In the modern era especially, just about every wrestler working for the WWE Universe has won at least one championship or another. Call it a side effect of having three major brands all with three or more titles each, or simply a sign the writers have no idea how to make a star anymore; either way, it simply doesn’t mean as much for a WWE superstar to wear gold around their waist as it once did. Unless, that is, said wrestler happens to win all the titles in WWE, or at least enough of them to earn designation as a Grand Slam Champion.
Like most of WWE’s most popular ideas, the concept of a Grand Slam Champion was introduced during the Attitude Era, after Shawn Michaels became the first wrestler to win the WWE World, Intercontinental, European, and Tag Team Championships. Of course, one of those accolades doesn’t exist anymore, so nowadays WWE substitutes the European gold for the United States variety and considers winning them all an equally great accolade.
Questionable semantics aside, it should go without saying that some Grand Slam Champions have been better or more deserving than others. It’s not just a matter of mere opinion, as one could empirically claim a wrestler who only held each of their belts for a few weeks is obviously less memorable than someone like HBK, who held them all for significant lengths of time. For the specifics, keep reading to discover the 8 best and 7 worst Grand Slam Champions in WWE.
15 BEST: Dean Ambrose
The year 2017 has thus far crowned two brand new Grand Slam Champions, and the results have thus far been 50/50 in regards to whether or not the men deserved the honor. On the plus side, there was the Lunatic Fringe Dean Ambrose, who became the first member of The Shield to join the fold. Ambrose’s first WWE gold was the United States title, which he won barely six months into his tenure with the company, setting a record of greatness cemented with his later World, Intercontinental, and Tag Team Championship reigns. Time will still tell just how far Ambrose goes in the business, but he’s already become one of the most popular superstars in wrestling today, making him perhaps the best choice available for a modern day Grand Slammer. The only flaw of his various stints as champ would probably be his Intercontinental reign, which felt like a demotion, but at least it didn’t drag him down too long.
14 WORST: Rob Van Dam
Considering the whole point of Grand Slam Champions is that they won a whole bunch of titles, it should be obvious the honor is about more than the sum of its parts. Unfortunately for Rob Van Dam, it’s still pretty important that at least the wrestler’s WWE Championship reign had its merits, lest the whole thing will feel like a mere formality. With all due respect to the Whole Damn Show, his short three weeks as the top athlete in WWE were amongst the most embarrassing on record. It wasn’t anything that happened in the ring, rather the fact Van Dam was arrested while holding the belt, due to the fact he was also holding something else when pulled over in his car, specifically marijuana. It’s not our position to judge a man once proudly known as RVD 420, but the fact his title reign came and went so fast greatly cheapened the achievement, making him the most tenuous Grand Slam Champion of all (albeit far from the worst).
13 BEST: Daniel Bryan
While this list is going to be somewhat harsh on those unlucky few WWE Champions who didn’t hold the gold for all that long, sometimes it isn’t their fault. For example, there’s Daniel Bryan, who became a Grand Slam Champion mere months before he was forced into retirement due to severe neck and brain injuries. In some respects, the Intercontinental Championship was a demotion for Bryan, as he was easily the most popular wrestler in the world when he won it, and had only been forced to give up the WWE Championship the year prior due to health concerns related to his later retirement. However, the fact he was clearly on his last legs almost makes it altruistic of WWE to have given him the gold, allowing Bryan a rightful place in history as one of the most decorated and accomplished wrestlers ever before he was prematurely forced out of the ring, ostensibly for good.
12 WORST: Roman Reigns
Remember how we said Dean Ambrose being one of 2017’s two Grand Slam Champions meant WWE was batting .500 on the idea? Well, here’s the flip side to that argument, the most recent addition to wrestling’s most exclusively rewarded club, The Big Dog himself, Roman Reigns. By and large, all Roman Reigns has done by winning the WWE Intercontinental Champion and thus hitting a Grand Slam is once again prove Vince McMahon is refusing to give up on one of his worst ideas. Fans still refuse to accept Roman as a top athlete, no matter how many titles he wins, and further plating his career with gold is going to do nothing to change this. It also doesn’t help that he’s winning half the relevant titles in reverse order to what usually makes sense, especially since his rushed first three WWE Championship reigns were universally panned, setting him off on a really bad start. Amazingly, it’s only gotten worse from there.
11 BEST: Edge
Rushing to the ring and cashing in the very first Money in the Bank contract at New Year’s Resolution 2006, Edge was doing more than just winning his first WWE Championship. Truly making history, he was also quietly setting the terms for a new version of the Grand Slam Champion applicable to the modern era. The only true mar on Edge’s record is that he never won the European Championship despite being active when it existed, not to mention in position to do so early on in his career. What’s worse, his substituting reign with the US belt barely even happened, unifying with the Intercontinental gold immediately and basically just being a technicality. Still, Edge’s merits with the other titles and skills as a performer more than make up for it—11 World title and 14 Tag Team title reigns override the fact one of the lesser achievements only lasted for a matter of seconds.
10 WORST: Jeff Hardy
On paper, the Charismatic Enigma that is Jeff Hardy probably deserves to be on the other half of this list. In addition to winning all relevant titles to the Grand Slam, Brother Nero is actually tied in first for having the most diverse belt collection in WWE, also once holding the Hardcore and Light Heavyweight Championships (but never the United States Championship). As per usual, though, the more important issue is how these various title reigns went for him, especially his three reigns with WWE’s World Championships. None lasted more than a few days, and the last was capped off by Hardy getting arrested with an outrageous amount of drugs in his possession, leading to his dismissal from WWE. This behavior was hardly shocking, as Hardy’s entire career before he finally got rid of his bad habits had been plagued with the flailing of a drunken addict, which was unbecoming of a major champion to say the least.
9 BEST: Triple H
Were it up to The Game, he’d probably be number one on this list with a bullet, and as the Authority in WWE, it’s his right to place himself there. However, Triple H has more important things to do than write lists for our web site, so we’re just gonna place him in the upper middle on the echelon of Grand Slammers. Following in his best friend’s footsteps, HHH was actually the second ever wrestler to earn the title, four years after HBK originated the idea. Also relevant is that HHH managed to win every single relevant title more than once, most significantly earning the WWE World Championships on 14 separate occasions. The only thing holding him back from getting higher up this list is the simple fact better wrestlers than he could ever be also won the Grand Slam, and his profile in the company doesn’t make up for a history as, let’s face it, a B+ player at best.
8 WORST: The Miz
When a wrestler becomes a Grand Slam Champion in an unusual order, winning the WWE Championship before any of the lesser titles involved, it’s usually because the company is doing them a favor. Typically, it means they know the wrestler is great, popular, and deserving of attention, but there’s someone else they want in the top spot. This isn’t quite what happened with The Miz, as his relatively early reign as WWE Champion probably never should have happened. In no way was Miz ready for the role, as he was much better suited as an upper midcarder with a lock on the Intercontinental and US titles, which is exactly where he’s been ever since WWE came to their senses and had Miz drop the more important belt. On the plus side, there’s definitely a chance Miz could wind up on the other half of this list if he wins the big one again, now that he’s good enough to do so.
7 BEST: Kurt Angle
Not even being a Grand Slam Champion comes close to having won an Olympic Gold Medal with a broken freakin’ neck, but Kurt Angle nonetheless most likely cried tears of joy when he pulled off the accolade in 2002. Angle even happens to be in a unique position amongst fellow Grand Slammers, as the only wrestler to make his way towards the achievement with a reign as Euro-Continental Champion, a position only two others ever held. Of course, that was merely a stepping stone, and it’s Angle’s status as a legendary Hall of Famer with five WWE World titles to his name that cement him as one of the greatest performers in company history. No matter what title he was competing for, Angle also never once failed to bring his A-game to the ring, wrestling some of the best matches contested over each belt he held.
6 WORST: Kane
Substituting the European Championship with the Hardcore Championship, it’s worth arguing whether or not Kane is technically even deserving of the Grand Slam title. Given how Vince McMahon is clearly in love with the guy and will do whatever it takes to increase his profile, though, we’re sure he’d get an official nod in the old company notebook. This is despite two decades plus where the Devil’s Favorite Demon bored the hellfire and brimstone out of fans, dragging down just about whatever title he happened to hold. True, there were a few good ones here and there, mostly within the tag team ranks as part of numerous great duos, like Team Hell No and the legendary Brothers of Destruction. Unfortunately, all of Kane’s more important reigns were all total duds, especially his sub-24 hour stint as WWE Champion at the height of the Attitude Era.
5 BEST: Chris Jericho
In certain respects, though he’s not at the top of our list, Chris Jericho pulled off the greatest achievement of all when he became a Grand Slam Champion. This is because at the same time, he was doing what was once thought impossible, unifying the WWE and WCW belts to become the first ever Undisputed WWE Champion in history. That honor would go away a mere nine months later, so its no surprise he and Triple H are the only two athletes to include it in their Grand Slam. Y2J gets the edge over his eventual boss for more than simply beating him to the punch, though, also managing to wrestle much better matches contested over ever relevant title in the mix. Granted, there is a slight issue in that his European Championship reign lasted less than 24 hours, but the fact our prior sentence is still true and he lost it in another near classic against Eddie Guerrero, it’s not enough to knock him down the ranks all that much.
4 WORST: Big Show
It’s one thing for a Grand Slammer to have a European or United States Championship reign that feels a little bit like a formality, simply existing to put them into contention for the title. However, virtually every single piece of gold the Big Show has ever won in his career has felt eerily similar to this idea, if not to make him a Grand Slam Champ, then simply to remind fans he’s around. Seriously, Show’s reigns as Intercontinental and United States Championship were both wholly forgettable affairs despite how long they lasted, the belts merely being shiny little props draped over his shoulder now and again. Even a few of his Tag Team Championships felt this way, depending on his partners. Worse than that, Show’s handful of reigns as WWE Champion were similarly treated like afterthoughts to other things going on in the company at the time. Sure, the guy’s big and huge and could probably knock out other wrestlers with a single punch to win one random piece of gold or another, but if WWE’s never going to do anything memorable after he does, what’s the point?
3 BEST: Eddie Guerrero
Lying, cheating, and stealing got Eddie Guerrero far in his life, including a reputation as one of the greatest wrestlers ever to lace up his boots. Guerrero proved this in every promotion he worked, especially the WWE, where he achieved his greatest fame and success. It took Vince McMahon a little time to truly accept how unique a superstar Eddie was, and his tumultuous personal life didn’t help, yet his talents could never completely be ignored, hence several reigns with the company’s minor belts until he could get his act together. Capping it all off with a WWE Championship and thus Grand Slam was a natural reward for cleaning up, and it’s a tragedy his life was cut short so soon after he did so, as many more titles could have easily come his way. The absolute only thing keeping Eddie away from the number one slot is the fact that no one in WWE seemed to make a big deal about what he had done, rarely even mentioning he was a Grand Slammer while he was still alive.
2 WORST: John Bradshaw Layfield
By bullying his way into history as a Grand Slam Champion, John Bradshaw Layfield made a mockery of every wrestler to actually deserve the honor. To this day, more than 13 years after JBL suddenly became a main event talent after years of wallowing in the midcard, fans are questioning what the heck Vince McMahon was thinking about that particular promotion. Winning smile and good business sense be damned, JBL is one of the worst high profile wrestlers of the past several decades, only managing a rare good match when his opponents mercifully dragged it out of him. This is true of his entire career, from top to bottom of the card, the sole exception being his humble beginnings as a Tag Team Champion, when he was a quiet badass and didn’t actually need to wrestle, which he never could do. Bradshaw only managed to get progressively worse as his career dragged on, with his final reign as Intercontinental Champion, which coincidentally earned him his Grand Slam, easily being the worst of all.
1 BEST: Shawn Michaels
True to his reputation for being often imitated and never duplicated, the best WWE Grand Slam Champion is also the first man to hold the title, “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels. Of course, its not like anyone else really could have done the honor, as HBK was only the second ever European Champion, and thus by winning that title greatly elevated it and created a whole new one all at once. If there’s anything negative to be said about HBK’s Grand Slam, it could easily be argued he treated the European title like a prop meant simply to bolster his reputation, but considering the other gold he held, who could blame him? Also, by winning the titles in the order he did, in a weird way, HBK was setting the tone for how Grand Slam Champion would be more of an honorific title than one where every little piece counted.