There are currently 15 champions on the overall WWE roster. By time the United Kingdom Championship Tournament wraps up this weekend, there will be 16 champions, but for now, WWE has 15. Every single one of them represent an elite and exceptional set of gifted athletes. Down in NXT, Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano hold the NXT Tag Team Titles, Asuka is currently the longest reigning NXT Women’s Champion in the brand’s history, and last but not least, international superstar Shinsuke Nakamura holds the coveted NXT Championship. Up on the main roster, there are 9 championships divided between two brands, Raw and Smackdown, with Raw holding 5 of those championships and Smackdown holding 4. For Raw, we have the unlikely alliance of Sheamus and Cesaro sharing the Raw Tag Team Titles, The Outlandish Rich Swann is the Cruiserweight Champion, the wholly talented Chris Jericho just won the United States Championship the other day, Charlotte Flair rules the Women’s division as their champion, and Kevin Owens is at the top of the brand as Universal Champion. For Smackdown, we have mat technicians American Alpha as the reigning Smackdown Tag Team Champions, Dean Ambrose recently won the Intercontinental Champion, Alexa Bliss is bringing magic to the Smackdown Women’s Championship, and AJ Styles is The Champ That Runs The Camp as WWE Champion.
Every single one of these champions has an impressive pedigree to their name that not many people know about. Every superstar has had a past before arriving to WWE. Whether key moments in their past were good or bad, they helped mold each of these individuals into the outstanding male and female champions they are today. There are some fascinating little known facts about these superstars regarding what they’ve done and where they’ve been that even their biggest fans may not know about. So, as per the list’s title, here are some interesting facts about each of WWE’s respective title holders.
15. Raw Women’s Champion: Charlotte Flair – She’s a Certified Trainer
During her numerous reigns as Raw Women’s Champion, Charlotte Flair has always been promoted as a genetically superior athlete. Her height and strength help her excel among the Women’s division as the top female athlete Raw has to offer. One of the reasons why the heir to the Flair name is at such peak physical condition is because she also has the credentials of a trainer. After finishing college, she earned a certificate in personal training and that is one of the reasons why Charlotte keeps herself in such superior shape. What makes the fact that Charlotte is a physical trainer so interesting is that it raises the prospect that she could start training people to be wrestlers herself one day. Given her phenomenal ability in the ring and the gym, Charlotte certainly would make an excellent choice to mold trainees into future superior athletes like herself.
14. NXT Tag Champion: Tommaso Ciampa – Roddy Piper Convinced Him To Wrestle Without Blood Work
During his earliest days of wrestling at independent shows, one show denied Tommaso Ciampa from wrestling because he failed to submit the proper blood paperwork that proves he isn’t wrestling while carrying any deadly viruses (HPV, AIDS, etc). At this show in particular, Roddy Piper happened to be there. When the Rowdy legend asked Ciampa why he was the only one not wrestling, Ciampa told Piper his story and Piper told him that no matter what, a young wrestler like himself always needs to find a way to work by any means necessary. So he and Piper started brainstorming ideas on the spot—which as Ciampa explained on The Kevin Steen Show, “when you’re brainstorming ideas with Piper, you’re already on the wrong track”—and they decided that Ciampa should get a fellow worker to lend Ciampa his blood work. After forging the lab work—poorly with Microsoft Word—and when Ciampa handed it in and the commission noticed there wasn’t a fax number on the form. Questions were asked as far as how did Ciampa get someone to file this without a fax number. Ciampa’s panicking, but Piper tells him to stick to his story while under the impression that if Ciampa does get caught, he would have wrestled and got paid already. After all the crazy hullabaloo had settled, Ciampa was able to move on, edge out a successful indie career for himself, move on to NXT, form DIY with Johnny Gargano, and become one-half of the NXT Tag Team Champions. Hopefully, he’s submitting the proper blood paperwork nowadays before wrestling.
13. NXT Tag Champion: Johnny Gargano – Original NXT Debut Was in 2010
Before becoming one-half of the NXT Tag Team Champions as part of DIY, Johnny Gargano established himself as one of the most talented wrestlers to ever step foot onto the independent market. He’s spent more than a decade wrestling all over the world and now has been gracing the stage of NXT with Ciampa by his side ever since 2015. Well, actually, Mr. Wrestling debuted in NXT sooner than 2015, only not as a wrestler. In 2010, he portrayed one of the security guards restraining Daniel Bryan from attacking Michael Cole during a segment on NXT back when it was still a competition game show. Even prior to that, Gargano did some work for WWE. In 2007, he played a jobber from Liechtentein named Cedrick Von Haussen in a losing effort against MVP in an episode of Smackdown. After his 2010 cameo, he wrestled on Superstars as Joey Gray as part of a tryout match against Brodus Clay. Now, he’s working full time for the newly christened developmental version of NXT under his own name.
12. Intercontinental Champion: Dean Ambrose – Drunken Furry
Dean Ambrose is one of the more private wrestlers working for WWE. He seldom talks about his own personal life during interviews and it is really tough trying to find out anything about Ambrose’s pre-WWE past. However, the few facts that are out there about Dean Ambrose are fascinating ones. For instance, did you know that Ambrose is kind of a member of the furry fandom? The fandom which get together and have sex in animal costumes? Well, at least he did for one drunken night according to DJ Hyde, the owner of CZW, which is the company where Ambrose made a hardcore name for himself as Jon Moxley. In his CZW days, Ambrose was a “notorious alcoholic,” according to Hyde in an RF Video interview and often found himself in the middle crazy, drunken escapades. One night, Hyde arrived to Sami Callihan’s house with his girlfriend and Thumbtack Jack to find Ambrose passed out in a bear costume with whiskers and a nose drawn on him. An inebriated Ambrose would subsequently wake up, look at Hyde’s girlfriend, tell her “You’re hot,” and pass out on the ground again. Upon seeing Callihan pick up a camcorder, Ambrose would then cut an “ungodly” promo on fellow CZW star, Mike Quackenbush, and apparently, according to Hyde, it was “awesome and epic and it needs to be seen.” What probably doesn’t need to be seen is what happened when Hyde and company left. With the camcorder still running, Ambrose had sex with an unnamed female wrestler while wearing the bear costume. It’s safe to say that this alleged tape isn’t coming to the WWE Network anytime soon. Not exactly something WWE would want to promote their Intercontinental Champion doing.
11. Universal Champion: Kevin Owens – Made John Cena Write An Apology Letter to His Son
Kevin Owens brought this story up on an episode of Talk is Jericho that was recorded shortly after his Universal Title win. As it has been well documented, Kevin Owens’ 8 year old son, Owen, is a huge fan of John Cena. Before Owens was a WWE Superstar, he was a fan in the crowd attending a WWE show with his son at the Bell Centre. The father and son duo sat in the 2nd row when John Cena wrestled in the ring. When Cena made his way up the ramp when the match was over, Owen eagerly anticipated his idol to go around the ring and shake his hand, but Cena went straight to the back instead. Owen was sorely disappointed. While Kevin Owens and Cena were backstage together preparing a promo to act out in the ring later, Owens told Cena this story and Cena was crushed. He tried to assure Cena that Owen got over it afterwards, but Cena still felt awful. To make up for it, not only did Cena meet young Owen in person, he crafted a handwritten letter to the boy apologizing for the Bell Centre incident and gave it to the boy upon meeting him. Kevin Owens cites watching his elated son interact with John Cena for the first time as his crowning achievement as a father.
10. Cruiserweight Champion: Rich Swann – Battled Drug Addiction
Rich Swann skyrocketed atop the Cruiserweight division thanks to his infectious, lovable personality. It is remarkable to see how he’s able to find a reason to keep such a mellow, easygoing attitude every week considering he had such a tough upbringing. After losing both of his parents at a young age, he fell in with a rough crowd at age 16. As Swann has revealed in numerous interviews—including The Kevin Steen Show and Colt Cabana’s Art of Wrestling podcast—Swann started living on his own at this age and fell in with some people who introduced him to drugs. He developed a cocaine addiction that only ended when his supplier died of a heart attack. When his supplier died, it was a wake up call for Swann to stop using cocaine and get his act together. From there, with help from his aunt, he bought an apartment and finished high school. Afterwards, he got serious about becoming a wrestler and now he stands before us as the Cruiserweight Champion.
9. Raw Tag Champion: Sheamus – Briefly Retired in 2002
Much like Asuka, Sheamus suffered a career threatening injury that kept him away from wrestling for a significant amount of time. Though in Sheamus’ case, it was less that he officially retired in his mind and more that he spent a couple years rehabing his injuries. It all started in 2002 when he had first started training to be a wrestler. 6 weeks after training at Larry Sharpe’s Monster Factory wrestling school, Sheamus wrestled his first match. Shortly afterwards, he took a botched hip toss that seriously injured his neck. In between all of the healing and rehab, it took Sheamus 2 years before he was physically able get back in the ring. In 2004, he started grinding hard on the independent scene. His hard work eventually paid off when he joined WWE’s developmental program in 2007. Since making the main roster in 2009, Sheamus has become a former 4-time World Champion and one-half of the current Raw Tag Team Champions.
8. Raw Tag Champion: Cesaro – Came to America by Luck
For years, Cesaro has been praised as one of the most tremendous European wrestlers to ever wrestle in America, but he was lucky to enter America. While still a citizen of his native land of Switzerland, he briefly entered the United States in the early 2000s to pursue wrestling training. After experiencing a brief slice of American life, Cesaro was hooked and needed more of it. When he got back to Switzerland, he entered the Green Card Lottery, which is a government program that makes it possible for a small percentage of individuals to gain permanent residence into the United States. Sounds simple? It isn’t. Millions of people enter every year and very few are selected. Some people spend years entering the lottery and may still spend their lives never gaining permanent residence. In 2010 alone, 15 million people entered the lottery where only 55,000 are selected each year. Cesaro needed a miracle to be successful in the lottery and a miracle came. On his first attempt, Cesaro gained permanent residence and between his independent work and his current WWE work where he is one-half of the Raw Tag Team Champions, he’s been uppercutting people ever since arriving to America.
7. Smackdown Women’s Champion: Alexa Bliss – Bodybuilding Saved Her Life
It can be strongly argued that Alexa Bliss was the biggest breakout star of the WWE for 2016. She started the year improving her craft in NXT and she ended the year as Smackdown Women’s Champion after getting a surprise call-up to the main roster. It was a long, difficult road to the top for Alexa Bliss. Not only in terms of the years she spent in developmental, but she also had a rough childhood. As an adolescent, Bliss suffered from an eating disorder. Bliss herself has stated that her condition had gotten so bad that she was hospitalized with a heart rate of 28 beats per minute, which is ridiculously low compared to the average human’s 60-100 beats per minute. It is a miracle the doctors were able to save her life. What saved her life even further was bodybuilding. After her near-death scare, Bliss pursued a bodybuilding career to help keep her weight up. Her work ethic earned her a spot in her hometown’s prestigious Arnold Sports Festival as part of a fitness competition. Though ending the competition in 14th place put an end to her bodybuilding career, it opened the doors for her wrestling career and landed her where she is today.
6. NXT Champion: Shinsuke Nakamura – Almost Came to WWE in 2006
Even before Shinsuke Nakamura developed his flamboyant King of Strong Style character, he spent his early career building a strong reputation for himself in NJPW as a heavily skilled fighter with an MMA background. At one point even becoming the youngest person to ever hold the coveted IWGP Heavyweight Championship at age 22. The hype that Nakamura built for himself over a decade ago earned the attention of WWE. Backstage agents Dean Malenko and John Laurinaitis especially were high on Nakamura coming to WWE. NJPW President Simon Inoki actually considered the offer as he wanted to, if nothing else, loan Nakamura to WWE for a brief time as part of a learning excursion so that Nakamura would get experience with working at large American shows. Those plans fell flat when Brock Lesnar, then the reigning IWGP Heavyweight Champion, left the company and Nakamura was needed back immediately. It all worked out as staying in NJPW helped Nakamura develop his eccentric personality and became an even more sought by WWE because of it. He is now in his 2nd reign as NXT Champion.
5. United States Champion: Chris Jericho – Moongoose McQueen
The newly crowned United States Champion, Chris Jericho, is often highly praised best as a wrestler who is always able to reinvent his character every couple years. As often as he has repackaged his wrestling character over the years, there was also a brief time where Jericho repackaged his own rock star persona. In 2000, after returning on-stage with his Fozzy band following a prolonged time away in 1999 during his first year with WWE, Jericho rejoined Fozzy on tour under the pseudonym of Mongoose McQueen. Whenever he was interviewed with the band, Jericho would completely stay in character as Mongoose McQueen and deny that he was related in any way, shape, or form to Chris Jericho. Even going as far as to act like he had no idea who Chris Jericho was. Alternatively, whenever Chris Jericho was asked who Mongoose was in interviews, Jericho would claim to be a big fan of the Fozzy frontman. The last we heard of Mongoose McQueen was in a 2015 interview with Whatculture where Jericho announced that Mongoose had died 15 years prior under a bizarre gardening accident. Poor Moongoose McQueen. We hardly knew yee.
4. SD Tag Champion: Chad Gable – His Name Origins
As part of American Alpha, Chad Gable quickly developed a knack for the professional wrestling technique and style in only his rookie year. This should come as no surprise for anyone familiar with his background as a former Olympic Games competitor. Anybody familiar with Gable’s amateur background would also know that his real name is actually Charles “Chas” Betts. Betts was told upon signing a WWE contract that he needed a new trademarked name. As Betts told the story on Jason Bryant’s Mat Talk podcast, Betts wrote down an entire list of what he now believes to be embarrassing names. At the time of writing them, he thought each name sounded “so cool,” but now he’s too embarrassed to even reveal what he had written down. He submitted that list of around 30 names and WWE shut them all down. He then submitted a new list with new names and still got shut down. Eventually, WWE sent him an e-mail that said “What do you think of the name Chad Gable?” Betts immediately loved that name and he has been Ready, Willing, and Gable for WWE ever since.
3. SD Tag Champion: Jason Jordan – Was Almost a Dentist
With all of the intensity he brings to the ring, Jason Jordan has a knack for laying people down and knocking their teeth out whenever he enters the ring. However, if his life journey took him towards a slightly different path, he would have been repairing teeth opposed to knocking them out. During his time as a student at Indiana University, he originally planned to attend dental school after graduation. Eventually, he decided against it in favor of pursuing a wrestling career. Also at Indiana University, Jordan was an amateur wrestler whose skills ranked him top 15 in the nation for 3 years in a row and was ranked as high as 2nd in the nation at heavyweight. These merits gained the attention of WWE road agent and legend, Gerald Brisco, who tried to recruit Jordan and offered him a WWE contract. Jordan declined in order to focus on graduating from college. As soon as he earned his degree, Jordan joined the WWE performance center in 2011. Now, after a long grueling road to the top, he is one-half of the Smackdown Tag Team Champions with Chad Gable as part of American Alpha.
2. NXT Women’s Champion: Asuka – Briefly Retired in 2006
Asuka is leading the future of NXT as the brand’s Women’s Champion. Not only was she able to become the longest reigning title holder, but she has frequently stolen the show with phenomenal matches ever since first making her NXT in-ring debut. Despite all of the success that The Empress of Tomorrow has found during her time with NXT, it is surprising to think that none of it would have been possible if she remained retired a decade ago. Yep, you read that right. Back when she used to wrestle in Japan as Kana for the all female promotion, AtoZ, Asuka had gone into retirement in 2006. The reason was due to falling victim to chronic nephritis, which refers to an inflammation of kidneys often caused by toxins, infections, or autoimmune disorders that affect the kidneys. Luckily, Asuka was able to recover and returned to the ring on September 22, 2007 as a freelancer. In due time, she made permanent and significant stays in companies like Pro Wrestling Wave, Smash, and Wrestling New Classic. Her time in these companies eventually led her to NXT.
1. WWE Champion: AJ Styles -Almost Joined WWE in 2002
AJ Styles shocked the world when he made his long awaited WWE debut as the #3 entrant in the 2016 Royal Rumble. Ever since then, he has been on a roll as he captured the WWE Championship just 9 months after his debut and has enjoyed one of the best debut years any WWE superstar has had. What many people don’t know is that he almost wound up in WWE much sooner than he did. In 2001, a young AJ Styles joined WCW in a tag team with fellow rookie, Air Paris. Unfortunately, just as the tag team was starting to build a strong fanbase, WCW folded that same year just a few months after Styles’ debuted. Styles went on to work a few dark matches in WWE and the company were so impressed with the young upstart that they offered him a developmental contract. However, seeing as the offer would have called for Styles to join WWE’s developmental territory, then Heartland Wrestling Association, in Ohio, Styles declined as not to interfere with his wife’s college plans. He didn’t feel right having to force her to move with him and disrupt her career plans for the sake of his own. It all worked out in the end as Styles would become a star on his own after joining TNA the following year. Styles remained in TNA for the next 11 years where he’d build a reputation for himself as The Phenomenal One. Afterwards, he drew international acclaim thanks to his work in NJPW and independent promotions and, eventually, WWE made him another offer he couldn’t refuse.
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