Whether you watched both WWE and WCW during the Monday Night Wars or if you drew battle lines in the sand and picked a side, it’s hard to argue that no time was better to be a wrestling fan. Nitro and RAW brought out the very best of one another’s on-air product while going head-to-head from 1995 to 2001. Each company resorted to dirty tactics in order to succeed, like WCW revealing RAW's pre-taped results or WWE having D-X invade Nitro. But of all the ways they’d try to one up each other, the most exciting for fans was when a wrestler jumped ship.
This started early on during the Monday Night Wars when one of WWE’s top stars, Lex Luger, showed up on Nitro’s inaugural episode. Another memorable time the rug was pulled out from under WWE was when Rick Rude appeared on Raw and Nitro simultaneously, defecting to WCW’s live program while appearing on a pre-taped Raw. In the end, it was WWE who would win the battle, securing top WCW young stars such as Chris Jericho, The Big Show and The Radicalz along the way.
While many stars defected during the Monday Night War, this is a list of those who stayed put during that period. In some cases, it’s not a huge name, but one that makes you wonder how careers might’ve changed had they done so. In others it would’ve created nothing short of pandemonium had they swapped brands during the peak of the less than friendly competition, altering history completely.
15 Val Venis
While it may be hard for some to believe now, Val Venis was one of the most over superstars in the WWE during the Attitude Era. His stint in the WWE, which lasted five years, consisted of a few gimmick changes, but none as famous as his porn star character. Sure it was corny at times, but Val knew how to work the crowd, and was involved in storylines that were highly entertaining. During his run, Venis was able to capture every single undercard title.
Val Venis would have made a great addition to the WCW mid-card scene, as the company didn't really have too many mid-card talents. In fact the Big Valbowski may have added some depth to the United States Title, which was basically used to keep top stars quiet while waiting for their Heavyweight Title shot. At the very least, the addition of Val to WCW would have added an established oddball character to a roster filled with wrestlers who were over the hill, who could wrestle anywhere on the card.
Did you know the most dominant woman in the history of sports entertainment was almost a WCW star? She was made an offer to join WCW as the nWo’s bodyguard before Triple H and Shawn Michaels convinced WWE to sign her. The Ninth Wonder of the World was a massive success in WWE, the only female to hold the Intercontinental Championship, and had memorable angles with D-X, Eddie Guerrero and Y2J.
Chyna would’ve been a monstrous hit in WCW, especially after WWE established her as a woman who could more than handle herself against the men. While nobody can say for sure how her career, and perhaps even her tragic post-wrestling life would’ve gone had she jumped ship, it definitely would’ve been eventful for fans to see her mix it up in WCW. Chyna would’ve certainly been a key to WCW turning the tide in the ratings war. At the very least, it would’ve been great to see her deliver a beatdown on Asya!
13 "Diamond" Dallas Page
Aside from Sting and Goldberg, no WCW original was more beloved than DDP. He was one of the things WCW got right during the Monday Night War as fans clamored to see Page become a top star and they allowed it to happen. Had he defected at the height of his popularity, sharing the main event picture with the likes of The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin, the final nail in WCW’s coffin may have been hammered down much earlier than 2001.
DDP did wind up in WWE after WCW had died, but sadly didn’t become the player he should have. He was instantly put into a feud with The Undertaker and should’ve skyrocketed from there. Unfortunately the feud ended and Page was bogged down into a post-Invasion storyline with his old buddy Kanyon, becoming nothing short of a WWE jobber. Had he made the move early on, who knows what may have happened.
A presence and gimmick that would’ve been right at home during the Attitude Era. Imagine the heights Konnan could’ve reached had he been able to “speak on this” with a WWE mic in his hand. WCW was well aware of Konnan’s stature within the wrestling community and allowed him to flourish as a member of the nWo. One of the reasons he perhaps never went to WWE was because he had already been there before as the first Max Moon and didn't leave the company on the best of terms.
Had they been able to put past differences aside, Konnan would’ve been a coup for WWE to acquire during the wars and it would’ve been fun to see him perform in WWE with a proper gimmick. Konnan was instrumental backstage in WCW’s acquiring the luchadores utilized for the Cruiserweight division. Had he jumped ship, he likely would’ve taken others with him and we may have seen Rey Mysterio in WWE long before his 2002 debut.
11 Billy Gunn
Billy Gunn may have shed years of bad gimmicks by becoming a "Bad Ass" in The New Age Outlaws and D-X, but he never quite hit the heights he should have in WWE. When you look at his career, Gunn was all but guaranteed to elevate into main event status, but after a decent feud with The Rock, he was held back post-WCW purchase in a tag team with Chuck Palumbo and soon faded away from there.
Had WCW been able to lure Billy to their company a mere couple years earlier, he likely would’ve become a member of the nWo, but also likely would have achieved World Title status and had a run as the top guy of a company. Much like Chyna, securing Mr. Ass from WWE would have been a key to higher ratings. Had WCW folded anyway, Billy could’ve returned to WWE at a much higher stock level than just that of one half of a forgettable tag team.
10 "Macho Man" Randy Savage (Back To WWE)
It breaks my cold, little wrestling fan heart to think that the last night Randy Savage spent in WWE was as a commentator on RAW in 1994. It seems like all the big stars of the past got that one last night in the spotlight, even The Ultimate Warrior, but not the Macho Man. Sadly, after his death in 2011, that night will never come. Sure they honored him with a Hall of Fame induction in 2015, but he wasn’t able to be there to bury the hatchet himself.
Savage was treated well by WCW. He got multiple runs as World Champion and was heavily used to the best of his abilities during his time in the nWo. It’s tough to say if he and Vince McMahon could’ve put their differences aside to welcome Macho Man back to WWE at any point, but had Savage jumped ship during the Attitude Era, the list of dream match possibilities with the likes of Stone Cold, The Rock and Triple H are endless.
9 Tommy Dreamer
A pick that may seem off the board, but when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Aside from brief appearances during the late '90s cross promotion of ECW stars invading WWE, Tommy Dreamer is the only big ECW name who never defected. While guys like Taz, The Dudleyz, Raven and even The Sandman all had stints with the big two during the Monday Night War, Dreamer was loyal to Paul E. until ECW closed it’s doors for good in 2001.
While not every ECW star who jumped ship found success, you have to think a natural talent like Tommy who was beloved by fans would’ve thrived on the larger stage. More likely, and especially after seeing how WCW handled Sandman, he would have been a great addition to WWE’s Attitude Era. While he did have a decent WWE run after ECW died, who knows how Tommy would’ve done had he not stayed that last loyal extreme stalwart.
The late, great Yokozuna was an established main eventer long before the Monday Night War was even a thing. He was released from WWE in 1997 after failing to lose enough weight, unable to be cleared by more than one State Athletic Commission as an active wrestler. It was a tragic end to a wonderful career that would sadly lead to a pulmonary edema and his death in 2000.
WCW likely would’ve loved to have signed Yokozuna but couldn’t due to the same reasons he had to leave the WWE. Had he been able to get the weight down and become active again, he would’ve been nothing short of a huge (no pun intended) star in WCW. It would’ve been awesome to see him have an epic battle with The Giant or an actual decent feud with Hulk Hogan stemming from the one that never got to fully materialize in WWE in 1994.
7 Harlem Heat
Booker T broke out from Harlem Heat to wind up as the man in WCW before its closure, going on to become the most successful member of the WCW talent roster who went to WWE. Imagine how much bigger he could’ve been had he left WCW a few years earlier with his brother Stevie Ray. Harlem Heat are a WCW success story with ten Tag Team Championship reigns as arguably the greatest team in WCW history.
WWE wasn’t utilizing tag teams during the Attitude Era, and the ones they did weren’t done properly (see The Legion of Doom). Most Tag Team Champions during this time were mash-ups of main stars, used to push angles outside of tag team wrestling. Harlem Heat would’ve been a welcome wrench in the machine. It’s likely Booker T still would’ve broken out and become a star, but it also would’ve been nice to see Stevie Ray become more than just “the other guy” from one of wrestling’s all time greatest duos.
6 Ken Shamrock
Ken Shamrock left the world of ultimate fighting for the squared circle in 1997 and became a pretty big star in the WWE. He had excellent feuds with D-X, The Rock and The Undertaker while holding nearly every title except the WWE Championship. This was the problem. He should have!
Shamrock, for whatever reason, became the guy who was big enough to job to the main event roster but never big enough to join them. It’s unclear exactly why; the fans would’ve certainly bought him as champion. He left WWE in 1999 to return to MMA, but it would’ve been nicer for wrestling fans had he jumped to WCW instead and been given his due with a World Title run. The thought of him in the ring with the likes of Chris Benoit and Curt Hennig or in a battle for the ages against Ric Flair has us salivating. It would have been epic.
5 Scott Steiner
Perhaps no wrestler on the WCW roster would’ve had more success in the WWE during the Monday Night War than Scott Steiner. From 1998 to 2000, he went from being a mullet-headed, goody-two-shoe Steiner Brother to World Champion as Big Poppa Pump. WWE tried their best to recreate the magic when Steiner arrived in 2002, but it just never turned out the way they hoped.
Had Steiner defected a few years earlier, WWE would’ve run with it and he would have climbed the ladder fast. Big Poppa Pump was certainly a character inspired by the boundary pushing antics that were going on in the WWE’s Attitude Era and Steiner would have fit right in. It would have been amazing to see him in the ring with Kane or The Undertaker in the prime of his character or perhaps even more exciting to see him promo off with the likes of The Rock or Stone Cold Steve Austin.
4 Owen Hart
After the infamous Montreal Screwjob and brother Bret went to WCW, Owen was contractually obligated to remain with WWE. His return at D-Generation X: In Your House should’ve led to one of the greatest feuds of all time against Shawn Michaels, but the rise of Stone Cold Steve Austin could not be denied and he was pushed aside. Owen was never used to his full potential on WWE television after this, being put in angles with The Nation, Jeff Jarrett and was forced to return to the maligned Blue Blazer gimmick.
Had Owen been able to join The Hitman, The Anvil and The Bulldog in WCW, not only would he have likely been able to climb to the top of the company, but WCW may have not screwed up their use of Bret Hart so badly. The elephant in the room, of course, is that if Owen had left WWE, the tragic events of his death in Kansas City never would have ever occurred.
3 The Undertaker
The Undertaker has been the foundation of WWE since he debuted with the company in 1990. After subpar runs as Mean Mark Callous and other bland gimmicks in WCW, Mark Calaway was given the gimmick that was perfect for him and would build his legacy in the business. The Undertaker was the leader of the WWE locker room for many years and always remained loyal to Vince McMahon. There were times that any other man's patience would have been broken. It always felt like The Undertaker deserved more title runs, but he was constantly pushed aside through the Attitude Era, having not held the world title between mid 1997 and mid 2002.
When The Undertaker took time off due to an injury in late 1999, a jump to WCW would have been absolutely epic to kick off the new millennium. Can you imagine Undertaker making his WCW debut with his biker gimmick?
A main problem with WCW was that there were too many egos in the locker room and they didn't have the alpha male who had the business's interests ahead of each individual. 'Taker would have been able to command the WCW locker room and could have pushed them in the right direction.
For all of what WCW was lacking, their most pressing need was leadership and 'Taker easily could have provided that.
More than Goldberg, the nWo and any other name in the history of the company, Sting was WCW. Had he left for WWE, the very landscape of wrestling would have drastically altered. From 1987 to the final night of Nitro, Sting was the face of the company. While he would step aside and be passed over time and time again by new stars or incoming WWE talent, he never wavered. It’s not that WWE didn’t want Sting, quite the contrary, but rather that he never wanted to go there.
An endless list of dream match possibilities of Sting in his prime squaring off against the best of the best from the WWE roster is something we’ll never get to see. A brief stint a couple years ago and a match against Triple H before his Hall of Fame induction is seemingly all we’re ever gonna get. Had it happened during the Monday Night War, literally nothing would’ve been the same.
1 Shawn Michaels
There’s one blockbuster name on the WWE’s list of legends who, had he jumped ship to join his buddies in WCW, would’ve no doubt been the biggest acquisition WCW could’ve ever imagined. Shawn Michaels never stepped foot in a WCW ring in his career. There was always rumors, especially after Michaels had retired in 1998, that he would wind up in what seemed like his rightful spot as a member of the real nWo in WCW.
Had HBK gone south, it’s tough to say how things would’ve turned out. Would WCW have gone out of business when it did? Would it have gone out of business at all? It’s possible WWE would’ve taken a blow so hard that all the shenanigans of the Attitude Era wouldn’t have been enough to pull ahead in the ratings. Nobody can say for sure what would’ve happened, but one thing’s certain, aside from scoring The Undertaker, Shawn Michaels is the one name that could've changed the tides of fate and altered the course of both companies' histories forever.