15 Superstars you didn't know competed in WCW
Some names are synonymous with World Championship Wrestling: Sting. Goldberg. Triple H.
OK, so The Game isn’t the first name you think of when you think of the Atlanta-based organization that was born out of Jim Crockett Promotions in the late ’80s and grew to be the biggest sports-entertainment company in America before imploding in 2001. But Triple H is one of the many competitors who spent time in the WCW locker room without becoming a major player in the promotion.
Here, WWE Classics looks at The King of King’s tenure in Ted Turner’s company as well as those of 14 other Superstars who bumped around WCW’s rings without settling down long enough to buy a house in Atlanta. ( PHOTOS | WATCH)
Sabu is remembered as an ECW icon today, but the Arabian madman’s relationship with ECW visionary Paul Heyman was contentious at best. That was made clear in 1995 when Sabu neglected a series of ECW engagements to compete in Japan and was publically fired by his ECW boss, leading the hardcore competitor to accept an offer from WCW.
Unsurprisingly, Sabu’s barely-suitable-for-TV style made him both an entertaining and dangerous presence in WCW. Fans gasped when the daredevil put Alex Wright through a table on WCW’s Nitro — an uncommon practice for the time. But WCW executives threw a fit when Sabu’s uncle, WWE Hall of Famer The Original Sheik, threw a fireball in the face of Mr. JL at Halloween Havoc. ECW’s Evel Knievel was released by the company shortly thereafter and quickly returned to the renegade Philadelphia promotion. Simply put, Sabu was too hardcore for WCW.
There is no denying that hard work and determination are what made WWE Hall of Famer Edge a decorated veteran of the squared circle. The Rated-R Superstar is a four-time WWE Champion, seven-time World Heavyweight Champion, five-time Intercontinental Champion, a former King of the Ring winner, two-time Money in the Bank winner and the winner of the 2010 Royal Rumble Match. The accolades are astounding and Edge certainly earned every one of them, after all, he started from the bottom and worked his way up.
Don’t believe us? Check out the Jan. 13, 1996, episode of WCW Pro. You’ll see a young competitor named Damon Striker get torn to shreds by the vicious Taskmaster Kevin Sullivan. One month later, he appeared on WCW Pro again, unsuccessfully going toe-to-toe with the monster Meng. These two bouts were not only the national debut of the man who would become Edge, but also the only matches he wrestled in WCW. The Rated-R Superstar later made his WWE debut in 1997 and his brief tenure in WCW was all but forgotten.
The Iron Sheik
WWE Hall of Famer The Iron Sheik is well-known for being the man Hulk Hogan defeated at Madison Square Garden in 1984 to become the WWE Champion and give rise to the movement known as Hulkamania. Since then, the Iranian-born Superstar’s irreverent personality and penchant to say whatever he feels has made him one of sports-entertainment’s most recognizable figures.
Although he is a part of pop culture thanks to his WWE career, The Iron Sheik also competed in various organizations like WCCW, Mid-South and many NWA-affiliated promotions, including WCW. In 1989, the former WWE Champion joined the Atlanta-based organization and challenged one of their brightest new stars — Sting — for the NWA/WCW Television Title. His bid for the championship was unsuccessful and shortly after his arrival, the Persian powerhouse left WCW and returned to WWE.
WWE COO Triple H is one of the most accomplished ring warriors in the history of sports-entertainment. There is no denying the impressive resume he has built in a career that has spanned two decades. He has earned each of his monikers: The Game. The King of Kings. Terra Ryzing?!
Before Triple H made his WWE debut as the Connecticut blue blood in 1995, Triple H competed in WCW as Terra Ryzing — complete with big blond hair and a nefarious personality that foreshadowed the more sinister Cerebral Assassin fans would eventually encounter. Shortly after his WCW debut, Terra Ryzing changed his name to Jean-Paul Levesque and displayed an attitude much closer to his Greenwich, Conn., roots. After battling Alex Wright and teaming with Lord Steve Regal, Triple H set his sights higher and left WCW for WWE, never once looking back.
Rhyno may have seemed like an overnight sensation when he began barreling through the ECW roster in 1999. But the truth is The Man Beast from Detroit, Mich., had been struggling in sports-entertainment obscurity for years before his ECW breakout.
A longtime friend of WWE Hall of Famer Edge and Christian, Rhyno competed on the same Canadian independent shows as the future World Tag Team Champions during the mid-90s. Striving to make it to the big leagues, the belligerent powerhouse received one of his first big breaks in August 1995 when he battled “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan in a losing effort on WCW Saturday Night. Competing under the name Terry Richards with his baby fat still noticeable, Rhyno barely looked like the mauler he would become, but his future as an ECW Champion was not too far ahead.
After the split of The Rockers in the early 1990s, Mary Jannetty achieved some triumphs on his own, becoming an Intercontinental and World Tag Team Champion in WWE. Although his level of success would not reach the towering heights of his fellow-former Rocker, Shawn Michaels, Jannetty continued to compete both in and out of a WWE ring throughout the decade.
Following a lack of championship success with Leif Cassidy as one half of The New Rockers in 1997, Jannetty left WWE and re-emerged in WCW. Considered a revolutionary in terms of introducing fast-paced and high-flying action to American wrestling as a Rocker, the former Intercontinental Champion was a welcome addition to WCW’s famed Cruiserweight division. Still, Jannetty’s tenure in Atlanta was brief and he promptly parted ways with the company after losses to rising stars like Raven and Chris Jericho.
Rob Van Dam
Before he broke out in Extreme Championship Wrestling as the laidback, effortlessly athletic Rob Van Dam, this Superstar from Battle Creek, Mich., received his first national exposure with WCW in 1992. Only a few years out of training with WWE Hall of Famer The Original Sheik, the 22-year-old was signed by the Atlanta-based organization and appeared barefooted in karate gear as Robbie V.
It may be for the best that WCW executives changed Mr. Monday Night’s moniker. During his time with the company, RVD got battered by less-than-notable competitors like Shanghai Pierce and Pat Rose. All told, Van Dam barely lasted a year in WCW, but he did have one notable encounter when he took on Kevin Nash — then known as Vinnie Vegas — in a bout during WCW’s TV Title tournament. Few could have predicted it at the time, but both men would go on to become WWE Champions within the next fifteen years.
WWE fans remember Rikishi as the dancing big man of WWE’s Attitude Era, but the powerfully charismatic Samoan had a long career in sports-entertainment before his late ’90s WWE breakout.
As a member of the celebrated Anoa’i wrestling family, Rikishi made his ring debut in 1985 alongside his cousin, Samu, as The Samoan Swat Team. Carrying on the savage tradition of their forbearers — the legendary Wild Samoans — Rikishi and Samu hit the ring like untamed animals and stomped their way through World Class Championship Wrestling and Puerto Rico’s World Wrestling Council before arriving in WCW in 1989.
Entering under the guidance of Paul Heyman — then known as Paul E. Dangerously — the duo competed in a WarGames Match at the 1989 Great American Bash and fared well in Starrcade 1989’s “Iron Team Tournament.” But the pair disappeared from WCW soon after that event and eventually made their way to WWE, where they won the World Tag Team Titles as The Headshrinkers.
Standing 5-foot-9 with less muscle tone than a wad of Silly Putty, Mikey Whipwreck may not have looked like the archetypal hardcore ECW Superstar. But the underdog from Buffalo, N.Y., became one of the renegade promotion’s most essential figures when he defeated The Sandman in a shocking upset to become ECW’s Heavyweight Champion in 1995.
The tenacious competitor became such an integral part of ECW’s fabric that he seemed strangely out of place when he arrived in WCW in ’99. Clad in his trademark oversized T-shirt and black shorts, Whipwreck stood out against hulking giants like Goldberg and Kevin Nash. But an unassuming appearance didn’t stop Mikey from stealing the show in his WCW debut at Uncensored on March 14, 1999. Challenging Kidman for the WCW Cruiserweight Title in his very first bout, Whipwreck put up a heck of a fight in a losing effort. Despite his spirited performance, the former ECW Champion never had another major WCW match and was gone from the promotion by the end of the summer.
There are some rivalries in sports-entertainment that transcend the borders of specific organizations. This was most certainly the case for Luna Vachon and her arch nemesis, Madusa. The lady grapplers began their legendary rivalry in the 1980s in Florida Championship Wrestling and it endured for years, carrying over into WWE in the 1990s. Madusa — known in WWE as Alundra Blayze — held the Women’s Championship and successfully defended it against the aggressive Luna on multiple occasions.
Vachon eventually left WWE for ECW, but soon made her way to WCW after Madusa joined the organization in 1997. Their bitter enmity was renewed when Luna prevented her rival from winning the WCW Women’s Title. The two former WWE Divas engaged in a series of battles, but Madusa always prevailed. Shortly thereafter, Luna returned to WWE, effectively ending her storied rivalry with Madusa.
Barry Horowitz could easily be considered one of the hardest working Superstars in the history of sports-entertainment. Known for his lackluster win-loss record in WWE, Horowitz never quit. He may have struggled to achieve a great deal of success, but he continued to fight.
Barry’s years of hard work paid off when he scored a huge upset win over Skip of The Bodydonnas in ’95, but Horowitz eventually left WWE to test his luck in WCW in 1998. Unfortunately, the Florida native was overshadowed by major stars like Hulk Hogan and Bret Hart and found himself mostly relegated to WCW Saturday Night, where he struggled against competitors like Disco Inferno and Glacier. In the end, Horowitz’s greatest claim to fame in WCW was being added to Goldberg’s unmatched 173-0 undefeated streak on more than one occasion.
The film “No Holds Barred” is a cult classic. The over-the-top but enjoyable flick featured Hulk Hogan as a pro wrestler named Rip facing a monstrous opponent known as Zeus. Although the film was fiction, Zeus didn’t take his loss to Hogan’s character in the movie lightly and set his sights on his co-star in 1989. When Zeus failed to exact revenge on The Hulkster, he left WWE and sports-entertainment.
In 1996, The Four Horsemen and The Dungeon of Doom forged an alliance to stop the spread of Hulkamania through WCW. “The Alliance to End Hulkamania” recruited rivals and former allies from Hogan’s past, including the devastating Zeus. Now known as Z-Gangsta, the massive competitor battled Hogan and “Macho Man” Randy Savage as part of a disastrous Tower of Doom Match at Uncensored 1996. Once again, Zeus failed to best Hogan and he was gone from the Atlanta-based organization as fast as he showed up.
Mil Mascaras was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2012, but the legendary masked competitor appeared in WWE rings only a small handful of times. Instead, the lucha libre star preferred to move from territory to territory, building a fan following from Mexico to Japan that made him one of the most successful global competitors of the 1970s and ’80s.
It should come as no surprise then that Mil Mascaras made a brief stop in WCW. It was at Clash of the Champions X: Texas Shootout on Feb. 6, 1990, that the “Man of 1,000 Masks” made his sole WCW appearance, battling Cactus Jack in what could only be described as a conflict of styles. Mascaras was able to defeat the three-time WWE Champion in a little more than five minutes, but he never appeared in WCW again. Or did he?
Some lucha libre fans may have thought Mil Mascaras returned to WCW on the Mar. 22, 1999, edition of Nitro when a competitor wearing one of the WWE Hall of Famer’s distinctive masks took part in an Eight-Man Tag Team Match. But it was quickly revealed the wannabe luchador was actually Disco Inferno, going incognito as La Cucaracha. ¡Ay, qué làstima!
Greg "The Hammer" Valentine
Before he became a dangerous Intercontinental Champion in WWE, Greg “The Hammer” Valentine was one of the most hated men in the National Wrestling Alliance. Sports-entertainment fans will never forget Valentine’s heated rivalry with Wahoo McDaniel or his gory Dog Collar Match against Roddy Piper at Starrcade 1983, but The Hammer’s brief stints in WCW in 1992 and ’96 are far less memorable.
Following losses to Irwin R. Schyster and Earthquake in WWE in 1991, Valentine jumped to WCW and formed a duo with Terry Taylor — known to WWE fans as The Red Rooster. The pair won the WCW United States Tag Team Titles from the bizarre pairing of Big Josh & Ron Simmons, but The Hammer left the company barely a year into his debut. Four years later, the WWE Hall of Famer returned to WCW for a few brief appearances during the Monday Night War, including a WCW World Championship Match against The Giant on the July 29, 1996, Nitro.