Remembering the Forgotten WCW Wrestlers 19 Years After Last Nitro Broadcast
March 26, 2001, changed the world of professional wrestling forever, as World Championship Wrestling presented the last episode of Monday Nitro, live from Club La Vela in Panama City Beach, Florida.
Its disappearance left a void in the industry.
Top stars like Booker T, Jeff Jarrett, Sting and Ric Flair would go on to enshrinement in WWE's Hall of Fame, and Goldberg would find success two decades later by entering WrestleMania 36 as the universal champion, but many of the most talented stars in the company had their contributions overshadowed by the household names they shared the screen with.
Now, 19 years later, relive some of the forgotten stars whose in-ring exploits and character work helped to set the table for those industry giants to feed at in WCW.
The most successful performer on this list, Billy Kidman very much became the workhorse of WCW in its final three years.
Originally introduced to fans as an enhancement talent who was bumped around mercilessly by bigger and more prominent stars on the roster, he rose to notoriety as a member of Raven's Flock. Appearing greasy, unbathed and with a controversial itch that suggested addiction, he worked against his leader's top foes and introduced the audience to his jaw-dropping Shooting Star Press finisher.
When Perry Saturn won The Flock's freedom, Kidman broke out, winning the WCW Cruiserweight Championship and wowing fans in matches against the likes of Juventud Guerrera and Psicosis. It was not until he battled Rey Mysterio, before teaming with him, that Kidman got his first taste of true stardom.
In the years that followed, Kidman would become one of the company's go-to competitors for a stellar in-ring performance. Look no further than Souled Out 2000, when concussions to Bret Hart and Jeff Jarrett forced the complete upheaval of the card.
Suddenly, Kidman was thrust into three separate matches, trusted by management to deliver on short notice. Three months later, he was the face of the company's New Blood storyline, feuding with Hulk Hogan over real insults The Hulkster made regarding Kidman and his ability to draw fans.
While Kidman would go on to work for WWE as part of its revitalized cruiserweight efforts, his contributions to WCW during the Monday Night War have gone underappreciated by fans who quickly name-drop Sting, Goldberg, Sid Vicious or the NWO when discussing the greatest acts of that era.
One of the best wrestlers on the planet at his peak and an integral part of WWE behind the scenes to this day, Kidman's legacy is that of a damn fine worker who held down the midcard of a company that never appreciated the diamond in the rough it had on its hands.
Whether he was making newcomer Glacier's life a living hell as the masked Mortis or partnering with Diamond Dallas Page and Bam Bam Bigelow as one-third of The Jersey Triad, Chris Kanyon was an innovator of offense whose skills indicated he should be much higher on the card.
After a lackluster spell as a conceited Hollywood type in 1999, Kanyon enjoyed his greatest run as a member of The New Blood during the company's failed reboot in April 2000.
Originally an on-screen bestie of DDP, Kanyon betrayed his friend and embarked on a heel run that saw him openly mocking the former world champion. Employing a Kanyon Cutter finisher, he feuded with the likes of Booker T, Buff Bagwell and Mike Awesome.
One of the more prominent midcard stars of the time, he flirted with the main event, occasionally competing in the marquee bout of Nitro or Thunder.
Unfortunately, the company went out of business before Kanyon could establish himself at another level. He died in 2010 at the relatively young age of 40 having never experienced the type of success someone with his skill set and creative approach to moves and matches deserved.
The Natural Born Thrillers
Mike Sanders, Chuck Palumbo, Sean O'Haire and Mark Jindrak were graduates of WCW's Power Plant, and as the new Millennium arrived, they made their debuts on Nitro and Thunder. Soon teamed up with Shawn Stasiak, the group became known as the Natural Born Thrillers and saw their profiles rise significantly.
The young stars, some with less than a year of experience in the industry, found themselves sharing the squared circle with veterans like Brian Adams, Bryan Clark, Kevin Nash and Diamond Dallas Page. A much-needed shot of youth on a show dominated by the stars of yesteryear, they brought an exciting energy to the promotion.
Were they ready for such a significant spot on the show? Probably not, but amid sinking ratings and fans imploring the company to initiate a youth movement, their presence was a welcome change.
O'Haire, in particular, felt destined for big things. Big, imposing, athletic and with an element of danger about him the others simply did not have, he appeared to have all the tools necessary to go on to a career of enormous highs.
Unfortunately, WCW went out of business, and those young stars were forced to adapt to a WWE system they had no real understanding of. While Palumbo and Jindrak would go on to middling success, the others failed to leave an impression and disappeared as quickly as they arrived, leaving fans to wonder what might have been had WCW not dug itself into such a deep hole by the time it turned to the stars of tomorrow.
At the height of the cruiserweight division's popularity, Juventud Guerrera was one of the company's standard-bearers. He was an integral part of that roster's ability to get over with audiences even after the company pigeonholed them. A high-flying performer who excelled when fighting from underneath, he helped to establish the division as a must-see element of Monday Nitro.
While Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper, Ric Flair, Kevin Nash and the rest of WWE's castoffs sleepwalked through main event after main event, Guerrera joined the likes of Silver King, El Dandy, Villanos IV and V, and Rey Mysterio in providing a work rate fans would stick around for.
By 2000, a now-maskless Guerrera would embrace the absurdity of the product under Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara, becoming an accent-heavy ripoff of The Rock known as "The Juice."
Whether he was incoherently rambling at the announce table alongside Scott Hudson and Tony Schiavone or waging war with Filthy Animals Billy Kidman, Konan and Mysterio, Guerrera remained a relevant member of the WCW roster throughout the Monday Night War and until its demise.
Scott 'Flash' Norton
Scott "Flash" Norton was a bruising heavyweight who arrived in WCW in 1995 after making a name for himself in Japan. A former arm wrestling champion, Norton would club, kick, pummel and dominate his opposition en route to victory via his vaunted Full Nelson submission.
As was the case with most guys with even the slightest bit of name value at the time, Norton soon found his way into the New World Order, where he became a heavy for the faction. Oftentimes teaming with the likes of Horace Hogan, Vincent, Brian Adams or Stevie Ray in the lower-level NWO Black & White faction, he won some and lost some but never benefited from anything resembling a sustained push.
It is unfortunate, really, because Norton was the type of no-nonsense ass-kicker who could have thrived in the realistic setting Eric Bischoff tried to create for his program.
A valuable asset during his time with the company, particularly when it came to getting over the "giant killer" persona of Rey Mysterio or the unstoppable force that was Goldberg, Norton is one of those stars who should have burned brighter but has faded over time, forgotten by all except the most diehard of wrestling fans.
History tells us Alex Wright was the pet project of WCW management, a good-looking kid out of Germany with a penchant for awful dancing and theme music straight out of that country's club scene. A deeper dive into the company's history gives us a look at a seriously solid worker who succeeded despite clear managerial favoritism.
Wright captured both the cruiserweight and television titles, stood toe-to-toe with celebrated in-ring geniuses like Ultimo Dragon, Chris Jericho, Dean Malenko, Lord Steven (William) Regal and Chris Benoit and routinely held his own.
His matches with Eddie Guerrero best represented the performer he could be, a lanky-yet-physical worker who never got a fair shake because of being over-pushed early and saddled with a terrible gimmick.
By the time Vince Russo arrived on the scene and introduced a new, supposedly more intimidating Wright as the enigmatic Berlyn, it was too late to rekindle any good will that existed upon the young star's arrival five years earlier.
What should have been a bright career with, at the very least, sustained midcard success not unlike that of Dustin Rhodes was instead limited at best.
Still, Wright is a wrestler whose contribution during the hottest era in the sport's long history is better than you remember and worth revisiting.
There would be no Goldberg without the selflessness of Hugh Morrus.
Bill DeMott, the man behind the laughter, made the newcomer with minimal experience look like a wrecking ball and got WCW's biggest breakout star over in a single match. Without his efforts to make Goldberg look as strong as he did on that September night in 1997, who knows what would have become of the WWE universal champion.
It should be no surprise to anyone who followed his WCW run, though, that Morris would so selflessly put over a rookie. Sure, he could bulldoze Kenny Kaos and put him away with his trademark No Laughing Matter finisher, but he was equally as likely to go down in defeat on the receiving end of a top-rope elbow drop by Randy Savage.
Morris was a utility worker for most of his run with the company but exploded into the midcard upon the WCW reboot in April 2000. After five years spent as a good hand in the undercard, he benefited from a push as General Rection, the leader of the Misfits in Action.
Say what you will about the faction and its place in the dying days of the company, but the big man made the most of his opportunity. And in October of that year, he captured the first of two United States Championships.
Morris had a relatively uneventful career in WWE as an on-screen talent thereafter but would have a tremendous impact as a trainer for WWE's developmental territories, for which he may be known best. That's a shame considering just how solid a worker he was at a time when WCW was firing on all cylinders.
On the surface, the idea of a wrestling boy band is asinine, and no one should be surprised in the slightest that it was the product of Vince Russo's creative regime.
With that said, the trio of Shane Helms, Shannon Moore and Evan Karagias became integral to the in-ring quality of WCW shows in the company's dying days. The wrestlers, each looking to expand on their options and opportunities in the business, routinely stole the show against the likes of The Jung Dragons.
When Helms and Moore kicked Karagias to the curb and the Dragons booted Jamie Noble, a series of matches involving the six competitors consistently set the bar impossibly high for their peers to eclipse.
Whether it was in straight wrestling matches or ladder wars, they were the saving grace of some terrible shows to the point that it was no surprise whatsoever that Helms and Moore caught on with WWE when Ted Turner's company closed its doors in March 2001.
One of the most beloved cruiserweights in WCW history, La Parka became recognized as The Chairman because of his expert swinging of a steel chair. A charismatic performer who would suck audiences in with his absurd dance numbers and keep their attention with outstanding in-ring action against his fellow cruiserweights, La Parka became one of the hidden gems of a jam-packed roster.
In late 1999, upon the arrival of Vince Russo as the company's creative brain trust, La Parka experienced a brief flirtation with the upper midcard. First, he joined Buff Bagwell in a battle with Rick Steiner and Lex Luger. From there, he became loosely associated with Russo's Powers That Be, accompanying Curt Hennig and The Harris Brothers on behalf of the boss.
Reactions for the character, particularly at that point in his run, were so overwhelmingly positive that it is a shame he was never able to break through the proverbial glass ceiling that had engulfed WCW. Taking into consideration that he won over the crowd without speaking English or any real promo skills to speak of, his popularity is that much more astonishing.
Disco Inferno never should have lasted a year in WCW.
A wrestler with an unhealthy fascination with the nostalgia of 1970s disco, he was a cartoon character who did not fit in an industry rapidly that was evolving by 1996. History tells us he should have gone the way of gimmicky wrestlers like WWE's Doink the Clown and Duke "The Dumpster" Droese. Instead, he remained a fixture of WCW programming through the demise of the company six years after his debut.
That can be attributed to Glenn Gilbertti's willingness to seize any opportunity for screen time he got and do whatever was necessary to standout. Whether he was having hellish bangers with Billy Kidman, Perry Saturn and Dean Malenko or taking an ass-kicking from the NWO's Scott Hall or Kevin Nash, the talented performer made sure fans did not forget his contributions to that night's show.
That he was an underrated in-ring worker who could get the most out of anyone from Alex Wright to Lash Leroux only helped his cause.
Sometimes annoying, almost always obnoxious, he was the goofball you could love but also want to see get obliterated by someone like Scott Steiner.
Gilbertti constantly evolved, made himself the butt of the joke when necessary and provided fans years of entertainment even in the darkest days of the company. For that, he deserves far more recognition than he receives from fans and critics alike.