To qualify for this list, a wrestler must have been a World Champion in the WWE. This means that no WCW, ECW, TNA, ROH, or Lucha Underground champions qualify. Eligible are only the WWE Championship, the World Heavyweight Championship, the briefly established Undisputed WWE Championship and the newly reunited WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
The judging criteria is a combination of a performer’s kayfabe run as champion, meaning how their character actually did as champion, as well as the critical response from insiders, media, and wrestling fans (in a non-kayfabe way) to a performer’s run on top.
A few notes before we begin. There will be some complaints that Sid did not make this list, and while he was considered, he ultimately didn’t make the list for a few reasons:
1) Sid was actually quite “over” as champion, and main evented 2 WrestleManias.
2) In kayfabe terms, he did very well as champion, and he actually drew quite well for a period in the WWE.
As a result of the above reasons, Sid just managed to avoid being on this list.
Another notable exclusion from the list is Dolph Ziggler. The night after WrestleMania 29 Ziggler cashed in his MITB briefcase to win the title, and while his title reign was not very memorable (lasting only 2 months) his title victory was such a big moment that it is hard to rank him as one of the worst champions of all time.
Now, with Sid and Ziggler out of the way, let’s see who did make the top 10 Worst Champions in WWE history.
10. Iron Sheik
It feels bad to state that one of the worst champions in WWE history was the Iron Sheik, but that’s the case. Look, the Iron Sheik is and was awesome, in real life and in wrestling, though there might not be much of a difference. As a champion however, he really didn’t do much.
Sheik defeated Bob Backlund for the title in Madison Square Garden on December 26th 1983, but he was just a placeholder champion to transition the belt from Backlund to Hogan. Vince McMahon Jr. had just taken over the company from his dad and wanted to put the belt on Hogan, as Hogan’s popularity was exploding because of his appearance in Rocky III. Backlund, who has a background in amateur wrestling, didn’t want to put Hogan over because Hogan couldn’t actually wrestle. Also, Backlund was a good guy, and it was better for Hogan’s title reign if he beat a bad guy for the belt.
So Sheik beats Backlund and then the next month a rematch was scheduled, only Backlund was too injured to compete. The popular Hulk Hogan was Backlund’s substitute, beat Sheik cleanly, and went on to revolutionize wrestling in the following years.
As awesome as Iron Sheik is, his one-month long title reign ranks him as one of the worst World Champions of all time.
Sorry Christian, but as far as World Champions go, you were one of the worst ever. Christian won the World Title after his tag team partner and long time best friend Edge was forced to retire due to neck injuries. Edge successfully defended the title that WrestleMania against Alberto Del Rio, but then retired the next night on Raw. Christian and Del Rio met for the vacant title in a ladder match at Extreme Rules 2011, with Edge helping Christian win.
Christian has a lot of fans, dating all the way back to the Attitude Era when he and Edge were always one of the best segments of the show. When Christian won the World Title it was sort of a big deal to a lot of people, but those fans were crushed on the next episode of SmackDown, when just 5 days after winning the title he lost it to Randy Orton.
After losing several rematches, Christian would incessantly keep pleading for “one more match” which ended up turning him heel. A stipulation was added to Orton and Christian’s title match at Money in the Bank that stated Orton could lose the title on a DQ, which as luck would have it is exactly what happened.
Orton then once again defeated Christian for the title at SummerSlam to put an end to Christian’s days in the title picture.
For a 5-day long title reign, followed by a title win via DQ, Christian makes this list of worst World Champions in WWE history.
Unlike Christian, Diesel actually held onto the title for a really long time, but his successful kayfabe run as champion doesn’t trump his real life flop on top.
Diesel defeated Bob Backlund in MSG in record time to win his first World Championship, and went through all comers until finally losing the title to Bret Hart at Survivor Series 1995. Diesel almost lasted an entire year as WWF Champion.
During his reign, Diesel defended the belt against Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Sid and pretty much everyone on the roster. The reason he is on this list however, is because this period in WWE’s history is generally regarded as their weakest ever. It was dubbed “the New Generation” and very few people look back on this time with fond memories.
To his credit however, the man who would later go by his real name, Kevin Nash, would play a pivotal role in wrestling’s late-90s revolution just a few short years later.
7. Jack Swagger
The WWE recently announced the return of the “brand split”. For those of you who haven’t been following wrestling for long, or who have developed a case of selective memory in order to forget this period of wrestling history, let us remind you. The WWE has already had a brand-split once in its history, and it sucked.
Wrestlers were split up between Raw and Smackdown. For a while Paul Heyman was booking SmackDown and it was awesome, but that fizzled out and eventually SmackDown became secondary to Raw.
As a result, Jack Swagger became World Champion, and feuded with the Big Show. Perhaps thinking they could turn Jack Swagger into the next Kurt Angle, they pushed him and hoped for the best. They didn’t get the best.
Swagger cashed in his MITB briefcase on the March 30th 2010 edition of SmackDown to take the title from Chris Jericho. He would lose it 3 months later to Rey Mysterio, and you can now check him out on episodes of Superstars, where he wrestles guys like Heath Slater.
6. Mark Henry
Mark Henry has now worked as a professional wrestler with the WWE for 20 straight years. Only the Undertaker and Kane can state they’ve been doing it longer. While Henry has had his fair share of injuries and time off the road, his long-term employment by the WWE is a truly remarkable feat.
His title reign wasn’t remarkable at all however, although you can’t say that the guy didn’t deserve some type of symbolic reward for his service to the company. Henry beat Randy Orton clean for the title at Night of Champions 2011, and lost it 2 months later to the Big Show (though Daniel Bryan cashed in his MITB briefcase directly after).
There really just wasn’t much to the title reign. At the time the World Championship seemed secondary to the WWE Championship, which really puts an asterisk next to his reign.
This is not to say that Mark Henry isn’t a fantastic wrestler, with a Hall of Fame worthy career. It’s just to say his brief 2-month reign as champion was among the weakest in WWE history. It doesn’t discount all the really great stuff he did, like when he impregnated Mae Young with a prosthetic hand during the Attitude Era.
5. Bob Backlund (but just the 2nd time)
Bob Backlund is now Darren Young’s life coach, and that is something you might want to keep an eye on. Backlund is legit one of the most intense people you will ever see on WWE programming, which says a lot. If wrestling was like it used to be, when they would give live microphones to people who teeter on the brink of sanity, Bob Backlund as Darren Young’s life coach would be the best thing in wrestling today. But there is a reason his vignettes are all pre-recorded, they want to know everything Backlund will say before it makes it to air, because Bob Backlund is insane.
At Survivor Series 1994, Backlund defeated Bret Hart for the title when Owen Hart (Bret’s rival at the time) convinced Bret’s parents to throw in the towel during his title defence against Backlund. Bob promptly lost the title 3 days later to Diesel at MSG after Diesel power-bombed Backlund and won the title in mere seconds.
Goldberg coming to the WWE could have been huge, but it wasn’t. The WWE announced Goldberg’s signing at WrestleMania 19, and he would be gone after WrestleMania 20. While Bill Goldberg was one of the greatest WCW champions ever, he will go down as one of the worst world champions in WWE history.
Goldberg won the championship by beating Triple H at Unforgiven 2003, but would lose it back to him just a few months later at Armageddon (in a 3-way match with Kane).
He never got over in WWE the way that he got over in WCW because WWE was hesitant to put him over as a monster in the way that WCW did. Instead Goldberg was portrayed as being on par with guys like Triple H and thus never had the same aura.
At WrestleMania 20, the only one he ever participated in, the live crowd booed him and Brock Lesnar unmercifully, having figured out that each were leaving the company after the match.
3. The Great Khali
The Great Khali is over 7ft tall and weighs in excess of 300lbs. He is a large man in other words.
When Khali was brought into the WWE in 2006 he was put immediately into a feud with the Undertaker, which was enjoyed by nobody.
While Khali was a physically impressive man, his size also limited his mobility, leading to some incredibly poor quality matches.
In 2007 Khali won his first World Championship in a 20-man battle royal on SmackDown. Khali would lose the title shortly after to Batista in a 3-way match that also involved Rey Mysterio.
Eventually they ran out of things to do with a guy of Khali’s size and limited ability. Khali now owns his own wrestling school in India, where he stresses to his students the importance of being freakishly gigantic.
2. Sgt. Slaughter
The build up to WrestleMania VII was amongst the most ridiculous things that has ever happened in pro wrestling history.
The United States was about to go into a very real war with Iraq, so Vince McMahon and company decided to portray Sgt Slaughter as an “Iraqi Sympathizer” to win the title from Warrior and defend it against Hogan at WM7.
Slaughter would wave the Iraqi flag, mention that his wrestling boots were a gift from Saddam Hussein, and bring in the Iron Sheik as his manager (under the name Col. Mustafa).
Slaughter received death threats for his performance, and even wore a bullet proof vest while travelling. But none of that is what gets him ranked as the #2 worst champion of all time, what gets him on this list is how poorly this storyline flopped.
WrestleMania VII was supposed to take place at the LA Memorial Coliseum, but ticket sales were so poor it was moved to the smaller-sized LA Memorial Sports Arena. The WWE said the move in venue was because of security concerns related to Slaughter, but nobody believes that.
1. Vince McMahon
If you are reading this, you are well aware that pro wrestling is absolutely ridiculous. Nothing sums that up more than the day Vince McMahon won the WWF Championship. It was September 1999 and Vince was actually a good guy at the time. Triple H was champion and feuding with the McMahon family. He was still managed by and dating Chyna at the time, but it wouldn’t be long before he and Stephanie were outed as being together.
It’s possible that Stephanie and Triple H were starting to hook up behind Chyna’s back by the time this match with Vince happened. Is it possible that Vince booked himself to win a title match against Hunter as some sort of symbolic display of power to the guy who was starting to date his daughter? Would Chyna’s presence at ringside be super awkward considering what was beginning to happen behind her back? The answer to both those questions is “yes”, because pro wrestling is absolutely ridiculous.