Some say the ’90s decade, which included the Monday Night War between WWE and WCW and the rise of ECW, was the greatest time to be a wrestling fan. That might be true, as each promotion was always trying to top each other week after week, which created some very entertaining television.
In the end, the WWE won the war. The main reason why they won, is that they created and pushed new talent. While on the other hand, WCW for the most part decided to go with older, more established stars. While that worked in the beginning with the creation of the nWo, fans were tired of seeing the same old guys at the top. At the same time, ECW simply couldn’t compete with the two mega promotions and its assets were purchased by WWE.
The unfortunate thing for WCW is that some of the wrestlers who played a part in taking them out of business were once their own talent. For various reasons, WCW management thought these wrestlers were expendable. Some of these wrestlers still had decent careers in WCW, but when they were given different gimmicks, their popularity absolutely exploded in the WWE.
It’s impossible to predict how these wrestlers careers would of turned out, if they had stayed in WCW. You can be for certain though, that if the WWE did not have the wrestlers that are on this list, the landscape of professional wrestling would not be the same as it is today. WCW could of been still around. I guess it is true what they say, Hindsight is 20/20, it’s just too bad WCW will never get to learn from their mistakes.
Here are the top 15 wrestlers WCW let slip away during the ’90s.
15. Marc Mero and Sable
Marc Mero had a decent run in WCW, easily the best run of his career. As Johnny B. Badd he won the U.S Championship on three different occasions. He left WCW over an angle he didn’t want to be a part of, taking his wife Rena with him.
Let’s get this straight, the only reason Marc Mero makes this is because of his wife Rena, who took the name of Sable when she entered the WWE. Marc Mero’s run wasn’t the worst though. He did manage to win the Intercontinental Championship, but battled numerous injuries throughout his time in the WWE.
Soon after debuting, Sable became way more popular than her husband Mero. Once they split her from her husband, her popularity exploded. She became known as one of the first official WWE Divas. Although she did win the WWE Women’s Championship, she was known more for her sex appeal. People were tuning into Raw just to see how revealing an outfit she was wearing.
Rhino was just a young twenty year old kid, when he stepped through the doors of WCW in 1995. He made only three appearances, including a Television Title match against WCW’s Ultimate Warrior ripoff, The Renegade, a match which he lost.
Although he didn’t wrestle for the WWE until after the Monday Night War, he played a integral part of ECW’s success. One of WCW’s main faults was not creating new young talent. If they only saw the potential in Rhino, they would have had a great talent, who could have taken them into the 2000s and beyond. The possibility of seeing a Rhino vs. Goldberg match would have been very intriguing.
13. The Big Boss Man
The Big Boss Man had a good first run in WWE from 1988-1993. He was involved in feuds with the biggest Superstars, including Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan. After not getting much of a push, he signed with WCW in 1993. He would spend five years in WCW, going by a few different monikers, including The Boss and Guardian Angel. Due to various reasons he was stuck in a mid card position for most of his run, and was released in 1998.
The Big Boss Man rejoined the WWE in 1998 with a new S.W.A.T. style look and immediately aligned himself with Vince McMahon. He was McMahon’s personal bodyguard and played an important role in the McMahon vs. Stone Cold feud. His other notable feud during the Monday Night War, was with The Undertaker, which culminated in a Hell in a Cell match at WrestleMania XV. The WWE was able to get a lot more out Big Boss Man than WCW ever did.
Edge had only a cup of coffee with WCW in 1995. He wrestled only two matches, one against Kevin Sullivan and the other against Meng. WCW didn’t see anything special in him, so they didn’t sign him to a contract.
Edge signed a development contract with WWE in 1997. He didn’t make his actual debut on Raw until the Summer of 1998. Although Edge didn’t play a huge role in the Monday Night War, he was part of the very popular Brood stable with fellow wrestlers Christian and Gangrel and went on to become a multiple-time champion.
If the WCW spent a little less time thinking about having success in the present and instead spent some time worrying about their future, they could have realized the potential that they had with Edge.
Sean Waltman had a great first run in WWE as the 1-2-3 Kid. His breakout performance came against Razor Ramon, where he scored an upset victory. He wound have three solid years with WWE, including winning the Tag Team Championship on two separate occasions, before signing with WCW in 1996.
Things were looking good for Waltman upon entering the WCW. He became a member of the nWo before the days where it seemed everybody was a part of the nWo. However, he never lived up to his potential in WCW and was fired just two years into his run.
Just days after his firing from WCW, Waltman returned to WWE under the new name of X-Pac. He promtly became of member of D-Generation X and in his very first promo, he tore apart WCW. X-Pac was one of most underrated work horses of the Monday Night War. His run with Kane might have been the best work of his career.
10. Rob Van Dam
Rob Van Dam signed with WCW in 1992. His run as Robbie V was short. He felt he wasn’t given a fair shot at being a star and left the WCW in 1993.
Rob Van Dam was ECW, plain and simple. His high flying style won over crowds. He held the ECW World Television Title for a record 700 days. WCW definitely could have used a wrester of Van Dam’s caliber. To be fair, the WWE did let Van Dam slip away too, as he had a tiny role in the WWE before his wrestling career really got started. In a segment, Ted DiBiase paid a young RVD $100 to kiss his feet.
9. Ron Simmons
Simmons is recognized as the first ever African American to win a World Heavyweight Championship in professional wrestling history. He accomplished this by defeating Vader in 1992 for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. Despite Simmons winning the title, his run in WCW was mostly as a midcard tag team performer. After no longer getting a major push as singles competitor, Simmons left the WCW in 1994.
Simmons initial debut in the WWE was unspectacular. He portrayed a gladiator gimmick and was managed by future Hall of Fame Diva, Sunny. After dropping the gimmick, he became a leader of the now famous stable, The Nation of Domination. They had many great moments as a group, including a memorable rivalry with D-Generation X.
After being kicked out of the stable by The Rock, Simmons (known as Faarooq) started a new team with Bradshaw called The Acolytes. They became a successful part of The Undertaker’s Ministry of Darkness. He and Bradshaw would go to win three Tag Team Championships.
Although Simmons never came close to winning the WWE Championship, it is easy to argue that he meant more to WWE than WCW back in the ’90s.
8. Big Show
It’s not too often you find a guy of Big Show’s size. He made his debut with the WCW in 1995 as The Giant. In his very first match he defeated Hulk Hogan for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. He would have a fairly successful time with WCW, including a stint in the nWo and one more Heavyweight Championship reign. However, he felt he wasn’t getting paid a fair amount and WCW refused to give him a pay increase when he asked for one. The WCW decided to let him walk away in 1999, despite Big Show being only twenty-seven-years-old.
Upon his debut in WWE, Big Show made an immediate impact. He interfered in a Stone Cold vs. Mr.McMahon Steel Cage match, accidentally costing Mr.McMahon the match when he tossed Austin right through the cage wall. He would win his first WWE Championship later that year in a Triple Threat match against The Rock and Triple H. The Big Show earned a well deserved spot at the top of the WWE card. The WCW clearly made a mistake by letting him go.
7. Brian Pillman
Pillman had a solid seven year run with WCW. He was known for his high flying, acrobatic style. He was a two time WCW Lightweight Champion, as well as one time Tag Team Champion, along side Steve Austin as a member of the Hollywood Blondes. In a controversial ” I Respect You Strap Match” against then WCW booker Kevin Sullivan, Pillman ended the match by saying ” I respect you, booker man.” The WCW did not like Pillman breaking kayfabe, so Eric Bischoff immediately fired him.
Pillman’s tenure with WWE was a short one, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t have a huge impact. The “Pillman’s Got a Gun” angle, was arguably the angle that started the Attitude Era. It was dark and it was full of profanity. The same kind of stuff that WWE would become famous for. Sadly, Pillman passed away from a heart attack in 1997, but not without leaving a huge mark on the Monday Night War.
Dustin Rhodes had three different stints with WCW. His first stint only lasted a year from 1988 to 1989 before he briefly went to WWE. He came back to WCW in 1991 and stayed for four years. He had some decent success in his second run, capturing the United States Championship. Rhodes was fired after he purposefully bladed himself in order to draw blood, which was against WCW policy.
Rhodes joined WWE for a second stint 1995, as the bizarre character of Goldust.
His new character was an immediate hit, as it was something not seen before in professional wrestling. In his first year he defeated Razor Ramon for the Intercontinental Championship. After a successful run, Rhodes left the WWE for WCW in 1999. The WCW wasn’t able to utilize Rhodes as well as WWE did and he did nothing of relevance in his last WCW run.
5. The New Age Outlaws
Both members of The New Age Outlaws once wrestled for WCW. The Road Dogg wrestled under the name of Brian Armstrong during his couple of years with the promotion. He was often just a jobber during his time with WCW and his one highlight was facing Lord Steven Regal for the World Television Championship, a match which he lost.
Billy Gunn’s stint in WCW was a very brief one, as he was nothing more than an enhancement talent before signing with WWE in 1993.
The New Age Outlaws formed as a team in WWE back in 1997. Soon after, they joined the revolutionary group D-Generation X. They were arguably the most popular tag team during the Monday Night Wars winning the WWE Tag Team Championship five times … and once more years down the road.
4. Mick Foley
Mick Foley debuted in WCW as the wild man Cactus Jack. He spent time as both a face and a heel. He made a name for himself in hardcore match types. He wasn’t too successful championship wise, as his only title win was a WCW Tag Team Championship while teamed with Kevin Sullivan.
Mick Foley’s run with WWE during the Monday Night War was by far the greatest work of his career. He put his body through hell and the fans loved him for it. The Undertaker throwing Foley off the Cell through a table is still one of the craziest moments in wrestling history. For all his hard work and for putting his body on the line, he got some well deserved recognition as WWE Championship. The WCW should have appreciated Foley way more than they did.
3. Triple H
Triple H’s run in WCW laid the ground works for what he would eventually become in WWE. He had a similar snobby character in WCW, as the one he would have when he first entered WWE. It was in WCW where he would first use the Pedigree as his finisher. After having some success as a tag team wrestler, Triple H wanted to try and be a singles competitor. WCW wasn’t ready to give him that shot, so he left the promotion in 1995 after just one year.
As stated previously, Triple H’s first character in WWE was very similar to the one he portrayed in WCW. Triple H had some success early on, winning the Intercontinental Championship. It wasn’t until he became a part of D-Generation X that his popularity really started to sky rocket. It didn’t take too long before he won his first WWE Championship in a match against Mankind. WCW really missed out on having one of the most successful wrestlers of all time.
2. The Undertaker
The man now known as The Undertaker, made his WCW debut in 1989, under the moniker of “Mean” Mark Callous. His character was dark in nature, but nowhere near as dark as he would become in WWE. He didn’t have too much success during his two years with WCW, failing to win a single title.
The Undertaker played a part in many major storylines while with WWE during the Monday Night War. He was also took part in some of the most memorable matches during that time period. It’s hard to imagine WWE without The Undertaker.
It’s hard to say if a character like him would of worked in WCW. Even without The Undertaker character, his wrestling skills alone for a guy his size should have been enough for WCW to not let him go.
1. Stone Cold Steve Austin
Steve Austin had a fairly successful four year run with WCW. In his first year in 1991, he won the Television Championship, in a match against Bobby Eaton. He also had a successful tag team run with Brian Pillman as The Hollywood Blondes. He had two reigns as United States Champion, including a victory over Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. WCW didn’t see Austin in their future plans as he was rudely fired in 1995.
Stone Cold Steve Austin was the key piece in WWE winning the Monday Night War. He is without question, in the conversation for being the greatest WWE Superstar of all-time. His feud with Vince McMahon will go down as one of the greatest in wrestling history. If only WCW realized what they truly had in Steve Austin, they migth be in the place that WWE is today.
Stone Cold Steve Austin was the wrestler of the ’90s.
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