It has oft been noted that WWE struggles to produce home-grown talent nowadays. Some blame the end of the old territory system and the lack of other national promotions, which previously gave talent greater chances to develop themselves. Vince McMahon has stated himself that this was a problem that reared its head following the demise of WCW and ECW.
To cope, WWE has relied on many of its Attitude Era legends to prop up the company. What many wrestling fans forget, however, is that the legacy of those former promotions lives on, as many talented performers that built their names in the NWA, WCW and ECW are also helping to keep WWE afloat. A few men who signed WWE Legends contracts even spent a few years in the long-gone AWA.
Even wrestlers who built their reputations in WWE but spent a few years in other promotions benefited from their time there, as it allowed them to fine-tune their gimmicks before arriving centre stage in WWE. With that in mind, let us look at the legacies of these former promotions on the current WWE roster.
Full-Time Raw and SmackDown! Rosters
Given his lengthy absence, it is a stretch to call Rey Mysterio a full-time wrestler, but he is due to return to that position soon. Mysterio spent a few years in ECW before spending 1996 through 2001 with WCW. This time was instrumental in making Mexican wrestling popular in the U.S., and since then he has been one of WWE's most consistent performers.
The Big Show made a big splash when he arrived in WCW, winning the World Heavyweight Championship in his first match. Receiving a heavy push before a period of bad booking, WWE has sadly repeated these mistakes many times with Big Show. A shame, really.
Chris Jericho rounds off the list of full-time wrestlers with significant experience in other major promotions, having been in both ECW and WCW between 1996 and 1999.
Triple H I will include on this list, as he is on TV on a full-time basis, just not as a wrestler. Triple H and Kane both had brief stints in WCW, though their WWE debuts showed they still had some way to go before perfecting their craft. It is hard to say if their time in WCW was a terribly productive learning experience.
Moving on to non-wrestlers, John Laurinaitis got to experience the rapid growth of JCP in WCW before returning to WCW just as the promotion died, bearing witness to both the birth and death of the once-huge promotion.
If John Laurinaitis knows a thing or two about how WCW was run, Paul Heyman knows a lot about how ECW was run. Having finally returned to WWE after a lengthy absence, it is still markedly obvious the instant he begins talking that he is not cut from the same cloth as the WWE guys.
On commentary, we have a 40-year veteran of the NWA and AWA, Jerry Lawler, and Booker T, a man who built his career in WCW from 1993-2001. Often WWE fans like to cite Sting and Goldberg as the only true stars WCW "created", but I would definitely put Booker T in that category, too.
WWE Legends and "Special Attraction Wrestlers"
Despite his reputation as "The Voice of the Attitude Era," good ol' JR spent many years with the NWA, and a few with WCW. Appearing alongside him on the new season of NXT are WCW lifer William Regal and Dusty Rhodes, a man with a career that spans the NWA, WCW, ECW and a number of other smaller promotions.
Many holders of WWE Legends contracts actually carved out most of their legends in other promotions. Mae Young is the best example of this, having been knocking about various promotions since the 1940s and only arriving in WWE when she was semi-retired. Mick Foley's reputation for his hardcore wrestling was what made him arriving in WWE so exciting, and like Rey Mysterio, he brought a different kind of wrestling to WWE.
Other WWE Legends who spent a significant amount of time performing for other promotions include Diamond Dallas Page, Jimmy Hart, Jimmy Snuka, Ted DiBiase, Sgt. Slaughter and Roddy Piper. Some jumped ship to WCW during the Monday Night Wars, yet they were valuable enough to Vince McMahon to be welcomed back with open arms once the dust settled.
Kevn Nash and Bret Hart are interesting cases. Though Nash was already well known before joining WCW, it was his time in WCW that fans continue to talk about today, to the point where fans call him Kevin Nash, his WCW name, rather than Diesel, the name WWE originally gave him. Bret Hart was, of course, a legend in his own right from his WWE career. However, a few of his subsequent WCW moments—notably his tribute match to his late brother Owen Hart—remain among his most memorable. It is also worth observing that the Montreal Screwjob only occurred because of Bret's decision to join WCW. That event transformed WWE completely.
As mentioned at the start of the article, some wrestlers spent a few years honing their craft and making mistakes in other promotions before finally hitting the big time in WWE. Three huge names still with the company in some capacity went through this process—Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker and Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Do you think this narrowing choice of talent to use is a major part of why the WWE is struggling to make new stars in 2012? Leave a comment!!