06th Oct2020

Five Best & Five Worst: WWE Champions

by Chris Cummings

So, the WWE Championships, the main titles in the company, are what we all look to as the height of being a star in wrestling. Whether it’s the WWF Championship, the World Championship or the Universal Title, the top of the business hold that belt, and often act as the face of WWE. So, with all the Champions we’ve seen throughout history there have been some that have achieved such legendary status that they would appear on the Mount Rushmore of the greatest Superstars in the business. We’ve also seen a whole bunch of others who have been, shall we say… not so good. Now, I’m not starting this article concept as a way to be cruel or to bury people, but rather to give two sides to the coin. Conversations about good and bad get us talking, discussing, agreeing and disagreeing, and that’s what this is all about. This is subjective like all lists tend to be.

Oh, and also… guys like “The Naitch” Ric Flair aren’t here, because I wouldn’t say he’s one of the best WWE Champions. He is, though, one of the best Champions in wrestling. We all know this. So, here we go. Five best and five worst WWE Champions in “the history”.



I mean, you can’t not put Hulk Hogan on this list. He was the absolute man during the 80s in the WWF and into the early 90s. He headlined half a dozen WrestleMania events either as Champion or by becoming Champion as a challenger. He was a mega-draw and one of the most popular stars that wrestling has ever seen. If you think of iconic moments in wrestling, there are a good amount that include Hulk Hogan, and many of those moments took place whilst he was holding the WWF Title. He’s on the Mount Rushmore of WWE and is, regardless of how we feel about him personally sometimes, one of the greatest World Champions in WWE history.


The Austin Era began in 1998, and “Stone Cold” went on to have many reigns as WWF Champion, working big memorable feuds with the likes of The Rock, Mankind, Kane, The Undertaker, Triple H and others over the belt. He was, during the infamous Attitude Era, the biggest draw in history, and made pro-wrestling hit a new boom period just when most thought it had seen it’s day. His time as WWF Champion is iconic and hugely important, and I remember so many parts of it. Most of it happened, too, during that brilliant and incredible rivalry with Mr. McMahon. Without doubt, Steve Austin is one of the greatest WWE Champions ever and that will never change or be up for argument.


Now, I’ll be honest here… I’m really not a fan of John Cena. I personally feel like his style in the ring, his lack of selling, the saccharine manner he cuts promos, and the overall way he changed wrestling into a silly PG pantomime, have been a bad thing for wrestling. I do, however, accept how big of a deal he was for many years within WWE. He has many fans, he was a big draw, he moved more merchandise than perhaps anyone before or since, and he had huge matches with some of the greatest names in WWE history. Oh, and he won a World Title in WWE 16 times. His feuds over the title with guys like Batista, Randy Orton, CM Punk, Triple H, Edge and many others are memorable, and I can’t, in fairness, ignore him here. He does belong on this list, regardless of my personal opinion of him.


Bret Hart had a tough job in WWE back in the early-to-mid 90s when he was wearing WWF Championship gold. Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage and other big names had left for WCW, and it was up to Hart to attempt to carry the company as the new face of the “New Generation”. The ratings may not have been as high, but wrestling is cyclical and Hart still did some incredible things during his runs as WWF Champion. He was a babyface hero Champion and worked with names like Yokozuna, Owen Hart and others. He was a heel Champion, and he worked with The Undertaker, Shawn Michaels and others during that time, too. His rivalry with Shawn Michaels is perhaps his most notable and memorable as a WWF Champion, for both the Iron Man Match at WrestleMania 12 and the infamous Montreal screwjob at Survivor Series in 1997. A Champion who believed he was the best of all time, it’s hard to argue that Bret isn’t in that discussion.


I was stuck on a few names for the fifth option here, but landed on “The Game”. I mean, The Rock could have been here, Shawn Michaels, Randy Savage, CM Punk, The Undertaker and Daniel Bryan, but I settled on a guy who has had fourteen World Title reigns in WWE. He has had countless classics with various guys, including Randy Orton, The Rock, Steve Austin, Batista, Roman Reigns and others, and is undeniably one of the best and most decorated World Champions in WWE history. Sure, he’s had some stinkers in his long career, but the good outweighs the bad, and he’s one of those guys who can still, some 28 years into his career, have a bloody good match. I’m a fan, and I think he should be on this list.



Do I need to talk about why Khali is here? I doubt it, but I will anyway. The Great Khali, at one point, defeated The Undertaker with one foot placed on “The Dead Man’s” chest. Yep… that happened. He was clumsy, boring, lumbering, oafish and terribly awkward during his run in WWE, and yet he still, somehow, became World Champion. He would beat guys like John Cena, Batista, Ric Flair and Kane. He would be given a chance to become one of the biggest heels in WWE. He failed, because he just didn’t have the ability, and Khali wound up a comedy worker who would make out with women from the crowd sometimes. It’s still odd to think that he was holding a World Title above his head at one time, though, especially when there were so many talented wrestlers in the company at that time who would never go on to win the strap. Oh dear.


He was the worst drawing babyface World Champion in WWE history, but that isn’t the only reason “Big Kev” makes the list as one of the worst. His time as WWF Champion featured some pretty dismal matches, which wasn’t shocking considering Diesel/Nash’s reputation for “phoning it in” throughout his career, but in the midst of the duds (and a good match with Bret Hart) was one of the very worst matches in WWE history. Not just Title Matches, not just Diesel matches, but one of the worst matches ever, against King Mabel at SummerSlam 1995. Sure… he had some passable encounters with his buddies, but most of those didn’t happen while he was champion. This reign is considered one of the worst ever, and I think it’s fair for it to be.


I feel a bit bad putting Mahal’s reign on here, but I think it needs to be included. I don’t think it was really Jinder’s fault, though, but more the awful booking he received. Mahal isn’t awful in the ring, but he is a bit dull, and while he had potential to be a pretty good heel Champion, he was treated as a fluke and a failure from the off. His dire feud with Randy Orton featured a terrible Punjabi Prison match (with Khali making an appearance again, ugh). His feud with Shinsuke Nakamura went nowhere, and he would eventually drop the match randomly to AJ Styles on an episode of SmackDown, in a decision that seemed to be purely so Brock Lesnar could face Styles instead of Mahal at an upcoming champ-vs-champ booking. The first WWE Champion of Indian descent, this should have been way better than it was, but instead it was pretty damn bad. A shame, too.


Vince McMahon won the WWF Title during The Attitude Era, and he won the ECW Championship during the revamp of the Extreme brand. Did he need to win either? No. No he didn’t. Neither title reign lasted long and was purely to drive storylines and put McMahon over further as a villain. Still… it was unnecessary ego-boosting stuff that felt like a vanity project for Vince. When there are so many guys, from Mr. Perfect to Jake Roberts to Scott Hall to Owen Hart, who have never won a World Title in WWE, it’s a shame that Vince is on the list of guys who did get that chance. I can almost imagine a pantless Vince walking around his house in the WWF Title, and I wish I couldn’t imagine that. IT BURNS!


Now, you may scoff at the inclusion of Big Bill on this list, but wait a moment before you do. I’m not talking about his WCW run here. I’m talking about his WWE runs, and especailly his more recent ones. On one run he squashed Kevin Owens in a nothing-match to win the title and went on to work a tedious program with Brock Lesnar (which I know some liked, but… meh). On another run he squashed The Fiend for the title, and went on to do… very little, before losing the strap to Braun Strowman. Goldberg has given nothing to anyone in his recent runs in WWE, and has been pretty dangerous at times too. He almost seriously-injured The Undertaker, he did nothing to help any full-time talent, and his matches have been disaster after disaster. Is he a draw in 2020? I don’t think he is, quite frankly, but regardless of that, his times as Champion have flat out sucked. Please, Vince, no more Goldberg.


Comments are closed.