There are plenty of WWE fans out there who look back in the Attitude Era and remember it fondly. It was a time of rampant creativity. As the story goes, since WCW was dominating WWE in the ratings, Vince McMahon, Vince Russo, Ed Ferrara, and the rest of the creative team allowed for the roster to have way more input than it ever had before in an attempt to get all of their characters over and help the company fight for its livelihood. By extension, their own livelihood as well.
In this fight against the opposing company, the richest prize in the industry wasn’t the world title, it was being gainfully employed. A lot of guys worked very hard to put the company on their back and their best to carry the load. That didn’t always translate to them becoming the WWE Champion, however. Here are 10 Attitude Era Wrestlers Who Were Never WWE Champion (But Deserved A Shot).
10 Ken Shamrock
Billed as “The World’s Most Dangerous Man,” Ken Shamrock made his debut as a guest referee of one of the best matches in WrestleMania history - Bret and Austin. Thanks to that amazing rivalry, Shamrock was thrust right into the limelight.
Throughout his entire run, he was always portrayed as a big deal. He won King Of The Ring, Tag Team, and Intercontinental gold. Lately, it was revealed that, according to JR, Shamrock wasn’t necessarily reliable enough to be the man. By had he be given a run with the strap, his legacy would have been cemented.
Predating the Attitude Era by almost three years, Goldust pushed the envelope of what was in good taste. It helped catapult him to being one of the top heels in the company. From that point on, the Bizarre One was nearly a permanent fixture in the company. Whenever he left or got released, he was always welcomed back with open arms.
If you hear both Dustin Rhodes and Vince Russo tell it, there was a good chance he was going to get a shot with the title sooner or later. But sponsors demanding the gimmick be scaled back put an end to that idea.
8 Luna Vachon
There has not been a character quite like Luna Vachon before or since. She was an absolute psycho both in and out of the ring. She first debuted as a second to HBK at WrestleMania IX. She also worked with Bam Bam Bigelow in a mixed tag against Doink and Dink the next year.
As WWE brought more and more women into the mix, it was Luna’s duty to help work with them, which she did for Alundra Blayze and later Sable. She might be the best female to have never won the Ladies Championship.
The first ever African-American world champion, Ron Simmons was the apple of Bruce Prichard’s eye for years. When he finally decided to make the jump, he was given a pretty silly looking foam blue centurion outfit. At least he had Sunny strutting herself, accompanying him to the ring.
For whatever the reason, even when he was leading the Nation Of Domination it seldom seemed like he was a priority for the company. He found greater success as a member of the APA, one of the baddest men to ever step into the ring deserved a shot with the gold.
6 Owen Hart
Ask anyone who ever lived, learned, or both in the Dungeon Of Calgary and they’ll tell you how amazing Owen Hart was. Ask anyone who was ever in the ring with him (yes, including Stone Cold) and they’ll tell you the same thing.
He defeated Bret at WrestleMania X and then won the King of The Ring that same year. From that moment on, Owen was always right at the tippy top of the card, but other than a few pictures of Owen with the belt, for whatever reason he was never slotted to actually win the belt.
Big Van Vader was hands down, the best big man to have ever worked anywhere, period. Agile, strong, and believable - Vader reigned supreme during his days in Japan and then in WCW. He goes down in history as both one of Sting’s and Flair’s greatest opponents.
But when an injury-racked Mastodon finally made it to WWE, he botched a few spots in his SunmerSlam ‘96 match with HBK and that meant the end to any planned run for the Man They Call Vader.
4 Billy Gunn
If you’ve ever heard part of Billy Gunn’s real-life story, his wrestling life actually pales in comparison. He was a naturally gifted athlete, and a professional Bull Rider, all before he started his career.
Jim Ross would always tout the guy’s athleticism. He was given a chance and worked a match with the Rock at Summer Slam ‘99. The match did not go over like gangbusters at all. But the reason for that more or less was Billy’s conditioning. Due to his asthma, he had trouble keeping up in a singles match. If you can’t work singles matches, chances are you’re not going to be the World Champion.
3 Shane McMahon
With the caliber of his work and the sheer amount of hatred the fans had for him, Shane McMahon should have had a run with the belt at some point.
Much like now, Shane-o-Mac is so good at generating any and all kinds of heat, imagine the amount of money that would have been paid to see the McMahon heir get his clock cleaned by Austin, Rock, ‘Taker, or just about anyone else and take the title from him.
Much like other smaller guys like Dean Malenko or Owen Hart, X-Pac had the curse of the great worker. While he was always booked to be in good matches, he was booked more to be the measuring stick with incoming performers like Chris Jericho.
When he came back to the WWE the night after WrestleMania XIV, he delivered the kind of promo that still is spoken about by fans to this day. Had the company pushed Pac to the next level right then and there, they might have had a brand new top star in their hands for years to come.
Raven was the best heel champion that ECW had, besides Shane Douglas. He was able to be a true heel, delivering twisted promos against any and all of his challengers. After a stint in WCW where he was wasted, Raven made it to the WWE.
After other ECW guys made a decent to grand name for themselves, one might have thought it was only a matter of time before the man from the Bowery started getting the mega push to recreate his ECW success. Instead, he holds the record for Hardcore Championship reigns.