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Michael Burnside

The Men who were never world champion

Rating: 4 votes, 4.00 average.

Alternative Universe 11

It’s a strange thing when you list the titles and championships won by a wrestler. Strange in the way that the reason they won them was not because they necessary were stronger, faster or better than their predecessor, but rather that somebody scripted it for them to win.

Maybe a better comparison to being world champion is like winning an Academy Award. While somebody decided to make you a winner/champion/holder of the gold, it’s because they think you’re doing something right. Also, even being an Academy nominee is still an honour as well. Of course, you’ll not be remembered as well as the winners but you’re still up there.
So, after that (possibly bizarre) comparison, which wrestlers are the nominees who could, would and should have been heavy weight WWF champions…?

The men who were never world champions?*

(*In WWF/WWE only and for the sake of argument we’ll take both the WWF Heavyweight and the World as equal, and we’ll not count the ECW title)

Rowdy Roddy Piper.

The fearless Scotsman with a blatant Canadian accent. Piper was one of Hogan’s earliest rivals during the start of the Hulkamania craze and was even the big bad guy in Hulk’s Saturday morning cartoon. The very first Wrestlemania in the main event was Piper along with Paul Orndorff (another non WWF champ who could of..) against Hogan and Mr T (with pop sensation Cyndi Lauper involved as well).
Piper had excellent skills on the mic; his wrestling show ‘Piper’s Pit’ was proof of that. But a guy like Piper, people can only boo for so long until they begin to cheer and that’s what happened. Piper would have his ‘retirement’ match at Wrestlemania III against Adrian Adonis but would return after making a few movies. Although Piper would eventually hold the Intercontential title a few years later, and aside from a short feud against Ric Flair, he never really got near the top title in WWF again.
If the WWF back then had the amount of PPVs and the kind of television it does now, then without a doubt Piper would have had a short reign or two, before losing the title back to the Hulkster.

Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase

Now this is a man who did hold the title. Well kinda. For a few days at least. An interesting story were evil millionaire Dibiase attempted to buy the WWF title. Which he did after Andre ‘pinned’ Hogan for the three count. After winning the title, Andre handed it over to Diabise. It was several days before WWF president Jack Tunny announced that Dibiase’s reign was invalid and the title was declared vacant (Andre’s short 5 minute reign was still recognised). However in the days of Dibiase holding the title, he did appeared on a few shows, announced as the WWF champion in tag matches with Andre against Hogan and Bam Bam Bigelow. Footage of WWF champion Ted Dibiase is out there on dailymotion and youtube if you search hard enough.
Nowadays, it’s not overly unusual in storylines for titles to be handed to people. Jeff Jarrett gave the European title to Mark Henry, Bulldog gave the hardcore title to Al Snow and Randy Orton was given his first WWF championship regin (losing it minutes later to HHH but getting it back at the end of the night). But back in the 80s, they seemed a lot more intent on trying to keep it as much like a legit sport as possible. Almost a shame that whenever Dibiase was inducted into the Hall of Fame, they didn’t decide to amend the record books and recognise his reign.

Lex Luger

When you look back at the start of Luger’s WWF run and the amazing push he got, its hard to believe that he never got to hold the WWF title (or any belt at all). Initially coming in as the Naracisst, he would make a face turn for the summer and pushed into the main event as the next Hulk Hogan style all American hero. (Just watch this pre-summerslam 93 video package
( ) He headlined Summerslam 93 where he was victorious against mega heel champ Yokozuna, (by countout that is), was sole survivor in the main event at Survivor Series and won the Royal Rumble 94 (with Bret Hart). He did fight Yokozuna at Wrestlemania X but it was Bret Hart who at the end of the night defeated Yoko for the title. After that, Luger never came close again.
A famous urban myth that has been confirmed as crap is that Luger was supposed to win the title at the start of the night at Wrestlemania X but lose it to Bret at the very end. The reason that they changed it was because Luger got drunk the night before at a bar and blabbed to a reporter about the plan. All denied now by everyone involved.
If they had given the title to Luger at Summerslam it would have cut down Yokozuna long reign as a heel champ. The WWF hadn’t had a heel champion go with the title for so long since the days of Superstar Billy Graham back in 77/78. Also it may have seemed that Luger’s American hero may have been a bit too much like Hulkamania lite.
Even if they did give him a one hour reign at Wrestlemania it would have denied Bret Hart some real redemption of defeating Yokozuna at the end of the night (the previous Wrestlemania, Bret lost the title by dastardtly means to Yoko). Bret was over with the fans more than Lex was as the Rumble 94 experiment proved (more fans cheered when Bret was announced winner than when Luger was).

British Bulldog

A former Tag team champ, European champ, Hardcore champ and Intercontential champ as well as winning many battle royals. I recently wrote a blog about Davy, more specifically about his absence and what could have been if he hadn’t left in 1992 (’t-leave-the-WWF-in-1992 )
Possibly what could have been holding him back as a world champ in his prime is perhaps the powers that be weren’t sure on having a non-North American as a face champion. A heel turn may have improved his chances a bit, possibly giving him a go as a transitional champ, much like Bob Backlunds second reign were he beat Bret Hart but lost days later to Diesel…
Or maybe there was always someone just ahead of him on the list for champion…

Jake “The Snake” Roberts

Jake never held any title in WWF, WCW or even ECW let alone a heavyweight or world title. Although to be fair, Jake is one of the very few wrestlers who doesn’t need a belt to make a story interesting. All of Jake’s major feud’s (Savage, Warrior, Undertaker, Rick Rude, Andre) have never been for a title of any description and it’s certainly a credit to Jake’s psychology and ability as a story teller in the ring. Although having said that, it would have been nice if he could have been awarded a small transitional reign of maybe an IC or US title as some sort of recognition.

There are many other guys I could list who could have been a top tier champ. Ricky Steamboat, Mr Perfect, Earthquake and Scott Hall are just a few. But possibly the main reason all these guys never got the top title is just the time they were wrestling. With the exception of Hall, when these guys were wrestling in their prime, it was a very much different time. The WWF championship didn't change that often. It remained firmly round the waist of the top face (Hogan usually) and occasionally dropped to a top heel before making it back to the top face (or the 2nd top face).
Christian, Jack Swagger, Alberto Del Rio, Miz and Rey Mysterio are all former world/heavyweight champions but if these men were all wrestling during the Rock n Wrestling era and performing at the same level they do now, then they would never have been champions. They would possibly have been holders or at the very least challangers for the Intercontential championship. Likewise, if Piper, Diabiase and others were debuting during the Attitude and post-Attitude dual brand era then they would no doubt have many multiple title reigns.
That’s not to take anything away from the former champions of today. At the end of the day, in a predetermined sport, its not the number, length or combined length of title reigns that make a wrestler a better performer than another; it's their ability to entertain and provoke a response and emotion from the fans. Which they do, whether they are the 2 time Intercontential Champion Mr Perfect or the 2 time World champ, 2 time ECW champion, 4 time Intercontential Champion, 9 time tag champion, Former European, Hardcore and Lightweight champion Christian.

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  1. Kajmere's Avatar
    I agree about Jake not needing the title during his major feuds. I grew up rooting for Mr. Perfect and was always frustrated to see him lose his world title matches. As for the Bulldog, I think he would have eventually taken the title had he lived longer.
  2. CM Sizi's Avatar
    The whole premiss of differentiation doesn't make this topic fair. The World Championship is the World Championship. Lex Luger was a World Champion. That is a fact. Just because he won the title in a different company doesn't change the fact that he was still the possessor of the title. True that history is written by the victors (WWE), but the title that Dolph holds is still the same Wolrd Heavyweight Championship Luger won.

    Mr. Perfect, as mentioned above, is a much better candidate for this list since he never held either title. William Regal as well.
  3. Michael Burnside's Avatar
    The linage of the World heavyweight title is a bit of a strange one. Sometimes the WWE recognise it as the WCW title and the long history attached to it. Then sometimes they remember that David Arquette and Vince Russo are former holders and then say its a different title and that it started with HHH.
    They regonise the US title's WCW history and they've adopted the old WCW cruiserweight title but the world/WCW is a little grey..ish..
  4. TheGreatOne's Avatar
    Gonna go ahead and guess this means just WWF title because Luger was a WCW world champion.
    I like the list....I'd add honorable mention for Perfect and Razor.
  5. The Phantom Menace's Avatar
    Beautifully written Mr. Burnside. You're absolutely right men like Roddy didn't need the belt. Jake was one of the best workers in the history of the buisness. And Mr.Perfect Curt Henning was a World Champion in the AWA. So many people have bought the ideal that WWE/F has been the only wrestling company in America and back in the 80's there were three major companies in the United States, NWA, AWA & WWF. All three had World title status.
  6. pld459666's Avatar
    certain guys (the really good ones) do not need straps to get them over. Jake the Snake was one, and while he did hold a strap or two, during his time in the ring, The Ravishing Rick Rude was another. And an honorable mention goes to Flyin Brian Pillman. His in ring work and mic skills were enough.
    It pains me to see that Owen Hart is not worth mentioning in this blog
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