No wrestling company has as many high profiled blunders as WCW. WWE has delivered their fair share of foolish decisions but the company has remained hugely successful for such a long time period and basically controls the wrestling industry, so it does not hold the same negative effect as bad times in WCW did. TNA has recently followed WCW’s suit by providing asinine memories that harmed their overall health but they have never been as big as WCW. The perfect storm of bad moments in such a big spot and it ultimately leading to failure has left a negative side to WCW’s legacy.
The talent in WCW was second to none with different styles and performers for every wrestling fan. There were superstar main eventers with great credibility such as Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage and Ric Flair. Great workers were all over the card with Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero and Dean Malenko delivering classic matches. Cruiserweights were given their first chance at thriving in America with Rey Mysterio, Juventud Guerrera and Billy Kidman dazzling fans with their unbelievable aerial displays. The wrestlers made fans want to support the company no matter how far the company would decline.
Many wrestlers had multiple stints in WCW. The time consisted of wrestlers going back and forth from WWE to WCW and brokering better deals with bigger pay. The art of a wrestler’s return after some time away leads to nothing but potential. One of the biggest issues for a talent is overexposure. You just appreciate something more when it’s gone as a part of human nature. Wrestlers coming back from leaving the company or spending time on the injured list will give fans newfound excitement to see and give the talent a great chance at success. Not all of these moments work out and we’ll look at those with the fifteen worst WCW returns.
15 Lex Luger
The majority of Lex Luger’s success in the wrestling business came during his multiple stints in WCW. The company treated him like a huge star and consistently put him in the main event picture with his most popular time period taking place as one of the faces to challenge the New World Order. Following some time off television, Luger returned in 1999 as a heel attacking Hulk Hogan and Bret Hart. The return signified Luger no longer using his name and demanding to be referred to as “The Total Package.” While a gimmick change may have been needed to freshen up his act, Luger was unwatchable following his return with the new demeanor.
14 Terry Funk
With many of his glory days taking place in NWA, Terry Funk is still mostly remembered by younger fans for his time in WWE and ECW due to the late 90s time frame holding more popularity in wrestling. Funk returned to WCW in 2000 but it was a colossal failure on many levels. A legendary name like Funk coming back should have been met with fanfare and hype but he was just used in the hardcore division. Nothing kills a return more than being involved in the same matches as Brian Knobbs. Funk was later used in a feud against Kevin Nash for control of WCW, but he was already irrelevant and the story was too ridiculous to buy into.
13 Dusty Rhodes
Okay, so Dusty Rhodes’ return in this scenario wasn’t a return from being away from the company but rather a return to the character role of a performer. Rhodes worked as a broadcaster for quite a few years until 1998 when he would make his return to the storyline aspect of television by turning on fellow commentator Larry Zbyszko to join the New World Order. The American Dream was one of the all-time great performers but this was an embarrassing moment in his storied career. Dusty unbuttoned his dress shirt with the slowest of pace to finally reveal the obvious nWo t-shirt and then started gyrating. Perhaps it was a message that he would have rather been paired with Disco Inferno and Alex Wright.
12 Rick Steiner
The Steiner Brothers would be the popular choice for the greatest WCW tag team of all time but following their split, Scott Steiner was a far bigger singles star. Scott transformed into Big Poppa Pump and eventually became WCW World Champion but Rick struggled to find a role on his own. After a short time off television to recover from an injury, Rick returned with a new look sporting sunglasses and a bedazzled dog collar. Of course, the edgy new accessories meant Rick was now a heel and once again aligned with his brother Scott. Whether he was paired with Scott or Sid, Rick looked like a sidekick and his return was botched from the star.
11 Scott Hall
Scott Hall was arguably the backbone of the New World Order. Hulk Hogan made the group relevant with his heel turn as the leader and Kevin Nash added the intimidation factor of a big man but Hall had the cool demeanor that forced fans to fall in love with the nWo. Hall's personal demons would cause many issues during his WCW career, including being forced to enter rehab for a short time period after showing up to work under the influence. Hall returned with the New World Order now split in two factions, Hollywood and the Wolfpac. Despite being a member of the original Wolfpac, Hall turned heel to join Hollywood and would occasionally play a drunken caricature of himself. This was a classic example of the low side of WCW.
10 Bret Hart
Bret Hart’s entire run in WCW was a complete disaster with the company misusing his great skills from day one. The move from WWE to WCW saw him go from arguably the greatest world champion of the decade to just another guy with a big contract. Hart’s WCW time came to an end in the saddest of fashions as a kick to the head by Bill Goldberg caused injuries that would eventually cause him to retire. The return in question here is Hart making a random appearance after being off television for months on New Blood Rising 2000. Lance Storm defeated Mike Awesome in a ridiculous yet entertaining Canadian Rules Match. Hart returned for one night to celebrate with Storm. It was a funny moment but completely pointless use of such a legend.
9 Eric Bischoff
Eric Bischoff was the figurehead of WCW on-screen and off screen during the peak of the company’s success. Once things started to trend downwards with a significant money loss and WWE grabbing a dominating lead in the Monday Night Wars, Bischoff was sent home and Vince Russo was given power of WCW. Russo was, of course, an even bigger disaster and both men were then forced to team together behind the scenes and on television. Bischoff’s return as a character was siding with Russo to lead The New Blood faction of young stars trying to take out the older veterans. While Bischoff worked much better as a heel, it made zero storyline sense considering that fans knew he had relationships with most of the veterans.
Madusa's career was made relevant in WCW during the early 90s when she played a role in The Dangerous Alliance with Paul Heyman and feuded with Missy Hyatt. WWE signed her and showcased her wrestling ability as Alundra Blayze but she made the historic decision to move back to WCW while holding the WWE Women’s Championship. Eric Bischoff convinced Madusa to drop the WWE belt into the garbage live on Nitro as her big return to the company. The incident would lead to great controversy but it was really just tacky and added nothing to her career. Madusa would wrestle on television for a few months before WCW completely dropped the women’s division and made her regret the return.
7 Shane Douglas
Some talents just don’t fit in certain promotions and can only thrive in a specific environment. That was the story of Shane Douglas’ career as he would be a main event star in ECW but flop in both WWE and WCW. Douglas tried a second stint in WCW by returning to feud with real life rival Ric Flair and partner up with Dean Malenko, Perry Saturn and Chris Benoit in The Revolution. Despite the great talent in the faction, The Revolution was a bust and Douglas was the weakest link. Not even the personal hatred between Flair and Douglas could work to make The Franchise a valuable WCW performer.
6 Buff Bagwell
WCW desperately wanted Buff Bagwell to be a star due to his great look and on-screen presence, but his lack of skill limited him from ever entering the main event picture. Bagwell had one true chance at superstardom when suffering a serious injury as a member of the New World Order. Forced to use a wheelchair and neck brace for months, Bagwell was mocked by members of the nWo and fans started to sympathize with him. The obvious booking would have dictated a babyface run against the hated villains to use the newfound support and great story. Instead, Bagwell just returned by turning heel on Rick Steiner and once again joining the New World Order as a secondary goof.
5 Jeff Jarrett
Vince Russo’s tenure as WCW booker led to nothing but terrible decisions and hilarious failures. Russo's writing style was exposed after he didn’t have Vince McMahon’s leadership to know how to use his ideas. Russo was a huge supporter of Jeff Jarrett and convinced him to make a huge jump by ditching WWE to return to WCW. The move would cause Jarrett to get blacklisted by WWE but Russo promised Jarrett a huge push. Jarrett did get multiple world title reigns and a chance to main event in WCW but his return of attacking Buff Bagwell and proclaiming himself as the “Chosen One” was quite uninspiring. Russo just thought a heel talking trash would be enough to create a huge star and squandered Jarrett’s big return by creating little momentum.
4 Randy Savage
There’s no argument that Randy Savage is one of the greatest wrestlers of all time and gave us a body of work that fans continue to enjoy to this day. Savage put out great matches for years but his final days in WCW were embarrassing for the legendary star. The Macho Man we all knew and loved ditched his colorful tassels for pink fur jackets and leather pants. Savage was dealing with the process of aging at the time and dressed like a dad looking to fit in with his teenage kids. His return, after leaving television for a few months, saw him attack Kevin Nash and try to establish himself as the top heel in the promotion with the nWo days long gone. It was a horrible way for the elite performer to end his career.
3 Alex Wright
Alex Wright's abilities were underrated by WCW and wrestling fans for many years but he worked to the best of his abilities to entertain. Wright used his dancing gimmick to deliver comedy moments but still performed great matches due to his immense skill. After the rise of WCW ended, the company was starting to rebuild with new characters and that saw Wright leave television to come back with a new gimmick. Wright was repackaged as Berlyn, an anti-American heel with the new look of a Mohawk and goatee. Berlyn was a complete mess that bored fans from the start and suffered a brutal flop until Wright was forced to bring back his old gimmick.
2 Dustin Rhodes
Dustin Rhodes is one of the few wrestlers to break in during the early 80s and still have a role on television today. Most love him for the Goldust character in WWE but he has wrestled as Dustin Rhodes for a large part of his career in WCW. His better times in WCW were during the early days with his return in 1999 leading to failure. Rhodes returned as the mysterious “Seven” character after weeks of vignettes but it was a misdirection with him cutting a worked shoot promo against it and declaring he would be wrestling as Rhodes. Things would get worse with Rhodes getting suspended for badmouthing Russo in interviews and returning with irrelevant matches.
Bill Goldberg's ascension was arguably the biggest accomplishment by WCW in terms of creating a new homegrown star. Goldberg represented someone WCW debuted and made fans want to watch beat others up and win championships. The wrecking ball of destruction would stay as a face for the majority of his career but WCW tried to make him a heel after an injury (the opposite of what you should do with a star returning from injury). Goldberg returned after time off television by turning heel to align with Vince Russo and Eric Bischoff. While the intention was for him to enter a feud with Kevin Nash, seeing him join up with two goofy authority figures harmed him greatly. The move was the final straw in the bad decisions of WCW and killed Goldberg’s character.