Throughout the majority of the 1990s WWE and WCW locked horns and did battle for the grand prize of being professional wrestling’s number one company. Most of that battle took part during the latter half of the decade once the two companies had their flagship shows taking place on Monday nights, WWE’s Raw and WCWs Nitro. While WCW had the upper hand for a while and Vince McMahon’s back was well and truly against the wall, it was of course WWE who ultimately won out and WCW is now just a chapter in pro wrestling history.
During that decade there was understandably an awful lot of jumping ship and switching of work places. Aside from the likes of The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels, there aren’t many Superstars who wrestled during that period that didn’t do work for both. Saying that even Undertaker wrestled under WCW’s banner for a short while before adopting The Deadman moniker. While wrestlers like Stone Cold and Eddie Guerrero will not have had any regrets about the move they made to WWE, there are an awful lot of wrestlers who at one point thought WCW was the future and the right move to make. Some will have unquestionably regretted that decision once all was said and done, and here’s a run down of fifteen of those wrestlers.
15 Roddy Piper
The late, great, WWE Hall of Famer Roddy Piper will forever be known as one of the greatest wrestlers to never be World Champion. After years of success, aside from a World Title run, in WWE Piper thought he would try his hand in WCW like so many of his former peers already had done. I’m sure in his mind that a World Championship run would be in the offing for him also if he switched companies. That did not happen. Roddy renewed an old feud with Hulk Hogan when he arrived in WCW. Piper registered wins against The Hulkster, but never when the gold was on the line. Piper wound up being just another casualty of the nWo time and time again.
14 Ted DiBiase
The Million Dollar Man, Ted DiBiase also jumped ship to WCW at a similar time to Roddy Piper. He didn’t immediately suffer the wrath of the nWo however, because he joined them. Ted couldn’t use his Million Dollar Man gimmick as it was the property of WWE, but he acted as the financier to Hogan, Hall, and Nash. That was about as in depth as DiBiase’s role got however which seemed a tremendous waste of his talent. In an interview about his time in WCW DiBiase said that he had been promised the role of mouthpiece of the nWo, but Eric Bischoff later decided that was a part he wanted for himself. Ted had proved in WWE that he could talk like the best of them, clearly WCW and Bischoff didn’t see that.
In WCW she was called Madusa, in WWE she was known as Alundra Blayze. Her move from the latter to the former may be the most infamous in the history of the Monday Night War between the two brands. Blayze appeared on Nitro unbeknownst to WWE along with the WWE Women’s Championship as she still had the title at the time. By order of Eric Bischoff Madusa dropped the belt into a garbage can live on WCW television. It was an action that saw her black balled by WWE for almost 20 years and one that she has since said she did against her will, being convinced by Bischoff that it would make good television. As I mentioned WWE took a long time to forgive Blayze and she has only recently taken her deserved place in the Hall of Fame.
12 Lex Luger
This one might be a little bit of a head scratcher for some of you. Lex Luger actually had a pretty good time in WCW all told. In fact his move between brands is widely regarded as the night the Monday Night War between WWE and WCW officially began. Like Madusa, WWE was left shell shocked when Lex showed up on Nitro, it’s first ever edition, without them knowing. Despite Luger’s WCW success The Lex Express still must wonder to this day how his career trajectory would have gone had he remained on what wound up being the winning side. Vince McMahon ear marked Luger to be the next Hulk Hogan and had he been given more time, maybe he would have had some more success with that venture.
11 The Shockmaster
Before the man behind the infamous Shockmaster mask donned the helmet and fell through that wall, he had actually enjoyed a lot of success with WWE. Fred Ottman portrayed Tugboat and then Typhoon as one half of the tag team the Natural Disasters under Vince McMahon. WCW had different ideas for him. Ottman’s first appearance on WCW television involved him bursting through the wall during Ric Flair’s A Flair For The Gold as his new gimmick, The Shockmaster. Unfortunately it didn’t go to plan as Fred would trip and fall through the wall, forever becoming a running joke in the world of professional wrestling. To this day the clip gets regular airings in one way or another on WWE television.
10 Chris Jericho
Chris Jericho has seen it all and done it all in the business of professional wrestling, and continues to add to his impressive resume to this day, over 25 years since his debut match. While most of his time in the ring has been a roaring success, I’m sure there’s one particular chapter he would have liked to have gone differently. His time in WCW. Jericho clearly has bags of talent, yet in WCW during the late 1990s along with so many others he was continually passed over. Y2J even tried to force Eric Bischoff’s hand by repeatedly taking digs at Goldberg until the company’s prize possession had to respond. A quick squash later and it was back to square one for Chris though. In 1999 Jericho crossed the divide to WWE but I’m sure he wishes it had happened years earlier in lieu of his WCW spell.
9 Vince Russo
This article may be primarily about wrestlers, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a man like Vince Russo in this run down. Russo can be credited with a lot of the success WWE enjoyed during the late ’90s and was the mind behind much of what went on during the famous Attitude Era. For one reason or another though Russo eventually left WWE despite his and their success and tried his hand at making the same magic happen for WCW. Long story short, he was unsuccessful. While Vince deserves a pat on the back for the rise of WWE at that time, he equally deserves credit for the down fall of WCW. Evidently without a Vince McMahon like figure acting as a filter to Russo, all of his ideas got to see the light of day rather than just the good ones.
8 Curt Hennig
Like Roddy Piper, 'Mr Perfect' Curt Hennig is another name that instantly comes to mind when you discuss wrestlers who were World Championship worthy but never got the chance to reach those lofty heights. Again like Piper, Hennig made the leap to WCW from WWE around a year after Roddy in the hopes that Eric Bischoff would make him a major player and he would finally be able to add a World Championship to his resume. Once again, no such luck. Hennig became a part of the nWo and while it went well at first, it didn’t take long for the faction to reach it’s watered down form and thus drag Curt down with it. As the brand split into various different manifestations, Hennig actually at one time found himself on the nWo B-Team, not a place he should ever have been placed.
7 Ric Flair
Ric Flair is very likely the greatest wrestler of all time. A sixteen-time World Champion who wrestled around the world and for almost every promotion imaginable. He had a tremendous initial run with WCW and then tried his luck in WWE for a couple of years in the early ‘90s. Eventually Flair would return to WCW, however the landscape had very much changed. The company was beginning to legitimately want to compete with WWE and it simply wasn’t the same, Flair-centric place that Ric had left behind. The Nature Boy spent much of his second spell with the company butting heads with Eric Bischoff and other higher ups, especially when they forced Ric to cut off his signature hair for seemingly no reason at all.
6 Randy Savage
It’s still somewhat of a mystery as to why Vince McMahon fell out of love with The Macho Man. Partly it was clearly down to Vince trying to revive his roster with new talent, but it was still a little strange how Randy was treated considering what he had done for the company. McMahon had Savage doing color commentary when he clearly still had the ability to perform in the ring. Eventually Randy had enough and moved to WCW, joining his long time rival Hulk Hogan. It wasn’t all bad at first and Savage actually added to his World Championships while under his new employers. The years went by though and Macho Man became another casualty of the nWo and them being watered down. Had he stayed at WWE who knows, Vince may have had a change of heart and put Randy back in the ring, especially when the ratings crashed and WCW were number one.
5 Steven Regal
Much like Chris Jericho, William Regal is a very well travelled Superstar who has wrestled just about everywhere there is to wrestle. He dipped in and out of WCW and WWE throughout the 1990s and during the beginning of that decade actually enjoyed some success with the former, becoming Television Champion. In 1998 (Steven) Regal actually managed to get out of WCW while the getting was good and get a contract at WWE who were very much on the up. Unfortunately for the former European Champion he had some issues with drugs and his time with WWE at first was very short due to him having to check into rehab. Thanks to that dark period he had to return to WCW following his return to wrestling, a year he would have much rather spent with WWE who he of course managed to join once again shortly after and remains with to this day.
4 Sid Vicious
Nobody bounced around between pro wrestling companies during the 1990s quite like Sid, or Sid Vicious, or Sid Justice. No one changed names quite like him either! He had three spells in total with WCW and his final one was a very forgettable period. He rejoined the company in 1999, all while his friends Kevin Nash and Scott Hall were warning him to stay away. Years later I’m sure he wishes he had taken their advice. Sid became a part of the company’s rapid descent. He even had a joke streak, coming to the ring after Superstars had already been defeated and claiming he had earned wins over them. Oddly enough his low point came when he won the World Championship in a bizarre and embarrassing story line that saw the title traded sometimes inexplicably between himself and Nash.
3 Davey Boy Smith
Following The Montreal Screwjob in 1997, British Bulldog along with family members Jim Neidhart and Bret Hart (who we will of course get to) left for WCW. Needless to say things did not go well for Davey Boy Smith under the watch of WWE’s rivals. Not long into his WCW tenure Smith suffered an injury. No sooner had he managed to return to the ring he was injured again, but this time it was serious. Bulldog wound up almost paralyzed by a spinal infection and was in hospital for six months following the incident. It was actually this injury that led Davey to become addicted to painkillers, an addiction that would contribute to his death just a few years later.
A pretty smooth segue from British Bulldog is the time of The Ultimate Warrior in WCW. Why the pair are linked is because they both moved to WCW at around the same time and it was actually a trap door used by Warrior that led to Bulldog’s catastrophic injury. On arrival in the company Warrior’s gimmick saw him perform effectively magic tricks as he did battle with Hogan and the nWo. The trap door was something he would use to disappear from the ring in a cloud of smoke. All pretty hokey, and not the kind of hokey that works in pro wrestling. Warrior actually only had three matches in total in WCW believe it or not before retiring from wrestling the same year that he had signed with the company.
1 Bret Hart
It will come as no surprise to most of you that Bret Hart tops this list. The Hitman has openly admitted his regret at leaving WWE for WCW but at the time Bret really had no choice. His career went so rapidly downhill when he jumped ship. The very lowest point being when he wrestled Goldberg. Bret has commented on the incident in interviews since, saying he told Goldberg to please not hurt him. Well of course that tempted fate. Goldberg caught Hart in the face with a super kick and left him concussed. The effects of that match in particular eventually left Bret with no choice but to retire from in ring competition. That alone is more than enough reason for regretting wrestling in WCW, but Hart didn’t even have a good time aside from that one night and while he wrestled for Bischoff his glory years with WWE would have felt like an extremely distant memory.