The recent WWE Championship title change of Brock Lesnar squashing Kofi Kingston ended in great controversy. Lesnar ended Kingston’s title reign in a 10-second match that essentially removed all credibility Kofi built in the main event picture. WWE moved Kingston back into the tag team picture and it’s like his title reign never even occurred. Various title changes through the years have seen similar reactions.
We will look at the most controversial moments to feature a world title changing hands. The promotions to pull off these moves had a certain vision for their idea. It didn’t always work out as many of these were viewed negatively looking back. Find out just which moments created a stir among fans and wrestlers. These are title changes that were more controversial than Brock beating Kofi.
10 Goldberg squashing Kevin Owens
The title change of Goldberg defeating Kevin Owens was similar to how Brock Lesnar ended Kofi Kingston’s reign. Owens was distracted by Chris Jericho’s music, leading to Goldberg hitting the Spear and Jackhammer to become the Universal Champion.
Fans were mixed as the part-time wrestler could barely work over five minutes. Owens’ lengthy reign ended in sad fashion as he never even got a rematch. The decision was made to have Goldberg/Brock face off for the Universal Championship over the Jericho/Owens match.
9 Vince Russo winning WCW Championship
Vince Russo was known for making controversial decisions and never caring much about a world title’s credibility. The booking of Russo in WCW would have him write himself to win the WCW Championship in 2000 at the end of a War Games match.
Russo vacated the title shortly after, but the win itself was a huge disaster. WCW continued to sink lower with the viewership dwindling and fans showing zero interest in the product. Russo winning a world title just showed how far they fell.
8 JBL winning WWE Championship from Eddie Guerrero
JBL would see his character change from Bradshaw to the arrogant wealthy heel along with a huge push. Following years of tag team and lower card work, JBL entered a storyline with Eddie Guerrero for the WWE Championship on the Smackdown brand.
Fans were heated when JBL ended Guerrero’s reign after just a few months. JBL’s character work was strong, but his matches still left a lot to be desired. The title reign of JBL lasted for almost a full year. Many viewers couldn’t believe it even happened at the time when he won the WWE Title.
7 The Great Khali winning vacated World Championship
An injury to Edge in the summer of 2017 forced WWE to find a new World Champion. Edge vacated the title and the aftermath would see a battle royal to crown the next champion on the Smackdown brand. The Great Khali shocked the world by standing tall at the end to hold the gold.
Fans and wrestlers were not too pleased since Khali was considered one of the worst wrestlers on the roster. The title reign was a huge disappointment as all his matches disappointed. Khali winning the title was a desperate move that didn’t pay off at all.
6 The Rock ending CM Punk's record-breaking reign
CM Punk created a new record for the modern WWE when his WWE Championship reign lasted 434 days from 2011 to 2013. The Rock returned to WWE to defeat Punk at the Royal Rumble and enter a rematch with John Cena for the title at WrestleMania 29.
Many fans were upset at Punk’s long title reign ending in predictable fashion to a part-time performer. Rock and Punk had solid matches, but the hope of the diehard fan was that Punk would finally get his WrestleMania main event. It never happened as this was his final title reign.
5 Kevin Nash ending Goldberg's undefeated streak
WCW had quite a few controversial title changes in its history. Goldberg’s undefeated streak became the hottest storyline in the company throughout 1998. The win over Hulk Hogan to become WCW Champion took the streak to another level.
Kevin Nash ending the streak at Starrcade 1998 to become the new WCW Champion was viewed as a huge mistake. The ridiculous ending of Scott Hall using a cattle prod just made it even worse. Nash ending Goldberg’s streak hurt WCW in the short and long term as ratings would suffer in 1999.
4 Jinder Mahal beating Randy Orton for WWE Championship
Jinder Mahal’s main event push came out of nowhere after years of working as an enhancement talent for WWE. The push of Mahal came when Vince McMahon wanted new stars for the Smackdown brand after the superstar shakeup of 2017.
Mahal winning a #1 contender’s spot elicited a genuine surprise from the audience as no one could believe it. The controversy grew when Jinder defeated Randy Orton to become the WWE Champion. Fans were mixed on the idea of a jobber rising to the championship spot within a few weeks.
3 Shawn Michaels "beating" Bret Hart with the Montreal Screwjob finish
The Montreal Screwjob remains one of the most controversial backstage moments in wrestling, but the fact that it was about a world title is often forgotten. Bret Hart had no interest in dropping the WWE Championship to Shawn Michaels before leaving for WCW.
Vince McMahon, however, had other plans when orchestrating the Montreal Screwjob of ringing the bell when Hart was in the Sharpshooter submission. Michaels won the WWE Championship despite Hart never tapping out. The moment would anger many fans and still is a controversial topic to this day.
2 David Arquette winning WCW Championship
The boldest and silliest move from Vince Russo during his time in WCW came when David Arquette won the WCW Championship. Arquette was working with the company as the lead actor of the film Ready to Rumble that hit theaters in 2000.
Russo came up with the idea to have Arquette win the WCW Championship as a way to both get buzz for the movie and press coverage for WCW. Media outlets didn’t care, and wrestling fans grew more frustrated with the product. WCW suffered for his title change of Arquette winning the gold and is still ridiculed today.
1 Alberto Del Rio cashing in on CM Punk
The summer of CM Punk in 2011 gave WWE one of their hottest storylines in many years. Punk winning the WWE Championship and threatening to leave due to frustrations with Vince McMahon led to must-see promos. The return of Punk saw him remain champion defeating John Cena in the main event of Summerslam 2011.
However, Alberto Del Rio’s Money in the Bank cash-in ended the night on a sour note. No one could understand why WWE would risk losing Punk’s momentum by having an old Kevin Nash attack him with Del Rio taking advantage of it. Punk became a huge star during this time, but he still dealt with awful booking that limited his potential.