The Monday Night Wars ended over fifteen years ago but still remains relevant in the pro wrestling world. WWE adds content frequently discussing various aspects of the cutthroat competition in the 90s between WWE and WCW. Eric Bischoff created new concepts and added talents to take the war to the WWE for the leading position in the world of wrestling. Vince McMahon fired back by making new stars and bringing us The Attitude Era. Talents went back and forth on a weekly basis from company to company. One of the major things lacking in today’s wrestling climate is the ability to have multiple big contract offers on the table.
WCW held the reputation of relying on older stars and failing to utilize their younger talents. This led to many of the rising prospects to seek a change and do better in the WWE. On the other end of the negative table, McMahon is believed to have a grudge against the stars of WCW. Many of the big names came over after WCW went out of business but WWE sabotaged them with abysmal booking. Both sides did poorly, in some respects, with their treatment talent. There were also some examples of wrestlers just being a better fit in one of the two major companies. We’ll examine them all with eight wrestlers that WWE used better and another seven that WCW did.
15 Better In WWE: Rey Mysterio
Rey Mysterio was bound for greatness from an early age. Making his name as a teenager in Mexico, Mysterio received a contract offer to join WCW and jumped at the prospect of moving to the United States. The American wrestling scene provided bigger platforms and more money for the talented stars with potential. Mysterio instantly dazzled viewers by becoming one of the most entertaining performers in the cruiserweight division. WCW never saw him evolving into anything more due to his minuscule size.
WWE reached out to Mysterio following the demise of WCW and brought him over in 2002 after his initial contract expired. The rest is history as Mysterio went on to become a huge star. Fans reacted positively to him from his debut and he sold a ridiculous amount of merchandise. WWE used him to hook the family audience. Mysterio also had a strong work ethic that led to outstanding matches on a nightly basis and a couple of World Championship reigns. His potential was fulfilled in the WWE after being hit with a glass ceiling in WCW.
14 Better In WCW: Scott Steiner
Scott Steiner's wrestling career deserves far more respect than it receives. Most think of the insanity and hilarity that comes out of the mouth of Steiner rather than his outstanding body of work. Scott put out most of his best content in WCW in both tag team action with older brother Rick Steiner and later as a singles heel. Big Poppa Pump became the top heel in WCW during the final year of existence before the WWE took over.
With fans having strong interest in seeing Steiner again, WWE offered him a contract to come over in a big spot. Steiner debuted as a coveted free agent being chased by both Raw and SmackDown brands. Raw would acquire Steiner’s services and place him in a feud with Triple H for the World Championship right off the bat. The matches bombed to the point that it completely killed Steiner’s career in the WWE. Triple H is cherished in the organization and it led to Steiner being blamed as his singles WWE career toiled away.
13 Better In WWE: Dustin Rhodes
There was always heat between Vince McMahon and Dusty Rhodes from the 80s through the 90s. Many speculated McMahon giving Dusty’s son Dustin Rhodes the implied weird Goldust character was meant to be a shot at his former rival. This could very well be true but Dustin would not be denied. The Goldust character achieved more than anyone expected it to and you have to credit Dustin for putting his all into a risky gimmick.
WCW introduced the second generation Rhodes into the wrestling business as “The Natural” playing into following his dad’s footsteps. His career in WCW lacked direction, as he was nothing other then just the son of a legend. Rhodes returned to WCW later following a bitter ending with the WWE and it was once again a disaster. They had no idea how to use him in any story without relying on the fact that Dusty was his dad. Luckily, WWE picked him back up and he’s still in the WWE family today where he belongs.
12 Better In WCW: Diamond Dallas Page
Diamond Dallas Page entered the wrestling business in his 30s. The odds were dramatically against him with little chances of earning a prominent role in a major wrestling promotion. WCW gave him small opportunities that he used to impress the audience. Fans organically started to support Page until the company had to push him higher up the card. DDP became WCW’s version of The People’s Champion and he was a respected main eventer for a few years.
Most of the top names chose to sit out the Invasion angle after the WWE purchased WCW. Page and Booker T were the only high profile WCW stars to actually take part in the storyline. The rest of the roster featured younger talents and WWE stars jumping ship. DDP should have been an instant star on the WCW side, but instead had poor booking destroy him. His big debut came when he was revealed as the mystery man stalking The Undertaker’s wife. Taker would demolish DDP most weeks and the WCW legend found zero success in the WWE.
11 Better In WWE: Big Show
Big Show's career can be looked at in many different ways. Both WWE and WCW gave him plenty of pushes but each juggernaut underutilized him for parts of his career. Everyone wanted him to become as dominant and as big of a draw as Andre the Giant. Between his massive size, impressive athleticism and natural charisma, the tools were all there for something special. WCW put him in a feud with Hulk Hogan to start his career. That may have been the peak of his time there.
Following years of fluctuating all over the card, WWE signed him with hopes of making him a star of the future. Big Show struggled to impress, but would improve enough to get a bigger spotlight than his early days in the company. As WWE started to trust him, the big man also received opportunities in movies and other forms of media to add to his resume. Big Show secured success in and out of the ring thanks to his long run in the WWE. The career of Big Show is winding down but he’ll always be remembered for his WWE work rather than WCW.
10 Better In WCW: Kevin Nash
Kevin Nash achieved great success in both WWE and WCW. The WWE run peaked with a long WWE Championship reign that unfortunately did terrible in terms of viewership numbers. As Diesel, Nash proved he couldn’t be the top guy and started to lose his spot with names like Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart and The Undertaker having more value to Vince McMahon. Nash made the business decision to bolt WWE right when he was slated to move down the card and took a huge contract to join WCW.
The New World Order was born with Nash, Scott Hall and Hulk Hogan forming a hostile faction trying to take over the company. WCW scored massive ratings to truly start the Monday Night Wars with the nWo at the helm. Nash grew as a performer with more freedom to be himself in promos. His charisma and sense of humor made him endearing to the fan base. WCW turned him face as leader of the Wolfpac subsection of the New World Order and he was arguably the most beloved star in the company.
9 Better In WWE: Mick Foley
The early 90s presented a rough transition period in WCW. They were trying to find their footing in the new landscape of nationally televised pro wrestling. WWE seized control of the wrestling business but WCW had the backing to provide competition. One of the few bright spots during the mundane era in WCW was Cactus Jack. The character played by Mick Foley gave us impressive promos and highly physical hardcore matches.
WCW’s decision makers didn’t think Foley could be a star and decided to let him go. Following an outstanding tenure in ECW, he received a spot in the WWE to play the role of Mankind. His work impressed instantly and he moved up in the pecking order of the WWE. Through classic bouts with the likes of The Undertaker, The Rock and Triple H, Foley earned a legacy as an all-time great in WWE history. Foley captivated millions of fans in WWE but was met with doubt he’d ever be able to draw hundreds in WCW.
8 Better In WCW: Lex Luger
Lex Luger’s prototypical look for a top guy in the 90s gave him plenty of opportunities in both WWE and WCW. Following a successful early run in WCW, Vince McMahon offered Luger the chance to become a huge star in the WWE. Hulk Hogan was on the way out of the company and WWE wanted Luger to become the new face of the promotion. The patriotic gimmick of The Lex Express pit him against Yokozuna in an attempt to convince fans he was the one to believe in.
The fans rejected the push and WWE eventually gave up on him in favor of Bret Hart. WCW would steal Luger back the day he became a free agent and he appeared on the first edition of Monday Nitro to set the tone that anything could happen on the program. Things once again proved to be better in WCW for Luger with fans embracing him far more than the WWE crowd. Luger saw the best time of his career as one of the most popular faces standing against the New World Order and he actually defeated Hollywood Hogan to win the WCW Championship at one point.
7 Better in WWE: Eddie Guerrero
Many of the current stars in the WWE name Eddie Guerrero as their inspiration for getting into the wrestling industry. In his prime, his work wasn’t nearly as appreciated by those in WCW. Following years of hard work, traveling the world to create a reputation as an elite in-ring worker, Guerrero signed with WCW and became a fixture on television. His matches and character work always showed that he was a potential star but his lack of size made WCW keep him lower in the card with no chances at progression.
The writing was on the wall in WCW and Guerrero made the jump to WWE along with his pals known as The Radicalz. Guerrero quickly impressed the WWE minds by showing his personality in a love storyline with Chyna. Everyone knew Eddie could have a great match with a broom but showing off the character depth made him a beloved figure in the company. The brand split in 2002 gave opportunity to hungry stars and Guerrero fit the bill more than anyone. Fans fell in love with him and willed him to become the WWE Champion on SmackDown. Not bad for one of WCW’s forgotten “vanilla midgets.”
6 Better In WCW: Vader
Monster heels have always been an important part of pro wrestling and Vader could be argued as the best of the bunch. Vader dominated Japan with intense matches but found his biggest fame in WCW. Tremendous feuds against Sting and Ric Flair used him to the best of his ability, as Vader was the most hated heel with Harley Race as his manager. Flair’s redemption story of overcoming the monster was arguably the best WCW moment at the time and Vader’s work deserved equal credit for it.
The changes in WCW saw Vader make the move to WWE for a better contract. WWE had no idea how to use Vader and never let him reign free as a top heel. His best moment came in the main event at SummerSlam 1996 against Shawn Michaels for the WWE Championship. The match delivered but Vince McMahon never viewed Vader as a legitimate star. Many former WWE employees stated McMahon had no faith in Vader and it led to him being lackluster compared to his time in WCW.
5 Better In WWE: Bret Hart
WCW’s main strategy during the Monday Night Wars featured signing former WWE stars to massive contracts. The top stars of the industry went back and forth for the biggest salary. Eric Bischoff took advantage of Ted Turner’s checkbook and signed Bret Hart to a huge deal. Hart was a consistent main eventer on WWE television for years but Vince McMahon claimed he couldn’t pay him any longer. The legendary career came to an end in the worst of fashions, with Hart getting double turned in the “Montreal Screwjob.”
With Hart being the talk of the wrestling world for months, WCW could have easily made him a big deal. Instead, they managed to completely squander his career away. Hart did nothing of note for the first year of his WCW time and most of his matches were in the midcard. WWE allowed him to have superb matches and intricate stories, but WCW gave him no direction whatsoever. Bret still rants about Bischoff and Hulk Hogan sabotaging his career during the WCW days. You can’t blame him for the debacle after his WWE success.
4 Better In WCW: Dean Malenko
The Cruiserweight division truly changed the future of the wrestling business. Many of the best in-ring workers in the world received an opportunity in WCW and influenced today’s stars. Dean Malenko was as consistent as anyone in the wrestling world, having stellar matches quite frequently. You can argue he was the best Cruiserweight Champion in company history. The problem is no one from the division could have a chance at moving up the card for a more high profile position.
Malenko took a risk with friends Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero and Perry Saturn jumping ship from WCW to WWE. Benoit and Guerrero saw a big improvement in how they were used. Saturn stayed in the same tier. Malenko was the only one to suffer with minimal television time and almost no chances of getting over. He had a few good matches during his WWE tenure, but he was mostly treated as a joke. Malenko is one of the rare examples of a smaller worker doing better in WCW than WWE.
3 Better In WWE: Steve Austin
Major stars like The Undertaker and Triple H failed in WCW, but their tenures there were of little consequence that it doesn’t make sense to compare. If you didn’t see their potential, it is hard to say they could have been a bigger star. That doesn’t apply to Steve Austin. Anyone with a brain could have caught the glimpses of excellence during Austin’s years teaming with Brian Pillman in The Hollywood Blonds. His in-ring work was impressive and his personality showed promise.
Eric Bischoff fired Austin via Fed-Ex with no respect. WWE eventually picked him up and he became the biggest star in wrestling history. Austin was allowed to show his natural personality as a rebellious anti-hero standing up against the machine. Fans lived through Austin and he changed the wrestling business with record breaking ratings and buyrates. The legend of Austin still lives on today with a rich legacy and fans still mock Bischoff for dropping the ball with him.
2 Better In WCW: Goldberg
The phenomenon of Bill Goldberg dominated WCW in 1998 as he was their first homegrown talent in many years. Goldberg dominated opponents in a matter of a few minutes with powerful moves. His undefeated streak went up to 173-0 and he was one of the more memorable champions in WCW history. WCW protected him strongly to cover up his weaknesses. His success as a mega-star managed to keep WCW afloat for another year before WWE ran away in the Monday Night Wars.
WWE finally signed Goldberg in 2003 a couple of years after WCW went out of business. Fans hoped for dream matches with all of the top WWE stars, but Goldberg was quickly smacked back down to earth. Goldberg was forced to wrestle longer matches in the WWE's upper card. His World Championship feud with Triple H sunk his momentum and exposed him as not being the ideal WWE main eventer. Goldberg’s WWE career ended after a year and went down as one of the biggest disappointments in company history.
1 Better In WWE: Chris Jericho
Most of the stars to do better in the WWE than WCW were young talents waiting for an opportunity. Chris Jericho was hungry for his chance, but WCW never allowed him the opportunity to move above the lower midcard. His momentum reached a high in WCW against Goldberg due to finally getting to cut hilarious promos showing his personality. Jericho took less money to sign with the WWE in 1999 and it was the best decision of his career.
WWE proved to be more open minded about the talent they pushed and Jericho gradually won over the fan base. The in-ring work, promo skills and overall presence of Jericho made him one of the most popular stars in the company. Jericho would win just about every relevant title in the company and excel in various roles. WWE allowed him to grow as a performer and show all of his potential. Jericho rewarded them with a legendary career that supersedes the disappointment in WCW.
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