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Cageside Countdown: The 20 Worst World Champions Ever (Part 2)

And now, the conclusion of the worst world champions ever countdown.

Well... the first part was quite interesting, wasn't it? A lot of lively discussion how bad a champion Seth Rollins is or is not. I will say this: the argument made for Seth being among the worst champions ever will be used for someone else in the top ten. And I'll guarantee almost no one will disagree with it.


What makes a bad champion? Perhaps it's the booking they're saddled with, the politics surrounding their run, an unexpected injury or other unforeseen circumstance, or maybe they're just awful in the ring. Maybe timing has something to do with it. There's no "one size fits all" profile on what makes a bad champion, but you know one when you see it.

But who is the worst world champion ever?

In the first part, we discussed the aforementioned current WWE Champion Seth "Traitorface" Rollins, Stephanie McMahon, Jeff Jarrett, and Hulk Hogan's title runs in the 1990s to name a few. Hideous they all were, but what about the worst ever? Strap in, boys and girls, because here are... as voted by you...

The ten worst world champions in wrestling history. Ever.

Remember, you voted for this list, so don't blame me if you hate the list. Blame yourselves.

10. Diesel.

In the first part, a lot of you discussed how Seth Rollins was basically killing WWE business at the box office and television ratings. Back in 1995, WWF probably didn't worry so much about that ratings mumbo jumbo (at least initially; I'll get back to this). But those other things that promoters worry about, like revenue and attendance? Yeah, they went down. A lot. Among long-term champions, he was the worst drawing of the 1990s, bottoming out at a paltry 1,940 for their September 1995 house shows. (Don't get excited, WCW fans. Your company wasn't doing a whole lot better.)

Ok, you can probably blame it on the fallout of the steroid trial, but that trial ended a year earlier. You can probably blame it on Hulk Hogan and the most of the rest of the 80s Express reinvigorating (and killing) WCW, but that too was a year earlier.

Or you can just blame it on the fact that Kevin Nash just wasn't that good in the ring. Yeah, he was different from the hulking bodies that populated the WWF in its heyday. Yeah, he was naturally charismatic. He can charm the pants off most anybody. But when he stopped talking and got to wrestling, he... was... just... not good. At all. Basically, this is what plagued the Ultimate Warrior title run in 1990. Given more than the quick squashes and dominant performances that put him on the map, he was exposed. It happened to Warrior. It happened to Diesel.

And while there wasn't a tremendous dip in business in 1990, it was enough to give the WWF pause and rethink the whole "Warrior as face of the company" idea. In Diesel's year-long run, business cratered. PPV buyrates dropped to record lows, house show attendance dropped to record lows, and television ratings... well, they were getting beaten there too, especially by that new show WCW started late in Diesel's run as champion, WCW Monday Nitro. And yet, Vince had to stick with him for the simple fact that he had nobody else that could go in his place. After all, with all the defections, he was left with the worst roster of the modern era. He didn't like the idea of a smaller man being the face of the company (an idea only confirmed in his mind by the fact that Bret Hart as champion also bombed at the box office, though the steroid trial had plenty to do with him bombing), but before the end of the year, he didn't have a choice. He went to the more reliable Hart before settling on Shawn Michaels a few months later.

But he did have the longest WWF Championship run of the 1990s. So he has that going for him, which is nice, I guess.

9. Jack Swagger.

See, unless I told you that Jack Swagger was a former world champion on TWO brands, you probably wouldn't have known this. Hell, WWE barely acknowledges it.

Swagger had quite the pedigree: an All-American collegiate wrestler at the University of Oklahoma, one of the last signees of Jim Ross, former WWECW Champion, but nobody really counts that. But not only was he in underwhelming feuds, he was (and still is), to say the least, a heat vacuum; basically any time he walks into an arena, the place just DIES. Granted, you could say that about most any non-main event talent of his era, but most any non-main eventer of this era didn't win a Money in the Bank ladder match and win the World Heavyweight Championship just two days later from an incapacitated Chris Jericho. But Swagger did. He went from meaningless feuds to world champion overnight. That's a big leap for a lot of people, one many people were not buying.

Ok, quick. Name one notable thing Swagger did as World Heavyweight Champion.

No, it's cool, I'll wait.

Well, he feuded with the Big Show (always a championship run killer), kinda sorta feuded with Chris Jericho, kinda sorta feuded with Edge, and... well, that's about it. He lost the title to Rey Mysterio just under three months later. Rey Mysterio. Not Viva La Raza Rey Mysterio. Injury-prone Rey Mysterio. And that's not even the worst part. Here is: Swagger has only been close to the world title once since then, and he blew that after being arrested on drunk driving charges. Safe to say the All-American American's championship days are behind him.

8. Hervina.

At Armageddon 1999, it really was the end of the world for the WWF women's division when one Stacy "The Kat" Carter won the title in a four-way evening gown pool match. And then she accidentally on purpose got topless, but that's another story for another day.

The Kat, whose biggest claim to fame (besides the moment of impromptu nudity) was being married to fellow wrestler Jerry "The King" Lawler, wasn't exactly stellar as a wrestler. In fact, I can safely say given a few days of rudimentary training, you could probably be a better wrestler than The Kat. I'm not kidding.

The mini-Chyna and former assistant to the assistant to Jeff Jarrett held the title for seven weeks. The woman that defeated her for it wasn't even a woman at all. What was she, Mike Myers as Austin Powers?

That man was longtime manager Harvey Whippleman, dressed here in drag as Hervina. Hervina would qualify as an exotico in Mexico, but in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on January 31, 2000, this qualifies—no---this wins the award for being one of the dumbest things ever put on RAW. Hervina defeated The Kat in a lumberjill snowball fight pool thing and became the first—and thankfully—only man to win the WWF Womens Championship.

A woman's championship won by a man. Dressed in drag. Understandably, people were pissed, but thankfully, his run was a transitional and otherwise meanningless one, as he lost the title to Jacqueline the next night. At a time where the WWF could do no wrong, they got this wrong and even further damaged the credibility of the women's division. Ok, that's actually a lie. Because in order for their credibility to be damaged, it had to first be credible. And in 2000, credible it was not.

7. The Rock's 2013 WWE Championship run.

Oh, this is gonna raise a lot of eyebrows. Literally. Full disclosure, The Rock is one of my favorite wrestlers ever. Probably second to only Stone Cold Steve Austin. He's good-looking, charming, pretty damn athletic (seriously, see some of his early stuff. 275-pounders shouldn't be doing hurancanranas). And on almost any night, he was the best promo in the building. So excuse my bias a little here.

But at the 2013 Royal Rumble, he got under the skin of smarks everywhere when he ended the 434-day run of CM Punk as WWE Champion. For some of you, this was enough to make the list. But here's why a lot of you (myself included) probably voted for this: The Rock was a transitional champion and EVERYBODY KNEW IT.

Rewind to Wrestlemania XXVII. The show, main evented by The Rock versus John Cena, a once-in-a-lifetime showdown in the vein of The Rock and Hulk Hogan a decade prior, was the highest grossing event in professional wrestling history. Think about that: a century of events, and this one, on the strength of that match, made more money than any wrestling event in the history of ever. That alone was enough to see even more dollar signs in Vince McMahon's eyes, because anything worth doing is worth doing again.

Three months later, The Rock returns at RAW 1000 and announces that he would challenge the WWE Champion at the Royal Rumble in January. Most everyone knew it would be CM Punk. Fast-forward again to the Royal Rumble. John Cena wins the annual Royal Rumble match, and immediately, stomachs are churning. Would WWE really, really, really put on "Once in a Lifetime" again?


And pretty much, everything for the next two months has been telegraphed for you. The Rock and John Cena would have their Electric Boogaloo, CM Punk, the longest-reigning champion of the modern era would be on the outside looking in, and the title run and match itself would stink. The Rock disappeared for large stretches during his title run (coffee breaks compared to Brock Lesnar's disappearing act when he was WWE Champion), leaving people to wonder why they took the belt off Punk in the first place. The answer: money. Though they got over 200,000 fewer buys on PPV than the previous year, Wrestlemania 29 would supplant XXVIII as the highest-grossing event in WWE history.

The title run was a money grab, not for The Rock specifically, but for WWE. It didn't damage the championship's reputation, but it did damage a relationship. It started the spiral for CM Punk's frustrations that would ultimately lead him out of the company.

6. Kelly Kelly.

Plucked from her modeling gig and in college, she signed to WWE. After some development, she landed on the main roster. After working initially as a valet, she got more screen time and eventually became the face of the WWE Divas.

On its own, you would think I was talking about Trish Stratus. And you'd be right. This would be the formula the company would try to repeat for years, to varying degrees of failure.

Barbara Jean Blank might be at the top of the list. Plucked from her modeling gig while in college, she was signed to WWE. After some time in development, she made it on the main roster as "exhibitionist" Kelly Kelly. Eventually being more over than the man she valet (Mike Knox), she got more screen time, and in 2011 became the face of the WWE Divas, and the champion of its division. Beating Beth Phoenix.

I see your mouth is agape at the thought of this. While I'm sure Barbara is a very lovely and charming woman, she was devoid of the charisma and talent needed to be the company's next Trish Stratus. Hell, you can even argue she lacked the fundamentals (for further proof of this, here is a GIF of Kelly Kelly being awful at running the ropes) to be a competent Divas Champion.

The best way I can explain it for those that didn't watch WWE around this time (and I wouldn't blame ya if you didn't it) is take Eva Marie and make her golden blonde. Some people aren't cut out to be a champion or the face of a division. Kelly Kelly is one of those people.

5. The Fabulous Moolah.

WWE would like you to think that Mary Ellison is the most celebrated women's wrestler in the history of ever. If you look at the surface, that's probably true.

But when you get into the layers, you find out the truth: Mary Ellison was an awful, awful, awful human being. I'd tell you how I'd really feel about her after the information I found out about her in recent years, but I kinda value my place here, thanks.

In fact, I'll let famed women's wrestler Penny Banner (who died in 2008) tell you about Moolah basically being the difference between how women's wrestling is presented here in the States and in Japan.

The reason women's pro-wrestling in North America was and still in large part today considered a joke and just an opportunity to oggle at tits and asses is largely in part thanks to the way Moolah trained her girls and how Moolah wrestled. Moolah was not a good worker. Her wrestling style considered of hair pulling snapmare, headlocks, clotheslines and nothing else. Those that argue that women's wrestling was always like that and Moolah did nothing to change it are ignorant. In the '30s and '40s, female wrestling employed shooters and they wrestled in the traditional sense of the term. Tits and asses were used to advertise and get them in the building, but the girls worked longer and more technically sound matches than today. The champion was always a shooter, and the matches for the championship and leading up to the main event had to be high caliber.

The reason Japanese women's wrestling was light years ahead of North American's is because of one person and one person only - Moolah. Mildred Burke, the original women's champion, popularized female wrestling in the world in the '30s. Japan, Canada, Mexico and America can trace women's wrestling directly to her. She used a hard hitting style and outside of being an attractive woman, her matches were no different from the men's matches of her day. Moolah was inspired by Burke, but could not work as well as her. Moolah was not a good worker and so the style she passed onto her trainees once she took over women's pro-wrestling in North America was Moolah-based. Moolah was never a shooter.

Moolah basically had an iron grip on women's wrestling in the United States (For more in-depth information, read Cagesider Flashking's three-part series on the history of women's wrestling in the US and Japan); she controlled the title (she held the NWA—then WWF—Womens Championship for all but about two months over a 26-year period), she controlled the training, she controlled the bookings, she controlled the money, but most importantly, she controlled the talent. Basically, she had the state of women's wrestling in this country in the palm of her hands.

It's an ideal we're only starting to get out from under. It's only in the last ten or so years that more and more people, myself included, found out that female wrestlers can be just as awesome as the males. While it's easy to erase a thought, it's much harder to erase an ideal. Case in point: watch most any recent women's match on RAW. Then when you're done, watch the main event of NXT Takeover: Respect. Then watch another women's match on RAW and lament how it can't be like NXT.

Thanks Moolah.

4. The Great Khali.

Look, I get that the Great Khali was a monster hit with Indian fans (not Native Americans, I mean people from India). But he was an awful, awful, awful, awful champion. In fact, he's an awful, awful, awful, awful, awful wrestler. He lacked mobility (and by lacking mobility, he had virtually none), lacked fundamentals as a wrestler, and was void of charisma.

Yet, he just so happened to be in the right place at the right time. When Edge tore his pectoral muscle in 2007, he had to vacate the World Heavyweight Championship. The timing couldn't have come worse, as the roster as a whole was rash with big names sitting out due to iniury. There was also the matter of the Chris Benoit double murder-suicide that cast a dark cloud over the company throughout the summer.

But Vince McMahon, who has always loved him some big guys, proceeded to put Smackdown's top prize on this guy. It was a last-ditch effort to get the seven-footer over, and to say that it didn't work would be a huge understatement. They could have given the title to Batista, who also had to forfeit his title due to injury a year and a half prior. They could have given it to Kane, who was set to challenge Edge for the belt at the time he went out. They could have even given it to say... Mark Henry, who took out the Undertaker a few months earlier.

But they went with the guy who was only there because he was big and he filled a demographic. It would be two agonizing months before WWE pulled the plug on the Khali title run. It would take a couple more years before realizing that Khali just simply wasn't main event material.

3. Vince McMahon's ECW Championship reign.

Vince McMahon loves three things: one, money. Two, holding a grudge. Three, getting the last laugh on said grudge. If you don't believe it, I submit the Invasion era as Exhibit A, or as I call it, the greatest exercise in lighting money on fire in wrestling history.

I should probably add this fourth thing: killing anything he didn't create (see Invasion era again. Or for that matter, see most every outside talent that's come through WWE in the last 30 years). Case in point, the rebirth of Extreme Championship Wrestling. After the release of The Rise and Fall of ECW (the book and the documentary, both of which I highly recommend) and the One Night Stand PPV in 2005, Vince realized there was still an audience for the hardcore wrestling promotion. One Night Stand should have been the proper goodbye to ECW that it never got.

But, money, you know. The next year, a reboot was commissioned beginning with a second One Night Stand. Almost immediately, people began to realize this was ECW with a WWE coat of paint. He burned everything that made the original great to the ground, spit on the headstone, and milked the faithful out of millions.

And in April 2007, he pissed on the ashes. McMahon, who made the decision five months prior to put the ECW title on Bobby Lashley, decided that the man that would beat him... would be him.  Still stinging from getting his head shaved at Wrestlemania 23 (at the time, the most bought PPV in company history, so A LOT of people saw his haircut), Vince with the help of his son Shane and Umaga defeated Bobby Lashley at Backlash. As Vince got the fall in the match, he won the ECW world title.

A championship held by the likes of Sabu, Terry Funk, Raven, Sandman, and Taz, a championship never held by Steve Austin or Brian Pillman or Rob Van Dam in the original ECW era, a championship held by Tommy Dreamer for all of four minutes, was in the hands of durag Vince. This essentially killed ECW as a brand and the championship that went with it. And unlike Vince in 1999, Vince in 2007 held the ECW world title for five agonizing weeks before losing it back to Lashley at the renamed WWE One Night Stand... only to vacate it just over a week later when he gets drafted to RAW.

Look, most any promoter has an ego. Some use it for good. Most use it for evil. Evil things like crapping on the legacy of other wrestling promotions they're still trying to make money off of. Somewhere in America, Paul Heyman weeps.

2. Vince Russo.

While McMahon at least looked like a professional wrestler, Vincent James Russo, for lack of a better term, did not.

Say what you will about championships in wrestling. Yeah, it's not a legitimate sport, but those belts mean something. Apparently not in the world of Vince Russo, who once said that championship belts were nothing more than props and they don't mean a thing. For proof, see exhibit A.

September 25, 2000, Vince Russo, who was booking WCW into the ground around this time, took on Booker T for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. Booker T exits the cage, but at the same exact time, Vinnie Ru is speared by Goldberg out of the cage. Who won? Well, we wouldn't find out until two days later...and the decision pleases almost no one: Vince Russo is announced as the new champion IN A PRE-RECORDED INTERVIEW. No in-ring segment. No big hulabaloo. He just declares himself the new world champion in a sitdown interview with Mike Tenay. Oh, and in this interview, he also declared that he's done with in-ring competition. Five days later, Russo vacates the WCW world title without so much as putting up a fight for it, thereby allowing him to get away with these egregious shenanigans.

In the end, it was the final straw, as the plug on the Russo era in WCW was finally pulled following this debacle. Despite being home for three months, WCW operated more than $60 million in the red during his tenure, partly due to inane angles like this. I would say that Russo winning the WCW world title killed any prestige it had left, but by the time he'd won it, it had none left to begin with. And that's thanks to who else he booked to win the Big Gold Belt.

1. David Arquette.

A few months before Russo put the WCW world title on himself, he decided to put the world title on Dewey from the Scream film franchise.

Dewey from Scream.


No, this Dewey wasn't a three-year old boy, you sick sons of bitches. This Dewey appeared in the WCW movie Ready to Rumble, which was in theaters around this time (spoiler: it's an awful, awful movie). In an effort to promote the movie, Vince Russo ran with a joke suggestion made by one Tony Schiavone that David Arquette should win the WCW world title. Yes, this is as ridiculous as it sounds.

And that's still not the most ridiculous part. Arquette won the a tag team match. Where he did not pin the champion. Nor the legal man. With only 1,200 fans in the building (by comparison, the Impact Zone in Orlando seats about 900-1100). With only 4.3 million people watching (by comparison, Smackdown that week got a 5.4 rating and about 9 million viewers. Thunder two weeks earlier got a 3.1 rating and 5 million viewers).

The response to the title change was immediate: wrestling fans savaged it. Non-wrestling fans savaged it. Nitro lost a million viewers the Monday after. Thunder lost 800,000 viewers the next week. Slamboree ticket sales ground to a halt. And said PPV produced one of the lowest buyrates in WCW history, a buyrate so low, the company never officially reported it. And it did not improve the movie's box office fortunes: the weekend after the title win, it dropped 72% in gross from the previous week.

The only person that saw the negative reaction coming: David himself. Turned out he was a wrestling fan, and he knew a thing or three about the business operates. He tried to talk the WCW brass out of putting the title on him, but they went ahead and did it anyway, and the decision killed whatever credibility the championship—and the company—had left. The good news from all this is he didn't make a dime off his title run, treating wrestlers to drinks after the show and donating the proceeds to the families of Brian Pillman, Darren Drozdov, and Owen Hart.

It wasn't a burden he wanted to carry, not even a little bit, but it did not stop you from voting him as the worst world champion ever.

Something to think about: in a span of 12 months from September 1999 to September 2000, Russo at least had a hand in booking the world title on Vince McMahon, David Arquette, and himself. That's depressing.


Did we miss anything? Disagree with the list? Give out about in the comments section.

Then when you're done, check out these past Cageside Countdowns.

  • Best of Wrestlemania 31
  • Best PPV Themes
  • Worst Acts In Kayfabe
  • Most Extreme Moments
  • Best Wrestling Cities
  • Best Rock Moments
  • Things Missing on WWE Network
  • Why You Hate Vince McMahon
  • Best Things In Wrestling Right Now
  • Most Disappointing Storylines
  • Most Iconic Wrestling Photos
  • Best RAW Guest Stars
  • Best Wrestling T-Shirts
  • Best TNA Moments
  • Worst PPVs Ever
  • Things We Miss Most in Wrestling (part 1) (part 2)
  • Best Roddy Piper Moments
  • Best of Summerslam 2015
  • Best Shawn Michaels Moments
  • Best Smackdown Moments
  • Best Monday Night War Moments (part 1) (part 2)
  • Best Wrestling Games
  • Best Sting Moments
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