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.
His reign lasted a respectable 126 days. The only problem was that Booker T wasn’t the one who won the gold. No, it was King Booker who finally was able to become a main eventer in WWE despite being way more over with his former gimmick. This is a sad and all too common case of WWE not pushing a phenomenal competitor until he or she is saddled with a WWE-made gimmick and trademark.
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!
The Giant did have a second, more successful run with the gold, holding it for 110 days before losing yet again to (guess who?) Hulk Hogan at the beginning of the nWo. Essentially, both championship reigns were an example of giving a young, inexperienced guy the biggest title in the company due to him being the biggest worker on the payroll.
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.
Regardless of why they chose not to admit to simply giving him the title because he’d been screwed by the NWA, Rogers’ reign lasted a mere 22 days and ended in a 50 second squash to Bruno Sammartino at Madison Square Garden. While certainly a legend, despite Rogers being the first WWE Champion in history, his title reign is one of the shortest and worst of all time.
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.
Page’s short, forgettable runs as WCW’s top guy lasted days when they should’ve been month-long ordeals. He did get the title back the next year, once again as a babyface, only to lose it to David Arquette of all people without even being beaten by him. It just goes to show the lack of respect WCW gave one of its brightest stars who should’ve been used properly.
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.
He won the World Heavyweight Championship from Triple H and lost it back to The Game within three months, all before disappearing from not only the company but the wrestling world itself within a year. Goldberg may have been “The Man” in WCW, but his WWE tenure and run as World Champion were barely a memorable blip on the radar in the grand scheme of things.
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!
Sid returned to WCW in 1999 just as it became a circus as much on-screen as it was off-screen. His first WCW Title run lasted only two days, defeating WCW Commissioner Kevin Nash for the vacant title on Nitro only to be stripped of it on Thunder and winning it back that same night. Sid’s second, longer and more boring run lasted 75 days until Vince Russo and Eric Bischoff hit the reboot button and stripped all champions of their titles. Sid would never win the title back, though he contended for it until his cringe-worthy injury the following January at the Sin pay-per-view.
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.
Sheik may have ended Bob Backlund’s five-year run as WWE Champion, but he did it because Arnold Skaaland literally threw in the towel on Backlund’s behalf when he wouldn’t submit to the Camel Clutch. Twenty-nine days later, with a mere few title defenses in-between, the Sheik was on his back and Hulkamania was born.
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!
Hart won the vacant title at Mayhem via tournament only to vacate it a month later due to his controversial Starrcade match with Goldberg. Hart reclaimed the belt from Goldberg the night he vacated it only to vacate it once again a month later when his injury sustained from Goldberg became career threatening. Of all his poorly booked time in WCW, Hart was only a two-time World Champion and his total reign lasted less than two months.
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.
Prior to being World Champion, Swagger held the ECW Title for 103 days en route to joining the main WWE brands and was being groomed to be a big star. For whatever reason though, since losing the title, that star has plummeted to a depth nearly unheard of for a former World Champion.
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.
WCW took the vacant World Title and put Benoit over Sid Vicious at Souled Out. Too little, too late. Winning the strap he’d worked years to obtain wasn’t enough to keep Benoit from jumping ship anyway. His reign lasted a mere 19 hours. WCW stripped him of the title, saying Sid’s foot was under the ropes when he tapped out to the Crippler Crossface and they quickly put the gold on Sid.
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.
RVD’s run with both belts was short-lived as he was arrested with Sabu for drug and paraphernalia possession. He immediately dropped the WWE strap to Edge and the ECW Title to The Big Show and was suspended for 30 days by WWE. RVD would be gone from WWE within a year, never again becoming a WWE Champion and only holding the title a mere 22 days after working so hard to get there.
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.
Savage won his first WCW Championship by winning the 1995 World War 3 battle royal with controversy, as Hogan was not ever eliminated. His second reign lasted 20 days after winning a match in which Hogan interfered on his behalf. His final two runs saw him take the belt off of Sting and Kevin Nash, only to lose both of them to Hogan. With all four reigns lasting less than a month and Hogan always involved, it’s no wonder Savage had so much heat with The Hulkster?
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.
His second run may have lasted a a respectable 70 days, but was shrouded in controversy as a concussion put Ziggler out of action for most of his reign. He would lose the title back to Alberto Del Rio and has since been unable to reclaim a top tier position in the company. Poor Dolph just seems to be that guy who can never catch a break.
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.
Jarrett held his first title for eight days after winning a tournament. Then his second run lasted another eight days and was steeped in all that horrible David Arquette controversy. His last two reigns were nearly as quick as the WCW Title was like a hot potato those days, changing hands 30 times from 1999 until the company folded in 2001. That’s more championship reigns in just over two years than had happened since the title’s inception in 1992.
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.
When Andre finally got his rematch with Hulk Hogan and dethroned The Hulkster after his four-year title run, it was because referee Earl Hebner had been paid off by The Million Dollar Man. After winning the belt, Andre kayfabe sold the title to Ted DiBiase, prompting on-air WWE President Jack Tunney to strip the title from Andre and leaving The Giant with a 59 minute WWE Championship run, the only reign he ever had in his amazing career.
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.
Nash’s third win saw him literally award himself the title after stripping Sid Vicious as the WCW Commissioner, only to lose it again within a couple hours back to Sid. Months later, Nash would win the belt from Jeff Jarrett only to literally give it away to Ric Flair five days later. Only Nash’s fifth and final title run was not controversial, winning and losing clean to Booker T.
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!
When Edge was forced to vacate the World Heavyweight Title due to injury in 2007, the belt was decided in a battle royal on SmackDown. Who knew that the slow footed, snoozefest Khali would walk out of Laredo with the gold on his shoulder? It was a mind-boggling run, albeit short-lived at only 61 days, but even its brevity didn’t make it any less frustrating to watch unfold. Punjabi Prison Match anyone? Thankfully for the fans, Khali didn’t have a second appearance with either of WWE’s top championships.
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!
Arquette pinned Eric Bischoff in a gimmick tag team match with DDP and Jeff Jarrett in order to inadvertently win the title. WCW could’ve played it off from there and dropped the belt back to Page, but instead decided to have Arquette defend it in a Triple Cage Match at Slamboree and turn heel, helping Jeff Jarrett win the gold. It’s one of those vivid wrestling memories fans wish they could forget but never, ever will.
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.
In 1999, the same year he won the Royal Rumble, a babyface Vince went to war with Triple H on SmackDown while literally wearing a business suit. With an assist from old rival “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, McMahon got the three count on The Game and became WWE Champion. Thankfully, old Vince vacated the title the following week on RAW and didn’t drag it out so fans had to sit through Vince the Champion. No… for that we had to wait a few years, when Vince feuded with Bobby Lashley for the ECW World Title, a belt he held for over a month!
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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