The purpose of a championship belt in wrestling is to establish the ground rules of the company. Any art showcasing competition needs credible prizes for the talent to work towards and the titles fill that role. WWE is the biggest wrestling promotion in the world and has been king for decades now, excluding a short two-year period in the 90s during the Monday Night Wars. Part of the reason for WWE’s success has been establishing credible titles that set the tone for the company. The belts being valued in different divisions and different forms added to the overall storytelling.
Of course, the world title has been the most important piece in the WWE. The popular belief is every wrestler should enter the business with the desire to become the World Heavyweight Champion in WWE. That goes above the kayfabe lines of what should be said on television but what wrestlers should want to achieve in their actual careers as a performer. With such importance, the world titles in WWE have always been the standard. The Intercontinental Championship has been the most successful midcard title as well with the belt creating momentum for new stars such as Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, Steve Austin, The Rock and many others before they became main event legends.
The other divisions such as tag team wrestling and women’s wrestling would go on to create important belts for the company. The standard of the titles being made into true prizes for each wrestler despite where they were on the card always gave the talent a purpose. You could feasibly believe every non-enhancement talent wrestler was working towards a title shot regardless of how over they are and that set up the guidelines of the program. Sadly not all title holders have been successes and we’re going to examine those as we break down the stories of the top twenty-five worst champions of any kind in WWE history.
Kevin Nash had great success in WWE and WCW. Among the biggest stars of the 90s, Nash won the WWE Championship as Diesel. It was one of the least successful world title reigns of all time and failed to deliver results in the ring either. Wrestlers like Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart were taking the WWE into the future with an evolved work ethic. Nash didn’t subscribe to that theory and often was involved in boring matches unless facing an elite performer to carry him. Between the standards of being champion failing on every level, Diesel was an all-time worst WWE title holder.
24 Titus O’Neil
Titus O’Neil is currently in the news for the overreaction by WWE to suspend him for two months after he playfully grabbed Vince McMahon’s arm on the stage following Daniel Bryan’s retirement speech. While O’Neil does contribute to the company as a spokesperson and does serve a purpose on the show, he isn’t a particularly great in-ring performer. Titus held the tag team titles with Darren Young in the summer of 2015 and they delivered an extremely lackluster reign until losing to The New Day at SummerSlam. O’Neil's work was exposed in the longer matches and he just isn’t someone that’s a good option to win gold in today’s WWE.
23 The Kat
Oh, how things have changed. The WWE Women’s Championship was a complete joke in 1999 after Sable left. It wasn’t spectacular with Sable but once she left, the matches were almost all bra and panties matches or other sexualized gimmicks. Because of this, The Kat became one of the bigger stars in the women’s wrestling division. She personified what the company was looking for – attractive women that would not mind wearing scantily clad outfits and having catfights. The Kat was unfortunately one of the least talented female performers in company history and looked completely out of place any time she engaged in physical activity.
22 Chuck Palumbo
Chuck Palumbo was one of the wrestlers to originally come over from WCW during the Invasion and get multiple opportunities to succeed in WWE. Most of the wrestlers were buried or released quickly but Palumbo was given a couple of character changes to get put into a position to get over. The gimmick to get the biggest push was his homosexual tag team with Billy Gunn. Billy and Chuck went on to win tag team gold and successfully defend it at WrestleMania X8. Palumbo was a completely average wrestler with nothing special going on. Even in the offensive gimmick meant to showcase humorous personality, Chuck looked rather bland as usual and never deserved WWE gold.
21 Rob Conway
The French stable known as La Resistance was yet another anti-American gimmick that used patriotism to get cheap heat. Sylvan Grenier, Rene Dupree and Rob Conway all rotated into the group with each man holding tag team gold at one point. Conway was by far the worst wrestler of the three, with no special skills that stood out. The original incarnation of the team with Dupree and Grenier was more effective but when Conway came into the picture, their momentum went downhill. Conway was a weak promo, a lackluster in-ring performer and quite frankly had no business competing in any title program.
Whether you remember him as Mabel, King Mabel or Viscera, the big man was a memorable monster for his size but not very good in the ring. Mabel did challenge Diesel for the WWE Championship in one of the worst PPV main events of all-time, but the big man didn’t win the big title. The main championship win by Mabel was tag team gold with Mo. Neither wrestler was very entertaining in the ring, but were pushed for their character work. Mabel seemed to try his best but his overall limitations prevented him from having the tools to deliver a respectable wrestling match and that also applied to tag matches.
Deuce 'n' Domino were one of the worst tag teams of all time with an absolutely terrible gimmick. The duo played a parody of 70s greasers but were expected to be taken seriously in the tag team division as a credible heel act. Domino showed a bit of talent and is still wrestling today as Cliff Compton, but his partner was a train wreck. Jimmy Snuka’s son Sim Snuka worked as Deuce and had no business being in the ring. Paul London and Brian Kendrick trashed him for being impossible to work with in their tag matches. Deuce deserves to go down as one of the worst talents to hold a title belt, when he won the tag team championship.
The rare case of a terrible wrestler getting multiple title stints was the story of Dennis Knight. The pig farmer gimmick of The Godwinns saw him work as Phineas I. Godwinn (PIG) and win tag team gold with Henry O. Godwinn (HOG). Both men were below average in the ring but were carried by the gimmick due to the time featuring outlandish characters as the most important part of the WWE show. Knight would transition into the Mideon character with The Ministry of Darkness and won the European Championship as the satanic heel. Mideon was proof even limited wrestling talents could achieve success with full commitment to the right character.
17 Orlando Jordan
Orlando Jordan defeated John Cena to win the United States Championship. It’s nearly impossible to read that back and believe it actually happened. Cena was in the process of winning his first WWE Championship from JBL, so it made sense for him to drop the midcard belt to JBL’s protégé in the midst of the story, but it was still a poor choice. Jordan was a WWE project but he never showed the ability to get where the company hoped he would elevate himself to. The athletic talent had a putrid reign with the U.S. Title and his most memorable moment came when dropping it to Chris Benoit in 25 seconds at SummerSlam 2005.
16 Santino Marella
The comedic work of Santino Marella is much appreciated within the history of WWE, as he’s still welcomed back for appearances on television. While he did entertain and find his role on the show, Santino’s first brush with championship gold came at the worst possible time. His official debut in WWE was getting a title shot as a fan in the crowd and defeating Umaga for the Intercontinental Championship. The big push did not work in his favor as fans didn’t buy into Santino’s generic character of a fan getting an opportunity in the WWE. The underdog hero role was rejected and Santino was a terrible choice for Intercontinental Champion in the role.
15 The Godfather
The Attitude Era is celebrated and remembered for the popularity of Steve Austin, The Rock and other top main event superstars but the midcard was a mess. Many wrestlers with limited talent were given opportunities to win titles and The Godfather was among the worst. His pimp gimmick would see him come down to the ring with his group of “hos” and get loud crowd responses from the audience due to the attractive women wearing very little clothing. This catapulted Godfather into an Intercontinental Championship reign that delivered zero memorable matches or moments. The Godfather is definitely one of the weakest talents to get the honor of winning WWE gold.
14 Jack Swagger
Jack Swagger isn’t a terrible wrestler. In the right situation, Swagger is actually very good in the ring. The problem was he had no business being anywhere near the world title picture. Swagger is one of the worst promos in WWE history and his personality wasn’t dynamic enough to relate to an audience. His abrupt world title push resulted in failure and arguably the most abysmal world championship reign in WWE. Swagger’s win made it seem like anyone could hold the sacred big gold in WWE and it harmed the credibility of the title for a long time.
13 Vladimir Kozlov
You’ll struggle to name many wrestlers who were more boring than Vladimir Kozlov. The big man was pushed for his background in athletic competition and his physical size. Kozlov would go on to win tag team gold with Santino in a comedic role and it wasn’t that bad, but he still deserves to go down among the worst WWE title holders in company history, as his wrestling ability was atrocious. We should be thankful he never won the big one when feuding with Triple H for the WWE Championship on SmackDown. The WWE invested a lot into him and to have his biggest success come in a weak comedy team says it all.
The WWE parody of Goldberg was a hilarious idea that provided a few laughs, but it ran its course rather quickly. Duane Gill was one of the least physically impressive wrestlers of all-time and provided very little charisma, but he did look like Goldberg merged with a melted ice cream cone. Gillberg spoofed Goldberg perfectly but WWE made the mistake of making him their Light Heavyweight Champion. WCW was killing it with the Cruiserweight division, showcasing a new style of smaller wrestlers that would shape the future. WWE officially quit on the Light Heavyweight division by having Gillberg win the title.
11 David Otunga
David Otunga was a highly touted prospect due to his physical look, ability to speak with confidence and name value as singer Jennifer Hudson’s husband. Many would have placed a bet on Otunga becoming a bigger star than Daniel Bryan due to the first season of NXT, but obviously things did not work out for him that way. Otunga’s biggest success came in The Nexus and eventually winning tag team gold on multiple occasions. While he never had long reigns to completely devalue the belt, Otunga’s terrible work in the ring added another title holder with no credibility to the list of the tag team winners. There’s a reason WWE has transitioned Otunga into a broadcaster role.
10 Marc Mero
The signing of Marc Mero by WWE from WCW was met with a world of expectations and hopes of his blossoming into a future main eventer. Mero’s greatest success and demise would come from having his wife Sable become his valet. Sable progressed into the most popular woman in the company and was the star of the act, while Mero became irrelevant. The forgotten part of this story is Mero’s lackluster matches contributing to the fall of his momentum. Mero was given the ball as Intercontinental Champion and had many long matches against Triple H that were all painfully dull. Given Triple H’s success after, you can easily figure out who deserves more blame.
It’s hard to refer to Debra as an actual wrestler, but she did hold the Women’s Championship at one point. The way in which Debra won the title showcased where the division was at the time. Sable defended the gold against Debra in an Evening Gown Match and actually won by stripping Debra of her clothing. Commissioner Shawn Michaels would reverse the decision and award the title to Debra because she looked better in her undergarments. Debra never worked a true wrestling match and was only involved in the silly gimmick matches. We're sure many female wrestling stars cringe when seeing her name in the title history.
8 Curtis Axel
Curtis Axel was given an unfair world of expectations due to being the son of the legendary Mr. Perfect. It’s nearly impossible to follow “perfection” but Axel was hoped to become a future main eventer. Following a failed run as Michael McGillicutty, the Axel name change took place and he was named the new Paul Heyman guy. A run with the Intercontinental title was meant to elevate him but it just showed his flaws as an average worker with below average promo skills. Axel is one of the greater examples of someone’s momentum floundering after a midcard title push.
7 Ezekiel Jackson
Ezekiel Jackson fits the mold of the typical failed WWE push. With the physique of a bodybuilder and the ability to deliver intimidating facial expressions, Jackson was viewed as a potential superstar. Vince McMahon has a history of loving the muscular giants and Jackson benefited from that with an Intercontinental Championship reign as a singles face. Jackson put out one of the worst reigns in title history with a combination of consistently terrible matches and zero growth as a performer. The big man dropped the title to Cody Rhodes after nearly two months and moved down the card rapidly before eventually getting released.
Heidenreich’s time holding WWE tag team gold saw both a terrible worker and an embarrassing gimmick give us an all-time awful champion. Heidenreich was another stiff that couldn’t deliver despite being put in every position to succeed. WWE signed veteran Animal from the Legion of Doom and made him tag with Heidenreich. The duo would form another incarnation of the L.O.D with Heidenreich replacing Hawk. As anyone could have predicted, the idea flopped and fans didn’t buy into such an untalented performer replacing a legend in an iconic tag team. Heidenreich shaved his head into a Mohawk and started wearing face paint in an act that made any fan of the true L.O.D very uncomfortable.
5 Vince McMahon
The concept of a booker putting the championship on himself has always been a controversial topic in wrestling. There have been a few examples of it and the biggest instance came when Vince McMahon held the WWE Championship for a short time period. This took place during the time when the roster was absolutely loaded with stars like Steve Austin, The Rock, Triple H, Mick Foley and The Undertaker all employed, with many more credible names down the line. Despite McMahon being a popular character, the idea of a non-wrestler holding the title during such a popular time period was too narcissistic and there was no reason for it.
4 Ahmed Johnson
Vince McMahon saw a future main eventer with Ahmed Johnson and many pundits believe he was expected to become the first African-American WWE Heavyweight Champion. Johnson had an impressive physical size and presence that made you take him seriously. WWE positioned him as an on-air friend of Shawn Michaels to make him appear more likable to the audience, but his limitations ruined it. Johnson’s Intercontinental Championship reign was a disaster with awful in-ring work and incoherent promos that no one could understand. After the title reign flopped and Johnson moved down the card, the writing was on the wall and his time in WWE ended faster than anyone could have predicted.
WWE made a relevant Cruiserweight division in the early 2000s after purchasing WCW and the title would reach new highs on SmackDown during the brand split. Champions such as Rey Mysterio, Matt Hardy and Jamie Noble delivered must-see matches and created great stories to push the title. The division would flounder over the years and fall off the hill when Hornswoggle won the strap. WWE’s resident little person was popular for his comedic work with Finlay and getting involved in storylines as Vince McMahon’s long lost child, but he just wasn’t a wrestler. WWE had Hornswoggle win the Cruiserweight title in 2007. The company acknowledged this destroyed any credibility the title would have by eliminating the division altogether shortly after.
Was Chyna popular? Yes. Did Chyna deserve to be spotlighted for the success her character created for the WWE? Yes. The issue arises by how Chyna was used by being pushed as the first female Intercontinental Champion. Chyna was popular due to her act but she wasn't that great in the ring. There are many things you look back on from the Attitude Era that don't stand the test of time and Chyna is at the top of the list. Her matches were sloppy and many wrestlers hated working with her due to her lack of talent. Chyna would also have one of the worst Women’s Championship reigns, proving her weak skills flopped in both divisions.
1 The Great Khali
The absolute worst title reign in any division in WWE happened when The Great Khali became World Champion. As a one of a kind giant, WWE pushed the big man as an attraction and tried many times to elevate him as the next big heel. Khali’s accent and general marble mouthed nature meant he couldn’t speak on the microphone and his in-ring work was the worst in company history. An injury to Edge in 2007 forced WWE’s hand into giving Khali his sole reign with the World Championship and it was as bad as everyone feared. Khali won the vacated title in a battle royal and went on to have the worst two-month world title reign imaginable.