Throughout the history of professional wrestling, performers have often switched from one company to another, switching from territory to territory and often reaching an entirely different audience.
Of course, nowadays the industry isn’t as open as it once was, with Vince McMahon’s WWE essentially monopolising the business in the US on any sort of major level. Still, that’s not to say that there wasn’t a time that the WWF/E would bring over a talent from a rival company.
At times, superstars coming in from outside the WWE have ultimately flourished and become true top level main event players – guys such as Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Mick Foley, Chris Jericho, and even Steve Austin had made names for themselves elsewhere before finding their home in the WWF/E.
But where there are successes, there are often failures as well. And with talent brought over to the WWF/E from Ted Turner’s WCW, it certainly makes for some interesting reading. In fact, there have been some seriously huge names in WCW whom McMahon simply had no idea what to do with, and that came across clear for all to see.
So with that said, here’s 15 WCW performers who Vince McMahon’s organisation simply had no idea how to get the best out of.
15. Perry Saturn
Having made waves as one half of The Eliminators in ECW, Perry Saturn would turn up in WCW in late 1997. Quickly joining Raven’s Flock, he’d come to be known as the enforcer of that group, firmly taking no BS from anyone and being more than happy to deliver a beating whenever needed.
As a WCW Tag Team Champion and World Television Champion, Saturn was positioned as one of the most serious, deadliest performers in WCW’s midcard. This was somebody who was always 100% business, with barely a smile cracked at any point during his three-year stint in the company… even during the time he had to wear a dress to the ring.
Whilst the early days of his WWF run saw Saturn positioned as a serious, straight-shooting, no-nonsense superstar as part of The Radicalz, the demise of that faction saw the former military man’s career nosedive.
After competing in the jobber-centric battles for the Hardcore Championship, soon Saturn would be punished by the company for stiffing an opponent. As such, the biggest memories of Perry Saturn in the WWF are of him portraying a mentally-challenged man who was in love with his dear mop, Moppy.
14. Ron Simmons
During his time as a singles star in WCW, “All-American” Ron Simmons was a powerhouse of high-impact moves and tenacity who became wrestling’s first ever African-American World Champion after he shocked the world by beating Big Van Vader for the WCW World Heavyweight Champion.
Simmons’ legitimate background and energized connection to the crowd was what made him such a popular superstar in WCW, yet his move to the WWF in 1996 seemed to do everything it could to ridicule the talented former football player.
Coming in to the company as Farooq Asad, Simmons was given the gimmick of a modern-day gladiator, complete with a goofy helmet. As soon as this gimmick debuted, many fans instantly began to mock the pure stupidity of it, taking away a whole lot of credibility from Simmons in the process.
Obviously Simmons would go on to achieve success in the form of forming the Nation of Domination (which resulted in The Rock becoming a superstar rather than Simmons) and becoming a multiple time Tag Team Champion, but the WWF’s handling of Simmons upon his debut in the company just felt like a massively missed opportunity considering what he’d previously achieved in WCW.
13. Mike Awesome
Powerhouse Mike Awesome is a strange entry on this list, for he was a talent that neither WCW nor the WWF/E really knew what to do with. It’s a little similar to Raven, although at least Raven was given a bit more screen time and some half-decent angles during his WCW run. For Awesome, his WCW tenure was sadly most memorable for him chasing fat chicks or dancing to ‘70s music.
What was worse about his WCW run was how it started so promisingly, attacking Kevin Nash whilst Awesome was still the ECW World Champion. He’d then tangle with the likes of DDP, Hulk Hogan, and Scott Steiner, but then the horrendous gimmicks came.
In the WWF/E, though, Awesome was given even less to do. He made a big impact on his first night, winning the Hardcore Championship, but he’d soon become a background player in the Invasion angle before dropping almost entirely out of existence during his 2-year stint with the company.
If the WWE knew what they had in Mike Awesome – a giant, athletic powerhouse of an athlete who had been used to perfection as a wrecking ball in ECW – then they could’ve made him in to a truly major superstar, particularly with Vince McMahon’s penchant for tall, hulking figures.
12. Mark Jindrak
The inclusion of Mark Jindrak on this list is the very definition of a WCW guy that the WWE really didn’t know what to do with at all.
Jindrak only really competed in WCW during the company’s final year, achieving some tag team success alongside Sean O’Haire, and so he went over to the then-WWF as nothing more than a performer with some potential. And potential is certainly what Vince McMahon and Co. saw in him.
Once the whole Invasion angle had died down, the bold call was made to have Mark Jindrak be the “muscle” of the Evolution stable. Yes, the original Evolution plan called for no Batista. Jindrak’s part in the group was set in stone, so much so that the group even shot some vignettes and promo work with Jindrak alongside Triple H, Ric Flair and Randy Orton. Seriously, that stuff is out there – go Google it.
Ultimately, a last minute change of mind saw Jindrak canned for the hulking Batista, and the rest, as they say, is history.
That’s where things went a little strange for Mark Jindrak. The WWE had such huge hopes for him, looking to put him under the tutelage of Triple H and Ric Flair, and yet they then seemingly totally soured on him and did absolutely nothing of note with him whatsoever.
What followed for Jindrak was plenty of face/heel turns, being thrown into random tag team pairings, being used as a bodyguard for authority figures, and mainly just floating about on shows like Velocity and Heat before he was released in 2005.
11. Sean O’Haire
When Vince McMahon purchased WCW in 2001, one of the brightest prospects brought over as part of the deal was Sean O’Haire. In the final year or so of Ted Turner’s company, O’Haire had proven to be one of the few highlights, with his powerful physique and impressive high-energy movements marking him out as performer with the potential to become a serious player in the industry.
Unfortunately for the former WCW Tag Team Champion, that potential ultimately remained untapped.
After pretty much just becoming a non-entity in the whole Invasion angle, it looked as if things were finally looking up for the intense, impressive O’Haire when he was given the gimmick of a Devil’s Advocate sort. In fact, this new persona also revealed that the strapping O’Haire was pretty damn good on the mic, too.
With Roddy Piper as his mentor, the writing was sadly on the wall for O’Haire upon Piper’s release from the company. That, mixed with O’Haire openly laughing through live show promos, eventually led to his time with the WWE coming to an end.
10. Lance Storm
Now Lance Storm was actually one of the WCW talents who flourished the most in the WWF/E, but that’s not to say he was used as well as he could’ve been.
Having earned credit with US audiences through his time in ECW and then for simultaneously holding WCW’s US Championship (renamed the Canadian Heavyweight Championship), Cruiserweight Championship (renamed the 100kg and Under Championship), and the Hardcore Championship (renamed the Saskatchewan Hardcore International Title), Storm’s skills were appreciated by many.
By the time he arrived in the then-WWF during 2001’s Invasion angle, Storm had a reputation for being one of the best in-ring talents in the world. Sure, he may have been the first WCW face to turn up on WWF TV during the Invasion, and he may have briefly held the Intercontinental Title and then became a 4-time Tag Team Champion, but it just felt as if more could’ve been done with the hugely talented Calgary native. After all, he was one of the literal few silver linings of the final few months of WCW television.
There’s absolutely no way that you could say Lance Storm was badly treated during his WWF/E run, but it just felt as if the company could’ve really gotten behind him as an upper-midcard heel singles star with a view to potentially having him become a main eventer if things went well. Storm had the skills to do just that, but instead his singles run in the WWE was relatively brief, instead spending most of his time in (albeit vastly entertaining) tag teams.
9. Dean Malenko
From his time in ECW and WCW, American wrestling audiences had seen that Dean Malenko was legitimately one of the best in-ring performers on the planet. The Iceman was a technical master of the very highest standing when it came to stepping between the ropes.
Cold, calculating and masterful in tying his opponents up in knots, The Man of 1,000 Holds was the consummate, emotionless professional during his time with the WCW, which in turn made him one of the most well-respected performers in the company in the eyes of fans and his fellow workers, not to mention a part of The Four Horsemen.
Upon entering the WWF in 2000 as part of The Radicalz faction, Malenko was initially taken relatively seriously, but that would soon all change. Whilst his battles against Scotty Too Hotty for the Light Heavyweight Championship were fine, it was the change in his character during this period that irked many longtime Malenko fans.
Gone was The Iceman, instead replaced by Double Ho Seven, a James Bond-esque persona that played Malenko up as a suave, smooth ladies man who had his eyes on Lita. The gimmick just didn’t work at all, and it seemed to betray so much of what made Malenko so popular in the first place.
During WCW’s last couple of years, Da Man was quite simply the hottest thing that the company had. Well, until they had his streak ended at the hands of Kevin Nash thanks to Scott Hall and a cattle prod. Oh, and apart from when they tried to turn him heel. And when he kicked Bret Hart in the head and ended his career. But apart from those blips, yeah, Goldberg was a money machine for Ted Turner’s wrasslin’ company; their prize asset, their diamond in the rough, their biggest homegrown name in years.
Given how the allure and appeal of Bill Goldberg is having him depicted as an unstoppable force of nature who dominates opponents in mere minutes, what would the sensible thing have been to do with the former NFL star upon his 2003 WWE debut? Why, that’d be to have him run through some big names on his way to decimating the World Champion and keeping the mystique alive, right? You’d think so…
Sure, Goldberg ran through the likes of The Rock, Chris Jericho, and, err, Stevie Richards (bWo represent, yo!), but he ran into a stumbling block that many a talent have hit: Triple H.
Goldberg chasing Triple H’s title as part of an Elimination Chamber Match was set for SummerSlam 2003, with the sensible option being to keep Goldberg’s momentum going by having him run right through everybody, toppling The Game and taking home the World Heavyweight Title.
Instead, Goldberg was ultimately pinned by Triple H after a sledgehammer attack, instantly taking away some of the aura of the former WCW Champion. Granted, Da Man would defeat Hunter for the gold at that year’s Unforgiven show, but he’d lose the belt back to The Game only 2 months later.
Bar the first couple of months, Goldberg’s WWE run was horribly handled, with him at times even being attacked and bested by the likes of Batista, Randy Orton, Kane, and Mark Henry. At that point in time, it was imperative to make Goldberg look an indestructible monster. Instead, he was made to look like a mere man.
7. Lex Luger
The failed uber-push of Lex Luger in 1993 and 1994 is the stuff of legend.
Brought to the then-WWF as The Narcissist, the heel Luger was slowly getting his annoying act over thanks to the help of Bobby Heenan being by his side. Luger’s act itself was enough to get booed, but Heenan alongside anybody was enough to get a performer nuclear heat. And that, ladies and gentleman, is the beauty of The Brain. Either way, the point is, Lex’s heel gimmick was doing well.
Then came the decision by Vince McMahon to turn Lex from cocky, arrogant heel to flag-waving, baby-kissing, all-American babyface in order to fill the bandana-shaped void left over by one Hulk Hogan. There were three problems here though: a) Once the dust settled on Luger slamming Yokozuna for the US of A, fans realised they really weren’t bothered about cheering for Lex; b) Fans soon soured on having this act forced down their throats at every turn (think Roman Reigns before Roman Reigns); and c) The majority of the fanbase already had the guy that they wanted to cheer, and that was Bret Hart.
With Hart positioned as #2 to Luger’s #1 babyface, fans revolted and made it clear to Vinny Mac that Bret was the guy they wanted to see as the face of the company. And so, with fans becoming lackadaisical to Luger and championing The Hitman, Hart was instead pushed back to the top babyface spot whilst Lex dropped down the card before returning to WCW.
Lex Luger has always, always, always been great as the arrogant as*hole heel with the chiselled physique who can dominate smaller guys. That worked great before his WWF run, and it even worked great once more when Luger return to WCW. The WWF trying to push him as the do-good hero was just a ridiculous idea.
6. Scott Steiner
Throughout the late-80s and the majority of the 1990s, Scott Steiner was best known as one half of one of the greatest tag teams in wrestling history, The Steiner Brothers. But in 1998, Scott fully broke off from his brother, turning on him and joining the nWo. From there, the rise of Big Poppa Pump was in full swing.
As Big Poppa Pump, The Big Bad Booty Daddy, The Genetic Freak or whatever name he chose to call himself from week to week, Scott Steiner became one of the hottest heels in the business, going as far as to wear King Arthur-esque headgear and bringing a tiger to the ring with him! With his ever-expanding physique, Steiner even went on to become the WCW World Champion before the company finally folded.
Whilst Steiner would miss the whole Invasion angle, he would eventually sign with the WWE and be brought in as a big time player. Unfortunately, though, the WWE completely mishandled Steiner from the get-go, meaning his ship was sinking before it ever got going.
To make the best of Scott Steiner at that point in time, it would’ve made perfect sense to bring him in as the crazed, hulking bad guy who had tormented WCW for its final few years. Instead, Steiner arrived as an immobile good guy with a fused ankle and merely just the next big name talent to fall at the feet of Triple H.
Steiner was nowhere near as capable in-ring as he once was, but if his character was presented in the right way then this could’ve been worked around and helped establish him as a credible top level WWE heel act. What we got, sadly, was a version of Scott Steiner that soon fell into the grounds of mockery amongst wrestling fans.
5. Barry Windham
To a certain fanbase, Barry Windham is often referred to as one of the greatest workers in the history of the business. A big man with the smoothness of a Cadillac, Windham went on to become an NWA Heavyweight Champion and one of the most legendary members of The Four Horseman that the stable has had. But not everything was sunshine and rainbows for the Texan.
Windham’s first stint with the then-WWF during 1984 and 1985 saw him as part of the US Express alongside Mike Rotunda. That was fine, for Windham was largely a tag wrestler at that point in time. He’d return to the company for a few months in 1989, but it was Windham’s 1996 return to the WWF that was most disappointing.
At this point in time, Windham had long since proven himself as a top level singles competitor, having defeated The Great Muta for the NWA Heavyweight Title before then holding his own against Ric Flair. Unfortunately for the Lone Wolf, injury would strike shortly after and he’d end up on the shelf for the best part of 2 years.
Upon a return to action, Windham turned up in the WWF in 1996 as The Stalker. Decked out in face paint, the gimmick was a complete dud. From there, the WWF put Windham in a team with Justin “Hawk” Bradshaw to form The New Blackjacks. The tandem wouldn’t last all that long and Barry Windham would soon be gone from the company, with any chance of him getting a major singles run in the WWF sadly long gone.
Given Vince McMahon‘s reported disdain for anything “too” Southern during the ’80s and part of the ’90s, Windham sadly never really stood a chance in New York.
When wrestlers are asked about the greatest minds in wrestling, a large percentage of them will often namedrop Raven as being of the brightest brains in the business.
Some fans may remember his early WCW days as Scotty Flamingo or his first WWF stint as Johnny Polo, but it was during his time in ECW that Levy really made a splash. Taking on the name of Raven, Levy developed a new gimmick that saw him portrayed as a well-educated, philosophical, depressed sociopath. And with that change, the performer hit gold. As soon as he stepped through the doors of ECW, Raven became a true icon of the industry to certain wrestling fans.
Due to the huge popularity of Raven, WCW soon moved to snaffle him up and gave him his own Flock stable. The master manipulator would later return to ECW before he eventually signed with the then-WWF in 2000.
Whilst Raven’s history at that point had him as an ECW World Heavyweight Champion, ECW Tag Team Champion, WCW United States Champion, and WCW Tag Team Champion, his time the WWE would pretty much just be spent doing nothing bar fighting in the Hardcore Division or battling Perry Saturn over “Moppy”.
WCW may not have done as much as they could’ve with Raven, but they certainly gave him better angles and storylines than what the WWE afforded him, which in itself is sad as the WWF/E could’ve given Raven the platform to become a truly huge superstar rather than someone who is most fondly remembered for his iconic time in ECW.
3. Diamond Dallas Page
Even to this day, Diamond Dallas Page still talks about his disappointment at how his WWF debut was handled.
By the time WCW was purchased by Vince McMahon, Page had become one of the most popular babyface characters in the company, even going by the moniker of the People’s Champ. With fans reacting for him huge, combined with DDP’s everyman charm, the charismatic New Jersey-born grappler managed to get three WCW World Heavyweight Championship runs at a time when the main event scene was being dominated by the likes of Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Kevin Nash, Sting, and Goldberg.
So with all of that in mind, and remembering how much fans were behind DDP, it made absolutely no sense for him to debut as the creepy b*stard who had been stalking The Undertaker’s wife for a few weeks. Sure, a debut feud with ‘Taker would be huge to anyone, but not when the then-WWF’s take on the DDP character was so against what people wanted to see for him.
After being easily brushed over by The Phenom, Page’s WWF/E run saw him became famous for his “That’s not a bad thing… that’s a good thing” catchphrase and for brief runs with the European Title and the Tag Team Titles.
2. Ricky Steamboat
Ricky Steamboat may well be revered as a WWE legend these days, and rightly so, but that doesn’t mean to say that the WWE didn’t drop the ball on this icon, not once, but twice!
Having become one of the hottest stars in the NWA, he’d sign for the then-WWF in 1985. From there, he’d go on to become the Intercontinental Champion, defeating “Macho Man” Randy Savage for the strap in a WrestleMania III bout that’s largely considered the greatest wrestling match of all-time. Regardless of that, though, the WWF just didn’t see Steamboat as being any sort of main event talent.
Having left the company and heading to the NWA/WCW in 1989, Steamboat went on to prove just how good of a top tier talent he could be, partaking in multiple hour-long main event matches with Ric Flair, tearing down the house with each showing, and even winning the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. A return to the WWF followed in 1991, and the stage was set for The Dragon to take his place at the top of the card…
Unfortunately, though, Steamboat’s return to the WWF saw him positioned even further down the card than before, with his previous stint with the company pretty much outright ignored. Even worse was that his Dragon gimmick was tweaked so that he actually came out breathing fire!
Quickly realizing that the WWF was just never going to do anything of note with him, Steamboat quit the company again after less than 6 months back on the roster. He’d return to the WCW and be one of the company’s hottest acts, winning several more titles before ultimately having to retire in 1994.
It’s time! It’s time! It’s… time to become a midcard jobber. Poor, poor Vader.
During his WCW run, Big Van Vader was the scariest professional wrestler on the planet. As a kid watching WCW at that time, Vader’s character and his eerie entrance with a bizarre smoke-spewing helmet was the stuff of nightmares and had you legitimately fearing for the likes of Sting, Ron Simmons, Davey Boy Smith, or any other poor sap who found themselves in The Mastodon’s sights. Seriously, go back and watch Vader’s WCW matches from 1992 and 1993 – it’s enough to terrify a man to this day!
Vader’s WCW run saw him win the company’s World Heavyweight Title three times and be positioned as a true top tier talent who was nearly undefeatable as a monster heel. Then came his 1996 signing with the then-WWF.
From the very moment he debuted in the WWF, things were going wrong for the real-life Leon White. After a much-hyped debut, he immediately had to take some time off due to shoulder surgery. Following his return, his WrestleMania XII singles match against Yokozuna was changed-up to a six-man tag bout. Then came his matches against Shawn Michaels.
This was at a time when Michaels was full of demons and attitude, and when the term “Shawn being Shawn” was at its peak. As such, despite initial plans for Vader to defeat HBK for the WWF Title at SummerSlam ’96, Michaels refused to drop the belt.
Michaels would eventually win the match, retain the title, and legitimately berate Vader during the bout. And from there, bar a four-man match for the WWF Championship and brief feuds with The Undertaker and Kane, it wouldn’t be long before Vader found himself doing the J.O.B. on episodes of Sunday Night Heat.
Yes, one of the most feared monsters in all professional wrestling history was reduced to the depths of staring at the lights on the WWF’s lowest-level show.
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