Long-term success in the world of wrestling requires a combination of skill, charisma, and political acumen. Unlike other professional sports where an athlete’s success is based solely on their performance, many factors go into creating a wrestling superstar. Booking and management plays a huge role in determining whether an artist will eventually become a star or not.
Throughout wrestling history, we have seen less than stellar wrestlers being pushed over the moon by management. Conversely, we’ve seen incredibly talented artists being held back by management in one way or another. In WCW, the latter was a recurring theme. Unfortunately, some of WCW’s poorly managed performers were never able to bounce back.
There’s a popular saying in pro wrestling these days, “Wrestling has more than one royal family.” The Rhodes and Hart families are good examples of this and, to a lesser extent, the Armstrongs. Family patriarch, “Bullet” Bob Armstrong was one of the biggest stars of all time on the South and Gulf Coast.
Armstrong’s sons were shards from the old block. Most fans know Brian Armstrong aka “The Road Dogg” Jesse James. However, the eldest of the Armstrong boys, Brad was by far the most physically gifted. Unfortunately for Brad Armstrong, his talent would never translate to superstardom. Instead, he would have to endure countless false pushes and bad gadgets, including Arachnoman.
“Hacksaw” Jim Duggan
In the late ’80s, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan seemed destined for main event success. Duggan wasn’t the greatest worker but his natural charisma was undeniable. Unfortunately, Duggan’s self-destruction prevented him from reaching his full potential. In the 90s, Duggan, who was still a household name, jumped to WCW.
It would be a mistake. First, WCW hired Duggan as a janitor. Then, right at the end of WCW, the historically patriotic Duggan would turn against America and join Team Canada. Duggan had little left to give by the time he arrived in WCW, but the promotion did its best to hasten his decline.
Professional wrestling has come a long way over the years. In previous eras, the action inside the ring was the main focus. Since Vince McMahon revolutionized the world of wrestling in the 80s, entertainment has become the priority. This shift in philosophy cost many talented performers in the ring a shot at superstardom.
Kanyon was perhaps the WCW performer who had the hardest time translating his excellent in-ring work into mainstream success. Instead of WCW management finding a way to properly utilize Kanyon’s talent, they continually cast him incorrectly. At the time of WCW’s closure in 2001, Kanyon’s character was an afterthought and borderline comic relief.
WCW’s impact on the popularity of Lucha Libre in the United States cannot be underestimated. WCW and Eric Bischoff have allowed the entire Cruiserweight division to showcase their talents on the world stage. However, when the wheels started to come off WCW, it was the Cruiserweight division that got the short end of the stick first.
For some strange reason, Eric Bischoff became obsessed with unmasking the Luchadors. Juventud Guerrera was perhaps the performer most negatively affected by the unmasking. After Juventud lost his mask in 1998, the mystical aura surrounding him disappeared. He was never able to recover that magic.
Being a woman in the male-dominated world of professional wrestling can still be difficult today. However, the trials and tribulations that female wrestlers had to endure in previous eras have increased tenfold. Still, some of the greatest female wrestlers of all time have overcome the odds to make a name for themselves. One of these women was Madusa.
In the early 90s, Madusa became WWE’s top female star under the name “Alundra Blayze”. In late 1995, Madusa returned to WCW. Money aside, his decision was a headache. WCW did not have a women’s division at the time. Madusa would struggle a bit with men during her second stint in WCW, but she would ultimately end up being an afterthought and glorified valet.
Some wrestlers have the misfortune of arriving too early or too late. Alex Wright is an example of an artist who came onto the scene a generation or two too early. Today, Alex Wright would probably be a darling of the internet wrestling community. In the 90s however, Wright was far from that.
At first, it looked like the sky would be the limit for Wright in WCW. After all, it comes highly recommended by “Nature Boy” Ric Flair. Unfortunately, Wright’s WCW career would be a disappointment. Wright was a good worker, but he couldn’t get over the dancing madman thing and the uneventful heel turn that followed as “Berlyn.”
In the ’90s, pro wrestling audiences were shifting from the old “say your prayers and take your vitamins” mindset to a counterculture mentality. Meanwhile, WCW and WWE have shed more light on the sexuality of their on-air female talent. Sunny was a great benefactor of this philosophical shift.
Eventually, however, she would be usurped by Sable as WWE’s top female star. In the early 2000s, Sunny and Chris Candido went to WCW. In WCW, Sunny was not treated as well as in WWE. He was even asked to wrestle several times in WCW, which was not his area of expertise. The WCW experiment would be a total disaster for Sunny and Candido.
Mike Awesome’s lack of success in a major US wrestling promotion is honestly astounding. On paper, Awesome seemed like the kind of performer who would have Vince McMahon salivating at the mouth, and by extension, WCW. However, that was far from the case. In 2000, Awesome was the reigning ECW World Champion but made the mistake of jumping to WCW.
When Awesome came to WCW, he was almost immediately mishandled. He was reserved for looking weak, which was bad enough. What his career never recovered from was that he was booked for “That 70s Guy” and “The Fat Chick Thriller”. Not even Hulk Hogan or John Cena could have made those gadgets work. Awesome would eventually make it to WWE, but he wouldn’t fare much better there.
The 90s saw the rise of grunge music. Generation X seemed to gravitate towards counterculture antiheroes. ECW was created to provide this part of society with professional wrestling. For a while, the idea worked like a charm. ECW and their world champion anti-hero, Raven, captured the imaginations of young wrestling fans in the ’90s like no one had before.
When Raven arrived in WCW in 1997, it looked like the promotion would finally have an anti-hero to help fight the rising “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Instead, Raven was a complete WCW afterthought. Had Raven capitalized on her success in ECW by going to WWE, her career might have turned out differently. Unfortunately, WCW had no idea what to do with such a complex character.
In the summer of 1996, WCW overtook WWE in the television ratings and thus became the number one wrestling promotion on the planet. From there, WCW would spend most of 1997 tightening its grip on the position. It was also the year Bret Hart transitioned from WWE to WCW as the hottest entity in pro wrestling after The Montreal Screwjob.
WCW seemed set up to benefit greatly from the latest acquisition. However, Bret Hart’s tenure in WCW was a complete disappointment. Within a year, WCW would manage to completely cool Bret Hart. Additionally, Hart would be injured by Goldberg and would be forced to retire in 2000. It’s safe to say that putting his future in the hands of WCW was the biggest mistake of Hart’s career.
10 Legendary Wrestlers Who Failed In WCW
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