You don't necessarily need to be a good wrestler to become World Champion. At least that is what the wrestlers listed here demonstrate. Over the years wrestling bookers have made some atrocious choices for their champions, with no promotion being immune. Be it in WWE, WCW, or TNA, there have been world champions that only have skills at or below the level generally accepted at a local independent show.
Worse yet, there have been some wrestling champions who had no idea how to wrestle at all. Whether it was for shock value, misperceived actual value, or possibly because they just wanted to see what would happen, there have been champions that have not had enough wrestling skill to carry even a ten minute match.
The system used to create this list is as follows: Any world champion is eligible provided the promotion they were world champion of was considered a major player at the time. Out of all those champions the names here are considered the worst actual wrestlers of that group.
There are some notable omissions to this list which could use some explaining. The Iron Sheik often gets mentioned in articles focussing on poor champions, but there were plenty of times during his career he had excellent matches as well. The Ultimate Warrior avoided making this list on the basis of how popular he was at the time he was given the championship. Finally, and perhaps most controversially, Roman Reigns avoided this list on the basis of his well-received matches with AJ Styles earlier this year.
JBL can often be heard boasting about his 280-day reign as WWE Champion from 2004. It is a point worth bragging, as JBL's title run outlasted any other since before the Attitude Era. In fact, JBL's reign went longer than any other championship reign had in 10 years, going back to Diesel's 1994 run on top.
This was after JBL had been transformed from the beer-drinking APA member to the Wallstreet stock broker gimmick he would work in his later years.
JBL defeated Eddie Guerrero at the Great American Bash 04 in a Texas Bullrope match. He would hold the belt all the way to the following year's WrestleMania, finally dropping it to John Cena at WrestleMania 21. Cena's reign, oddly enough, would also end at 280 days, when he dropped the title to Edge at "New Years Revolution" in early 2006.
17 Lex Luger
Lex Luger had already won a world championship in WCW when he was brought into the WWE in 1992. He won the WCW title 2 weeks after Ric Flair left (with the belt) for WWE in 1991. Luger won the vacated championship at the Great American Bash that year, defeating Barry Windham in a steel cage. He would hold onto the title all the way to SuperBrawl II in early 1992, dropping it to Sting.
Luger would sign with the WWE shortly afterwards, but spent a year in Vince's bodybuilding promotion for a year first. When he finally did start wrestling in WWE, he had trouble catching on with the fans. He first came in as "the Narcissist", but following Hogan's departure from the company he was re-packaged as "the All-American".
The WWE hoped that he would be the next Hulk Hogan, but he never caught on like they hoped. Luger would be back in WCW by 1995. He would win the WCW a second time when he defeated Hollywood Hogan on the August 4th 1997 edition of Nitro. He would drop it back to Hogan just 5 days later however, at the annual Road Wild PPV.
Sheamus won the WWE Championship just 166 days after he debuted on the main roster. He defeated John Cena at the Tables, Ladders, and Chairs PPV in 2009 in a tables match. His quick rise to the championship is the 3rd shortest in history, behind only Brock Lesnar and Ric Flair in 1992.
The victory over Cena made Sheamus the first ever Irish born WWE Champion. He has since won the title on 2 other occasions, and is also a former 1x World Heavyweight Champion.
Sheamus has never won over fans of pure wrestling however, seen more as a bodybuilding guy that has gotten over based on his size. While Sheamus has had some decent matches over the years, his quality of work just isn't enough to help him avoid making this list.
When Rodney Anoa'i debuted as Yokozuna in the WWE in 1992, he was booked as an unstoppable force. He looked it as well. When Yokozuna dropped a leg drop on his opponent it looked like his their head might actually be crushed. But in his later years Anoa'i's size made him increasingly less mobile in the ring.
Yokozuna won his first of two WWE championships at WrestleMania IV, defeating Bret Hart after Mr. Fuji threw salt in his eyes. In an unexpected turn of events Hulk Hogan came out to see if Bret was ok, and ended up beating Yokozuna for the championship moments later. He would regain the title from Hogan shortly after at the King of the Ring PPV.
By WrestleMania X, Yokozuna's weight had become an issue. In the main event he lost his balance on the second rope, fell to the mat, and was pinned by Hart.
14 The Miz
No matter what else the Miz does for the rest of his career, he will always be able to state that he successfully defended the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 28. Not only that, he defeated John Cena to do it.
The Miz gets a lot of heat from fans for wrestling what some refer to as a soft style. In fact, this was alluded to recently on an episode of "Talking Smack". Daniel Bryan was critical of the Miz for epitomizing what he referred to as the "WWE soft style" of wrestling. Miz countered by pointing out his durability and that Bryan had to retire due to injuries sustained from not wrestling a soft style. The realness to the situation made the segment a little uncomfortable.
The Miz first won the championship on the November 22nd 2010 episode of Raw, cashing in his MITB briefcase on Randy Orton.
13 Sgt. Slaughter
Sgt. Slaughter matches were never exactly of the Eddie Guerrero vs. Dean Malenko variety. That is not to say Slaughter didn't have fun and bloody brawls with the Iron Sheik back in the day, just that he was never someone thought of as a great technical wrestler.
One unique thing about Sgt. Slaughter is that you can argue his run as WWE Champion was both the greatest and worst things he ever did in the wrestling business. The Iraqi sympathizer gimmick Slaughter adopted in the buildup to WrestleMania VII is what helped him win the WWE Championship. It was also kind of a low-brow angle that completely flopped business wise.
While Sgt. Slaughter has had some great matches in the past, his wrestling ability just wasn't good enough to avoid making it onto this list.
10 Jack Swagger
It's not as if Jack Swagger is a bad wrestler, it's just that he isn't a very good wrestler. You would be hard pressed to find anyone mention Jack Swagger's name alongside the likes of Ricky Steamboat and Ric Flair.
Jack Swagger cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase to win his first World Championship on the March 30th, 2010 edition of Smackdown. His championship reign was hardly memorable. While he did manage to successfully defend the title against Chris Jericho and Edge, he also had a rather unremarkable feud with the Big Show. The big PPV payoff to his feud with Show was at "Over The Limit" that year, when Swagger retained the title by getting himself disqualified.
Following his run in the world championship picture, the WWE gave Swagger a reverse-push, sending him back down to the mid-card where he had been.
8 "Big Poppa Pump" Scott Steiner
There have absolutely been times through Scott Steiner's career that he was a tremendous wrestler. When he and his brother Rick were dressed up in their Michigan Blue and suplexing opponents all over the ring in the late 80s and early 90s, you would be hard pressed to say Scott Steiner was a bad wrestler. But by the time he became "Big Poppa Pump" however, it was the only way to describe him.
By the time he won the WCW title in late 2000, Steiner was so jacked he could hardly move. He had become more muscle than man.
Steiner was the second last WCW champion, losing the title to Booker T on the final episode of Nitro. It was Booker who Steiner had originally defeated for the title four months prior. On the final Nitro however, the WWE wanted Booker to win the title since he was coming in as part of the Invasion angle and Steiner wasn't.
Vader was not a terrible wrestler back in his day. In fact, in WCW and in Japan he had some great matches with Sting, Cactus Jack, and a lot of wrestlers from New Japan Pro Wrestling. With that being said however, he still wasn't good enough to avoid making it onto this list.
For a large guy Vader could do a lot of innovative things, such as a moonsault from the top rope. Vader matches always looked stiff as well, possibly a result from his time spent wrestling in Japan.
Vader was involved in a historic angle in Japan in 1987. With little build, Vader defeated wrestling legend Antonio Inoki, starting a near riot in the famed Sumo Hall. The promotion ended up being banned from the venue for nearly two years as a result.
6 Kevin Nash
Kevin Nash has been a polarizing figure in the world of wrestling for decades. Some wrestling fans think Kevin Nash is hilarious, and loved what he did with the New World Order. Other wrestling fans think Nash is a slow, injury-prone wrestler who needs a good worker to guide him through a wrestling match. It's possible that both sets of fans are correct.
Nash won his first World Championship as Diesel in the WWE. It was 1994, and was the first full year that the company had been without Hulk Hogan since Vince Jr. took over. Bret Hart had been the champion for most of the year, but lost to Bob Backlund at Survivor Series when Owen Hart convinced his parents to throw in the towel. 3 days later Diesel pinned Bob Backlund at an MSG house show in mere seconds.
He would have only the one title reign in WWE, but would win the WCW Championship on 5 occasions.
5 Sid Vicious
On 6 occasions, wrestling promotions decided to make Sid Eudy their World Champion. He held world titles in the WWE twice, WCW twice, and also twice for the USWA.
It's no secret why wrestling promotions were so quick to book Sid atop their roster. At 6ft 9in and over 300lbs, Sid looked like someone who could destroy his competition. But what Sid had in terms of size and appearance, he was lacking in terms of wrestling ability and promo skills.
Sid's greatest contribution to the wrestling business might be the frequent flubbed lines, non-sensical promos, and general marble-mouthed nature of his interviews. Sid's greatest hits in this regard include asking JR to start a live interview over after flubbing his lines and telling WCW fans he's "not as dumb as he looks". Once Sid stumbled over his words in a promo against Kevin Nash, and ended up conceding to Nash that he was only "half the man" he was.
Sid's matches were only slightly better than his promos.
4 Vince McMahon
36 years after Vince McMahon Sr. declared Buddy Rogers to be the first WWWF Champion, his son Vince Jr. won the very same title.
In the fall of 1999, Vince McMahon had been off WWE TV for a couple of months. He had lost a match to Steve Austin with the stipulation that should he lose he would be banned from WWE television. Naturally he was back a couple of months later. In fact he showed up on the September 16th edition of Smackdown to a thunderous babyface reaction. He was booked in a match against Triple H for the title, and won after outside interference from Austin. Vince vacated the championship the next week.
The next few months in the WWE were pretty interesting backstage. In storyline Triple H drugged and married Stephanie, while his former bodyguard Chyna moved into a feud with Jeff Jarrett over the Intercontinental Championship. Backstage Hunter and Stephanie began seeing each other, though only they know exactly when. So while Vince and Triple H were feuding with each other in WWE's main angle, Hunter was secretly dating Vince's daughter. At what point Vince found out is a bit of a mystery.
3 The Great Khali
The Great Khali, real name Dalpi Singh Rana, is a gigantic individual. At 7ft 1in and just under 350lbs, Khali fits snuggly into the "giant" category of professional wrestlers.Vince McMahon has always loved giants.
It was the most famous giant in wrestling history of course, Andre The Giant, that helped Vince McMahon sell out the Pontiac Silverdome for WrestleMania III. When the WWE signed Khali in 2006, it was with the idea of pushing him immediately into a main event program with the Undertaker.
The problem with Khali is that while his size made him a larger-than-life attraction, it also limited his mobility. Every movement Khali made during his WWE career looked taxing, clumsy and slow. This made having decent matches with him almost impossible.
Khali won his first World Championship on the July 20th 2007 edition of Smackdown. The title had been vacated by Edge due to injuries, resulting in a 20-man battle royal to declare a new champion. Khali won the match by tossing out Kane and Bautista simultaneously.
Khali would have several horrible matches during his time in WWE, most notably a Punjabi Prison match with Bautista. He was unable to participate in the first ever Punjabi Prison match (between Undertaker and Big Show) due to injury.
2 David Arquette
David Arquette is a former WCW World Champion. For better or worse his name will always be listed amongst Ric Flair and Sting in the annals of wrestling history for this accomplishment.
Arquette had starred in the wrestling-themed "Ready to Rumble", and his appearances in WCW were to promote the movie. But things took a drastic and surreal turn, as they often did when Vince Russo was in charge.
In a match on "Thunder", Arquette won the title in a tag-team match just one day after DDP defeated Jeff Jarrett to win the belt. The championship was somehow on the line in a tag match with Arquette and DDP going up against Jarrett and Eric Bischoff. It was ruled that whoever got the pin in the match would become the new champion. Arquette pinned Bischoff to become the new champ. So even though DDP's team won the match, he still lost his world championship.
1 Vince Russo
Vince Russo is someone who could only ever be famous in the world of pro-wrestling. No other industry would ever keep a guy around so long after such a storied history of ineptitude.
While Russo is sometimes given credit as a major player in WWE's Attitude Era, his time spent in WCW and TNA generally garners only negative reviews. In 1999 Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara left their roles as WWE writers to become the head writers for WCW. They proceeded to break wrestling's "fourth wall" as often as possible.
Russo booked himself to win the World Championship on September 25th, 2000. He defeated Booker T in a steel cage match after Goldberg speared him through the cage door. Russo also sustained a concussion during the match, and would vacate the title the next week.