The ultimate goal for any WWE Superstar is to become a champion. To win titles. Right now there are more championships in WWE than ever before. In fact right now including tag teams there are currently sixteen Superstars holding championships in WWE. At some point or another if you spend an extended period of time with the company, you will become a champion at some point. It may not be the lofty heights of a WWE or Universal Champion – try prying that title away from Brock Lesnar right now – but maybe a tag team title run or a brief period with the United States Championship. Holding any belt in WWE should be considered an honor really.
If you win a championship of course then at some point you have to lose it. Or do you? There is a way that a WWE Superstar’s time as a champion can come to an end that is arguably even worse than being pinned or made to tap out, and that’s when they have to hand it over without ever losing a match. Wrestling injuries often come at the worst possible time, as you’ll quickly discover as you work your way through this list, and mean that champions sometimes have to hand over their belt to someone who is fit to defend it. There have also been plenty of times that Superstars haven’t done that when we in the WWE Universe have wished that they would. I’ll let you guess who those frustrating few are as you slowly discover them while reading this article.
15. Relinquished: Naomi
In February of 2017 Naomi achieved what in her eyes was a long time coming. The Leader of the Glow Movement became SmackDown Women’s Champion. As one of the few female Superstars who has survived from the last generation of women’s wrestlers in WWE following the current revolution, it was a pretty big deal. Naomi winning the title signified that she could wrestle and wasn’t simply hired based on her looks, as so many women were back when she was hired. Unfortunately shortly after her win an injury meant that Naomi had to give up that hard earned championship. Visibly upset she handed the title over to SmackDown Live GM Daniel Bryan. Thankfully this one has a happy ending, and a little over a month later Naomi returned in her home town to reclaim the gold from Alexa Bliss.
14. Should Have: The Miz
The Miz’s career has undergone somewhat of a rejuvenation in recent years. While the WWE and Universal Championships still seem to be a step too far, The A-Lister has dominated the Intercontinental title scene. Now a seven time champion, the only man that has held the prestigious belt on more occasions is Chris Jericho. While Miz’s goal has been to bring credibility back to the championship, which he has done for the most part, at one point he only did more damage to a title that isn’t regarded as highly as it really should be. Miz was IC Champion and set to leave WWE for a while in order to star in a movie. All signs pointed towards him losing the title as he wouldn’t be around to defend it, but that didn’t happen. The Awesome One really should have given up his crown in order to avoid it being absent from WWE programming.
13. Relinquished: Daniel Bryan
Since we’ve already spoken about Daniel Bryan briefly and we just covered the Intercontinental Championship via The Miz, we may as well combine the two with this entry. At WrestleMania 31 Bryan truly marked his return from injury, something we’ll cover in more detail a little later as I’m sure you will have already guessed, by winning a ladder match for the Intercontinental title. While not as iconic as the year before, Daniel sitting atop the ladder at the end of the match was a real feel good moment. Unfortunately that moment was short lived. Injuries and problems continued to plague Bryan and keep him out of the ring on a regular basis, and eventually he had to hand over the IC belt that we thought had marked the start of better times for the now General Manager.
12. Should Have: John Cena
Believe it not back in 2011 there was a brief period when there were two WWE Champions. In one of the most famous moments and matches in the modern era CM Punk defeated John Cena at Money In The Bank. Upon winning the bout Punk fulfilled his promise of leaving the company with the championship, all within the realms of the angle of course but honestly at the time that line seemed blurred. With the company’s most coveted prize along with its holder gone, WWE held a tournament to crown a new champion. Even though Rey Myserio won the tournament, Cena defeated him for the belt that same night, a story for a different time. Punk then returned, rightfully claiming that he was the legitimate champion. Rather than honor that and strip John of his interim championship WWE recognized both of them as title holders and the pair had to do battle at that year’s SummerSlam.
11. Relinquished: Asuka
On to the reason behind the idea for this list, Asuka and her recent relinquishing of the NXT Women’s Championship. For almost two years now the NXT Universe has been wondering who exactly can beat Asuka and who would take that Women’s Championship away from her. Well turns out no one is going to have to beat the Empress of Tomorrow in order to become the next NXT Women’s Champion. Although the footage hasn’t aired yet on NXT as I type this, WWE revealed that Asuka forfeited the title and that she has been in talks with both Raw and SmackDown Live. A clever move by WWE. This way Asuka remains undefeated as she makes the move to the main roster and they don’t need to have her lose before she makes that switch.
10. Should Have: Jinder Mahal
This one may very well split readers somewhat. Jinder Mahal came out of nowhere to win the WWE Championship. It’s hard to say he deserved it as just weeks before he reached the summit Jinder was effectively a jobber to the stars. That isn’t good reason to hand the title over as soon as he won it though. It may be all within the realms of a WWE story line, but currently the Modern Day Maharajah has needed help in every single one of his title defenses. It’s the only reason Jinder is still champion. With SmackDown Live being the land of opportunity and Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan being great proponents of that, supposedly, you would think the angle would have had the two of them step in by now. Since Mahal has held the title it has become less reputable than the United States Championship and that’s not okay.
9. Relinquished: Batista
Batista may not have had a great run when he returned to WWE a few years ago – in his eyes that is since to most of us headlining WrestleMania is a pretty big deal. Batista’s main WWE run however began when he was a part of the famous OVW 2000 class. He trained alongside the likes of John Cena, Brock Lesnar, and the man he would later form Evolution with, Randy Orton. The pro wrestler turned movie star is a mutiple time World Champion, and deservedly so. Unfortunately for Big Dave one of those reigns came to a premature end. In 2006 Batista tore his tricep during an un-televised match with Mark Henry. It meant surgery for the champ and hence giving up his title. He has since blamed Henry for the injury in his autobiography.
8. Should Have: Kevin Nash
The majority of the most memorable moments in Kevin Nash’s career came in WCW. There Big Sexy started up the nWo with Scott Hall and Hulk Hogan and became a multiple time World Champion. Before that though he was known as Diesel in WWE, and for a year he was the company’s champion. You could even describe him as an early example of a Roman Reigns type project. A Superstar that Vince McMahon was adamant should be the crown jewel of his company and pushed regardless of reaction. Well it back fired in a major way. In fact Nash is widely regarded as one of the worst drawing WWE Champions of all time. Kevin himself would likely blame it on a lull in pro wrestling as a whole, either way the man formerly known as Diesel should probably have stepped down and let someone else have a crack and getting business back up.
7. Relinquished: Paige
Asuka isn’t the first woman in NXT’s short history to forfeit the Women’s Championship, there is precedent. In fact the first ever woman to hold that title wound up relinquishing it in order to pursue bigger dreams. In actual fact Paige had really already achieved those dreams when she handed in the NXT belt. The night after WrestleMania XXX Paige appeared on Raw, still NXT Women’s Champion at the time. On her first night as a main roster Superstar she defeated AJ Lee for the Divas’ Championship. Since she had now won that more prestigious title and had effectively left NXT by doing so, The Brit gave up her NXT gold and a tournament was held to crown a new champion in Paige’s absence which was won by Charlotte Flair.
6. Should Have: Hulk Hogan
Hulk Hogan is the biggest name professional wrestling has ever produced. The Rock and John Cena are trying their level best to change that, but at the moment The Hulkster still holds that crowd. The Immortal One is a twelve time World Champion, and six of those reigns came while in WWE. One of them though should arguably not have stood, or at least been questioned. At WrestleMania IX Yokozuna defeated Bret Hart for the title in the main event after The Hitman had salt thrown in his eyes by Yoko’s manager, Mr Fuji. Hogan, protesting the finish, marched to the ring and demanded a title match himself. Not a rematch for Bret, he wanted a shot and he inexplicably got it. Following his evident rush of blood to the head, the good guy that Hogan was at the time should have wanted to win the title the right way, but of course that didn’t happen.
5. Relinquished: Andre The Giant
It’s hard to talk about Hulk Hogan and not mention the legendary Andre the Giant in the same breath. The pair famously did battle at WrestleMania III in one of the most famous matches in WWE history. Hogan won that one of course, but when they would battle again Andre would win, and in controversial fashion. Not only should Andre not really have won the match, but when he was made WWE Champion he immediately vacated the belt in order to give it up to The Million Dollar Man, Ted Dibiase. As terrible as this all sounds, it gets even worse. Despite the status Andre has and will forever have in WWE and professional wrestling, that one short championship reign was his only one with the prestigious belt.
4. Should Have: Brock Lesnar
There is one man who has never and will never relinquish a WWE Championship, and that man is Brock Lesnar. Funny enough he is almost definitely the one man that WWE fans have considered should hand over the championship when it has been in his possession. Whether he’s the champ or not, Brock doesn’t exactly show up very often. He is the definition of a WWE part-timer, and in the eyes of the fans, and likely a lot of the Superstars, part-timers shouldn’t have championships. When they leave they take away a part of the show with them. Above all else when it suits them WWE wheels out the supposed 30 day rule, that a champion must defend their title every 30 days or forfeit it. That is one rule The Beast certainly plays fast and loose with.
3. Relinquished: Finn Balor
Finn Balor arrived on Raw with a bang in the summer of 2016. On his first night as a main roster Superstar he not only won himself a place in a match for the Universal Championship, but he beat Roman Reigns in the process. Then a few weeks later Balor went and won the title, becoming the first ever Universal Champion in WWE history. It was a terrific moment for Finn and the WWE Universe, but it was extremely short lived. During the match Balor had seriously injured his shoulder and just 24 hours later he arrived on Raw in a sling and had to hand back what he had won a night prior. Since then Kevin Owens, Goldberg and Brock Lesnar have held the belt, but Finn was on such an ascent that it’s hard not to imagine what exactly WWE might have had planned for him.
2. Should Have: Bayley
Bayley was supposed to be the next big thing when she arrived on the main roster. Even though she didn’t really take at first it looked like WWE had the perfect plan laid out. That Bayley would take down Charlotte at WrestleMania 33 and break The Queen’s incredible pay-per-view streak. Instead they cashed in that chip a month early at a lesser PPV and had Sasha help Raw’s Resident Hugger. It was all very confusing, that is until Stephanie McMahon emerged on Raw and gave Bayley the chance to hand the title back so that she could earn it properly down the line. In that moment it all made sense. Charlotte could argue the loss didn’t count and Bayley could get her real moment at WrestleMania, but she didn’t hand the title back. It made zero sense and started Bayley on the slippery slope to where she is now with fans booing her.
1. Relinquished: Daniel Bryan Again
Daniel Bryan may have appeared on this list once already, but we all knew that this one was coming. At WrestleMania XXX the culmination of years and years of hard work paid off when Daniel enjoyed what is perhaps the most feel good moment in WWE history, defeating Triple H and then Randy Orton and Batista in the main event to become World Heavyweight Champion. That feel good moment didn’t last as long as we all wanted it to though. The months that followed marked what would be the beginning of the end for Daniel Bryan’s in-ring career. WWE made a story line out of it with The Authority threatening Bryan’s wife Brie Bella with the sack if her husband didn’t give up the title, but in reality he really did have to. The neck surgery Bryan had led to him needing more recovery time than WWE first thought.
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