As much as wrestling is unlike any professional sport in that its winners and losers are predetermined, it shares plenty in common with major sports. For starters, its athletes – at least most of them – are in just as good of shape as other athletes, and perhaps even better than baseball players, at least until Bartolo Colon retires. Wrestlers might also compete four or five days a week in addition to training in the gym and, given the bumps taken by some wrestlers, you could easily make the argument that wrestlers need to be in better shape than other professional athletes. Hell, if a basketball player pulls a muscle (LeBron), he needs to be carried off the court, whereas wrestlers have continued matches through broken bones at the risk of breaking character and ruining a match.
More than anything, however, what wrestling shares with other professional sports is that success is earned and not given… At least, it’s supposed to be that way. Match results are predetermined, but sometimes mistakes are made in the ring that can lead to results not going as planned by WWE creative. The simplest botched result might be a wrestler failing to kick out of a pin attempt in time, which, unless corrected by an official, can result in the person scheduled to lose the match actually winning. In fact, this happens more often than you think, so much so that it has happened in at least a handful of title matches. Below are the matches we’re certain a title changed hands when it wasn’t supposed to as well as others which critics continue to speculate.
15. Tag Team Titles – The Rockers vs. The Hart Foundation
Regarded as one of the greatest wrestlers of his generation, Shawn Michaels is a four-time WWE Champion, three-time Intercontinental Champion, one-time European Champion, and six-time Tag Team Champion. Michaels won Tag Team gold with Triple H, Diesel, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and John Cena. Surprisingly absent from that list is Marty Jannetty, who was Michaels’ partner with ever-popular The Rockers in the early 1990s.
The highly-entertaining duo competed atop the Tag Team Division for a few years before Michaels famously superkicked Jannetty through a barbershop window and turned heel, but didn’t win a championship, at least one that was recognized. At a house show in 1990, The Rockers defeated the Hart Foundation to win the titles, but a problem with the ring ropes led WWE to decide not to air the match. President Jack Tunney came out and reversed the decision and the match was never acknowledged on television.
14. Cruiserweight Title – Battle Royal
This is the rare instance in which WWE actually played a part in making sure its supposed winner actually won the match and retained the belt even though he had already been eliminated. The wrestler in question is three-time Tag Team Champion and one-time Cruiserweight Champion Paul London. He was defending his Cruiserweight Championship during a Battle Royal at a 2005 house show in Cardiff, Wales.
During the match, London was supposed to hold onto the ropes to save himself from elimination. Instead, he was unable to do so, which left a confused Billy Kidman and Chavo Guerrero in the ring trying to decide how to play out the scenario. They decided to eliminate themselves at the same time and referees converged to rule both Guerrero and Kidman as well and London had to go back into the ring. Not surprisingly, London retained the title.
13. Divas Championship – Naomi vs. AJ Lee
Before becoming a credible SmackDown Live Women’s Champion, Naomi was a rising star in the Women’s Division known as one of its better athletes. Although she didn’t ever win the Divas Championship, she had plenty of opportunities and certainly seemed to be in line for a shot at winning the title. She was involved in a battle royal at WrestleMania XXX for the championship and, although she was scheduled to lose, it’s rumored she was supposed to win the title in a rematch against AJ Lee, the champion at the time, the following week.
In the WrestleMania match, Lee was supposed to grab Naomi’s hand and tap out with it while she had her in the Black Widow, which would have been reason for a rematch. Perhaps as a reflex, Naomi tapped out with the other hand, which took away credibility for a potential rematch. That botch was to Paige’s benefit, as she ended up winning the Divas Championship from Lee.
12. WWE Championship – Sheamus vs. John Cena
This one is heavily debated among fans and critics alike with both sides being amendment they’re correct in their assertion. Back in 2009, Sheamus enjoyed a meteoric rise in the WWE that culminated with him winning the break-through battle royal on Raw for the right to face John Cena for the WWE Championship at TLC: Tables, Ladders, and Chairs.
It’s hard now to believe that WWE would have someone who has spent less than a year with the company become WWE Champion, especially by beating its Golden Boy, John Cena. It’s for that reason many suggest the ending to the title match was botched. In it, Cena had Sheamus on the top rope for a suplex through a table in the ring, but he was pushed off by Sheamus, who then falls to the outside of the ring, narrowly avoiding another table. The way it was set up makes it appear as though both wrestlers were supposed to go through a table at the same time, but Sheamus’ table didn’t break.
11. Tag Team Titles – Paul London & Brian Kendrick vs. Lance Cade & Trevor Murdoch
It’s true that the WWE likes to reward its house show fans with unexpected title changes from time to time. This usually only happens once a year and in some instances is rectified at another house show a few days later. Because they do this, it’s hard to say for sure if a short-lived title win was on purpose or not, but each instance is different. The company will often allow a title change at a house show in a wrestler’s hometown or country as was the case with the Cruiserweight Championship being won by Nunzio at a 2005 house show in Rome.
However, a Tag Team Championship win by Paul London and Brian Kendrick over Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch during a 2007 house show in Cape Town, South Africa is worth questioning. London and Kendrick lost to Cade and Murdoch at Unforgiven two days prior and conveniently lost the titles in a rematch three days later at another house show.
10. Intercontinental Title – Edge vs. Jeff Jarrett
A WWE Hall of Famer, Edge was a must-watch Superstar throughout his tenure with the WWE. A seven-time World Champion and 12-time Tag Team Champion, the Rated-R Superstar was at times the most hated and most beloved wrestler on the WWE roster. He was certainly loved on July 24, 1999, when he won his first singles title, the Intercontinental Championship, at a house show against Jeff Jarrett.
While it’s extremely plausible the WWE awarded Edge the title because the show was in his hometown of Toronto, Ontario, conspiracy theorists will have you believe that the result was botched, especially since Jarrett won the title back the following night at Judgement Day. Others argue the WWE simply wanted to see how its crowd would react to Edge as a singles champion, but why do it in his hometown where you know he’s going to get cheered regardless?
9. Tag Team Titles – Men on a Mission vs. The Quebecers
Jacques (The Mountie) and Pierre comprised The Quebecers tag team during the mid-1990s and were highly successful, winning three Tag Team Championships. However, without a botched result, the duo would have only been two-time Tag Team Champions. At a house show in England, the French Canadian team was taking on Men on a Mission, a tag team made up of Mabel (later King Mabel, Viscera, Big Daddy V, etc.) and Mo.
As you’re probably aware, Viscera is a big dude, so when he fell on Pierre for a pin attempt, it was rather difficult for the Quebecer to kick out. In fact, it was so difficult, that he couldn’t get his shoulder off that mat, which caused the referee to ring the bell and award the titles to Men on a Mission. The Quebecers regained the titles two days later at a house show.
8. NXT Title – Neville vs. Sami Zayn vs. Tyson Kidd
NXT isn’t immune to botched title matches. During a house show in Glasgow, Scotland, Neville defended his NXT Title against Sami Zayn and Tyson Kidd in a triple threat match. The King of the Cruiserweights was supposed to retain his title, but the fact it was a Triple Threat led to some confusion and chaos as well as a title change that was essentially reversed to save face.
What happened was Kidd pinned Zayn, who didn’t kick out in time. Both wrestlers jumped out and appeared visibly confused and Kidd’s music hit for a brief moment before the ring announcer declared that Zayn had been eliminated from the match, despite that not being how a triple threat works. Needless to say, Neville pinned Kidd shortly after to retain the title. In this case, it might have been smarter to let Kidd keep the title and have Neville regain the championship at another house show.
7. Tag Team Titles – The Miz & John Morrison vs. Kofi Kingston & CM Punk
The Tag Team Titles seem to change hands more often than any other championship at house shows, in part due to the amount of things that need to go right to pull off a desired result and finish, but also due to the relative strength, or lack thereof, of the division. Not that it’s a gimmick title, but prior to The New Day’s record-breaking title reign, the titles on both brands lack legitimacy due to frequent title changes.
One of those short-lived title-holding teams was Kofi Kingston and CM Punk, who won the tag team titles on the October 27, 2008 edition of Raw. The duo would eventually lose the titles less than two months later to The Miz and John Morrison at a December 13th house show in Hamilton, Ontario. Morrison and The Miz eventually lost the titles in a WrestleMania dark match to The Colons. Chances are their title win wasn’t by accident, but it certainly highlights the relative value of the titles.
6. Divas Championship – Battle Royal
The Divas Championship wasn’t on the line in this Raw Divas Battle Royal, but the winner of the match was to be named the number one contender and likely become a future champion. Three-time Divas Champion Eve was supposed to win the battle royal, but she was accidentally eliminated by Kaitlyn, who went on to win the match to the confusion of nearly everyone, including current champion Layla, who looked stunned and motionless. Seriously though, on a side note, how many damn Diva Battle Royals have taken place in the past, good heavens!
Instead of rectifying the wrong, WWE rolled with the result and ended up pushing Kaitlyn. The following year, Kaitlyn didn’t go as far to say it was a botched result, but called it “very unexpected,” and stated she was “very surprised.”
5. Hardcore Championship – Battle Royal
Back in the 24/7 era of the Hardcore Title, the belt changed hands nearly every night and sometimes multiple times. That said, Crash Holly managed to enjoy a pair of 20-day reigns and an eight-day reign. The eight-day reign came after he won the title from Hardcore Holly during the April 3, 2000 episode of Raw. Not that it makes much of a difference, but it should have been a nine-day reign as Crash was supposed to retain the title he won during the 13-man Hardcore Battle Royal at WrestleMania 2000.
Instead, he failed to kick out from a pin attempt by Hardcore Holly, who won the title for a third time. Referee Tim White even delayed his count after two and looked to Crash as if he had messed up.
4. European Title – Gangrel vs. X-Pac
At the ’99 Royal Rumble, X-Pac defended his European Title against Gangrel and actually did end up retaining the title as he was intended to. However, the match almost went completely sideways and likely would have been awarded to Gangrel if Teddy Long didn’t save the day. X-Pac was noticeably late kicking out of a pin attempt and, rather than slowing his count he kept going and counted to three. That was when X-Pac finally kicked out. The crowd noticed it, but Long immediately jumped up and threw up a two count signal.
The crowd gave Long some grief with a “You F–ked Up” chant, but in reality, it was X-Pac who was late with the kick out. This might not be an instance where the title accidentally changed hands, but it’s certainly one in which it should have accidentally changed hands.
3. Intercontinental Title – Razor Ramon vs. Jeff Jarrett
Ladder matches and Money in the Bank are sometimes tough to watch if the timing is a little off. As a kid, you can completely believe that it takes a wrestler a full minute to reach the top of a ladder, but, even while remaining a fan, you can become a little cynical when you get older. You’re not alone, however. Some wrestlers have had a hard time selling the climb up the ladder as a difficult endeavor. One of those wrestlers is Razor Ramon, who won the Intercontinental Championship from Jeff Jarrett during a 1995 house show.
Jarrett was supposed to win the match and eventually won the title back a few days later, which is often a sure sign of a botched result. Apparently, Jarrett forgot his cue to to enter the ring and stop Razor from reaching the top of the ladder and, rather than standing atop the ladder without reaching the belt like a moron, Razor grabbed the belt.
2. Women’s Championship – Melina vs. Mickie James vs. Victoria
After more than a decade since it had a house show in France, the WWE accidentally gave fans a show to remember in 2007. Among other matches, it scheduled a Triple Threat contest between Mickie James, Victoria, and the current champion Melina. Naturally, Melina was supposed to win the match and retain her title, but it didn’t shake out that way. Instead, Victoria failed to kick out of a pin attempt by James, who briefly was crowned Women’s Champion.
In most instances, WWE would have sent an on-screen authority figure to the ring to fix the situation, but in this case it treated fans to a rematch later in the evening between Melina and Mickie James. We’re unsure if either wrestler got paid double that evening, but things were fixed by the end of the night as Melina had the title around her waist once again.
1. US Title – A.J. Styles vs. Kevin Owens
The inspiration for this list! Surprisingly, we’re not discussing A.J. Styles’ US Title win at a Madison Square Garden house show as the accidental win as that’s usually the case. However, in this instance, Styles’ win at MSG over Kevin Owens was actually a brilliant marketing scheme for A.J.’s’ soon-to-be-released DVD as well as a treat for fans who have seemingly forgot it was possible for a major title to change hands at a house show.
That win was supposed to begin what appears to be a lengthy title reign for Styles, but oddly enough, Owens walked away from Battleground with the belt around his waist once again. The odd roll-up finish put a damper on an excellent match and seemed curious at the time. Nonetheless, it looked as though WWE wanted to continue with Owens’ Face of America angle. Instead, Styles regained the title two nights later on SmackDown Live in an equally-stunning result.
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