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Top 15 Most Emotional Title Wins in Wrestling History

Wrestling has always relied on amazing fan moments. It’s been the lifeblood of the business since it started. Even today, with WWE dominating and such, the need to see something truly special and astounding is what makes fans tune in and enjoy the show in droves. Championships have long been a part of that as back when titles truly meant something, seeing a favorite wrestler claim the gold was a massive moment that the fans loved to see happen. Often, it was the payoff to weeks or even months of build and showcasing how great promoters and wrestlers could combine their talents to make fans happy.

With an over-reliance on part-timers and an abundance of title reigns for top stars, a lot of the emotion is taken out of wins. The lack of emotional storylines also hinders how fans can feel about a win. Back when Eddie Guerrero won his first title, the whole story leading up to his bout with Brock Lesnar was how had had overcome his demons and the title shot was his chance at redemption. It was a simple premise but it worked so well because it felt real and was relatable. It was also a guy that had paid his dues and had earned the admiration and respect of the audience.

It’s faded a bit in recent years and yet every now and then, wrestling can still surprise you with a title victory that feels far more special than just another win. It’s a moment that makes you happy as a fan to see a worker you admire finally get his due and take it to the top. Sometimes the fallout doesn’t live up to that moment, a reign shorter and more disappointing than expected.

This list isn’t so much the aftermath but the moment itself and how it makes you feel as a fan to love the business so much. Here are 15 title wins that stirred fantastic emotions in fans and remind you of why you got into wrestling in the first place.

15 Tommy Dreamer and Raven win ECW Tag Team Titles

ECW was always known for moments that rocked fans’ emotions on multiple levels but this remains one of the best ever. On one of the first ECW broadcasts on TNN, the Dudley Boyz won the ECW tag titles, booed massively as everyone knew they were going to be leaving for WWE. The two did a promo putting ECW down and threatening to lay the belts on Vince McMahon’s table which brought out Tommy Dreamer to defend the company’s honor. Alone, Dreamer took on the duo, beaten down badly despite a valiant effort and set up for the Death Drop, managing to reverse it to a DDT on D-Von. Then, form out of nowhere, came the last man in the world anyone would have expected to come to Dreamer’s aid: Raven.

14 Randy Savage Wins WWE title - Wrestlemania IV

Always regarded as a terrific worker and performer, the Macho Man had taken a backseat in much of his WWE run to Hulk Hogan. But his turn to face just elevated him to massive popularity, so much so that Vince McMahon decided that if anyone else could carry the belt, it would be him. At Wrestlemania IV, Savage went through the tournament for the vacant WWE title in style, beating Butch Reed, Greg Valentine, One Man Gang and finally facing Ted DiBiase in the finals.

13 A.J. Styles Wins X Division Title - Unbreakable 2005

A.J. Styles had truly taken off in TNA as “The Phenomenal One,” wowing with his high-flying and ability to take punishment, becoming the first ever X Division champion and reigns as tag team and NWA champ as well. In 2005, he was set with Samoa Joe to take on defending X Division champion Christopher Daniels and the results were what many consider the greatest match in TNA history.

12 Bret Hart Wins WWE Title - October 1992

It was completely out of the blue. Bret Hart was getting ready for what he figured was a standard house show title match against Ric Flair in Saskatoon when Vince McMahon entered and told Bret he was winning the title. It was stunning but after double reigns as tag team and IC champ and paying his dues for so long, Vince thought Bret was just the guy to carry the belt for a new era. The fans in attendance had no idea history was about to be made as Bret and Flair had a great battle, Bret actually dislocating his finger and popping it back in (you can see Curt Hennig wince watching it) to continue.

11 Goldberg Wins WCW World Title - July 1998

The debate still rages on whether or not WCW should have saved this for a PPV rather than giving it away for free on Nitro. But that doesn’t take away from the huge event it was. Goldberg had destroyed all in his path, taking his undefeated record to win the U.S. title and crushing contenders. A showdown with Hulk Hogan for the WCW title just made sense and when it was announced it would be held at the Georgia Dome, the place sold out in record time.

10 The Ultimate Warrior Wins Intercontinental Title - Summerslam 1988

Fans today don’t get how incredibly annoying the Honky Tonk Man was. An average worker with a crazy Elvis gimmick boasting of his greatness, the fact that he was the longest reigning IC champion ever remains baffling. It was good business in a way as fans loved to pay to see him lose although annoyed it wasn’t happening. At SummerSlam, he was set to defend against Brutus Beefcake but Beefcake was taken out by Ron Bass, so HTM came out alone and basically told anyone to come along.

9 Ric Flair Wins WWE Title - 1992 Royal Rumble

As hard as it is to believe, as the ‘90s dawned, most thought Ric Flair was on his way out thanks to the rise of Sting and other younger stars. WCW seemed to believe the same, an attitude that would push Flair to leave the company in 1991. He jumped to WWE for the long-dreamed of feud with Hogan that ended up costing Hogan the belt which was soon vacated and the announcement that the winner of the Royal Rumble would be WWE champion.

8 Mankind Wins WWE Title - January, 1999

Throughout 1998, Mick Foley had been winning fans over more and more from the brutal Hell in the Cell match to his fun interviews and more. He was truly clicking and yet the idea of him holding the WWE title seemed ridiculous. But the fans were on his side as he and the Rock faced off in a no-DQ battle on RAW. The Rock had the Corporation backing him while DX helped out Mankind, the two going at it in a back and forth battle. When Mankind had The Rock locked in the Mandible Claw, Ken Shamrock interfered and set off a massive brawl on the outside.

7 Ron Simmons Wins WCW title - August 1992

Bill Watts’ tenure in WCW reeked of bad booking, pushing his son Erik and banning moves off the top rope. But he did manage to pull off a nice turn that made true history in wrestling. Vader had crushed Sting to win the WCW World title with a rematch set for Baltimore in August. However, Jake Roberts attacked Sting to take him out of that bout and thus a new challenger was needed. Drawing a name from a hat, Watts announced Simmons would be getting the title shot, a year after coming up short in his feud with Leg Luger for the belt.

6 Ricky Steamboat Wins The NWA Title - Chi-Town Rumble

via Pro Wrestling Illustrated

Long regarded as one of the greatest technical wrestlers ever, Steamboat had given some true classics with Randy Savage, holding tag titles and the Intercontinental Championship. But he’d been out of the business for a time and seemed unlikely he’d rise much further. However, in 1989, the Dragon made a surprise return to the NWA, pinning Ric Flair in a tag match and soon pushed for the title at a Chicago-based PPV event. T

5 Chris Benoit Wins World Heavyweight Championship - WrestleMania XX

Obviously, the emotions are far different now. WWE’s own book on WrestleMania notes that the line of “future events would forever alter the perception of this moment” but still noting how powerful it was at the time. In one of the best triple threat matches ever, Chris Benoit faced Triple H and Shawn Michaels in front of a hot Madison Square Garden crowd, the trio putting on a fantastic show with the momentum shifting constantly and the crowd on Benoit’s side.

4 Kerry Von Erich Wins The NWA Title

This was really a case of the emotion overwhelming the match itself. As 1984 began, most thought it obvious that David Von Erich was going to win the NWA World title from Ric Flair, the votes set and just waiting for the right moment to do it. But in February, during a tour of Japan, David suddenly died, a shocking blow to all the fans of World Class and of wrestling itself (even the Freebirds solemnly talked on camera of how much they admired him).

3 Shawn Michaels Wins WWE Title - WrestleMania XII

2 Daniel Bryan Wins WWE World Title - WrestleMania XXX

It’s even more emotional now given how it looks as if Bryan’s in-ring days are coming to an end. After a massive fan backlash when Bryan was pushed down so much by WWE in 2013, it’s easy to say it was politics that finally got him his due but that didn’t take away from the moment itself. WWE teased it with the possibility of Triple H beating him in the opening match of the show but Bryan was victorious with an injury, setting up more tension with his battle against Orton and Batista.

1 Eddie Guerrero Wins WWE Title - No Way Out 2004

Still one of the most admired and respected performers ever, Eddie Guerrero had overcome so much in his life. He’d nearly died in a car crash in 1998, coming back from that with addictions to painkillers and alcohol that followed him to WWE. It caused him to hit rock bottom after another accident, fired from the company and estranged from his family. But he cleaned up his act, paid his dues in the indies and was welcomed back, getting over majorly with his “Lie, Cheat, Steal” persona that soon turned him into a face.

WWE played up the story of his battling addictions as eventually Eddie fought his way up the card and at No Way Out 2004 was set against the seemingly unstoppable Brock Lesnar for the WWE title. It was a hard-fought battle, both guys going at it hard in front of a wild San Francisco crowd with Brock getting the lead with a ref bump, Eddie trying to hit him with the title belt but Brock getting him into an F5. However, Goldberg ran in to spear Brock and Eddie managed to reverse an F5 into a DDT on the belt and followed it up with a Frog Splash. The three count was made and the place erupted as Eddie leapt into the crowd, embracing his mother, “surfing” with fans and standing atop the announcer table with the belt in one hand and the Mexican flag in the other.

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Top 15 Most Emotional Title Wins in Wrestling History