The history of WCW is mostly remembered for the bad. This was a company that had everything: The backing of a billionaire, prime-time programming, a loyal fanbase going back decades and a pretty stacked roster. Yet despite all that, they ended up losing the Monday Night War thanks to the incredible stupidity of those in charge. Entire books have been written of their mistakes, from booking to letting the talent call the shots and thus when you think WCW, you think failure.
However, WCW did do things right a lot, often by their talent. Indeed, it’s remarkable how many guys were much better in WCW than WWE. Sure, most found better success in WWE like Steve Austin and Chris Jericho and even Ric Flair. However, many others were actually a lot better off in WCW than they ever were in WWE. Whether bad booking or just WWE refusing to give them good stuff, these guys suffered badly. Here are 15 guys whose WCW fame just ended up being crushed in WWE and showed how that company could do better by their talent than WWE ever could.
15 Mike Awesome
One can argue that it’s not like WWE had too much to ruin. After living up to his name as a monster worker who could be a technical marvel in ECW, Awesome jumped to WCW as champion. The company’s genius move was to give him the gimmick of a 1970s lounge lizard and then chasing fat women. He seemed to get back into his old style in WWE, winning the Hardcore title. But despite all his great potential, WWE basically ignored Awesome during the Invasion, putting him on B-shows rather than the bigger shows where he could have made a much bigger impact.
He was a jobber, a horrible fall for such a terrific worker and when released, he did not talk of his time in good terms. This may be an easy joke but it’s true; Mike’s tenure in WWE was not awesome by any means.
14 Shane Douglas
It’s forgotten by some how Douglas cut his teeth in WCW first. The Dynamic Dudes were a bit of a joke but Douglas still showed some promise. This paid off as he and Ricky Steamboat formed a fantastic team to win the tag team titles and have great feuds with various teams. Douglas would use that to become “The Franchise” in ECW, a main eventer as champion and a fantastic mic guy. WWE’s idea for him in 1995 was to have him as “Dean Douglas,” playing up a teacher who ended his skits raking his nails on a chalkboard. It wasn’t bad but nowhere as effective as just letting Douglas cut loose on the mic.
The worst part was how Douglas started to clash with the Kliq who were running things backstage. He won the IC title when Shawn Michaels vacated it but then dropped it in 15 minutes to Razor Ramon. This led to a backstage row ending with Douglas leaving to head back to ECW. He’s still rather bitter about the whole thing and one can hardly blame him as WWE pushed a great talent down from the start.
A standout in Mexican wrestling, Psicosis was signed onto WCW and quickly key to their Cruiserweight division. His matches with Rey Mysterio and Dean Malenko tore down the house and even after losing his mask, he was a good deal. This included the rather bizarre circumstances where he managed to lose two titles he technically never won. Signed to WWE in 2005, Psicosis seemed ready to boost their Cruiserweight division as well. Instead, he was saddled with being put with Juventud Guerrera and Super Crazy as the Mexicools.
Driving around on lawn mowers, the trio played up every stereotype of Mexicans, while putting on bad matches and insulting promos and skits. His work with the new ECW hardly set the ring on fire and he would return to Mexico soon after. The only thing crazy about Psicosis in WWE was just how badly the company botched him.
12 Sean O’Haire
A bright spot of the dying days of WCW was O’Haire and Chuck Palumbo reigning as tag team champions, a good team with a lot of promise. They came to WWE with those titles and set up to be a key part of the Invasion. Instead, they were completely destroyed by Kane and The Undertaker for the titles, including a viciously one-sided cage match.
O’Haire spent time in the lower rungs before coming back with a bizarre character who advocated living in sin. This led to crazy promos and inspiring some folks to streak while his matches weren’t exactly great. Despite the aid of Roddy Piper, O’Haire’s stock in the company dropped and he was released, another victim of the bad stuff of the Invasion. It's a shame they didn't stick with him a little longer, as his devil's advocate gimmick actually had some promise.
11 2 Cold Scorpio
From his debut, Scorpio was seen as an absolutely fantastic worker, pulling off high-flying moves you just didn’t see guys doing at the time. Good on the mic, he was a cocky showboat but backed up his words with his fantastic style. He and Marcus Bagwell had a run as tag team champions and Scorpio would have been great had WCW started their Cruiserweight division earlier. His ECW run was even better with four reigns as TV champion and establishing himself as one of the best workers around.
Leave it to WWE to ruin all that by having him come out as Flash Funk, a 1970s pimp character unsuited for Scorpio. The bad costume seemed to affect his ring work as he languished in the lower card and eventually leaving the company. Truly a shame to see this high flyer brought so low by the company’s bad ideas for him.
10 Dean Malenko
Ric Flair summed up the problem with Malenko in WCW: one of the best workers alive, his size and lack of real mic skills meant he couldn’t be a main eventer. When he came to WWE with the Radicalz, Malenko was pushed as Light Heavyweight Champion, emphasizing his great in-ring skills and various feuds. This included one where he basically stalked Lita, a role that didn’t suit Malenko at all, forcing him to be “romantic” and stalkerish.
One could tell he was incredibly uncomfortable with this and it extended to more bad feuds and poor programs. That was followed by a feud involving Jacqueline and Ivory and sad to see a great worker forced to take part in this garbage. He was “the man of a thousand holds” but Malenko couldn’t use any of them to escape the bad booking WWE gave him. He now works behind the scenes in WWE.
9 Buff Bagwell
Bagwell gets a bad rap from many fans who forget he really was a promising worker in his early years. He held the tag team title a few times, showing some great promise and even some good high-flying moves. The change came with beefing himself up and becoming “Buff” to join the New World Order. Also, his devastating neck injury took away much of his drive. Still, Bagwell had some good backing to get a major match against Booker T for the WCW title on RAW. That match is an infamous disaster as the crowd turned on it big time, Buff getting the worst of it from fans.
That reaction basically helped Vince McMahon decide that WCW wasn’t able to stand on its own and thus much of the bad stuff of the Invasion happened. Bagwell was soon gone and remembered more for this bad stuff as Buff didn’t quite have “the Stuff” in WWE.
8 Marc Mero
On the plus side, WWE didn’t have Mero take on his WCW persona. A great worker, Mero had been saddled with the character of Johnny B. Badd, coming out flamboyantly with boas, acting fruity and made up to look like Little Richard. It led to runs as TV champion and Mero proving himself great in the ring. When signed to WWE, he was allowed to have his real name and the nickname “Wildman” but it came off less charismatic with the fans. He had an IC title run but dropped it to HHH and after an injury, remade himself into a boxing character. That didn’t lead to much better success, his stock in the company dropping fast and would be gone by 1999. His biggest contribution was the introduction of his wife Rena, better known as Sable as Mero’s tenure in WWE was hardly wild.
7 Perry Saturn
True, it was mostly his own fault but it still stuns how badly Saturn got treated. Right from the bat, he was the forgotten member of the Radicalz, a great worker but not as effective as Benoit, Guerrero or even Malenko. He held the European and Hardcore titles but was still not given any real pushes. Saturn would take out his frustrations in a TV match with jobber Mike Bell, brutally beating Bell down. As punishment, WWE gave him the storyline of Perry getting brain damage from a kick and thinking a mop was his girlfriend.
It was incredibly insulting, turning Saturn into a complete joke and he would leave the company with a cloud over him. It's a shame a great talent got so mistreated and transformed into a punch line, the worst of the Radicalz.
A few years after his WWE departure, Saturn would fall into somewhat of a depression and ended up disappearing for a few years. He's since rebounded quite well.
6 Lex Luger
Luger was a guy you’d figure Vince McMahon would love. Big, strong, long hair, good charisma, all the ingredients for a huge push. At first, he wasn’t bad as his character of the Narcissist was a great gimmick and Luger good for it. It seemed right for a bigger heel push and he could have made it work. But then WWE decided to turn him into a rah-rah patriotic hero to go against Yokozuna. The “Lex Express” was a flop but it could still have paid off with a title win. Instead, Luger won by count out and didn’t get the belt, a baffling bit of booking. It ruined him right off the bat with the fans, seen as a “choke artist” and never regaining their respect.
Luger bounced around the mid-card for the next year, feuding with Yokozuna, a partnership with Davey Boy Smith that went nowhere and was soon forgotten as The Kliq rose to power. Thus, it’s no surprise he jumped ship at WCW’s offer to make the first “Nitro” memorable and show once more how a major WCW guy failed bad in WWE.
5 Diamond Dallas Page
For a guy who got into wrestling late, Diamond Dallas Page did a great job. Thanks to his charisma and insistence on planning bouts out, DDP produced some amazing work as WCW World Champion and a key player of the company. Having him as one of the first to jump for the Invasion angle should have been a great deal but WWE instead screwed it up. Having Page as the “mystery stalker” for The Undertaker’s wife was just creepy and totally unsuited for him (the fact Page’s then wife Kimberly was far hotter didn’t help).
The feud had Page totally crushed by Taker and that led to his strange “smiling” bit that came off idiotic. This was a guy who could have ended his career on a high note with WWE but instead limped to a bad finish thanks to the company’s dumb promotion of him.
4 Scott Steiner
To be fair, a lot of what happened to Steiner in his later WWE run was mostly his own fault. While he’d turned into a main event champion, Steiner also blew up physically to harm his great in-ring talent. He also had gained a reputation for being truly unstable and a bit of a nut. That was proven early on in WWE when he botched a promo battle with Chris Jericho to steal Jericho’s insult as a badge of honor which baffled fans. However, WWE’s decision to immediately push him into a feud with Triple H backfired spectacularly.
Their match at the Royal Rumble was a disaster with Steiner only doing suplexes and clearly in no shape for a real match. The fans loathed it and Steiner was soon gone and while much of his bad stuff was his own fault, WWE still did no favors for letting “Big Poppa Pump” deflate badly.
Vader had been fantastic in WCW, reigning almost a solid year as champion and still over as a true monster. But the coming of Hulk Hogan changed that as Vader was treated as an afterthought as Hogan dealt with Flair. Then, when they did feud, Hogan ruined Vader by no-selling his dreaded power bomb. Naturally, Vader must have felt he had to go up in WWE in 1996. However, he was marred by the politics as, after a good start as a monster, he clashed with Shawn Michaels’ power in the company as plans for Vader to win the title at SummerSlam clashed with Shawn’s ego.
Their match there was great but Vader was hurt by the multiple stops and starts and his standing with fans sunk. More bad feuds followed along with a face turn although Vader’s backstage attitude hardly helped. WWE took a perfect monster heel and turned him into a slow wimp, a terrible move that ruined a fine worker.
Goldberg was really catching lightning in a bottle for WCW. Clicking with fans better than expected, he rose up with his streak to win the US and WCW World titles, a huge deal that elevated him up and made him the company’s biggest star. They would end up hurting him more when the streak ended but Goldberg was still a key part of the company with his name recognition. WWE however didn’t seem to understand that Goldberg’s build as a monster was key to the entire character.
Having him lose to Triple H in their first encounter was terrible, ruining so much of his standing with the fans off the bat. His title run was never successful because of that. Given all the terrible stuff, it’s no wonder Goldberg decided to walk on the company in 2004 as WWE managed to do far worse by him than WCW at their lowest ever could.
Maybe it wasn’t too big a shock. Vince McMahon is infamous for resisting giving anyone credit for things he didn’t have a hand in. WWE had been resistant crediting Sting in DVDs as he was the one major star of his era to never work for WWE in any way. This just built more anticipation as Sting spent years in TNA, continuing to turn down offers as fans kept dreaming of matches with the Undertaker and others in WWE. Finally, in 2014, it happened, Sting signing on and WWE pushing him to feud with Seth Rollins. It should have been great…and then WWE totally and completely ruined it.
At WrestleMania, Sting lost to Triple H in what was made out to be “the final shot of the Monday Night War.” A war fans had accepted was over for 15 years. This led to a feud with Rollins where Sting suffered a legit neck injury to end his career for good. Thus, WWE basically ended Sting’s career and refused to let him get a win in the company at all, proving he really was better off staying in WCW (and TNA) for that long.