Throughout the history of professional wrestling there has of course been hundreds, if not thousands, of different champions. World Champions. United States Champions. Men and women. A countless number of Superstars who have had the privilege of holding one belt or another while in the ring. With numbers like that it’s pretty understandable that not all of the lucky men and women to win gold have exactly been deserving of their championships. Some of those champions have even done damage or a disservice to the belts they’ve held.
There are certain periods in wrestling history that have featured more undeserving champions than others. Back during the 1980s when title belts weren’t treated like hot potatoes, like they would begin to be during the latter half of the following decade, there’s an argument to be made that every champion deserved and earned the championships they held. Enter the Attitude Era, the demise of WCW and the years that followed, the pro wrestling business began to become riddled with people who were given title runs just for the hell of it. There are also certain championships that have suffered this fate more than others. As you work through the upcoming thirty entries in this list, the more seasoned wrestling fans among you will not be surprised at the amount of times the World Heavyweight Championship shows its big gold face. Both WCW and WWE played big parts in turning that once great title into one that meant almost nothing. Settle in and enjoy discovering where these thirty undeserving champions are today.
31 Jack Swagger
Let’s start this mammoth list off with a World Champion, Jack Swagger. A man with an incredibly impressive amateur wrestling background so really should have been a shoe in for a top slot in WWE. Unfortunately for Jack it never happened. Swagger won the World Heavyweight Championship in 2010 but by that time the once prestigious belt had been incredibly watered down and being in possession of it didn’t mean much at all. After holding it The Real American gradually slipped down the roster until his eventual release from WWE in 2017. He now wrestles on the independent circuit and will be a part of Tommy Dreamer’s House of Hardcore promotion when they tour Australia.
For a guy that never really had the backing of the fans, whether it was in WWE or WCW, Sid certainly had an awful lot of top title reigns throughout the bulk of his career. He can even boast being WWE and WCW Champion on separate and multiple occasions. His first run as WWE Champion was very much overshadowed by other younger talents who were on the up and up such as Shawn Michaels and Stone Cold Steve Austin. Those stars were the ones WWE would end up pushing forward with and in hindsight that was evident before WWE had perhaps even realized it themselves as they continued to push Sid. Despite retiring from the business in 2001, Sid actually returned to WWE for a match with Heath Slater in 2012. He also appeared on Celebrity Big Brother that same year in support of his son who was on the show that season.
29 The Mountie
This lengthy list is not all about the business’s worst World Champions per se, which brings us swiftly on to our next entry, The Mountie. The Mountie was exactly what he sounds like, a wrestler whose gimmick was being a member of the Canadian Mounted Police Force. Despite the terrible gimmick, at a time during the ‘90s when that kind of thing was common place in WWE, Mountie actually managed to win the Intercontinental Championship at one point, and from Bret Hart no less! The reign only lasted two days and was the shortest in the belt’s history at the time. Nowadays the man behind The Mountie, Jacques Rougeau, is a public speaker and runs his own wrestling school.
28 Kelly Kelly
Yes I’m afraid even the females of the wrestling business are not exempt from making this list. Kelly Kelly joined the WWE to be made a part of the company’s failed reboot of the ECW brand. She was nineteen at the time and couldn’t wrestle. Because of that WWE thought they’d have her be a dancer instead. Well turns out she wasn’t a great dancer either so what did WWE do in that instance? Give up right? No, they had her strip. Kelly actually did do some wrestling despite her lack of in ring ability and not only that, she became Divas’ Champion at one point also. Kelly is now an ambassador for WWE and very recently has expressed an interest in returning to the ring.
I feel a little bit bad for this entry on the list, and it won’t be the only time that happens in this article. I’m a big fan of 90% of Christian’s career. His time with Edge and even his mid card work as a singles star. Giving Captain Charisma the World Heavyweight Championship though, not a great move. I understand it since Christian had pretty much done everything else there was to do in WWE, but that alone shouldn’t have been reason to crown him World Champion. It also didn’t help that the big gold belt wasn’t exactly a big deal by this point. It hasn’t hindered Christian’s post wrestling career however. He still works closely with WWE as he and Edge have their own show on the WWE Network, plus the pair have also just started their own podcast too.
26 The Spirit Squad
Like The Mountie, there were plenty of terrible gimmicks in WWE and wrestling in general throughout the ‘90s. Clearly Vince McMahon didn’t completely learn his lesson though as ten years later, The Spirit Squad were born. A group of male cheerleaders that attempted to take WWE by storm. In a way they succeeded and actually won Monday night’s Tag Team Championships. In a much bigger way they did not succeed as they really shouldn’t have been the brand’s champions and today Dolph Ziggler is the only man left with a WWE contract. Fellow Squad member Kenny is still a wrestler though and along with Mikey returned to WWE under The Spirit Squad gimmick for a short time in 2016.
While Kelly Kelly was a WWE hire that came at the tail end of the company hiring women based on looks alone, the acquisition of Debra was one of the females who signalled the very beginning of it. She initially began her time in the business as a valet to Jeff Jarrett but lucky for her, didn’t need to be able to wrestle to slot right into the women’s roster at the time. It was a far cry from the incredible performers we’re treated to today. Not only was she granted the opportunity to compete, but she actually spent some time as WWE Women’s Champion. The fact that she won it in an Evening Gown match should tell you all you need to know about her reign. After leaving the business in 2002 the only time she has really stepped back into it was as an interviewee discussing the double murder suicide of Chris Benoit, discussing the role steroids played and how they led to the domestic abuse between her and ex husband Steve Austin in 2002.
24 Jeff Jarrett
Jeff Jarrett is really not a very good wrestler. Being the son of the famous Jerry Jarrett however has made him a pretty decent wrestling promoter. That’s the only explanation I can come up with for the sheer amount of titles Double J has managed to rack up over the course of his career. It’s certainly why he was TNA World Heavyweight Champion near the beginning of the promotion’s existence. Despite leaving the company after failing to make it a juggernaut that could compete with WWE, he and Zeb Colter have actually returned to TNA, now Impact Wrestling, to help steady the ship and give it another go. Jeff also still runs his other promotion Global Force Wrestling.
23 Curtis Axel
The Intercontinental and United States Championships have had somewhat of a tumultuous time in recent years. Both extremely highly sought after titles in their time that have been awarded to Superstars that didn’t necessarily deserve them and had their credit reduced in the process. Curtis Axel was one of those Superstars when he laid claim to the first of those two titles mentioned. It actually could have been a launching pad for Axel if WWE had booked it right, but alas they did not and damage was done to both the belt and its holder. It will most likely be the high point of Curtis’ career despite its failure to help further it. And even though he is currently still signed to WWE, I’m struggling to think of the last time he was on television.
Debra made an appearance earlier in this list, so it’s only fair that the woman she took the Women’s Championship from in that Evening Gown Match is also featured. Sable was the epitome of what WWE wanted from their women at the time, and the ten years that followed. Sable made appearances in Playboy magazine, something WWE flaunted at the time rather than frowned upon it like they would do nowadays, and without beating around the bush couldn’t wrestle. Like Debra and Kelly Kelly she didn’t let that hold her back though becoming only the second Women’s Champion after the company brought the title back. She no longer wrestles and is actually married to current Universal Champion Brock Lesnar. The couple have two children together.
Sheamus has had a fair few runs with a World Championship in WWE, five of them in fact up until this point. In all fairness to The Celtic Warrior not all of them have been disasters. The latest, and hopefully last, of those five however was not a great or thankfully memorable time. In 2015 the Irishman won the annual Money in the Bank match which left a lot of us scratching our heads. We hoped that he’d cash it in and be one of the few to not win the title on the back of it. He was not and even though he took the title from a not-so-popular Roman Reigns, it still wasn’t a great move and it did not last long. Sheamus is still under the employ of WWE and is enjoying a run much more his speed as half of a tag team with Cesaro.
19 Marc Mero
Sable actually broke into the business thanks to her then partner, Marc Mero. Marc enjoyed some deserved success while in WCW, holding the company’s Television Championship. When he broke in to WWE however he did not fair so well. Thanks to he and Sable’s real life relationship, WWE placed them together on screen. With the nature of the product at the time all of the fans’ attention honed in on Mero’s valet and girlfriend Sable rather than him. WWE’s misguided awarding of the Intercontinental Championship to Marc only did damage to the belt rather than raise his stock. Since wrestling, Mero has founded his own non profit organization called Champion of Choices which is where most of his focus goes today.
18 Rob Van Dam
Rob Van Dam does not find himself on this list for the time he spent as ECW Champion. Nor Intercontinental Champion, Hardcore Champion or most of the other titles he has held, which has been a lot in his decorated career. The time he let himself down as well as WWE and the fans was the short time he spent as WWE Champion. It would have been a longer time that wouldn’t have warranted a place on this list had Rob not lost the title thanks to being caught by the police with drugs in his possession and thus violating WWE’s Wellness Policy. RVD still wrestles today on the independent circuit. As recently as 2016 he was still winning titles, defeating Pentagon Jr for the Pacific Coast Wrestling Heavyweight Championship.
17 Dean Douglas
Don’t have the foggiest idea who Dean Douglas is? Don’t feel bad. It’s actually former ECW Champion Shane Douglas, his name was changed to Dean for his short stay in WWE in 1995. Considering the success Douglas enjoyed in ECW it seemed a given that he would do well in WWE. On the contrary, Vince McMahon slapped him with a teacher gimmick and the rest was history. Shane may have the unwanted label of being the most forgettable Intercontinental Champion of all time. He claimed the belt after it was vacated by Shawn Michaels, only to lose it again to Razor Ramon eleven minutes later. Douglas is currently one of many wrestlers involved in a lawsuit against WWE claiming for long term injuries incurred while under their employ.
16 The Kat
Miss Kitty, or The Kat was the WWE Women’s Champion, and I know that I’m dealing a certain period of Women’s wrestling somewhat of a hammering in this article but I’m afraid it’s very much a beating WWE in particular deserves. The company simply refused to take their female talent seriously for a number of years. Women were hired for looks alone and based on that the company should never have brought back its Women’s Championship, not at that time anyway. The Kat was just one in a long line of women who didn’t deserve a wrestling title. Today she goes by her real name Stacy Carter and is actually married to Marty Janetty.
15 Dolph Ziggler
It really does pain me that I feel the need to include Dolph Ziggler on this list. I watched WWE at a time not so long ago when we as fans were clamoring to see The Show Off win his first World Championship. The initial reaction to him finally being crowned World champ was fantastic, but it was all downhill from there. Ziggler was sadly one of the culprits, along with Jack Swagger, who contributed to the watering down of that once prestigious big gold belt. Since being a World Champion Ziggler has slipped back down to the mid card and that’s clearly where he deserves to be. I’ve no qualms whatsoever with him being the United States Champion sometime soon as he of course still wrestles with WWE today.
14 Vladimir Kozlov
There was a time in WWE when Vladimir Kozlov was being ear marked for a world title run and a match with The Undertaker at WrestleMania. Scary right? Luckily the only gold Vladimir managed to get his hands on while under WWE’s employ was a tag team belt, and even that was too much in my eyes. Recalling the likes of Kozlov and Santino Marella holding the Tag Team Championships answers the question as to why tag team wrestling is in the state that it is today considering its rich history in days gone by. Kozlov is now retired from pro wrestling but continues to work as a stunt man. He’s also the Vice President of a company called Quasar Entertainment.
13 Scott Steiner
A couple of entries so far on this list have detailed the demise of the World Heavyweight Championship towards the end of its tenure in WWE. Truth be told it actually went through somewhat of a bad patch during the final days of WCW when it was the company’s main title. Safe to say there will be a few entries coming up from that period of time and here’s the first, Scott Steiner. Steiner spent the majority of his career before that as a tag team wrestler with his brother and that’s really where he thrived and should have stayed. Despite that though he actually continues to wrestle to this day and has only recently returned to TNA.
Maryse made a return to WWE last year and ever since has acted as a valet to her real life husband, The Miz. Many questioned why the former in ring competitor wasn’t returning to do exactly that, compete in the ring. Well at WrestleMania 33 she answered those queries by giving a lacklustre performance in a mixed tag match with her husband, John Cena and Nikki Bella. Before Maryse left a few years ago that underwhelming wrestling ability would fly, in fact she even enjoyed a reign as Diva’s Champion which is why she features on this list, however since then the women’s division has changed and now contains some females with incredible wrestling ability. It’ll be more ringside action for Maryse going forward it seems.
11 John Bradshaw Layfield
Jinder Mahal is currently a part of the WWE Championship scene on SmackDown Live. Time and time again I keep hearing his placement there compared to when John Bradshaw Layfield was inserted into the title scene in the mid 2000s, and he ended up becoming WWE Champion. He’s actually credited with being one of the worst drawing champions of all time, not the very worst however, we’ll get to that. Off the top of my head I can’t think of a Superstar who had two very different gimmicks like JBL yet the one that was a million miles less popular was the one that earned him a WWE Championship reign. JBL is of course still with the company to this day and is an announcer on Tuesday nights for SmackDown Live.
Writing this article has really opened my eyes to how much of a downturn the prestige of the Intercontinental Championship has taken in the modern era. For the most part it was a gateway title for younger talents before they went on to become a WWE Champion and was coveted by everyone coming into the business. Nowadays it’s anything but that and is sometimes forgotten about completely. We’ve already covered Curtis Axel and his one time tag team partner also undeservedly held the belt. He was another Superstar who expected the title to make him rather than vice versa and only lowered its stock even further. Ryback famously became disillusioned with WWE not so long ago and like a fair few others recently is attempting to ply his trade on the independent circuit.
Heidenreich’s entry on this list will be almost a mirror image of Vladimir Kozlov’s. WWE had big plans for the Superstar such as making him a World Champion and he similarly did battle with The Undertaker. It soon became clear though that Heidenreich was not World Champion material. Again like Kozlov, that didn’t stop WWE throwing a tag team title run his way. At least his partner was better than Santino, Road Warrior Animal. Saying that in some ways that made this title run even worse. Not only did Heidenreich sully the good name of the Tag Team Campionships but also the legendary Road Warriors in the process. The present day is not a happy one for Heidenreich. He is another Superstar involved in the ongoing lawsuit against WWE and cites them as being responsible for his depression.
8 Orlando Jordan
One Championship that has managed to somewhat avoid my gaze up until this point in this article is the United States Championship. A title whose inaugural holder was Harley Race and has been lifted by any number of WWE Hall of Famers since then. As you will have already guessed by its inclusion here, it hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows for the US title. During the Ruthless Aggression Era the stars and stripes clad belt was held by one Orlando Jordan. Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of him. In my eyes a belt with the history of the US title should not be handed out willy nilly. Not only that but Jordan defeated John Cena to win the belt. Jordan continues to work on the independent circuit and was with TNA for a while following WWE.
7 Ezekiel Jackson
Ezekiel Jackson is another undeserving name who held the Intercontinental Championship. That’s not why he’s on this list however. WWE unsuccessfully relaunched ECW between 2006 and 2010 and the relatively unknown Jackson will forever be known, unless WWE makes the extremely poor decision to bring ECW back once again, as the last ever ECW Champion. I know hardcore ECW fans will not consider anyone who held the belt during those four years as a legitimate champion of the extreme brand but still, Ezekiel being ECW’s final champion is just not okay. Since 2015 Jackson has wrestled on the independent circuit and has enjoyed some success performing for the German company wXw.
6 David Flair
When WCW signed David Flair I’m sure they had visions of him wearing that big gold belt just like his father had a record sixteen times. Sadly it did not take long for it to become apparent that dream would never, ever become a reality. The new Flair was not only below World Championship quality, he shouldn’t have really been wrestling at all. Yet that didn’t stop WCW having their own try and demeaning the United States Championship by putting it on David’s shoulder. David is now married and resides in his home state of North Carolina. He and his wife run and own a business named the Seal Wire Company which is exactly what it sounds like, a company that deals in copper wire.
5 Alundra Blayze
The highest ranking woman on this list is WWE Hall of Famer, Alundra Blayze. Those of you who know the story that makes Blayze famous will understand why she's featured even though she’s by far the best female wrestler on this list. Despite that fact Alundra did more damage to the WWE Women’s Championship than all of the others put together. During the Monday Night War between WWE and WCW, Blayze left the former and made her way to the latter without telling Vince McMahon while still Women’s Champion. In the ultimate act of disrespect when she arrived on Nitro her first action was to throw the title in the bin on live TV. Blayze may have the most interesting ‘Where are they now?’ part of this whole article as she actually races monster trucks competitively now that she’s done with wrestling.
4 Vince Russo
A little earlier in this article I discussed the dying days of WCW and the damage they did to the once renowned World Heavyweight Championship. This one in particular is a doozey in that regard and spoiler alert, it’s not even the highest ranking entry from that era. Outspoken writer Vince Russo helped run WCW into the ground and at one point the New Yorker even had the gall to put the big gold belt around his own waist by defeating Booker T in a cage match. A week later Vince decided he didn’t want the belt and Booker won it back after defeating Jeff Jarrett. Russo is still as outspoken as ever and currently puts most of his time into his podcast The Brand.
3 Kevin Nash
A few entries ago I mentioned that while JBL was a very poor draw as WWE Champion, he was not the worst. That very much unwanted title goes to WWE Hall of Famer, Kevin Nash. When Nash portrayed his Diesel character in the early ‘90s he enjoyed his one and only WWE title reign, although to say he enjoyed it might be an over statement. The crowds and the ratings while Nash was champ were pretty small to say the least, yet Vince McMahon persevered and kept the gold on Kevin for a full year. Nash went on to bigger and better things of course and nowadays still does work outside of the ring for WWE as well as focusing on his pretty successful acting career, his biggest role being in Magic Mike.
2 The Great Khali
The WWE run of the World Heavyweight Championship has featured frequently on this list. There is perhaps nobody in WWE who did it more of a discredit than The Great Khali. Vince McMahon was clearly blinded by Khali’s gigantic size as well as his appeal to a previously untapped mass audience in India. Even that cocktail shouldn’t have equalled Khali ever being WWE’s World Champion. His wrestling ability was poor, even for a man his size, and the language barrier meant his promo skills were almost non-existent. Despite his poor performances in the ring for WWE, Khali now runs his own wrestling school in Punjab, India and has done for over two years now. It’s called Continental Wrestling Entertainment and they run their own shows.
1 David Arquette
Those of you reading this who already know about this infamous reign will undoubtedly be feeling your blood begin to boil as you reminisce. Those of you reading this that don’t know about this, you’re eyes are not deceiving you. The actor David Arquette once won the WCW World Heavyweight Championship during those dark, final days that I’ve had to refer back to so often during this mammoth list. As if Russo putting it on himself wasn’t bad enough, earlier that same year the company put the big gold belt on an actor simply playing wrestler because he could. It was a convoluted situation that saw Arquette pin Bischoff in order to win the title from DDP. It still makes fans angry today when you consider the great names throughout history who never won a World Championship. Arquette continues to act nowadays and thankfully stays well away from any wrestling rings.