The Monday Night War saw many wrestlers jump back and forth between World Championship Wrestling and the World Wrestling Federation. While fans tuned into to see storylines like “Stone Cold” Steve Austin versus Mr. McMahon and the New World Order, folks also watched both programs to see which superstar would cross over to the other brand.
The “first shot” in the Monday Night War came when Lex Luger, fresh off his stint in the WWE, unexpectedly showed up on the premiere episode of Monday Nitro. The biggest defections came in the form of Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, which led into the nWo storyline that set WCW on fire and wrestling into a new era.
The WWE saw a fair share of talent from WCW jump ship, including Chris Jericho, Big Show - formerly the Giant - and The Radicalz Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko and Perry Saturn. Extreme Championship Wrestling also saw wrestlers leave and venture to both WCW and WWE, while bringing in talent from the promotions as well.
While the Monday Night War were the peak of wrestlers jumping ship, there were numerous defections to both promotions in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s with the likes of Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes and Rick Rude to name a few. The biggest name to jump ship came in 1994 when Hulk Hogan signed with WCW.
However, the grass is not always greener on the other side, and wrestlers who jump ship to another promotion do not always have the best time under their new employer.
20 Jumped To WCW - Chris Jericho
Chris Jericho became a household name when he came to WCW in 1996 and became a staple in the cruiserweight division and later the WCW Television Champion.
Jericho is one of the wrestlers who has spoken and written about WCW’s backstage atmosphere where there was no real boss and the wrestlers run rough shot in the company.
Jericho eventually made his way to the WWE in 1999 and after some trials, he went on to become one of the company’s greatest champions. Considering how Jericho's time in WCW went down, he probably wished he'd have been able to go to WWE a couple of years sooner.
19 Jumped To WCW - Goldust
Goldust/Dustin Rhodes was one of several wrestlers who actually jumped ship multiple times during the heyday of WCW and WWE. He went to WWE in the mid-90s after WCW released him for blading during a match. In WWE, Dustin experienced his big career break, as he struck 'gold' with the bizarre Goldust gimmick. However, after a few years, Rhodes felt he'd hit a glass ceiling in WWE, so he went back to work for WCW.
It proved to be a mistake, as there, he would simply get saddled with weird gimmick after weird gimmick, including the Seven character that was quickly dropped. Fortunately, WWE welcomed Goldust back following WCW folding.
18 Jumped To WCW: Mike Awesome
Mike Awesome came into WCW with a lot of fire under his belt. As the ECW champion, Awesome appeared on Monday Nitro and attacked Kevin Nash.
Awesome gained some momentum as the “Career Killer,” yet he would later be saddled with comedy gimmicks, including one where he was essentially a 1970s parody. He managed to get some momentum back when he joined Team Canada and once again became a powerhouse.
Some critics debate that head writer Vince Russo created the gimmicks for Awesome because he was a distant relative of Hulk Hogan, who had heat with Russo. Nevertheless, it wasn't an Awesome stint for him in WCW.
17 Jumped To WWE: Public Enemy
Public Enemy enjoyed success in both ECW and WCW, but they would not find the same love when they signed with the WWE in 1999. Like many talent who came to the WWE from WCW, Public Enemy was not accepted by the WWE locker room.
One of the more famous incidents involved with Public Enemy getting squashed by The Acolytes in a match. According to John Layfield, Public Enemy wanted to change the finish of the match, resulting in Layfield and Faarooq “ensuring” they go through the finish.
Public Enemy left the WWE in late 1999 and returned to WCW for a brief period.
16 Jumped To WCW: Scott Hall
Scott Hall left the WWE only because of monetary reasons, as WCW was willing to pay him a hefty paycheck with fewer dates. Hall’s debut in WCW kicked off one of the greatest storylines in wrestling history. Hall had a big role in the nWo through its run and he captured both singles and tag team gold along the way.
However, Hall’s time in WCW hit a low in 1998 when his real life struggles were brought to television. As we know, Hall ended up being on the losing side of the ratings battle. Perhaps a more stable backstage environment like the WWE would've yielded better results for Hall behind the scenes.
15 Jumped To WCW: Mikey Whipwreck
Mikey Whipwreck had already been a triple crown champion when he left ECW for WCW in 1999. As surprise, Whipwreck challenged Billy Kidman for the WCW Cruiserweight title at Uncensored 1999.
Whipwreck’s time in WCW was short as he only wrestled in the cruiserweight division, or against fellow ECW alumni in hardcore matches. While those matches catered to his experience, it would not propel him to the next level.
After several months with no push, Whipwreck would leave WCW a bit disillusioned. Whipwreck returned to ECW that year and would go to form The Unholy Alliance with The Sinister Minister and Yoshihiro Tajiri.
14 Jumped To WCW: Ted DiBiase
Ted DiBiase came to WCW in 1996 and was immediately featured in a prominent role as the New World Order’s mouthpiece early in the faction’s run. After Eric Bischoff was revealed as the true power behind the nWo, DiBiase’s role diminished. In interviews, DiBiase said he told Bischoff he refused to be a minion for Hollywood Hulk Hogan after Bischoff took over his spokesman role.
DiBiase left the nWo and would eventually manage the Steiner Brothers and Ray Traylor.
DiBiase became a road agent for the company until he left in 1999. While his time in the nWo was short, he still received a good paycheck for his services.
13 Jumped To WWE: Shane Douglas
Shane Douglas has spent time wrestling in various major companies and he came to the WWE in 1995. For ECW fans who followed Douglas’ career, it might have been awkward seeing him portray the character “Dean Douglas,” a dean who lectured fans and wrestlers - it was Matt Striker before Matt Striker.
Douglas’s WWE run was marred with a cup of coffee with the Intercontinental title and backstage politics from the Kliq.
Douglas has been outspoken in the way McMahon treated him and paid him less during his WWE run. Although he has appeared on a few WWE documentaries, he will never work for McMahon again.
12 Jumped To WCW: Davey Boy Smith
The British Bulldog followed his brother-in-law Bret Hart to WCW following the Montreal Screwjob. He was quickly placed in a feud with Steve McMichael and would form a tag team with brother-in-law Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart.
Bulldog’s time in WCW was cut short after he sustained a back injury during Fall Brawl 1998 after landing on a trap door that would be used for Warrior to appear in the ring during the main event. The trap door was kept secret from all of the other wrestlers including Bulldog. Bulldog's career would go downhill from there, and ironically, he made his way back to WWE in 1999, for a stint that was considered to be a flop as well.
11 Jumped To WCW: The Sandman
The Sandman was one of several ECW wrestlers who jumped ship during the Monday Night War. He was originally set to debut as the preppy neighbor to Raven, who was revealed to be a spoiled rich kid. Those plans were scrapped and Sandman debuted as Hak, challenging fellow ECW alum Bam Bam Bigelow to match.
He was mostly used to bolster WCW’s hardcore division and engaged in rivalries against competitors he faced in ECW. However, he never rose out of the lower-card tier.
Sandman was released from WCW in September 1999 as part of a cost-cutting measure and returned to ECW.
10 Jumped To WCW: The Ultimate Warrior
It was inevitable the Warrior would eventually go to WCW in the late ‘90s and in 1998 he appeared on Monday Nitro to a stunned Hollywood Hogan. The first encounter led into a two-month angle between the two that saw Warrior playing mind games with Hogan.
The two had a match at Halloween Havoc 1998 that is regarded as one of the worst wrestling matches of all time. Warrior’s WCW run wasn’t all bad for him, as he made a lot of money from the deal.
Like many fans and critics, Warrior believed that he was brought to WCW simply to lose to Hogan in their rematch from WrestleMania VI.
9 Jumped To WWE: Konnan
While he is mainly known for his time in WCW and Mexico, Konnan spent a cup of coffee in the WWE. Most fans know he created the Max Moon character, yet he wrestled dark matches as The Latin Fury and El Relampago.
He only wrestled three televised matches in the Max Moon outfit and was released in 1992 due to a dispute with Vince McMahon, no showing WWE events in favor projects and in Mexico, and having a bad attitude and heat among the other wrestlers.
Today, Konnan will appear backstage at WWE events. Although they are not best friends, he and McMahon are at least on friendly terms.
8 Jumped To WCW: Sunny
Tammy Sytch will always be known to WWF/E fans as the first Diva Sunny, but in 2000 she had a brief run in WCW with Chris Candido. Although the days of Sunny were behind her, bringing her and Candido into the organization was still a big deal.
The two debuted as members of the New Blood stable and Sytch helped Candido win the WCW Cruiserweight title at Spring Stampede.
Sytch’s time in WCW was short after Candido dropped the Cruiserweight title to Crowbar and Daffney. Her run in the company was seen as a flop, as despite being one of the more talented valets, she simply couldn't get the exposure in WCW that she did in WWE.
7 Jumped To WCW: X-Pac (1-2-3 Kid)
In 1996, The 1-2-3 Kid, real life name Sean Waltman, was one of many wrestlers who jumped from WWE to WCW. Named Syxx, Waltman joined the New World Order and was close to his Kliq mates Kevin Nash and Scott Hall. He even had a run with the Cruiserweight title.
His run in WCW was not all roses as he garnered some heat with Ric Flair. After being on the shelf for over a year with a neck injury, he was released from his contract in 1998.
Waltman returned to the WWE, re-branded as X-Pac on the March 30, 1998 episode of Raw as the first member of Triple H’s D-Generation X, cutting a worked shoot promo against Hulk Hogan and Bischoff.
6 Jumped To WCW: Tony Schiavone
Fans who watch SummerSlam 1989 and Royal Rumble 1990 may be surprised to hear Tony Schiavone calling the event alongside Jesse Ventura. Believe it or not, Schiavone worked in the WWE, commentating on various shows, as well as produce videos for Coliseum Video.
Schiavone left for WCW with Vince McMahon’s blessing. Although Schiavone was the staple in WCW’s announcing booth, he has gone on to say he regretted leaving WWE and called it a bad career move and had asked McMahon for his job back. McMahon refused, saying he did not want to force Schiavone to move his young family back to Connecticut.
He also said he knew WCW would eventually fold the moment he returned to the company.
5 Jumped To WWE: Vader
Vader was always regarded as one of the top heels of his era. He was definitely WCW's top heel for the longest time. Once Hulk Hogan came aboard though, Vader lost a lot of his steam. Given that Hulk Hogan essentially went over everybody, Vader never really seemed like the top threat he used to be, so he felt he had to revive his career in WWE. Unfortunately, things wouldn't be much better in WWE. While Vader was briefly pushed a as a main eventer, backstage problems would surface in WWE and a planned title reign for him was eventually axed. After that, Vader spent the better part of two years being relegated to the mid-card before returning to WCW.
4 Jumped To WCW: Bobby Heenan
Most wrestling personalities are fortunate if they can excel at one role and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan was able to do it as a manager, or announcer. After his time in WWE, Heenan came to WCW in 1993 as an announcer and foil to Tony Schiavone.
Heenan brought personality to the commentary booth, even though it appeared he was checked out. Some have said Heenan was never really into the job. His reasoning for going to WCW was a lighter schedule and increased pay. There was also an incident where Brian Pillman grabbed his back, causing a surprised Heenan to curse on-air.
Heenan left WCW in 2000 and said he was uninspired working for the company.
3 Jumped To WCW: Ric Flair
If WCW had a Mount Rushmore, one of the faces would be Ric Flair. The Nature Boy had numerous world championship runs in the promotion and had wrestled a murderer’s row of competitors. He briefly left WCW in 1991 for a two-year run in the WWE.
Flair enjoyed some success on his return, but tensions brewed around the time of the New World Order. While the nWo was riding high, Flair competed in the midcard. He also had many problems behind the scenes in WCW, which he has talked about extensively.
While he was the face of WCW, Flair has said that he could not wait for the company to close its doors.
2 Jumped To WCW - Bret Hart
For some wrestlers, money is not everything. While Bret “Hitman” Hart signed a hefty contract with WCW, his career never reached the heights that it did in the WWE. There were bright spots in Hart’s run in WCW, including his title wins, matches with Chris Benoit and the infamous spot where he took out Bill Goldberg while wearing a chest protector.
Hart’s lackluster run in WCW can be attributed to a combination of being unenthusiastic in the promotion, or being held back by Hulk Hogan. Many argue that WCW should hacw brought him on TV right after the Montreal Survivor Series instead of waiting weeks for his debut.
Hart has been vocal about his time in WCW, as well as Eric Bischoff and Hogan.
1 Jumped To WWE - Barry Windham
Barry Windham, one of the best big men wrestlers of all time, had success in his first WWE run as part of the U.S. Express with brother-in-law Mike Rotunda.
Windham returned for brief stints in 1989 - as The Widowmaker - and 1996 - as the Stalker and later one of the New Blackjacks. Neither of those returns were notable as his time in Jim Crockett Promotions or WCW where he was regarded as a top star.
Windham would eventually earn his highest honor in WWE after he was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a member of the Four Horsemen in 2012.