The legacy of WCW is always met with mixed emotions. There is no argument that the company created huge success that helped push the wrestling industry forward. The competition between WCW and WWE during the Monday Night Wars caused wrestling to surge into the mainstream with record breaking ratings and buyrates. WCW did many great things and gave opportunities to many future stars, but they were also responsible for a few terrible things. The regime of Eric Bischoff was controversial, but successful until things came crashing down on him. WCW handed out big contracts like Halloween candy and it forced many talents to see heartbreak.
Television time wasn’t guaranteed and many of the credible performers were relegated to lower card work or off the card altogether, due to the same names dominating the main event picture. The booking also lacked depth beyond the golden boys like Hulk Hogan, Sting or Goldberg being the only ones to be protected. Most of the roster was underutilized or flat out ruined. This caused WCW to become a graveyard of careers meeting their end. Some men decided they no longer wanted to be in the industry and others just lost any relevancy. We’ll look at all of the stories of the top fifteen wrestlers that saw their careers go to WCW to die.
15 Davey Boy Smith
“The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith was one of the most underrated stars of the 90s and delivered outstanding performances in the ring on a weekly basis. WWE spotlighted Bulldog to showcase his skills as a top tier in-ring worker. Davey Boy entered the main event picture every once in a while when the company needed a respectable contender to face off against Shawn Michaels or Bret Hart.
The Montreal Screwjob and Bret Hart’s bitter ending with the WWE saw Smith head to WCW in support of his brother-in-law. WCW paid Bulldog very handsomely for his services, but the booking didn’t match it. We barely saw him in any noteworthy storylines and he was mostly used as a lower midcarder on episodes of Nitro and Thunder. Bulldog lost all his momentum and star power during his horrible tenure in WCW. Following an injury, he went back to WWE but it was never the same. Fans didn’t react to Bulldog and his career was basically over thanks to Bischoff and his crew.
14 Jim Duggan
WCW signed many veterans to their roster in the 90s. It was a strategy for getting new viewers by utilizing faces they were familiar with and Hacksaw Jim Duggan joined the company for that very reason. Duggan was one of the most beloved wrestlers in the industry for years and entered WCW with a pretty good push. The combination of Duggan’s age beginning to show and the roster becoming deeper than ever led to him being relegated into a lower card act.
Hacksaw regained consistent television time during the Vince Russo era by portraying a janitor. The comedic gimmick provided no charm or entertainment value and just harmed the legend’s legacy. Duggan felt disrespected about the booking and it makes sense considering it sunk his career. It took years to wipe off the terrible memory before Hacksaw returned to WWE to work live events and lower card matches. The final days of Duggan’s prime were wasted in WCW as he lost his place in wrestling as a legendary star.
13 Mike Awesome
ECW created a culture change in pro wrestling and had a strong fan base of diehard fans. Paul Heyman gave a chance to many talented wrestlers from all over the world who were looking for a break outside of WWE or WCW. Mike Awesome delivered incredible matches and a unique style as a big man that could fly all over the ring. ECW made him their World Champion and he turned his back on them to join WCW.
Awesome actually intended to drop the ECW title belt in the trash on Nitro, but lawsuits prevented it from happening. WCW gave him a fresh start following the controversial movem but they just destroyed his career. Instead of the badass beast in the ring he had the reputation of being, Awesome was relegated to silly comedic gimmicks like That 70’s Guy and The Fat Chick Thrilla. All of the momentum he created in ECW went into the ground as WCW buried his potential and made him into a joke, as his career never rebounded.
12 Marty Jannetty
The Rockers are always rightfully discussed when breaking down the most entertaining and influential tag teams in wrestling history. Shawn Michaels was clearly the star of the duo with an ability to connect with the crowd at a higher level. Their tag team split is fondly remembered and referenced as the most popular instance of one member excelling and the other flopping. Michaels blossomed into one of the biggest stars in WWE history and Marty Jannetty fell flat on his face.
Jannetty struggled with drug use issues and it prevented him from putting all the pieces together for his potential as a singles star. The WWE portion of his career went downhill instantly after multiple failed pushes but he was still a great in-ring talent. WCW gave him a great contract with the hopes of him becoming a fixture in their Cruiserweight division. Jannetty was rarely ever used on television and lost all relevance in the background on WCW. No one wanted anything to do with him following his residence in WCW’s graveyard.
11 Rick Martel
The character work of Rick Martel in the WWE delivered great entertainment as he portrayed an arrogant male model. Martel was an effective midcard heel and earned a spot in the promotion for years. His in-ring work was also quite underrated. WWE went as far as they could with him and decided to let him go as the times started to change. Vince McMahon wanted to evolve into The Attitude Era and older performers from the prior days of hokey gimmicks were shown the door.
WCW welcomed Martel into the company in the late 90s and he instantly won gold as the Television Champion in a feud with Booker T. They had good matches on a few shows but a right knee injury ended the feud abruptly. Martel ended up on the sidelines and lost his spot on television as the time went on. His career ended after he suffered another injury in his first televised match back and he decided it was best to end his time in the ring. Bad luck always managed to strike in WCW.
10 The Nasty Boys
No one will ever accuse Brian Knobbs or Jerry Sags of being the most athletic performers in the wrestling industry, but they definitely have achieved success. Knobbs benefited from being one of Hulk Hogan’s best friends and his tag team with Jerry Sags achieved notoriety in the WWE. The Nasty Boys were among the most memorable tag team acts of the time frame and used their brawling strengths to add to the “nasty” gimmick.
WCW ended up offering them more money to make the trip down south. The Nasty Boys had some of their best matches against Cactus Jack and various partners. It was an early entry into the hardcore wrestling craze that became a huge part of the business in the 90s. Knobbs and Sags went downhill following the short stint with success against Cactus Jack. The Steiner Brothers, Harlem Heat and other teams arrived on the scene to surpass The Nasty Boys. Knobbs and Sags wallowed away in obscurity and never returned to the glory days.
9 Jim Neidhart
Much like the story of Davey Boy Smith, Jim Neidhart made the decision to join WCW after Bret Hart was screwed in Montreal on his way out of the WWE. The bond between Neidhart and Bret went beyond family, as the brothers-in-law teamed together in The Hart Foundation during their early stages before Bret moved on to bigger things. This led to Bret making sure Neidhart was taken care of with a new job in WCW.
Neidhart always was credible as the powerhouse with The Harts but he never had the “it factor” or in-ring skills like the other members. Predictably, he floundered instantly when coming to WCW and mostly served as a partner or manager for The British Bulldog. Neidhart did nothing of note and ended up seeing the final stages of television time in his wrestling career. His story became another example of a formerly prospering wrestling presence ending unfortunately in WCW.
8 Brian Adams
WWE originally hoped Brian Adams would mature into a big star for them. Vince McMahon always has a soft spot for physically intimidating, tough guys and Adams fit the bill under the name of Crush. The high point of Crush’s career featured him facing Randy Savage in a Falls Count Anywhere Match at WrestleMania X in Savage’s final WrestleMania match. Following a few different character changes and none of them panning out, WWE let Crush walk to WCW.
The use of Adams in WCW was almost comical, seeing him instantly join the New World Order and be relegated into a lower midcard heel. Adams did nothing of note for a few years before forming the Kronik tag team with Bryan Clark. The duo act was not anything specia,l but it provided a way to stand out as something more than background nWo talent. WCW would eventually die and so would the career of Adams.
7 Bryan Clark
Brian Adams's tag team partner also saw his career die a sudden death in WCW. Bryan Clark made his WWE debut under the persona of Adam Bomb, but never could break through to get a noteworthy spot on the roster. His eventual split from WWE would lead to him signing with WCW to portray Wrath, a character inspired from Eric Bischoff’s fascination with the Mortal Kombat video game franchise.
Wrath actually did a good job getting over with an undefeated streak no one was aware of. His intense in-ring work and intimidating personality led to him being respected by the fan base. WCW never realized it and jobbed him out to Kevin Nash on a random episode of Nitro to end his momentum. Adams would never rebound and he toiled away until forming Kronik with Adams. The tag team work was fine, but could not turn his career around to prevent it from getting buried in the WCW graveyard.
6 Curt Hennig
Every longtime wrestling fan has an adoration of Curt Hennig for his pristine in-ring work throughout his career. Very few could come close to matching the ability of Hennig and his deep library of stellar matches provides the proof. The name Mr. Perfect was apropos for how spectacular of a performer he truly was. WCW signed him to a lucrative contract following a falling out with the WWE which made him a free agent.
The fans loved Hennig and wanted to cheer for him as the newest member of The Four Horsemen but it was all a swerve to get him in the New World Order. This ultimately destroyed Hennig’s career when it came to upward mobility and hopes of becoming a main event player. Hennig became another secondary member of the nWo and became sadly irrelevant. The rest of his WCW career was a mess with various silly gimmicks and awful storylines. Another mediocre WWE stint and a forgettable time in TNA would follow, but WCW ended his time as a top-tier performer in the business.
5 Tammy Sytch
The popularity of Tammy Sytch dominated the 90s when it came to female performers in the wrestling business. A perfect combination of stunning good looks and inherent charisma helped her succeed as Sunny in the WWE. The fact that she was the most downloaded woman on the internet showed just how popular of a name she became. Her poor attitude and personal demons created issues for her reputation in the WWE, causing her to leave the company that made her a star.
Following an entertaining stint in ECW, Sytch signed to WCW with their hopes of rebranding under a new era of new stars. Sytch once again managed for her boyfriend Chris Candido, but also was forced to compete in intergender matches. All of the magic that she found in WWE completely disappeared in WCW. The difference in booking philosophies and her personal decline both caused her to flop pretty badly in the new environment. It was the final time we ever saw Sytch as an active performer on national television as her life has gradually gotten worse through the years.
4 Randy Savage
The acquisition of Randy Savage by WCW is often forgotten due to Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall all providing bigger changes in the industrym but it was a huge one at the time. Savage contributed to WWE’s massive success during the golden era but was somehow released and allowed to make the jump to WCW. The presence of the Macho Man helped the company become more presentable to longtime fans giving WCW a try.
Savage had a successful stint in WCW but was never used to the best of his abilities. The final few years of his career as an active performer should have been in angles against top names or future Superstars. WCW decided to send him home in between terrible storylines against Kevin Nash and Dennis Rodman. Savage saw his career end in depressing fashion during the dying days of WCW. Everyone wants to end their career on a high point and that sadly never happened for Savage. Despite all of this, not even WCW could have ruined his legacy, as he is still regarded as one of the most iconic wrestlers of all-time.
3 Ahmed Johnson
Many would have predicted that Ahmed Johnson would become a future WWE Champion due to his huge push and popularity in 1995-1996. The big man had the strength to match anyone on the roster but lacked just about every other criteria that a wrestling star should possess. Johnson was atrocious in the ring with very few passable matches in his library. His absolutely unbearable promos had to be his biggest flaw and WWE ended up quitting on the experiment after Ahmed suffered a few injuries.
WCW picked him up like they did with many names leaving WWE, but ended up damaging his career even more. Johnson wrestled under the name Big T in a feud with Booker T over the rights for having the letter T in their name. The popularity accomplished in his WWE stint meant nothing in WCW, as he turned into a joke minutes into his debut. Big T’s career ended in the WCW graveyard and he never found himself back on the positive side of pro wrestling again.
2 The Ultimate Warrior
WCW desperately wanted any former WWE main eventer that had a falling out with Vince McMahon. Hulk Hogan called the shots in WCW, as he held great influence over Eric Bischoff during the rise of the New World Order. Many believe Hogan was responsible for bringing The Ultimate Warrior into WCW for a big rematch of their WrestleMania VI classic. The match between the two at Halloween Havoc 1998 was a disaster and went down among the worst spectacles in wrestling history.
The popular theory is that WCW only signed Warrior to have him give Hogan his win back. It makes sense given that Warrior only had one big match losing to Hogan and was quickly out of the company right after doing the job. The atrocious match harmed Warrior’s reputation. While he was never good in the ring, this was an all-time low and his incoherent promos also added to the demise. Warrior left the wrestling business for years after the WCW flop and held a grudge until making peace with WWE to join the Hall of Fame just before his passing.
1 Bret Hart
Bret Hart's signing could have gone down as the biggest acquisition in WCW history, but it instead turned into one of the worst. Hart left WWE in the most controversial of ways thanks to The Montreal Screwjob. He literally punched Vince McMahon in the face on his path to WCW and everyone expected them to capitalize on the buzz. Sadly, they had no idea how to utilize his greatness and booked him in the most inept of ways.
Hart debuted as a referee in a horribly booked match at Starrcade 1997 and entered secondary feuds with Ric Flair. His name value and recent momentum should have landed him in the upper echelon of WCW, but he mostly served as a glorified midcarder having good matches in the lower tier of the roster. Hart eventually received a bigger push in the dying days of WCW after Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage were off television. Unfortunately, his career ended on a stiff kick from Goldberg, which injured him badly. Everything went wrong for Bret Hart in WCW and it forced him to stop wrestling forever.