The late 1990s and early 2000s have often been described as the "greatest time period to be a wrestling fan." This time period took that title because of the immensely competitive wrestling scene. At the time, the WWE was facing a potential dethroning as the # 1 wrestling promotion from WCW. And both companies had ECW breathing down their necks. The competition was so fierce, it forced all three companies to consistently produce their best content or face extinction. However, 2001 came and by the Spring of that year, WCW and ECW had both been bought out by Vince McMahon and the WWE. The competition was over and Vinnie Mac became the only player in town.
At the beginning of this massive merger, fans grew excited at the possibilities of seeing some of the all time greatest WCW/ECW stars going up against WWE. However, a few hefty guaranteed contracts prevented that from happening. What that allowed though was a chance for some of the lesser known stars and talents to step into the spotlight and grab the brass ring. Here are the top 15 careers that flourished after the WWE bought ECW and WCW.
15 Shawn Stasiak
Not the most exciting name on this list, but this is where we begin. Shawn Stasiak was signed by WCW in 2000 and made his mark as a member of groups such as The New Blood, The Perfect Event, and The Natural Born Thrillers. The highlight of his WCW run was winning the WCW Tag Team Championship three times with Chuck Palumbo. Although Shawn had a brief run in WWE early in his career, he made his return as a member of The Alliance. His first meaningful match consisted of him teaming up with Kanyon and Hugh Morris to defeat the Big Show, Billy Gunn, and Albert at Invasion 2001.
What makes his WWF run memorable is the fact that Stasiak became a comedy act and was able to share some air time with WWF legends Kurt Angle, Steve Austin and The Rock. Also, the man from Planet Stasiak won the WWE Hardcore Championship 15 times within a three month span in 2002. Sure, it was under the 24/7 rule, but the record book still shows 15 title reigns for Stasiak.
14 Bill DeMott (Hugh Morrus)
To be honest, there was nothing memorable about Bill DeMott the wrestler. He was a jobber for the most part and didn't win his first championship in WCW until a few months before the ship went down. He endured some horrible gimmicks such as "Hugh Morrus" and "General/Captain Hugh G. Rection." And for the most part, was irrelevant. His only claim to fame as a WWE wrestler was the fact that he was apart of the Invasion 2001 team that knocked off Big Show, Albert, and Billy Gunn.
DeMott made his mark in WWE as the head trainer of Tough Enough, Florida Championship Wrestling, and most recently, NXT. So you could kind of credit Bill for some of the success of the hugely popular NXT. In 2015, DeMott stepped down after several allegations of mental and physical abuse towards his trainees. Although WWE has been known to be a forgiving place, we likely won't see anymore of DeMott any time soon.
13 Chuck Palumbo
Remember that time Vince McMahon signed Chuck Palumbo and realized he had a talented worker on his hands? And he used him respectably and even threw in a few Championship reigns? Nah, I don't remember that either. Instead, Chuck Palumbo joined the Alliance in 2001, was "kicked out," and returned to start a storyline homosexual relationship with Billy Gunn. Although the couple won the Tag titles twice, it was way below what both men deserved. However, it was memorable.
The story helped WWE gain some mainstream attention for having two males "come out" as gay. The story died after the two were set to be married and revealed the whole thing was a failed publicity stunt. Although most WWE fans look back at the angle and shake their collective heads, it had its fair share of memorable moments and helped Palumbo truly make his mark in WWE history.
12 Billy Kidman
Billy Kidman got his start in WCW as a member of Raven's Flock and eventually branched out to reach individual success. During his five year tenure in WCW, Kidman achieved success as a Cruiserweight Champion, a Tag Team champion, and even had a terrible feud with Hulk Hogan. Upon his arrival in WWE in 2001, Kidman quickly won the Cruiserweight title from Gregory Helms and beat X-Pac shortly after to unify the belt with the WWF Light Heavyweight Championship.
The most impressive aspect of Kidman's WWE career is the fact that he went on to win the Cruiserweight title four more times, bringing his number of reigns to a total of seven. The only wrestler with more reigns is his long time friend Rey Mysterio, with a total of eight. Also not to be forgotten, Kidman formed a formidable tag team with Paul London and managed to win the Tag titles from The Dudley Boyz. Kidman ended his wrestling career in 2008 and currently works as a producer behind the scenes.
11 Lance Storm
I'm pretty sure if you look up the phrase "underrated," its definition ties in directly to Lance Storm's career. Before coming to WWE in 2001, Storm had successful runs in WCW and ECW, winning multiple titles in each promotion. Storm also carries the honor of being the first "Alliance" member to invade a WWE telecast. Although Storm wasn't the focal point of the storyline by any means, his talent and work ethic allowed him to consistently put on good quality matches and promos.
After The Alliance disbanded, Storm remained under contract and formed various anti-American teams with Superstars such as Christian, Test, and William Regal. Over the course of his WWE career, Lance amassed one Intercontinental title win and four separate Tag title reigns. Storm wrestled his last match for WWE at ECW One Night Stand 2005, where he defeated Chris Jericho.
10 Jamie Noble
Younger fans of the WWE product might only know of Jamie Noble from his recent gimmick as Seth Rollins' personal security guard. J&J Security along with Joey Mercury. But in his day, Noble was a highly skilled wrestler that actually had a long tenure with WWE. Although Noble did come to WWE with the other Alliance members in 2001, he didn't debut until months after the Invasion storyline had ended. Playing out of his hometown of West Virginia, Noble adopted a trailer park gimmick and was paired with former WWE diva, Nidia.
From 2002-2004, Noble was a mainstay in the Cruiserweight Division and managed to win the title once. In 2005, Noble left WWE but returned a few times over the years for a few unsuccessful runs. After retiring for good in 2012, Noble rejoined WWE as a producer and has been comfortable in that role ever since.
9 Stacy Keibler
There isn't much that can be said about Stacy Keibler the wrestler. She was never an actual trained wrestler, and the lack of training definitely showed in her matches. I don't recall her winning or competing in any major feuds, and she never won any titles. But it would be foolish to try to overlook Stacy's career as one of the more prominent women's characters in recent WWE history. Along with all the others on this list, Stacy made her WWE debut in 2001 after WCW was purchased. She teamed with her real life best friend Torrie Wilson to feud with Trish Stratus and Lita.
Stacy's career lasted for about five years. During that time she managed a variety of Superstars including The Dudleys, Vince and Shane McMahon, Test, Scott Steiner, Hurricane Helms, and Rosey. Keibler's run in WWE can be most remembered for the multitude of Bra & Panties, Evening Gown, and Lingerie matches she competed in.
Yoshihiro Tajiri. The Japanese Buzzsaw is the first entrant on this list to have come from ECW upon their closure. Tajiri actually debuted a few months before the Invasion story line began, taking a job as Commissioner William Regal's assistant. This role proved to be a successful and humorous one. Tajiri eventually turned on Regal and joined The Alliance, winning the Light Heavyweight, and WCW U.S. titles along the way. After The Alliance disbanded, Tajiri and the Cruiserweight Championship were drafted to SmackDown during the first Brand Split.
Over the next few years, the Japanese Superstar would dominate the Cruiserweight scene, winning the title a total of three times. Before his first run with WWE ended, Tajiri managed to win the Tag titles with both William Regal and the late Eddie Guerrero. And after many years away, Tajiri returned to WWE during the 2016 Summer Cruiserweight Classic.
7 Torrie Wilson
Even after 14 years, it's still impossible for me to say the name Torrie Wilson without thinking about that awful storyline from 2002 involving Dawn Marie and Torrie's dad. Although that will probably be her most memorable moment as a WWE star, Torrie actually had a pretty long and successful career as a WWE talent. After debuting in 2001, Wilson joined her heel best friend Stacy Keibler to feud with the WWE Divas. After a face turn and on screen relationship with Tajiri, Wilson branched out on her own and began to make a name for herself.
Although she spent most of her WWE tenure as a manager or a mistress, Torrie got a chance to work with women's wrestling legends such as Trish Stratus, Lita, Victoria, and Sable. Wilson's WWE career also contributed to her being featured in Playboy magazine on two separate occasions. She made her last appearance in WWE at Wrestlemania 25 as apart of the 25-Diva Battle Royal.
6 Tommy Dreamer
I'll be honest. I've never been a huge fan on Tommy Dreamer. I'm not sure if it's his look, his in ring work, or his lack of an entertaining personality. But there's no way to deny his impact in wrestling. Dreamer was an ECW legend before the company closed its doors. His feuds with The Sandman and Raven provided some of the most memorable moments of all time. However, even though ECW was great in it's own right, Dreamer got a chance to fulfill his wrestling dreams upon joining the WWE.
Dreamer won the Hardcore title 14 times and the (WWE) ECW Championship once. His time in WWE allowed him to work a couple of WrestleMania matches and feud with some of the WWE's biggest stars. His most memorable WWE match/moment is undoubtedly the Six-Person Extreme Rules Tag match at One Night Stand 2006. The match pit Dreamer, Terry Funk and Beulah McGillicutty against Edge, Mick Foley and Lita. Since then, Dreamer has competed on and off in WWE, with his most recent stint ending in December 2015.
5 Chavo Guerrero
Although Chavo Guerrero's contract was purchased by WWE in 2001, he didn't really hit the ground running until he paired up with his uncle Eddie Guerrero in the Fall of 2002. Chavo and Eddie teamed together in an attempt to win the Tag titles. And in the process, the duo put on several high quality matches against the teams of Edge/Rey Mysterio and Kurt Angle/Chris Benoit. Chavo and Eddie won the Tag titles twice, but went their separate ways after Eddie was pushed to the main event scene. Chavo moved to the Cruiserweight Division and won the championship four times.
Unfortunately, Chavo's WWE career didn't reach it's peak until Eddie Guerrero passed away in 2005. Chavo began to work with main event talents such as Randy Orton and Chris Benoit, and even defeated CM Punk for the ECW Championship. Although Chavo's career never quite matched that of his late uncle, he did reach a much higher level of success and notoriety than he ever did in WCW.
4 Gregory Helms
It might seem odd to place Gregory Helms so high on this list, but you've got to hear me out. Helms' WCW career was a joke. He was in a boy band (3 Count) fighting over fictional recording contracts and dancing before every match. Even though he entered WWE as the comical Hurricane Helms, he did the best he could with the gimmick and made it very popular. Helms was responsible for "Mighty Molly" and Rosey, the Super Hero In Training. Hurricane won the European title, Hardcore title, and Tag titles. And let's not forget his vastly entertaining feud with The Rock in 2003.
After he dropped his Hurricane gimmick in late 2005, Helms became a serious, technical heel and played the part perfectly. After winning the Cruiserweight title at the 2006 Royal Rumble, Helms became the longest reigning Cruiserweight champion in history with a reign of 385 days. Helms made his last appearance for WWE in 2009.
3 Rob Van Dam
When Rob Van Dam joined the WWE in 2001, wrestling fans were well aware of his history in ECW. He was arguably ECW's greatest star and his popularity was through the roof. During his time in ECW, RVD became the longest reigning Television Champion in history with a reign of 700 days. Upon his arrival in WWE, Van Dam was a focal point of the main Invasion story. Although he was mainly a heel, it was hard for WWE fans not to cheer him. RVD's early WWE career featured classic matches against Superstars such as Jeff Hardy, Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, and Eddie Guerrero.
RVD reached the peak of his WWE career in the summer of 2006 when he simultaneously held the ECW Heavyweight and WWE Championship, making him the only person in history every to do so. However, both reigns were short lived due to Van Dam being arrested with fellow Superstar Sabu for drug possession. WWE quickly took both belts from Van Dam and suspended him for 30 days. And it's fair to say that his WWE career never really recovered from that. Although he has returned on several occasions, he has never been able to gain the momentum or popularity he once had.
2 Rey Mysterio
Rey Mysterio is part of an elite wrestling club of Superstars that have competed in ECW, WCW, and WWE. Although he found success in all promotions, he didn't really hit his peak until joining WWE in 2002. Rey was immediately pushed into a program with Kurt Angle. Along with Edge, Angle, and Chris Benoit, Mysterio had the match of the year at No Mercy 2002. Rey's popularity never seemed to drop and he was rewarded with many title reigns. After a year long feud with Eddie Guerrero in 2005, Rey went on to win the World Heavyweight Championship for the first time at WrestleMania 22.
Although Rey's title reign wasn't very long, he stayed in the title hunt and main event picture for the next several years. Rey's best years in WWE featured him in feuds against Superstars such as CM Punk, Chris Jericho, and Batista. Since Rey's departure, WWE has tried to fill his void with both Sin Cara and Kalisto. But neither will ever match up to the career and legacy left by Rey Mysterio.
1 Booker T
Before Booker T ever stepped foot in a WWE ring, he was a five-time WCW Heavyweight Champion, a six-time Television Champion, a 10-time WCW Tag Team Champion with his brother. That alone is enough for a Hall of Fame resume. However, Booker success was merely beginning. Booker T hit first in the Invasion angle by attack Steve Austin at King of the Ring 2001. His early WWE years were highlighted by feuding with The Rock, forming a successful tag team with Goldust, and having a WrestleMania main event match with Triple H (even though it wasn't a main event and Triple H squashed him). Booker achieved his highest level of success in WWE in 2006. After winning the King of the Ring tournament and christening himself as King Booker, he won the World Heavyweight championship for a sixth time and held it for 126 days.
In 2007, Booker left WWE for a three year run in TNA but returned as a color commentator in 2011. Since then, he has found himself as a regular fixture on WWE television. Booker also reached his highest level of success by being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2013. It seems that even though Booker's role with WWE keeps changing, they will always find a place for him due to all he has accomplished in his career.