Those select few who walk this planet with dreams of becoming a professional wrestler, aspire to hold one championship title: the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. The WWE title is the top belt one can wear in terms of wrestling hierarchy. While this was not always the most sought after championship in the industry, the death of all competition has left the WWE Championship standing on its own as the top title in the business.
The WWE Championship has been held by the greatest WWE Superstars of all time. Every fan has a favorite and less-favorite champion. Sometimes the holder of the gold can entice a fan’s emotion so much that he/she becomes completely enamored with the champion. Other times, questionable booking decisions can turn a fan off of the product as certain WWE Champions of the past just didn’t seem to possess that “it” factor.
Meanwhile, numerous outstanding Superstars were left in the dark of the WWE Championship picture. Sometimes brought into the light to help push an angle or even compete for the title but never given a chance to shine as WWE Champion. It is baffling to think about the legends who have never worn the company’s top title even though all the qualifications of a main even champion were present. However, the industry as a whole is not a level playing ground and more often than not, talented individuals are held back or never afforded the proper opportunity.
This is an article that will examine those great Superstars who were never placed at the top of the WWE food chain for one reason or another. The legends of the past who at some point – if only for a little while – have worn the top prize in WWE.
These are the top 15 wrestlers who should have been WWE Champion:
15. Scott Steiner
Scott Steiner made more of an impact in WWE as a tag team wrestler during the early 1990s than his solo run and return in the early 2000s. Steiner would reach the height of his singles success in WCW where he established a new persona: “Big Poppa Pump.”
Upon his return to WWE, Scott Steiner would compete on the Raw brand (this during the brand extension session) where he clearly didn’t belong. Steiner was never going to get over on Triple H and would have been better suited for SmackDown, where the WWE Championship was defended at the time.
This was during the rise of Brock Lesnar and an opponent like Scott Steiner would have complimented this rise had Steiner been given at least a brief run as WWE Champion.
The Attitude Era was all about pushing the envelop. One character who really stood out as different from the pack was Goldust; a sexually ambiguous Superstar who caused quite a strip upon his arrival in WWE. The character had people talking.
However, Goldust was relegated to the mid-card and as time wore on, the character would become more and more tame. The recent incarnation of Goldust has nothing on the version who wore lingerie under his golden suit.
Goldust would not have been a long-term champion but the buzz WWE could have created by handing him the WWE Championship would have been massive.
13. Nikolai Volkoff
Nikolai Volkoff was a natural heat seeker during his tenure in WWE. The villainous Russian character would often illicit great emotion from American audiences in a way that was not only infuriating but entertaining to watch.
In the mid 1980s, Nikolai Volkoff would have his fair share of WWE Championship matches … against Hulk Hogan. The “chosen one” was not going to drop the belt to evil foreigner, especially while the “wrestling boom” was taking place.
However, Nikolai Volkoff is the kind of character that would have made for a solid WWE Champion as fans would loath the idea of Volkoff with the title and pray for someone to take it away from the Russian.
12. Bam Bam Bigelow
Perhaps the character of Bam Bam Bigelow was a little ahead of its time, thus contributing to the fact that Bigelow was never awarded the WWE Championship. Sure, Bigelow may have been in the main event of WrestleMania XI but the bout was with an ex-football player.
Bam Bam Bigelow would flourish in ECW where guys like Bigelow were nurtured and afforded the opportunity to display all of their natural talents in front of an audience that loved the deranged, the dangerous, and the destitute.
Bam Bam Bigelow should have been WWE Champion somewhere along the line. Bigelow would have made an intimidating and intricate title holder.
Big Van Vader is a former three-time WCW World Heavyweight Champion but never a WWE Champion. Why is that exactly? When Vader arrived in WWE, he was already an established talent who could have easily represented the company as top champion.
Over the years, numerous stories have emerged in regards to Vader and his time spent in WWE. Many of these stories include the name Shawn Michaels who has been accused of holding Vader down during his tenure with WWE.
Regardless of the actual reasons, Vader was a Superstar who was fully capable of holding the WWE Championship.
10. Ted DiBiase
On February 5th, 1988, Andre the Giant – under odd and controversial circumstances – would defeated Hulk Hogan for the WWE Championship. Post-match, Andre would declare his intentions of handing the title over to Ted DiBiase.
This move would not be recognized by officials and the WWE Championship was soon vacated. “The Million Dollar Man” would have to earn the title by actually competing and winning the gold, which never happened.
Ted DiBiase was a great gimmick heel, something that seems lost upon the modern product. An official title run should have gone down with DiBiase.
9. Jake “The Snake” Roberts
Could you imagine Jake “The Snake” Roberts as WWE Champion? Not wearing the belt around his waist or carrying it over his shoulder but hiding it away in the same sack where he kept his pet snake Damien? That would have been badass.
Unfortunately for Jake Roberts, his in-ring career with WWE would come to an end having never achieved the ultimate goal or winning the WWE Championship; a legendary heel gone without glory.
Jake “The Snake” Roberts is a classic character who could have brought some major intensity to the WWE Championship.
8. Mr. Perfect
How does perfection not find its way to the WWE Championship? Curt Hennig was one of the gifted ones who made his name in WWE as “Mr. Perfect.” The arrogance was there. The look was there. The talent was there… but the title wasn’t there.
Mr. Perfect would twice capture the Intercontinental Championship; with each instance seeming as though Perfect was one step closer to the top of the card. However, Perfect never made it that far.
While the drawing power of Mr. Perfect could not have matched some of the other top-tier performers of the time; Perfect could have held his own.
7. Owen Hart
As wrestling fans – especially those of us in Canada – we have to believe that had it not been for the sudden and tragic passing of Owen Hart that he would have one day held the WWE Championship.
Would it have been along the same lines of his brother Bret? No. Owen as WWE Champion would have been an underdog story – a feel good underdog story – that would have made for one of those timeless WWE moments.
However, the sadness surrounding the story of Owen Hart is all that remains as a life that shouldn’t have ended so soon was taken abruptly.
6. Razor Ramon
Triple H, Shawn Michaels, and Kevin Nash … three members of The Kliq that have held the WWE Championship. Left out were Scott Hall and Sean Waltman … the two members of The Kliq who cannot lay claim to a WWE Championship reign.
In WWE, Scott Hall was once known as Razor Ramon; a character created in the wrestling likeness of Tony Montana. Ramon would achieve success with the company but nothing above the Intercontinental Championship.
What is surprising here is that The Kliq influence did not come into play in order to provide Scott Hall with run as WWE Champion.
5. Booker T
Some may argue that WWE gave Booker T his proper recognition when they decided to go with King Booker as World Heavyweight Champion; a nice nod and a well-deserved victory but not the WWE Championship.
The World Heavyweight Championship – aside from its time with Triple H – has always been the secondary strap, the old WCW Championship transformed into a WWE contested title.
Booker T held that belt five times in WCW and once in WWE but was never given a chance to be WWE Champion even though Booker would have rocked that gold.
4. Harley Race
Harley Race is unquestionably one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time. When it comes to the greatest WWE Superstars of all time, Race is often left off those lists or outright forgotten.
The former NWA World Heavyweight Champion did not attain the same level of success in WWE. Harley Race won the King of the Ring tournament back in 1986… after that, there is not much more to report.
However, the fact remains that the NWA legend should have been rewarded with a chance to be WWE Champion.
3. Jerry “The King” Lawler
Jerry “The King” Lawler was brought into WWE back in 1992 as an announcer/part-time wrestler. Lawler had already been an established and well-accomplished wrestler – at least in the South – prior to his signing with the company.
Upon his arrival to WWE, Jerry Lawler had already attained the status of “legendary wrestler,” even if “The King” was unfamiliar to the North Eastern WWE fans. Lawler brought along a legacy.
Which is why Jerry Lawler should have been given a small run with the WWE Championship, at least in his WWE infancy.
2. Dusty Rhodes
There is often much talk with these articles and lists about the greatest heels in professional wrestling. However, when we look back and list the all-time greatest babyface performers, Dusty Rhodes ranks right up near, if not at, the top of the list.
Dusty Rhodes became a star in the NWA and it had long been said that Vince McMahon had a personal vendetta with Rhodes. Therefore, when “The American Dream” showed up on the WWE scene, he was told to dance and wear polka dots.
Dusty Rhodes was never going to be WWE Champion but that doesn’t change the fact that he should have been WWE Champion.
1. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper
Coming back around to the greatest heels in professional wrestling, there truly may not have been a better heel – in any promotion at any time – than “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. In fact, Piper changed what it meant to be a “bad guy” in wrestling.
The recent passing of Roddy Piper left a void in the wrestling community, one which cannot be filled as Piper was definitely one-of-a-kind. Imitation: sure. Duplication: never. There will never again be a kilt-wearing-wacko quite like Hot Rod.
“Rowdy” Roddy Piper never wore the WWE Championship but wrestling fans far and wide know for sure that the man who changed the questions whenever we thought we had the answers, should have that strap wrapped above his waist and sitting pretty atop his kilt.
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