Solitary Showdown: Sole Matches in WWE


Although for many years the WWF/E has been the presiding and leading wrestling promotion, it is not everything. Historically, everything from the NWA to WCW, ECW to TNA, and New Japan to All Japan has allowed for talents to make their names externally to Vince McMahon’s promotion. Here we present those famous talents who earned their stripes outside of matches in WWE although they did just the once compete in a WWE ring, lacing up their boots for the world’s biggest wrestling promotion. 

Lou Thesz/Nick Bockwinkel

It feels nearly criminal to shoehorn two of the most significant figures in the history of professional wrestling into a single entry. Yet both are collectively addressed here as they both only wrestled a solitary match—and the same one at that. 

Lou Thesz and Nick Bockwinkel are now regarded as the faces of the NWA and AWA respectively. The duo are truly definitive of their promotions, both men having had historically long world title reigns with their company’s belts. Technical greats, they stayed loyal to their companies, neither working for the WW(W)F during their working days. 

By 1987, Thesz had not wrestled in five years, whilst Bockwinkel’s wrestling days were in the headlights, having become a WWF road agent. On November 16th 1987, the WWF hosted a house show at Brendan Byrne Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey, which involved a legend’s battle royal. At the time, Lou was 71 whilst Nick was 52. 

The 5,000 attending fans saw history made as witnesses to Thesz and Bockwinkel’s only WWF match. Also featuring a variety of past wrestling faces such as The Fabulous Kanagaroos’ Al Costello, Sailor Art Thomas, Edouard Carpentier, The Crusher, and Ray Stevens, ex-NWA champion Thesz eventually won, eliminating Pat O’Connor; Bockwinkel was the third last eliminated. 

Bockwinkel then retired although he had some bouts later on in other companies whilst, Thesz only had one final match in 1990.  

Mikey Whipwreck

Moving gears from master grapplers Thesz and Bockwinkel to underdog ex-ring crew member Whipwreck is quite the 180°! 

Whipwreck was best known for his ECW run in the mid-1990s, in which he became a Triple Crown champion. Despite a solid role as a youthful, plucky high-flier, the WWF never could snatch up Mikey. 

His only appearance for WWE was far from conventional. Competing on the February 24th 1997 episode of Raw, Mikey was squashed in a short enhancement match against Taz. This was amidst the ECW invasion of the WWF as a way to hype the Philadelphia-based promotion’s upcoming debut Pay-Per-View Barely Legal. 

The match had very little to do with Whipwreck and was more of a promotional tool for “The Human Suplex Machine”.  

Whipwreck did appear at the end of One Night Stand 2006 to celebrate alongside new WWE champion Rob Van Dam, signalling another appearance although not wrestling on the show. 

Tommy Rich

“Wildfire” Tommy Rich is famous for, above all, his shock NWA title win in 1981. On April 27th in Augusta, Georgia, Rich hit the Lou Thesz Press to pin Harley Race to prevail as a world champion in a career-defining moment, as brief as his subsequent reign may have been. 

Rich also had moments such as his feud with Buzz Sawyer, his ECW run as part of The Full Blooded Italians (F.B.I.), and his time in WCW as “The Comeback Man Of 1989” prior to a run in The York Foundation. Why then, did he never wrestle in WWE? Well, he did! 

His WWF run came amidst his time in the NWA, even pre-dating his World Heavyweight title win.  

This was a card at New York’s iconic Madison Square Garden on February 18th, 1980. In the second match on the card, Tommy prevailed over long-time enhancement talent and future WWE Hall Of Famer Johnny Rodz. 

Elix Skipper

Elix Skipper started out his fame in WCW where he was a Cruiserweight champion under Team Canada and one-half of the inaugural (and short-lived) WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team titles. 

In TNA, Skipper served in Triple X alongside Christopher Daniels and Low Ki, winning the tag belts four times. Skipper could always be called upon for breath-taking spots, for instance, the cage-walking hurricanrana at Turning Point 2004. 

The talented Skipper had his WWE match amidst his TNA run, competing in the promotion in 2003. On a dark match on Velocity, Elix fell short in an effort to beat Horshu—the man that would later go on to be Luther Reigns.  

Skipper actually signed to the WWF a few years earlier, picked up during the acquisition of WCW although nothing was done with him, largely due to a knee injury. 

Jushin Thunder Liger

By 2015, Jushin Thunder Liger had wrestled for over three decades with nearly 4,000 matches under his belt, never having wrestled in WWE. 

It goes without saying that Liger is synonymous with New Japan, working for NJPW every year during his in-ring career, which spanned from 1984-2020. On top of accomplishments in NJPW, such as being an 11-time Junior Heavyweight champion and three-time Best Of the Super Juniors tournament winner, Liger worked pretty much any and everywhere.

To American audiences, he is best known for his WCW stint, in which he competed on the first Monday Nitro. He also worked in All Japan Pro Wrestling, Stampede Wrestling, AAA, Ring Of Honor, Pro Wrestling Noah, TNA, Pro Wrestling Guerilla, CZW, and the NWA. 

On the August 5th 2015 edition of NXT, General Manager William Regal announced Tyler Breeze’s opponent for NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn, whom Regal had to “scour the Earth” for. The match itself saw Liger hit the Liger Bomb to pin his flamboyant, selfie-stick swinging opposition. Breeze has shown passion over the match, which he called “a pleasure,” commenting to Chris Van Vliet that Liger was “the coolest guy.” 

 Although Luger continued his US work, this match served as some closure in his North American career before retirement a few years later.  

Strangely enough, this was Liger’s only WWF match yet he actually held a WWF title. Indeed, “The Shooting Star” was WWF Light Heavyweight champion during the belt’s unrecognised stint when defended primarily in Japan and Mexico; he was champion for 183 days. 

John Kronus

John Kronus was a tall and dominant powerhouse who was not impartial to a regular handspring back elbow or 450 splash. It is a wonder why WCW or WWF did not immediately snatch him up from ECW. That is, until you look at his personal life.  

Most famously, Kronus teamed with Perry Saturn to form The Eliminators. This rough-and-ready team won the ECW World Tag Team titles three times whilst fighting world-beating teams like The Miracle Violence Connection, The Steiner Brothers, and The Gangstas. The team were famous for patenting the tag finishing manoeuvre, the Total Elimination—as memorably screeched by Joey Styles.  

Kronus had his solitary WWE outing in August 1995 at a house show in New Hampshire. They won, defeating enhancement duo Smooth Operator and Tim McNeany. This was actually before the duo had arrived in ECW, having worked in Memphis’ USWA and Japan’s WAR promotions. The group opted to sign for ECW a few weeks after the try-out. 

Whilst Saturn would find himself back in the WWF by 2000, Kronus never would. With everything from his malaise to the business, drug issues, and backstage hazing all offering up potential reasons for not putting pen to paper with WWE. 

Kronus did appear again on Raw in 1997 amidst the ECW invasion, hitting the Total Elimination on some poor ring crew member, although he did not wrestle.  


The female brute who had made her name TNA, Awesome Kong was already a world-renowned star by her time in WWE, having been ranked #1 on Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s inaugural Women’s 100 and a two-time Knockouts champion. 

Renamed Kharma, vignettes aired in early 2011 of Kong concealed in shadow whilst dismembering dolls and cackling in a terrifying manner. At Extreme Rules, she struck, debuting with an attack on ex-Women’s champion Michelle McCool. Kharma continued her dominance and just when it seemed like it was about to go somewhere—including an instance of Kharma breaking down and crying—real life stepped in the way. Before even wrestling a match, she announced her pregnancy thus stepping away from the scene. 

She returned at the 2012 Royal Rumble, in which she helped eliminated Michael Cole and impressively press slammed Hunico out of the ring before being chucked out by Dolph Ziggler. That was it for Kharma in WWE, released in July. 

Kharma was released for her inability to return to action after an allotted time. Although she stayed hopeful for a return of interest from the WWE, it never came. She went on to retire in 2021, having never been called back by the company.  

It can be said that, at this time, WWE was not all that busy focusing on their divas’ division, or else they were too enamoured with certain talent, as illustrated by glorified eye-candy acts such as Kelly Kelly and Nikki Bella representing the apparent best in their field at that time.  

Scott Norton

Just one look at Scott Norton and you would have thought the guy would have been something out of Vince McMahon’s dreams. 

Yet Norton only ever competed in a singular WWF match. This occurred on October 9th, 1994, in Sunrise, Florida, in the house show card’s opening match. In this, Norton lost to a young Bob “Sparky Plugg” Holly.  

Norton is now best-known for his time in New Japan as a successful Gaijin. Norton, a two-time IWGP World Heavyweight champion, saw his best success in Japan whilst also sharing his time with WCW. In Atlanta, although a member of the nWo, he was largely an afterthought in the promotion. 

As for why Scott Norton did not stay in the WWF, it was likely due to his immense popularity in Japan. Why would Scott go to WWE, where he would have more matches for a likely lower card placement, compared to his already established Japanese acclaim?  

David Von Erich

It is nothing short of a tragedy how The Von Erichs perished. A family tragedy like few others, in the space of a decade four of the five Von Erich brothers passed away—all preventable deaths, three of whom were under 30, all of whom were under 35.  

Of these, the one set up to have the most promising career before death was David. “The Yellow Rose Of Texas” had been working a programme with NWA champion Ric Flair, with rumours he was pencilled in to win the strap before his mysterious death in 1984; Kerry won it in memorial to his brother. 

During his lifetime, David worked one match in WWE. Kerry, most famously, wrestled in the WWF as The Texas Tornado—a decent mid-card role in which he won the Intercontinental title but failed to reignite his NWA success. 

David’s match was at Madison Square Garden in November 1979. In the second match of the card, Von Erich scored a win over preliminary talent Davey O’Hannon. Davey was reluctant to put over David. Although happy to put anyone over in Texas, he was less happy to do so in New York. He would later admit on the Wrestling With The Future podcast that David was the best worker of The Von Erichs. 

Considering his NWA grooming for the top brass and Texas popularity, an extended stint in the WWF was never on the cards, although his singular appearance is a nice bit of wrestling trivia.  

Art Barr

Art Barr’s career was largely contained outside the USA for reasons that will be delved into, with near-breakthrough runs always stifled by one thing or another. 

Known for his Beetlejuice character, Art Barr famously trademarked the Frog Splash, a move further popularised by everyone from Rob Van Dam to D’Lo Brown. Barr also formed the memorable Los Grincos Locos team in AAA with Eddy Guerrero. 

Barr’s runs in all three of the North American ‘big three’ were plagued. His WCW run was cut short due to the reveal of a sexual abuse felony—more specifically, rape—for which he was still on the sex offender’s register. Despite plans to jump to ECW in 1994 after interest from all three USA promotions (Barr choosing ECW as it was “the hottest and a very forward-thinking promotion”), Art died shortly before working there.  

A WWF run never transpired. His only match was a dark match on a Wrestling Challenge taping in 1992. Here, he lost in just over five minutes to The Latin Fury, better known today as Konnan. On Twitter, “K-Dwag” called Barr “one of the greatest talents I was ever in the ring with.” 

Perhaps the most notable part of the match however was that the former Juicer wrestled in a shirt bearing the slogan “Save Pee-Wee Herman” in all capitals. The actor who played the fictitious comedy character, Paul Reubens, had been arrested for indecent exposure when publicly masturbating at an adult cinema. Okay then, Art! 


Although not everyone has a WWF/E match, these wrestlers took a punt at Vince McMahon’s company (some at Vincent J. McMahon’s company), although they found themselves garnering success externally to the Fed.  

These stars may have only had a single WWF/E match yet that does not mean it is simply a footnote in their career history, but perhaps is so much more from an early try-out rejection to a final string in their bow before hanging up their boots.  

It just goes to show that WWE is not everything in the wrestling business, as much as they would like you to think that. 

Written by Griffin Kaye

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Mike Awesome holds a mic

Taking Over The Book: Mike Awesome in WCW

The Great Muta hunches in the corner of the ring

The Great Muta: So Long and Thanks for All the Mist