During the ’90s, many wrestlers made a habit of switching up promotions on a regular basis. Not with just random Indys, or one-off appearances, but actually switching allegiances to WWE from WCW and vice versa; the two biggest promotions in the country at the time. It was chaotic to say the least, but it always made for interesting discussion on how the new member of the roster would fare, and who would be the next one to jump ship. New appearances from established wrestlers happened on the regular, and both WCW and WWE benefitted.
As for the individual wrestlers themselves, some of them were able to succeed no matter where they went, and some were destined for mediocrity regardless. The amount of sheer talent who were confirmed draws was through the roof in the ’90s, and it made it exceedingly difficult for ordinary talent to stand out, even if they were very good wrestlers in the ring. Many wrestlers made the promotion-switch, but only some were able sustain themselves. Let’s take a look at which wrestlers excelled in both promotions, and which ones faltered in each.
Ranked below are 8 wrestlers who succeeded in both WCW and WWE, and 7 who failed.
15. Ron Simmons (Succeeded)
Coming off of a relatively successful football career, Simmons first found his niche in Jim Crockett Promotions, which for all intents and purposes would be the company to morph into WCW just several years later in the late-’80s. First with Butch Reed in Doom, and then in singles competition, he began winning titles, and becoming one of the most popular wrestlers in the company.
Upon moving to WWE in 1996 and changing his name to Faarooq, Simmons was mainly slotted as a tag wrestler, but he became one of the best in the company at it. Winning numerous tag titles with Bradshaw as The Acolytes, Simmons was able to equally put his stamp on WWE like he did previously in WCW. More impressively, he did it in both singles and tag competition. Damn!
14. Shawn Stasiak (Failed)
The son of former WWE Champion Stan Stasiak, it’s safe to say that Shawn didn’t have anywhere near the caliber of career that his father did. Nothing more than a lower mid-carder in either WCW or WWE, he portrayed bad gimmicks, and had a generic in-ring style that wasn’t going to overcome it. He made a pair of stints in WWE, and one in WCW before he retired for good in 2002, to little fanfare.
The only semblance of success came in the WCW tag ranks, when the entire company was on the brink of collapse. Needless to say, Stasiak didn’t have to compete with many truly elite teams, and management was grasping at straws to find a new star. It didn’t happen, and when he returned to WWE as a part of The Alliance angle, there was no push given to Stasiak, despite his father’s former standing with the company.
13. The Big Show (Succeeded)
Entering WCW with little to no wrestling experience in 1995 when he was billed as The Giant, Paul Wight found immediate success just because of his sheer size. He was one of, if not the single biggest wrestler since Andre The Giant, and audiences were immersed, even if he didn’t have the greatest wrestling ability at the time. He would improve however, and coming off several WCW Heavyweight Title reigns, he finally made the move to WWE, where he changed his name to The Big Show.
From there on, he cemented his legacy in the industry with continued success on a perennial basis. The amount of titles he’s won in WWE has been too many to count, and even though he’s definitively on the downswing of his career, he’s still on the active roster, making him one of the longest tenured wrestlers in the company’s history.
12. Terry Taylor (Failed)
Unfortunately for Taylor, he always seemed to be caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. A talented in-ring wrestler with a good look, he was caught in between WWE and WCW just as the national competition between the two was beginning in the late-80s, and his terrible Red Rooster gimmick with WWE hindered a lot of the progress he had made up to that point.
A move to WCW soon after relinquishing the terrible gimmick didn’t help him, and Taylor was considered to be past his prime. He’d return to WWE one more time, but only worked as enhancement talent in the lower card. While bad timing contributed to his underwhelming career as a wrestler, he did eventually go on to work backstage for both WCW and WWE, which seems like a fair consolation prize.
11. Booker T (Succeeded)
Simply one of the most dynamic wrestlers of all-time, Booker T had a persona, look and in-ring style that was all his own. It no doubt contributed to his massive success anywhere he went. First dominating with Stevie Ray as The Harlem Heat tag team in WCW, and then moving over to win the WCW Heavyweight Title in the singles ranks, his work in WCW alone would have been enough to warrant legendary status.
He wasn’t done yet, however. Upon moving to WWE during The Alliance angle, Booker T quickly cemented himself as a new marquee star. He’d go on to win a bevy of titles in the WWE ranks, mainly as a singles wrestler, and now works as a color commentator. Without question, Booker T was one of the most identifiable wrestlers of his era.
10. Buff Bagwell (Failed)
Bagwell was a wrestler that WCW really wanted to push, but even they could recognize his supreme lack of main event-caliber talent. To combat this, they slotted him in a bunch of random tag teams and were able to give him title reigns through just that. But when it came time to give him a push as a singles wrestler, they always backed out. He never held a single WCW singles title, and for good reason.
When he went to WWE in 2001, his run didn’t last long. He ended up getting fired because of altercations with wrestlers backstage, as well as potentially faking an injury. It was good riddance to bad talent, and Bagwell only ever was able to put on a nostalgia act in the Indys and TNA after being released. He was prominent for a while in WCW, but in retrospect he was truly one of the worst wrestlers on the roster, and his work hasn’t aged well.
9. Rey Mysterio (Succeeded)
One of the wrestlers largely responsible for the cruiserweight explosion in the United States during the ’90s, Mysterio quickly gained a reputation of being one of the best in the business. It aided him when WCW management finally realized how big of a draw he could be if they just gave him the proper time. Mysterio had numerous successful runs as Cruiserweight Champion, and also was a member of The Filthy Animals, which was one of the better stables of latter-day WCW.
Going to WWE opened up his career entirely, however, and he doubled down on his earlier success. He became a premier star in the company, which had never been done in the WWE ranks with a straight-up lucha-based wrestler before. Mysterio had earned it, though. He proved himself to be a great draw, and his in-ring style was contagious. The best cruiserweight of the Y2K Era, bar none.
8. Mark Jindrak (Failed)
Once considered to be a future star in WCW when he debuted in 2000, Jindrak actually didn’t have the ability most thought he did, at least as a main event-caliber talent. Perhaps getting lost in the shuffle of the WWE buyout hurt his development at such a young age, but he wasn’t able to regain footing when he went to WWE.
Winning just a pair of tag titles in the dying days of WCW, it’s fair to call Jindrak a Y2K Era bust. He hung on for a while in WWE, but simply wasn’t able to ascend past garden-variety mid-card status. He would leave in 2005 without getting a push or winning a title, and now works consistently for CMLL in Mexico, which was probably his best move to rid himself of the U.S. wrestling scene.
7. “Macho Man” Randy Savage (Succeeded)
Savage established himself in WWE as one of their top stars in the ’80s, and carried out a successful WWE career where he contributed some of the best matches and moments of the era. It wasn’t much of a surprise to see him go to WCW, which was starting to make a habit of signing veteran WWE talent, under the allure of an up-and-coming promotion.
In the end, Savage made his mark in both promotions. While he didn’t quite ascend to the heights he did in WWE, in terms of sheer popularity and quality, he still captured four WCW Heavyweight Titles over his career with the company. Savage never really fell off the map, and was smart enough to call it quits to his full-time career in 2000, when he saw the writing on the wall. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2011.
6. Brian Adams (Failed)
A prime example of how a physical specimen isn’t always a lock to have a successful wrestling career (actually, there are a lot of examples of that), Adams never seemed to break through with either company. He portrayed the Crush gimmick in WWE, which saw him both as a member of Demolition, and going solo. Despite the prominence, it never really amounted to much in terms of impact.
Then he became a certified mid-carder in WCW, with no chance of ascension through the ranks. The roster was loaded with quantity at the time, and Adams simply didn’t stand out enough to be considered for a big-time run. Probably for the best, though his overall career resume is pretty impressive, including stints with NJPW and the Indys.
5. Scott Steiner (Succeeded)
The more successful of the two Steiner brothers, Scott was able to excel both as a tag and singles wrestler, for both WCW and WWE. They (Rick and Scott) were actually one of the better ’90s tag teams, and had an in-ring style that was fluid, meaning good matches on a. regular basis. When Scott debuted as “Big Poppa Pump” however, gaining a ton of muscle and transitioning to a singles star, the tag team was effectively over.
He captured major titles in the late-WCW period, and was an upper mid-carder during his return to WWE in 2002. Even though he never did win a WWE Title, he was enough of a force in his combined two stints with the company to make a significant impact. He’s now out of his prime, having just returned to Impact Wrestling, but in his heyday he was a prime talent.
4. The Sandman (Failed)
Truly, ECW was the only promotion that Sandman could have succeeded in on a consistent basis. He was an icon there, and merely a sideshow attraction nearly everywhere else he went. He spent less than a year in WCW, only participating in their burgeoning (and sub-par) hardcore division, and went to WWE when they made the ill-advised comeback of ECW in the mid-2000s.
There was just never another major company that was ever going to give him a push. Sandman’s antics and wrestling style fit ECW perfectly, and today he’s still a legend when he makes a return to any wrestling venue in the Northeast for a one-off appearance. Anywhere else though, he never made much noise.
3. Hulk Hogan (Succeeded)
Hogan’s success in WCW was predicated entirely on the vision that Vince McMahon had for him in WWE, and the crossover appeal that he had garnered there. When WCW signed Hogan in the mid-90s, it was the biggest move the wrestling world had seen in years. Of course, he immediately was placed as a top-tier talent, and won a bevy of titles, continuing through his years with the NWO.
The success is unquestionable, but Hogan is such a unique figure in the history of wrestling that it’s an outlier in terms of how it compares to other wrestlers. Because of the WWE era of Hulkamania, where would have been successful anywhere. In truth, he probably reached the end of his prime in 1995 or so, but his character was enough to keep his career going.
2. Brutus Beefcake (Failed)
Bar none, there has never been another wrestler who has faked his way through a career to the degree that Ed Leslie, aka Brutus Beefcake in WWE, did. He’s held a plethora of different gimmicks, most of them terrible, and was the equivalent of an annoying gnat that wouldn’t go away from wrestling. Of course, his friendship with Hogan helped with that, and he followed him wherever he went. Hogan and Beefcake had parallel careers in terms of the company’s that they were working for at any given time.
And to nobody’s surprise, he never really saw any success. He did win a tag title with Greg “The Hammer” Valentine in the mid-’80s WWE, but that’s really the one feather in his cap for the entirety of his near-20-year career. A prime example of nepotism working at its finest.
1. Ric Flair
At the time in 1991, Flair was WWE’s biggest signing, and a prime acquisition that would undoubtedly put them at the top of the mountain, as far as top-tier talent went. Hogan was still present with the company, though would take on less of a role that he had previously. Still, Flair had enough great matches, including a WWE Title run, that would put him in good standing with the company. He returned in 2002, and had another nice run, though he was definitely out of his prime.
Of course, his time in NWA/WCW is unrivaled by almost any other wrestler to come down the pike. Countless main event matches, title runs, and memorable moments have certified him as perhaps the greatest to ever do it. He was successful wherever he went, and though Hogan got the most crossover accolades, it was “The Nature Boy” who was truly the greatest of all-time.
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