Marcus ‘Buff’ Bagwell is a wrestler that certainly divides opinion. However, in this latest ‘Missed Wrestling Opportunities‘ we look at what WCW could have done with Buff Bagwell when he returned in late 1998 after his neck injury and how he could have been a star.
Some reading this might not have gotten beyond the title before choosing to give up. Surely there wasn’t a time when any promotion could have made Marcus ‘Buff’ Bagwell a star, right? Well, no. On that one I disagree. So let’s go back almost 18 years to that point.
The date is April 22, 1998, it’s a Thursday night so it’s all about WCW Thunder which debuted on screens at the start of the year. The show was headlined by Sting facing Scott Steiner while US Champion Goldberg was also in action.
However, it’s a tag team match earlier in the night that I want to look at pitting Scott Norton and Buff Bagwell against the team of Lex Luger and Rick Steiner.
Towards the end of the bout, Rick attempted his top rope diving bulldog which resulted in Bagwell’s head striking Steiner’s back, jamming his neck and severely injuring him. In the end, Bagwell was diagnosed with several damaged vertebrae and developed spinal shock, leading him to use a wheelchair and neck brace for some time. You can see the move performed below.
At the time, many superstars broke character to rush and see if he was alright while doctors advised that he was just three inches away from that worst-case scenario, and that he’d nearly died twice due to complications. After undergoing double fusion neck surgery the next day, in a near miracle, he was told that he’d probably be able to return to training within six months: all in all totally remarkable.
You would think, then, that whatever had happened before with Bagwell, such a serious injury coupled with his comeback would easily allow the WCW to build sympathy ahead of his return and turn him into an upper-midcard babyface upon his return. Right?
Well, no. This was WCW in 1998 and although the bloody single mindedness with nWo hadn’t quite peaked, it was almost there. So instead of Buff Bagwell returning to our screens and calling out Rick Steiner and the two making peace – and what a moment that would have been.
Instead, Steiner came out but so did his former partner, the now heel Scott, who drilled Rick with a steelchair. Bagwell then tore of his shirt, you know what’s coming next, to reveal that he was wearing an ‘nWo’ shirt underneath.
In one fell swoop the WCW missed out on the chance to make a white hot babyface – and who knows where that would have went – but instead the flushed that momentum down the plughole and had him join the ever swelling ranks of the nWo.
The beginning of the end for WCW it wasn’t but it could have been a lot more than simply throwing him into the nWo for him to, largely, get lost in the shuffle.
As for Bagwell, once WWE purchased WCW, he was one of the first AOL Time Warner contracted wrestlers to accept the offered buy-out on his contract and sign with the WWF. He would face Booker T for the WCW title in an awful match on Raw before he was eventually let go with some blaming his attitude. In fact, rumours continue that his mother Judy – WCW fans will certainly remember her – called the office to request time off for her son…
Bagwell was recently mentioned in dispatches owing to a successful career as a male gigolo.
You can read all previous ‘Missed Wrestling Opportunities’ here.