Professional wrestling was far better off when there was real competition. The WWE doesn’t have any company breathing down their necks, which has hurt the industry more than it has helped. Consider that there was a time when not all the top stars in the industry were in the same promotion.
WCW didn’t develop new stars in their later years, which ultimately cost them in the war against the WWE. They relied too heavily on stars past their prime and guys who were painted with WWE colours before making the jump to WCW. Throughout their history, WCW did produce some big stars on their own. This list will count down the top stars in WCW history. The ones that were born and bred in World Championship Wrestling. We won’t include names like Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage or Roddy Piper who made names for themselves in WWE beforehand (although Hogan did in fact reinvent his persona in WCW). That’d be like saying Emmitt Smith was the best Arizona Cardinal of all time. Or Brett Favre was the best Viking. Or Michael Jordan was the best Washington Wizard. You get the point. These are the guys that instantly pop to your mind when you think WCW.
10) Arn Anderson
We have to keep in mind that WCW had a history before the Monday Night Wars. Heck, they had a history before being named WCW. Back in the Jim Crockett Promotions days, the company was a part of the NWA, which was often led by the Four Horsemen.
Its enforcer, Arn Anderson, would go on to be one of the company’s best stars. Starting as a tag team competitor with Ole Anderson, Arn would win the television title in 1986 and the tag titles with Tully Blanchard in 1987. Arn would also later team with Larry Zbyzsko and Bobby Eaton.
Anderson would continually form the Four Horsemen with many different variations. Neck injuries ultimately forced him into retirement but he was a solid hand in WCW building as a company.
9) Ricky Steamboat
Ricky Steamboat made for a perfect babyface foil for Ric Flair. He won a total of 21 titles, including 12 times as a tag champion. He remained a babyface for his entire WCW (and WWE) career. However his run in WWE lasted only a few years. Most of his best years came in WCW.
It’s a shame that later in his career, WCW saw him only as a veteran to elevate other wrestlers. Steamboat was one of the greats and deserved to remain at the top of the card for much longer than he was.
8) Ron Simmons
We know Ron Simmons had a good run in WWE as Faarooq, leader of the Nation of Domination, one half of the APA with Bradshaw and the guy that says “Damn!” Simmons was a breakthrough star in WCW. Simmons was the first black world champion in pro wrestling history, defeating Big Van Vader in 1992. By the way, this also happens to be one of Jim Ross‘s best calls, before he even set foot in the WWE.
Simmons was also one half of a successful tag team with “Hacksaw” Butch Reed, forming the team Doom. The duo would win the WCW tag team championship, managed by Theodore Long. Doom was recognized as the first holders of the WCW World Tag Team Championship.
7) Lex Luger
Lex Luger never quite broke through as a top star in the WWE, despite the company’s best efforts. After a run as the Narcissist, he ultimately could not be made the successor to Hulk Hogan. Mind you it’d be hard for anyone to get as popular with something as corny as the Lex Express pushing you.
While in WCW though, the Total Package was far more successful. He had just about the perfect look for a pro wrestler and he was consistently at the top of the card in WCW. He was a dominant United States champion, holding the title for 523 days.
Luger would win the richest prize in 1990, defeating Barry Windham to win his first world title. Luger would make for a great heel champion after spending a long time as Sting‘s ally.
After a few years in WWE, Luger returned to WCW in 1995, returning on the inaugural episode of Nitro, shocking the wrestling world and helping WCW get off to a strong start in the Monday Night Wars.
6) Big Van Vader
Big Van Vader was one of the best heels WCW ever had. Though Vader also became a huge star from his work with New Japan Pro Wrestling, the American audience first caught a glimpse of him in WCW.
His debut was memorable in itself, as Vader had one of the best entrances in wrestling history. He also was booked as an unstoppable monster. Think of how Brock Lesnar is booked now; that’s kind of how Vader was treated. He decimated Sting to win his first world championship in WCW at the 1992 Great American Bash. Vader also sent Nikita Koloff into retirement and legitimately broke the back of jobber Joe Thurman.
Vader also had a violent rivalry with Cactus Jack, bringing a new level of violence to WCW.
The Mastadon was a perfect candidate to be the monster heel wrestling companies love to have and it worked because he was believable. Hey, he was such a monster he even kicked out of Hulk Hogan‘s Immortal Leg Drop… At the count of one!
5) Road Warriors
Tag teams count too, you know. They were the best tag team in the history of pro wrestling, and that’s before they even joined WWE. They came to be known as the Legion of Doom when they joined the WWE, but for the purists out there, they’ll forever be known as the Road Warriors.
They had memorable feuds with the Steiners, the Four Horsemen and the Midnight Express. No matter where they went, the Road Warriors were always at the top of the tag team scene. They elevated tag team wrestling, being big enough stars to headline shows as a tag team.
The Road Warriors were arguably as popular as the top star on this list.
4) Booker T
Booker T was criminally underrated and overlooked for much of his long tenure in WCW. Even though he did eventually become a five-time (say it four more times), WCW champion, his reigns came when the belt’s prestige was kicked to the curb and the company was already in too deep of a hole to climb out.
His run began with Stevie Ray, with the two forming one of WCW’s best tag teams in Harlem Heat. The duo would hold the tag team titles 10 times, the most in history. Still, Booker was stuck under the politics of WCW that kept guys like Hogan, Flair, Savage, Piper and Nash at the top for way too long.
With Stevie Ray recovering from an injury, Booker T began his career as a singles competitor winning every title WCW had to offer (save the cruiserweight title). Booker would build on that and go on to have another successful run in WWE.
In WCW’s entire run as the world’s top wrestling company (1996-1998) the only new superstar they ever pushed to the top was Bill Goldberg. Ironically it was done in the simplest way possible; have him beat everybody.
Goldberg’s undefeated streak of 173-0 was something that has constantly been imitated, mainly by WWE, trying to push someone as unstoppable, but it never has worked for anybody as much as it did for Goldberg. Was Goldberg a great wrestler? No. However, if there was ever anyone who just had the “it” factor, it was him.
There’s no logical way to explain why it all worked for him; it just did. He was the only guy to rise up from the ashes of WCW’s so-called “Power Plant”, its developmental centre.
Defeating Hogan for the WCW title in front of his hometown Atlanta crowd in the Georgia Dome forever made him a wrestling legend.
2) Ric Flair
If you want to argue that Ric Flair should be no.1, you probably have many valid points.
Ric Flair was a star far before WCW was formed. It’d probably be more accurate to say he was the NWA’s biggest star of all time. Arguably the best talker in the business’s history, Flair formed epic rivalries with Sting, Ricky Steamboat and Dusty Rhodes and he headed the best faction in wrestling history, the Four Horsemen.
The Nature Boy’s success also came from making new stars around him. Flair put over many wrestlers, making them look better than they ever had. Flair wasn’t a great technician, but he knew how to sell and he knew how to make a star out of his opponent.
Flair went to the WWE for a couple of years before coming back home in 1993 and was one of WCW’s few loyal soldiers in the feud with the nWo.
The Icon, the franchise within the WCW franchise, Sting is WCW personified.
The fact that Sting never ended up competing in the WWE after being WCW’s biggest star for so long has added an extra mystique around him. It makes us think WCW when we hear his name (in a good way).
His feud with Ric Flair made him the company’s top babyface and he had a great run from 1987 to 1996 as a colourful character chock full of charisma and entertainment value.
He won the world title several times, but that’s not even what makes him the biggest star.
Sting also reinvented himself in 1996 after the WCW’s long feud with the nWo brought out a darker side of him; hence the “Crow” Sting was born. His run in 1997 of terrorizing the nWo, the only man able to stand up to the group cemented him as WCW’s biggest star.
Sting is the first guy that comes to mind when you think of WCW. His long, lucrative run etched him in our minds as the face of WCW. Sting wrestled the final match in the company’s history against Ric Flair, which was the company’s perfect send off.
Sting’s loyalty gave him a forever-loyal following in return.