The World Championships in WWE are the biggest prizes for any wrestler to win. Most eras have seen the WWE Championship as the main and only noteworthy top title. The biggest stars of each era would find a way to win the WWE Championship and add their name to the history of the title. Different eras would see another title entering the picture. The first brand split featured the World Championship becoming an equal to the WWE Championship for Raw and SmackDown to both have belts. This has happened once again with the Universal Championship serving as the second major heavyweight title for the male roster today.
We will look at the history of champions that should not have been and the almost champions. There are many wrestlers that should not have been given the title reigns that ended in disappointment. Various reasons led to this from the timing being off to wrestlers not being ready for the role. Other instances in play here will be the reports that featured WWE considering putting the title on wrestlers that would not get them. These wrestlers came close to the top of the mountain with the rumor mill giving fans the belief they were going to do it. Find out just what happened for both sides here. These are ten WWE title changes that never should have happened along with ten reported title changes that would never happen.
20 Never should have happened: Jinder Mahal
The most recent instance of a regretful title reign featured Jinder Mahal winning the WWE Championship out of nowhere. Mahal spent his entire WWE run as an enhancement talent before getting a push, thanks to Vince McMahon taking note of his improved physique and work ethic.
To everyone's surprise, Mahal won a No. 1 contender spot and defeated Randy Orton to become WWE Champion. Mahal held the title for seven months. SmackDown suffered for Mahal’s title reign as the lower card and mid-card matches took priority over his title defenses. Mahal spent the following year on Raw as a lower mid-carder and will likely never get another world championship reign.
19 Reported change that didn’t happen: Vader
Vader was one of the biggest signings for WWE in the '90s that did not work out in the long run. Many pundits predicted success for Vader, due to Vince McMahon's well-known love for monster heel characters. McMahon, however, would be the person that did not enjoy Vader’s work.
Rumors indicated WWE was planning to have Vader end Shawn Michaels’ WWE Championship reign at SummerSlam 1996. McMahon apparently gave up on those plans after souring on Vader. Sycho Sid would be the one to dethrone Michaels a few months later and have the title that was supposed to be Vader’s at first.
18 Never should have happened: Sgt. Slaughter
Sgt. Slaughter had one of the more surprising WWE Championship reigns of his era. The other champions of the time were top name Superstars like Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, and Ultimate Warrior. Slaughter came out of nowhere to get the title reign that was to set up a WrestleMania showdown against Hogan.
The patriotic gimmick of Hogan had him oppose the now-heel Slaughter with the title on the line at the biggest show of the year. Hogan won as expected and Slaughter never had another title run. We would have been better off with a rematch of Hogan/Warrior.
17 Reported change that didn’t happen: Lex Luger
Lex Luger received the push of a lifetime when Vince McMahon wanted him to become the face of WWE. Hulk Hogan’s departure in 1993 featured McMahon picking Luger as the next star in line that could represent the company moving forward. Reports suggested Luger was supposed to defeat Yokozuna at WrestleMania X.
The fans just never got invested in Luger despite having almost the same gimmick that Hogan used to get to the top. McMahon would give up on his own idea and change plans late to include Bret Hart. Fans organically supported Hart and he would get the WrestleMania X win that Luger was initially reported to get.
16 Never should have happened: Sycho Sid
The career of Sycho Sid is not discussed much today even though he was among the most successful wrestlers of the '90s. Sid was among the handful of wrestlers that won both the WWE and WCW Championship in the same calendar year.
The reason Sid gets lost in the shuffle is that he did not have the best body of work. Sid’s matches left a lot to be desired and only could be carried to decent quality from elite workers like Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. The title reign ahead of WrestleMania 13 was a waste of time. WWE would have had more success with Hart defending the title over Steve Austin in the main event rather Sid losing to The Undertaker.
15 Reported change that didn’t happen: Baron Corbin
The Money in the Bank win from Baron Corbin in 2017 was supposed to lead to a WWE Championship reign. Corbin started that year as one of the backstage favorites of Vince McMahon. Rumors started before he even won MITB that WWE wanted him to have a title reign within the year.
The plan of a title reign ended when Corbin got into hot water backstage for clashing with a doctor. WWE had Corbin lost his title shot to Jinder Mahal and move lower down the card. Corbin has been involved in some high-profile angles since then, but he is nowhere near the championship picture on either show.
14 Never should have happened: Jack Swagger
One example of a Money in the Bank cash-in win that never should have happened featured Jack Swagger defeating Chris Jericho to win the World Championship. Swagger won the final Money in the Bank match at WrestleMania before the MITB PPV started later that year.
WWE picked Swagger with the intent of him cashing in days later to start the title reign. This was a huge shot in the dark to see if Swagger would sink or swim with a title reign so early in his career. Swagger flopped as the champion and moved lower down the card after dropping it to Rey Mysterio. He would never return to the main event picture.
13 Reported change that didn’t happen: Bam Bam Bigelow
Bam Bam Bigelow is considered one of the most underrated wrestlers of the '90s for good reason. His larger size did not prevent him from delivering incredible moves. Bigelow had such a unique in-ring style that could lead to fun matches with a variety of opponents.
WWE reportedly wanted to push Bigelow into the WWE Championship picture following WrestleMania. Bam Bam’s performance against NFL star Lawrence Taylor showed just how good he could perform with a non-wrestler. The plans were canceled, with speculation of The Kliq’s backstage influence holding him down. Bigelow would even get a PPV title shot and lost his spot in WWE shortly after.
12 Never should have happened: Brock Lesnar
The Universal Championship reigns of Brock Lesnar have hurt Monday Night Raw in a major way. Fans have showed this with Raw reaching record low ratings without a champion on the show. Lesnar’s part-time status means that long title reigns as the top champ on a show will hurt the brand.
The decision to have Lesnar win the title in 2017 hurt the company in the long term. Many of the Raw stars are struggling to get to the next level without a prize to fight for. Lesnar beating Goldberg has been a regretful move for WWE. Another title reign for Brock came when Roman Reigns relinquished the title as no one was ready for the role.
11 Reported change that didn’t happen: Mabel
The King of the Ring win for Mabel helped him get the biggest push of his career. Vince McMahon clearly loved the monster heel characters and felt Mabel could pull it off in a main event role. Mabel was a face in a tag team before the win turned him heel to elevate him in a bigger picture.
WWE placed Mabel in feuds with The Undertaker and Diesel. There were rumors that Mabel would defeat Diesel to win the WWE Championship and become the long-term champ that Shawn Michaels would have faced at WrestleMania XII. We are lucky that things played out in a much better way.
10 Never should have happened: Hollywood Hulk Hogan
There were a few memorable WWE Championship reigns for Hulk Hogan in his career. However, one stands out as the worst of the bunch. Hogan’s return to WWE in 2002 for the first time since WCW went out of business led to fans cheering him as a hero even though he was part of the heel New World Order.
A decision was made to go all the way with Hogan’s redemption story. The face version of Hogan was given a WWE Championship win over Triple H just one month after the latter won it at WrestleMania X8. Hogan, however, could not perform at the level expected of the champion at that point. WWE had him lose the title one month later, but the reign should not have happened at all.
9 Reported change that didn’t happen: Ted DiBiase
Ted DiBiase was almost WWE Champion when paying Andre the Giant to hand the title over to him. This led to the title being vacated and the new champion being crowned at WrestleMania IV. Randy Savage won the tournament to get his first run as the WWE Champion.
However, the rumor mill claimed that DiBiase was the front runner weeks heading into the show. There was interest in a strong heel champion holding it for a year and heading into a future WrestleMania showdown with Hulk Hogan. Savage instead won for the feel-good ending and turned heel within the year before dropping it to Hogan.
8 Never should have happened: Alberto Del Rio
WWE made a poor decision back at Summerslam 2011 when Alberto Del Rio cashed in his Money in the Bank title shot to defeat CM Punk for the WWE Championship. Punk was coming off his incredible MITB title win over John Cena and a rematch victory at SummerSlam.
Kevin Nash attacked Punk and Del Rio cashed in to win the title and end the show in disappointing fashion. Punk witnessed his momentum slowly start to fade away. He did have another title reign come months later and last over a year, but the chances of Punk becoming the top star in the company disappeared due to a boring Alberto win.
7 Reported change that didn’t happen: Ken Shamrock
The signing of Ken Shamrock featured the first former UFC star to make the jump to WWE. Shamrock had a reputation for being the world’s most dangerous man and WWE added that to his character. The fans loved Shamrock as he often received among the most cheers during episodes of Raw.
WWE considered having Shamrock defeat Shawn Michaels for the WWE Championship at one of the In Your House events. The timing was one month after the Montreal Screwjob and WWE considered ending Michaels’ title reign. This never came to fruition, as Shamrock won the match by DQ and the feud was dropped.
6 Never should have happened: The Great Khali
The Great Khali is in the discussion when breaking down the worst World Champions in WWE history. This title reign started due to unforeseen issues arising. Edge sustained an injury that forced him to relinquish the World Championship from SmackDown.
WWE went with a battle royal to crown the new champion and it resulted in Khali winning. The title reign was a disaster due to Khali's lack of in-ring and promo skills. Batista ended up defeating Khali after two months, but those two months hurt the credibility of the title. This is an obvious title reign that should have never happened.
5 Reported change that didn’t happen: Ryback
Ryback's career in WWE featured many ups and downs. The Big Guy's best moments came during his undefeated streak cementing him as one of the top faces in the company. An injury to John Cena featured Ryback getting a title shot against CM Punk inside of Hell in a Cell.
WWE reportedly considered having Ryback win the match to continue his momentum, but they did not want to end Punk’s reign too early. There were long-term plans of Punk dropping it to The Rock and Rock dropping it to Cena. Ryback’s loss hurt him as he would never get back to that level as a legitimate title contender.
4 Never should have happened: Bob Backlund
Bob Backlund had two WWE Championship reigns during his career in WWE. The first started in the '70s and lasted for a few years. Our problem is with the second title reign that came in 1994. Backlund defeated Bret Hart of all people at the Survivor Series event when Owen Hart conned his parents into throwing in the towel to quit for Bret.
This title reign for Backlund only lasted a few days, as Diesel defeated him on a house show to win the belt. Backlund was a transitional champion in the truest sense, but he was nowhere near worthy of having the title at this stage in his career. It hurt the credibility of the title even if he only held it for days.
3 Reported change that didn’t happen: Mr. Kennedy
The career of Mr. Kennedy was full of “what if” moments that could have made him a bigger star. Kennedy’s most disappointing moment came when he suffered an injury that changed his career forever. His Money in the Bank contract win at WrestleMania 23 was scheduled to see Kennedy use it to win the WWE Championship.
An injury would see Edge defeat Kennedy to win the briefcase, move over to SmackDown, and successfully cash in on The Undertaker. Kennedy’s injury wasn’t as bad as originally expected, but he would never get back to the title scene. Instead of becoming a main event fixture, Kennedy would get released a few years later.
2 Never should have happened: JBL
The original brand split featured SmackDown becoming the cool show for the diehard wrestling fans. Stars like John Cena, Edge, and Rey Mysterio were making their names there. The WWE Champions were incredible performers like Eddie Guerrero, Brock Lesnar, and Kurt Angle.
JBL would get the most surprising push of the time when transitioning from tag team face to main event heel. The title change came relatively quickly, despite JBL not proving much before winning it. JBL’s title reign featured mostly disappointing matches since he was never the most talented in the ring. WWE gave him one long run but never delivered another, for good reason.
1 Reported change that didn’t happen: Chyna
Chyna was one of the most beloved stars for WWE in the late '90s. The popularity almost landed her a WWE Championship reign in 1999. There was an angle that almost got her the title shot, but plans changed, and WWE decided to add Mankind to the match instead.
There were rumors that Steve Austin didn’t want to lose the WWE Championship to a woman, even though Chyna was a friend of his. This ended any chance of Chyna winning the title, and she would remain in the mid-card picture. We can only speculate on how the Chyna title reign would have gone since it would never happen.