There is no greater glory for a professional wrestler than winning a championship for a major company. From the World Heavyweight Championship down to midcard titles, any piece of gold goes a long way in turning a mere wrestler into a bona fide superstar. This is one aspect of the industry that holds true onscreen and off, as although who wins what titles is as predetermined as everything else in the business, when WWE executives decide to bestow a wrestler with a belt, it means the company has faith in them to shine as a TV star. Another aspect of wrestling championships that remains true whether we’re talking kayfabe or real life is the fact more than a few superstars have outright refused to lose them over the years, sometimes crippling top wrestling companies and bringing them to the brink of serious disarray in the process.
The more important a championship is, the less likely people will want to lose it, which is why the WWE World Championship features the most on this list. It isn’t alone, though, as a number of superstars have found themselves highly attached to the Intercontinental and Women’s Championships, as well, not to mention a few incidents that took place outside of WWE. Though there was a period in the 1990s when it seemed like every top superstar was holding on to their belts extra tight, the practice is actually nothing new, with incidents on record of wrestlers arguing their way out of defeat dating back to the 1950s. Keep reading and remember 15 wrestlers you forgot refused to lose championships.
15. Shawn Michaels Wouldn’t Lose To Dean Douglas
It feels appropriate to start this list with Shawn Michaels, who will appear multiple times with more than one championship around his waist, gleefully refusing to lose them all. HBK’s first known instance of refusing to lose came in 1995, during his third reign as WWE Intercontinental Champion. Michaels won the belt from Jeff Jarrett at In Your House 2 and was slated to lose it three months later to Dean Douglas. One week before the match between them was set to take place, Michaels claimed to have been attacked by an unclear number of Marines outside a nightclub in Syracuse, New York. The exact severity of the beating is unclear, with all we know being that Michaels decided to forfeit his belt rather than officially lose it in the ring. Less than a week later, he was ready to wrestle again, putting to question his claim he was unfit to even walk to the ring and lay down for Douglas. Either way, Douglas went on to lose the belt to Razor Ramon only minutes after being awarded it, making it seem like he wouldn’t have caught a break even if HBK was willing to give him one.
14. Chyna Wouldn’t Lose To Lita
Just about everybody in the WWE Universe knew things weren’t going to work out with Chyna competing for the Women’s Championship in 2001, and that allegedly included Chyna herself. The Ninth Wonder of the World had already won the Intercontinental Championship multiple times, wrestled for the WWE Championship, and beaten dozens of male superstars in the process of doing so. Therefore, it felt somehow inappropriate seeing her compete against the smaller divas filling out the women’s division at the time, because if Chyna could beat Triple H, someone like Ivory didn’t seem to have much of a chance. Despite initial resistance, Chyna agreed to enter the women’s division if she won the Women’s Championship right away, which she did at WrestleMania X7, completely squashing Ivory as predicted. Two months later, Chyna was slated to lose the championship to Lita at Judgment Day, only to outright reject the idea on every level. Eddie Guerrero would have interfered to help Lita, but even this wasn’t enough for Chyna to find the loss acceptable. Though she retained her title and won the match, it wound up being the last time Chyna wrestled in WWE, as she was fired over this incident and well-known problems related to Triple H and Stephanie McMahon.
13. Sable Wouldn’t Lose To Luna Vachon
History has softened its stance on Sable since she married Brock Lesnar, and yet her record continues to speak for itself in proving she wasn’t exactly the most pleasant backstage presence during her time in WWE. After debuting as the valet of Triple H and turning on him for her then husband, Marc Mero, Sable started standing out on her own thanks to her natural good looks. Her looks were about all she had, though, as she wasn’t trained to wrestle, nor did she have particularly strong mic skills. Sable nevertheless became popular enough to win the WWE Women’s Championship in late 1998. Sable’s biggest feud as champion was against her former friend Luna Vachon, with said friendship status starting to fade due to Sable’s increasingly unpleasant backstage attitude at the time. According to Luna, she had made it clear for years her goal was to be Women’s Champion, and so Sable repeatedly mocked her for the fact Luna never got to win the title and she did. Taking things further, Sable allegedly refused to lose the belt to Luna at the 1999 Royal Rumble. The next month, Luna was suspended due to the two women getting into a legitimate fight behind-the-scenes. Sable ultimately had to be stripped of the title in controversial fashion, “losing” the belt to Debra by defeating her in an evening gown match.
12. Stan Hansen Wouldn’t Lose To Nick Bockwinkel
With tobacco constantly drizzling out of his mouth, Stan Hansen defined the word cowboy in the ugliest manner possible, and that’s exactly what made him such a huge star in Japanese wrestling. The archetype has had a considerable amount of success in Hansen’s native US, as well, with him winning dozens of regional championships during wrestling’s territorial days, plus two runs in the big leagues with the WCW United States Championship and the AWA World Heavyweight Championship. Hansen won the AWA’s top prize in late December of 1985, and then went on to continue personifying an ugly cowboy in the manner he reacted when told his championship reign wasn’t going to last long. Hansen was booked to lose the belt to AWA legend Nick Bockwinkel, but he had already made dozens of commitments in Japan where he was advertised as being champion. Hansen didn’t appear at the event he was supposed to wrestle Bockwinkel, instead flying to Japan and defending the title against promoter Verne Gagne’s will. The AWA stripped Hansen of the title and awarded it to Bockwinkel, demanding Hansen send the physical belt to them with the threat of legal action. Hansen did so, but first he repeatedly ran over the belt with his truck, destroying it and covering it with mud.
11. Jeff Jarrett Wouldn’t Lose To Chyna
Of the many reasons wrestlers refused to lose championships, spite is at the top of the list when it comes to ensuring they’ll never be asked back to the company they did it in. Jeff Jarrett agreed to lose the WWE Intercontinental Championship to Chyna in October of 1999 up until the day he was supposed to do it, at which point he changed his mind at the last minute and demanded Vince McMahon pay him an extra $300,000 on the spot in order to get him to do the job. McMahon paid and Jarrett reverted to his original position of having no problem losing, allowing Chyna to make history as the first and thus far only female to hold that particular title. The match was Jarrett’s last in WWE, as he jumped to WCW the very next day and was never welcomed back by McMahon. Jarrett’s scenario is significantly different from the others on this list, as all sources indicate he didn’t really have any trouble losing to Chyna or in general, and he simply wanted to ensure he’d get paid money owed upon his exit of the company. The fact remains that he wouldn’t have lost the belt unless he got his way, though, so he nonetheless deserves placement on this list.
10. Mildred Burke Wouldn’t Lose To June Byers
Quite possibly the first true female wrestling superstar, Mildred Burke started her career in 1935, wrestling with men at carnivals. Two years later, Burke defeated Clara Mortenson for the Women’s Wrestling Championship, an honor that would lead to Burke earning recognition as the first NWA Women’s Champion. While reigning as champion, Burke controlled women’s wrestling in the same fashion The Fabulous Moolah would become infamous for decades later, with her husband Billy Wolfe managing her career and ensuring she would never lose her title. However, that arrangement drastically changed when the two went through a bitter divorce that saw Wolfe take control of women’s wrestling due to a sexist policy within the NWA booking committee that banned women from booking conferences. Wolfe conspired for Burke to lose her championship to his new trainee, June Byers, so Burke fought back by turning the match into a shoot fight and forcing Byers to legitimately defeat her. The custom at the time said title defenses were two out of three falls, and Burke let Byers win the first fall, enacting her plan for the second and third. She didn’t consider that would be enough for her to lose the belt, though it obviously was, and the NWA simply treated the first fall as the only one that mattered and declared Byers the new champion.
9. Rey Mysterio Wouldn’t Lose To Dolph Ziggler
Critics claim it’s a step down for a former WWE World Champion to even compete for the Intercontinental Championship, and it was with this thought in mind that Rey Mysterio and Chris Jericho did everything they could to make the latter title look important when the two former World Champions feuded over it in 2009. Mysterio had just won the belt from a third former WWE Champ in JBL, with the overarching idea being to bring the Intercontinental title back to the prestige it once represented in the 1980s. Mysterio and Jericho accomplished this with a series of great matches, most notably a title vs. mask match at The Bash. For whatever reason, WWE wanted to throw all of this good will away the very next month by having Mysterio lose the belt in a run-of-the-mill encounter against Dolph Ziggler. Mysterio refused, not wanting to give up the title he and Jericho just worked so hard to make important, and more so worried that tossing it around so cavalierly would do away everything they had done. The argument made sense to Vince McMahon, and he let Mysterio keep the belt for another month, at which point Rey violated the Wellness Policy and no longer had any excuses to save him from losing.
8. Shawn Michaels Wouldn’t Lose To Vader
Upon first glances, most people would assume Big Van Vader would be the dominating bully who terrorized pretty boy Shawn Michaels. In fact, the exact opposite was the case, and HBK had the benefit of being WWE World Champion when he treated the so-called Mastodon like a big baby bull. Michaels was in the midst of his first reign as champion in 1996, started when he defeated Bret Hart at WrestleMania 12. Five months later at SummerSlam, Shawn was slated to lose to Vader, a man he had been having problems with in and out of the ring for quite a while at that point. According to Vader and his manager Jim Cornette, Shawn constantly bullied Vader in the middle of their matches, threatening to get Vader fired and screaming at him should he make even the slightest mistake. Most likely as a continuation of this bullying, Michaels eventually decided he wouldn’t lose the belt to Vader or ever work with him again after SummerSlam, preventing Vader from ever winning the top prize in WWE.
7. Bret Hart Wouldn’t Lose To Shawn Michaels
Starting what is unquestionably the most infamous story on our list, Bret Hart won his fifth and final WWE Championship from The Undertaker at SummerSlam 1997, thanks to the accidental help of referee Shawn Michaels. Hart and Michaels had been warring onscreen and off, with their deeply personal feud affecting the entire wrestling universe to a toxic and dangerous degree. In part because of this feud, and in part because of Vince McMahon’s monetary issues at the time, Hart was leaving WWE for WCW, so McMahon wanted him to lose the WWE Championship to Michaels at Survivor Series. Hart refused, on the grounds the event took place in his native Canada, and given his personal issues with Michaels, he thought it would be too disappointing to his fans to watch him lose to someone he despised. To force Bret into doing his job, McMahon conspired to enact The Montreal Screwjob, making it appear Hart was submitting to a Sharpshooter applied by Michaels when he in fact was not. The incident remains one of the most talked about in wrestling almost two decades after it took place, so there’s no need for us to go into any further detail on the subject.
6. Ric Flair Wouldn’t Lose To Lex Luger
WCW isn’t around today largely due to a constant string of inept leaders sinking the company from the day it was created, and no WCW executive was more inept than the infamous Jim Herd. A former Pizza Hut manager, Herd somehow rose to the top position in WCW in 1989, with his influence gradually transitioning him from an executive consultant role into the position of head booker. Included amongst Herd’s hair-brained schemes as booker was a plan to demote Ric Flair from NWA World Champion to a midcard gladiator named Spartacus, an idea Flair found altogether absurd and rejected outright. Partially out of spite related to the incident, Flair also refused to do his job when Herd booked him to lose the championship to Lex Luger, allegedly because Flair had already promised he was going to give Sting the title. Flair also claims he would have lost to Barry Windham, making it clear the move was political and not ego based, like most on this list. Ultimately, rather than deal with the situation in an adult manner, Herd simply fired Flair and allowed him to take the belt to WWE.
5. Hulk Hogan Wouldn’t Lose To Bret Hart
Detractors of Hulkamania like to claim the self-proclaimed biggest icon in wrestling was more like a political monster, constantly refusing to lose or allow himself to look weak in any way throughout his entire career. In many respects, this may be the case, and yet Hogan only actually outright refused to lose any of his many championships on one clear occasion. The Hulkster’s penultimate WWE Championship reign controversially began at the end of WrestleMania IX, when he challenged new champion Yokozuna to an impromptu bout and nabbed the belt. Yokozuna looked pretty bad in all this, but that didn’t compare to how weak the man Yoko beat looked, that being Bret Hart. According to Hart, he agreed to it all on the prospect of him and Hogan wrestling for the belt at SummerSlam, a match Hart would have won. Instead, Hogan lost the belt to Yokozuna at the King of the Ring and then left the company for more than eight years. Hart held resentment towards Hogan for years after the match, apparently never forgiving him for denying Hart the chance at greater fame.
4. Bearcar Wright Wouldn’t Lose To Edouard Carpentier
History is written by the winners, which is why Ron Simmons is accepted as the first black man to hold a major world wrestling championship. Indeed, no other African American had held the WWE or WCW World Championships, but Bobo Brazil had a controversial and unofficial turn as NWA World Champion in 1962, and the smaller Worldwide Wrestling Associates in Los Angeles made history by officially declaring Bearcat Wright as their top wrestler in 1963. Bearcat defeated “Classy” Freddie Blassie for the title, using his incredible strength and charisma to solidify himself as a mainstream star. Bearcat also came in an era where legitimate fighting ability was still important to a wrestler, using his record as an undefeated boxer in his youth to back him up when he refused to lose the belt to Edouard Carpentier several months into his reign. Bearcat also refused to lose the belt back to Freddie Blassie, despite the two having developed an off screen friendship. To get around this problem, the WWA promoter Mike LaBell called in a ringer, his brother Gene LaBell, whose reputation as a fighter was world-renowned and far above that of Bearcat. This time, Wright refused to even enter the ring, allowing WWA to strip him of the title and later award it to Carpentier as originally intended.
3. Kensuke Sasaki Wouldn’t Lose To The One Man Gang
WCW retrospectives tend to gloss over certain points in that company’s history for good reason, such as the United States Heavyweight Championship situation in late 1995. Thanks to an agreement with New Japan Pro Wrestling, Kensuke Sasaki defeated Sting for the title in November of that year. Sasaki rarely defended the title, and when booked to lose it to The One Man Gang in late December, he refused and instead demanded the match become 2 out of 3 falls, and that he become the ultimate winner. Sasaki would even kick out during OMG’s one successful fall, denying WCW or OMG any chance at coming out of the match looking good. WCW managed to get the last laugh in the situation, though, simply airing only the fall won by Gang and pretending the rest of the match didn’t happen. Neither Sasaki nor Gang would stick around much long after their encounter, as Gang would lose the title to Konnan one month later, and he and Sasaki both left the company within the year.
2. The Honky Tonk Man Wouldn’t Lose To Randy Savage
No man could’ve become the greatest WWE Intercontinental Champion of all time without putting up a serious fight, and The Honky Tonk Man is the same as any other in this regard. Honky Tonk defeated Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat for the title in June of 1987, allegedly as punishment for Steamboat requesting time off to spend with his wife and newborn child. What started as a gag turned into a joke for the ages, with Honky somehow holding onto the belt for 454 days. However, the original plan went differently, and would have seen Honky lose the belt significantly earlier than he did. Honky was supposed to lose the belt to Randy Savage at The Main Event, but knowing that show would achieve a record audience (with a 15.2 rating, it was the most watched program in American wrestling history), Honky didn’t want to lose the belt at that particular show. He was happy to have lost it at an untelevised event, but he somehow held on to it for another six months before losing it to The Ultimate Warrior at SummerSlam.
1. Shawn Michaels Wouldn’t Lose To Bret Hart
Having already covered The Montreal Screwjob, let’s take a look at one of the moments that made Bret Hart hate Shawn Michaels so much in the first place. Shawn won the WWE Championship for the second time at the 1997 Royal Rumble, getting revenge and defeating Sid, the man who beat him for the belt three months prior. The saga between Sid and HBK was all part of a longer term plan for Michaels to enter WrestleMania 13 as champion and defend against Bret Hart, in a reversal of their iron man match the previous year. Making the encounter a complete 180 on what happened at WrestleMania 12, this time, HBK was going to lose the title to Hart. Rather than do for Bret Hart what Bret Hart had done for him, Michaels claimed to have suffered a severe knee injury that his doctor said would end his career. Making things worse, Michaels also claimed he “lost his smile,” apparently a euphemism for a terrible depression brought on by the pressures of fame. Michaels relinquished the WWE Championship and walked off in the sunset…only to return to the ring three months later like nothing was ever wrong. Bret later surmised the entire injury was faked, and though there’s a chance HBK really was hurt, he definitely wasn’t so hurt he couldn’t lose the belt in dramatic fashion, not this time, and not the earlier time he had claimed the same thing.