The WCW Championship was known for being a respected title for most of the company’s history. Things spiraled out of control towards the end with Vince Russo in charge, but the championship was protected before that time. Many of the WCW Champions would have runs in WWE as well. Names like Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Randy Savage and Bret Hart were able to win both the WWE and WCW Championships in their respective careers.
However, not all the WCW Champions to have a run in WWE would get to the top of the mountain. Many had great careers, but that doesn’t mean they were trusted enough to win the WWE Championship We will look at the stories of the wrestlers that fell just short of winning WWE’s richest prize. Universal Champions and World Champions don’t count in this scenario as the WWE Championship is the one that matters. These are ten WCW Champions that just couldn’t become WWE Champion during their time in WWE.
10 Lex Luger
Lex Luger had the clearest path to the WWE Championship of most wrestlers on the list. Vince McMahon wanted Luger to replace Hulk Hogan as the face of the company with plans to have him defeat Yokozuna for the title at WrestleMania 10.
Fan response to Luger did not go well and led to the plans changing. Bret Hart was the people’s choice and received the title win on the night. Luger moved back down into the mid-card for the rest of his WWE run until jumping ship back to WCW as a main eventer.
9 Jeff Jarrett
The career of Jeff Jarrett featured multiple stints in both WWE and WCW. Jarrett would score the biggest accomplishment of his career when winning the WCW Championship in 2000. The title started to lose the prestige and Jarrett was not a highly respected champion at the time.
WWE never viewed Jarrett as a main eventer with most of his success coming in the mid-card picture as the Intercontinental Champion. Bad blood between Jarrett and WWE ended when he was inducted into the 2018 WWE Hall of Fame, but he’ll never be able to say he was WWE Champion.
8 Booker T
Booker T had one of the most respected careers in WCW history. The long road featured incredible moments in the tag team Harlem Heat with his brother Stevie Ray. Booker worked hard in the mid-card picture as well before finally becoming the WCW Champion.
The success of Booker earned him five WCW Championship reigns before the title ended its linage. Booker would find more great moments in WWE and even won the World Championship on one occasion on the Smackdown brand. Despite his WWE success, the WWE Championship was the one prize to never be won by Booker.
7 Scott Steiner
The end of WCW featured Scott Steiner emerging as a breakout main event star. Steiner was a tremendous heel and would win the WCW Championship in the final few months during a memorable feud with Booker T. Unfortunately for him, WCW did not have much longer left given the prior mistakes of the company.
WWE would bring Steiner back with his Big Poppa Pump gimmick as a singles wrestler a little over a year after WCW ended. A horrible feud with Triple H destroyed the credibility of Steiner and he lost his main event status. Steiner would never get near the WWE Championship picture at any point in his career.
6 Chris Benoit
Before the tragic end of his life, Chris Benoit had a long career in both WCW and WWE. Most of Benoit’s time in WCW showcased him as a mid-card player. The great matches would finally pay off when he won the WCW Championship during his final night in the company.
Benoit however decided to take the offer to jump ship to WWE by vacating the WCW Championship. WWE would have him win the World Championship over Triple H in the main event of WrestleMania 20, but the WWE Championship would never come his way.
The legendary career of Sting would see him win the WCW Championship on six occasions as he made his legacy there. Sting was the heart and soul of WCW never once leaving the company like most of his peers did in the 90s for a WWE run.
Even after WCW went out of business, Sting refused to sign with WWE for years fearing they’d use him poorly. The move finally happened in 2013 at the end of Sting’s career, but he would only have two matches. One of them was a WWE Championship match against Seth Rollins as he took the loss while suffering an injury that ended his career.
4 Ron Simmons
Ron Simmons had one of the most memorable WCW Championship moments in company history. The heartwarming memory had Simmons making history as the first-ever black WCW Champion when defeating Vader for the emotional moment.
Simmons had a solid reign before losing it back to Vader, but he decided to make a move shortly afterward. WWE signed Simmons with the new name of Faarooq. The most memorable chapter of his WWE career came when leading the Nation of Domination faction. Simmons faced Undertaker for the WWE Championship in 1997 but never won the title.
3 Diamond Dallas Page
The late start in wrestling for Diamond Dallas Page made his story even more memorable. DDP’s rise to the top of WCW came thanks to the fan base organically falling in love with him. The feud with Randy Savage put him on the map as fans viewed Page as a main eventer after holding his own against a legend.
WCW waited a while but eventually booked DDP to win the title. Page was a three-time WCW Champion before making the move to WWE after the buyout. WWE never used him well and he instantly fell down the card. DDP never came close to the WWE Championship picture before his run ended.
Vader became a huge star for WCW in the early 90s as their best heel. Classic matches against Sting, Ric Flair and Cactus Jack earned Vader a reputation for being arguably the best big man in the industry. The WCW Championship reigns of Vader cemented him as a main eventer.
WWE signed him away in the mid-90s with the hope of finding similar success. Vader’s biggest match came in the main event of Summerslam 1996 for the WWE Championship against Shawn Michaels. The big man would never win the title as he fell back down into the mid-card for the rest of his run after this loss.
The WCW run of Goldberg made him one of the most beloved wrestlers of the 90s. Goldberg dominated the WCW roster for his first year winning the WCW Championship during his undefeated streak. The title win over Hulk Hogan is arguably the greatest moment in Nitro history.
Goldberg’s WWE runs would have mixed results. The company would see Goldberg win the World Championship for a short run in 2003 and the Universal Championship for a short run in 2017, but he never competed for the WWE Championship. It’s the one major title he never won in either company.