Every wrestling fan knows that to be the Man, you have to beat the Man. But the person who books you to be the Man isn't just giving you his promotion’s heavyweight championship, he's giving you the ball. He's telling you for all your hard work, here's the richest prize in the industry. The Man can't just rest on his laurels, he has to work even harder now; show the world that he's deserving of the spot he's been given and take the industry to the next level. Not every champion accomplishes that feat and the man in charge, in this case Vince, is sitting there with egg on his face, wondering why he pulled the trigger on a certain star. At that point, it's also easy to second guess and wonder what things would be like if someone else was crowned champ.
Hulk, Bret, Shawn, Austin. They all did it. Triple H, Foley, and The Rock too. AJ Styles is doing it right now. Plenty of people have grabbed that brass ring and raised the bar from which it hung. But for some superstars, when it was their chance, they floundered. Whether it be personal troubles outside of the ring, or they could not get over as the Man. Something just didn't click. Some guys were more than deserving, but never were able to get the elusive title.
Here are 10 World Champions Vince Wishes He Never Crowned And 10 He Wishes He Did.
20 Wishes He Didn't - Jack Swagger
By all accounts, Jack Swagger should have been the second coming of Kurt Angle. Swagger was a big country boy from Oklahoma. An amateur star, and really great in the ring. He didn't have Angle’s (no pun intended) swagger however. But his skill still landed him opportunities.
Those opportunities led him to winning Money In The Bank and subsequently the WWE title. But in-ring skill and the Swagger Soaring Eagle were not going to be enough to show Swagger had charisma.
Several years later, Zeb Coulter wasn't able to help Swagger out either.
Getting arrested for possession when he was about to get another chance didn't do him and favors either.
19 Wishes He Did - Mr. Perfect
In the pantheon of great wrestlers never had the chance to run with the WWE’s richest prize, Mr. Perfect’s name is generally on top of everyone's list. Never before (or possibly since) has a gimmick and a man been so perfectly matched - pun intended.
For some of the guys on this list, no matter how much heat they garnered, they either didn't need the title or worked in WWE when it was a babyface territory. Curt Hennig had both of these working against him. He was just too good and way too over to need the strap and, in his heyday, Hulkamania was running wild.
18 Wishes He Didn't - Alberto Del Rio
The hype surrounding Alberto Del Rio was pretty huge. He's a huge star that company was building up to be a spin on the Million Dollar Man. In the ring and on the mic, he had every gift a wrestler could hope to have. But for some reason something wasn't clicking. Not when he won the 40 Man Royal Rumble and not when he successfully cashed in his Money In The Bank and not when he again won the world title, either.
Something just wasn't working with Del Rio and Vince seemingly pulled back on the train and pushed him back down the card.
Then, much like others on this list, his own problems got in his way, and Del Rio no longer was leader potential and El Patron is not remembered for his championship run.
17 Wishes He Did - Razor Ramon
While he is known much more for his run in WCW as one of the founding members of the nWo. But that fame would have never happened if not for his WWE run as Razor Ramon. He was dripping with machismo and gold chains, so why not add the WWE title to that list of gold?
The former four-time Intercontinental Champion was always pushed as either the number two or three heel or baby face during his time in the company, but the big winged eagle belt always eluded the Bad Guy. He would head for WCW and the rest was history. But almost certainly if he stayed, Razor would have been big champion heading into the Attitude Era.
16 Wishes He Didn't - CM Punk
“I wanna be top guy! I was a top guy in Ring Of Honor. I want to be a top guy. The crowd loves me. I deserve to be a top guy. You're not going to make me the top guy. Ok, my contracts up and I'm going to leave. Oh, you're going to make me the top guy now. Yay, I'm the top guy! Finally! Wait, I have to work like a dog to be the top guy?! I thought Hulk, Rock, Austin, and Cena just did that stuff because they liked to. You expect me to work 24/7 as the top guy?”
“Oh my back hurts. I'm quitting. By Felicia.”
Philip Brooks might have had the drive at one point to be the Man. He believed he wasn't being treated fairly. Right, wrong or indifferent, he walked out on his job, with no notice. Do you really think Vince wants anyone to remember that one point CM Punk was the guy?
15 Wishes He Did - Rowdy Roddy Piper
Plenty of people believe that Rowdy Roddy Piper was the best on the microphone ever. Heel, babyface, Piper’s Pit, in the ring - you name the place and put Hot Rod in the middle of it and he was a heat-seeking missile. In the ring he would back it up and never took a night off.
He was one of the few superstars that truly didn't need a title.
But with all of that bravado, Roddy was everywhere during the rock and wrestling expansion. What if he was everywhere with the WWE title? While it was driven by Hulk Hogan, it'd be interesting to see what would have happened if the Hulk had to chase Roddy for the gold at least one time.
14 Wishes He Didn't - Goldberg
Back in 2003, when the familiar gladiator march that heralded Goldberg’s arrival in WWE, the fans went berserk. But the backstage drama of trying to get Bill acclimated to how WWE does things has since been well documented and the pushback of Vince not wanting to book the guy as the unstoppable monster that WCW was a head scratcher to the fans.
When he defeated Triple H at Unforgiven, winning the World Title, it just seemed like an afterthought (of course he's the champ, he's Goldberg), instead of the big-time moment it was supposed to be. Considering how poorly he felt about his time in WWE during this era, he probably shouldn't have won the title.
13 Wishes He Did - Vader
Even know nearly 20 years after he was done actively wrestling, Vader remains atop the heap as one of the greatest super heavyweights ever. Everywhere he went, crowds of all kinds marveled at the Mastodon and what he could do in the ring. It's a shame he never got to run with the WWE title.
That's not for lack of Vince McMahon trying. He was booked to face and defeat Shawn Michaels at Survivor Series 1996. But a young prima donna HBK prevented the momentous occasion, thanks to the events of SummerSlam 1996. Check the match out on the Network - he's screaming at Vader for a good portion of the match.
12 Wishes He Didn't - Rob Van Dam
If one night can put an asterisk on your entire WWE run, almost invalidating it - then you might be RVD. Rob Van Dam was arguably the greatest wrestler in North America during the mid-late nineties. But in ECW, he didn't have the national exposure that he needed.
Once in WWE, he exploded and showed off every bit what ECW faithful already knew.
He would main event and win the ECW title at One Night Stand 2006, also winning the WWE title in the process too. Then he got into some legal trouble, leaving Vince no choice but to strip him of the company's top prize. Vince unfortunately never got the confidence to feature RVD again prominently.
11 Wishes He Did - Rick Rude
Rick Rude was a wrestler who should've been a world champion in any promotion he stepped into. He had the look, he had the charisma and he could go in the ring. Unfortunately he came to WWE around a time where it was all about Hogan, and eventually The Ultimate Warrior became Vince's pet project. There was very little room for any other star to hold the gold in Rude's WWE tenure. Eventually he would go to WCW where he would get a brief run on top before a back injury essentially ended his in-ring career. It was all just bad timing for Rude.
10 Wishes He Didn't - Rey Mysterio
Fact - after El Santo and Mil Mascaras, the most famous Luchador in all of wrestling is Rey Mysterio. Another fact is that Vince McMahon always wanted his own type of Mighty Mouse character, defying the odds always working and fighting from underneath.
That doesn't mean that Rey was ever meant to actually capture the World Championship. Plenty of fans and some insiders to this day, nearly ten years later still think he was only given a run with the gold because Eddie Guerrero passed away. That has never been confirmed or denied, but Rey winning the title when he did was definitely not in the plans.
9 Wishes He Did - Lex Luger
The push to place Lex Luger atop the wrestling world was completely unreal at the time. You could compare it to the early push to place Roman Reigns on the same hill. Both men were the apple of Vince McMahon’s eye. Both men were at one point accepted by the fans. But the fans wanted other men more. In 2014, the fans wanted Daniel Bryan.
For Lex, it was partly because of the white-hot Bret Hart. But according to stories, he wasn't buying into the Lex Express deal. Instead of actually living on the tour bus, he'd head off to a hotel for the night. He'd make appearances when required but not the kind of random appearances that driving cross-country on a bus would have seen. That lack of passion and dedication is what did Luger in.
8 Wishes He Didn't - Finn Balor
When NXT superstar Finn Balor was drafted to Raw, it marked a shift in how WWE will utilize developmental call-ups moving forward. It was a big deal. Then an errant buckle-bomb ruined the whole ordeal. The hype surrounding Balor and the mystique behind The Demon was gone.
When Finn came back a little more than six months later, any good faith Vince had presented him was completely gone.
The announcers may or may not be instructed to mention that Finn was the first ever Universal Champion, but it's clear the boss has no interest in investing in Balor Club stock.
7 Wishes He Did - Ken Shamrock
Before seemingly every MMA fighter decided to trade in the octagon and bare feet for the squared circle and boots, there was just Ken Shamrock and Dan Severn. Don't let Severn read this, but the guy had less charisma than mayonnaise, so Shamrock got to shine.
He was super over and had super babyface fire and would have made a fine champion. He actually was a name Bret suggested to job out to prior to Montreal. But as charismatic as Shamrock was, he wasn't holding a candle to names like Mankind, Rock, or Austin. In another era, Shamrock would reign for years. But during the Attitude Era, you needed an extra spark, which was something Shamrock didn't have on the stick.
6 Wishes He Didn't - Jinder Mahal
The backlash to this decision was not real heat, it was head-scratching “really?” kind of heat. But in the spirit of needing fresh names at the top of the card, Jinder Mahal became the WWE World Champion. Jinder wasn't a bad champion at all and he did try to up his game immensely.
But you can't keep a guy as a floundering funny jobber and expect fans to believe him as the man, just because you decide on a whim that he should be champion. Mahal might have improved his look, but his in-ring game wasn't winning a lot of people over.
5 Wishes He Did - Owen Hart
Even Bret Hart would agree that the best the family had to offer in the ring was Owen. At one point the WWE thought so too, there are un-doctored, pre-photoshop pictures of the King Of Harts holding the winged eagle title of the mid-90s. But it wasn't Owen’s time yet.
Owen wasn't far away, as he was always a top heel. He decided to stay after Montreal and Vince McMahon has always rewarded loyalty. Owen would have certainly gotten the gold if not during the Rocket / King Of Harts phase, then certainly during the Black Hart phase. A world title reign really would've cemented Owen's legacy as one of the greats of his era.
4 Wishes He Didn't - Brock Lesnar (2017-2018)
Brock came back to WWE the day after WrestleMania XXVIII and has been on a cushy schedule ever since. While every wrestler has been grinding day in, day out, Brock got to twiddle his thumbs.
Trying to bring prominence to the Universal Title by only featuring it sparingly, he booked Brock to be the champ for over a year.
The strategy backfired. Fans weren't excited to see Brock. When they were, we got barely any ring time out of him in supposedly high-profile matches. But when it became apparent that excitement for and from The Beast waned, it simply become a storyline to get the belt off him by calling own dedication into question.
3 Wishes He Did - Ahmed Johnson
Vince McMahon loves the big strong guys like Ahmed Johnson. Now say that in your best Vince impression - “look at Ahmed Johnson, the big guy!” Now that you're in the mood for feeling some Vince love for such a poor worker, remember that Ahmed Johnson for a time was over. Being over doesn't always mean being a good worker.
That being said, having the wrong attitude certainly isn't going to help you on your rise to glory, which is what Ahmed had. When that is matched with sloppy ring work, any grandiose plans Vince McMahon might have for you are put to a halt.
2 Wishes He Didn't - Diesel
You could certainly see why Vince would want to crown someone like Kevin Nash as his champion. Nash was seven feet tall and had the look Vince always wanted his champions to have. But when Diesel was made champion in late 1994, he was not ready to be a babyface champion. He would've worked a lot better gaining steam as a heel. Through much of 1995, Vince kept the title on Diesel and it proved to be one of WWE's worst financial years of all time.
The company would've been far better off with someone like The Undertaker or even Bret Hart holding onto the belt for much of the year, until someone like Shawn Michaels was ready for it.
1 Wishes He Did - Jake The Snake Roberts
The best wrestlers are able to connect with the WWE Universe on either side of the aisle - heel or babyface. Jake the Snake was one of the few during the late 80s and early 90s who pulled off those feats. He didn't even have to change his character that much. All the Hall Of Famer did was change who he was feud with.
While Jake as champion would have worked wonders and been a memorable champion, he also was in his heyday during the Hogan era and big man era. Jake wasn’t Hogan and Jake wasn’t a big man. So a run with the gold wasn’t in the cards.