Vince McMahon Gave Big Opportunities To Many Former WCW Stars
Throughout the entire decade of the nineties, and a few years before and after, WCW was the WWF’s biggest competition. WCW gave Vince McMahon all he could handle and then some by constantly stealing away several of his top stars and by defeating Raw in the ratings for over eighty weeks in a row. It’s been said that during WCW’s existence and even afterwards, Vince has tried to bury the credibility of WCW by sabotaging the former WCW main eventers who signed with the WWE. In my opinion, there is some degree of truth to this. But Vince has not tried to sabotage former WCW stars nearly to the degree that many would like to think. In fact, he has given plenty of big opportunities to many WCW main eventers.
I think most wrestling fans will agree that Vince was never afraid to give main event opportunities in WWE to wrestlers who worked in WCW only as midcarders. Undertaker, Steve Austin, Mick Foley, Kevin Nash, Rey Mysterio, Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit (he was mostly a midcarder in WCW), and Eddie Guerrero all were WWE World Champions and had World Championship matches at WrestleMania. Scott Hall also became a very big deal in WWE. Maybe Vince just didn’t think utilizing WCW’s mid card talent was lending too much credibility to his competition, or that most fans did not strongly identify the WCW brand with those wrestlers. Whatever the reason, Vince certainly let middle of the card workers from WCW shine in WWE.
Before I discuss all the WCW stars Vince gave big opportunities to, I’ll talk about the ones he arguably tried to damage. Obviously, there was Dusty Rhodes, who Vince made dance, wear yellow polka dots, and have an overweight female valet named Sapphire. This was clearly trying to make WCW seem inferior by humiliating one of their biggest stars. However, Dusty did get some star treatment, as he worked a long program with Randy Savage. There was Sting, who lost his only two pay per view matches in WWE. But that’s an arguable example, as Sting was in his mid-fifties at the time. According to Sting on his WWE documentary, he thought his match with Triple H at WM 31 was going to be his last, so it’s understandable he put Triple H over. And in his second pay per view match against Seth Rollins, Rollins was the champion, so there was no shame in Sting losing to him.
Harley Race (actually coming from the NWA) wasn’t a main eventer in WWE, but he was old by the time he joined the company, and he was given the King of the Ring, so it’s not like he was treated like a nobody. Hogan was on top at the time and had a stranglehold on the title. Since feuds lasted longer back then there were obviously fewer of them, so there were less opportunities for wrestlers to work long programs with the champion. Although he did get to wrestle Hogan on a Saturday Night’s Main Event. Ricky Steamboat was sort of treated like a joke when he returned to WWE in the early nineties, taking his “dragon” gimmick to hokey level, even blowing fire before matches. Steamboat probably was sabotaged by Vince because he was a WCW main eventer.
There was arguably Scott Steiner who never won a World Title in WWE, but he had an atrocious match against Triple H at Royal Rumble 2003. Both men were wrestling hurt and Steiner got scapegoated for it, but I think that’s more favoritism towards the son in law than anything else. And besides, during that title reign Triple H also beat Booker T, Kane, Kevin Nash, Rob Van Dam, and won an Elimination Chamber. Speaking of Booker T, I feel the time when Booker was first starting with WWE as WCW Champion and hid under the commentator’s table from Kurt Angle was an attempt to bury the WCW brand, as was Rock saying “Who in the blue hell are you?” But over the long haul he probably wasn’t ready to be a World Champion in WWE until he became King Booker in 2006, and for what it’s worth he did win the title then. Regarding Diamond Dallas Page, it’s said they didn’t like his attitude backstage, and DDP said he reminded people backstage numerous times about how WCW almost put WWE out of business. DDP may have been an instance of trying to hurt the WCW brand, as he should have been more than a European Champion.
Not every example I listed was unarguably an instance of Vince McMahon trying to sabotage former WCW stars just because they came from the competition. But there’s enough possible instances that he probably did try with some of them. However, the point of this column is to show that Vince did not try to hurt every former WCW main eventer who signed with WWE. In fact, he gave big opportunities to many of them.
Sid first signed with WWE in 1991 and was part of that year’s Summer Slam main event, even if as just the guest referee. When Hulk Hogan made it known that he would be leaving WWE, it’s been said that Vince wanted Sid to replace him as the top face of the company, but Sid turned it down, thinking there was more money to be made as a heel. Sid did end up main eventing WrestleMania 8 in 1992 and quit the company shortly afterwards. Years later he returned and main evented a handful of pay per views including WrestleMania 13, his second WM main event. He won the World Title in late 1996 and won it again in early 1997, making him the champion going into WM 13.
Ric Flair was the WCW Champion before he left that company and he did not lose the title in a match. He was still in legal possession of the physical belt and brought it with him to WWE, making it look like the WWE really did have WCW’s Champion. This was a golden opportunity for Vince McMahon to bury the WCW brand by embarrassing Ric or simply making him a mid carder. But he was a main eventer from the start. He feuded with Roddy Piper and then won the WWE Title by winning the Royal Rumble. He was originally planned to main event WM 8 in 1992 with Hogan, but for reasons that are not clear, that didn’t happen. Flair was still champion going into that WM as part of a “Double Main Event”. He managed to win the title again later in the same year. When Flair returned to WWE in the early 2000’s he was mostly in the mid card, but by then he was in his fifties and a shell of his former self.
At Lex Luger’s first WrestleMania in 1993 he defeated Mr. Perfect. Then in the summer of that year he turned face out of nowhere and got a rocket push into the main event. He got an All-American gimmick and won Yokozuna’s body slam challenge. He main evented Summer Slam that year against Yokozuna and won by count out, failing to win the title. He then co-won the Royal Rumble with Bret Hart, and only because Bret Hart got more cheers than Lex did he lose his title match at WrestleMania 10. Vince did not sabotage Lex. He did nearly everything he could to make him the most popular wrestler in the company, but Bret was still better. Vince didn’t fail Lex. Lex just wasn’t good enough.
Vader main evented Summer Slam in 1996 against Shawn Michaels, but it drew a disappointing buy rate. He then was supposed to main event Survivor Series that year against Shawn Michaels, this time winning the title, with the plan being to drop it back to Shawn at the Royal Rumble in Shawn’s hometown. However, Shawn Michaels said no to those plans, and being the strong politician that he was at the time, he got his wish and Vader was replaced by Sid.
Big Show won the WWF title within his first 12 months with WWE and main evented WrestleMania 2000, but his crowd reactions were noticeably lesser than that of the other top stars, and he had to be removed from the main event scene. Overall he’s probably lost most of his matches in WWE, but every now and then he’s gotten to work with top names like Brock Lesnar, Triple H, Orton and Cena. He main evented several pay per views and won a handful of World Titles. Not too bad of a career.
Goldberg signed a one year contract in 2003 and defeated The Rock at his first pay per view, which he main evented. Many say he should have won the title at Summer Slam 03 in the Elimination Chamber match, and I agree, but he did win it a month later from Triple H, getting a clean win over him when he was seemingly unbeatable. The next pay per view Goldberg again defeated Triple H clean. In his last match during this run at WM 20, Goldberg defeated Brock Lesnar. For only having a one year contract, I’d say he was treated very well. Since Goldberg returned in 2016, he actually squashed the invincible Brock Lesnar, won the Universal Championship, main evented multiple pay per views, and had a world championship match at WrestleMania 33.
That’s 6 former WCW main eventers that Vince gave or wanted to give big opportunities to. He sabotaged some, but not most. And Of course, there was the Invasion storyline that could have been handled better. But I feel that was a direct attack on the WCW brand as a whole and wasn’t meant to single out any former WCW stars. Booker T didn’t fare well during this time and should have been booked less embarrassingly here and there, but many feel that overall he wasn’t ready then.
Vince McMahon’s critics will fault him for trying to bury or embarrass many former WCW stars. And while I will say he unarguably tried to embarrass some of them, you can make arguments for the others, and he clearly gave big opportunities to several of them. There are two sides to this coin, and Vince doesn’t get enough recognition for trying to push Ted Turner’s former top employees in his main event scene.
Last edited by AliFrazier100; 08-22-2019 at 01:10 AM.