The Monday Night War was an exciting time in the world of professional wrestling. Creativity and storyline production was at an all-time high as fans were being introduced to new and innovative concepts and characters.
The war officially began on September 4th, 1995 when World Championship Wrestling aired its very first episode of Monday Nitro going head-to-head with Monday Night Raw and World Wrestling Entertainment. The lead General behind the war? Eric Bischoff, who was responsible for convincing Ted Turner (owner of WCW) to give his promotion a primetime slot on his cable network and take on the juggernaut promotion of the WWE.
The early stages of the war would see WWE and WCW exchanging victories in the ratings but the tide would soon shift in favor of WCW when the beloved and legendary Hulk Hogan pulled the most famous heel turn in the history of professional wrestling – establishing the New World Order in the process and taking over the Monday Night War.
The nWo were a pivotal component in WCW taking the lead in the ratings. Around this time, Vince McMahon and the WWE knew that they needed a new direction. What resulted as a love-child of the Monday Night War was the historic Attitude Era. This new direction would make way for new boundary-pushing television for the WWE. The days of red and yellow or pink and black were long gone. These were the days of controversial degenerates, a champion of the people, a hardcore hero, and a beer-swilling, bird-flipping, ass-whooping redneck – all of whom helped the WWE regain its place atop the wrestling world.
The eventually decline of WCW was neither pretty nor graceful. The stories became weak as the ratings continued to plummet. The audience had tired of the promotion and it was beginning to show that those running WCW were lost in transition. The war ended on March 26th, 2001 when a simultaneous broadcast of both Raw and Nitro was aired in which Vince McMahon revealed that he had purchased World Championship Wrestling.
The Monday Night War was a great time for wrestling fans as unpredictability was always on the horizon – never knowing what was going to happen or who was going to show up on which show as wrestlers were “jumping ship” from one promotion to another for a number of different reasons. In this article we will take a look at some of those “ship jumpers.”
These are the top 15 superstars who jumped ship during the Monday Night War:
The premiere episode of Monday Nitro featured a title video that included highlights of Big Van Vader. However, Vader did not appear on the first episode of Nitro. Vader was scheduled to face Hulk Hogan for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship the following week, but was once again absent from television. Subsequently, Vader would never perform on Nitro and would soon make his way over to World Wrestling Entertainment – debuting at the 1996 Royal Rumble as “The Man They Call Vader.” While his run in WWE can be considered underwhelming, Vader remains one of the best big men wrestlers to ever step inside of the squared-circle.
She makes this list due to her controversial moment during the Monday Night War. Performing as Blayze in the WWE, she would become the WWE Women's Champion. In December of 1995, the WWE parted ways with her, effectively vacating the Women's Championship until 1998. However, she would soon sign a contract with rival WCW as Medusa, where she would appear with the championship belt (which she still had in her possession) only to drop it into a trash can on live television, in a blatant show of disrespect towards WWE. Blayze later admitted to regretting the decision and stats that her involvement in the act was due to persuasion by Eric Bischoff.
13 Lex Luger
The debut episode of Monday Nitro would see Lex Luger make his return to WCW in a shocking and surprising moment. While Eric Bischoff wasn't to excited to sign him, it was his longtime friend Sting who made the push for Luger to be signed. Bischoff offered Luger a low-ball number, assuming he would reject his contract offer, therefore being able to tell Sting that “at least he tried.” However, Luger accepted the contract and was all set to re-join WCW. When Nitro hit the air and Luger appeared on WCW television, he became the first official “ship jumper” and it became apparent that the war had begun.
12 Big Boss Man
Those old enough may remember Big Boss Man best for his original run in WWE when he portrayed a heel prison guard. In 1993, Big Boss Man appeared in WCW as “The Boss,” where he never quite broke out as major star. In 1998, he was once again working under the Big Boss Man persona as he re-joined WWE as the personal bodyguard of Vince McMahon. This time around, the blue police shirt of his earlier years had been replaced by an all black swat team uniform – a look keeping with the times and new direction of the product.
11 Rick Rude
Rick Rude debuted in WWE as a member of the legendary Heenan Family. His biggest claim to fame in WWE was defeating The Ultimate Warrior for the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania V. Rude became well-known for his colorful and elaborate wrestling tights. Rude departed form WWE in the fall of 1990 before showing up in WCW the following year. In 1994, Rude would suffer a career-ending injury but while his in-ring days were over, his involvement in the wrestling industry was not. In 1997, Rude returned to the WWE as the “insurance policy” of the newly formed D-Generation X, before leaving the company following Survivor Series 1997 and returning to WCW. One of the few to pull a double-switch during the wars.
10 Legion of Doom
The Legion of Doom or The Road Warriors (fans tend to vary on their name preference) are one of the greatest tag-teams in the history of professional wrestling. With their roots in Georgia Championship Wrestling, Hawk and Animal became known as one of the most intimidating tag-teams around. LOD, made their way through a number of promotions over the years including, the AWA, NJPW, and WWE before arriving in WCW in 1996. However, their time in WCW was equivalent to a cup of coffee as they would soon get involved in a contract dispute with Eric Bischoff before switching sides and heading back to the WWE during the Monday Night War.
The return of Sean Waltman to the WWE following WrestleMania XIV was an important moment in the Monday Night War as it would mark the beginning of the next chapter in D-Generation X. Now, under new leadership, the DX army was ready to dive headfirst into the war, even going as far as driving a tank to an arena hosting Monday Nitro in one of the most memorable moments of the Attitude Era. Formerly known as the 1-2-3 Kid in WWE, when Waltman left for WCW he was renamed Syxx, the total sum of his previous name. Upon his return to the WWE, the 1-2-3 Kid gimmick was certainly dated so Waltman was christened, X-Pac.
8 Jeff Jarrett
Jeff Jarrett makes our list as one of the more interesting cases of “ship jumping.” Jarrett was employed by the WWE from 1993 to 1996, before he would leave the company due to a contract dispute. Naturally, Jarrett would show up on the competition's programming later that year. Following a year-long stint with WCW, Jarrett opted to head back to the WWE, despite the fact that WCW was currently winning the Monday Night War. This run would last all of two years before Jarrett once again would jump ship and head back to WCW, where he would remain until the company’s final breath in March of 2001. While Jarrett would attain success in WCW as a four-time Heavyweight Champion, in the WWE, he was never able to rise above mid-card status.
7 Roddy Piper
“Rowdy” Roddy Piper is a wrestling legend who could talk smack with the best heels in the business. His epic longstanding rivalry with Hulk Hogan wasn't just contested under the WWE banner. In 1996, Piper appeared in WCW as the man who was going to put a stop to Hollywood Hogan and his reign of terror over WCW. This was viewed by WCW fans and a battle of icons, while fans of the WWE saw this as two aging superstars who were long past their prime once again trying to grasp at the spotlight and cling to their youth.
6 The Radicalz
The Radicalz are a former WWE stable made up of Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Perry Saturn, and Dean Malenko, all of whom were employed by WCW and departed from the company at the same time. The group had become frustrated with WCW and the booking of their characters, a large reason for their wanting to jump ship to the WWE. They were all accomplished wrestlers who would eventually split and head down different paths in WWE.
5 The Big Show
On his very first night in WCW at Halloween Havoc 1995, The Big Show, known as The Giant defeated Hulk Hogan for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. The Giant was billed as the son of the late Andre the Giant and was seeking some sort of vengeance for his father, who had lost to Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania III. However, The Giant would eventually align himself with Hogan and join the nWo. On February 8yj, 1999, The Giant's contract with WCW would expire and he would go on to sign a long-term deal with the WWE the very next day. He became The Big Show in the process and a longstanding member of the company.
4 Bret Hart
The “Montreal Screwjob” has gone down as the most controversial moment in professional wrestling. Everybody knows the story, as Bret Hart was leaving WWE for WCW but refused to lose the WWE Championship in his home country to Shawn Michaels. This left Vince McMahon with no other option but to “screw” Hart out the championship in Montreal at Survivor Series 1997. This incident inadvertently gave birth to the villainous Mr. McMahon character who fans have come to loathe over the years. “The Hitman,” did jump ship to WCW following that night, where he would spend the next few years tangled in storylines and feuds that never quite worked as well as they could have, especially with a wrestler of Bret Hart's caliber.
3 Kevin Nash
Kevin Nash was once billed as “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel in the WWE, where he saw a number of successes including a WWE Championship title reign – the longest reign of the '90s. When Nash, and his good buddy Scott Hall, jumped ship to WCW back in 1996, it was confusing and cool at the same time. They were meant to be invaders from the WWE and it left fans wondering as to what was real and what was scripted. Kevin Nash would go on to become a huge part of WCW and captured the WCW World Heavyweight Championship on five occasions.
2 Scott Hall
Scott Hall makes this list ahead of Kevin Nash because he was the original “invader.” Two weeks prior to Nash making his WCW debut, it was Scott Hall who made his way through the crowd and began the confusion and curiosity stating to WCW and fans alike: “you want a war? You're gonna get one.” This angle brought the Monday Night War to a whole new level. Here were these two guys who had become household names in the WWFall of a sudden on WCW television, wagging war and causing chaos. While the war was already under way, it was Scott Hall who really took it one step higher.
1 Chris Jericho
Who can forget the WWE debut of Chris Jericho back in 1999 when the “Y2J Problem” arrived on the scene and interrupted The Rock? Chris Jericho, who had been a member of the WCW roster, had been growing increasingly frustrated with the direction of the company and the under-utilization of his character (one of the biggest mistakes WCW made during that time). Chris Jericho showed up in the WWE as a hot commodity, establishing himself as one of the best around and eventually becoming the first ever Undisputed WWE Champion. Chris Jericho tops this list because of all the “ship jumpers” we have mentioned, his jump has been the most successful.