Craig Wilson, Jamie Lithgow, Russ Morgan & Brian Damage
Wrestling history is full of superstars that performed in both NWA/WCW and the WWE. In today’s Top Five, we take a look at a host of wrestlers that faired significantly better during their run with the WCW than they did with Vince McMahon’s WWF.
5. Dan Spivey: It was either Spivey or Pillman for this fifth slot. Ultimately both would work, both could be seen as slightly harsh but both also have the same justification for failing to reach the heights in WWF as they did in the south – namely, by the time they reached Connecticut they were a shadow of their former selves. Although in Spivey’s case he did have two runs with the company – one in the mid 80s and one in the mid 90s. The focus here is on the latter, although in the former he achieved little also. When he returned almost a decade later, Spivey adopted the Waylon Mercy gimmick – a play on Robert De Niro’s portrayal of Max Cady in the 1991 version of ‘Cape Fear’ and a big influence on Bray Wyatt’s character. A gimmick ahead of its time but unfortunately being played by a wrestler that was a shell of his former self.
4. Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard: In the NWA the two were the backbone to one of the coolest wrestling factions ever: The Four Horsemen. Unfortunately for them, that level of success didn’t transcend to the WWF where, unlike the NWA, babyfaces were the order of the day and heels played second fiddle. It didn’t stop them winning the tag team titles whilst there but, with a run lasting just over one year in the company, they didn’t reach the same heights as they did in the NWA.
3. Barry Windham: Whilst as one half of the U.S. Express with Mike Rotundo, Windham won the tag team titles in the 80s none of his subsequent returns to the company resulted in similar levels of success. In Jim Crockett Promotions/WCW he was a US Champion, US Tag Team Champion, World champion, TV champion and a four-time tag champion as well as a member of the Four Horsemen, in the WWE he landed the gimmick of ‘The Stalker’ and one half of a reboot of the Blackjacks team that his father was originally in. So, not quite the same level of success…
2. Vader: I’ve written about how the WWE dropped the ball with Vader in more detail previously but suffice to say that he didn’t reach anything like the heights in the WWF as he did in the WCW. A number of factors stood in his way, not least the attitude of Shawn Michaels and the remaining members of the Kliq backstage. However, in the end we can look back and see that the WWE took a former WCW champion and a legitimate monster and did very little with him.
1. Lex Luger: It’s difficult to think of a more fitting number one for my list than Lex Luger. Unlike Vader, Luger was given the chance to become a bigger star in the WWF than he had become in the WCW but was unable to make the same connection with the fans in the north east than he had in the south – perhaps due to being seen as a WCW guy. Whatever the reason though, it can’t be denied that the WWE strapped a rocket to his back but ultimately the Lex Express ran out of gas.
5. Jeff Jarrett: Until late 1999 Double J flip flopped between WWF and WCW, seemingly occupying the same position as annoying mid-card heel in both companies. After seemingly gaining a little bit of traction in WWF – it’s amazing what an image makeover will do for you in Vince’s eyes – rumour has it Jeff was supposed to commence some kind of mini-feud with white-hot babyface Steve Austin. Apparently Steve shot the idea down and Jeff left for WCW, along with Vince Russo. Double J was inserted immediately into the upper mid-card, winning the US Title from Chris Benoit. He would go on to join a reformed nWo, become a main eventer and win the WCW Title 4 times. Chances of Jeff Jarrett winning four world titles in WWF?!
4. Vader: As a kid I watched a lot of WCW, and Vader was a an absolute monster. WCW seemed to book him perfectly too. Vader did not have to be champion or be feuding with the champion to be a monster. I’d liken his booking to that of Kane. However, despite a promising start, Vader seemed to get lost in the shuffle in WWF. Hardly the first person that’s happened to, but WWF circa 1996 was pretty thin on the ground in terms of big name talent. What the hell happened?!
3. Lex Luger: Everything about Lex Luger’s career is inexplicable to me. He seems to scream WWE, but he will be forever linked to WCW. One could argue that his position in the eyes of WCW fans was always safe due to his loyalty to the company, but who did he work for between 1992 and 1995?! I guess he was a guy in the right place at the right time. in the late 80’s he was jacked, which did his WCW prospects no harm at all as they attempted to compete with the superheroes in WWF. When he joined the ‘Fed he was saddled with one unimaginative gimmick and one that was destined never to take off. Casting those gimmicks aside he re-joined WCW as the first defection on the Monday Night Wars. Maybe that’s what kept him in the consciousness of the WCW faithful for so long, because it certainly wasn’t his matches.
2. Scott Steiner/The Steiner Brothers: Two for the price of one here. The Steiner Brothers were okay during their WWF run, but prior to that they were the team in WCW. Brilliant matches, an association with top babyface Sting and a killer aura. Fast forward a few years and Scott climbs the singles ranks to become WCW’s top heel and – in an unstable environment – was chosen to be the guy to stabilize the WCW title picture. Then a couple years later he returned to WWE, oh dear…
1. Sting: The elephant in the room folks. I think I speak for every wrestling fan when I call Sting a bonafide legend whose run in WWE was complete and utter pile of…. well, you know where I’m going here. If he enjoyed his Wrestlemania moment then good for him, that’s all I’ll say on the matter.
5. Scott Steiner: Scott seemed to fit the erratic style of booking WCW was doing in the 90’s. Although him and brother Rick were WWF tag champs, he is more known for stint in WCW. There was no way Vince would have stood for Steiner’s flagrant breaches of rules. Scott won everything in WCW and his second stint in WWE was beyond awful.
4. Jeff Jarrett: No doubt in my mind Jeff is one of the purists in terms of actual wrestling. He would jump from ship to ship whilst annoying all the bosses. He finally settled in WCW with a little help from his buddy Vince Russo into an elevated position in the company, scoring 4 world titles.
3. Ric Flair: Maybe a bit over critical, but there was no way Ric would have been a 16 time world champ in the WWF/E. Hulkamania was running wild and Ric’s first WWF run wasn’t the success it should have been. He didn’t fit the mold of a 6ft 5″ behemoth the WWF was pushing in the 80’s and 90’s.
2. Lex Luger: Lex should have been the top guy in the WWF. He was the perfect man to take over the reigns from Hulk Hogan. He had the looks, but he didn’t have the charisma, nor the arsenal. A push to the moon and back wasn’t enough for the WWF to place the world title on him.
1. Vader: Vader was the classic monster heel in WCW, who should have fit in perfectly in the WWF. Unfortunately for him he got lost in the shuffle as WWF moved from big guys, to the more agile, smaller guys in their ranks. Maybe 1 or 2 years earlier, he would have had a bigger impact. Sadly, we will never know.
5. Harley Race: I realize that by the time Harley Race got to the WWF he was a lot older. Despite the age, they could have done so much more than just put a robe and crown on him and call him a king. In the NWA, the guy was a mat technician who won the NWA world title several times. The WWF could have done better with him.
4. Dusty Rhodes: From perennial main event star…to wearing polka dots and dancing around the ring. Dusty should have gotten better treatment than that in his first WWF tenure.
3. Ricky Steamboat: Yes, I realize that Steamboat had one of the all time great Wrestlemania matches and was a former Intercontinental champion. The WWF still could have done so much more with him. In the NWA/WCW he was a main event talent and a world champion.
2. The Rock N Roll Express: People often forget that Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson were in the WWF for a cup of coffee. In the NWA, they were real rock stars and true main event talents that sold out arenas. In the WWF, they were glorified jobbers if that.
1. Diamond Dallas Page: DDP was a world champion and main eventer in WCW. Say what you want about how DDP got to be a top talent in WCW, he worked hard to get there. In the WWF, he was a stalker of the Undertaker’s wife and then some sort of smiling motivational speaker type gimmick.
You can read all previous Top Five pieces here.