The WCW World Heavyweight Championship was first introduced on January 11th, 1991 when Ric Flair defeated Sting for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. Thus, recognizing Flair as the first official WCW World Heavyweight Champion since the promotion was branching off form the National Wrestling Alliance.
Over the course of the following decade some of the greatest wrestlers of all time have had the privilege of holding the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. Wrestlers like Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Sting, Bret Hart, and Booker T.
On the flip side, the WCW World Heavyweight Championship has also been held by the likes of Vince Russo and David Arquette – devaluing the title on so many levels. The WCW World Heavyweight Championship was once considered more important than the WWE Championship but as years passed and WCW began to plummet into obscurity, the title began to lose its merit.
In this article, we place that some times glorious, other times God-awful decade of World Championship Wrestling into perspective by taking a look at some of those who were not fortunate enough to capture the WCW World Heavyweight Championship.
There is no secret made about the politics that once ran rampant backstage in WCW which, in many cases, held back some great talent that should have evolved into so much more. Championship caliber wrestlers who were not viewed as such in WCW – many of whom found success elsewhere – silencing those who once held them down.
For the purposes on this article our time frame will be between January of 1991 and March of 2001 – when WCW went out of business and was purchased by WWE. The WWE superstars who competed for the title during the “Invasion” angle will not garner attention as potential candidates on our list.
That being said; let's take a look at the top 20 wrestlers who have never won the WCW World Heavyweight Championship!
20 Buff Bagwell
WCW STATS: Six-Time World Tag Team Champion
WCW STATS: One-Time United States Champion, One-Time World Television Champion, Two-Time World Tag Team Champion.
Konnan is a Cuban-born professional wrestler who has displayed his talents all over the world. While in WCW, Konnan was often associated with the Latino presence of the locker room – often teaming with or aiding and abiding his Hispanic brethren. Despite his influence and experience, Konnan was never given an opportunity to represent WCW as the company’s top champion.
18 Dustin Rhodes
WCW STATS: World Six-Man Tag Team Championship (a short-lived championship contested throughout 1991), Two-Time World Tag Team Champion.
There is no doubt that Dustin Runnels found his greatest success in WWE as Goldust. However, Dustin Rhodes (his alias in WCW) was a solid performer in WCW who was often overlooked. Goldust has never won – and probably will never win – the WWE Championship but perhaps that could have been different had Dustin Rhodes become the WCW World Heavyweight Champion.
17 Fit Finlay
WCW STATS: One-Time World Television Champion, Winner of the 1999 Hardcore Junkyard Invitation Tournament. (Multiple competitors met in a junkyard where the only way to win was by escaping over the chain-link fence)
Fit Finlay is a rough and tough, brawling Irishman who has accumulated over twenty championships from all over the world. In WCW, Finlay was simply a mid-card talent, which is why he was never elevated to the main event picture and never given a chance to become WCW World Heavyweight Champion.
16 Curt Hennig
WCW STATS: One-Time United States Heavyweight Champion, One-Time World Tag Team Champion.
Whether we're talking about WCW or WWE, it is a crying shame that one of the best technical wrestlers to ever compete in both companies was never awarded a World Championship. Curt Hennig will always be “Mr. Perfect” to WWE fans but to the fans of WCW, he may be best remembered for his ridiculous gimmick as a “West Texas Redneck.”
WCW STATS: One-Time WCW Hardcore Champion.
Tonga Fifita, known as Meng in WCW or Haku in WWE, was a legitimate tough guy through-and-through. Reality was not blurred with fiction when it came to Meng. Ric Flair once said of Fifita: “He was the toughest son of a b***h I've ever met in my whole life. No lie, take me word for it.” That is high praise coming from The Nature Boy.
Unfortunately for Meng, WCW would never capitalize on the opportunity to have the most feared World Champion of any promotion.
14 Cactus Jack
WCW STATS: One-Time World Tag Team Champion.
Cactus Jack, one of the “Three Faces of Foley,” has been seen in WCW, ECW, and later in WWE. While part of the WCW roster, Cactus Jack would be involved in one of the most known matches in professional wrestling history. While on a European tour, Jack would wrestle Vader in Munich, Germany. During the match, Jack would perform the “hangman” maneuver, where a competitor's head in tangled between two ring ropes. While attempting to free himself, Jack would tear off two-thirds of his ear.
The dangers of Mick Foley would continue on for years and while he would capture the WWE Championship as Mankind, he was not as fortunate in WCW.
13 Steven Regal
WCW STATS: Four-Time World Television Champion.
Darren Matthews was born in Codsall, Staffordshire, England. The young man from across the pound grew up quickly and would partake in his first wrestling match at the tender age of fifteen. Matthews became what is known as a “shoot” wrestler – honing his skills over the years before bringing his style over to America.
Matthews' most prominent roles in professional wrestling came as non-competitive roles in WWE while working under the name William Regal. While in WCW, Matthews' worked as a full-time wrestler known as Lord Steven Regal but despite his talent was never given a run as WCW World Heavyweight Champion.
12 Rick Steiner
WCW STATS: Three-Time World Television Champion, One-Time United States Heavyweight Champion, Eight-Time World Tag Team Champion.
Rick Steiner was one-half of the legendary tag team known as The Steiner Brothers. Along with his brother Scott, the boys from Michigan would leave a lasting impression on tag team wrestling. Upon the split of The Steiner Brothers; Scott would find the greater success as a singles competitor – winning the WCW World Heavyweight Championship – while Rick became just another mid-card talent.
11 Terry Funk
WCW STATS: Two-Time Hardcore Champion, Two-Time United States Heavyweight Champion, WCW Hall of Fame: Class of 1995.
The story of Terry Funk is a story of upholding tradition – then breaking all tradition – then turning extreme. Terry Funk has been everywhere and wrestled everybody in the industry. The man only knows wrestling. Funk was born to give and receive epic beat-downs inside of the squared-circle.
Why was Terry Funk never given an opportunity as WCW World Heavyweight Champion? Who knows but clearly, somebody blew that call.
10 Rey Mysterio Jr.
WCW STATS: Five-Time Cruiserweight Champion, One-Time Cruiserweight Tag Team Champion, Three-Time World Tag Team Champion.
Rey Mysterio Jr. can be considered one of the architects of the cruiserweight movement in North America. Undoubtedly one of the most exciting performers in professional wrestling history. Mysterio has long been a fan favorite and at WrestleMania 22, would capture the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
Mysterio will go down as the biggest underdog World Champion of all time which is a distinction that could have been made many years prior to his stint in WWE had WCW took notice.
9 Dean Malenko
WCW STATS: Four-Time Cruiserweight Champion, One Time United States Heavyweight Champion, One Time World Tag Team Champion.
“The Man of 1,000 Holds,” Dean Malenko may not have been the biggest personality in WCW but his talent spoke for itself. Also known as “The Iceman” for his cold demeanor, Malenko was a master when it came to ring presence – knowing where to be at any given moment but never given any chance to be WCW World Heavyweight Champion.
8 Eddie Guerrero
WCW STATS: Two-Time Cruiserweight Champion, One-Time United States Heavyweight Champion.
While in WCW, Eddie Guerrero was one of many performers frustrated with their spot on the roster. Guerrero was very vocal about his outrage and even delivered a worked shoot on Eric Bischoff. Despite his anger, Guerrero would never gain main event status in WCW.
Years later in WWE, Eddie Guerrero would finally attain a major title when he defeated Brock Lessar for the WWE Championship at No Way Out 2004.
7 Brian Pillman
WCW STATS: Two-Time Light Heavyweight Champion, One-Time World Tag Team.
The untimely death of Brian Pillman due to an undetected heart condition left the wrestling world cold when a man with so much charisma and promise was taken away at the young age of thirty-five. In WCW, Pillman formed a tag team with another up-and-coming superstar who went by the name of “Stunning” Steve Austin.
While Pillman was never brought up to the main event picture in WCW, the belief within many is that he could have been a great WCW World Heavyweight Champion.
6 Chris Jericho
WCW STATS: Four-Time Cruiserweight Champion, One-Time World Television Champion.
Chris Jericho's WCW career can be summed up in one word: aggravation. Much like Eddie Guerrero, Chris Jericho was a frustrated employee – not receiving the push he thought he deserved. His growing disdain for the company would soon have him packing his bags and heading elsewhere. That elsewhere being the WWE.
While WCW chose to shelf the abilities and personality of Chris Jericho, WWE allowed him to shine and soon enough; Y2J was a mega-star.
5 Barry Windham
WCW STATS: One-Time World Television Champion, Four-Time World Tag Team Champion.
Barry Windham has deep roots in the professional wrestling industry. The son of Blackjack Mulligan and former Four Horsemen member,Windham managed to piece together a nice career. While Barry Windham is a former NWA World Heavyweight Champion, he never stood atop the ladder as the WCW World Heavyweight Champion while with the promotion.
4 Ricky Steamboat
WCW STATS: Four-Time United States Heavyweight Champion, Four-Time World Television Champion, Eight-Time World Tag Team Champion.
Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat is another wrestling great who is a former NWA World Heavyweight Champion. However, under the WCW banner, he had no time spent as World Champion. Steamboat has been involved in many classic matches throughout his career, matches that will surely stand the test of time, so it's too bad that WCW never gave him a chance to represent the company.
3 Scott Hall
WCW STATS: Two-Time United States Heavyweight Champion, One-Time World Television Champion, Seven-Time World Tag Team Champion.
Scott Hall, the man who essentially fired the first shot in the Monday Night War when he showed up in WCW and who was an important part of WCW's success during that period, was never rewarded with a WCW World Heavyweight Championship reign. In many ways, that's just not right. Scott Hall should have been afforded at least one run as World Champion.
2 Arn Anderson
WCW STATS: Four-Time World Television Champion, Five-Time World Tag Team Champion.
One of the original members of the Four Horsemen – the greatest faction in the history of professional wrestling. One of the best talkers in the industry – helping pave the way for great promos and interviews that followed. One of the best in-ring Generals around – operating within the squared-circle like second nature. One of the greatest wrestler to have never won the WCW World Heavyweight Championship: Arn Anderson.
1 Steve Austin
WCW STATS: Two-Time United States Heavyweight Champion, Two-Time World Television Champion, One-Time World Tag Team Champion.
The biggest blunder in the career of Eric Bischoff can be traced back to the day he decided to fire “Stunning” Steve Austin from WCW. Somehow, Bischoff could not notice the star that was ready to be born. When Austin left WCW, he would head over to ECW where Paul Heyman allowed him to simply be himself and say what he wanted in regards to Bischoff and WCW – and this was only the beginning.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin would go on to become the biggest superstar in the history of professional wrestling. The man who took the final shot in the Monday Night War and helped put WCW out of business. Circumstances could have played out differently had Eric Bischoff allowed Steve Austin to be himself while in WCW.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin as the WCW World Heavyweight Champion would have put WCW over the top and allowed them to come out of the Monday Night War as the superior promotion.
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