Billionaire Ted Turner, the original “Mouth of the South,” loved some “wrasslin’.” He collected wrestlers like action figures after buying out Jim Crocket Promotions (JCP) and renaming it World Championship Wrestling (WCW) in 1988. Many wrestlers would carryover from the NWA association with JCP while others jumped ship from the WWE and back—and then back again. Even so, Turner’s money allowed for a steady infusion of new and veteran talent during the late 1980s and early 1990s. In can be argued the WCW’s talent base was deeper than the WWE’s during that time. What can’t be disputed is how erratic WCW managed talent from 1988 through 2001.
Ric Flair’s departure for the WWE in 1991 spurred WCW to involve and develop its wide-ranging talent base. That base would remain upon Flair’s return a few years later and for the inevitable signing of Hulk Hogan and other veterans in the mid-1990s. The advent of the New World Order (nWo) was a game-changer for talent use and exposure until WCW’s demise and eventual buyout by the WWE. No matter the timeframe, there are several examples of WCW’s questionable use and push of wrestling talent. The following list highlights those wrestlers who were shoved (or gagged) down fans throats and some we wanted more of in one way or another during their respective WCW run.
15 Disco Inferno: Shoved
Imagine that, WCW copied a pop-culture icon to fill its wrestler ranks! Borrowing from the Tuner Movie Library, WCW tapped a figure from the unlikeliest of places: Saturday Night Fever. Yes, that’s right—John Travolta’s role of Tony Manero was brought from the silver screen to the squared circle as the Disco Inferno. Debuting in 1995, Disco Inferno’s hype and time allocation was mystifying. There were continuous camera shots of the audience hoping to catch one or more children or unwitting adults dancing to his ring entrance music. At the same time, Disco would cut promos with clichéd New York slang. Disco would feud with several mid-card stars such as Dean Malenko, Perry Saturn and Alex Wright, and joined the nWo Wolfpac for a time. Disco Inferno even won the WCW World Television Title on two separate occasions, further substantiating his overexposure.
14 Mike Awesome: More
Being a badass in ECW—not to mention having the best mullet known to man—didn’t carry over well to WCW for Mike Awesome in early 2000. Awesome “invaded” the WCW while still ECW Heavyweight Champion. In WCW, he was part of the ill-attempted “New Blood” angle that pitted up and coming wrestlers versus the older stars known as the “Millionaires Club.” However, that angle was scrapped largely because it was horrible. Awesome would have high-profile feuds but at the expense of his imposing stature. He would feud with Scott Steiner while assuming a “Fat Chick Thriller” gimmick, actually coming to the ring flanked by rotund women. Then, Awesome would become “That 70s Guy,” dressing in bellbottoms and other 1970s attire. He would actually lose his mullet in a Hair-Versus-Hair match—to a bald wrestler, Konnan. Mike Awesome deserved better.
13 Jeff Jarrett: Shoved
Jeff Jarrett was a bamboozling character who was constantly involved in WCW’s main event scene. Jarrett’s first tenure with WCW during the nWo heyday would have him joining the Four Horsemen, feuding with them and ultimately winning the WCW United States Heavyweight title from Steve McMichael. Quite the push to say the least! What the hell kind of outfit was he wearing by the way! Jarrett would only remain with WCW for a year, leaving for the WWE. However, he would return to WCW during the company’s downturn in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Jarrett monopolized several WCW storylines, winning the United States Championship as well as the World Championship on four—yes, four—separate occasions. One of those occasions was winning a Triple Threat Match in which then champion David Arquette—yeah, champion—turned on Diamond Dallas Page in the match giving Jarrett the win. Need I say more regarding overexposure?
12 Barry Windham: More
We’re almost going old-school with this one! Barry Windham was already a veteran of both the NWA and the WWE by the early-1990s. Aside from his good- to bad-guy flip-flopping, he was one of WCW’s top draws during a time when Flair and Luger would bolt for the WWE and before the eventual arrival of Hulk Hogan. Windham would feud with the Dangerous Alliance as well as team with Brian Pillman and Dustin Rhodes. He would turn his attention to the singles division and ultimately defeat The Great Muta for his only World Heavyweight Championship, which he would lose to Ric Flair shortly thereafter. Unfortunately, recurring knee injuries kept Windham from capitalizing on his prime years and resulted in him making sporadic returns to the WCW with peculiar gimmicks.
11 Diamond Dallas Page: Shoved
You’ve got to hand it to DDP! He broke into the wrestling scene at a late age but made it work! Page started out as a manager in the now defunct AWA. He then made his way to WCW as a manager of the Freebirds and ultimately tried his hand in the ring. Although slow going at first, DDP’s rise to main event status took off soon after the nWo angle broke in the mid-1990s. After that DDP was everywhere in WCW, feuding with Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Goldberg and even teaming with NBA great Karl Malone to take on Dennis Rodman. Regrettably, he was also part of one of WCW’s lowest points when actor David Arquette won the World Heavyweight Championship. Nevertheless, DDP dominated WCW airtime.
10 Ricky Steamboat: More
Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat was more than accomplished by the time he got to WCW. As a veteran of both the WWE and NWA, his first stint with WCW came in 1989 when feuded with the Four Horsemen and ultimately won the WCW World Championship from Ric Flair. Steamboat would later leave the company over a contractual dispute only to return a few years later. During his second tenure he would feud with Flair, Steve Austin and Paul Orndorff and remain entrenched in the main event scene. However, an injury forced Steamboat to miss a pay-per-view event, prompting then WCW President Eric Bischoff to fire him in a manner eerily similar to what happened to number six on this list. Steamboat would never return to his glory days in WCW and missed out the wrestling’s last boom period. It’s probably a good thing he never had to choose between nWo Hollywood or nWo Wolfpac.
9 Johnny B. Badd: Shoved
Johnny B. Badd was another example of great athleticism and raw talent being packaged into a questionable personality during the early 1990s. An accomplished boxer, Johnny was trained by the famed Malenko family and started out in WCW as an undercard wrestler using his real name, Mark Mero. Mero was repackaged as Johnny B. Badd, a flamboyant character similar to Rock n’ Roll’s Little Richard. Here we go again with WCW and pop-culture rip-offs! Mero would alternate between good and bad-guy personas, feuding with Arn Anderson, Diamond Dallas Page and the Honky Tonk Man over the WCW World Television Title. As stated earlier, the World Television title meant air time. And air time is what Johnny B. Badd got with his perfect hair and makeup, feather boa and tasseled pants and boots.
8 Flyin' Brian Pillman: More
Flyin’ Brian Pillman was the real deal in the early 1990s! He was an ex-NFL and Canadian football player who trained under Stu Hart, father of Bret Hart. Pillman was a high flyer, taking countless risks on ring ropes and turnbuckles. Likewise, he had great microphone skills. It was pure wrestling gold when Pillman teamed with “Stunning” Steve Austin as the Hollywood Blondes tag-team. Pillman and Austin would feud with the Four Horsemen until disbanding and feuding between themselves. Pillman would eventually join the Horsemen adopting a “loose-cannon” angle where he jumped between WCW and ECW. Regrettably for WCW, he was supposed to return in 1996; however, injury and storyline lag allowed the WWE to scoop him up. Sadly, Pillman died of a heart attack a year later.
7 Steve “Mongo” McMichael: Gagged
Steve McMichael was one of many ex-NFL players to try their hand at wrestling during the late 1990s. McMichael had a brief stint in the WWE, helping former NFL lineman Lawrence Taylor in a match with Bam Bam Bigelow. McMichael would soon depart for WCW and provide commentary—with his dog—alongside Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. Ringside transitioned into “in the ring” as McMichael would side with former NFL linebacker Kevin Greene to take on the Four Horsemen. McMichael turned on Greene and joined the Horsemen. Yes, he joined the Four Horsemen and eventually won the U.S. Heavyweight title as well. McMichael would feud with NFL great Reggie White, Kevin Sullivan’s Dungeon of Doom and eventually springboard Goldberg’s rise to fame. That’s a ton of airtime for someone who was considered one of the weakest Four Horsemen members ever.
6 “Stunning” Steve Austin: More
“Stunning” Steve Austin was the consummate heel wrestler even before joining forces with Brian Pillman for the Hollywond Blondes during the early 1990s. Having gained experience in the Von Erich territories, Steve Austin developed the look, the physical skills and the ring acumen that would propel him to eventual superstardom. Unfortunately, WCW would cap Austin’s singles potential with mid-card feuds that were uninspiring save for his bouts with Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. To make matters worse, Eric Bischoff fired Austin from WCW during the latter’s time off from injury. To put it mildly, Steve Austin was like that player you dropped during Week Two in the Fantasy Football season who then explodes for hundreds of points on someone else’s team for the remaining season. If you ever want a great perspective on WCW talent management, check out Steve Austin’s ECW “shoot” promo before he went to the WWE.
5 Goldberg: Shoved
Goldberg was hotter than lava during his “streak” in the late 1990s. Admit it, you clamored for a glimpse of when “The Man” speared someone’s spine in half! His initial feud with Steve “Mongo” McMichael was a snoozer. However, Goldberg started to gain acclaim and full-steam with quick, explosive victories over opponents and was eventually thrust into the main event spotlight accordingly. Market oversaturation was putting it lightly as Goldberg ran through everyone—and I mean everyone—on the WCW roster. His push went so far as being put over Hulk Hogan, winning the WCW World Heavyweight Championship outside of a pay-per-view audience. Like a whirlwind and turbid romance, the question “Did we rush into things?” came up quite often. And like a chaotic romance, fans kept coming back for more!
4 The Giant: More
The Giant’s usage in WCW during the mid-1990s was like giving your grandma a monster pickup truck. It’s a great conversation piece during her weekly bridge club and it will get use when there’s a big plant sale at Wal Mart. However, it’s going to be underutilized for the most part, sitting in the driveway amongst the Lincoln Townhouse and Chrysler LeBaron. That was the Giant, underutilized to his fullest potential and lost in the shuffle that was the nWo hoopla, member jockeying and inflated contracts. The Giant would hold the WCW World Championship only to lose it to “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan, thus starting a belt Ping-Pong for the next few years. In addition, The Giant was lost in the nWo storyline and associated member shuffle. The Giant would sign with the WWE soon thereafter and show WCW that it missed out on a “Big Show.”
3 Hulk Hogan: Shoved
When Hulk Hogan was signed by WCW in 1994, he inundated air time and was the top draw for all big events. Understandably, he was coming over from a rival organization and he was one of wrestling’s biggest draws. He undoubtedly provided WCW a shot in the arm, helping bolster storylines with Ric Flair, Sting and others. But he was everywhere, on TNT, the Super Station—everywhere. In the WWE, Hogan had a mystique about his character given his rare appearances on television programs outside of specialty events like Saturday Night’s Main Event and WrestleMania. WCW, and the Turner Broadcasting Network, were the opposite ensuring his airtime and likeness were the predominant feature attraction. When the nWo angle broke in 1996, it was all about “Hollywood” until the turn of the millennium.
2 Chris Jericho: More
Talk about missed opportunity! WCW was too absorbed in the older regime to recognize the “Ayatollah of Rock n’ Rolla’s” potential. Chris Jericho honed his craft in Japan, Mexico and ECW before making his way to WCW. In WCW he was used primarily in the mid-card ranks facing off with Dean Malenko, Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio Jr., which were decent feuds in their own rights. But his personality and ring abilities could have easily translated into the main event scene. Inopportunely, the WCW landscape during the late-1990s was reserved for Hogan, Nash, Hall, Goldberg, Steiner and the Horsemen. Jericho was relegated to comedic bits with his sidekick Ralphus and teetered between mid-card and main event with his match against a “fake” Goldberg. He bolted for the WWE after a match with the real Goldberg never materialized.
1 Buff Bagwell with Judy Bagwell: Gagged
Marcus Alexander Bagwell had the look and in-ring potential while being involved in the WCW World Championship tag-team scene during the mid-1990s. His resultant change in persona to “Buff Bagwell” upon joining the nWo brought him more exposure. Like everyone was doing in WCW at the time, Bagwell would switch between heel and face while bouncing from faction to faction. But what everyone else wasn’t doing was bringing their mother to the wrestling ring like Bagwell did. Judy Bagwell, Buff’s real life mother had more airtime than Sting, receiving promo time and match involvement. Highlighting even more absurdity—and just when you thought WCW couldn’t get any worse—Judy Bagwell would share a similar distinction with her son as holding the World Tag Team Titles with Rick Steiner. There was also the “Judy Bagwell on a Pole (or forklift) Match.” Why was this ever an angle and why did fans pay for this stuff?