Despite the fact that its intellectual rights were sold to WWE in 2001, the war between WCW and WWE seems to still be raging in the hearts and minds of pro wrestling fans. The recent crowd reactions for WCW icons like Sting and Goldberg illustrates how beloved the WCW brand continues to be. Even with the attention that has been paid to this rivalry recently, a lot of people are unaware just how many superstars got their starts with WCW. I thought it would be cool to highlight some of these forgotten superstars, and as a counter, to name some WWE superstars who would never think of joining another wrestling corporation.
As such, this list will highlight 8 WWE Wrestlers You Totally Forgot Worked For WCW (And 7 Who Never Left WWE). Obviously, superstars like Sting and Hulk Hogan whom everyone knows wrestled for WCW will be excluded from this list. Similarly, any WWE superstar who has ever wrestled for another wrestling power will also be excluded. This list should serve as a good illustration of where these superstars loyalties truly lie, and more than a few good stories have found their way into these entries.
17 WCW- Triple H
As the current COO of the WWE (and the son-in-law of Vince McMahon), Triple H is definitely a company guy. Even during the midst of the Attitude Era, however, HHH was noticeably loyal to the WWE. Him and others felt that it was a personal affront to them that WCW was beating them in the ratings, thus they sought to improve their matches and segments every week in order to boost the WWE's standing. Being such a prominent general for WWE during the Monday Night Wars, many people forget that Triple H got his wrestling start with World Championship Wrestling. Triple H spent a short period of time at WCW as Jean-Paul Levesque (using the aristocrat character that he would perfect with WWE), but quickly left for what he felt was a better opportunity with WWE. I'd say that was a pretty good decision.
16 Never Left - Randy Orton
Whenever you talk about Superstars who have been loyal to WWE, you have to mention "The Viper" Randy Orton. This third-generation Superstar signed with WWE in 2001, and has wrestled consistently with the company for the past 16 years. Despite many opportunities to jump ship to other organizations, Orton has elected to stick with the WWE. This has led to him becoming one of the most respected Superstars on the entire roster. Having recently made the switch to being a part-time performer, all signs point to the 37-year-old remaining with the WWE for the foreseeable future. This move by WWE was likely done in the hope that it would prevent Orton from leaving for an organization like GFW, who should be tripping over themselves to sign a superstar with the talent and credibility of the multi-time World Champion.
15 WCW - Rey Mysterio
Much like another entry on our list, Rey Mysterio was initially brought into WCW as part of their exciting Cruiserweight Division. Mysterio's exciting style and lucha personality made him an instant fan favorite at a time when WCW needed some homegrown stars. Despite this, Mysterio had a hard time moving up the card on Nitro. As such, when WWE offered him a contract in 2002 he jumped on the opportunity. Mysterio would claim his first World Title with WWE in 2006, the peak of his then-17 years in the business. Mysterio left WWE in 2015 and has since competed for various independent organizations. Recent rumors have predicted a return for Mysterio may be in the cards, so don't be surprised if you see the master of the 619 to a WWE ring in the near future.
14 Never Left - Dolph Ziggler
During WCW's heyday, and even now with Global Force Wrestling, it has been common for superstars who don't think they're being properly valued by WWE to find work (and usually more money) elsewhere. Though the list of superstars who have done this is lengthy, there is a surprising number of undervalued superstars who have elected to stay with WWE, despite not getting the most prominent storylines. A perfect example of this phenomena is "The Show-off" Dolph Ziggler. Despite winning the World Heavyweight Championship in 2012, Ziggler's stock in WWE has slowly declined, culminating in him being featured in this year's WrestleMania pre-show. No matter how poorly his character has been treated, however, Ziggler remains loyal to WWE. During an interview in June of 2017, Ziggler said he has no plans to join another wrestling organization.
12 WCW - Stone Cold Steve Austin
Perhaps the most famous WWE superstar of all time, Stone Cold Steve Austin actually wrestled for a number of years with WCW. Wrestling as "Stunning" Steve Austin, Stone Cold was an arrogant pretty boy who knew how to bust you up in the ring. A tag specialist, Austin won the WCW Tag Titles with Brian Pillman. Despite his limited success, Austin decided to make the switch to WWE in 1995 and was recast as "The Ringmaster". After toiling a while with this uninspiring gimmick, Austin and his wife would develop the Stone Cold character that would make him famous. With Austin being the leader of WWE's Attitude Era, you have to imagine that WCW officials felt some heat for letting such a talented superstar slip through their fingers.
11 Never Left - Kane
If you asked WWE executives what one adjective they would use to describe Kane, a number of them would undoubtedly use the word "consistent". Throughout his 25 years in the wrestling industry, Glenn Jacobs has wrestled as a variety of characters, most of them under one organization. Kane's loyalty to the WWE is well known, and if it weren't for the fact that he is currently running for Mayor of Knoxville, Tennessee, he would still likely be involved with the company. Despite a number of terrible gimmicks to start his career (see: Dr. Isaac Yankem, Fake Diesel), Kane has remained with the WWE, even amid rumors of substantial contract offers for his services from WCW during the Monday Night Wars.
10 WCW - The Big Show
I cannot remember any superstar who made such a tremendous impact upon his pro wrestling debut as the Big Show. Big Show debuted in WCW in 1995 as The Giant, and instantly changed the landscape of the product. In his very first match, the Giant defeated Hollywood Hogan (the unquestioned top heel of the company) for the World Heavyweight Championship. As the WCW ship appeared to be sinking, however, the Giant signed with WWE, becoming the first big name talent to abandon Ted Turner's baby corporation. WCW still held the rights to the Giant character, so Paul Wight was repackaged as the Big Show upon his WWE debut. He has, of course, since become one of the most iconic figures in WWE history.
9 Never Left - John Cena
While Cena certainly deserves to be placed in the pantheon of great WWE performers, critics will always question where he stands among the greats of the industries. One fact that is undeniable, however, is that no Superstar has been more synonymous with WWE over the course of their career than has John Cena. Cena has stated in several interviews that he not only loves the wrestling industry, but that he loves the WWE specifically. Therefore, it should be no surprise that Cena has never wrestled for another major wrestling organization. The Massachusetts product was signed to a developmental contract in 2000 and hasn't looked back since. At this point, it's more likely that the leader of the Cenation will leave the WWE for Hollywood than it is that he'll sign with another wrestling brand.
8 WCW - Goldust
It is a consistent theme of this list that superstars have left WCW for more success and acclaim with WWE. Perhaps the most evident example of this is Dustin Rhodes, who became Goldust with WWE. While Dustin experienced some success during his time with WCW (including an impressive tag title run), it wasn't until he dawned the gold face paint in WWE that he would become a wrestling icon. Much more important in pro wrestling than win-loss records or titles held, is the performer's ability to make himself memorable to the audience. The insane antics of Goldust were able to do this in a way that Rhodes never could with his initial character. Had he stayed with WCW, he never would have been more than the son of the "American Dream" Dusty Rhodes.
7 Never Left - Shawn Michaels
The fact that many superstars decided never to leave WWE can at least partly be attributed to their positive relationship with WWE officials. While Superstars like John Cena and Randy Orton could have received more money and control with another organization, their personal bond with Vince McMahon made them feel more comfortable within the confines of WWE. Such is not the case with the next entry on our list, the "Heartbreak Kid" Shawn Michaels. During the height of his career in the late '90s, Michaels had a less than amiable relationship with WWE officials. His brash attitude and partying ways rubbed many older members of the WWE the wrong way, and he was far from the most popular superstar in the locker room. Despite this, Michaels never signed with the WCW or another organization, and will likely go down as one of the greatest WWE superstars of all time.
6 WCW - Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat
For many, the lasting image of Ricky Steamboat's wrestling career is his iconic match with Randy "Macho Man" Savage at WrestleMania III. Many do not remember, however, that Steamboat was an important asset in the early days of WCW. During two stints in the late-'80's and early-'90s, Steamboat wrestled icons like Ric Flair and Sting under the banner of WCW. An interesting sidebar of Steamboat's WCW run was that he won the WCW United States Championship by defeating Stunning Steve Austin (who would later become Stone Cold Steve Austin). Steamboat had to drop that title due to an injury, and was then abruptly fired by Eric Bischoff through Federal Express. I wonder why WCW had so much trouble keeping their talent happy.
5 Never Left - Edge
There are few superstars who were as beloved at the end of their careers as the "Rated R Superstar" Edge. Despite his popularity at the height of his career, however, there were a number of years where he was seriously undervalued by the WWE. Prior to defeating John Cena at Elimination Chamber to win his first World Championship, Edge toiled for a number of years as a tag team specialist and mid-card performer. With his obvious talent, it would have been so easy for Edge to sign a significant contract with TNA (or the later stages of WCW). Edge never took advantage of this opportunity, however, and wrestled his entire career for the WWE organization. A neck injury would eventually derail his legendary career, but the opportunities he was given towards the end of his wrestling days show how one can eventually be rewarded for their loyalty.
4 WCW - Chris Benoit
While Chris Benoit's wrestling career may have ended with incredible tragedy, it was apparent from the companies immediate reaction just how valuable the Rabid Wolverine was to the WWE. The same cannot be said, however, about WCW. Benoit wrestled with WCW from 1992 to 1999, and alongside future WWE alums Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio, became one of the pillars of their Cruiserweight Division. These smaller Superstars would eventually leave WCW because they felt they were unable to impact the main event scene with the likes of Hulk Hogan and Kevin Nash running the show. Superstars like Benoit and Guerrero would face a similar glass ceiling in WWE, but their perseverance and incredible wrestling acumen lead to them each holding a World Title at WrestleMania XX.
2 Never Left - The Rock
Some superstars decided to stay with the WWE for reasons which are totally separate from the company itself. A perfect example of this is Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, an incredibly popular superstar whose attachment to the WWE can be traced to his own family. Both The Rock's father (Rocky Johnson) and maternal grandfather (High Chief Peter Maivia) both wrestled for the WWE, and Rock practically grew up in the business. As such, he has repeatedly stated that he feels an attachment to the company which absolutely prevents him from ever wrestling for another organization. Since he is now a bona-fide Hollywood star this conversation is somewhat moot, but it is still interesting to analyze why Rock never sought contracts elsewhere during his wrestling days.
1 WCW - Mick Foley
It amazes me how many people have forgotten that Mick Foley initially made a name for himself on WCW television. By the time Foley made his debut in WCW in 1991, he already had a significant hardcore following from his time at ECW. It was Foley's performances as Cactus Jack in WCW, however, that gained the attention of WWE officials, thus making possible perhaps the greatest underdog story in professional wrestling history. Foley would eventually get frustrated with the lack of direction at WCW and sign with WWE in 1996. Making his WWE debut as Mankind, Foley would go on to become a crucial part of the WWE's Attitude Era, and a bona-fide wrestling legend.