In the world of professional wrestling, there are some Superstars who have the “it-factor” and, because of that, they reached the top of the mountain. These are the guys who the company had faith in to become THE guy. The face of the company. The WWE Champion.
The term "one hit wonder" is use to describe an individual who only reached the top of the charts one time. While this is never really intended, sometimes it just happens. In music, there’s often artist who write a song that everyone loves but they are unable to build off of that song and therefore fans never hear any new material from them again.
In the WWE, there have been some WWE Champions who could be classified as a "one-hit wonder." These are guys who won the title once and never regained it. The reasons these Superstars never regained the title varies. Some won the title with help, some had a long reign and when it was over they departed from the company. Then there are some who just seemed to be an experiment. There have actually been "one-hit wonders" who main evented WrestleMania.
Being a "one-hit wonder" WWE Champion does not necessarily mean they were a bad champion, it could mean they were just transitional. This often happens when a heel is champion during a time when the company is attempting to make a new star babyface. In 1994, Bret Hart lost the WWE Championship to Bob Backlund and within days, Backlund lost the belt to Diesel. This kept Bret from losing to another face, and allowed Diesel to become a face, rather than being booed because he beat one of the most popular WWE Superstars. Take a look at the top 15 Superstars who were "one-hit wonder" WWE Champions.
15 Stan Stasiak
Stan “The Man” Stasiak can be considered the first transitional Champion in WWE history. He defeated Pedro Morales after Morales held the title for nearly three years, but lost the title to Bruno Sammartino nine days later. This was during a time and period which is lost among younger fans. However, while Stasiak may be a lesser-known wrestler, rest assured, his transitional title reign was important.
14 Vince McMahon
If you did not know that Vince McMahon was WWE Champion, you would probably assume that he found a way to screw his archrival, Stone Cold Steve Austin out of the title. After all, he did it at the 1999 Royal Rumble. However, the night after SummerSlam 1999, Triple H became WWE Champion and the number one man in the company. He called out Vince McMahon and requested to defend his title against the owner of the WWE. During this time, Vince was not allowed on television due to a previous stipulation. With the help of Austin (weird, yes but it happened), McMahon would go on to defeat Triple H to win his first and only WWE Championship. There was no need for him to have a reign as he went on to vacate the title the following week due to the stipulation. While this title reign was short lived, fans loved it because it meant that Triple H was no longer WWE Champion.
Kane entered the WWE with one purpose and that was to seek revenge on his brother, The Undertaker. Prior to Mankind, no one was able to terrify The Deadman like Kane. Having the size and agility similar to his brother, it would only be a matter of time before Kane would be wearing the biggest prize in the sport. He would win the title after defeating Stone Cold Steve Austin in a First Blood match at the 1998 King of the Ring. He would lose the belt the next night on Raw and while Kane would never again regain the WWE Championship (though he did win the World Heavyweight Championship once), The Big Red Machine has picked up a number of titles throughout his storied career.
12 Pedro Morales
Pedro Morales won the WWWF (now WWE) Championship just a month after winning his first singles title, the United States Championship, in the company. Morales is regarded as the first Triple Crown Champion in WWE history (he also won the Intercontinental and Tag Team Championship) and Morales held the title for nearly three years. Although Morales managed to put together such a lengthy reign, his inability to regain the Championship qualifies Morales in the "one-hit wonder" category.
11 Sgt. Slaughter
Unlike any other WWE Champion, Sgt. Slaughter’s character forced the WWE to switch the venue for WrestleMania VII. He defeated The Ultimate Warrior to win the title at the 1991 Royal Rumble. Slaughter was billed as an American turncoat and received many death threats during his WWE Championship reign. With WrestleMania originally scheduled to take place at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, after all of the death threats, the WWE decided to move it to the Los Angeles Sports Arena. Slaughter's only WWE Championship reign sure made an impact.
10 "Superstar" Billy Graham
Without "Superstar" Billy Graham, perhaps there is no Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, or Jesse Ventura. Graham’s interviews helped change the game of professional wrestling. He won his only first WWE Championship when he defeated the beloved Bruno Sammartino after he held the title for over three years. During his title reign, he wrestled Harley Race to a one-hour time limit draw in a WWE vs NWA Championship unification match. Graham would only hold the WWE Championship once but has been considered the first great heel Champion.
9 The Iron Sheik
The Iron Sheik is a very popular guy in the world of Twitter because of his outlandish comments. However, his 28-day title reign propelled the birth of "Hulkamania." The Iron Sheik defeated Bob Backlund, who had held the title for four years. After holding the title for just four weeks, he would lose the WWE Championship to Hulk Hogan. Originally Backlund was supposed to lose the title to Hulk Hogan, but he refused to drop the title to Hogan, thus putting Sheik in the position to be a transitional champion.
8 Rob Van Dam
When Vince McMahon purchased ECW, Rob Van Dam was one of the stars who fans could not wait to see wear WWE gold. His opportunity came when he won the Money in the Bank contact. After winning, he became the first Superstar to say when he would cash in, challenging John Cena at ECW One Night Stand. On that night, RVD defeated Cena and became WWE Champion. Unfortunately for fans, his title reign would not last as he was suspended after a drug possession arrest and would never again wear the title.
7 Andre the Giant
It is hard to believe that The Immovable Object only held the WWE Championship once. Andre the Giant defeated Hulk Hogan in a very controversial match on The Main Event back in February of 1988. After winning the title, he sold it to the "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase. This transaction between Andre and DiBiase was invalid and as a result the WWE Championship was vacated and defended in a tournament at WrestleMania IV. While Andre competed in the tournament, The Giant would not reclaim the title that night or any other night.
6 Eddie Guerrero
Eddie Guerrero completed one of the biggest upsets in WWE history when he defeated Brock Lesnar to win his only WWE Championship at No Way Out 2004. Using his lying, cheating, and stealing antics, he was able to take out The Next Big Thing. During his title reign, he defeated Kurt Angle at WrestleMania XX, giving him a WrestleMania moment at the end of the night when he stood tall with his best friend, Chris Benoit. Sadly, Guerrero tragically died right before he was scheduled to win his second WWE Championship.
5 John Bradshaw Layfield
John Bradshaw Layfield only held the WWE Championship once, but he made his title reign count. Calling himself the "Wrestling God," JBL held the title for nearly a year after defeating Eddie Guerrero. During his title reign, JBL became the biggest heel WWE had seen in years. He would lose the title to John Cena at WrestleMania 21, propelling one of the greatest Superstars in the history of the company.
4 The Miz
The "most must see WWE Champion" in history won the title after cashing in his Money in the Bank contract on a wounded Randy Orton. The Miz likes to remind everyone how he main evented WrestleMania XXVII and successfully defeated John Cena (with help from The Rock). The Miz may never be WWE Champion again, but his one and only title reign was memorable and to a certain extent "must see."
3 Jeff Hardy
When you think of the WWE during the mid to late 2000s, you think of John Cena. No Superstar during that time has carried the company like him. But in late 2008, Jeff Hardy won his first WWE Championship defeating Triple H and Edge at Armegddon. During this time, he surpassed John Cena in popularity. Although Hardy won the World Heavyweight Championship twice, he was only WWE Champion once, and if it was not for his departure from the company, he would have been a solid WrestleMania main eventer.
In 1995, the WWE ran on Diesel Power. After parting ways from Shawn Michaels at the 1994 Survivor Series, Diesel defeated Bob Backlund at a house show to win his first and only WWE Championship. Backlund had just defeated Bret Hart three days prior at the Survivor Series. Diesel went on to become one of the most popular Superstars in company. Unfortunately for him, he was the face of the company during perhaps the worst WrestleMania XI, a night when his match did not even main event the show.
1 The Ultimate Warrior
When The Ultimate Warrior arrived in the WWE, he immediately captivated the audience. He arrived to the ring going 100 miles an hour and his look immediately had anyone who had never seen him stop in their tracks. At WrestleMania VI in Toronto, The Warrior defeated Hulk Hogan to win his first and only WWE Championship. Despite only having the title once, he is still one of the most popular wrestlers in the history of the WWE.
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