Wrestling isn't a sport. It's sports entertainment.
One of the things we all seem to remember is the days when WWE had competition. To many of us who don't really enjoy the current product, myself included, it is a joy to watch YouTube and look back to the older days. BUT, while our nostalgia glasses are on, we start noticing how bad things really were.
As you may have noticed, in mid-1996 the nWo angle began and helped WCW not only defeat Vince McMahon, but make him a distant No. 2 in the polls. To this day, I will always remember following nine months, because EVERYONE had an nWo shirt. EVERYONE. Even me...and I was a mark back then.
But you may have noticed the spotlight focusing nearly exclusively on three men: Hulk Hogan, who I loathe with unbelievable passion, Kevin Nash, who I hate nearly as much after finding out some of the things he did, and Scott Hall, who counts as a wrestling casualty, since he's close to being one of the walking dead.
So I dug through my memory banks and produced a little list. I counted 15 entries, people or teams, that had they been given something real in their time in WCW, the company might be alive to compete...without Vince Russo. There are two former WHC's on this list, but the others are guys who might have been upper-mid carders or future main eventers had they not been killed by politics.
No. 1 is a huge surprise...but if you watched WCW, you would know why I picked him. Let's begin.
15: Bam Bam Bigelow
Why The Beast from the East? The Beast is one of the most legendary wrestlers ever, and was a founding member of two great factions in his career, The Jersey Triad and the Triple Threat(ECW.) But Bigelow's legacy to WCW fans isn't that he participated in legendary matches, or even had a title run.
It's that he was involved in the Starrcade match that led to the worst moment in wrestling history that didn't involve someone dying: The infamous Finger Poke of Doom. The worst part about it all is that he absolutely got massacred by Goldberg. Had Eric Bischoff not been so hypnotized by the nWo thing, he might have been able to find something for Bigelow that might have led to the entertaining Beast getting somewhere.
14: Chris Kanyon
WCW dropped the ball HARD with Kanyon. First, they placed him in jobber tag team Men At Work. Then they placed him under a mask as Mortis, paired him with vicious big man Wrath (entry No. 7) and then broke the tag team up after feeding them to the Outsiders. Kanyon, in fact, got nowhere until The Jersey Triad...and it speaks volumes that despite the fact that the Triad was heel, that he was the weakest member. Kanyon's career can be summed up by this: He won't be known by anything he did in the ring..but by coming out after his big-league career was over.
13: Van Hammer
Most people don't remember Van Hammer. Hell, I barely remember him myself. Until I, curiously, looked up the Van Hammer/Cactus Jack match after reading Mick Foley's first book. I noticed a big kid who may have been a little stiff but could be a passable wrestler. Except for two problems.
First, Hammer was an arrogant jerk who took liberties in the ring with smaller wrestlers and couldn't really sell because of his size. But then, Hogan was the same way. And second, he had no charisma, but WWE managed to get Test over, and he and Hammer were virtually the same guy. WCW was, throughout much of its later history, a big man's company. Wasting a chance to make new talent because of politics is a bad choice and it ALWAYS gets you in the end. Hammer's Wikipedia entry is absolutely sad to read, his career in WCW anyway, because it's so ridiculous...and yet all true.
12: High Voltage
I truly don't believe I ever saw High Voltage win a match. Not one. I can't even remember if they had a finisher. And that was really poor thinking on WCW's part, since they wanted you to believe that these guys could compete with the Steiners and other good tag teams. Wrestling rule No. 6: YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE SOMEONE CAN WIN A MATCH TO PUT THEM OVER.
Every time Kaos and Rage came out, it was now "OK, how are they going to lose this one?" It was sick. I even remember Lex Luger choosing Kaos as his tag team partner to help him hold the tag titles and them losing the very next match. Who does this? What self-respecting booker would do this to a tag team with tons of potential?
11: Erik Watts
Erik Watts is one of the most controversial names in wrestling history. Why is this? Because his father, the legendary Cowboy Bill Watts, pushed him to the moon in one of the most blatant shows of nepotism in the history of anything. To put this in perspective, it's the equivalent of Vince McMahon's son Shane. Except the way Vince booked Shane, he made it very clear that Shane had to earn his way like everyone else.
Erik was never allowed that luxury, and it was made worse by the fact that wrestlers were absolutely willing to make him look like crud. One of the most enduring memories of WCW to me was the day I watched him get rolled up by a jobber named Adrian Byrd. That was the day that backstage politics became crystal clear to me. And if you don't believe me, watch some of Vader's squash matches, they're freely available on YouTube. Then watch Erik Watts. Same period. Different result.
10: Hugh Morrus
Hugh Morrus, also known as Bill DeMott, was fun as hell to watch. First off, he was a big dude who could do moonsaults. He had tons upon tons of talent, and charisma. And his matches were funny in a good way. BUT, here's the problem. The only thing people seem to remember is that he's Goldberg's first victim.
This is not right. A wrestling company needs an absolutely solid midcard to prosper (and hey, TNA, how's that working?) and when you don't have that, you fail. Moving main eventers down to the midcard is not a solid midcard. It's poor booking and it's depriving you of a chance to build new main eventers.
9: Eddie Guerrero
Eddie G. What can I say?
Can I say that Eddie could have prospered had he been booked by someone with talent, and not some joker like Kevin Nash, who made the infamous "Vanilla Midgets" comment, one of the dumbest things any wrestling booker has ever said? Can I say that having Eddie form the LWO, which absolutely defeated the purpose of even watching WCW, since everyone was in a wO of some kind, was a superbly stupid decision? Can I say that allowing the inmates to run the asylum was insanity of the highest order, because guys like this slipped through the cracks?
WCW booked Eddie so poorly that the day I heard he defeated Brock Lesnar to win the WWE Championship, my mind flashed back to all the dumb crap he was forced to do in WCW. And I understood even more why WCW died: because they were unwilling to create new main eventers until they were forced to.
8: Scott Norton
nWo strongman Scott Norton makes this list for two reasons. First, the whole nWo thing screwed him in WCW. I recall the tag team Fire and Ice vividly, and they were actually one of my favorite teams to watch in my younger days, so much so that I model one of my created tag teams in WWE games after them. But of course, we can't have anyone that's over, so of course Fire and Ice break up. The other thing is, Norton was MONSTROUSLY over in Japan during this period.
As I checked Wikipedia, this tidbit fascinated me: Norton is one of only five foreigners to ever hold the IWGP Championship...one of the most storied and prestigious in wrestling history. The others being Bob Sapp, the aforementioned Vader, Salman Hashimikov...and Brock Lesnar. So...he can be championship material in Japan...but a lackey to a washed-up clown with a painted-on beard in America? Not even a mid-carder, for crying out loud. He squashed jobbers! So, thanks again, WCW. You began setting the stage for your own demise by not even giving this any publicity! IDIOTS.
I place Wrath (Bryan Clark) here because this is yet another case of politics. As discussed in the book "The Death of WCW." Wrath had begun to get over with the fans because of his viciousness and his attitude, and had been on a good winning streak. Booker Kevin Nash, who by the way WAS booking at this point despite his denials, decided he needed to get over as a guy who ended streaks. He did this because he had his eyes on ending Goldberg's winning streak at Starrcade. He chose, at this point, to end Wrath's winning streak. Had Nash not done this, Clark as Wrath might have gotten over even more to the point that he might have made it a bit higher in the company. Clark eventually got over...but in KroniK, with the late Brian Adams, as a tag team. He, by the way, cites his personal differences with Nash and the Kliq as the reason he left WWF/E...which means the match, which can be found on YouTube under Wrath vs Kevin Nash, suddenly takes on even more significance. He lost in roughly five minutes, even though he got in good offense.
6: Billy Kidman
Yes, THAT Billy Kidman.
Billy Kidman finds his way onto this list because despite being undersized by WCW standards, he was over huge. He managed, with his shooting star press, to get over with WCW crowds. WCW rewarded him by having him crushed by the No. 1 entry on this list, having him in a feud with Hulk Hogan that sucked—and it wasn't because of him—and stiffing him royally at every single turn.
His matches in WCW were F & F matches (File and Forget) because that's the way the booking was. Shame on you, Eric Bischoff. Shame on you, Vince Russo. Never has so little been done with so much.
5: Chris Benoit
Ignore for a second what Benoit did to his family. That has no bearing on this article, despite the fact that I will never forget or forgive him for that. Chris Benoit was one of the best wrestlers in the world. That is not hyperbole, or exaggeration.He was top ten best wrestlers in the world when WCW existed, possibly top five.
Forget the WWE style he wrestled. This was a man who did more than headbutts and German Suplexes. This is a man who was absolutely revered in Japan. Let's think about that for a few. Then remember that most of his WCW career was spent as an nWo punching bag.
And then you realize that HE was the top "Vanilla Midget" that Nash was referring to, that they saw him as virtually nothing, and you realize a little bit more why this company ended up going away: Because they were egotistical scum who couldn't see ANYTHING. I know he won the WCW championship. Does that mean he carried the ball?
4: Mike Awesome
Any of you who know the story of Mike Awesome get why he's the No. 4 entry on this list. For those of you who don't: At the time Awesome was signed to WCW, he was the ECW champion. This means that WCW executives had just signed the top guy in ECW. And not only had they signed him, they gave him a huge contract. This means they had plans for him. And man, did they have plans for him. To ruin his career, I mean.
As an example, I point you to his "Fat Chick Thrilla" gimmick. So...The former ECW Champion, the guy who just came from a rival company with over a quarter of a million dollars of your money...and THIS is what he gets? He feuds with Nash and others..and doesn't come out on top. He has to help Kidman beat Hogan which gets no one over. He wins no titles in WCW. A man ranked seventh overall on PWI's top 500 in 2000 gets treated like enhancement talent.
WCW destroyed Mike Awesome's career because of political BS. It is probably one of their most despicable acts (which is saying a lot) and one we should all remember every time we get nostalgic for World Championship Wrestling. As a matter of fact, I began to wonder why Awesome wasn't No. 1 on this list, because not only didn't he get the carry the ball, he got clocked on the head with a lead pipe and never made it into the stadium. Then I saw who the next three were...and I said No. 1 is a huge surprise, and I have very good reasons for that choice.
3: Bret Hart
Bret Hart? OK, Bret Hart.
After the Montreal Screwjob, Bret Hart was the hottest free agent in wrestling history. There was absolutely NO WAY, NO POSSIBLE WAY, WCW could fail. You're bringing in one of the best wrestlers in history.
But, it is WCW.
So why is Bret Hart on this list? He's a four time WCW U.S. Champion, two-time WCW champ.
Bret Hart could put on five-star matches in his sleep. He could do virtually anything, wrestle any way you asked him to. He was the kind of wrestler a company dreams about because he would do what it took to put on the best match of the show...and succeeded most of the time.
So WCW...fails to let him do so. According to Bret's book, Kevin Nash's booking (notice a pattern?) had the Hitman, a guy who embraced either side of the ledger (Stone Cold is really one of the few people who made the tweener style work for him effortlessly) not knowing whether he was face OR heel. And turning with such rapidity that no one else did either.
Also, Bret was going out and saying things he just wouldn't do otherwise, doing things he wouldn't do. Including, by the way, hardcore matches where his head was a prime target, which led to the sad end of his brilliant career. So for $3 million a year...WCW made Bret Hart just another guy and ended his real career. Disgusting.
2: Chris Jericho
The Jericho Curse is a famous reference to Jericho's matches. In it, using scatological terms, he says that the matches are absolutely horrendous, to put it mildly. Jericho's Curse only refers to his matches, but his time in WCW was probably one long iteration of the Curse.
As an example, he cites his attempt to feud with Goldberg. Goldberg's attitude during this period, by the way, would seem to confirm Hogan's assertion that he was extremely difficult to work with, except coming from Hogan it would seem like John Gotti telling people that Sammy Gravano was a horrible person. Goldberg tells Jericho he doesn't do the comedy stuff and won't help in any way.
Now, I actually liked Goldberg at one point. I still respect him, but here was his chance to help create a new huge star and he flubbed it bad. It's not one of his stronger moments, and it is something that should be held against him.
Jericho is one of the most charismatic,talented wrestlers to ever step inside a ring. He has innovated moves and cut some of the greatest promos a heel has ever done. (As an example, check out his debut promo against The Rock, as well as some of his back and forth with him.) So the fact that WCW dropped the ball with Jericho, the fact that they didn't even see fit to give him any real buildup because they were too busy slobbering over the nWo, is fairly disgusting, and even now, it still surprises me that a bonehead like Eric Bischoff just could not see what he had because he could not, would not, let the nWo thing go by the boards. And it cannot be understated just how stupid a move it was to let Jericho get away. Or not utilize his talents in the first place.
So. We come to the No. 1 slot on this here list.
I've named everyone you can think of, right? All of the people I named were guys who either should have moved up in WCW or whose careers should have turned out better because they had more talent than many of the main eventers. That would include the No. 1 guy on this list. A wrestler who fit many of the criteria of WCW wrestlers, but was eventually done in by his demons and died at a very early age.
You know exactly who this is.
1: The Wall
Yes. The Wall is the No. 1 entry on this list. Why is he the No. 1 entry on this list?
The Wall was one of the most physically imposing wrestlers in WCW, especially near the end. Not only was he big, but he could actually wrestle.I don't mean throw people around like Big Show does, that's entertaining but it can get boring. He could go back and forth with anyone. WCW handled this so poorly that it is absolutely remarkable...and you've seen the previous examples of ineptitude.
Looking at this man should have sent cash registers ringing through their heads. (And knowing what I know now, I'd like to throw a cash register at Bischoff's head.) At 6'10", 320, he had the size to make people sit up and take notice. He had the strength to chokeslam Bigelow. He had more than enough talent to be, at the very least, an upper mid-carder.
Never a more prime example than his rampage through the WCW midcard in 2000, when he absolutely beat the daylights out of Crowbar and David Flair, among others.The chokeslam he delivers to Crowbar is one of my biggest mark moments ever, especially the evil smile at the end of the clip. And it was a guy they built themselves, like Goldberg. There are videos on YouTube of him...and he is absolutely over huge. Not many videos, sadly, because he kept vanishing. Why? WCW, at one point, was making fun of Scott Hall's demons. Not that I wanted them to make fun of Jerry Tuite's, but let's not be hypocritical here.
The way I look at it, WCW blew a prime chance to make a new star big man. His matches with Hogan and Steiner proved he could get over no matter who he wrestled. And while one could say WCW was already in the death throes and had no time to look for new stars, that's what they were doing when they had the title rotating between Booker T and Jeff Jarrett. The title that no one cared about after the Committee to Destroy the WCW Championship elected David Arquette as it's main representative.
In the end, I can only sigh and realize that I can't get too angry with Bischoff because he's an arrogant moron. But using some of these guys, while not pausing the sinking of WCW for one second because of executive stupidity, may have changed the parameters of Jamie Kellner's decree..the moment when WCW truly died. WCW could have been dealing from a position of strength rather than one of ego. And maybe, just maybe, wrestling isn't a creative wasteland, as it is now.