WCW was a pro wrestling company that went through many changes over the years. The company was a revolving door of different executives in power that had very different visions on what WCW should have looked like as a product. From Jim Herd who tried to mimic the cartoon gimmicks of WWE to Eric Bischoff’s lavish spending on big stars such as the nWo to Vince Russo’s shock television and love of worked shoots, the WCW product looked very different under different regimes. With that said, it was also a revolving door for talent. When one executive got the axe, the talent he was pushing almost always followed. This was especially true when the Bill Watts’WCW era ended. A lot of Watts’ old school slower tempo mat wrestlers left WCW once he was out of power. And we can’t forget Ric Flair’s willingness to return to WCW in 1993 because Jim Herd had been shown the door. Turmoil and instability in WCW also led to the constant comings and goings in the talent roster. Some fans might be surprised at who has made their way through WCW while other fans might have simply forgotten. Let’s take a look at the top 15 wrestlers you forgot wrestled in WCW.
Gangrel was WWE’s resident vampire during the Attitude Era. Gangrel was best known for his alliances with Edge & Christian (The Brood), The Hardy Boyz (The New Brood), and The Undertaker’s Ministry of Darkness. Some wrestling fans might have forgotten that before he was spitting blood from a goblet, Gangrel made a couple of brief stops in WCW. Gangrel first found wrestling success in a masked tag team called The Blackhearts. The Blackhearts had a brief run in WCW in 1993. They left WCW shortly after starting a feud with The Cole Twins. Just before signing with WWE, Gangrel made a return to WCW without a mask and without a partner. He wrestled under his real name, David Heath. Heath jobbed to Rey Mysterio and Chris Jericho on “B” shows such as WCW Pro and WCW Worldwide.
14 Rick Martel
Rick Martel is best know to pro wrestling fans for his time in WWE and as a former world champion in Verne Gagne’s AWA. Martel also captured the WWE Tag Team Championship with both Tony Garea and Tito Santana. His most successful run in WWE came with the gimmick of the arrogant “Model”. The Model Rick Martel was a pretty boy heel with a mean streak and was known for blinding opponents with his “Arrogance” cologne. One angle saw Martel blind Jake the Snake Roberts then face him in the infamous blindfold match at WrestleMania VII. Martel disappeared from WWE in 1995 before resurfacing in WCW in 1997. His WCW run was brief and cut short by injury. The run was short but very sweet. Martel scored victories over Eddie Guerrero, Perry Saturn, and defeated Booker T for the WCW Television Championship.
13 Rob Van Dam
Rob Van Dam has been a pro wrestling superstar in every promotion he has wrestled in. From ECW to WWE to TNA, Van Dam has been a champion and a winner. However, most superstar pro wrestlers start out with humble beginnings. It was during his humble beginnings that some fans might remember a very young RVD wrestling under the name Robbie V in WCW in 1993. He was victorious over jobbers such as Pat Rose and Rip Rogers before entering a tournament for the vacant WCW Television Championship. Scott Steiner, who left for WWE, had left the title vacant. Robbie V defeated Shanghai Pierce aka Mark Canterbury (WWE’s Henry Godwinn) in the first round and lost to Vinnie Vegas aka Kevin Nash in the second round. Mr. Wonderful Paul Orndoff eventually won the tournament. Robbie V disappeared from WCW after the tournament and the rest, as we say, is history.
12 The Berzerker
John Nord is best known to pro wrestling fans as monster heels The Berzerker in WWE and Nord The Barbarian in the AWA. Nord was also briefly repackaged in the AWA as baby face Yukon John Nord. He borrowed a lot of his mannerisms and move set in the ring from Bruiser Brody whom he had a friendship with. The Berzerker had an infamous feud with The Undetaker in WWE. During a match on WWE Superstars of Wrestling, The Berzerker attempted to stab the Deadman with a sword. This was a bit controversial considering it was 1992 and well before the Attitude Era. What some fans may have forgotten is that Nord also had a brief stay in WCW during 1997 and 1998.While in WCW, Nord formed a short lived tag team with Barry Darsow and scored wins over other midcard guys like The Barbarian. In one of his last WCW television appearances, Nord was beaten in a somewhat competitive match against Goldberg.
Edge is completely synonymous with WWE. The 2012 Hall of Famer was one of the most popular and entertaining WWE Superstars during his ten plus year run. From his gothic beginnings to his tag team with Christian and then finally to becoming the Rated R Superstar, Edge was able to evolve and remain a crowd favorite over the years. He was one of the young talents that help WWE beat WCW in the Monday Night Wars. But, how close was Edge to being in WCW and trying to help bury WWE during the Monday Night Wars? WCW was never close to signing Edge away but they were close to having him before WWE. Two years before Edge signed with WWE, he wrestled a couple of matches for one of WCW’s “B” shows called WCW Pro. Under the ring name Damon Striker, he lost matches to Kevin Sullivan and Meng. Following his jobs on WCW Pro, it would be on to bigger and better things for Damon Striker.
Nailz was a creation of Vince McMahon in 1992. Nailz was supposedly a former prisoner that was abused by The Big Bossman and wanted revenge. The character was played by Kevin Kelly. Kelly was previously “Mr. Magnificent” Kevin Kelly in the AWA. Following the conclusion of his feud with The Big Bossman, WWE booked Nailz in a big money feud with The Undertaker. However, before the feud could get going Kelly was involved in a backstage altercation with Vince McMahon, which led to him being fired. Kelly defiantly continued to use the gimmick under different names such as The Convict and The Prisoner in promotions such as the American Wrestling Federation and in WCW. The Prisoner was a last second replacement for Scott Norton in a match against Sting at Slamboree 1993. Fans yelled “This is BULL S**T!” as Kelly made his way to the ring. Fans then seemed bored throughout a sloppy match eventually won by Sting. Needless to say that The Prisoner was allowed to escape WCW.
9 Tyler Mane
Tyler Mane is currently an actor who is best known for his portrayal of Hollywood villains such as Halloween’s Michael Myers and X-Men’s Sabretooth. However in the early 1990s, instead of battling the likes of Dr. Sam Loomis and Wolverine, Mane was taking on Ric Flair and Sting in a WCW ring. Mane was known as Big Sky during his early 1990s run in WCW. Big Sky was a midcard big man who usually only beat jobbers when he wasn’t busy being one himself. He also formed a midcard tag team with Vinnie Vegas aka Kevin Nash. Mane was already dabbling in film before he retired from wrestling in the mid 1990s. Mane was a decent wrestler and who knows what could have been if he would have stuck with it. However, it’s hard to argue with the way things turned out for him. Besides, arguing with Michael Myers is probably not a good idea.
Glen Jacobs struggled through a number of bad gimmicks before landing the gimmick of a lifetime of the burned up and masked younger brother of The Undertaker in 1997. Prior to Kane, Jacobs was the Fake Diesel and Jerry the King Lawler’s demented dentist Isaac Yankem DDS in WWE. He was also saddled with failed gimmicks in regional promotions such as the USWA where he was Doomsday and the ridiculous Christmas Creature and Smokey Mountain Wrestling where he was Unabomb. Some fans may have forgotten that Jacob’s long road to becoming the Devil’s Favorite Demon also included a stop in WCW. In 1993 under the ring name Bruiser Mastino, Jacobs wrestled WCW’s franchise Sting on an episode of WCW Saturday Night. It was a glorified squash match that saw Mastino tap to Sting’s Scorpion Death Lock.
7 Owen Hart
Owen Hart stayed loyal to Vince McMahon and WWE in the wake of the infamous Montreal Screwjob in 1997. Even when his brother Bret Hart and brother-in-laws Davey Boy Smith and Jim the Anvil Neidhart left for WCW, he remained as the last Hart standing in WWE. Hart never defected to rival WCW during the Monday Night Wars. However, what some fans may have forgotten is that Owen Hart already made a stop in WCW in 1991. Following his first stint as the Blue Blazer in WWE during the late 1980s, Hart landed in WCW without a mask or flashy gimmick. He simply wrestled as Owen Hart and was briefly introduced to WCW fans in a series of squash matches against jobbers such as Rip Rogers, Pat Rose, and Mark Kyle. He also wrestled a tag team squash match with Ricky Morton as his partner. His stay in WCW was brief and then Hart left for another run with WWE that lasted until his untimely death in 1999.
Before hitting big time wrestling success with WWE in the mid to late 1980s, Hercules wrestled in a number of regional promotions such as Mid-South Wrestling, World Class Championship Wrestling, and NWA Jim Crockett Promotions. However, he wrestled under masks in the Mid-South as Mr. Wrestling II and in the NWA as the Masked Assassin II. Hercules hit his stride as a wrestler while in high profile WWE feuds with Billy Jack Haynes, The Ultimate Warrior, and The Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase from 1987 to 1989. The Mighty One was eventually relegated to a jobber and left WWE in 1992. He also seemingly left the pro wrestling scene altogether but in reality landed in WCW in 1992. Some fans will say that they don’t remember seeing Hercules in WCW in 1992 and they would be correct. Hercules again donned a mask and took on the persona of the mysterious Super Invader from Bangkok, Thailand. He was managed by Harley Race and often teamed with stable mate Vader.
5 David Sammartino
David Sammartino is best known to pro wrestling fans as the son of the legendary Living Legend Bruno Sammartino. Sammartino had brief success during the 1980s largely based on promoters wanting to cash in on the Sammartino name. Some promoters even billed him as Bruno Sammartino Jr. His greatest accomplishment was being chosen to wrestle at the original WrestleMania in 1985. However, Sammartino’s WrestleMania match with Brutus Beefcake was a forgettable double disqualification. He also wrestled for Verne Gagne’s AWA where he feuded with Stan Hansen in 1986 and Herb Abram’s UWF where he feuded with Cactus Jack in 1991. He disappeared from the national scene for a few years before joining WCW for a cup of tea in 1996. Sammartino unsuccessfully challenged Dean Malenko for the WCW Cruiserweight Championship before vanishing again.
4 Bill Kazmaier
Bill Kazmaier is best known in the world of power lifting and strongman competitions. Kazmaier was a three time World’s Strongest Man and has won numerous other power lifting and strength competitions. He has also broken a number of power lifting and strongman records. After retiring from active competition, Kazmaier became one of the voices for the World’s Strongest Man competition on ESPN. Some pro wrestling fans may have forgotten the name Kazmaier. He wrestled in Stu Hart’s Stampede Wrestling during the 1980s and even wrestled an untelevised match for WWE in 1986. Kazmaier also gained national pro wrestling exposure in WCW in 1991. He had a brief run that included a pretty good push in which he rarely lost. His defeats usually came in title matches in which he came up a bit short. Kazmaier challenged for both Lex Luger’s WCW Championship and The Enforcers’ tag team championship with Rick Steiner as his partner.
3 Billy Jack Haynes
Controversial and outspoken pro wrestling superstar Billy Jack Haynes first made a name for himself wrestling in regional promotions such as Pacific Northwest Wrestling and World Class Championship Wrestling in the early 1980s. Haynes also made several successful tours of Japan for New Japan Pro Wrestling. He then made it big in the later 1980s in WWE. Haynes biggest claim to WWE fame was his feud with the Mighty Hercules that culminated in a match at WrestleMania III. After a nasty divorce from WWE, Haynes wrestled for Herb Abram’s UWF, the USWA, and WCW. Haynes wrestled in WCW? If we’re going to be technical then Billy Jack Haynes actually didn’t wrestle in WCW but Black Blood did. Black Blood was Haynes’ masked persona. Black Blood was an executioner style character that was billed from France and was managed by Kevin Sullivan. He briefly feuded with Big Josh aka Matt Borne before exiting WCW for good.
2 Mil Mascaras
Lucha Libre legend Mil Mascaras has wrestled all over the world and is an icon in his home country of Mexico. In addition to his success in Mexico, Mascaras also had tremendous international success including the United States. He had runs with WWE during the 1970s and early 1980s that included shots at Superstar Billy Graham’s WWE Championship and Don Muraco’s Intercontinental Championship. Mascaras later participated in the 1997 Royal Rumble. Throughout the 1980s, he also wrestled in various US promotions such as the NWA,CWA,AWA, and World Class Championship Wrestling.What some fans may have forgotten is that the Mexican superstar also made a few appearances for WCW in 1990. In his most high profile match, Mascaras wrestled Cactus Jack aka Mick Foley at Clash of Champions X: Texas Shootout. He picked up the win after hitting his famous finisher; the flying cross body press.
1 AJ Styles
AJ Styles has made a tremendous name for himself in the world of pro wrestling in the last few years. Not that Styles wasn’t already a big name in pro wrestling but in the last four years he has gone from being “Mr. TNA” to IWGP Champion and leader of the Bullet Club to WWE Champion. Many fans assume that Styles started his national pro wrestling career with TNA Wrestling. Some fans may have forgotten that he wrestled in WCW right before it was purchased by WWE. Styles was part of a WCW tag team with Air Paris called Air Raid during early 2001. Air Raid was not picked up by WWE after the purchase and as result Styles was not part of the Invasion Angle. Maybe it was just as well because the Invasion was a miserable failure in the eyes of most fans and critics. However, Styles did wrestle a match in WWE against The Hurricane on a show called Metal in 2002. So technically, his debut in the 2016 Royal Rumble match was a re-debut.