The fights that are presented on World Wrestling Entertainment television shows are, of course, fake. The championships held by wrestlers may not be won and lost in legitimate battles, but they are nevertheless meaningful crowns and achievements that are cherished by those great athletes. A company putting a world championship on a performer is a sign that the organization believes that person can be a draw as a main-event worker. There is no greater honor that can be bestowed upon an active wrestler than to be trusted to be a successful world champion for a massive company such as the WWE.
It makes sense that the individuals who are widely respected as some of the greatest wrestlers in history have been world champions for the WWE, World Championship Wrestling, Total Nonstop Action Wrestling and other companies. Ric Flair has won around 16 world championships, but that number fluctuates depending on the day and the person with whom you are discussing the matter. Hulk Hogan was a world champion as both a babyface and as a heel. There is an argument to be made that Hogan, as great as he was, should never have received at least one of those championship runs while working with the WWE.
The people who are at the top of the list of wrestlers who did not deserve to be world champions earn that honor largely because they weren't true full-time workers. That they are recognized as world champions is an insult to the tradition of the business and their stints as champions provided evidence to fans that the titles really are nothing but props. Part of being a diehard wrestling fan is having to suspend your own disbelief about certain things. It is understandable if you found it difficult or even impossible to do so regarding the championship runs had by these wrestlers.
14 The Miz
Bruno Sammartino. Hulk Hogan. Ric Flair. The Rock. John Cena. The Miz. One of these stands out and not for a good reason. The reality television star was given a chance to be the world champion and he was a decent heel while feuding with Cena and other babyface characters. However, The Miz was not a believable world champion in any way and the match that he had with Cena is seen by some as one of the worst WrestleMania main events in company history. The company has seemingly learned its lesson, as The Miz has never again reached such a lofty status and has returned to being a valuable mid-carder.
Think that this is harsh on a man who has been a solid worker in the WWE for nearly two decades? What you have to remember is that Kane was a world champion for one day – one – before the WWE put the title right back on “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. The Kane character was, at that time, not deserving of a world championship run and the company showed that in barely giving him a title reign. It may count in the record books, but Kane's first reign as a world championship was something that you missed if you happened to be busy with other things for that 24-hour period.
Pro wrestling journalists such as Bryan Alvarez and Dave Meltzer have, in podcasts and articles, discussed how Sheamus was an alleged workout partner of Triple H. This led some fans to believe that the supposed relationship had by those two was the only reason that WWE awarded him with the world championship. Whether or not that is the case, Sheamus was merely a big guy with a unique look who was a rather generic worker. He was not even all that protected after he won his first WWE Championship and Sheamus has since become just another name on the roster.
12 Bob Backlund
The term “transitional champion” is sometimes used to describe a wrestler who holds a title for a short time. That is exactly what Bob Backlund was when he won the world championship in November of 1994. Backlund held the title for three days before he dropped it to Diesel at a non-televised show that occurred at Madison Square Garden. He did play a part in Owen Hart evolving into a complete heel who turned on his brother Bret and Backlund was an OK worker inside of the ring at the time. The company could have used him without putting the championship on him.
11 Mick Foley
The incredible fun of “Mrs. Foley's Baby Boy” in the WWE in the 1990s was something to behold. Mick Foley absolutely deserved to be a world champion during that point of his legendary career. He makes the list for being given the belt while a member of TNA. Foley was, in the late 2000s, a beaten-up version of the hardcore icon who put on memorable matches with the likes of Triple H and The Undertaker. The company putting the championship on him was yet another instance of TNA using a former WWE performer to try and get attention. Spoiler alert: It didn't work.
10 Jeff Hardy
This is one that has nothing to do with the talent had or not had by the wrestler. Jeff Hardy certainly possessed the goods to be a world champion while in the WWE. There was even a time when you could have accurately claimed that Hardy was the top babyface working in the company. The reason one could say that Hardy did not deserve to be a world champion was because he could not be trusted to behave himself and follow WWE policies as the top man in the company. Hardy's personal life and his well-known demons were why he did not deserve to be a world champion.
Some wrestlers are simply midcard talents who can have solid matches and who can be entertaining, but who should not be given a chance to hold a world championship. Christian was one of those wrestlers during his run in the WWE. What's humorous about that statement is that the WWE seemingly agreed. Christian never held a world championship for one straight month while working in the company. His first title reign was over in five days. You have to wonder why the WWE even bothered pretending that it was going to push Christian as a serious champion in the first place.
8 Jack Swagger
You can blame the WWE and not the wrestler for this one. Jack Swagger may not have had the microphone skills had by the likes of Kurt Angle, The Rock or even John Cena, but Swagger could, and still can, go inside of the ring and he could have been pushed as a legitimate wrestler worthy of winning the world championship. He was instead booked to be a wrestler who was more so of a joke than a guy who could maybe one day headline a WrestleMania card. Swagger did not deserve to cash in his “Money in the Bank” briefcase and win a world championship, but that was not his fault.
7 The Great Khali
The Great Khali could have been a great monster heel who would have done just fine performing in the more-cartoony version of the WWE that existed in the 1980s. In the 2000s, however, Khali was merely a large man who could not speak and who could barely move inside the ring. That Khali was presented as a performer capable of winning a world championship shows just how out of touch the WWE was with fans at the time. Khali and the company have parted ways, and his run as a WWE Champion is now but a footnote in history that fans can forget.
6 Jeff Jarrett
We are sure that Jeff Jarrett is a professional in the business. He likely has only good intentions whenever he appears on a wrestling card. Jarrett is a lot of things in the industry. He is a promoter, a man responsible for the launch of two different companies and an individual who could, when at his best, have solid matches. A world champion, however, is something that Jarrett never should have been while wrestling in WCW and TNA. It is often suggested that a world champion should have “it.” Whatever “it” is, Jarrett has never possessed it during his career.
5 Hollywood Hulk Hogan
Hulk Hogan has been pro wrestling royalty for years, even if 2015 has not been one of his finer years. Hogan's return to the WWE in 2002 made for some entertaining television and his WrestleMania match with The Rock was a true “icon versus icon” moment. He was well past the prime of his wrestling career at that point of his life though and Hogan did not deserve one final run as a world champion. Not only did the company push the Hogan comeback further than what should have been allowed, Hogan and The Undertaker had one of the worst championship matches in WWE history.
4 Stephanie McMahon
The McMahon-Helmsley era produced some fun television segments that involved the Stephanie McMahon character. As good as McMahon was during the early stages of her on-air relationship with Triple H, she was not a great wrestler who deserved to be a world champion. McMahon holding the women's championship for a time did not do any long-term damage to that championship. It was not, after all, as if the WWE was pushing the greatest female workers in the world at the time. That does not change the fact that the company could have put the belt on a better wrestler.
3 Vince Russo
The name alone may make the hairs on the arms of wrestling fans rise. For all of the good that he did while working with the WWE, Vince Russo is more so known for some of the more bewildering and bad decisions that he made while with WCW and TNA. Maybe the worst thing that Russo ever did was put the WCW World Championship on himself during the final years of the company's existence. The only positive about this period of WCW was that a lot of viewers had already given up on the company and thus they did not witness Russo being a champion.
2 Vince McMahon
The truth of the matter is that Vince McMahon is the owner of the WWE. He can do whatever he wants with the championships that exist in his company. The “Mr. McMahon” character that feuded with Steve Austin helped the WWE crush WCW back in the late 1990s. As important as that character was as the top heel in the company, McMahon did not deserve to be a world champion wrestler. Remember, also, that McMahon also served as Extreme Championship Wrestling champion during the rebirth of that brand. It is a little surprising that McMahon did not put the WCW belt on himself after he and the WWE swallowed up the competition.
1 David Arquette
WCW was downright terrible during its dying days. The low point, other than the day that the company officially shut down, was probably actor David Arquette winning the WCW World Championship. Not only was it an absolute joke that Arquette would be put into such a storyline, the company insulted fans further by having a role in Ready to Rumble, maybe the worst movie about wrestling that has ever seen the light of day. It is, looking back, shocking that all of this occurred only a few years after WCW was the hottest thing going in the industry. How quickly it all went terribly wrong for WCW.