The recent Jinder Mahal storyline which pushed him to the status of WWE Champion has shaken up the landscape of the company, and has led to much speculation as to why exactly such a relatively anonymous wrestler was booked to hold the highest title in the promotion. It’s getting to the point where Mahal is looking to be (at least slightly) more than just a transitional champion, most recently notching a victory over Shinsuke Nakamura at SummerSlam to retain the belt. It’s been a much-maligned title reign all things considered, seeming like an aimless decision to pander to WWE’s planned expansion into India in the future. In short, it hasn’t been well-received.
Although Mahal may not be the most inspiring champion, it’s important to remember that there have been some truly awful title-holders of years past. Certainly WWE has contributed to a fair amount of them, but every other promotion can lay claim to at least one ill-advised champion of some kind to their resume. Let’s take a look at some examples through the years, and what made them such bad choices to be a focal point of a promotion.
Ranked below are 15 wrestlers who were worse champions than Jinder Mahal.
15. Sycho Sid
Whatever moniker he was going under during any of his runs in WCW or WWE, Sid was nothing more than a generic power-based wrestler who relied on imposing size for success. There was little in the way of in-ring ability or talent on the mic with him, regardless of which point he was at in his career. It may have been impressive in the ’90s, but it hasn’t aged well and his title runs are of far less quality than many others even of the time period.
There may have been less nuance to Sid’s character than there is to Mahal’s now, and he’s probably a worse wrestler to boot. He switched companies so often that he was never able to establish himself anywhere for any extended amount of time. Sid’s title runs of the ’90s may serve as a piece of nostalgia, but they really weren’t any good.
14. The Great Khali
Marking his one-off return to WWE to assist Mahal in the Punjabi Prison match against Randy Orton, roughly a decade earlier he was also a sub-par WWE champion, holding the World Heavyweight Title. Nothing screamed “generic big-man” more than Khali did in 2007-08, and WWE yet again fell for the same old cliched “giant” character that they have for years. Khali couldn’t wrestle, was poor on the mic, and was just a slow, lumbering villain that everyone had seen dozens of times before.
Once the initial title run was over however, most of his significance of his roster spot was reduced as well. The character just didn’t have any point, or originality whatsoever, which made Khali one of the worst champions in wrestling history.
13. Sgt. Slaughter
By the time 1991 rolled around, Slaughter was a WWE veteran, and had previously been one of the biggest face characters in the company. Turning him into an Iraqi sympathizer may have been opportunistic or exploitative by WWE management (depending on how you look at it), as tensions mounted in the Gulf during the time period. Either way, he was nothing more than a filler champion to have the all-American Hulk Hogan defeat him at WrestleMania VII, allowing him to once again hold the belt.
The company was somewhat directionless around this time, and it showed with such an obvious and trite angle to make Hogan look good. All in all, Slaughter held the belt for three months as a heel, but it was a poor title reign. He was out of his prime, and the angle wasn’t original enough to make up for it.
12. Roman Reigns
WWE’s push of Reigns as both WWE Champion and United States Champion has almost become a joke unto itself at this point. In fact, he may be the one high-profile wrestler in the company right now who is actually more unpopular than Mahal is. There’s good reason for that, however. So much of Reigns’ work just seems like a template for a main event wrestler, instead of a unique character and in-ring style that could make him a star all on his own.
His limited move set, boring character and boringly stoic demeanor all contribute to Reigns being dead weight as a main-eventer in the current WWE landscape. His title runs were of no effect, and he’s one of the most faceless wrestlers in the company at the moment.
Needing a shakeup in the title scene of the time, WWE transformed Rodney Anoa’i into Yokozuna, portraying a humongous Japanese sumo wrestler, and had him managed by Mr. Fuji. The initial outcome was actually pretty good, at least through WrestleMania IX where Yokozuna beat Bret Hart for the WWE Title, and then promptly lost it to Hulk Hogan mere minutes later. After that however, the gimmick really started getting stale, and nothing was done to address it.
The awe-factor of seeing such a gigantic wrestler wears off after a time, and more had to be done to Yokozuna’s character to make him viable over the long-term. Tag team formations with Owen Hart and Crush seemed random, and aimless. He would toil around the mid-card for a few years before departing in 1996.
10. Jeff Jarrett
Jarrett may have been a competent in-ring talent, and there was certainly reason for giving him pushes up the ladder during the prime of his career. However, he was detrimental as a backstage figure once he had gained a pedigree as a world champion in either WCW or TNA. Jarrett was another legacy in the wrestling business, with his father Jerry Jarrett running the USWA promotion, not coincidentally where the younger Jarrett got his start in the industry.
So while “Double J” had the ability to wrestle like a champion, he didn’t have the ability to not tear locker rooms apart with his politics. Everywhere he went, he always seemed to alienate a portion of the roster. Not surprisingly, WCW soon folded after they stated featuring Jarrett as a top guy, and TNA never ascended to the heights that it could have, given the amazing talent that was on the roster for the first-half of their existence.
9. The Giant
Before he became The Big Show, Paul Wright wrestled under The Giant moniker while in WCW. While he would later go on to have some truly classic in-ring moments, mainly with WWE, the beginning of his career was shaky to say the least. Not only was he extremely green in the ring, he was intermingled with the simply laughably horrific Dungeon Of Doom storyline from the mid-’90s. It was perhaps the lowest point in WCW history, and simply one of the worst angles of all-time.
The Giant character would improve when he joined the nWo, which was an infinitely better angle for obvious reasons. Still, it was a mistake for WCW to put the belt on such an inexperienced wrestler. Wright’s best work would come in a WWE ring, which he switched to in 1999.
8. David Flair
They say that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, but that couldn’t be less true when it comes to Ric and David Flair. The Nature Boy’s son was one of the worst wrestlers in the latter stages of WCW, and contributed to some of the most embarrassing in-ring moments in the history of the Monday Night War. Scattershot and borderline-ridiculous, Flair’s run in WCW culminated with a United States Title victory, as well as a Tag Team Title with Kanyon.
He couldn’t wrestle, and had none of the natural charisma that his father did, making his presence on the roster seems like the direct result of nepotism (it was). It’s no surprise that the younger Flair never had a proficient run with any other company outside of WCW. The company was a circus by 1999-00, and Flair was just another ring in it.
This may be heresy to some, but Batista was a flat-out boring wrestler, even in his prime. A generic muscle-head and little else, he was propped up by his association with Triple H and Ric Flair during their time together in the Evolution stable. It was clear that Batista had no interest in becoming a truly great wrestler, despite being given ample opportunity in the main event scene despite a lack of matches to warrant the promotion.
In the end, he jetted from the wrestling scene all together once he gained enough crossover appeal to parlay his in-ring efforts into an acting career. Ultimately, Batista is one of the biggest flash-in-the-pan wrestlers of the past few decades. Everything from his in-ring style to his character had been done before, and in better fashion.
6. Dean Douglas
Shane Douglas was never an all-time great champion anyway, and was consistently overrated in his heyday, but the worst of his character came as when he portrayed the Dean Douglas character in the mid-’90s. Playing a college administrative figure, it was just another poor gimmick in an era where there was plenty of them in mainstream American wrestling. Douglas won the Intercontinental Title in 1995, although he would stay with WWE for less than a full year.
This was a completely aimless title reign, which saw WWE really grasping at straws. Perhaps the regular Shane Douglas character would have worked as a filler for the IC Title, but the senseless academic gimmick wasn’t going to get over, and they had already done it several years prior with The Genius (Randy Savage’s brother Lanny Poffo).
5. Ken Shamrock
With all of this talk about wrestling and MMA crossover in recent months, it’s easy to forget that Shamrock was one of the first to really take a stab at this. He fought in the early days of UFC and Pancrase, only to make his WWE debut in 1997, though he had wrestled under a few other small independent promotions. The problem was that Shamrock’s MMA garb, style and demeanor ran thin quickly, and his Intercontinental Title reign wasn’t very memorable at all.
He would get a crack at holding the NWA Title while with TNA for a brief period of time in 2002, and it ended in similar fashion. Shamrock was good for a few matches here and there, but he was awkward in just about all aspects of the wrestling ring. This is another one that simply hasn’t aged well, and was better received at the time.
4. Steve “Mongo” McMichael
Having a former NFL player who was far out of his athletic prime win the Untied States Title was just another in a long line of WCW mistakes that cost them in the late-90s. McMichael was merely the color commentator for the company in the years preceding his title reign, and had barely seen any legitimate in-ring work. Beating an established (if overrated) wrestler like Jeff Jarrett was nothing short of ridiculous, but it didn’t stand out much because of all the other bad decisions WCW was making at the time.
McMichael would spend less than five years involved in wrestling. It was an ill-advised move to actually give him a title reign, and was just another contributing factor that led to WCW’s demise in 2001. Just a poor idea all around.
3. Marc Mero
Mero was a former Golden Gloves boxing champion from New York, who got his wrestling start in WCW during the early-90s. While he was a serviceable mid-carder, he never displayed the ability to be a great draw, or anything that would indicate that he should be getting a legitimate title run. By 1996 he was in WWE, and for some reason had the Intercontinental Title slapped on him. Certainly a more prestigious belt than the T.V. Title he had won in WCW.
Although only a transitional champion in WWE, Mero is still one of the worst title-holders of the era, and one of the worst IC champions of all-time. Fortunately, he quickly fell down the ranks, and was a lower mid-carder a year or two later.
2. Bob Backlund
Not his initial run as WWE Champion, but his second run as champ in the mid-’90s after making his return to the ring. Since Backlund had first retired from wrestling, the business had changed massively. It now had a major national presence, instead of the territorial model that had been in play when he was in his prime. Even though he was a former WWE Champion, the promotion was nowhere near as nationally prominent as it was in the post-Hogan years.
So why take an aging technical wrestler who hadn’t been relevant for many years and make him WWE Champion again? Some kind of variety, I guess. WWE had no direction by 1995 in terms of angles and storylines, so plucking Backlund out of the mid-card scene and making him the biggest title-holder in the company must have seemed like a good idea. It wasn’t, and the title reign was short-lived.
1. David Arquette
By far the most embarrassing title reign handed out by a major wrestling promotion, the peak of WCW failure was recognized when Arquette won the WCW Heavyweight Title in 2000. In one fell swoop, WCW actually managed to delegitimize their biggest title, and their entire organization as a whole. Having an actor actually win the title was one of the main death knells of the company in retrospect, although most people thought so at the time as well.
To be fair, Arquette himself was against the idea of him becoming champion. He knew what kind of a message it would send to the WCW fanbase (or what was left of it), and he wasn’t wrong in the slightest. From the time he won the belt in April of 2000, to the end of the promotion in March of 2001, it was the worst period of WCW’s existence, and the ratings reflected that.
It was just a massive failure from all angles, and makes the Mahal title reign look like a stellar idea in comparison.
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