World Championship Wrestling was consistently the number two wrestling promotion in America behind World Wrestling Entertainment for most of its existence. With a new boom in the business during the Monday Night Wars, WCW finally passed WWE in from the end of 1996 to the beginning of 1998. Unfortunately, WWE endured many issues once on top of the mountain and fell both quickly and harshly as they went out of business in 2001. One of the things WCW was often criticized for was signing former WWE talent too frequently rather than developing younger talent or taking a chance on homegrown stars.
Many of the ex-WWE talent signings by WCW did lead to success. Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage’s presence in the company during the mid-90s created brand awareness in a way no talent exchange in today’s climate could provide in pro wrestling. As things started to grow, WCW made the mistake of adding too many former WWE stars. It was alright when it was just the main eventers or credible talent needing a spotlight but after a while, it started to feel like anyone who had a cup of coffee in WWE was getting a big payday from WCW. The company looked to the free agent market instead of using their own rising stars in better situations.
The examples of bad signings on this list are split between terrible decisions by WCW management and poor work by wrestlers. Some of the wrestlers were talented but WCW just didn’t use them very well due to the trainwreck booking scenarios the company would have. Others were terrible wrestlers that anyone with common sense would have known to avoid. There are many reasons for WCW’s death but the poor decisions regarding talent is definitely one of the more important ones. This article will showcase many of those instances as we look at the twenty worst ex-WWE signings made by WCW.
20 Hulk Hogan
Let’s get this out of the way first. On the surface, Hulk Hogan does not deserve to be on this list because his signing ultimately caused WCW to achieve its greatest success but he also did more to the detriment of the company than anyone else. From the beginning of his WCW run, Hogan would bring in old friends to steal a roster spot and collect an easy paycheck – we will see plenty of them on this list. As the company’s success rose with Hogan and the New World Order blowing up, Hogan’s politics were also more prevalent. He would pick and choose who he worked with as well as influence Eric Bischoff to make poor decisions that helped kill the company.
19 John Tenta
John Tenta had a successful career in WWE as Earthquake. Due to his massive size and intimidating presence, Earthquake was involved in a feud with Hulk Hogan causing the two to become friends. This led to Hogan using his power to land Tenta a contract when Hulkster came over to WCW. Tenta failed with new characters like Typhoon and The Shark. His most memorable time in WCW was being one of the lackeys in The Dungeon of Doom. After a while, Tenta wrestled under his real name but still was irrelevant and unable to get over.
18 The British Bulldog
WCW signed “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith twice following his WWE tenures. In the early 90s, Smith was used in an alliance with Sting. The popular faces feuded with Vader and Sid for a couple of months including some segments that were memorable for the wrong reasons. WCW released him shortly after but brought him back again in 1998. Following “The Montreal Screwjob,” Smith bolted WWE for WCW with his brother-in-law Bret Hart. Once again, he was a bad fit in WCW and failed to do anything memorable. Smith eventually suffered a terrible spinal infection in a match, almost causing paralysis. WCW sent him a FedEx informing him he was released while recovering.
Tammy Sytch has become a punch line today for her personal issues and poor decisions but as Sunny, she was a tremendous performer in her prime. There were few women in the business as successful or effective at getting over as Sunny during her time in WWE. With her boyfriend Chris Candido, Sytch came to WCW when Vince Russo was trying to bring in new talent. Both Candido and Sytch were used horribly and even fans who watched the product have forgotten about their time in WCW. Instead of her strengths of her great looks and tremendous mic skills being used, Sytch was involved in bad comedy and played more of a physical role, getting involved in matches.
16 Marty Jannetty
One of the biggest insults in professional wrestling is to be referred to as “the Marty Jannetty” of a tag team rather “the Shawn Michaels.” Following the tag team breakup of The Rockers, Michaels became one of the biggest stars in wrestling history and Jannetty turned into a trainwreck. WWE gave Jannetty multiple chances but his personal demons always prevented him from having any success with his singles career. WCW decided to take a chance on the former WWE name and did nothing with him. Unless you watched Thunder squash matches or spotted him in a battle royal, it’s difficult to remember Jannetty’s WCW run. The company basically just signed him because he was once a WWE name.
15 Jeff Jarrett
Jeff Jarrett spent the 90s bouncing back and forth between WWE and WCW multiple times. Jarrett had a moderately successful couple of stints in WWE with Intercontinental title wins. WCW would sign him twice following WWE runs and both times were highly disappointing. When he joined the Four Horseman, Jarrett was the odd man out. He just didn’t fit in and looked completely out of place. During his second time in WCW, Jarrett was given a huge push as a WCW World Champion thanks to Vince Russo being the head booker and believing in him. Jarrett never felt like a credible champion and didn’t leave a memorable legacy in WCW. As soon as WWE bought WCW, Vince McMahon wasted little time with Double J, firing him on air.
14 Rick Martel
Known most for his gimmick as Rick “The Model” Martel, WCW found another former WWE midcarder to sign and do nothing with. Martel was marginally talented but the company didn’t even try to establish him as anything more than an old face you remember from WWE. Martel feuded with Booker T over the WCW Television Championship and actually gave some good work in solid matches but they weren’t put in a position to do anything noteworthy. Eventually, Martel suffered an injury that kept him out of the ring and he just become another signing made to create a roster of forgotten WWE talent.
13 Shawn Stasiak
As the son of wrestling legend and former WWE Champion Stan “The Man” Stasiak, Shawn Stasiak entered the business with a world of expectations he could not live up to. Stasiak worked as “Meat” in WWE and did nothing of note before the company released him and he went to WCW. As WCW was trying to create new talent, Stasiak was one of the new names being pushed in the tag team division. He was one of the lesser talents of the new wrestlers and underwhelmed as much as he did during his original WWE stint. While a last ditch effort to create new stars was the right idea, Stasiak was not a great option.
12 The Nasty Boys
Brian Knobbs and Jerry Sags were one of the more memorable tag team acts of the 90s. Fresh off a WWE run, WCW tried to make The Nasty Boys one of the cornerstones of their tag team division in the mid-90s. They did have a couple of matches that are remembered fondly today involving Cactus Jack (Mick Foley) and the Sullivan brothers but quite frankly, neither man was very talented. The Nasty Boys’ strong suits were hitting others with weapons, leading to better teams like Harlem Heat and The Steiners passing them by. In a funny moment, The Nasty Boys were inducted into the New World Order and then beaten up by the group in a big joke.
11 Brian Adams
Brian Adams was one of multiple WWE wrestlers to get signed by WCW and enter the New World Order. Part of the reason the nWo failed to keep its luster was due to adding wrestlers without credibility to the group. Adams was an effective act in WWE as Crush but he was never viewed as anything special. WCW signed and debuted him in a segment where he randomly joined the New World Order and was just another member. When the nWo faction split into two and things got confusing, Adams was seen as the leader of the jobber sect of the group.
10 Jim Neidhart
Similar to Davey Boy Smith, Jim Neidhart joined the WCW with brother-in-law Bret Hart following “The Montreal Screwjob.” Neidhart was embarrassed on his final night in WWE as Triple H and Shawn Michaels beat him down and spray painted “WCW” on his back. Somehow, he was more humiliated in his WCW run, as someone there on a pity job since WCW signed him solely because he was related to Bret. Neidhart was used mostly on secondary shows like Thunder and teamed with The British Bulldog. The tag team act failed to deliver and Neidhart was quickly released. Maybe it wasn’t the best idea to give out big contracts just because someone is related to a main eventer.
9 Ted DiBiase
Ted DiBiase was a tremendous heel in WWE as "The Million Dollar Man.” Once his in-ring career was over, DiBiase was looking to stay in the business as a manager or commentator. WCW offered him a golden opportunity with a spot as the fourth member of the nWo. DiBiase was revealed to be the financial backer of the New World Order and basically played the role of a manager, except he held more power. Unfortunately for him, Eric Bischoff soon joined the faction and stole his role. DiBiase was then moved into a lackluster spot as the manager of The Steiners and turned into another wasted big contract signing.
As discussed earlier, Hulk Hogan would use his political power in WCW to get jobs for friends that he worked with in WWE. Thanks to Hogan, Kamala was hired by WCW to join The Dungeon of Doom. The faction consisted of monster heels basically put together to feud with Hogan. Kamala was one of the least impressive wrestlers in the group and failed in his limited time in WCW. The company released him just a couple of months after his debut. It was just another instance of wrestlers with power in WCW getting jobs for their friends despite the friends not being able to offer much.
7 Hacksaw Jim Duggan
After his time in WWE as the loveable patriotic face, Hacksaw Jim Duggan went to WCW in 1994. His first night in the company highlighted an issue that would be the downfall of WCW, as Duggan defeated Steve Austin to win the WCW United States Championship in a 35 second match. It showed how little WCW valued a rising young star like Austin and believed in any new veteran coming into the company. Hacksaw was a disaster in WCW as he moved down the ranks very quickly and became a wrestler associated with the Saturday Night show. In a sad note of the Hall of Famer’s career, Duggan’s most memorable moment in WCW was probably playing a janitor during the Vince Russo era.
6 Big Boss Man
The Big Boss Man was a very popular act for WWE with his police officer gimmick. With five years of memories, Boss Man left the company for a better contract with WCW and it ultimately looked like a bad decision in terms of the wrestling aspect. Forced to use new names since WWE owned the Big Boss Man trademark, he wrestled as The Boss, Big Bubba Rogers and eventually Ray Traylor, his real name. Traylor had a small run in the New World Order before getting kicked out and feuding with them. Despite being put in a place to succeed, Traylor was one of the stars that only gave his best work in the WWE.
5 Ahmed Johnson
WWE attempted to push Ahmed Johnson as one of the stars of the future due to his impressive look in the 90s, but he failed. With terrible promos and a sloppy in-ring style, Johnson just couldn’t cut it in WWE and was quickly discarded once his original push flopped. Things started to spiral in 1999 for WCW, so naturally they made the terrible decision of signing Johnson and naming him Big T. Harlem Heat was splitting up so Big T was brought in to feud with Booker T, with the winner getting the rights to using the letter “T” in their name. That was their legitimate plan. The storyline (obviously) failed and Big T looked worse than ever in the ring.
4 Brutus Beefcake
The absolute worst case of Hulk Hogan getting a friend hired has to be Ed Leslie. Known most for his run as Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake in WWE, Leslie was the best friend of Hogan and came over to WCW with him. Leslie was given numerous different opportunities and gimmick changes in WCW and all of them completely failed. Fans refused to warm up to him when he was a face as Brother Bruti or The Booty Man. Fans also didn’t care enough to hate him as a heel when he was The Butcher or The Zodiac. He was terrible in every spot except The Disciple, playing Hogan’s lackey in the New World Order. It wasn’t the most difficult act to pull off.
3 Bret Hart
This example of a terrible WCW signing has nothing to do with the talent, but more to do with the ineptitude of the company. Bret Hart was the biggest story in pro wrestling after “The Montreal Screwjob” yet his WCW run right after was completely wasted. Hart entered in lackluster fashion, given his exit from WWE a few months prior was the most perfect way to change companies. WCW never used him well and the usually consistent show-stealer never stood out on the program. Hart was given one of the most lucrative contracts and was one of their biggest stars, yet the company refused to showcase him in a way to make their money back.
The most blatant time WCW signed a WWE reject for the sake of it was Virgil. The only time Virgil was ever successful happened to be during his WWE tenure as Ted DiBiase’s bodyguard. Virgil was very weak in the ring, worse on the microphone and was regarded as having a bad attitude. WCW signed him to join the nWo and he was definitely their worst member. Renamed as Vincent in an attempt to insult Vince McMahon (how is that insulting to him exactly?), he was mostly used to stand in the background when the New World Order were in the ring. With WCW's talent depth at the time, Virgil having a roster spot was a joke.
1 The Ultimate Warrior
One signing that represented everything terrible about WCW was when the company brought in The Ultimate Warrior. Warrior was exiled by WWE for business disagreements and attitude issues. WCW signed him to give a rematch of the epic WrestleMania showdown between Warrior and Hulk Hogan. The match at Halloween Havoc 1998 turned out to be one of the worst in pro wrestling history. Warrior lost to Hogan and never competed again in WCW. The speculation was that Hogan wanted to get his win back from WrestleMania and Warrior was only brought in to feed his ego. WCW signed a wrestler past his prime to a massive contract because Hogan wanted another notch on his belt. It’s a story that sums up why things went so bad, so quickly for the once elite wrestling promotion.