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Chris Jericho, Steve Austin and Wrestling’s Greatest Mistakes

It’s funny how a conversation about something completely off subject catches your attention and basically writes your next blog. That’s exactly what happened from a conversation had on Facebook our the Fourth of July holiday,

The gist of the conversation was simple – was the announcement of Kevin Durant’s departure from Oklahoma City to play for Golden State the same kind of impactful move as Scott Hall and Kevin Nash leaving WWE for WCW or was it more like Chris Jericho’s move from WCW to WWE and becoming a world champion?

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I was immediate in my answer. This is a serious Chris Jericho move. And then it dawned on me. Jericho, and a handful of other former WCW superstars made the jump from the sinking promotion to Vince McMahon’s traveling circus and cashed in on greatness.

Steve Austin would never have been a champion for WCW. Eddie Guerrero became an icon he moved his shtick up north. We all know about Jericho’s success and someone like Rey Mysterio would never have been given a chance to carry WCW gold as the champion because of his size.

It’s those kinds of moves and that kind of forward thinking that has made WWE the giant it is today.

If wrestling fans take a step back and look at the haul of performers who got better once they made the jump from the former NWA to the house that the McMahons built, it is a wonder how WCW did not succeed. It’s also an indictment on how poor the company was run and how there were many miscalculations about talent and potential success. I’m sure Vince McMahon laughs about it even today.

I have always said the biggest mistake WCW did was let Austin walk. I know Ric Flair first said it in his biography, “To Be the Man,” but it is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I understand how the company that first gave us Mysterio could have seen him as a marginal competitor and superstar amongst the cruiserweights. But for management to see the lack of possibilities with Austin, Guerrero and Jericho is almost criminal.

Call that a shot thrown in the direction of Eric Bischoff. I’m sure he’s reading this right about now.

I also wonder if he hadn’t passed away, would Brian Pillman have found his way toward a world title and could we have seen anyone else on the last roster take a swing at running with WWE’s flag? Certainly, Sting would have been champion many times over – which may have changed John Cena’s direction.

What if Arn Anderson had not been injured and forced to retire from the business, could he have walked the aisle with the strap. Barry Windham is also another curious case of a great performer who may have carried WWE on his shoulders.

There have been plenty of great characters who have been without national titles. World Class Championship Wrestling had to create its own world title so the likes of Kevin Von Erich and Jimmy Garvin to get recognized. Randy Savage had to leave Memphis to become one of the greatest of all time. And why didn’t someone like Roddy Piper or Greg Valentine wear WWF gold?

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We talk on and on about which wrestlers are the greatest of all time. Generational gaps make that hard to determine, but everyone has their favorites. I wanted Windham to run with it in WWF and never got a chance. Tag teaming with Mike Rotundo and a time as the Widowmaker ended that chance. Steve Keirn was Skinner well after he was a star in Florida for many years over.

All of this talk brings a smile to my face, because history is just that and with history questions continue to forge great debates. It’s only after time has slipped away that we can see if not for mistakes by promotions and wrestling owners have we seen the best become the best, at someone else’s expense.

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