No one is exempt from WWE’s shovel. If you wrong the company or even mildly upset its equilibrium then no matter what you’ve done for them in the past, they’ll have no problem sweeping you to one side and continuing as if you never existed. There are so many examples of burials in WWE’s history and they come in such a wide variety of forms. What may surprise is how many of those Superstars who have been buried at some point are ones who were once the face that ran the place. Well maybe not in every instance, but at least the guy with one of the company’s top championships, aka the WWE or world heavyweight titles.
As I mentioned just above, there are a multitude of ways a Superstar can be buried and an array of reason it may happen to them. As will be demonstrated in this upcoming list some reasons are most certainly better than others. Some former champions have been involved in situations completely separate from WWE but Vince McMahon had no choice but to cut all ties due to the severity of whatever they may have been involved with. On the contrary there are wrestlers who appear to have done absolutely nothing wrong at all yet after they’ve held the ultimate gold they gradually slip down the card and are inexplicably removed from the title scene for all times. Clearly sometimes the shovel simply selects you. These 15 entries will feature former WWE and World Champions from both ends of the aforementioned scale and an array of stops in between.
15. Rob Van Dam
Rob Van Dam was not exactly welcomed with open arms when he first ventured across to WWE from ECW. A former ECW Champion, like many others from his former employers WWE saw him as little more than a ‘hardcore’ wrestler. RVD was placed in the hardcore division and to begin with he did nothing much else. In the years that followed however Van Dam demonstrated to WWE exactly what had made him a top star back in ECW. His incredible in ring ability coupled with the fans love for him eventually earned him a spell with the WWE Championship. It was short lived though. Not long into his maiden reign Rob was suspended under the company’s wellness policy. Before he departed he lost the title, never to win it again.
Despite Kane’s incredibly long, unbroken tenure with WWE, he has only been a world champion a grand total of three times. Even more shockingly only one of those three world title reigns has been with the actual WWE Championship. That one reign came all the way back in 1998 when Kane defeated Stone Cold Steve Austin in the main event of the King of the Ring pay per view in a First Blood match. Kane’s first and only WWE Championship reign was even more short lived than Rob Van Dam’s, and there wasn’t even a wellness policy violation to blame it on. The following night on Raw Kane would lose his newly won title back to Stone Cold on Monday Night Raw. The years following would still see him billed as a monster, until The Big Red Machine was really buried in the his angle with Triple H when The Game made him out to be a murderer and a necrophiliac.
13. Jack Swagger
There are times in WWE where the company has two top titles. With the introduction of the Universal title last summer we’re in the midst of one of those times right now. Back in 2010 was another one of those times when one brand boasted the WWE Championship while the other had the big gold belt, more commonly known as the World Heavyweight Championship. A number of names helped water down that prestigious belt, one of those names was Jack Swagger. The All American cashed in his Money in the Bank on Chris Jericho in March 2010 to win his first and only World Heavyweight title. Almost immediately after losing his crown Swagger began to slip down the ranks. First to the United States Championship scene, then theTag Team Championship picture, all the way down to his eventual release in 2017.
12. Kevin Nash
While Kevin Nash was known as Diesel in WWE during the early 1990s he boasts one reign as WWE Champion. What he probably doesn’t boast about so much is that he’s widely regarded as the worst drawing WWE Champion in the company’s history with attendances way down while he held the belt. That’s not what got him buried though as Vince McMahon powered through with his chosen one and kept him as champion for a year. What saw Nash fall out of favor was when he jumped ship to WCW. Following that all bets were off and even though Big Sexy had once held the company’s richest prize, he was fair game. Him and his fellow deserter Scott Hall were mocked each week on Raw via Fake Diesel and Fake Razor.
11. Rey Mysterio
Rey Mysterio has only been WWE Champion once during his illustrious career. Considering the beginnings of his pro wrestling path in WCW he’s probably lucky to have had that one reign. During the 1990s when Rey was with WCW smaller guys were treated as second rate. Around ten years later that was no longer the case and Mysterio was seen as more of a top guy, although you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise when you hear about his WWE title reign. In July of 2011 Rey won a tournament, defeating The Miz in the final, to become WWE Champion. His reign would last a matter of hours. By night’s end John Cena had defeated him and taken his newly won title. Following a rematch that he of course lost, that was that for Rey and top titles in WWE.
10. Randy Orton
WWE put an awful lot of work in to Randy Orton before they made him the youngest World Champion in the company’s history. The now thirteen time champion was a part of Evolution and making his way in the WWE world under the trusty wings of Triple H and Ric Flair. Like any pro wrestling faction, its members will inevitably turn on each other. But when it comes to Orton and Triple H all that momentum was well and truly wasted. The Game waited just 24 hours after Randy won his first world title before turning on him following SummerSlam 2004. After some confusing moments including a presumably baby face Randy inexplicably spitting in Triple H’s face, the Cerebral Assassin defeated and took Orton’s inaugural world title just a month after The Viper had won it.
9. Dolph Ziggler
As mentioned previously, there will be a couple of entries on this list that may not have won the WWE Championship per se, but did win the World Heavyweight Championship while the company, at least, saw it in equal standing to their grand prize. Dolph Ziggler won that big gold belt two times during that period. The Show Off had the fans behind him and had failed to become World Champion at the final hurdle time and time again. The time finally came for him to win the title properly, not including the time he held it for the evening on SmackDown, when he cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase the night after WrestleMania XXIX. Dolph took advantage of a beleaguered Alberto Del Rio to take his World Championship. It should have been more of a crowning moment than it was and Del Rio would win the title back shortly after only for Ziggler to never win it again, up until this point at least.
8. The Ultimate Warrior
The Ultimate Warrior is one of the most iconic figures in pro wrestling history. Through the late ’80s and early ’90s adults and children alike adored him. Then at WrestleMania VI Warrior got his crowning moment. In the main event of The Showcase of the Immortals the already Intercontinental Champion defeated Hulk Hogan to became WWE Champion at the same time. To this day he is still the only Superstar to have held both championships at the same time. Even Warrior was not immune to WWE’s venom though. The double champ left the company on bad terms and until his famous return just before his passing was held in pretty low regard. A DVD was even released by WWE documenting their former hero’s fall from prominence.
7. Alberto Del Rio
Alberto Del Rio has held both the WWE Championship and World Heavyweight titles on multiple occasions. Then like many of his peers he became somewhat disillusioned with the regime under Vince McMahon. Similarly like those many others Del Rio eventually returned to the WWE fold, but it wasn’t the same as before. Vince McMahon clearly didn’t like the fact that Alberto had ventured elsewhere to try his luck and while he did win the United States championship on night one of his return, it became pretty clear soon after that would be Del Rio’s new glass ceiling. Following a lackluster United States Championship run Del Rio spent some time in the unsuccessful League of Nations faction before clearly remembering why he departed WWE the first time around.
6. Big Show
While Big Show has most certainly had his moments during his long and storied WWE career, he has also been the butt of an awful lot of jokes. When The Giant was first acquired from WWE he was quite rightly viewed and treated as a seven foot tall monster. That portrayal remained all the way up to Show defeating Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship in 2002. After that and for the most part ever since WWE have continually cashed in on the seven footer’s willingness to do more or less anything to keep his place on the roster. From donning a nappy and sumo wrestling at WrestleMania 21 to being The Authority’s lap dog and doing their dirty work, Show will sadly be remembered more so for his embarrassments than his achievements.
5. The Great Khali
The Great Khali may have done well to take a page out of Big Show’s book. When the Indian Superstar first arrived on the scene in WWE he was revered. Well, by Vince McMahon at least. Someone of that size who was opening up a market to WWE of over a billion people was always going to be okay in Vince’s books. Khali exploded in to WWE by gunning for, and making short work of, The Undertaker. In 2007 despite his lack of in ring ability the Indian behemoth won the World Heavyweight Championship. Khali must have wondered where it all went wrong after that. By the end of his WWE tenure Khali found himself as less of a dominant monster and more of a joke. His new gimmick, The Punjabi Playboy, was a far cry from his Deadman beating, world title winning one.
4. Chris Benoit
Chris Benoit is another example of a Superstar on this list who was World Heavyweight Champion but not WWE Champion. Make no mistake about it though, Benoit won that big gold belt well before its legacy was watered down unlike some others in this list. 99% of you reading this will already know why that historic title win has been buried as deep as WWE could possibly dig. Benoit fought and clawed for so long to make it to the top of the pro wrestling game and that night at WrestleMania XX he did. Just a few years later though the veteran committed an act that will never be fully explained or understood. He along with his wife and young son were found dead at their home. The nature of the scene discovered would suggest beyond almost any doubt that it was Chris who killed his family before then killing himself. WWE had no real choice but to try and bury his career following that tragic turn of events.
3. CM Punk
There are very few figures in the modern wrestling landscape more controversial and beloved than CM Punk. He did not fit the WWE mold and was perhaps more outspoken than almost any Superstar ever has been while under contract with the company. Thanks to his ability and backing from the fans WWE had no choice but to make Punk WWE Champion, on more than one occasion in fact. Rest assured though once that belt was off him they did all they could to bury him and have the fans lose interest. Losses to Triple H, The Rock and Brock Lesnar all on the cards for Punk and of course famously the former champ eventually had enough and left WWE. Since then he has done a little burying of his own in retaliation.
2. Hulk Hogan
The Rock, Stone Cold, Ric Flair. All huge names that have transcended the pro wrestling business, yet none of them have done so in such a way than Hulk Hogan has. Even though his main run with WWE came around 30 years ago now he is still the biggest name the business has ever created. Which just goes to show, nobody is untouchable. While The Hulkster carried WWE throughout the 1980s, he was very much disliked by Vince and co when he shifted to WCW as was mocked for his old age regularly on WWE television. More recently of course Hogan has been quite rightly subjected to the burial/deletion treatment thanks to extremely racist comments the former champ made without knowing he was being recorded.
1. Bob Backlund
WWE Hall of Famer Bob Backlund’s first WWE Championship reign came during a very different time. He held the belt for almost six years, the second longest reign ever only bettered by that of Bruno Sammartino. His second and only other WWE title run was very different, and ended with Backlund being inexplicably buried by WWE. In 1994 Bob defeated Bret Hart for the belt and claims that he was promised a lengthy second run with the company’s richest prize by Vince McMahon. That did not happen. Mere days after the former amateur wrestler regained the title he lost it again. To Kevin Nash, at a house show, in eight seconds. Embarrassing to say the least and something that really wasn’t warranted.
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