Buff Bagwell: Did He Have The Stuff To Be A Top Guy?
From 1991 to 2001, Marcus Alexander Bagwell was regularly featured on World Championship Wrestling television. During that run, Bagwell won the WCW Tag Team Championships five times with four different partners. However, Bagwell never won a singles championship in WCW. In fact, Bagwell never got elevated out of the mid card ranks.
Recently, I had been thinking about the career of Marcus “Buff” Alexander Bagwell and wondered if there was ever an opportunity for him to be a “top guy” in professional wrestling. Thus, I’m going to look throughout his career.
Bagwell got signed by WCW after a tryout match in November 1991. A month into his career, Marcus was part of the Starrcade pay per view where he pinned Tracy Smothers in a tag team match and competed in the Battlebowl battle royal, which he didn’t win.
It wouldn’t take long for Bagwell to be inserted into major angles in WCW despite not having much experience on a national level. By early 1992, a stable of heel wrestlers formed the Dangerous Alliance to terrorize WCW and were led by Paul E. Dangerously. Bagwell often found himself working alongside Sting, Ricky Steamboat, Ricky Steamboat and Dustin Rhodes in their attempt to combat the group. More time than not, Bagwell found himself on the losing end of the battles.
In March 1993, Bagwell formed his first successful tag tam with 2 Cold Scorpio and they won the WCW Tag Team Championships for a week in October when they defeated the Nasty Boys. The team would remain together for almost an exact year. Personally, I thought the team was actually rather solid. Bagwell provided the power moves and Scorpio excited the crowd with high flying moves.
By May 1994, Bagwell found a new partner with The Patriot, who had come to WCW after a successful run in Japan. They would go by the name Stars & Stripes. The duo would win the titles from Paul Orndorff and Paul Roma in September of ’94. They held the titles for roughly a month before losing them back at Halloween Havoc. A month later they regained the titles from Pretty Wonderful at the Clash of the Champions, but that reign was short when they lost to Harlem Heat before the end of the year.
There is a trend taking place here. From 1993 to 1995 Bagwell was involved in tag team feuds with the top heel team and his team would win the tag titles for a short period of time. When the Patriot left WCW, Bagwell formed yet another tag team in 1995 with Scotty Riggs going by the name American Males. The team wasn’t very likable amongst the male audience since they were presented as pretty boys, yet they were a “good guy” team. Their title reign lasted all of nine days.
American Males may be the most remembered tag team Bagwell was a member of. I prefer his team with Scorpio or his team with Patriot. Growing up I just remember always seeing Bagwell in a tag title match with Pretty Wonderful or the Nasty Boys. I think his team with Scotty Riggs was the first time, for myself, that Bagwell looked like a bigger star than his partner.
By 1996, Bagwell was just an undercard tag team with Scotty Riggs and they didn’t have much direction going for themselves. In what may be an example of a heel turn greatly helping out a career, Bagwell turned on Riggs in November ’96 and joined the new heel group, the New World Order. It didn’t take long for Bagwell to embrace the heel turn and became Buff Bagwell. Essentially, Bagwell was obsessed with himself and his body. It worked rather well for him.
Bagwell went for a clean shaven young kid who didn’t have much personality, to a heel with a goatee and oozing personality. By the summer of 1997, Bagwell formed a team with Scott Norton as Vicious & Delicious. It was probably a team that didn’t reach its fullest potential, but it was time for Bagwell to venture off onto a singles run. Bagwell would find himself feuding with the Total Package, Lex Luger.
Their feud led to a match at Starrcade 1997. Bagwell managed to get the biggest victory of his career when he pinned Luger after Scott Norton had gotten involved. Bagwell had been with WCW for seven years and finally had some momentum going for himself His act was over with the crowd, and sometimes was getting cheered despite being a heel. Just when he was getting momentum Bagwell encountered a major setback.
April 22nd, 1998 on an edition of Thunder, Bagwell broke his neck during a tag team match against Rick Steiner and Lex Luger where he teamed with Scott Norton. Bagwell broke his neck when Steiner came off ropes with his trademark bulldog. The move saw Bagwell jam his forehead on Steiner’s back and that caused his neck to break.
Bagwell was out of action for six months. At one point, Bagwell appeared on Nitro and was picked on by his former NWO friends while he was in a wheelchair. It’s often considered the perfect opportunity for Bagwell to turn face and combat the New World Order. Considering Bagwell was a WCW original, it would have made great sense to help end the group he made strong and dominate in WCW. By the fall of 1998, WCW was in desperate need a younger wrestler in the main event scene and Bagwell worked a style that would have fit well with guys like Hogan, Nash, Flair and others.
Instead, Bagwell revealed that he was NWO when he turned on Rick Steiner at Halloween Havoc. Buff wouldn’t become a breakout singles star like he should have in this situation. No, Bagwell would rather find himself as a hype man for Scott Steiner on WCW television. The partnership was entertaining, but mostly a waste of Bagwell. By May 1999, they would split after Bagwell accidentally cost Steiner the WCW Television Championship. If only they had turn Buff face six months prior.
Bagwell’s feud with Steiner lasted all of a month and he lost to him at Slamboree. Going back and watching WCW Nitro’s from June and July 1999 saw Bagwell being presented as a future main event guy for the company. He was working with Flair and Piper alongside Dean Malenko and Chris Benoit.
In fact, Bagwell defeated Roddy Piper in a boxing match at Bash at the Beach 1999. After such a victory Bagwell would surely be in line for title matches and main events, right? Actually, no that wouldn’t happen. The following month Bagwell was feuding with Ernest Miller, and then was scheduled to lose to Berlyn at Fall Brawl before “no showing” the event. That’s a drastic change in direction.
There’s no denying that Bagwell was over with the WCW crowd. I enjoyed his act and always enjoyed the Buff Blockbuster finisher. The fact he didn’t turn face at Halloween Havoc 1998 continues to boggle my mind some twenty years later. Then, they decide against advancing Bagwell up the card in 1999.
Perhaps it was because Bagwell didn’t work a style similar to Booker T or Chris Benoit. Both those men won singles championships in 1998 or 1999 and had some classic matches against each other. I don’t recall Bagwell having a classic match. Then again, a lot of main event wrestlers in WCW didn’t have a lot of classic matches. They relied on their act, and that is where Bagwell excelled at.
In 2000, Bagwell aligned himself with the New Blood stable led by Vince Russo and Eric Bischoff. During that stage of his career, he briefly held the WCW Tag Team Championships with Shane Douglas before Douglas turned on him. Probably the most memorable thing Bagwell did in the year was feud with Kanyon in a match where Bagwell’s mother Judy was on a forklift. It was quite embarrassing. By the end of 2000, Bagwell formed a team with Lex Luger known as Totally Buff and he turned heel again.
They defeated Bill Goldberg and Sgt. Buddy Lee Parker to Goldberg’s career at WCW Sin. After such a huge victory, Bagwell and Luger failed to win the tag titles and actually lost a tag match in quick order to Sean O’Haire and Chuck Palumbo at WCW’s last event Greed.
When Vince McMahon bought WCW and listed several WCW names, Buff Bagwell got one of the biggest reactions. In an example of Vince listening to the fans, Bagwell got signed on and had a match with Booker T on RAW. It is universally panned amongst critics and fans. Shortly after the match, Bagwell was fired. He would latch onto TNA making sporadic appearances from 2002 to 2006, but didn’t stick around long.
In recent years, Bagwell had his name in the news when he competed at a recent AIW show and performed a Canadian Destroyer, which appeared to blow peoples minds. He was also a paid gigolo and appeared on a TV on the topic. He’s also currently suing the WWE for royalties as of November 2017.
So, did Bagwell have the stuff to be a top guy? When it comes to WCW, I certainly think so. I mean, at some point he had to have been good enough for a run on top. Especially in 2000 with a depleted roster after the Radicals left for WCW. As I’ve said a few times in this article alone, the face turn in 1998 not happening after his neck injury greatly impacted his career. It is a little odd to think about Bagwell working singles matches with a guy like Hulk Hogan or Kevin Nash. Regardless, in WCW Bagwell had the tools to be a main event wrestler.
Bagwell had the look, the personality, a cool finisher and was fairly decent in the ring throughout his run in WCW. Bagwell is one of many guys that WCW just didn’t fully capitalize on.
Do you think Bagwell could have been a top guy?
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Thanks for reading.