It’s the richest prize in all of professional wrestling - the World Heavyweight Championship. Whether it was in AWA, NWA, TNA, ECW, WCW, ROH, NXT, WWE, or any other alphabet soup of a promotion, if you’re not in the business to be the World Champion and the headliner, then step aside and let someone else take your spot. When you’re the World Champion that’s the company and its fans all collectively stating that they want you as its representative- you’ve got the look, you’ve got the wrap, you should get the strap.
Sometimes the belt is awarded to a wrestler to help them get over. But not all wrestlers need the rub though. Over the years legendary careers were made throughout the bigger territories without holding the “Big Gold Belt,” or the “Winged Eagle Title,” or any other nickname fans have ascribed to the standard bearer of a company. While everyone wants to rule the world and be the man, plenty of stars have made their names without ever holding a world title. Here are the 10 Greatest Wrestlers To Never Be World Champion, Anywhere.
10 Jake Roberts
To paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt, “speak softly and carry a big snake, and you’ll go far.” That’s exactly what Jake “The Snake” Roberts had done during his career. He and Damien captivated the WWE Universe for years. His promos were what just about everyone should watch - particularly his promo from WrestleMania VI.
In the ring, Jake had great programs with Andre, Rick Martel, and of course the Macho Man. In later life, he has seemingly finally overcome his demons and become as inspiring out of the ring as he was in it.
9 Arn Anderson
It’s easy to look like just a lackey when you spent most of your career standing next to Ric Flair. But if you believed that about Arn Anderson, then you were not paying attention to in-ring work or the promo skills of the Enforcer.
Double A is the person who first used the Horsemen phrase that became synonymous with the symbol of excellence. Arn Anderson is one of the crispest performers in the ring, but it’s hard to notice when he also right in the middle of the glitz and glamor of the Nature Boy.
8 Scott Hall
If you’ve watched a Scott Hall match, then you know full well how amazing he is in the ring. He’s as smooth a worker as you’ll find. Considering he’s usually standing with Hulk and/or Nash and he’s deceptively huge.
He’s a throwback to the territories days, having gotten his start in the AWA. It wasn’t until DDP convinced him to slick the hair back for the Diamond Stud gimmick that his career started to take off. He was soon Razor Ramon and his career hit the stratosphere.
7 Roddy Piper
Rowdy Roddy Piper was the original mouth that roared. Hulk Hogan might have been Vince McMahon’s first ever Chosen One to lead the company, but Piper was the first great heel to go toe-to-toe with Hulkamania.
From the moment he appeared on screen until his unfortunate passing, the Hot Rod had the respect and love of all of the fans. He just never had the World Title.
6 Owen Hart
The idea of Owen Hart as champion was too far-fetched. There’s actually pictures of him with the winged eagle belt, it was definitely on the table at some point. Even Bret would admit that in the ring, Owen was the best of the Hart Family.
Had he not have fallen, he almost certainly would have had a run with the belt at some point and have been factored in with matches against the likes of Foley, Austin, the Rock, and Triple H.
5 Ted DiBiase
It was hard to dislike a guy who was paying off anyone and everyone, even if it was for doing humiliating tasks, after all - everyone had their price, right?
It was only when DiBiase started heeling the contestants of his little games that he skyrocketed to top heel status, trying to buy the WWE title and headlining WrestleMania IV against the Macho Man in his way to an eventual tag team title run win IRS and a Hall Of Fame induction in 2010.
Arguably the greatest second-generation superstar not named Hart or Savage, Goldust has one of the most successful runs in the WWE, ever. Minus a break here or there, he was around almost as long as Undertaker, Triple H, or Kane.
Had sponsors and protestors not jumped in and forced WWE to tone down the character, there’s no telling how far ‘Dust would’ve gone. He’s since reverted back to being the Natural in AEW, but fans will still never forget the name of Goldust.
3 Rick Rude*
“But Rick Rude wore the Big Gold Belt around his waist on not one, but three different occasions.” However, when the Ravishing Hall Of Famer represented WCW with its richest prize, it actually wasn’t the richest prize. The belt at this time was known as the WCW International Championship.
When WCW seceded from the NWA, they kept the BGB and Rude would capture the title. Unfortunately, one the best opponents that Sting, Jake Roberts, or the Ultimate Warrior ever had never had the WCW or WWE championship during his historic run.
2 Dean Malenko
The fans knew it. The creative teams all knew it. Even today, Eric Bischoff marks out at any old Dean Malenko match. If everyone knew how talented he was, then why wasn’t the Man Of 1000 Holds even in line for a title push?
It couldn’t have been his size, or perhaps it was - there were too many big-name stars in WCW for guys like Dean to get over. But by the time, he jumped ship for the WWE, his in-ring career was winding down. Malenko would have been a technical fighting champion the likes of a Bret Hart or a Kurt Angle.
1 The British Bulldog
From his debut with Dynamite to headlining SummerSlam against the Hitman, throughout his WCW fun and return to the WWE, there wasn’t a powerhouse like the British Bulldog. But for Davey Boy, it was always the bridesmaid ever the bride.
He was always trusted to be in high profile spots on the card, headlining SummerSlam, the Royal Rumble with Shawn Michaels, and various In Your House PPVs, but was never entrusted to be the first-ever British World Heavyweight Champion.