There is no greater pinnacle to a professional wrestler than winning their first major championship. Nothing says they’ve succeeded quite like earning some gold in WWE, or promotions like ECW and WCW in the years of yore. Even winning a championship for a smaller scale promotion like TNA can feel like a wrestler’s big break, as no matter where you are, it’s a sign the people in charge are supporting you in a major way. The bigger the title, the more they support you, so the happier wrestlers are when they’re told it’s time for them to win the big one. Unfortunately, though, not every wrestler that has gone through this experience necessarily deserved to do so. In the worst cases, a wrestler winning a championship can ruin its reputation and change it from something everyone in the promotion is dying to win into something the fans are begging the company to get rid of.
The only thing that can truly destroy a championship is the company deciding not to have the belt defended anymore, but sometimes a really bad wrestler wins a title, and that can drag it down pretty significantly on its own. Maybe the championship stuck around in for quite some time after its nadir, and in rare instances championships have even been rescued through the hard work of superstars following the ones we’re about to run down in our list. That doesn’t change the fact that for a few months, weeks, or in merciful cases only days, these championships were being dragged through the mud by horrible wrestlers who never should have gotten a title shot in the first place. Keep reading to learn which 15 wrestlers were so terrible they ruined championships by winning them.
15 Hornswoggle - WWE Cruiserweight Championship
We just mentioned that not every one of these wrestlers actually killed the championships they held, but we’re starting our list with the one wrestler who very literally actually did just that. The WWE Cruiserweight Champion shares lineage with the WCW Cruiserweight Championship, and as a result had a history dating back to the early ‘90s. The first champion was Brian Pillman, who set the standard for incredible matches in the division against Jushin “Thunder” Liger. Nearly three decades of consistently sterling in-ring action, the title was retired following an upset victory by Hornswoggle that saw him win the title from six-time champion Chavo Guerrero, Jr in 2007.
At just over 21 years old, Hornswoggle was the youngest WWE Cruiserweight Champion, and he was also the shortest, smallest, and last. Two months after he won the belt, SmackDown General Manager Vickie Guerrero decreed that it would be retired for his own safety, and cruiserweights were left to fend for themselves in the heavyweight ranks ever since. Hornswoggle is the definition of a special attraction who shouldn’t have been wrestling for titles in the first place, and all it takes is one look at him to see it wasn’t very realistic for him to be beating the other wrestlers in serious contests.
14 Vince McMahon - ECW World Heavyweight Championship
There are plenty of ways to argue that the ECW reunion was doomed from the start, but for a few short months, it almost seemed like it wasn’t going to be a complete disaster. The first revived ECW World Champion was Rob Van Dam, but his drug problems quickly saw him get turfed for The Big Show. Show wasn’t exactly extreme, but at least he was feuding with Sabu, who decidedly was. Bobby Lashley was the third champion, and while he didn’t set ECW on fire, he was an understandable experiment that shouldn’t be faulted too harshly for trying. And then, only the fourth ECW World Champion after WWE revived the brand was Vince McMahon, and if it hadn’t been dead from the start, this move completely killed ECW once and for all.
There’s a small temptation to defend the idea in the fact it was an inspired heel move for McMahon to literally destroy ECW’s integrity, but any upsides that might have come from the title reign are outweighed by the fact it made a complete farce of the ECW name, which WWE were allegedly trying to push as a new brand at the time. McMahon didn’t hold the title for long, losing it back to Lashley, but then Lashley almost immediately vacated the belt—why would he want it, anyway? McMahon clearly thought it was a joke.
13 General E. Rection - WCW United States Championship
Maybe there’s a universe in which Bill DeMott, or Hugh Morrus as he was known for the majority of his career, could have been a respectable wrestler who gradually worked his way up the ranks of WCW and won the United States Championship. The storyline in which he did so wasn’t even that bad, essentially just doing what we described and being treated as a young grappler gaining experiencing and earning his due. There was a major problem in the execution of the plan, however, in that they decided to change his name from the familiar Hugh Morrus to the ridiculous General E. Rection in order to prepare him for the jolt up the card.
There are plenty of flaws with Vince Russo’s tenure as the head writer of WCW, but one of the most obvious issues is the fact he seemed completely incapable of separating the serious moments from the jokes. If he wanted to turn a wrestler into a dick joke, that’s fine, but that same wrestler can’t be a hard worker rising his way up the ranks. We didn’t even mean to make that pun, which shows how impossible it was to take DeMott seriously in the role. When he actually won the United States title named while after his own genitals, the second most important belt in WCW turned into a punch line with him.
12 Ron Killings and Pacman Jones - TNA World Tag Team Championships
TNA has made dozens of bad decisions throughout the years, and have reached a point where almost every month it seems like they’re impossibly closer to bankruptcy while somehow still managing to circle the drain and hold on. No matter how inept the business side of TNA seems, though, they’ll never top perhaps the worst decision they made inside the ring—giving a major title to a person who was legally unable to ever wrestle a match.
Adam “Pacman” Jones is an athlete best known as a cornerback who played for the Tennessee Titans, Dallas Cowboys, and Cincinnati Bengals. He was also briefly one half of the TNA World Tag Team Champions with Ron Killings. Jones never actually wrestled, though, due to the NFL threatening him with legal action if he were to do so. TNA repeatedly advertised Jones would be stepping in the ring despite the fact it was impossible, and Killings was forced to do all of the work in the ring while Jones stood on the apron as a result. It wasn’t long before TNA had to replace Jones with Consequences Creed, and the company finally decided to get rid of Pacman shortly thereafter. The damage to the titles was already done, though, and fans realized TNA was as addicted to celebrity attention as WCW was at its worst.
11 Vince Russo - WCW World Heavyweight Championship
Vince Russo did plenty of confusing and questionable things as the head writer of WCW, and fans can debate over what their favorite or least favorite actions he’s responsible for were. However, there’s no debate over what the most egotistical and short-sighted idea he had while working for the company, because the untrained and out of shape professional writer defeated Booker T in a Caged Heat match on Nitro in September of 2000. Russo only won the match due to heavy outside interference and typical WCW nonsense, but most people would argue he never should have been on camera in the first place, let alone in the ring and competing for the company’s top title.
Vince McMahon worked as the heel authority figure in WWE and his WWE World Heavyweight Championship reign aren’t on this list for the same two reasons—McMahon actually owns WWE, and is at least in decent enough shape that it’s possible a wrestler wouldn’t cause him to crumple into dust the second they touched him. Russo had neither of those qualities, and only gave himself the title out of sheer ego. It’s not even the worst thing he did to the belt, and it still dragged it down further than anything any other writer for the company had contrived up to that point.
10 Jim Duggan - WCW World Television Championship
It’s hard to say what exactly killed the WCW World Television Championship, as the belt was victim to a long downward spiral that could be argued to have lasted almost an entire decade. The TV title was one of the most hotly contested and important titles in the NWA during the late ‘80s, long before the WWE Network gave literally endless airtime to sports entertainment, and when being on television was still far from a guarantee for a wrestler. Superstars like Steve Austin, Tully Blanchard, and especially Arn Anderson wrestled some of the best matches of the era over the belt, but shortly after NWA morphed into WCW, the championship started to get lost in the shuffle and plenty of suspect reigns occurred as a result.
Prince Iaukea, Alex Wright, and The Renegade were some of the wrestlers who dragged the title down over the years, but others like Booker T, Rick Martel, and Perry Saturn were the antidotes proving great matches were still happening on television. The title was actually killed not by Jim Duggan but by Scott Hall, who threw it into a trashcan on an episode of Nitro. Amazingly, WCW found a way to dig it up and overkill it once again, by having Hacksaw find it in a dumpster months later and in a different state, at which point he decided to defend the belt like he had won it. In general, wrestling fans don’t like it when titles are thrown in the trash, but this entry proves it’s even worse when they’re dug back out of it.
9 The Fabulous Moolah - WWE Women's Championship
The Fabulous Moolah could be argued as the greatest WWE Women’s Champion during the original existence of the belt, and discounting her final reign, we wouldn’t really do anything to argue with that statement. Despite the controversy surrounding Moolah’s so-called training methods and her treatment of the people she worked with throughout the years, she still holds the record for the longest continuous title reign of any kind through her 28-year dominance of women’s wrestling. Of course, there were a few women Moolah had deleted from history who actually broke up her run, but on paper, it was a very impressive title reign.
Moolah’s final title reign, however, has far less good to be said about it. Moolah left WWE in the late ‘80s after losing the title to Sherri Martel, and returned in 1999 when she was 76 years old. Well into her senior citizen status, Moolah defeated Ivory to win the Women’s Championship once again at No Mercy. Moolah only made one defense of the belt, against Mae Young, and lost the title back to Ivory in 24 seconds one week later. Moolah’s advanced age made the whole thing look ridiculous, and it's only fair to point out she was already 61 during her famous series with Wendi Richter over 15 years earlier.
8 Harvey Wippleman - WWE Women's Championship
Moolah winning the Women’s Championship as a septuagenarian was pretty bad, but leave it to WWE to denigrate women’s wrestling even further less than three months later. The Kat had won the championship from Ivory in an “evening gown pool” match, which should already show you the general direction the division was headed in at this point. Two months after The Kat won the belt, she defended it against “Hervina” in a lumberjill snowbunny match. Hervina improbably won the belt, and in a post-match interview quickly revealed that she was actually former WWE manager Harvey Wippleman.
There are so many things wrong with Wippleman winning the Women’s Championship it’s kind of hard to even begin talking about it. First, there’s the exceeding obvious fact that Wippleman was not a woman. Second, there’s the fact his costume was completely unbelievable, and Hervina isn’t even an actual woman’s name. Third, Wippleman wasn’t even a wrestler, and fourth, even his management career basically ended over four years prior to him winning the Women’s title. Wippleman’s reign only lasted 1 day, but this combined with Moolah makes it obvious why WWE decided to start from scratch when they created the new Women’s Championship in 2016.
7 Mideon - WWE European Championship
The WWE European Championship was a confusing title, due in large part to the fact the first two people to hold it treated the belt mostly as an accessory that was rarely defended or alluded to. The British Bulldog was the appropriate first champion by route of winning a tournament in 1997, and he lost the title to Shawn Michaels in the main event the UK-only WWE Pay-Per-View, One Night Only. The European element of the belt dropped shortly thereafter, and HBK gave the title to Triple H in a precursor to the Fingerpoke of Doom that threatened to make it a joke from the very start.
Only through the hard work of D'Lo Brown, Owen Hart, and a few others who followed them did the title remain an important piece of WWE during its first few years. Although the exact purpose of the belt was unclear, the storylines revolving it were consistently strong enough that it seemed like an important championship regardless of the specifics behind it’s meaning. Even when Shane McMahon debuted as a wrestler to win the title, his matches for the belt were shockingly great, up to the match where he decided to “retire” the title. Nearly three full months later, Mideon found the title in Shane’s duffel bag and asked if he could have it. Good wrestlers would hold the title again and soon, but from this point on the European Championship could easily fall into the hands of a random midcarder with no purpose, just like the belt itself.
6 Gillberg - WWE Light Heavyweight Championship
The Cruiserweight Championship that existed through WCW and WWE had a multiple decade history that made many fans feel a true sense of loss when the title was finally retired in 2007. The WWE Light Heavyweight Championship experienced a significantly lower level of longevity, and a big part of the reason could probably be found in the man who was only the third superstar to win the title. Taka Michinoku was the first champion, winning a tournament in late 1997 and defending it for nearly a year until he lost it to Christian, competing in his debut match.
One month after Christian won the title, he lost it to long-time WWE jobber Duane Gill. Of course, at this point, Gill had struck gold so to speak with the most notable gimmick of his career, a pint-sized parody of WCW’s top superstar. Yep, Christian was the answer to the question “Who’s First?!” as asked by the incomparable Gillberg. Gillberg won the title with the help of the entire JOB Squad, and would go on to hold it for over a year. Gillberg almost never defended the belt, and was practically forgotten about almost as soon as he won it. He only appeared as a punchline thereafter, turning the entire division into part of the setup as a result.
5 Deuce n Domino - WWE World Tag Team Championships
Deuce and Domino were one of the most out of place and least deserving championship duos of the past decade. Their ‘50s greaser gimmick felt out of place in any era, and the worst part about it is that it came during an era when tag teams were desperately needed in WWE. Paul London and Brian Kendrick had been reigning as tag team champions for nearly a year when Deuce n Domino beat them for the belts, but the underdog cruiserweight duo were still popular at the time, and fans had yet to show any interest in Deuce, Domino, or even their gorgeous manager, Cherry.
For the past several years at that point, most of the Tag Team Champions on SmackDown were thrown together pairs of solo superstars working together for vague reasons, mostly because the writers had no other ideas for them. When Deuce n Domino hit the scene, they were an actual fresh tag team who were being pushed towards the top. Unfortunately, the facts neither of them could deliver in the ring and their gimmick had no resonance with modern crowds meant it would still be several years before anyone cared about the tag division.
4 Oklahoma - WCW Cruiserweight Championship
Honestly, we tried to treat it like a travesty the Cruiserweight Championship was retired in 2007 after Hornswoggle brought it to its ultimate low-point, but looking at some of the previous champions to hold the title, it’s kind of surprising the belt even lasted that long. In the very least, it’s amazing WWE would want to continue the legacy of the title when you consider the championship tenures of certain superstars like The Artist Formerly Known as Prince Iaukea, Lenny Lane, and Evan Karagias. And that’s not even considering the true nadir of the title and maybe even WCW in general, the two-day reign of a non-wrestler named Oklahoma.
Vince Russo’s co-head writer Ed Ferrara portrayed the gimmick, which was intended as a parody of Jim Ross. Fans understood the parody, but with exaggerated facial ticks and repetitious dialogue, it felt far more like Ferrara was mocking Bell’s palsy itself than he was one of the disease’s most famous sufferers. Even if one does focus on his insults towards JR, Oklahoma was particularly tasteless and crass in his attempts at mocking one of the most respected men in wrestling. The fact WCW actually rewarded this nonsense with a title instead of firing Ferrara the day he pitched the idea is the only part of the ordeal we can actually laugh at.
3 The Great Khali - WWE World Heavyweight Championship
The WWE World Heavyweight Championship is slightly difficult to discuss thanks to the many name changes it went through during its 11 year tenure as one of the two primary championships in WWE, so we’ll call it the Big Gold Belt to make things less confusing. The Great Khali was without a question the worst wrestler ever to hold the Big Gold Belt. That includes the wrestlers who held it when it was contested in NWA and WCW, and the period during which it was referred to as the WCW International Championship. In fact, the Great Khali may just be the worst wrestler ever to hold any title in a major wrestling promotion, which is seriously saying something considering how many wrestlers and titles there are in the first place.
The Great Khali isn’t just a bad wrestler, he’s genuinely only a few steps away from being immobile. He can barely move around in the ring, and his offense is mostly just punching and chopping, because that’s all he can do. Nonetheless, WWE decided this was all he needed to win one of their two World Championships in 2007. Khali won the title after Edge vacated it due to injury, and we can only hope he never would have held it unless a serious injury epidemic demanded it. Considering wrestlers still get injured and Khali is still a giant, we also hope WWE never sees him as a viable answer to the problem again, since he nearly ruined one of the most iconic wrestling titles in history the last time they did.
2 David Arquette - WCW World Heavyweight Championship
It should come as no surprise to people familiar with WCW and its dying days that this title reign should end up near the top of our list. Arguably the worst decision in wrestling history, and the one moment that destroyed the WCW World Heavyweight Championship and drove the nail in the coffin for that company was Vince Russo telling David Arquette to pin Eric Bischoff on Thunder and become the champion. We called Khali the worst wrestler to hold the Big Gold Belt, but Arquette was no wrestler, he was merely a comedic actor who starred in a film parodying the sport. In his very first match, Arquette teamed with then-champion DDP against Bischoff and Jeff Jarrett, with DDP’s title on the line.
It would seem redundant to explain what was wrong with Arquette winning the title, since the five simple words “David Arquette, WCW World Champion” truly say it all. A completely untrained wrestler who was smaller than the smallest cruiserweights won a match featuring two genuine WCW main eventers. Arquette only held the belt for a few weeks before Jeff Jarrett won it once again, but the damage was more than done. What was once on par with the WWE World Championship as one of the most important belts in sports entertainment was a complete joke, given to celebrities as a publicity stunt.
1 Rick Steiner and Judy Bagwell - WCW World Tag Team Championships
WCW underwent seemingly countless confusing, boneheaded, and outright stupid decisions throughout the 12 years they existed as the primary competition to Vince McMahon’s WWE. There’s plenty to debate in terms of what the absolute worst decision the company made was in terms of what drove them out of business, but a few title reigns in particular have been pointed to as the main problems. We already covered the World Heavyweight Champions that shouldn’t have been, but amazingly, WCW had an even worse idea about who to reward with their World Tag Team Championships than the non-wrestlers who were given the top prize.
Rick Steiner is one-half of The Steiner Brothers, one of the greatest tag teams ever to compete in the squared circle. Both he and his brother Scott suffered a serious dive in their abilities as the years raged on, but WCW continued to push them as major contenders. The Brothers eventually found themselves feuding each other, during which point Rick won the WCW Tag Team Championships by himself and needed a new partner. First, he chose a jobber named Kenny Kaos, but when Kaos was injured, Steiner again got to choose his partner and he named Buff Bagwell’s mother, Judy. Judy actually defended the titles in a match with Rick against his brother and her son on Nitro, but they eventually were forced to vacate the belts when both of them suffered injuries.