Buff Bagwell was a star talent for WCW for many years, from his more humble beginnings as a babyface tag team specialist to his more memorable run as a heel in the New World Order. When WWE acquired WCW, there was no shortage of pundits suggesting Bagwell would be a shoo-in to succeed in the WWE system. After all, he looked fantastic and had an outsized personality – two factors guaranteed to at least give anyone a sustained mid-map run under Vince McMahon.
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Related: Buff Bagwell’s WCW Neck Injury And Return, ExplainedHowever, Bagwell never realized this potential. He was handpicked to work the first ever WCW marquee match on WWE Raw facing Booker T, and the fight was horribly received, ultimately marking the end of Bagwell’s WWE career.
Buff Bagwell vs. Booker T was the wrong match at the wrong time
There are ways to make Buff Bagwell and Booker T vie for the WCW Championship as an ideal match to showcase the WCW brand to WWE audiences. After all, Booker was an exciting young star who had emerged from the WCW Nitro Finals as a world champion. Bagwell had a WWE-friendly look and charisma. Both were familiar names to fans who had previously followed WCW, but new to WWE fans having never worked in that promotion before. It was even a traditional face-to-heel face-off to keep things simple.
However, despite all the factors that could have made sense in booking this game, there were plenty of others that didn’t. WWE staged the match “cold,” with no storytelling or heat. Also, while Booker was a main eventer, he wasn’t necessarily one of the earliest fans of big-name stars associated with WCW, like Sting, Goldberg, Ric Flair, Hollywood Hogan, or even Diamond Dallas Page (arguably the biggest name that would actually immediately move to WWE). And even for loyal WCW fans, Bagwell was someone who had never really been a main event guy — an odd choice to get a world title with no meaningful storytelling to get him there.
Beyond the question of star power, there was the reality that it’s hard to imagine Booker T and Bagwell having a great match, let alone in the main event spot on an episode of WWE. Raw. Booker had great matchup potential with the right opponent, but wasn’t in that class of Ricky Steamboat, Randy Savage or Bret Hart who could get more than three stars with a broomstick. For everything Bagwell brought to the table, he was at least one step behind Booker as a worker. Combine those factors and the game only lasts about five minutes bell to bell, and it was almost guaranteed to disappoint before it even started.
Buff Bagwell thinks WWE sabotaged her match with Booker T
It’s not just conspiracy theorists who think Buff Bagwell vs. Booker T was set up for failure. During a visit to the Who The Fook Are These Guys podcast (h/t WrestlingINC), Bagwell shared his thoughts on how WWE did everything possible to ensure that the match, himself and the most big brand of WCW would not defer to their fans. That includes booking him for a show that emanated from Tacoma, Washington, which was never a market for WCW even in its heyday. This contrasts with Raw’s trip to Atlanta – arguably the hottest city for WCW – just a week later.
Along with the location of the failed match, Bagwell offered additional suggestions WWE had for him. One of Bagwell’s most infamous behind-the-scenes stories is that his mother called Jim Ross on his behalf to “call him sick” during an appearance, which JR used to illustrate Buff’s lack of professionalism. . Bagwell completely denies the story, going so far as to suggest that Ross lied to ruin Bagwell’s career. “God, me and he are the only three witnesses I have, and who are they going to believe?” said Bagwell. “They’re going to believe Jim Ross. It put me in a bad spot…I said ‘why should I fight Booker T with 25…staples in my head and then pull three house shows as you try to get to [WWE]While fans may never know for sure who is telling the truth, Bagwell seems aware of how absurd it would have been to make that choice.
The Legacy of Booker T Vs. Buff Bagwell
According to the old wisdom, winners write the history books. WWE controls most of the popular understanding of WCW’s narrative due to the competition’s takeover, and Booker T’s failures against Buff Bagwell became a major coda for the Monday Night War.
Related: Buff Bagwell Vs. Booker T & 9 Other Bad Matches That Hurt Major WWE StorylinesThe flop of the match was used as justification that no business partner wanted WWE to relaunch the WCW brand, not to mention, more quietly, a display of the limited skills that Bagwell and, by extension, so many others WCW contracted talent has actually brought it to the table. . WWE hasn’t dropped Booker T vs. Buff Bagwell’s storyline, including keeping it available to this day on its official YouTube channel to remind curious fans of how bad it was, and the implication. that WCW as a whole was so lackluster of a product.
Buff Bagwell never ended up getting another picture on WWE television, even in a part-time legend type role that many of his colleagues from that era had the opportunity to step into. Booker T became that rare start to move from WCW to WWE and achieve comparable success, but it’s generally seen as a testament to his incredible talent and work ethic to get there. Nonetheless, Bagwell vs. Booker remains a cautionary tale of why WWE doesn’t trust talent from outside their system to succeed, and a reflection of all of WCW’s shortcomings.