When discussing WCW, the "Monday Night War" between Vince McMahon's then-World Wrestling Federation and Ted Turner's World Championship Wrestling usually dominates the majority of most conversations, wouldn't you think? And why wouldn't it? For years, it seemed that nobody would ever come close to being on the same level as the WWE after Vince essentially signed most of the biggest stars away from rival promotions and territories. Sure, there were still some companies around that could do some decent business, but certainly nothing on that top-tier level of the WWE.
It wasn't until some of the big stars, such as Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall moved to WCW that they really became a threat to the WWE. The formation of the nWo and the guaranteed contracts that Ted Turner was handing out left and right made for a more relaxed working environment (for a while, anyway) and people just wanted to be a part of it.
What's sometimes easy to forget is that long before the nWo ever existed and the big money was flying around, WCW really did have some great talent and put on some big shows and big matches that just don't get the publicity of the nWo era. So what I thought I'd do today is take a look at some of those pay-per-views and matches that you may have forgotten about. Trust me, it would be worth your time to hit up the WWE Network and check out some of these classics.
These are listed in chronological order. I'd love to hear your thoughts on how these rank in your book. Feel free to do so in the comments section at the bottom of this page. Enjoy. Here are the 15 hidden gems in WCW you should watch.
17 Lex Luger vs. Ric Flair - Starrcade 1988
I don't think there's a ton of people out there that would ever consider Lex Luger to be one of the greatest wrestlers of all time, but this match versus Ric Flair at Starrcade in 1988 has to be considered one of his greatest matches. WCW was only officially about a month old at this point after Ted Turner put a new name on the Jim Crockett promotion, pretty much making this match the first "best" match in company history. Luger and Flair had been battling for the NWA World Heavyweight title for most of the year and culminated in this half-hour classic that saw "The Nature Boy" pick up the win.
16 Chi-Town Rumble 1989
While this doesn't have one of the classic WCW pay-per-view names attached to it, the Chi-Town Rumble is one of the best events in company history. It featured seven matches on the card, and outside of the opener, every match delivered. Sting and Butch Reed went 20 minutes in a match you may have never even knew happened. The two Midnight Express teams put on a great match in a "Loser Leaves" bout. Lex Luger put on yet another solid match for the United States title with Barry Windham. The Road Warriors took on Kevin Sullivan and Steve Williams under The Varsity Club banner and the main event between Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat blew the roof off of the place...as most of their matches tended to do anyway.
15 Great American Bash 1989
This is considered by a lot of people to be the greatest pay-per-view in WCW history, so maybe you've already watched this one a few times. The card is quite amazing. Ric Flair taking on Terry Funk would be enough for most pay-per-views, but there's much more than that. Sting vs. The Great Muta, while a bit on the short side, is awesome. The same could be said for the Luger vs. Steamboat match. Throw in a War Games match with The Road Warriors, The Midnight Express and Steve Williams taking on The Fabulous Freebirds and The Samoan Swat Team as a bonus and that's a damn good show. And those are only the last four matches on the card.
14 The Steiner Brothers vs. Sting & Lex Luger -SuperBrawl
I don't know how Lex Luger keeps ending up on this list, but here he is again. At the inaugural SuperBrawl pay-per-view, Luger teamed up with his good buddy Sting to take on the Steiners in one of the most underrated tag bouts in history. The match was only given about 11 minutes, but what an 11 minutes it was. The action was frantic throughout and the fact that two of the company's biggest stars going for the tag titles really was a big deal. It's sometimes easy to forget how athletic Scott Steiner was in his early days, and it was on full showcase that night. Great stuff here.
13 WrestleWar 1992
The pay-per-view as a whole is spectacular, but if you're looking for a few highlights, the tag match pitting the Steiner Brothers versus Tatsumi Fujinami and Takayuki Iizuka fits that bill in a very physical match. Brian Pillman versus Tom Zenk, whom you may remember as Rick Martel's partner in The Can-Am Connection, is very underrated and the War Games match that main-evented the show with Sting's Squadron taking on The Dangerous Alliance is arguably the best War Games match in history. Very bloody.
12 Ricky Steamboat vs. Rick Rude - Beach Blast 1992
This 30 Minute Iron Man Challenge between Ricky Steamboat and Rick Rude is one of my favorites on this list. The storytelling by both men in this forgotten classic could be a lesson to any young wrestler getting into the business. Specifically, Rick Rude, who has always been underrated anyway, is superb in the beginning of this match as he builds a lead and then becomes complacent, which fits perfectly with his character, as Steamboat mounts the comeback. Most will tell you that Steamboat's best matches in WCW came against Ric Flair, and I'd probably agree with that, but this one comes very close to any of those.
11 Sting vs. Vader - Starrcade 1992
When talking about the greatest feuds in wrestling history, one that often gets overlooked is Sting and Vader. Their battles for the World Heavyweight Championship were amazing, but this match actually didn't involve the title at all. Instead, it was the "King of Cable" tournament final to celebrate 20 years of wrestling on TBS (gotta love Turner), but that didn't really matter on this night. You could probably insert a couple of their matches in this spot, perhaps from the Great American Bash earlier that year or SuperBrawl III, but there's something about this one that I really enjoy.
10 Cactus Jack vs Vader - Halloween Havoc 1993
Nearly a year after that match with Sting, Vader collided with Mick Foley's "Cactus Jack" character in a Texas Death Match, which some of you may know as a Last Man Standing Match. Foley's ability to put his body through hell was just catching on in WCW and Vader was the perfect opponent to showcase what he was willing to go through to entertain a mainstream audience. When you watch it today, it may not seem as brutal as matches that happened later on in Foley's career (especially in ECW), but for 1993 this was about as good as we were going to get. Still solid in my eyes.
9 Spring Stampede 1994
This is another event where the main event could make up for deficiencies on the undercard, what with the closing match being yet another epic encounter between Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat, but there weren't a lot of low points at this show. The Chicago crowd always helps, but so do matches like Rick Rude vs. Sting, Steve Austin vs. The Great Muta, and a great technical affair pitting Lord Steven Regal against Brian Pillman. Luckily, the Danny Bonaduce vs Christopher Knight (you know, Peter Brady) match was a dark match. No, seriously. That actually happened.
8 Starrcade 1995
In an event that more promotions (and by that, I really mean WWE) should try to copy, 1995's Starrcade pay-per-view pitted WCW's best stars against the best wrestlers from New Japan Pro Wrestling in some unbelievable matches in what was called the World Cup of Wrestling. Just to put things in perspective, the match that opened the show was Chris Benoit vs. Jushin Thunder Liger. WCW took four of the seven matches with NJPW, but that wasn't even the entire show.
Following those matches, Ric Flair beat Lex Luger and Sting in a fantastic triple threat match to earn a shot at Randy Savage's world title immediately after. While I recommend everything on this list, this event is right near the top.
7 Dean Malenko vs. Ultimo Dragon - Starrcade 1996
Okay, so these last two are into the nWo era...sue me...but they do deserve a mention. While 1996's Starrcade event will be remembered as the event that revived the Hulk Hogan vs. Roddy Piper feud, the opening match that night was the standout. While Rey Mysterio vs. Jushin Thunder Liger two matches later gets a little more attention than this one, I think that this match was the better one. In a title unification match for Malenko's WCW Cruiserweight crown and Ultimo Dragon's J-Crown, which is a unified belt in itself from Japan, the two put on a dizzying display of spots in an extremely underrated match.
5 Chris Jericho vs. Raven - Halloween Havoc 1998
In the midst of this time period, Chris Jericho was growing more and more frustrated with his position in WCW. He had just come off a feud with Goldberg in which WCW opted against giving the two a PPV match. Raven didn't have many great moments in WCW either, but here we had two heels actually getting the crowd into the match. The bout lasted only eight minutes, but the two made every second count, before Jericho retained his Television Championship.
3 Bret Hart Doesn't Doubt El Dandy - Nitro, 1999
Why would this be considered a hidden gem? Well, because Bret Hart wasn't really known for his promos and his tenure in WCW was a complete waste. He did have a couple of shining moments though and here we have him facetiously saying cruiserweight wrestler El Dandy deserved a shot at his United States championship. Hart managed to crack people up as a heel, all while keeping a straight face. If there's one Bret Hart moment worth watching in WCW other than a match, it's this.
2 Spring Stampede 1999
The reason 1999's version of Spring Stampede warrants inclusion on this list as I think it's the last great pay-per-view that WCW ever had. It had everything that made WCW great. There was great cruiserweight action with Rey Mysterio vs. Billy Kidman and Juventud Guerrera vs. Blitzkrieg. Bam Bam Bigelow and Hak (remember that ridiculous name they slapped on The Sandman) had probably the best hardcore match in the company's history.
Three of the four Radicalz that would later invade the WWE took part in WCW's last great tag match when Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko took on Raven and Perry Saturn. Even Scott Steiner versus Booker T was great. And the world was shocked when WCW pulled off one of their great surprises when DDP beat three of the greatest of all time in Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair and Sting in a Four Corners Match to win the World Heavyweight Championship.
1 Scott Steiner vs. Goldberg - Fall Brawl 2000
You wouldn't think that anything WCW did in 2000 would be considered a gem, but here was one match they actually executed properly. You also wouldn't expect Goldberg and Scott Steiner to have amazing chemistry, but against all odds, these two put on an enjoyable match. There was nothing fancy in this bout. It was a straight up brawl, and that's all it needed to be. The match would have been better off without Vince Russo interfering. Steiner eventually won after making Goldberg pass out to the Steiner Recliner, in a match that was much better than anyone would have ever expected.