During the entirety of the 1990s, wrestling was at its apex in regards to popularity and competition. Because of the neck-and-neck rivalry between WCW and WWE, as well as the emergence of an alternative in ECW, there was something for every fan, and the talent was dispersed evenly. By the end of the decade, new stars had begun to establish themselves in ECW and WCW, figuring to be main event-level talent for years to come. However, the landscape of the industry suffered a major shakeup and transition period in 2001, when WCW and ECW folded, and the rights were purchased by Vince McMahon and WWE.
As a result, even though much of the talent from each company started appearing on WWE programming, their roles were often much different than they had been previously. Wrestlers who had been champions, or on the upper-tier level of the card, were often slotted into the mid-card, all of a sudden appearing disposable. Perhaps management didn't feel they had a skill set that was right for WWE, or they didn't want to override the incumbent talent on the roster, but much of the incoming talent from ECW and WCW took a major hit in WWE, and ended up having to leave a short time after arriving in 2001.
Ranked below are 15 WCW and ECW wrestlers whose careers were hurt by the buyout of 2001.
19 Lance Storm
One of the best mat-based wrestlers that both ECW and WCW ever had to offer, Storm was always a good candidate for a great match on any given card. After the buyout, he did secure a contract with WWE, but was predictably misused most of the time, never being allowed to play to his strengths. He would stick around the company for a few years, but was never given ample opportunity to rise to the level that many thought he would be able to. His work in the other promotions holds up the best, and is recognized today as one of the best technical wrestlers of his time. Storm was never a good fit for WWE, and their way of doing things.
18 Shane Helms
Helms was one of the top cruiserweights during the final years of WCW, and looked to be primed for a breakout in his career. Going under the moniker of "Sugar" Shane Helms, he was always a talented in-ring worker, and looked to be showing the charisma necessary to get over on a larger scale. In WWE however, he was miscast as The Hurricane, and his upward trajectory came to a screeching halt. Yes, the character was humorous, and it was a solid act on the lower card, but Helms' talent warranted so much more, and he was never able to showcase it on a serious level because of such a ridiculous gimmick. The booking of Shane Helms was legitimately one of the most overlooked fails of WWE during their initial days after the buyout.
17 Kid Kash
After a noteworthy run in ECW during the late-90s, Kash made the switch to WCW, and was primed for a big run as a crusierweight. Unfortunately, he arrived just as the company was on their death bed, and never got a chance to establish himself with a more prominent promotion. Despite some early success in WWE after the buyout, it was clear that there wasn't a place for Kash long-term, and he fizzled away into the Indys, as well as a run in TNA. Solid in the ring, and having pronounced charisma, he was one of the more underrated wrestlers of his day, and probably should have been given more of an opportunity, if it wasn't for poor circumstances.
16 Perry Saturn
One of the most underrated wrestlers of all-time, Saturn had a unique skill set in the ring, and an intriguing, enigmatic personality. Finding success in both the singles and tag ranks in WCW and ECW, he established a fanbase for himself, and seemed to be on the rise as a top talent. After his move to WWE, he found limited success as a member of the short-lived Radicalz stable, and wasn't thought of to be a main event-level star. He disappeared from the public eye a few short years later, and never regained his prior level of popularity. Many people thought he always should have gotten more recognition, and in the landscape that WWE had at the time, they were probably right.
15 Masato Tanaka
Beginning his career in Japan, Tanaka was one of the dark horse stars of ECW during it's final years. He had some time with several titles in the company, including the Heavyweight strap, and seemed to be one of the rising stars in the American wrestling landscape. However, the slow deterioration of ECW prompted him to return to Japan in 2000, and has mostly stayed there since. It's interesting to consider what might of been, as Tanaka had a unique style for the American audience, and could have gone on to even greater heights. As it stands, it just wasn't to be, and the bulk of his work, while of high quality, has remained mostly overseas.
14 Chris Candido
Candido actually had a short run in WWE during the mid-90s, as a part of the in-ring talented Bodydonnas, who were forced to utilize a horrible gimmick. Afterwards, he became a regular for ECW, building up a quality body of work, and then turning to WCW in 2000. His promotion-transfer came too late, and after the buyout there was never a place for him in WWE (likely due to a lack of size), even though he had shown ability to get over on his own. Candido would move on to TNA, but his career was on a significant downturn at the time. Sadly, he passed away in 2005. Another quality in-ring worker that had no place in a WWE-controlled wrestling landscape. Left up to another promotion, it may have been a different story for Candido, but the circumstances just weren't in his favor.
13 Elix Skipper
Skipper began making waves in WCW during 2000, where emerged as one of the brightest young talents in the industry. He had premier athleticism, a great look, and a natural flair for charisma. After the buyout, he'd sign a contract with WWE, but only appear briefly on the main brand programming. He'd be released by the company after spending some time in their developmental ranks. From there, he joined TNA, but was never able to capitalize on his extraordinary talent. In the would-be scenario that WCW was able to stick around, Skipper would have been a star. Instead, he was passed up by WWE, and only was able to achieve marginal success during the rest of his career.
12 Justin Credible
Formerly a WWE castoff from the mid-90s with a Aldo Montoya , Credible found his greatest career success in ECW, and enjoyed several title runs. He was able to become a main event-level star with the company, and is probably one of the most recognizable names associated with the brand. Post-buyout, he toiled away in WWE, never being booked properly, only having a ton of title reigns as Hardcore Champion, which had pretty much been reduced to a meaningless rotational title at that point. Credible may not have stayed on the top of the card for long in his carer, but he's remembered as one of the most important wrestlers in the latter half of ECWs tenure.
11 Diamond Dallas Page
DDP was one of the fastest rising stars in the industry with WCW. He won multiple Heavyweight Titles, had a stellar look to go along with natural charisma, and had the ability to produce a great match. He was one of the most popular stars in any promotion for a few years in the late-90s and early-2000s. Unfortunately, he wasn't afforded the same opportunity after the buyout. Sans one meaningless European Title and Tag Team Title run, Page was in and out of WWE in two years, and never held a significant singles championship. It was certainly a surprise, given his popularity in WCW, but he just wasn't a part of the long term plans. He would never regain his popularity, and only worked marginal Indy shows thereafter.
10 C.W. Anderson
One of the burgeoning talents in the final years of ECW, Anderson was on his way up the ladder, until the buyout forced him back into the Indy scene of the time. This is where he resided for most of the rest of his career, but he did have a marginal run with WWE during the middle of the decade. Anderson is certainly a well-traveled wrestler, and has worked for plenty of different promotions, but never really received the most opportunity that he should have. Inevitably, the buyout forced several wrestlers into obscurity, and he was a confirmed name on that list. He some notable years in ECW, but wasn't able to carry over his talents to any other mainstream promotion in a significant way.
8 A.J. Styles
Even though he's world renowned for his great matches, and plethora of title reigns, many forget that Styles was a member of WCWs roster during it's dying days. Even then, he had all the talent in the world, and was on his way to becoming a mainstream star in every sense of the word. When the buyout happened, Styles was forced to seek other options, and eventually landed in ROH and TNA, making a name for himself there. His career still ended up incredibly successful, but it's still interesting to think what might have been if WCW didn't fold when it did in 2001. Now, 15 years after the fact, he's the current WWE Champion, but it could have been years prior when he first would have held a title of that stature.
5 Steve Corino
Unlike many of the wrestlers did after the buyout, Corino skipped working for WWE entirely. The former ECW star and Heavyweight Champion went right to Indys, landing in ROH for significant amount of time. It's just another example of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Corino could have been a main event star for nearly a decade, but instead got caught up in difficult circumstances. Ultimately, he's probably one of the better remembered stars of ECWs final years, and provided a staple title-holder that became more embraced by the fanbase as time went on. Unfortunately, WWE didn't see it the same way, and never wanted him on the roster.
3 Scott Steiner
Starting out as one of the premier tag wrestlers with his brother Rick Steiner, the other Steiner became a main event star in the singles ranks late in the game at WCW. "Big Poppa Pump" was beginning to make a huge name for himself in this portion of his career, until it was hindered by the 2001 buyout. He would eventually go on to sign a contract in WWE, and have some middling success in the singles ranks, along with some notable feuds in the mid-2000s, but ultimately fell short of being a premier superstar. He was also out of his prime as an in-ring talent, something that no doubt lessened his stock at the time. He'll still be remembered for his success in WCW, but wasn't really able to break through in WWE.
2 Mike Awesome
Awesome spent the 90s defining himself as one of the rising stars in the industry, spending most of his time in ECW, and making his way to WCW by the turn of the century. His feud with Masato Tanaka in ECW is one of the most fondly remembered of the promotion, and most fans thought that he was primed for a break through with WWE at some point down the line, especially after the buyout occurred. It wasn't to be the case however, and Awesome never received a significant push while in WWE, and was relegated to mostly mid-card duty, never getting a chance in the main event scene. Most thought it to be a supreme waste of talent, and he would leave the company nearly for good in 2002. Sadly, Awesome passed away in 2007, leaving fans to think what could have been, with one of the most popular wrestlers of the 90s.
Pound for pound, Raven was probably one of the most underrated wrestlers of his era, and was able to shine everywhere he went except in the WWE ranks. Years of cutting edge feuds in ECW prompted him for some upper mid-card success in WCW. After numerous title reigns with the two companies, he was relegated to the Hardcore scene in WWE, never giving him full opportunity capitalize on his talent. He could cut a great promo when he needed to, and had a penchant for entertaining matches with great psychology, but couldn't showcase it when he got within the WWE machine. He'd go on to join TNA, but his prime years had passed at that point, and most of what he was doing was just a rehash of what came before. But for fans of 90s wrestling, Raven was one of the marquee stars in the industry, and could have been a great WWE Champion if he was booked properly, and given a legitimate chance.