From the most seasoned veteran to the greenest rookie, the goal of every professional wrestler is to one day be crowned champion. While most promotions offer multiple titles, the ultimate prize is typically their respective World Championship. In WCW, it was the WCW World Heavyweight Championship, while the WWE’s main strap at the time of the War was what we now know as the WWE World Championship. Due to the brand splits, however, the old World Heavyweight and new Universal titles are both considered world status championships as well. There's also WWE’s version of the ECW Championship…err, let’s not go there.
Essentially all titles, even the highest ones, are gimmicks to further storylines and generate heat for and against their holders. Despite this, no one can deny the prestige that comes with being a champion. Some of the greatest of all time held these illustrious belts, as countless legends forged their legacies through multiple championship holdings and iconic title reigns, but, like anything else, with the good must come the bad.
To be clear, this is not simply the worst wrestlers from a wrestling skill perspective. Some featured on this list are simply undeserved champions, while others found themselves on the short end of the stick with creative and their disastrous times holding titles were not all the fault of their own. Others listed are iconic names you probably wouldn’t immediately think of as being bad but surprisingly are once you break it down. They may all have different reasons for making the cut, but the one thing they do all have in common is being a part of the worst in history.
20 WWE: King Booker
What’s the first thing that comes into your head when you think of Booker T? Chances are you either thought of the spinerooni or that he is the five-time, five-time, five-time, five-time, five-time WCW Champion. Booker T was mostly considered a mid-card act during his WWE run, sadly only becoming the World Champion one time.
19 WCW: The Giant
Long before Paul Wight became The Big Show in WWE, he was WCW’s Giant. As The Giant, he won the WCW World Championship from Hulk Hogan on his first night wrestling in WCW. Prestigious? Not when you consider it was by DQ thanks to a lame stipulation so The Hulkster didn’t look lame. Plus, he was stripped of the belt eight days later because of the disqualification itself. Ah, WCW… I miss how you never made sense!
18 WWE: “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers
It’s difficult to talk badly about someone like the original “Nature Boy,” but the truth is, despite being the first WWE Champion, Buddy Rogers never won the title in a tournament in Rio de Janeiro like they say he did. No, like Pat Patterson and the IC title years later, the tournament was fictionalized to put the strap on Rogers after WWE broke its ties with the NWA.
17 WCW: “Diamond” Dallas Page
DDP was one of the hottest acts WCW had and, despite it being WCW, they actually made the smart play by giving him the World Title. Unfortunately, after finally winning the gold, Page turned heel and all his momentum vanished. He lost the title 15 days later to Sting on Nitro, only to win it back in a Fatal Four-Way the very same night and lose it again a mere 14 days later to Kevin Nash.
16 WWE: Goldberg
When Goldberg finally arrived to WWE in 2003 it was meant to be a huge deal and rightly so. This was a guy who, despite being established in the political nightmare that was WCW, became one of the industry’s top stars. Perhaps it was how long it took him to finally get to WWE, but Goldberg just never seemed to click there.
15 WCW: Sid
Sid Vicious was a contender for both sides of our list as his two terrible reigns as WWE Champion just barely missed the cut for this list. Thankfully, his two even more disastrous WCW World Champion runs were bad enough that he still made it!
14 WWE: The Iron Sheik
When one thinks of The Iron Sheik as WWE Champion, it’s not of his reign, but of him losing to Hulk Hogan. The Iron Sheik was a transitional champion like others were from the '60s into the early '90s. WWE Title reigns were long, babyface runs book-ended by short heel reigns so the good guys wouldn’t drop a title to another babyface. Like the aforementioned Buddy Rogers and other early champions like Ivan Koloff and Stan Stasiak, The Iron Sheik was one of these transitions.
13 WCW: Bret “Hitman” Hart
Bret Hart may be one of the greatest WWE Champions of all time, but when it comes to WCW, it’s a different story. It’s not even fair to The Hitman as everything about his years in WCW were mired in controversy. It’s crazy to think Hart was in WCW for almost two years until he won his first WCW World Heavyweight Title!
12 WWE: Jack Swagger
After seeing Jack Swagger spend the last year or so rack up a win/loss record that would make The Brooklyn Brawler jealous, it’s almost forgettable he was once World Heavyweight Champion. Swagger cashed in Money in the Bank to beat Y2J for the title after he’d been speared by Edge. The All-American American’s reign lasted a so-so 79 days before dropping the title to Rey Mysterio and, along with it, dropping Swagger from the main event picture seemingly for good.
11 WCW: Chris Benoit
Chris Benoit was one of those WCW guys who never seemed like he’d get out of the mid-card. Fans wanted it, the boys in the back wanted it too, but it just wasn’t in the cards, that is until rumors began running that Benoit was planning on jumping ship to WWE once his contract was up.
10 WWE: Rob Van Dam
Rob Van Dam was the underdog everyone wanted to see become World Champion. After spending his WWE career as a beloved mid-carder, they finally gave him the WWE Championship over John Cena at One Night Stand. The new ECW began two nights later and RVD was christened the new ECW Champion, becoming the first man to hold both WWE and ECW World Titles simultaneously.
9 WCW: “Macho Man” Randy Savage
The Macho Man might be one of the last people you’d consider when you think of bad World Title holders, but his four reigns as the WCW World Heavyweight Champion were just that. All four runs combined are a mere 89 days and every single one of them involves Hulk Hogan in some way.
8 WWE: Dolph Ziggler
When you picture winning your first World Title, you think of it on a grand stage like WrestleMania after a mat classic and crying in the ring as you look down on your new gold. In Dolph’s case, his first title was stripped from Edge and literally given to him by on-air girlfriend Vicki Guerrero on the 600th episode of SmackDown. To make matters worse, Ziggler lost the belt an hour later back to Edge.
7 WCW: Jeff Jarrett
Jeff Jarrett became the golden boy of the company when Vince Russo took control of WCW as The New Blood began rising. If you think Macho Man’s four championship reigns combining for 89 days is bad, Double J has him beat with four equally controversial reigns that saw him as World Champion for a grand total of only 58 days.
6 WWE: Andre the Giant
In all reality, Andre the Giant shouldn’t be a part of anybody’s worst list for anything in wrestling because he’s Andre the Giant, but he appears here for his one and only controversial win with the WWE Championship. Andre was always the most popular wrestler on the card but never held the title because, unlike others, he didn’t need it.
5 WCW: Kevin Nash
Nobody in history won and lost more World Titles to more controversy than Big Sexy. Nash secured the title five times, his first when he broke Goldberg’s streak, only to lose the strap eight days later to the highly controversial finger poke of doom and Hulk Hogan. His second win was clean over DDP, but he lost the title in a gimmick tag match to Randy Savage, who would shortly after lose it to Hogan.
4 WWE: The Great Khali
You know those “big guy” wrestlers who aren’t very good as far as in-ring talent is concerned, but despite that you still like watching them perform and do promos and whatnot? The Great Khali was not one of them!
3 WCW: David Arquette
When lifelong wrestling fan David Arquette was set to release his new film, Ready to Rumble, it made sense to have him appear on WCW programming to promote the film. The movie was partially produced by WCW and featured many of their stars. As expected, Arquette arrived to WCW television. That was fine. However, making him WCW Champion and turning the World Title and the business itself into a mockery was not!
2 WWE: Mr. McMahon
If there were no Vince McMahon, who knows what the pro wrestling landscape would look like or if it would still even exist today. Despite being the boss and arguably the most important figure in wrestling history, it’s still tough to swallow Mr. McMahon as a former WWE Champion.
1 WCW: Vince Russo
Not to be outdone by his former boss, Vince Russo went to WCW to turn things around for the struggling company in the early '00s. Apparently, a part of Russo’s plan to help WCW regain control of The Monday Night War included him winning the WCW World Heavyweight Championship from Booker T.
In a steel cage match thanks to outside interference from Goldberg and Scott Steiner Russo, clad in a New York Giants football uniform, Russo was inadvertently speared out of the cage before Booker could exit, making him WCW Champion. Thankfully, like McMahon, Russo also decided to vacate the title because he wasn’t a wrestler. The title would be regained by Booker T, forcing wrestling fans everywhere to ask themselves why Russo ever thought it’d be good to be the man to take the strap off of Booker T in the first place, especially since he’s “not a wrestler!"
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