WWE Pay-Per-Views were once a treasured part of wrestling. The supposed culmination of feuds and storylines with huge matches and shocking twists that you would happily fork over your hard-earned cash to see. Now they happen every other week and you can watch them for free on some dodgy website. Oh, cruel fate. That hasn’t stopped the main event of a Pay-Per-View still being special however; usually the final spot on the card is reserved for the biggest stars in the biggest matches. World champions, legends returning, retirement matches, the high stakes bouts usually go on last and its one of the highest honours a wrestler can receive in their career.
Whilst main events are usually inhabited by champions, either at the time or in the past, there have been some instances where a wrestler has main evented a WWE Pay-Per-View without winning a single championship in their WWE careers. Sometimes the wrestler’s drawing power was big enough not to warrant a title run, whilst some are still active and might be destined for a title run in the future, but for whatever reason, these men have all gone on last on WWE Pay-Per-View without ever holding a championship in the WWE. Let the useless trivia commence.
Yes, before he became the angriest man on Twitter, Vader did actually wrestle.
Big Van Vader, as he was known, was something of a phenomenon in the wrestling world. Beginning in the AWA in 1985, Vader caught a lot of people’s eyes as his gigantic frame actually masked an incredibly agile performer. Capable of moonsaults and other aerial assaults at over 300 pounds, Vader was extremely popular as a face or a heel and this resulted in multiple championship wins. Vader was the first non-Japanese wrestler to hold New Japan Pro Wrestling’s most prestigious belt, the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, and he also won the WCW Championship three times as well as numerous other secondary titles. So far, so good.
When Vader arrived in the WWE in 1996, he looked like he was going to become a big star, going on a rampage at the Royal Rumble and gaining mainstream attention by assaulting WWE President, Gorilla Monsoon, in a famous segment on Raw. Vader was pushed to the main event spot with manager Jim Cornette by his side and challenged WWE Champion, Shawn Michaels (who he pinned in the six man tag main event In Your House 9: International Incident), for the title at SummerSlam 1996 in the main event. After the match was restarted a bunch of times for various reasons, Vader lost and ended his feud with Michaels. He would appear in the main event one more time in WWE at In Your House 13: Final Four, where he would compete in a four-way elimination match for the vacant WWE Championship alongside The Undertaker, Steve Austin and eventually winner, Bret Hart. Vader never held a championship in WWE and this was perhaps due to his backstage issues with Vince McMahon, who wanted to make drastic changes to his character that Vader refused. Still a legend of the business and a future Hall of Famer for sure, Vader is one of the icons of wrestling and will go down in history as a true great. Heaven forbid you should upset him online though. His tweets are more devastating that any Vader Bomb ever could be.
24 Jerry Lawler
What is Jerry Lawler the King of? Some say it’s Memphis. I think it’s bad jokes and objectification of women. I guess we’ll never know.
Lawler has been a constant presence on WWE TV for over a decade, whether as a wrestler or colour commentator, most famously with Jim Ross in the Attitude Era. Lawler’s time as a wrestler was mostly spent in Memphis in the AWA USWA, but he began appearing in the WWE in 1992 and did wrestle a few matches. His most notable feud was with Bret Hart following Hart’s win at King of the Ring 1993. Lawler took issue with someone else calling themselves “king” and the two would embark on a rivalry that showcased Lawler’s legendary “zingers”.
This isn’t the feud that earned Jerry the main event spot, however. Oh no. That feud was with “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and revolved about The King using his talk show segment, the King’s Court, to insult Piper, even having a fan dressed as the Rowdy one kiss his feet in mockery. The two men would settle their differences in the final match of King of the Ring 1994. Lawler would use foreign objects to batter Piper whilst the ref was distracted and tried to use the ropes for extra leverage during a pinfall attempt. However, who should come to the aid of Piper, but the fan Lawler had dressed up as him on the King’s Court! The fan, who had been in Piper’s corner, pulled Lawler’s feet off the ropes and allowed Piper to score the victory. It was a weird feud and a weird way to end King of the Ring. But hey, at least it wasn’t Michael Cole. Bleugh.
Oh great, now I have to talk about No Holds Barred, thanks a lot, guys.
No Holds Barred was a film released in 1989 that featured Hulk Hogan in his leading debut. To sum it up in one word – it-was-absolutely-terrible-and-under-no-circumstances-should-you-ever-watch-it. That’s a word. Look it up. Anyways, the fallout from this insult to cinema was that Hogan’s enemy in the movie, Zeus (played by actor, Tom “Tiny” Lister), became a regular feature on WWE TV in 1989. Despite the fact that Hulk Hogan wasn’t playing his character from the movie, so, was Zeus delusional? Did he really think the film happened? Were we meant to believe it happened? I’m so confused.
Zeus was pushed into a main event with feud with Hogan, teaming often with Randy Savage or Ted DiBiase to mask his inexperience. Zeus would close out SummerSlam 1989 teaming with Savage to face Hogan and Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake in a tag match that had no real consequences whatsoever. The match was fine for the time and the faces won, but the whole feud was just so pointless and confusing, even for the 80s. Zeus somehow stuck around in WWE for a few more months before leaving wrestling for good, except a limited run in WCW as “Ze Gangsta”. Lister made the best of a bad situation and will go down in history as one of the men fortunate enough to main event WWE’s second biggest show. No Holds Barred is still unforgivable though.
22 Lex Luger
Another SummerSlam main eventer now, only this one wasn’t playing a character from a film.
Lex Luger was an already established name when he arrived in WWE in 1993, having been involved with The Four Horsemen and winning the WCW Championship. He debuted as The Narcissists, a self-obsessed heel who would knock people out with the metal plate in his arm (Luger had been in a motorcycle accident and the plate was incorporated into his gimmick).
Luger would unexpectedly turn face in the summer of ‘93 following the depature of Hulk Hogan. Needing a new main man in the company, WWE pushed Luger to the moon by having him body slam then-WWE Champion, evil foreigner Yokozuna, on a battleship on the 4th of July wearing a Star-Spangled Banner t-shirt. Wow. If that sentence was a food, it would definitely be a double bacon cheeseburger with fries. Luger main evented SummerSlam that year against Yokozuna and would have won the championship had the locker room not revolted against him. The boys in the back threaten to walk out if Luger won, because they felt that Bret Hart, who had been snubbed by WWE officials in favour of the big, muscly Luger, was the right man to lead the company in Hogan’s absence. To prevent this mutiny, Luger won the match, but by countout, keeping the belt on Yokozuna. Didn’t stop the confetti coming down though. That was an odd moment. Luger never won a title in WWE despite being an accomplished WCW and you have to wonder how much the locker room played into this. Can’t say I feel forry for Lex, though, considering how he turned out. I despise that man.
20 Mr. T and Paul Orndorff (Half Of The First WrestleMania's Main Event)
Let’s clear one thing up before we get started; the inaugural WrestleMania was not the shimmering star WWE make it out to be.
The only two matches of any note were entirely due to celebrity involvement and it is painfully obvious that wrestling was not the primary focus of this show. However, you can’t argue with success and over thirty years later, Mania is still going and Howard Finkel is still getting his contractually obliged annual appearance. What further compounds the fact that this wrestling show wasn’t actually about wrestling was the credentials of its main event stars. The main event – a tag team match (that’s never happening ever again) pitting Hulk Hogan and the A-Team’s Mr. T (wrestling is so weird) against “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff – featured two men who had never won and would never win a championship in WWE.
Orndorff was an accomplished wrestler outside of WWE, winning titles with the NWA and WCW, but never got his hands on the gold in WWE. Mr. T, well, was Mr. T. Say no more. Despite being the start of the most valuable brand in wrestling, the first WrestleMania's main event was certainly not the conventional one by today’s standards. Although, if you take the average number of championships per person in this match, each man would have 2.25 championships in the WWE. Guess who most of that is due to. Hint – it’s not Piper.
19 The Sandman
Hey, look, it’s that crazy man from ECW! Oh, wait, that could be most people, actually. Hey, look, it’s The Sandman!
The Sandman made a name for himself in ECW, winning the promotion’s top title a record five times and would feud with some of the company’s top stars, including Shane Douglas, Raven, and Mikey Whipwreck. Sandman also made appearances in WCW in 1999 under the name Hak, but was unable to capture any belts there. After a return to ECW in time to see it go out of business, Sandman decided not to follow a career in WWE, instead going to promotions such as XPW and TNA. He really must have not wanted to go to WWE. Eventually Sandman got bored of TNA (as any man would) and finally turned up in WWE and one of his first appearances was in the main event of the 2005 Pay-Per-View, ECW One Night Stand.
Teaming up with Tommy Dreamer to do battle with The Dudley Boyz, Sandman’s return to the Hammerstein Ballroom and to his adoring ECW crowd made for a truly memorable moment as the fans in the arena sing his entrance song for minutes on end, over the moon to see one of their heroes make his long-awaited return. Despite losing the match, Sandman was still a fan favourite and would appear regularly on WWE’s rebranded version of ECW (bleugh) feuding with the likes of Test, Mike Knox, Matt Striker and, of course, the ECW Zombie. Wonder what ever happened to him. Sandman even turned up at WrestleMania 23, teaming with Rob Van Dam, Sabu and Tommy Dreamer to take on Marcus Von Cor, Elijah Burke, Matt Striker and Kevin Thorn in an ECW originals vs New Breed match, which the old dudes won. After a brief run on Raw, Sandman was released from the company in 2007 and now plies his trade on the indies. An ECW icon who was never really primed for a championship push, Sandman will always have that moment at One Night Stand 2005. Best we remember him for that and not anything else.
18 Bray Wyatt and Erick Rowan
Before you ask, I’m not counting Randy Orton or Daniel Bryan as members of the Wyatt Family. I’m just not.
The Wyatt Family debuted on the main roster of WWE in 2013 as an evil, backwoods religious-type cult following the words of leader, Bray Wyatt. At least, when those words actually make sense, which they never do. Originally consisting of Wyatt, Luke Harper and Erick Rowan, The Wyatts acquired Braun Strowman in August 2015, who has since left the group to embark on a singles career. The first member of the family to main event a show was, fittingly, the leader, Bray Wyatt, who participated in the ladder match for the vacant WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Money in the Bank 2014. Since then, Wyatt has closed two more Pay-Per-Views; TLC 2014 against Dean Ambrose and, most recently, No Mercy 2016 against Randy Orton, both of which he won. Yeah, Bray Wyatt actually winning matches. Weird. Wyatt has yet to win a title in WWE, but, if the rumour mill and Reddit are to be believed, Wyatt might be getting his mitts on the big one very soon. Although, I can’t really see Waytt doing press conferences and shilling merch.
Strowman has never main evented a WWE Pay-Per-View and, whilst Luke Harper has, he’s a former Intercontinental Champion (hands up who remembered that), so that just leaves the big bald bearded boy, Erick Rowan. After the Wyatts broke up for the first (and by no means the last) time in 2014, Rowan surprised everyone by turning face, putting his name forward as a member of John Cena’s Survivor Series team against The Authority, a match which, if The Authority lost, they’d be ousted from power forever... and by that I mean a month, because they were totally back within a month. Rowan joined Cena, Dolph Ziggler, Ryback and The Big Show to battle The Authority’s Seth Rollins, Kane, Rusev, Mark Henry and Rowan’s former buddy, Luke Harper. Of those ten men, Rowan is the only one to have never held a title in WWE, but, fi the Wyatts continue on their current path and are lucky with their booking, maybe that’ll change soon. By the way, who was it that debuted the night Rowan’s team won at Survivor Series... (hint: keep reading, it's our #2!).
17 Michael Tarver
You just have to feel sorry for Michael Tarver, don’t you.
When Tarver originally debuted on WWE TV in 2009 as a member of radical new stable, The Nexus, the rookies from the first season of then-reality based show, NXT, who were all demanding permanent contracts and did so by attacking stars and generally just beating the snot out of everyone. it looked like big things were on his horizon as the group looked to take WWE by storm. Then everything just went a bit rubbish. Tarver, along with the rest of Nexus, main evented SummerSlam 2010 in a 7-on-7 elimination match with Team WWE. The match was the perfect opportunity to put The Nexus over a team of certified WWE stars and built some real momentum for these young uys. However, what happened instead was WWE captain, John Cena, put his cape and destroyed The Nexus, single-handedly eliminating the final two members after taking a DDT on the exposed concrete floor. I’ll usually defend Cena, but this ending was unforgiveable. By the way, Tarver was eliminated second after just under four minutes. Hooray.
Team WWE consisted of John Cena, Daniel Bryan (a former Nexus member), Edge, Chris Jericho, Bret Hart, R-Truth and John Morrison, all accomplished champions. Nexus members David Otunga, Justin Gabriel, Heath Slater (baybay!) and Darren Young would all go onto become tag team champions in WWE, whilst Skip Sheffield (later Ryback) and Nexus leader, Wade Barrett, would both become Intercontinental Champions. And then there’s Michael. Out of the fourteen men in this main event, Tarver was the only one who never held gold in WWE and was the only one not signed onto a contract after the Nexus storyline ended. Tarver now finds himself working for the NWA, where he is a two-time Florida Heavyweight Champion. Unlucky not to have been booked better in The Nexus and just tragic that he wasn’t picked up by WWE, Tarver has done well out a bad lot and deserves a lot of respect for it. Still, you have to wonder if he’s ever watched that SummerSlam match again. I know I wouldn’t.
16 Lawrence Taylor and Bam Bam Bigelow (WrestleMania XI Main Event)
Oh lord, not this absolute carwreck.
WrestleMania XI is widely regarded as one of, if not the, worst WrestleManias ever. With only one stand out match – Shawn Michaels vs Diesel (you know your show is bad when the best match has Kevin Nash in it) – Mania XI made the same mistake as Mania I and put a celebrity in the main event. Why? The show didn’t need the mainstream attention like it did ten years; it was an established brand. Whose idea was this?
The main event was Bam Bam Bigelow taking on Lawrence Taylor, a former linebacker for the New York Giants. For anyone who doesn’t know what that means; he played American football. Just gonna let that sink in for a second. A retired footballer not only took on a wrestler in the main event of the biggest wrestling show of the year, but also, he won! Seriously, who came up with this? Because I’m currently imagining monkeys with typewriters. Taylor obviously never won a championship with WWE because, and I cannot stress this enough, he was a football player and Bigelow was an ECW Champion as well as winning titles with the AWA and WCW, but the only award he ever won in WWE was the 1987 Slammy Award for “Best Head”. Why do I watch wrestling again?
13 King Kong Bundy
The last of our non-title winning Mania main eventers and it’s the man who competed in the first ever WrestleMania world championship match.
At WrestleMania II (you know, the one across three different cities that everyone totally loved), Bundy battled Hulk Hogan in the only steel cage match in WrestleMania history for the WWE title. He didn’t win (obviously, otherwise he wouldn’t have been on the list, idiot), but did allow Hogan to look strong and that’s the most important thing of all. The Walking Condominium fell off the face of the Earth after this, falling down the card faster than Vince’s blood pressure dropped than one time we all cheered Roman Reigns.
Bundy would never win a title with WWE, but was a champion in the NWA a few times and won the Slammy Award for “Most Evolutionary”. What does that even mean? A classic big guy who was dangerous because he was big, Bundy was a character very specific to a certain period of wrestling who was unlucky not to have been picked for a championship. Was he ever going to be WWE Champion? No. Could have won the tag team titles with Typhoon? Probably, yeah. However, Bundy remains a championship-less wonder and probably always shall. Also, what is a condominium? I thought that meant ketchup and mustard.
11 John Laurinaitis
Laurinaitis sounds like a disease and that is exactly what this character was on WWE for several years.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of respect for Johnny Ace, the former wrestler who portrayed Laurinaitis, and you should too. Johnny first appeared in the NWA in 1986, where he battled the likes of The Midnight Express and even The Undertaker before he adopted his famous gimmick. Johnny worked for a little while in Japan and WCW, before being signed on by WWE in a backstage role, helping scout some of the up and coming talent for over a decade in his various roles in talent relations. He also invented the RKO and the Stone Cold Stunner. Seriously, look that up.
This does not forgive Johnny for the utterly appalling character of John Laurinaitis, a corporate yes man douchebag who would belittle wrestlers and abuse his position of power as Raw and Smackdown General Manager, you know, like every other crooked authority figure in WWE history. What made Laurainitis the worse was his constant involvement in storylines. He got involved in the CM Punk vs John Cena storyline unnecessarily, the Triple H vs CM Punk storyline unnecessarily, most of CM Punk’s WWE title reign unnecessarily. Man, Big Johnny really didn’t like CM Punk, did he? The absolute pinnacle of Johnny’s meddling came at Over The Limit 2012. Never mind that CM Punk was defending the WWE Championship against Daniel Bryan or that there was a Fatal 4-way match for the World Heavyweight title going on that night, nope; Big Johnny L vs Big Johnny C. That’s what we got. And, the match ended in a dumb way too, with Big Show, whom Laurinaitis had fired just weeks prior for insulting him, returning to help Laurinaitis win the match! Why? He just fired you! I hate this storyline and I hate this match. You should as well.
9 Most Competitors In The Survivor Series 1988 Main Event
Ah, the days were the five-on-five matches actually meant something.
Survivor Series 1988 was the second ever Survivor Series show and featured only four matches; three five-on-fives and a whopping ten-on-ten match that lasted over forty-two minutes. Jeez. Makes Shane McMahon vs The Undertaker look like a commercial break in comparison. The main event of this show saw Team Mega Powers take on Team Twin Towers and featured five, yes, five, wrestlers who would never win a championship in WWE.
Hogan and Savage were the only members of their team to hold gold in WWE, teaming up with Koko B. Ware, Hillbilly Jim and Hercules, whilst Twin Towers member, Akeem (also known as the One Man Gang before he went all racist), never held a title in WWE, nor did fellow team member, The Red Rooster. To have an entire team of non-title winners in today’s WWE would be damned near impossible, especially when you consider these five were all actual stars and most of them are in the Hall of Fame. In a time where character development was more important than anything else, championships weren’t the most important tool in getting a performer over. Simpler times.
8 Savio Vega
This one takes some explaining.
Savio Vega was a Puerto Rican wrestler who is perhaps most notable for being a member of The Nation of Domination for a brief period of time and leading Los Boricuas, an entirely Puerto Rican stable, because this was Attitude Era WWE and if you were from the same place as someone, you can be damned sure you’d be teaming up with them at some point. However, neither of these stables lead to Vega main eventing a show. In fact, it was a different stable that gave him that honour – the one and only D-Generation X.
At No Way Out of Texas: In Your House, DX members Triple H, Shawn Michaels and The New Age Outlaws were scheduled to face Steve Austin, Owen Hart, Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie in a “non-sanctioned” eight man tag. Don’t ask me how a match that was promoted weeks in advance could be unsanctioned, because I really don’t know. Michaels was suffering from recurring back injuries after that year’s Royal Rumble and was set to defend his WWE Championship against Austin in a month’s time at WrestleMania XIV. Rather than risk Michaels hurting himself further and spoiling that match, WWE simply pulled him from the show, replacing him with your boy Savio because... umm, I have literally no idea. Savio had no prior connection to the group and no subsequent connection following this match, which DX lost after Austin pinned Road Dogg. Vega never won a title in WWE and would have never seen the main event were it not for this match. Maybe Triple H owed him money? Maybe he knows a dirty secret about Billy Gunn? Who knows. The point is; Vega main evented a Pay-Per-View. Moving on.
What is there to say about Sting? Well, actually there’s quite a lot because he’s one of the greatest pro wrestlers of all time. Better get started then. Sting debuted in Jim Crockett Promotions, the precursor to WCW, in 1986 and featured in the first ever match of Starrcade, WCW’s WrestleMania. He would set WCW ablaze over the next fourteen years; winning their world title six times, the US title twice and their tag titles three times. He also headlined the biggest show in WCW history, Starrcade ’97, battling Hulk Hogan for the WCW Championship. Just no one look up how thatmatch ended, Don’t, don’t ruin this. Sting did not jump ship to WWE following WCW’s downfall in 2001, instead working for TNA, where he is a four time world champion and Hall of Famer, before finally accepting the call of the devil and signing for WWE in 2014. And that’s when it all went wrong.
Sting only worked two WWE Pay-Per-Views over his short run in McMahonland; one was WrestleMania 31, his debut, in which he lost to Triple H because WWE are still somehow at war with a promotion that hasn’t existed for fifteen years. His second and final WWE Pay-Per-View appearance was the main event of Night of Champions 2015, where he battled Seth Rollins for the WWE Championship. Rollins had just lost his United States Championship to John Cena earlier that night, so he would be easy pickings for the Stinger, right? Right? Right? No, of course not. Sting lost the match clean as a whistle, but not before Rollins botched a bucklebomb and pushed him backwards through the announce table, all of which probably contributed his eventual retirement from wrestling at the 2016 WWE Hall of Fame ceremony. Yes, giving a man in his fifties the most prestigious belt in WWE history might not have been best for business, but a legend like Sting deserved a better send-off than this and, had he turned up in WWE before 2014, you can guarantee he’d have held a few championships in his time. Ah well. At least he’ll always have the most valuable item in wrestling – the TNA Hall of Fame watch. That’s the stuff of dreams.
1 Paul Heyman
Yep, the Paulrus himself has closed a WWE Pay-Per-View. Brilliant.
Paul Heyman is one of the most popular non-wrestling figures of all time. As the booker and promoter for ECW, Heyman became a cult hero in wrestling and when the promotion was bought out, Heyman was kept on by WWE. Having been everything from leader of The Alliance to Smackdown GM, Heyman is perhaps best known to WWE fans as a manger, holding the record for most WWE Champions managed; Heyman has guided Kurt Angle, CM Punk, Big Show, Rob Van Dam and, of course, BARRRROCCCKKKK LESSSSSNAARRRRRRR to title wins. One of the best talkers in the business, Heyman is a certified Hall of Famer, but, what you might not know is, he’s also been in the ring a few times, most notably at Rebellion 2002.
In Smackdown’s first ever Pay-Per-View following the brand split (the first one, obvs), the main event of the evening saw an upstart Edge challenge the aforementioned BARRRROCCCKKKK LESSSSSNAARRRRRRR for his WWE Championship, but not in a traditional singles match. Instead, Edge battled both the Beast and Pauly in a handicap match in the Manchester Arena (woo, England!). Considering this match took place six days after BARRRROCC- ok, I’m done with that now, after Brock’s Hell in a Cell with The Undertaker (again, the first one, obvs) the two put on a great show and the extra jeopardy of Heyman, who, if pinned, would have lost Lesnar the title, made this match quite fun to watch. Ultimately Lesnar won the match, but Edge showcased himself as a future main eventer and, more importantly, Paul Heyman got the main event match he truly deserved. Well, maybe he didn’t deserve it that much, but it was still a nice match.