Prestigious though they all are, it should be obvious that not all wrestling titles are created equally. Within a given promotion, each championship needs to have it’s own meaning and level of acclaim, making wrestlers fight harder for some belts than others. Part of the distinction comes from pure promotion and superficial things like names—Vince McMahon said the World Championship was more important than the Intercontinental Championship, and it sounds bigger and better on first glance, so it must be the greater prize.
In addition to face value, the wrestlers who hold a given championship also go a long way in defining the caliber of athlete who would want to hold it again in the future. Belts held by countless incredible superstars would inspire their fans to try and follow in their footsteps, while some titles won a cadre of forgettable nobodies wouldn’t necessarily inspire such fervor regardless of how it gets promoted.
Aside from a belt’s inaugural champion and particularly special circumstances, it’s rare that one wrestler alone can make or break a title’s legacy. That said, certain superstars have genuinely been so bad that the mere fact they touched a piece of gold virtually made it poison to all others, no wanting to be associated with the stink of those who came before them. This can often kill a belt entirely, making fans quick to ignore the fact they ever existed. Keep reading to learn about 15 wrestlers you totally forgot ruined titles by winning them.
15. Orlando Jordan Ruined The WWE United States Championship
Technically speaking, the United States Championship has been around since the mid-1970s, and the truth is there have been plenty of undeserving men to hold the title in both WCW and WWE. Although not necessarily the worst of all, Orlando Jordan is nonetheless perhaps the least worthy US Champion in recent memories, winning the belt from John Cena of all people on a 2005 episode of SmackDown. At the time, Jordan was a lackey to Cabinet leader and WWE Champion John Bradshaw Layfield, which gave him a fairly high profile, but fans still saw him as an untrained rookie who wasn’t particularly talented. Jordan held the title for months on end without ever defending it in a good match, and the only solace to his reign was Chris Benoit beating him for the gold in 25 seconds. Of course, given Benoit’s later life choices, that part doesn’t really matter, so Jordan’s whole reign was pointless.
14. Jinder Mahal Ruined The WWE Championship
Okay, so the WWE Championship is already the most respected belt in all of wrestling once again now that Jinder Mahal has lost it to “The Phenomenal” AJ Styles, or at least that’s what the most optimistic fans have been saying. Reactionary as this entry may seen in light of this information, the mere fact a good wrestler is holding the title doesn’t undo the serious damage done by Mahal’s sudden victory and six month reign on top. Make no mistake about it, up until just a few weeks before his big win, Mahal was the definition of a jobber. He barely won a WWE match in over five years with the company, had moderate skills in the ring at best, couldn’t stand out on the microphone for the life of him, and was never viewed as a legitimate contender. Then, all of the sudden, he was the biggest name in WWE, all because Vince McMahon kinda sorta felt like it, or something. No matter who holds the belt next, there’s always a chance now that Vince will just give it to some random jobber instead for absolutely no reason, making it hard to celebrate all that much when someone gets it through hard work and dedication to the craft.
13. David Arquette Ruined The WCW World Championship
The rise and fall of WCW was a long and storied chapter in wrestling history, and pinning down the destruction of the company on just one moment is simplifying things a bit too much. That said, it’s nonetheless easily to point to the worst things WCW ever did to their own reputation, and at the top/bottom of the list would have to be giving Hollywood actor David Arquette the World Championship on a random episode of Thunder. In promotion of the upcoming film Ready to Rumble, Arquette was granted a title shot in a weird tag team match where his partner was current champion “Diamond” Dallas Page. The team defeated Jeff Jarrett and Eric Bischoff with Arquette getting the pin fall, making him the new champion and upsetting fans everywhere who were furious a non-wrestler got the belt. WCW management boasted the move got them on the cover of USA Today, but it turns out there’s bad publicity after all, as no one took the belt or the company seriously ever again.
12. The Outsiders Ruined The WCW Tag Team Championships
In all fairness to WCW, they really had no choice but to give The Outsiders the Tag Team Championships shortly after the formation of the New World Order. Just like Hollywood Hogan needed to win the WCW Championship to truly become the biggest bad guy in the business, his two main allies Scott Hall and Kevin Nash likewise had to prove they meant business and could easily take whatever they wanted, whether WCW liked it or not. Unfortunately, there was a huge, overlooked downside in that the duo would almost never have time to actually defend the belts during their year long first reign as champion. For the most part, Hall and Nash were both too busy appearing in singles main events against top superstars to ever slum in the tag division. Even when the Outsiders did step in the ring as an actual team, it was against opponents that had no chance, putting the nWo team so far above every other group in the company they just stopped defending them altogether for months. Fans quickly forgot about them from there, as did WCW bookers.
11. The Fabulous Moolah Ruined The WWE Women’s Championship
Despite what critics have said about her ego and business strategy, there’s no denying The Fabulous Moolah was in many respects the preeminent legend of women’s wrestling in WWE for several decades. Notwithstanding a few short days that have been written out of history anyway, Moolah reigned as Women’s Champion for 27 years, from late 1956 all the way to early 1984. Unfortunately, many critics would argue Moolah was a pretty horrible wrestler this entire time, single handedly ruining women’s chances in the sport by holding such a stranglehold over the industry. Even Moolah apologists who appreciate this stretch of her career would agree she definitely destroyed the belt all over again in 1999, when she made a shocking return and won the gold at age 76. There’s really no way to spin a genuine senior citizen beating women half her age without breaking in half.
10. Gillberg Ruined The WWE Light Heavyweight Championship
For as bad as they were, most of the champions on this list only earned the gold because some promoter thought they deserved it. Not so when Gillberg won the WWE Light Heavyweight Championship, as Da (little) Man’s sudden and shocking rise to the top was a pointed joke in the direction of WCW from day one. A blatant and, to be fair, pretty hilarious impression of the competition’s biggest star, Gillberg was a former jobber named Duane Gill who switched up his look by shaving his head and wearing plain black tights to match his source material. Despite weighing barely over 100 pounds, Gillberg also stole Goldberg’s move set, which again was funny, but it only confirmed he was a joke who shouldn’t be near any real gold. And yet, he won some in his first match, turning that title into a joke, as well. Tellingly, he barely defended it for the year he reigned as champion, and most people forgot the belt existed when he lost it on a random episode of the forgettable Sunday Night Heat.
9. Road Dogg Ruined The WWE Intercontinental Championship
Despite the incredible praise still lobbied upon the Attitude Era to this day, there were certain prevailing themes in that time period that traditionalist wrestling fans weren’t all too happy about. High on the list of these grievances was the fact once respected titles were bouncing around on an almost weekly basis, and none suffered worse than the WWE Intercontinental Championship. Few wrestlers held the belt for so much as a month’s time, and just about everyone on the roster was given a few cracks at it. Was Road Dogg necessarily the worst of all? Not really, as he was at least very popular and reasonably talented on the microphone. However, he was a tag team wrestler up to the day he won it, and went back to being such the minute he lost it, proving absolutely anyone could hold the gold at random for just a few days. Considering the Intercontinental title was one of the most respected belts in history until then, this was a huge degradation, and Road Dogg’s victory can’t be ignored as a huge negative turning point for the belt.
8. The Renegade Ruined The WCW Television Championship
Wrestling fans who didn’t start watching WCW until the Monday Night War era probably have no idea just how big a deal the Television Championship once was. While there were a few big name title holders and memorable feuds during that era, it was a far cry from the belt’s NWA origins in the ‘70s and ‘80s when it produced some of the best and most important matches on TV each week. Multiple weak champions started to lower the belt’s standing in the early ‘90s, and worst of all was the talentless Renegade. A blatant rip off of The Ultimate Warrior down to the fact WCW hyped him as “the ultimate surprise,” Renegade was doomed from the start as an inferior copy to an already questionable superstar. Audiences rejected him the second he debuted, they only got madder upon learning he had no idea what he was doing in the ring, and gave up entirely as he defeated the legendary Arn Anderson for the TV title. Understandably, they also gave up on WCW treating the gold with any respect ever again.
7. Justin Credible Ruined The ECW Championship
Far from the coolest and definitely not the best at anything, Justin Credible was one of the strangest mistakes Paul Heyman ever made as the owner of ECW. In all fairness to the guy, he wasn’t exactly talentless, performing just fine as Lance Storm’s partner in the Impact Players. Credible was a decent heel in the ring and on the mic, but the fact of the matter is that ECW fans absolutely never bought the guy on a main event level. His victory for the ECW Championship at Cyberslam over Tommy Dreamer came absolutely out of nowhere, and at no point in his 9 plus months with the gold did Credible justify why he deserved the sudden massive push. Week by week, fans started tuning out of Hardcore TV, bored by everything Credible did and feeling almost anyone else should have been champion instead.
6. Oklahoma Ruined The WCW Cruiserweight Championship
Of the many things wrong with WCW, it’s possible the issue that regularly infuriated fans the most was the detestable trend of people who weren’t wrestlers in any stretch of the word suddenly winning major championships. This list will get into some higher profile examples as it continues, but the first such example of this awful idea actually came in early January of 2000 with the Cruiserweight Championship. Once respected as the belt that promised the best matches in all of America, the Cruiserweight gold was already on a rapid downslide during this period, with questionable winners in Evan Karagias and Madusa. Worst of all though was definitely Oklahoma, an overweight writer doing a shockingly parody offensive of WWE legend Jim Ross, leaning heavily on JR’s bouts with Bell’s palsy. Oklahoma had no idea what he was doing in the ring, and by winning the title, shattered the meaning, purpose, and reputation it had once held in a heartbeat.
5. Mideon Ruined The WWE European Championship
Professional wrestling has forever been an industry that defies logic, like the seemingly impossible moment when Mideon both killed and revived the WWE European Championship at the exact same time. As far as the McMahon’s were concerned, the belt had pretty much been dead for months, with Shane-O-Mac himself defeating X-Pac for the gold in early 1999 and decided he never wanted to defend it. Months later, after Shane had pieced together the Corporate Ministry, his new lackey Mideon found the old chunk of gold in the boss’s belongings and asked if he could have it. Shane didn’t care, making Mideon ecstatic, albeit also cementing just how far the title had fallen—it was such a pointless prop that WWE management and its former owner both openly didn’t care about it. Throw in the fact Mideon was a weak wrestler with little charisma, unfit to bring the gold back to fame, and he shattered any chance the still nascent European Championship would ever truly matter.
4. Jim Duggan Ruined The WCW Television Championship (Again)
Everyone who follows wrestling knows WCW completely fell apart during the last few years it existed, and yet it’s still pretty impressive that they could combine all of the worst ideas on this list into one for a truly spectacular example of destroying a title’s reputation. The WCW TV Championship was already dead and buried twice over, first due to The Renegade and other terrible wrestlers holding the gold, and then literally thrown in a trash can by an uncaring Scott Hall. Months later, the once legendary and now senile wrestler-turned-WCW janitor “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan discovered the gold in some other random waste bin, and decided this gave him the right to start defending it. It’s not like he could really re-kill a belt fans had already stopped caring about years ago, but Duggan’s reign nonetheless was so outrageously bad it retroactively made all reigns the title ever experienced feel pointless in retrospect.
3. The Great Khali Ruined The World Heavyweight Championship
Every time a reigning champion is injured, WWE needs to act fast in crowning a new face to revolve the company around. This is especially true when the World Heavyweight title is up for grabs, as was the case in July of 2007 when former champion Edge was legitimately sidelined with a serious pectoral injury, forcing him to give up the belt. WWE reasonably held a 20-man battle royal to name a new champ, but they made a big mistake in deciding the slow, plodding, uncoordinated monster The Great Khali should be the winner. At no point in Khali’s long career have fans bought him as a true main eventer, thinking his massive size was irrelevant in the face his complete lack of charisma and lackluster in-ring skills. The World Heavyweight Championship always seemed secondary to the WWE Champion from the start, and making a total dud like Khali the champ powerfully cemented this status forever.
2. Larry Zbyszko Ruined The AWA World Championship
All of the champions on this list were bad in one way or another, but only one of them directly caused a wrestling promotion that was once one of the biggest in America to collapse around him. Granted, by the time Larry Zbyszko won the AWA World Championship in 1989, the company was already in dire straights. Former champion Jerry Lawler had left town leaving the belt vacant, and Zbyszko won it in a battle royal shortly thereafter. The problem is that Zbyszko hadn’t been seen as a big deal in about a decade, only selected as champion because he was AWA owner Verne Gagne’s son-in-law. There were no viable contenders for Zbyszko’s gold, either, making him an undeserving champion who largely defended against jobbers no one cared about. There wasn’t any saving the AWA at this point, but rather than someone to save the promotion, Zbyszko was just another nail in the coffin.
1. Vince Russo Ruined The WCW World Championship (Again)
Not that it particularly mattered anymore after having given the Big Gold Belt to Hollywood actor David Arquette, but leave it to good old Vince Russo to find a way to drag the most respected title in wrestling even further through the mud mere months after insiders said it couldn’t possibly ever get any lower. What could possibly be worse than a completely untrained outsider who didn’t look the part whatsoever suddenly becoming WCW World Champion on the whim of a pretentious and self-obsessed writer? How about that same writer giving the 20 pounds of gold to himself, defeating a wrestler who he was allegedly giving his biggest break. If nothing else, it could at least be said that David Arquette was moderately famous and did indeed give WCW some publicity. There was no such benefit to Russo winning the title, as it only served his own ego, giving the belt a disgusting sheen on top of its already pointless status.
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