wrestling / Columns

Top 7 Wrestlers Jumping Ship Moments

July 25, 2021 | Posted by Steve Cook

We all have opinions & feelings about the rumor & innuendo coming out of All Elite Wrestling this week. Bryan Danielson is reportedly on his way to the promotion. Not only that, but CM Punk is also apparently in talks to join AEW and wrestle for the first time since 2014. I don’t know any more about it than you do, and I’m not inclined to act like I do. What I can say is that this whole drama reminds me of my wrestling fan childhood.

One of my favorite things about being a young wrestling fan during the 1990s was watching wrestlers jump from company to company. Wrestlers that I knew from WWF would suddenly turn up in WCW. Others that I saw rise up the ranks in WCW would move to the WWF. Or, some wrestlers would even go to ECW. Guys like Steve Austin & Cactus Jack would make a pit stop in ECW between stints with WCW & the WWF. Rick Rude would appear on Raw & Nitro on the same night. It was fun to see play out on television, and then it was fun to follow on the Internet once I figured out that I could go to websites specializing in wrestling news & opinion.

These federation changes didn’t always work out. For every 1980s WWF star that prospered in 1990s WCW, there was one that failed. Some ECW stars would find success in the Big 2, while others would fade into oblivion. Then there were other wrestlers that would fit in perfectly in one promotion & not in the other, and it wouldn’t make sense. I’ve mentioned this before, but a perfect example is Scott Steiner. He never fit in with the WWF/WWE. Not with his brother Rick, or as a single. In WCW, TNA, Japan or anywhere else, he thrived. Another fine example is Bret Hart, who went to WCW as one of the biggest talent acquisitions in history, and the less said about what happened afterward the better.

Today, we’re going to look at ones that did work out. The seven most magnificent moves that put the wrestler in a better place and improved the promotion that brought them in.

7. Kurt Angle (from WWE to TNA)

The grind of the WWE schedule was getting to Kurt Angle. The style he worked there, combined with injuries that accumulated during his amateur & professional wrestling careers, had Angle such a physical wreck that he went to certain means to kill the pain. Saying anything more than that would be pure speculation on my part, but the bottom line is that Angle couldn’t work that WWE schedule anymore. TNA’s lighter schedule (though more physically demanding) was what Angle needed at the time.

Did it work out for him? I don’t think he would tell you it did. It did work out for TNA, as even though Angle wasn’t the first WWE wrestler to make the jump to TNA, he was the most high profile and ended up having the longest run on top.

6. Lex Luger (from WWF to WCW)

The timing made this jump an even bigger deal than it would have been otherwise. Luger had been on top of WWF cards for a bit in 1993 & 94, but by the time 1995 rolled around he was in the mid-card teaming with Davey Boy Smith. It was time to move on, and it wasn’t going to be a big loss for the WWF.

What made it a big loss was the way Luger came back to WCW after a three-year absence. Putting aside the fact he gave no notice and left the night after appearing on a WWF house show (Luger’s contract had expired but he was still working shows under the impression he would eventually sign), what made it a big deal was the fact that it came as a complete surprise on the first episode of Monday Nitro. When you’re debuting a new show, you need things like that to make fans think they need to tune in every week.

As it turned out, WCW was the right place for Luger to be during the mid to late 1990s. He was a much better fit there than he ever was in the WWF. The Narcissist & Made in the U.S.A. paled in comparison to the Total Package.

5. Chris Jericho (from WCW to WWF)

Jericho was never a headliner during his time in WCW. At least not in the eyes of management. The fans bought into him more than they were supposed to, considering he was a cruiserweight that had never been on WWF television. They either loved his ridiculousness or hated it, and those who loved it were convinced that he would make it big in the WWF, where he would get more of a chance to shine.

Which he did, eventually. The WWF had its own backstage politicians that didn’t get as much press as WCW’s did, and Jericho’s debut getting that type of reaction didn’t sit well with them. He needed to pay his dues! It was like his promo worked them into a shoot. In any event, Jericho was the first name to make the jump from WCW to the WWF during the Monday Night War willingly.

4. Ric Flair (from WCW to WWF)

The Nature Boy was in the midst of his seventh reign as NWA World Champion in 1991, while also being recognized as the first WCW World Champion. The issue here was WCW management wanting to change everything about Ric Flair, and not showing him the respect he felt he deserved. Flair’s contract was up & he wanted out, and management was fine with that. They just wanted Flair to drop the championship, and Flair wanted his security deposit that he gave the NWA when he became champion. Management didn’t want to give it to him, so Flair left the company without dropping the championship. Then he showed up on WWF television with the Big Gold Belt, and all heck broke loose.

Flair has said before that his brief run with the WWF from this point until 1993 was the most enjoyable of his career. It may have been from his perspective, but fans tend to disagree. What should have been a license to print money with Flair feuding with longtime WWF Champion Hulk Hogan became a brief house show feud that didn’t live up to expectations. WWF fans weren’t as familiar with Flair as expected, and the WWF wasn’t terribly interested in portraying him on Hogan’s level…up until the Hulkster was on his way out. Flair in the WWF had its moments, but it could have been so much more.

But hey, Ric liked it, so who am I to disagree?

3. Hulk Hogan (from WWF to WCW)

Hulkamania had run wild on the WWF for nearly a decade. Things were losing steam, however. Hogan had taken time off in 1992, but his return in 1993 didn’t go nearly as well as people hoped, including the Hulkster. He took off to shoot a TV show, and that’s when Eric Bischoff (or whoever’s taking credit for it this week, maybe Greg Gagne) came up with the idea to bring Hulk Hogan to WCW.

I’ll be honest. It wasn’t a hit with me as a ten-year-old. I had grown to appreciate WCW for what it was and the fact that it introduced me to a bunch of people I hadn’t seen on WWF television. Then I got to see Hulk & all his friends I had seen for years in the WWF show up and force out the people I liked. It worked for WCW though! Got them some mainstream attention they hadn’t really had before and got them closer to really competing with the WWF. It would take a couple of years and a pretty significant change for Hogan’s image, but it’s safe to say that overall things worked out well for both sides. Hogan got freshened up, WCW got more attention, what’s not to love?

2. Scott Hall & Kevin Nash (from WWF to WCW)

Like most of the other people on this list, Hall & Nash had pretty much run their course in the WWF. Razor Ramon had stalled out at the Intercontinental title level, while Diesel had had his run on top and was on his way down. He probably would have stayed in the title picture, but he sure wasn’t getting another year-long run with the strap. So it was time for Razor & Diesel to go. WCW offered them some big money, making the decision pretty easy. What made this jump work ridiculously well is that WCW let people believe they hadn’t jumped companies. Hall & Nash were portrayed as outside invaders coming for a piece of the competition.

We all know what happened next. The New World Order propelled WCW to the top of the wrestling rankings for a couple of years there. Hall & Nash made the right move at the right time, and their careers & perception benefitted because of it.

Honorable Mention: Jake Roberts (from WWF to WCW)

Jake was barely in WCW long enough for a cup of coffee. He had negotiated a big contract with their management at the time, but when Bill Watts took over during the in-between time, he had a different idea of what Roberts was worth. The reason we’re mentioning this is simple: My first WCW memory is seeing Jake “The Snake” Roberts attack Sting, which was shocking to me since I’d watched Jake in the WWF the past couple of years. What was this new wrestling show (to me) that had Jake the Snake? I had to keep watching.

I think that’s something today’s so-called experts forget. They assume every wrestling fan knows every promotion and has made up their mind on it. Not so. I knew a little of WCW from its position after WWF Superstars & Wrestling Challenge, but two hours was enough for my wrestling fix at the time, and Worldwide looked less interesting than the earlier programming. Jake was a big part of what got me to commit & find out more about the company.

1. Hulk Hogan (from AWA to WWF)

The earliest days of Hulkamania didn’t take place in the World Wrestling Federation. Hogan had wrestled for the WWWF before, and even got his name from Vince McMahon Sr.. However, he had left after he was told to choose between working in New York & doing Rocky III and made the right choice. He went to the AWA, and after the movie came out he really got over. Verne Gagne made him a face & pushed him on top, and Hogan’s persona developed from there. T-shirts were torn, t-shirts were sold, and the mania started running wild, brother.

Of course, things weren’t perfect. When Hogan would make Japan tours, the AWA would keep selling Hogan t-shirts and neglect to give the Hulkster his cut. They wanted to make Hogan AWA Champion, but they also wanted a cut of the money he’d make other places. It wasn’t going to last, and when Vince McMahon looked for the top star that would lead his nationwide expansion, the top babyface in Minnesota with mainstream motion picture exposure was the choice that stood out from the pack. Once Hogan left the AWA and came on board, the rest was history.

Whether we like Hulk Hogan these days or not, it’s undeniable that his jump from one promotion to another had the biggest long-term impact on wrestling history.

Thanks for reading! Hit me up on the Twitter or down in the comment section with some of your favorite promotion jumps, or anything else on your mind! Heck, tell me if I can count on Bryan & Punk showing up in AEW if you’ve got some inside information. I’m here to listen.

article topics :

AEW, WWE, Steve Cook