The legacy of WCW is met with various viewpoints. On one hand, it gave us some of the greatest moments in wrestling history. The New World Order, Sting, Ric Flair and the Cruiserweight division still provide tremendous entertainment if you watch old WCW content on the WWE Network. No wrestling company was able to compete with WWE the way WCW did and no one likely will again. Sadly, WCW jumped the shark and the many egos involved led to putrid decision making. The company underwent many negatives through the years, but nothing was as bad as the way they diminished the titles.
Championships are extremely significant in the world of pro wrestling. There has to be a prize for the athletes to compete for or there's no point to the match. WCW was guiltier than any other promotion of losing sight of the purpose. They had almost all of their titles go to unworthy contenders at some point. A few of the titles were tarnished worse than others. These negatives would play a part in the eventual demise of WCW and why many fans view them as a joke today. We’ll look at the historic failures of the twenty wrestlers who didn’t deserve to hold a WCW Championship.
20 The Giant
Everyone can appreciate the work ethic and talent of Big Show following his hugely successful WWE career. WCW originally signed him due to Hulk Hogan meeting the monster of a man and wanting to work with him. Hogan made his fame by wrestling huge opponents and overcoming the odds in true fairytale storytelling. WCW debuted The Giant pretending he was the long lost son of Andre the Giant hoping to extract revenge against Hogan.
The Giant showed great athleticism for his size and the potential was obviously there. WCW unfortunately was never the best place to develop young talent during the Monday Night Wars. In his first match, The Giant won the WCW Championship. It was meant to cement him as a major player, but it just hurt the prestige of the title. The Giant had no experience and very minimal training, but managed to win the title over the roster of hard working professionals. WCW putting the title on The Giant when they did made him a very undeserving champion in the record books.
19 Hacksaw Jim Duggan
There’s no denying the legendary career of Hacksaw Jim Duggan. WWE fans still give him a warm welcome during his rare appearances. The best years of Duggan’s career came in the WWE. Much like most former WWE stars to hit the market in that time period, WCW went after Duggan and offered him a big contract. Duggan spent the early portion of his WCW career as a forgettable midcarder and was transitioned into a smaller role on Thunder and WCW Saturday Night when the rise of the company began.
WCW underwent huge changes in 2000. Vince Russo became the lead writer and many of the top stars were leaving the company. Duggan returned to a prominent role on television after a hiatus, but Russo booked him into horrendous storylines. The humiliation angle of Duggan would see him become the janitor of WCW engaging in “comedic” segments every week. Duggan found the Television Championship in the garbage and became the official champ. Needless to say, this was a terrible decision on all fronts.
18 Rick Martel
Rick Martel is the perfect example of how desperate WCW was to pick up any former WWE talent. WCW had a tremendous midcard of established stars and rising young talents. For whatever reason, they decided to pick up Martel and make him the Television Champion right away. Martel was a decent talent but nothing special. His WCW matches were perfectly fine but it just felt like a complete waste of time.
No one cared about Martel and his feud with Booker T just hurt Booker's momentum. Maybe it would have worked better if Martel established his role on WCW television first, rather than just entering the Television Title picture. One big issue in WCW was having too many titles. That led to wrestlers undeserving like Martel holding one of them and completely devaluing the point of it in the first place. Martel was a respectable performer but a horrible choice for a title holder.
Daffney is rightfully beloved in the wrestling community for an underrated career, but her stint in WCW did have some negatives. The character being the psychotic girlfriend of David Flair and friend of Crowbar did provide entertainment. Daffney just wasn’t a capable wrestler in the early stages of her career. WCW had a bad habit of hot-shotting titles and giving inexperienced wrestlers too much, too early. This occurred when Daffney became the co-Cruiserweight Champion along with Crowbar.
The intention was obviously meant to be humorous, but the Cruiserweight Title suffered for it. A title that once represented something special became relegated into a championship held by a comedy duo, including a performer early into her career. Daffney would improve over the years, but she definitely wasn’t worthy of holding such a title in WCW. She has gone on the record to say that she didn't want to hold the title at the time, but went with it since it was requested by her employers.
16 Prince Iaukea
The WCW Cruiserweight division provided unbelievable quality during the 1996-1998 time frame. Future legends such as Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio found their first big breaks in the division. The other talents to hold the Cruiserweight Championship such as Psychosis, Billy Kidman and Juventud could hold their own against anyone. Fans expected a certain level of excellence out of the title holder and that ended when Prince Iaukea won the strap.
Nothing against the talented Iaukea, but he just wasn’t at the level of the other stars in the division. The matches became less exciting and harmed the perception of the Cruiserweights being boring. Iaukea quickly lost the title, but you have to wonder how he even won it. WCW likely wanted to take the chance with an interesting prospect. They also probably didn’t realize the appeal of the other wrestlers in the division and figured anyone could do well in the role. That proved to be wrong with Iaukea floundering as champion.
15 Buff Bagwell
Buff Bagwell may very well be the first name that comes to mind when you’re discussing wrestlers who received opportunities they didn’t deserve. WCW loved the look and potential of Bagwell. The underachieving egomaniac held a job for a decade due to the powers that be always believing in him eventually rising to the challenge. For all the television time and pushes Bagwell received, he never held a singles championship in WCW for good reason.
The Tag Team Championship would be the peak of Bagwell’s accomplishment. Buff held the titles on five different occasions with four different partners. 2 Cold Scorpio, The Patriot, Scotty Riggs and Shane Douglas would be the revolving partners of Bagwell over the years. These partners all had their own flaws, but each put out a better body of work than Bagwell. Scorpio still rants about the annoyances of having to team with Bagwell.
14 Disco Inferno
The wrestling career of Disco Inferno is often forgotten despite it delivering many memories. Disco was the ideal jobber that could be pushed every once in a while in a comedic role. WCW definitely got value out of him but started to overvalue his talent. Inferno held both the Cruiserweight Championship and Television Championship at various points in WCW. Disco's work didn’t match the title reigns. Many felt a joke act becoming champion helped diminish both of those belts going forward.
WCW didn’t put a lot of thought into their midcard championships. Someone probably enjoyed the humor of Inferno and wanted him to see rewarded for the laughter. Granted, Disco would overachieve again later in his career when Vince Russo made him an assistant writer on the show.
13 Bill DeMott
Bill DeMott was one of the many undercard performers in WCW to hold a roster for many years. Most remember him for pulling off the shocking moonsault from the top rope on a weekly basis as Hugh Morrus. The lower card talent often appeared in inconsequential matches with Jimmy Hart as his manager. WCW elevated him in the dying years with most of the better talent jumping ship after seeing the writing on the wall.
With the new name of General E. Rection, he led a faction of lovable losers trying to make a name in WCW. Rection went on to win the United States Championship twice during the run. Vince Russo loved his work, but fans always viewed him as the same Hugh Morrus that rarely won matches. The title reigns left no impact and proved why he was never title worthy. DeMott had a place in wrestling, but it nowhere near any title picture.
12 The Mamalukes
Vince Russo treated WCW like his own personal playground of creative ideas. WWE always filtered his ideas knowing that some of his thoughts were absolutely bonkers. One of the horrible concepts in WCW that exposed him was the introduction of The Mamalukes. Big Vito and Johnny the Bull were two of the young talents the company hoped would become stars of the future. They were paired together as stereotypical Italians from New York.
His Italian heritage and New York pride are two things Russo has always been known for. Fans failed to accept the gimmick and neither of the wrestlers appeared to be anything special. The Mamalukes winning the WCW Tag Team Championship felt like one of the many nails in the coffin of WCW. The teams of The Steiner Brothers, Harlem Heat and The Road Warriors were thought of when thinking of the best WCW Tag Title holders. Big Vito and Johnny the Bull being the ones to carry the division just visually proved how bad things had become.
11 Steve McMichael
Not many former pro sports athletes can make the jump to professional wrestling. Natural athleticism is important but the character aspect is extremely difficult to execute on live television every week. The rigorous schedule of working house shows most nights also prevented wrestlers from trying the job. Steve “Mongo” McMichael was an exception to the rule and held a successful career in WCW for quite a few years. The former NFL star made the transition well, but he was never on par with the better performers in the company.
WCW gave him plenty of chances and made him a pivotal member of The Four Horsemen. McMichael would capture the United States Champion, but only held it for less than a month. The presence of Mongo made him a worthy addition to the roster. Sadly, he could never progress into a title worthy wrestler. The better work of McMichael came in group action with The Four Horsemen and his singles work was exposed when he was United States Champion.
10 Mike Sanders
The hilarious nickname of “Above Average” is the thing most associated with Mike Sanders’ wrestling career but he achieved quite a bit in the later years of WCW. With the company in bad shape, they desperately needed to build new stars and they would undergo a youth movement. Sanders was one of the names to get a noteworthy position on television. The problem is he couldn’t live up to his moniker and was in fact the definition of average.
WCW made the odd decision of putting the Cruiserweight Championship on Sanders to help elevate him. The title was usually associated with a strong work ethic, exciting moves and stellar matches. Sanders could not handle the pressure and it proved just how poorly the division had become towards the end. Most fans don’t even remember Sanders winning the title due to the lack of credibility associated with his reign.
9 Tom Zenk
Wrestlers have a lot of responsibilities associated with the job. They have to entertain, come off as credible and build up a respectable brand. All of these fall beneath the main goal of leaving an impact on the viewer. Fans should have memories and moments associated with a wrestler at first glance. Tom Zenk personified the complete opposite of that. Zenk represented someone that was “just there” and that you would forget about after a show.
Zenk failed to develop a connection with the audience, but held all the attributes promoters wanted in talent. His look was tremendous, he worked hard, his talent was decent enough and, from all accounts, he respected his peers. The problem is no one cared about him. That showed most when Zenk won the Television Championship. Don’t get it wrong. The TV Title was never the most prestigious title in the business, but Zenk took it to a new low with record-breaking apathy.
8 Jeff Jarrett
The face of failure for WCW during the dying years was Jeff Jarrett. While he was quite talented, Jarrett had the makings of someone that belonged in the midcard for the entirety of his career. His matches, promos and overall presence were always good, but not special enough to get him to the next level. Vince Russo convinced Jarrett to make the jump with him from WWE to WCW and it led to a huge push.
Jarrett held a couple of titles during his various WCW tenures, but the spot on this list is solely due to being WCW Champion. The World Heavyweight Title would find its way to Jarrett on four separate occasions making him the top heel in the company. Fans just never bought into it and it made WCW look second rate. WWE featured Steve Austin, The Rock and Triple H battling for the title. WCW countering with Jarrett just made the Monday Night Wars become laughable.
7 The Renegade
Hulk Hogan making the jump from the WWE to WCW changed the landscape of the wrestling industry. History dictates that Hogan started the competition between the two companies, but it wasn’t until the formation of the New World Order that it really began. Before that, Hogan continued to portray his stale face character for a few years and wanted influence on the show. One of his ideas featured WCW introducing a knockoff version of The Ultimate Warrior named The Renegade.
The look and persona of Renegade clearly was meant to be an imitation of Warrior and fans just collectively rolled their eyes at the cheap attempt. Rick Wilson played the role and couldn’t get it to work at all. In fairness, it would have taken a miracle for anyone to connect with the audience. To make matters worse, Renegade won the Television Championship during his push to help make him relevant. It didn’t work and it is a humorous footnote in WCW history.
6 The Harris Brothers
WCW’s later years presented opportunities to many lackluster talents as seen with the selections on the list up to this point. The Harris Brothers may be the worst of the bunch when it comes to that theory proving true. Vince Russo brought over the intimidating twin brothers following his move from WWE to WCW. The Harris Brothers served as the heel team known as Creative Control passing along Russo’s wishes to talent.
They essentially played goon bodyguards that would wrestle in suits. Despite not having talent, Ron and Don Harris captured the WCW Tag Team Championship three times. The Harris Brothers definitely deserve to be in the conversation for the worst tag teams to hold the titles in WCW history. They never had a good match and were basically only there due to their relationship with Russo. WCW had a lot of undeserving champions but Ron and Don would be the only twins to do so.
5 David Flair
Ric Flair is wrestling royalty in any circle, but it was especially true in WCW. Flair's work help put WCW on the map and he served as the face of the franchise for many years. This led to WCW believing his son David Flair could follow in the footsteps of his dad to become a second generation star in the business. David instantly flopped and proved to be one of the worst wrestlers in the history of WCW.
The high profile name led to many pushes and the hopes of David becoming one of the young stars to lead WCW into the future. During a silly storyline that made Ric president of WCW, he handed David the United States Championship to make him the official title holder. David used shenanigans to retain in matches over respected workers like Dean Malenko. The title reign was a disgrace in every aspect and the next generation Flair proved didn’t deserve to be in the ring, let alone to be a champion.
Time to get into the absolute lowest of lows in WCW history! The regime change in WCW giving Vince Russo power led to his partner Ed Ferrara coming over as well. Both men would write the shows in embarrassing fashion that made you wonder how the hell they survived in WWE. The absolute most pathetic moment under that tenure saw Ferrara play a parody of WWE’s Jim Ross named Oklahoma.
Ferrara spoofed JR’s accent, catch phrases and commentary style. All of those things were questionable, but fine. Things went to another level when the Oklahoma character mocked Ross’ facial paralysis from Bell’s Palsy. If that wasn’t horrific enough, Oklahoma won the WCW Cruiserweight Championship. The atrocious attempt at comedy seeped over from petty insults at a former co-worker into ruining the show. A championship once associated with greatness went to a disgrace of a gimmick that had no business in the wrestling industry.
3 Judy Bagwell
We already touched on the depressing career of Buff Bagwell, but his mother actually makes the list as well. Judy Bagwell was not a wrestler in the slightest. WCW still felt she was worth putting on television as a character for comedic storylines. Rick Steiner had to pick a partner to replace the injured Kenny Koas as WCW Tag Team Champions. The replacement somehow would become Judy Bagwell after the decision makers in WCW likely had a few drinks before a booking meeting.
The titles would be vacated following an injury to Steiner, but the fact that Judy held the title made it a joke. Promotions are allowed to make mistakes in wrestling unless it harms the reputation of the company. This was one of the many things to hurt the integrity of WCW in a way they could never rebound from. Judy Bagwell would find herself back in wrestling again in a match that saw Buff have to rescue her in a Forklift Match. What a career.
2 Vince Russo
It only makes sense the man responsible for many of these horrific decisions would also give himself a title reign. Vince Russo not only wanted to hold a belt, but he wanted the hold the most important belt in the company. In a ridiculous War Games match with various wrestlers competing for the title, Russo won the title after Goldberg speared him out of the cage. The controversial personality still believes it was best for the company at the time, which is borderline insanity.
Russo being WCW Champion not only made a joke of the business but spit in the face of the locker room. Everyone worked hard with the hopes of getting to the top of their field and being World Champion. Someone as despicable as Russo killing the company and finding time to hold the most valuable prize just had to make the wrestlers sick. Vince McMahon did the same in WWE, but he actually was a respected on-screen performer and the story made a little bit of sense. Russo was just an overmatched egomaniac wanting to be cool on television.
1 David Arquette
The most infamous instance of an undeserving wrestling champion will always be David Arquette. A celebrity being involved in wrestling is common. The idea of the famous person wrestling a match or two isn’t out of the realm of possibility. However, giving the most important prize in the company to the non-wrestler sets a horrible precedence. David Arquette entered WCW to promote the Ready to Rumble movie associated with the wrestling promotion.
Arquette appeared as the friend of co-star Diamond Dallas Page and entered a match against Jeff Jarrett and Eric Bischoff. Naturally, the WCW Championship would somehow be on the line in the tag match, leading to Arquette scoring the pin fall. The most prestigious title in wrestling for many years found its way around the waist of David Arquette. This was viewed as the final straw for diehard fans and Arquette wasn’t popular enough to attract casual fans. WCW was already in bad shape, but Vince Russo putting the title on a B-list celebrity really sunk the company with no ways to save itself.