Sportspeople are notoriously competitive. They are driven by a desire to be the absolute best in their sport. And how does one prove they are the best in their sport? Well, they have to win a championship or two. Take Conor McGregor, for example. The Irishman is outspoken in his belief that he is the best in the world at what he does. While McGregor’s claims of superiority may seem obnoxious to some, he can back them up with the UFC Lightweight Championship, which is currently strapped around his waist. Yes, championships are the be all and end all in sports. In sports entertainment, however, it is a different story.
Many years ago, championship titles meant as much in professional wrestling as they did in any other sport. Over time, however, championships lost their prestige and fans began to see them as meaningless decorative belts rather than legitimate symbols of excellence. It’s hard to say exactly why or when this happened, but many fans blame it on John Cena’s frequent underwhelming world championship reigns and the hot potato fashion in which the WWE Championship was passed around prior to CM Punk’s 434-day reign.
In this article, we’re going to be looking at professional wrestling championships which wrestling fans no longer take seriously. Some they've even forgotten about altogether. Overall, no one really cares about these.
15 WWE Cruiserweight Championship
We’re going to kick things off with some championships that fans have just stopped caring about. Let’s start with WWE’s Cruiserweight Championship.
When WWE announced the reintroduction of the Cruiserweight division in the summer of 2016, fans were ecstatic. The Cruiserweight Classic was a wonderful reminder of the pulse-quickening action that made WCW’s Cruiserweight division so successful and the entire WWE Universe waited with bated breath to see how things would play out when the Cruiserweights were given their own show: 205 Live.
As we all know, things didn’t play out very well. On Monday Night Raw, Cruiserweights were relegated to five-minute matches with limited storylines, and 205 Live quickly became a hotbed of wacky antics and gimmicks, with little in-ring action. This has led to the WWE Cruiserweight Championship becoming a token championship, passed around from competitor to competitor without any real logic.
14 NXT Tag Team Championships
The NXT writers have been doing a remarkable job of keeping the show relevant and maintaining some sense of prestige around the brand’s championships.
If there is one area in which the NXT writers have failed, it is in keeping fans interested in the NXT Tag Team Championships. Now, keeping fans invested in tag team wrestling in 2017 is difficult at the best of times, but for a while, the folks behind NXT pulled it off. Fans were captivated by American Alpha, #DIY, and The Vaudevillains, and their respective journeys to championship glory.
But with the titles currently being held hostage by the green giants The Authors of Pain, matches for the NXT Tag Team Championships have become lifeless and dull, serving as little more than a bathroom break.
13 TNA World Beer Drinking Championship
Sometimes you can watch hours of old TNA television and wonder how the promotion – which boasted stars like AJ Styles and Kurt Angle – failed to become a major threat to Vince McMahon and WWE. Then you watch an episode from 2007 and see Eric Young and James Storm competing for the TNA World Beer Drinking Championship and it all starts to make sense.
The TNA World Beer Drinking Championship was introduced by James Storm who was, apparently, far more proud of his ability to hold alcohol than he was of his in-ring talents. Storm’s first defense of the title came at 2007’s Genesis pay-per-view in the form of a drinking contest against Eric Young, who came out on the winning end after Storm passed out.
Storm eventually won the title back in a ladder match and would go on to hold it until Rhyno destroyed the physical belt, which was pretty easy to do as it was very clearly a plastic replica of WWE’s “spinner championship” with a beer bottle haphazardly sellotaped over the logo.
12 SmackDown Tag Team Championships
Fans just don’t care about tag team wrestling these days. As a result, it is incredibly difficult to maintain any interest in the various tag team accolades WWE offers. As I mentioned in the previous entry, the NXT writing staff did a commendable job of making the NXT Tag Team Championships seem important for a long time, but the same cannot be said of their blue brand counterparts.
The WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championships were unveiled by Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon following last year’s brand split and were eventually awarded to Heath Slater and Rhyno after a brief tag team tournament. Turning the inaugural champions into a novelty act hurt the belts right off the bat and the fact that four teams have held them in under a year has robbed the WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championships of any hope of ever being taken seriously by fans.
11 WWE European Championship
The WWE European Championship had a pretty short life. It was first introduced in the spring of February 1997 and was retired five years later in the summer of 2002. In its time as an active championship, it was held by the likes of Triple H, Shawn Michaels, and Kurt Angle.
Things started to go south for the European Championship in April of 1999 when Shane McMahon won the title and “retired” as champion. For two months, the European Championship lay dormant before being reintroduced by Mideon, who simply wanted a belt for his trousers.
The two-month hiatus of the European Championship and the manner in which it was reintroduced damaged the belt’s credibility in the eyes of many, leaving it with a stigma from which it never recovered. It was eventually unified with the WWE Intercontinental Championship on a 2002 episode of Monday Night Raw and has been given little thought since.
10 WWE Diva’s Championship
Here's a championship wrestling fans are only too happy to leave in the past: the WWE Diva’s Championship.
When the WWE Diva’s Championship was first revealed back in 2008, it was met by the sounds of exasperated groans and hands slapping foreheads. The Women’s Championship, which had been held by the likes of Lita and Trish Stratus, was to be replaced by a picture of a pink butterfly.
The Diva’s Championship would be defended for eight years, generally in five-minute matches which showcased little more than Vince McMahon’s belief that women are delicate little creatures who choose slaps over punches and hair-pulling over headlocks.
The Diva’s Championship was finally replaced by a modern day WWE Women’s Championship at WrestleMania 32 before being cast away to the WWE vaults, never to be spoken of again.
9 NWA Championship
For a long time, the NWA Championship was the most sought-after prize in professional wrestling. It was the belt for which guys like Dusty Rhodes, Ric Flair, and Harley Race sacrificed their bodies.
It was heavily featured on Impact Wrestling during the company's early days – remember when it used to be TNA and good? – and was held by the likes of Sting, Jeff Jarrett, and AJ Styles. Once the company introduced its own heavyweight championship, however, the NWA Championship seemed to disappear altogether.
Many fans are surprised to learn that the NWA Championship still exists today, though it is a shadow of its former self. It is defended in those infamous bingo halls in front of 200 people (on a good night) and is currently in the hands of a 52-year-old Tim Storm.
8 Impact Wrestling Championship
When TNA replaced the NWA Championship with the first TNA World Heavyweight Championship, many fans saw it as a sign of things to come. It looked as though TNA had taken the final step necessary to becoming a legitimate threat to WWE. Ten years later, however, the now Impact Wrestling Championship is as inconsequential as the company itself.
For a while, the Impact Wrestling Championship was viewed by fans as a serious accomplishment. Those who held it could declare themselves a world champion without fear of hearing snickers in the back of the room. Around 2013, however, Impact Wrestling got into the habit of awarding the championship to people who had been with the company for a while but had never held it. While this did create a couple of feel-good underdog victories, it became stale fast, as did the idea of putting the belt on Lashley, who has now been Impact World Heavyweight Champion a total of four times.
With Impact recently going through a total rebranding, it is possible that the Impact Heavyweight Championship will begin to mean something again. Right now, however, being the Impact World Heavyweight Champion is essentially making the best of a bad situation.
7 WWF World Martial Arts Heavyweight Championship
That’s right, there was a time when WWE – or, as it was then known, the WWF – had a World Martial Arts Heavyweight Championship.
The WWF World Martial Arts Heavyweight Championship was in existence for 11 years and was awarded by Vincent J. McMahon to the inaugural champion Antonio Inoki (because all Japanese people know martial arts, apparently).
Inoki would hold the World Martial Arts Heavyweight Championship for a staggering 3780 days. During that reign, the relationship between WWE and NJPW soured and Inoki returned to Japan, where he would exclusively defend the championship before losing it to Shota Chochishvili in a fifth round knockout.
Inoki recaptured the title just 31 days later losing it to Chochishvili and held it until it was retired on New Year’s Eve of 1989.
6 Impact Wrestling X Division Championship
In the early days of Impact Wrestling, the company relied on its X Division to set itself aside. The X Division, which many compared to WCW’s beloved Cruiserweight division, featured hard-hitting American wrestling fused with aspects of lucha libre.
During its glory years, competitors in the X Division were not limited by weight or height. This allowed guys like AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, and Kurt Angle to do battle for the X Division Championship.
The division took a hit in 2012 when Eric Bischoff (of course) introduced a weight limit of 225 pounds. Although this limit was later lifted, a new limit of 230 pounds was introduced in 2013, along with a mandate that the X Division Championship could only be defended under triple threat rules. Fans were outraged by such a drastic deviation from what the X Division was supposed to be about, which led to management lifting the limits again. By then, however, it was too late. Fans had already ceased to care about the division and its championship, as they would later do with the entire company.
5 TNA Legends Championship
I’m not going to refer to this championship as the “Impact Wrestling Legends Championship” as it has never been defended under the Impact Wrestling banner. The championship was introduced by inaugural champion Booker T in 2008 and would later be held by pro wrestling legends such as Mick Foley and Kevin Nash.
While the idea of wrestling legends facing off for a championship specifically geared towards older performers seemed like a nice idea on paper, it very quickly became clear that the conceivable contenders for the championship were in no condition to put on the exhilarating matches which had helped them achieve legend status in the first place. For that reason, TNA eventually rebranded the Legends Championship as the “TNA Television Championship” before abandoning the title completely in 2016.
4 WWE Intercontinental Championship
The WWE Intercontinental Championship really used to mean something. It was the title that launched the careers of guys like Bret “The Hitman” Hart and “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels. It gave us classic encounters such as Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat vs. “Macho Man” Randy Savage at WrestleMania III and the aforementioned Michaels vs. Razor Ramon at WrestleMania X.
Today, however, the Intercontinental Championship is little more than a blip on the WWE radar. The title’s credibility has been hurt by underwhelming storylines and matches, as well as the fact it is often relegated to the pre-show, even at WrestleMania.
The championship has not been helped by the fact it has changed hands as often as Alicia Fox on 205 Live. Curtis Axel, Ryback, and Wade Barrett have all spent time as Intercontinental Champion. Today, two of them have left WWE while the remaining former champion has been relegated to jobber status, proof the championship is no longer the star maker it once was.
3 WWF Light Heavyweight Championship
Although the WWE Light Heavyweight Championship was technically established in 1981 – before spending a period being defended in other promotions on other continents – WWE’s official history claims the championship was established in December of 1997. It also lists Gillberg as the longest reigning WWF Light Heavyweight Champion in history.
Vince McMahon opted to reintroduce the Light Heavyweight Championship to his company after witnessing the success of WCW’s Cruiserweight division. However, the Light Heavyweight division was not quite able to equal the fast-paced lucha-esque action of Ted Turner’s cruiserweight alternative and the credibility of the division’s championship was hurt by it being held by a comedy act for such a long period of time.
After Vince McMahon’s purchase of WCW in 2001, the WWF Light Heavyweight Championship was merged with the WCW Cruiserweight Championship to create the WWE Cruiserweight Championship, which itself was retired in 2007.
2 WWE Universal Championship
With the title’s ridiculous design and even more ridiculous name, WWE writers had their work cut out for them when it came to getting WWE fans to take the WWE Universal Championship seriously. Putting the belt on guys like Finn Bálor and Kevin Owens certainly allowed viewers to overlook the championship’s shortcomings for a little while. However, that became more and more difficult to do the further Owens slipped down to the second hour of Raw while Roman Reigns – who was neither champion nor number one contender – was placed in opening segments and main events.
The credibility of the Universal Championship took another hit when Kevin Owens was defeated by a 50-year-old challenger in 22 seconds. That challenger, Goldberg, would later drop the belt to Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 33, and the championship has scarcely been seen since.
With the belt on a part-timer who routinely breaks the 30-day championship defense rule, fans are having a harder time than ever trying to treat the WWE Universal Championship as a legitimate accomplishment.
1 ECW World Heavyweight Championship (WWE)
When I say fans don't care about the ECW World Heavyweight Championship, I’m not talking about the original ECW’s top prize. No, we all have very fond memories of that championship being defended in barbaric encounters by the likes of Sabu, The Sandman, and Terry Funk. The ECW World Heavyweight Championship that no one cares about is the meager reward WWE gave to the supposed top stars of its ill-fated ECW reboot.
Things actually started off quite well for WWE’s incarnation of the ECW World Heavyweight Championship. The belt, which looked pretty similar to the classic ECW title, was presented to Rob Van Dam in the summer of 2006. However, Van Dam soon dropped the title to The Big Show and it was all downhill from there. The Big Show was defeated by Bobby Lashley, who, in turn, lost the championship to Vince freaking McMahon.
In the summer of 2008, WWE redesigned the ECW World Heavyweight Championship to look like a world title produced by Apple. Sleek and shining, it reflected everything but Paul Heyman’s original ECW. It was this belt which would become synonymous with WWE’s mistreatment of its ECW brand. It was retired on February 16th, 2010, with Ezekiel Jackson (of all people) being listed as the final ECW World Heavyweight Champion.
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