It is incredibly easy for fans to rag on WWE nowadays. While there are plenty of things wrong with the product, one of the biggest complaints fans seem to have with it is that the company doesn't seem to know who to give a push to anymore. Common sense would say that the roster should be treated as a meritocracy; whoever has the most fans/generates the biggest reactions should get a push and eventually become a big star and bathe in champagne as their reward.
We as jaded fans however know better than that. If Roman Reigns' current status as World Champion wasn't enough of a clue, you can look throughout the company's history and see a number of times where the wrong guy was given the key to the city. As bad as WWE is, it's hard to beat WCW's incompetence.
Don't let the title of this piece fool you, I'm not implying that it is the wrestlers' faults for their placement on this list of failures. Hell, you're going to see plenty of names who are undisputed legends of pro wrestling, but it's sure as hell not for their careers in WCW. While some of these wrestlers failed because of their own problems, many of them were failures because of WCW's refusal to take advantage of their gifts. It's like having Nightcrawler in your School For Mutants and not putting him on the X-Men. Don't worry, a quick Google search should help you understand that one if you didn't get it.
I've ranked the people mostly in terms to how much potential they had against how much of it was actually realized in WCW.
So whether it be for their own deficiencies or their superiors' stupidity, I give you the top 15 failures in WCW history.
15 Mike Awesome
And you thought The Miz was a bad use of the word awesome.
To be fair, Mike Awesome was fine in ECW, in WCW though ohhh boy did they screw the pooch on this one. Signed to WCW while technically still being ECW World Champion, WCW could have capitalized on his badass nature to help their sagging company.
While it seemed like Awesome was being taken seriously for a while, he eventually got saddled with gimmicks like "Fat Chick Thriller" and "That 70s Guy".
Pretty sure even Chris Jericho couldn't make those gimmicks work. Though not his fault, Mike Awesome was definitely a WCW failure.
14 The Sandman
Sandman in WCW. Yeah it didn't sound good in my head either.
Some things in wrestling only work in the vacuum of a single promotion but nowhere else. While Sandman was a headlining act in ECW due to his off the wall violence, the relatively tame nature of WCW's hardcore division just wasn't going to satisfy his bloodlust.
He lasted a few months with Turner's corporate wrestling promotion before returning to ECW. If this looks like a hardcore underground band selling out and taming their act, it's only because it was.
13 Marty Jannetty
Alright Marty, Shawn Michaels may have completely overtaken you in the WWE but at least you can go to WCW and make a name for yourself eh?
Not quite. For whatever reason, Eric Bischoff signed Jannetty to a contract in 1998 to essentially become a jobber for other cruiserweights on his roster. It was clear that Jannetty was never going to be a star on the WCW roster as a solo act, just like his WWE run. Sad, but true.
12 Dustin Runnels
Alright, I realize that Undertaker was essentially a devil-worshiper in 1999, but this character was a little too much for a pro wrestling show.
Hyped up in vignettes as some kind of, comic book villain child abductor thing (seriously what the hell was he supposed to be), Dustin Runnels debuted in WCW as a mysterious character named Seven... for a couple of minutes.
Right after a minute or two, Runnels launched into a "shoot" promo where he blasted the dreaded powers that be for making him do this stupid gimmick and for treating his father Dusty Rhodes badly.
While the initial angle might have been a little intriguing, Dustin Runnels didn't end up going anywhere in WCW. This is likely due to WCW being WCW, but also due to Runnels' growing substance abuse problems. We'll remember the name of Goldust, but that's in WWE, not WCW.
11 Jim Neidhart
Jim Neidhart was never quite the big star that other members of the Hart family like Bret and Owen were, but still did pretty well for himself and could have done decently in WCW. If only WCW paid any attention...
Signing with Turner's promotion after the Montreal Screwjob, Neidhart got paid a lot of money to waste away on Thunder and WCW Saturday Night doing practically nothing. While it's unlikely that Neidhart would have been a big star at 43 years old, WCW could have done more with a name like Jim Neidhart than they did.
While I may label this a failure, I bet Neidhart was pretty happy with the money he got from his time in WCW.
Believe it or not, Sabu wasn't always the homicidal, genocidal and suicidal monster that we saw brutalize foes in ECW. He actually flirted with WCW for a while in 1995.
The relationship only lasted a few months though as it was clear that Sabu's style of wrestling just wasn't going to go over well with corporate suits at Turner Broadcasting. He did a couple matches, put some people through some tables and that was about it.
It was probably better that way for all parties as Sabu would have gotten lost in the nWo shuffle where in ECW he became one of their biggest stars. Nonetheless, a definite failure where his WCW career was concerned.
9 Jake Roberts
Blink and you would miss it, but Jake "The Snake" Roberts actually did wrestle in WCW for a brief time in 1992.
Despite possible brilliant feuds with Cactus Jack and Brian Pillman, Roberts' time in WCW lasted only a few months. Roberts himself has said that he originally signed a very lucrative deal with Kip Frye but his pay got drastically cut once Bill Watts was brought in.
Even if Roberts stuck around it's unlikely that he would be performing to the best of ability due to his well documented substance abuse problems. When the thing you're remembered for is a Coal Miner's Glove match, it's probably a sign that you failed in WCW.
8 Curt Hennig
Why would WCW mess with perfection?
One of WWE's biggest stars of the late 1980s and early 1990s, Hennig never quite hit the main event level in WWE but surely WCW would given how they pushed ex-WWE stars to the moon right?
Well they did, as long as you consider being another member of the nWo as a push. Couple that with a series of injuries which cut his time in WCW significantly and you're left with a lame run not befitting of a legend like Henning.
7 Ultimate Warrior
The mere fact that Ultimate Warrior was signed by WCW in 1998 should roll enough eyes to tell Eric Bischoff that it was a bad idea.
A relic from a bygone era, it was clear that Warrior's character just wasn't going to work in the late 1990s. His cartoonish feud with Hulk Hogan and the nWo was laughable and his Halloween Havoc 1998 match with Hogan was somehow worse.
I'm honestly not sure who to blame for this failure; WCW for even signing him at all, or Warrior's general lack of talent but whatever the case Ultimate Warrior was definitely a failure in WCW.
6 Eddie Guerrero
Drugs and alcohol are the mortal enemy of plenty a pro wrestler, and Eddie Guerrero was no exception.
That isn't to say that personal demons were the only reason why Guerrero ultimately failed in WCW. Like most cruiserweights in the company, Guerrero was viewed as a nice hand to have in the midcard and nothing more despite his undeniable charisma.
Although his death in 2005 was tragic, it's good that fans got to see his greatness on display in WWE even just for a little while in the mid 2000s.
5 Mick Foley
Just because Mick Foley can make anything seem believable, that doesn't mean you have to give him crap to work with.
While a program with WCW Champion Sting seemed like a great start for Foley it was only downhill from that. Through his WCW career Foley would develop amnesia and believe he was a sailor (not joking) and come close to the main event picture but only briefly sniff it.
Not a complete failure, but because WCW didn't quite get all they could out of Mrs. Foley's baby boy, I got no choice but to label Mick Foley as a WCW failure.
4 Rey Mysterio
Three words: unmasked Rey Mysterio. That's what Eric Bischoff thought would help Rey Mysterio. It didn't.
While Mysterio was the best high-flyer on North American soil, WCW didn't see any value in pushing Mysterio to the top of the card. Even worse, stripping Mysterio of his mask took away all the mystique of his character (not to mention the money from merchandise checks) and left Mysterio with no momentum.
It took a while for Mysterio to regain his star power in WWE but once he did he was a definite main eventer for the company and one of their top merchandise sellers.
He may have failed in WCW because the company underestimated him, but WWE didn't make that same mistake.
3 Chris Jericho
While nobody could have predicted just how big of a star Chris Jericho would become back in the 1990s, WCW definitely should have realized they had a superstar on their hands. But they didn't.
Stuck in mid-card purgatory for his entire WCW run, Jericho could seemingly have a good match with anyone and also was great at playing an annoying assclown that fans wanted to see get smacked around.
When it came time to create a new generation of stars around 1998-1999, WCW chose to pass on elevating Jericho, sending him into the arms of WWE. Where Jericho failed in WCW, he more than made up for with multiple world title runs in WWE.
2 Stone Cold
For plenty of millennials, there's no other name associated more to pro wrestling than Stone Cold Steve Austin. Austin is remembered as a WWE legend, but he could have easily been a WCW one, if the company was smart enough to use him correctly.
Never seeing him as anything more than a midcarder, the powers that be in WCW kept Austin in the mid card for his entire run there. Despite impressing audiences with his Hollywood Blondes tag team and matches with Ricky Steamboat, WCW never gave him a main event program.
After being infamously released via Fedex, Austin eventually landed in WWE where he became the biggest name in wrestling. Woops.
Austin may have failed in WCW, but he definitely had the last laugh.
1 Bret Hart
Nothing highlights the ineptitude of WCW more than how poorly the company used one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. Bret The Hitman Hart.
Let's put it this way; after the infamous Montreal Screwjob, there was no hotter name in pro wrestling than Hart. While he couldn't actually wrestle for the first 60 days after the screwjob due to a no-compete clause, WCW would surely push him as a headlining act once he could compete right?
Wrong. He instead became just another guy on the roster helping the nWo and flipping between heel/face too often for fans to care.
While Eric Bischoff says that Hart didn't seem motivated to work at WCW, Hart has said otherwise. Whoever the blame falls on, Hart is the biggest failure in WCW history due to the unlimited potential he had at the start.