Being crowned the WWE Champion signifies that you have made it to the top of the professional wrestling industry. When people make the commitment to becoming a wrestler, nearly all who attempt working in this hard industry have one goal in mind - to eventually become the WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Like some of the biggest stars in the WWE today have said "if you're goal isn't to become the WWE Champion, then you're entering the wrong business". Professional wrestling is physically and emotionally tough, and very few talents ever make it the WWE, let alone become the flagship "face of the company" champion. However, those that do make it to the "big times" and into the main event scene tend to be the "cream of the crop" - most of the time anyways.
You may be wondering why I mentioned "most of the time", so let me explain that a bit further. The WWE (and Vince McMahon specifically) aren't immune to making mistakes or having lapses in judgement, and some of the performers that they've attempted promoting to the top of the card over the years have been quite lackluster, and they rather resembled guys who should've never risen above the midcard level. This list consists of the worst WWE Champion of each year since 1990 (some years have been excluded if there weren't many champions or none were particularly "bad"), and the reasons for a performer being classified as "the worst" could result from the performer being untalented, having a quick and forgettable title reign, lacked good booking, or they were simply the worst champ compared to every other champion in that select year.
20 20. The Ultimate Warrior (1990)
The legendary Ultimate Warrior won his first and only WWE Championship back at WrestleMania VI in a match against Hulk Hogan for both Hulk's WWE Title, and his Intercontinental Title. Ultimate Warrior was the only WWE Champion for the year 1990, and his reign lasted for 293 days prior to dropping the prized gold onto Sgt. Slaughter at the 1991 Royal Rumble pay-per-view. Though Warrior had a very long run with the championship, his reign was rather uneventful and boring.
It's no secret that Ultimate Warrior was an extremely limited athlete in the ring (even for the time period), but his character and intimidating looks were enough to convince Vince McMahon to give Warrior a run with the company's top title. However, considering Warrior only had one reign as the WWE Champion, it's clear that McMahon soon realized that Warrior was better left as a solid midcard Superstar, and a fairly regular Raw main eventer. The Ultimate Warrior's far from being the worst WWE Champ of all time, but he wasn't noteworthy either.
19 The Undertaker (1991)
Now you may be wondering, how on earth could a living legend such as The Undertaker fall under the category of "worst WWE Champions"? Well, before you lose your cool, the reason for 'Taker falling under this category for 1991 was simply resulting from the fact that The Deadman's first WWE Championship reign only lasted for 6 days. In that same year, the prized championship was carried around by both Sgt. Slaughter and Hulk Hogan - both who had considerably longer title reigns than Undertaker's first.
Yes, Slaughter may not have been a great champ either, but his role was to play the despised heel keeping the throne warm for the fan-favorite babyface Hulk Hogan - and he did his job excellently. The Undertaker had defeated Hulk Hogan for the WWE Title at the Survivor Series pay-per-view on November 27th, only to lose the belt to Hogan on December 3rd at the This Tuesday In Texas pay-per-view event. However, despite having a "false start" as the flagship champion, The Undertaker would go onto have 3 more reigns as the WWE Champion - all of which were pretty solid.
18 Yokozuna (1993)
1992 wasn't a bad year for WWE in terms of their top title holder, as only solid stars including Bret Hart, Ric Flair and Randy Savage had runs as WWE Champ. However, 1993 marked the year which saw the ginormous Yokozuna capture his first of two WWE Championships. At the WrestleMania IX pay-per-view in 1993, the main event pitted Yokozuna against then-champ, Bret "The Hitman" Hart. After a back and fourth match-up (mainly Yokozuna-dominated), Yokozuna would go onto defeat Bret to capture his first WWE Championship. However, shortly after, Hulk Hogan was challenged by Mr. Fuji to face Yokozuna in an impromptu match-up for the title.
Hulk had stated earlier in the night that he wished to face the winner of the show's main event, and this ended up occurring. In an astonishing 22 seconds, "The Immortal" Hulk Hogan performed his signature Leg Drop on Yokozuna and proceeded to pin him to capture his fifth WWE Championship. When your title reign is less than 20 minutes, then you know without a doubt that you'll be ranking among the worst World Champions. Despite having a longer run as the champ later that year, it was definitely far from being very entertaining.
17 Bob Backlund (1994)
Throughout 1994, the likes of Bret Hart and Diesel dominated the WWE Championship scene. However, the wild and crazy man known to the wrestling community as Bob Backlund managed to sneak a 3 day WWE Title run in '94 in between Bret's and Diesel's reigns as the top champ. At the Survivor Series pay-per-view in November, one of the top matches on the card pitted the WWE Champion Bret Hart against the challenger Bob Backlund. If you have since forgotten, the only reason Backlund "won" the prestigious gold was due to Owen Hart's interference in the bout costing Bret the match.
This obviously wasn't a clean win for Backlund (he was literally handed the title after the ref had stopped the match), and Bob was only becoming the top title holder to "keep it warm" for Diesel. Backlund was nothing more than a placeholder champion during his 3 day reign, and in all honesty, Bob Backlund never looked like a real "main event Superstar" to begin with, so it's pretty shocking to say that he's a former 2-time WWE Champ. I suppose Vince McMahon was high on him at the time, otherwise he would've never captured the gold.
16 Sycho Sid (1996)
Moving past '95 which only saw a solid WWE Champion in Bret Hart, Sycho Sid won his first of two WWE Championships back in 1996 at the Survivor Series pay-per-view after defeating then-champ, Shawn Michaels. After smashing Michael's head with a television camera, Sid performed his signature Powerbomb to pick up the win. Although Sycho Sid was an intimidating specimen, I'll speak on behalf of most fans and declare that he was far from being a thrilling WWE Champion.
Sure, he was big, but he lacked greatly in other aspects hence why many considered his reigns as the top title holder to have been flops. Regardless, Sid's first reign as WWE Champion lasted for 63 days, prior to dropping the gold back onto the former champ Shawn Michaels at the Royal Rumble pay-per-view in early '97. Considering only Shawn and Sid had WWE Title reigns in '96, I think it's safe to say that Sid takes the cake as being the worst of the two (Shawn was a great champion).
15 Sycho Sid (1997)
Poor Sycho Sid, he claims two spots on this list back-to-back. Sycho Sid won his second and final WWE Championship on February 17th, 1997 after successfully defeating former champ Bret Hart for the prestigious gold on an episode of Raw. Despite having a very bland run as the champ less than one year earlier, the WWE and Vince McMahon decided that Sycho Sid was deserving of another run at the top of the card. However, Sid's second reign only lasted approximately half the amount of time as his first title run at just 34 days. Obviously the WWE realized that Sid wasn't drawing whatsoever.
Sycho Sid would go onto lose the WWE Championship to The Undertaker at WrestleMania 13 in March of that year in a no disqualification match. With the assistance of Bret Hart, Undertaker was able to Tombstone Sid to win his second WWE Championship. The main event of 'Mania 13 was absolutely boring, and the overall event was widely considered to be one of the worst WrestleMania's in history. This pretty much ended the main event run of Sycho Sid - and rightfully so.
14 Kane (1998)
The one and only reason for Kane being ranked as the worst WWE Champion of 1998 solely stems from the fact that his title reign lasted for just one day. Kane had originally won the prestigious championship at the King Of The Ring pay-per-view in a First Blood match against former champ, Stone Cold Steve Austin. However, just one day later on Raw Is War, Kane would go onto lose the title back to Stone Cold with Austin hitting the Stunner for the three second count.
Considering the other WWE Champions of 1998 consisted of The Rock, Stone Cold and Mankind (all who had longer title reigns), Kane's one day run as the top champ is definitely the worst. The WWE's decision of crowning Kane the top champion was solely an entertainment tactic, so that Steve Austin would garner tons of good PR for the company when he would defeat Kane on Raw the next night. The WWE was ratings-driven at this point in time, and though Kane suffered from looking like a bit of a joke, this shock factor definitely intrigued fans to continue watching the product.
13 Vince McMahon (1999)
The Bossman himself, Vince McMahon won his own company's World Championship back in 1999 on an episode of SmackDown after he had defeated then champ, Triple H. Of course Mr. McMahon couldn't have defeated the likes of Triple H in his prime, so the reason for McMahon winning the gold stems from Stone Cold Steve Austin's interference in the title match towards the tail end of it. After a Stunner to Chyna and Triple H, Stone Cold dragged the lifeless Vinnie Mac's body over Triple H's to secure the WWE Championship win for Vince.
However, the title run would be extremely short lived for Vince McMahon as he vacated the championship just 6 days later. At the Unforgiven pay-per-view later that month (September '99), a Six-Pack challenge match determined who would be declared the new WWE Champion with the competitors being Triple H, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Kane, Bigshow, Mankind and The British Bulldog - in which Triple H won. Vince's WWE Championship run was a complete joke, and it resembled someone like Vince Russo winning the WCW Championship - nothing more than a "paper" champion.
12 The Bigshow (2002)
We've skipped over 2000 and 2001, as the champions in those two years were all fairly solid, and none of them screamed "bad" considering the likes of Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, The Rock, Triple H and Chris Jericho all had runs with the top prize. However, in 2002, we were given WWE Champion The Bigshow. Though 'Show had already had one reign as the top title holder in 1999, his '02 reign was completely forgettable and worse considering most of his credibility was completely shot by that time.
The Bigshow won his second WWE Title at the '02 Survivor Series pay-per-view after defeating Brock Lesnar, with the help of Paul Heyman who had turned his back on Lesnar in the match after pulling the ref out of the ring following Lesnar's F5 to Bigshow. After a 7 foot Chokeslam, The Bigshow pinned Brock for the 3 second count. At this point in time, 'Show was only being utilized as a placeholder champion, and his reign only lasted for 28 days prior to dropping the title back onto Lesnar at WrestleMania XIX. Nothing came out of Bigshow's run as the flagship champ, and he was no better off afterwards, hence why he was by far the worst WWE Champ of '02.
11 JBL (2004)
Skipping 2003 which saw decent title reigns from Lesnar and Kurt Angle, 2004 marked the year for another crappy WWE Champion. The seemingly eternal midcarder known to the wrestling community as JBL or John Bradshaw Layfield would go onto win his first and (thankfully) only WWE Championship in '04 after defeating Eddie Guerrero in a Texas Bullrope match at The Great American Bash pay-per-view. Prior to being shot up into the main event scene out of nowhere (much like the recent Jinder Mahal), JBL was nothing more than a "midcarder-for-life".
However, obviously Layfield was on Mr. McMahon's good side, as John transitioned into a whole new character leading up to his main event run - an egotistical guy with a suit and a white cowboy's hat. Though JBL was somewhat interesting with his new character portrayal, it never screamed "top star" to most fans. Instead, fans viewed JBL as a midcarder being pushed for no clear reason. Regardless, JBL ended up having a heck of a long WWE Championship run at 280 days (longer than most would've liked or anticipated considering JBL's lack of credibility prior). However, JBL's title reign would finally come to an end at WrestleMania 21 when he lost the WWE Championship to John Cena, which marked Cena's first top title reign in his career.
10 Rob Van Dam (2006)
Fast forward two years since JBL's lackluster WWE Championship run in 2004, the year 2006 marked a noticeably crappy title reign for Rob Van Dam, or simply RVD. Though 2005's only WWE Champion John Cena wasn't the "greatest", it was still a solid title reign that cemented Cena as a top Superstar - the same cannot be said for Rob Van Dam. RVD would go onto win his first and only WWE Championship at the ECW One Night Stand pay-per-view after Rob had cashed in his MITB contract from 'Mania 22 on John Cena, making their match-up an Extreme Rules Match in which RVD won.
The hardcore ECW fans who were in attendance for One Night Stand 2006 were definitely "anti-Cena" and full fledged RVD supporters, because when Van Dam was crowned the new WWE Champion, the fans went absolutely crazy and they popped huge for RVD's win. However, because of RVD's poor personal decisions, he would go onto lose the title just 22 days later to Edge in a Triple Threat match on Raw in July '06 which also included John Cena. Rob was never the same again in WWE, and his main event push was entirely halted. Had RVD stayed clean, then he wouldn't have been ranked as the worst WWE Champ of 2006, as his reign would've been longer and more memorable. A real shame.
9 Triple H (2007)
Although "The Game" Triple H will go down in professional wrestling history as one of the all-time greats, there's no denying the fact that some of his WWE Championship runs (much like other stars who racked up many title reigns such as Randy Orton) were somewhat bland, boring and quite simply, not very good. To rack up as many WWE Championship reigns as Triple H did in a short amount of time, you can imagine that at least a couple of those said reigns were very short - this was the case for Hunter's 2007 title run. At the '07 No Mercy pay-per-view, Triple H challenged Randy Orton for the WWE Championship in the opening match, in which Triple H had won.
Later that night, Triple H defended his newly-won WWE Championship against Umaga successfully. However, Vince McMahon later informed Hunter that Randy Orton was invoking his rematch claws for the WWE Title, and Vince agreed to Orton's request. Vince then decided to make the WWE Championship match a Last Man Standing match. Randy Orton ended up regaining the title, thus ending Triple H's '07 reign at less than one day. However, Hunter would go onto have a solid WWE Championship run the next year (08) which lasted for 210 days.
8 Sheamus (2009)
2008's WWE Championship scene consisted of title reigns from Triple H, Jeff Hardy and Edge - all of which had pretty decent runs as the flagship champion (though Edge's was quite short at just 21 days). However, as the year 2009 rolled around, we had no idea that the likes of "The Celtic Warrior" Sheamus was going to have a run as the WWE Champion later that year. 2009 had 9 WWE Championship title changes which is a heck of a lot, and it mainly was between Randy Orton and John Cena (are you starting to understand why guys such as Cena and Orton have racked up so many runs as WWE Champ?)
However, the most shocking WWE Title change came in December '09 at the TLC pay-per-view which pitted Sheamus against then champ, John Cena - in which Sheamus won after Cena crashed through a table. Every single fan in the arena that night was shocked, and Sheamus being declared a WWE Champion was quite bizarre (especially considering huge names like Batista, John Cena, Triple H and Randy Orton were the only ones getting WWE Title runs). Sheamus' 70 day first-reign as WWE Champion was extremely boring, and he was by far the worst champion of 2009 - it was a relief when Sheamus lost the gold at the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view in February 2010.
7 The Miz (2010)
The Miz captured his first (and only up to this point) WWE Championship in November of 2010 on an episode of Monday Night Raw, after successfully cashing in his MITB contract against Randy Orton who had just finished defeating Wade Barrett to retain his championship. At the end of the night, The Miz held the title high, and the fans couldn't believe their eyes (remember the angry-faced girl?) Though the reaction Miz received following his title win was absolutely hilarious, his overall WWE Championship reign was a complete failure - hence why he never again returned to the main event level and remained an upper midcarder vying for the Intercontinental Championship.
However, despite being a lackluster World Champion, The Miz somehow managed to retain the prized title at WrestleMania 27 against John Cena with the aid of The Rock's interference. Though Miz would go onto lose the WWE Title after a 160 day reign to John Cena a short while later at the Extreme Rules pay-per-view, which featured a main event triple threat match also involving Miz's former tag team partner, John Morrison. Despite being by far the worst WWE Champion of 2010, most fans wouldn't be completely opposed to The Miz having another shot at the top of the card.
6 Alberto Del Rio (2011)
Alberto Del Rio had two runs as the WWE Champion in 2011 - both of which were boring, bland and quite simply, forgettable. Del Rio's first WWE Championship win came in August at the SummerSlam pay-per-view following his successful MITB briefcase cash-in on the former champ, CM Punk. His first run lasted for 35 days prior to dropping the gold onto John Cena at Night Of Champions. However, following Cena's 14 day reign as WWE Champion, Alberto Del Rio would regain the championship at the Hell In A Cell pay-per-view in a triple threat match also involving CM Punk.
The WWE hadn't learned their lesson about Del Rio quite yet, as he had a longer reign this time lasting 49 days before dropping the belt to CM Punk at the Survivor Series pay-per-view (lots of title changes at Survivor Series in WWE history looking back now). Both of Del Rio's runs as the top title holder were flops, and he never again was featured in the main event scene to the same degree following his second title loss (obviously the company realized that throwing a bland guy into the main event scene out of nowhere wasn't working). Although Rey Mysterio had a less than one day reign as the WWE Champion in 2011, I'd still consider Alberto's two reigns to be the worst of the year by far.
5 Randy Orton (2013)
When a fan ponders who they'd consider to be a recent "bland and boring" WWE Champion, Randy Orton's name is very likely to come up as one of them. Skipping past 2012 which saw no new WWE Champions (2011 champ CM Punk carried the gold through 2012), 2013 marked a year of several title changes. Which Superstar ranked as the worst of 2013? Well if you've read the heading, yes, it was by far Randy Orton. Randy racked up two more WWE Championship reigns in 2013, both of which were extremely boring.
His first reign lasted for 28 days prior to dropping the gold to Daniel Bryan, and the second reign lasted for 161 days following Orton's win over John Cena to become the WWE World Heavyweight Champion at the Hell In A Cell pay-per-view. Now don't get me wrong, Randy Orton is definitely a solid performer, but he hasn't been an intriguing champion since perhaps 2011. It was an absolute relief when Orton finally dropped the WWE Title onto Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania XXX in a triple threat main event match also including Batista. Despite being a "legend in the making", I have no trouble saying that Randy Orton was the worst WWE Champion of 2013 (and the second worst of 2017).
4 John Cena (2014)
John Cena is undoubtedly one of the greatest WWE Superstars of all time. However, despite having an extremely successful pro-wrestling career, John Cena has also had some lackluster WWE Championship runs (when you're a 16 time World Champion, at least a few of those reigns were nothing more than a means to add more titles to your resume). John Cena won his 12th WWE Championship at the Money In The Bank pay-per-view after defeating Alberto Del Rio, Kane, Cesaro, Bray Wyatt, Randy Orton, Roman Reigns and Sheamus in a ladder match.
By the time 2014 had rolled around, fans were really starting to get irritated with the spotlight John Cena was hogging, because it was getting so repetitive. Regardless, John Cena's 50 day WWE Championship run in 2014 wasn't very exciting or intriguing, and fans were extremely ecstatic when Brock Lesnar defeated John for the title at the SummerSlam pay-per-view in August. Though most of John Cena's WWE Championship runs have been solid, the reigns since 2014 haven't been executed nearly as well as they could be, and the purpose of most of them only seems to be about adding more championships to Cena's already impressive resume.
3 Sheamus (2015)
Sheamus won his 3rd (and likely last) WWE Championship at the '15 Survivor Series pay-per-view, after he successfully cashed in his MITB briefcase on then champ, Roman Reigns who had just defeated Dean Ambrose in a tournament final to claim his first WWE Title. As Sheamus boastfully stated the next night on Raw, "Sheamus 5:15 said I just kicked your arse!" This is regarding Roman's first WWE Championship reign which only lasted for 5 minutes and 15 seconds - though those 5 minutes and 15 seconds were probably more entertaining than Sheamus' 23 day title reign.
Now you may have wondered, why did WWE crown Sheamus the top champion considering he was completely (and I mean completely) irrelevant just earlier in the night at Survivor Series? Well, Sheamus was WWE's latest ploy in attempting to get "redemption Roman Reigns" over - and yes, it failed miserably. Vince McMahon wasn't at all concerned about Sheamus, nor did he care if Sheamus was a solidified star or just a big jobber, all Vince wanted was someone to keep the title warm for Reigns. Considering Sheamus' runs as the WWE Champion were as bland and boring as they could've possibly been years prior when he was actually booked somewhat conscientiously, his 2015 reign was the worst of the year by far.
2 Triple H (2016)
As I've mentioned before on this list, Triple H is undoubtedly one of the all-time WWE greats, though that doesn't take away from the fact that a couple of his WWE Championship reigns were lackluster and essentially meaningless (besides racking up more title wins for Triple H. At the 2016 Royal Rumble pay-per-view event, nearly every fan was hoping that Roman Reigns would lose the WWE Championship in his "one versus all" 30-man Royal Rumble match. Luckily for the majority of fans, Roman ended up losing the prestigious championship - though the man who became the new WWE Champion wasn't the favored Dean Ambrose, it was none other than The Authority's Triple H.
Considering Hunter hadn't been a full-time competitor in nearly six years at the time of this title win, fans knew exactly why Triple H was crowned the WWE Champion - to eventually put Roman Reigns over at WrestleMania 32 which is precisely what happened. Triple H's 9th reign as the WWE Champion wasn't at all compelling following the initial shock at the Royal Rumble, and he was nothing more than a placeholder. Compared to AJ Styles, Dean Ambrose and even Roman Reigns, Triple H's WWE Title run was by far the worst of 2016.
1 Jinder Mahal (2017)
Jinder Mahal is the WWE's latest example of super-pushing a former "midcarder-for-life" into the main event WWE Championship scene. Within the wrestling community, the former jabroni jobber known as Jinder Mahal has been all the talk, whether it be about his drastic physical changes or his meteoric rise to top-tier star status. The WWE's plan or strategy behind presenting Jinder as a WWE Champ was to expand their presence in one of the largest WWE-consuming countries in the world, India.
However, it has recently been discovered that the WWE's attempt to expand in India with Mahal at the helm has been a huge flop (surprise surprise), and the company may perhaps be looking to end Mahal's "reign of terror" soon which has lasted for over 72 days now. Whether it be Shinsuke Nakamura or the current MITB briefcase holder Baron Corbin, it's highly likely that Jinder's days of dominating at the top are soon to be over. Not only has Jinder Mahal been the worst WWE Champion of 2017 (even compared to Randy Orton's boring reign), but Jinder will also go down in wrestling history as one of the worst and most head-scratching WWE Champions of all time.
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