The goal of every wrestler in WWE is to win the WWE World Championship. While the title win is determined by Vince McMahon, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, it still represents a wrestler being the best in the company because it shows faith in him being able to draw money. The top title has always been fairly protected by WWE and it has continuously been the top prize in the entire wrestling industry. It got a little more confusing during the Raw and SmackDown brand split with two world titles but they were still presented as the most important things for the wrestlers on each show.
We are seeing the importance of the championship today. The wrestling fans demanded Daniel Bryan win the WWE World Championship at WrestleMania XXX. Bryan was the most popular star in the company and fans weren’t going to see the title go to a less deserving wrestler like the returning Batista. The backlash against Roman Reigns didn’t truly begin until it became apparent he was the one WWE wanted to make the next dominant world champion with the 2015 Royal Rumble win. Fans have rejected him since then, at any time he's got near to the world title picture. The wrestling fan base care as much about the championship as WWE does.
The discussion of the best wrestlers to never win a world championship is always exciting but it provokes the same names. Roddy Piper, Mr. Perfect, Arn Anderson and Owen Hart are the guys we all know deserved to hold a major title but it just never happened. A story often forgotten is the tale of the wrestlers that did manage to win the title a few times but never get enough time with the gold to make it as memorable as they deserved to. There have been many talents that should have held the world title belt on more occasions than they did and we’ll look at them now with the top fifteen WWE World Champions that deserved more title reigns.
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15 Shawn Michaels
The argument can be made that Shawn Michaels was the best WWE Champion of the 90s and he did hold the belt three times along with one World Championship run following his return in 2002, but he should have had more reigns. Michaels was once again the best performer in WWE during most of his 2002-2010 run in the WWE. The only title reign in that period was to complete his return story by defeating Triple H at the Survivor Series event in 2002 but he was title worthy in his last few years as well. Instead of the never-ending cycle of John Cena, Randy Orton, Triple H, Edge and Batista being the main champs, Michaels deserved another couple of title wins.
Christian’s WWE career is one of the more interesting tales of a talented midcarder never truly getting elevated into the main event picture despite having the skills to get there. Christian's in-ring work was second to none and he grew as a personality with highly entertaining character work as Captain Charisma. Following Edge’s abrupt retirement in 2011, Christian won his first World Championship in WWE by defeating Alberto Del Rio in an emotionally captivating moment. WWE would foolishly have Christian drop the title to Randy Orton just a few days later on SmackDown. While Christian would get another short title run, he deserved a long reign and should have received another one during his hot period earlier in 2005.
13 Dolph Ziggler
Dolph Ziggler's two world title reignsmay be the most disappointing in WWE history. Ziggler’s first time as “World Champion” occurred when Vickie Guerrero awarded him the vacated belt until Edge challenged him to win the title later in the same night. The second reign of Ziggler was meant to be a bigger deal with his red hot momentum of being the Money in the Bank holder and it led to him winning it on the night after WrestleMania 29. Ziggler would lose the belt quickly once again after dealing with concussion issues. The highly talented star has never got back to the world title picture and has become irrelevant today. Ziggler should have had another true chance or two to truly prove himself as a credible world champion but they have yet to come and sadly never will.
12 Daniel Bryan
Daniel Bryan only spent five years in WWE and became one of the biggest stars in company history, but he still should have been a bigger deal. While Bryan would achieve three reigns as a world champion, booking and injuries prevented him for carving out a legacy as a great title holder. Bryan was a top tier performer for a good three years but was overlooked as a main event player until the Yes Movement took off and forced WWE management to make him a champion. The opportunity should have come sooner for Bryan and as seen with the injury issues forcing an early retirement, we would have all appreciated his ascension earlier in his career.
11 Chris Benoit
The tragic ending of Chris Benoit’s story and the final moments of his life makes it more difficult to evaluate his years as a performer but he was one of the best for a long time. Benoit was always a credible wrestler and presented himself as a top talent for years. The only title reign for the technical wrestling expert came in grand form in the main event of WrestleMania XX against Triple H and Shawn Michaels. Benoit would never get back to that position but with two brands at the time having different world champions for Raw and SmackDown, he definitely should have held more gold as a great talent.
10 Booker T
This is only looking at WWE champions, so Booker T’s success as a five-time WCW World Champion will be removed from the equation. Booker would only obtain one world title reign in WWE, in 2006 as the King Booker character on SmackDown. The sad part is Booker once had red hot momentum that could have resulted in another top babyface champion. Booker was loved by the fans on every show during the summer of 2002, but was always pushed down to the midcard or tag team division. WWE’s one chance at making Booker a huge star would have come at WrestleMania XIX, when he challenged Triple H, but he inexcusably would lose in a match that should have seen him have a big championship run.
9 Jeff Hardy
It took a long time for Jeff Hardy to get to the top of the mountain in WWE, but when he did, he was the most loved performer in the wrestling business. Hardy surpassed John Cena for a short time period from 2008-2009 by connecting with the fans with his unique personality and by having outstanding matches with Triple H, Edge and CM Punk. His three title reigns all came in a short eight month time period but Hardy was title worthy for a while before getting his first win. WWE should have pulled the trigger by making Hardy one of the faces of the company with a long title reign coming earlier and maybe he would have stayed around longer to ride the wave of success.
8 Chris Jericho
The storied career of Chris Jericho would see him obtain four WWE World Championship title reigns but it really should have been more considering how good he was for such a long time. Three of the championship runs came following his return after a break from the business. Yes, Jericho defeated Steve Austin and The Rock in the same night to win the Undisputed Championship in 2001 as his only major title win during his first run with WWE. Many would argue those were Jericho’s peak years and he definitely should have been spotlighted as a champion on more occasions back then than just the one poorly booked reign.
It’s easy to dismiss or underappreciate Kane’s contributions to the WWE based off how irrelevant and boring his last ten years with the company have been, but he was great for quite some time. The early years of the Kane character were fascinating and gave us one of the most exciting performers on the show for a couple of years before things grew stale. Kane only would win a world title twice in his career with the solo reign during his prime lasting just one day. After defeating Steve Austin in a First Blood Match, Kane dropped it the following night on Raw and would fail to get another major title until a horrible reign in 2010 when it was way too late.
6 Rey Mysterio
Very few established star wrestlers have come into WWE and achieved even more success with his own character, but Rey Mysterio was one of the few to do it in a big way. Wrestling’s biggest little man was instantly popular and made WWE big money as a new hero for the kids to look up to for what he represented, while still having great matches on a consistent basis to appease the diehard fans. Mysterio would have three world title reigns but one of them lasted a few hours before he lost it to John Cena on the same night. The work of Mysterio should have propelled him into a main event fixture with many more title reigns rather than just an upper midcarder that would be rewarded once in a while.
5 The Undertaker
On the surface, it would appear that The Undertaker was given enough world title runs with seven reigns and the constant respect as a top performer on the show. The unfortunate thing is The Undertaker’s stints with the belt came in his veteran years and he stayed out of the title picture during his prime years for most of the Attitude Era due to guys like Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H and Mick Foley passing him by. It’s hard to criticize WWE's most successful era, but Undertaker would have been just as great if elevated more frequently when he had the most to give. The latter title reigns in the older stage of his career helped carry the SmackDown brand, but he deserved more when he was at his peak as a young superstar.
4 Mick Foley
Steve Austin and The Rock were by far the biggest stars of the Attitude Era but Mick Foley was right behind them. The perfect combination of stellar storytelling, amazing promos and an ability to utilize the hardcore wrestling style led Foley to become one of the most popular talents in the business. Foley would go on to win the WWE Championship three times but the popularity of the other stars at the top caused him to lose the belt rather quickly each time. The greatness of Foley should have led to more time in the title picture and he could have been champion earlier in his prime before his first title win in in 1999. Foley was a star instantly for WWE and just gained momentum with each year but sadly didn’t get enough reigns with the WWE Championship.
3 Rob Van Dam
For the sustained popularity Rob Van Dam consistently held throughout his entire first WWE run, it’s mind boggling to realize he only held the world title once when WWE needed to spotlight him as the face of the new ECW brand in 2006. Van Dam was among the most over stars on the show from his debut in the company during the ECW and WCW Invasion in 2011. His unique in-ring style and likable personality endeared Van Dam to fans but it didn’t carry over to the booking meetings. Wrestling pundits strongly believed RVD should have been the one to end Triple H’s title reign of doom in 2002 but he took the questionable loss and would never hold major gold until his sole win in 2006 over John Cena.
2 Eddie Guerrero
Eddie Guerrero possessed a very rare but pivotal strength in his WWE work. The tremendous in-ring performer would make the fans despise him when he was playing a heel but would force us to fall in love with him when working the face role. Guerrero just knew how to do his job and it resulted in some of the best work in wrestling history. His title win over Brock Lesnar in 2003 was a once in a lifetime moment that made fans feel an emotion as if wrestling was not scripted because of how attached Guerrero could make us feel. Between his unmatched superb body of work with his library of classic matches and his spectacular character strength, Guerrero should have had at least two or three world title reigns rather than just the one.
1 Randy Savage
Everyone longtime wrestling fan celebrates Randy Savage as an all-time great performer on the same level as Hulk Hogan, but he wasn’t treated as such during his WWE in-ring career. Savage would win the WWE Championship twice but was always truly held as a secondary top face under Hogan. The superb work of Savage for almost a decade in WWE deserved more title reigns, as you can see how great he was by his influence still living through today’s wrestlers and fans. Whether he worked as a face or a heel, Savage presented himself like the most important character on the show and the reign of Hogan could have taken a few short breaks to give Macho Man the respect he deserved.
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