less than awesome for Mike.
10 Dustin Rhodes
Before he broke out in WWE as Goldust, Dustin Rhodes had a couple underwhelming runs in WCW that are largely forgetful. In fact, we’re pretty sure that we didn’t realize that he wrestled in Atlanta until someone pointed it out , which speaks volumes since we were regular watchers of WCW shows.
All that said, Rhodes didn’t break out at all in the South, which we suspect has something to do with the fact that his father, Dusty Rhodes, was also a booker there. Still, the younger Rhodes was destined for greatness and his tenure in WCW was during its pre-Monday Night War-era, so maybe they were just trying to stay afloat.
It’s funny to think back now about how maybe if they gave him something to chew on, how great he actually would have been in WCW, but then we might not have had Goldust.
9 Super Calo
It would be easy to populate this list with just WCW’s horribly booked Cruiserweight Division, but one of the better examples of a great wrestler getting a crappy push (or no push) is Super Calo.
Super Calo was one of the more notable luchadores to come into WCW with an audience behind him. Calo received a shot at the WCW Cruiserweight Championship, but beyond that, he was relegated to being a minor player.
From a fan/smart-mark perspective, WCW had enough high flyers to have their own hour of TV, particularly when Monday Nitro was pushed to three hours, but Bischoff, Russo, or any of the revolving door executives never saw the possibilities. Let’s just blame the NWO.
8 Stevie Ray
While in Harlem Heat with Booker T, Stevie Ray achieved quite a bit of success as one of WCW’s best tag teams. As far as a singles push, we all know that Booker T a.k.a. “King Booker” a.k.a “GI Bro” had the favor of management to get those other aliases. It’s a little sad to have to say this, but we’re talking about Stevie Ray the wrestler and not Stevie Ray Vaughn the guitar player. It sucks to think that Stevie Ray was the lesser of the two wrestlers in Harlem Heat, because he was a really strong contender. Maybe he didn’t quite have the mic work of his brother, but he at least should have at least received a mid-card run as a singles wrestler.
7 Juventud Guerrera
Like so many of the cruiserweight wrestlers that we’ve written about, Juventud Guerrera is one who has been lost to the annals of bad booking and WCW’s incredibly public mismanagement.
A contemporary of Rey Mysterio, Jr and a handful of the other talented wrestlers on the roster, Juventud Guerrera ushered lucha libre to national television and quickly changed how many WCW loyalists saw professional wrestling. It’s interesting that for all Eric Bischoff’s foibles, he helped put lucha on the map in the United States (arguably after stealing wrestlers from Paul Heyman and ECW). However, once Bischoff left and the reign of Vince Russo began, many of the luchadores saw their star power dwindle, but none worse than Guerrera.
During the final years of WCW, Guerrera saw himself unmasked and the subject of a Piñata on a Pole Match. Years prior, he was getting a push and instead of focusing on the stars and legitimate high flying athletes they had, WCW instead made their inner turmoil public, which deflated any impact that the Juvi Juice had.
6 Ultimo Dragon
Just the same with nearly all the cruiserweights on this list, Ultimo Dragon had a push in the beginning, a decent run, but never made it to main event status. Even Konnan was there by proxy because he was a part of the NWO.
Unfortunately, Ultimo Dragon could have had a push had it not been for a botched surgery that was originally thought to end his career and force him to retire early. Of course, seeing WCW’s history with many of their international talent, it’s probably not a far stretch to say that Dragon probably would have been largely ignored.
5 Perry Saturn
Most notable for defecting to the WWE alongside Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko, and Chris Benoit to form the Radicalz, Perry Saturn was another great ECW wrestler who spent most of his WCW career in midcard matches and feuds.
The potential was there as Saturn was introduced as a heater for Raven’s Flock, which quickly devolved into an unintentional comedy gimmick as Lodi’s bag boy. Saturn’s other gimmicks included a stint as a cross-dresser and feuding with Glacier (a WCW rip-off of “Mortal Kombat’s” Sub-Zero character) over a finishing move.
Saturn was a huge guy who could’ve beaten up anybody, so the fact that he started his WCW run feuding with a cartoon-y bootleg video game fighter come to life spoke volumes of how the company saw him.
By the end of his run in WCW, Saturn had worked his way up to matches with Diamond Dallas Page, but it was a lot like Ryback working with CM Punk – a midcarder who was a placeholder for a main eventer.
In our opinion, Saturn still didn’t get his due when he moved to the WWE, but at least he became a legitimate threat, until he fell in love with a mop.
4 Shane Douglas
There’s a reason why Shane Douglas won the National Wrestling Alliance World Title early in his career – because he was a fantastic wrestler. Great talker, great worker, Douglas is easily one of the most underrated wrestlers in the history of sports entertainment. Douglas’s three WCW runs were nothing to write home about, though.
His biggest accomplishment in WCW was winning the United States Championship in his final run, though Douglas has never made his distaste for Ric Flair a secret, which could be why he was often stuck in the company’s midcard. When you look at Douglas, particularly in the 90s when he was firing on all cylinders, he was tailor made to hold the WCW World Heavyweight Championship.
That never came to fruition and even if he didn’t publicly feud with Flair, it’s questionable whether WCW would have even done anything notable with him.
3 Eddie Guerrero
WCW really missed the boat when it came to the late, great Eddie Guerrero. For the first half of his WCW run, Guerrero was regarded as a utility player, jobbing to established wrestlers. When the cruiserweight division began to take off, Guerrero’s stock rose, alongside Rey Mysterio, Jr, Dean Malenko, and Chris Jericho.
It could be argued that Guerrero had a push – he had shots at the US Title, the WCW World Television Title, and formed his own satirical stable, the Latino World Order (LWO). But that’s really where it stopped.
Guerrero was quite public about his dislike for the way that Eric Bischoff was booking him and found his way to Vince McMahon and WWE when Kevin Sullivan took over as WCW’s booker.
In WWE, Guerrero really flourished, both physically and verbally and it would have been cool to see him in a main event run against the NWO during their WCW days, but that never happened and instead will live on as fan fiction in our minds.
2 Chris Jericho
Chris Jericho’s debut on WWE Monday Night Raw is often regarded as one of the greatest debuts of any professional wrestler, which speaks to how WCW was misusing him when he was under Eric Bischoff’s employ.
Most of his WCW run was within the cruiserweight division, but Chris Jericho easily had a main event mouth. When you go back and you watch his bits of reading the 1,004 holds to combat Dean Malenko’s 1,000 or his feud with Goldberg, it’s a wonder why WCW didn’t do more with him.
For lingering in the midcard for so long, Jericho had some great moments on WCW TV, which is why it really, really doesn’t make sense that he never got a world title run. It’s also annoying how WCW managed to fumble a talent who was as over as Jericho and how they subsequently let his contract lapse.
For anyone who doubts Jericho as a main event talent in WCW, just watch his first match against Triple H in the WWE where he wins the World Heavyweight Title and listen to the crowd’s reaction when he’s awarded the belt.
1 The Hollywood Blondes - Steve Austin and Brian Pillman
The bumbling of Chris Jericho in WCW can only be topped by an entry that screws up the runs of TWO pro wrestlers in the case of the Hollywood Blondes, Steve Austin and Brian Pillman.
As Austin tells it on his documentary, Stone Cold Steve Austin: The Bottom Line of the Most Popular Superstar of All Time, he and Brian Pillman were thrown together after singles runs for them were nixed. They found they had chemistry and had a remarkable run as The Hollywood Blondes, a cocky heel duo that made camera motions as they laid out their opponents. As quickly as they caught on, WCW bookers split them up.
Austin talks about how backstage politics and how quickly the Hollywood Blondes were getting over lead to the abrupt end to their Tag Team Championship run, but that’s wrestling logic for you. When you have a popular tag team, why not break them up? Instead of giving the duo a push (which easily could have put them up there as a legendary tag team given more time), the gimmick died in the biggest boner of all WCW decisions.