It is a well-known fact that the outcomes of professional wrestling matches are predetermined, but some people have confused what it means to win a title. Having your named etched in the history books has nothing to do with physically besting your opponent but it should have a lot to do with how good you are at what you do. The performer chosen to hold a particular belt is supposed to have a certain x-factor that makes the people in a position of power believe that their reign will put butts in seats.
For long-time fans, for that reason, the outcome of championship bouts is fairly predictable in many cases. When a long entrenched champ defends his prize against a newcomer in a throwaway match, it is pretty easy to assume what the outcome is going to be for instance. Every once in a while, however, the choice to change things up catches all of us fans by surprise.
15 Shawn Michaels defeats Bret Hart for the WWF World Heavyweight Championship
The Montreal Screwjob has become such a controversial event in the annals of wrestling history, we wouldn’t blame anyone who thinks this particular title switch should be higher on our list. However, let’s think what a group of wrestling fans sitting down to the 1997 Survivor Series, armed with the knowledge that our hero and Heavyweight Champion is on his way to WCW would expect. In all likelihood, we’d have thought the chances of HBK coming out on top, given that situation, was actually incredibly high. The out of nowhere bell ring, running away referee and resulting chaos was shocking enough a circumstance to make our list incomplete if we didn’t include it at all.
14 Sgt. Slaughter defeats The Ultimate Warrior for the WWF World Heavyweight Championship
When The Ultimate Warrior beat Hulk Hogan for the biggest title in the wrestling world, in the most acclaimed event of the year, it was meant to herald in a new era in the WWF. The fact that he would drop the belt to perennial mid-carder Sgt. Slaughter, mere months later, nobody could possibly have seen coming. Holding the title for just over two months, Slaughter, a worker in his early forties, seems to have been nothing more than a transitional champ who was given the belt in an attempt to get headlines.
13 JBL defeats Eddie Guerrero for the WWE Championship
A former wrestling cowboy, who’d finally found a sweet spot for himself when he teamed with Farooq, as a couple of badass brawlers looking for a payday, Bradshaw was an entertaining tag team performer. When his partner retired from regular in-ring competition, he underwent a complete transformation of character and became a right wing business tycoon overnight. Instantly entertaining in his new role, JBL, as he was now known in his first legitimate shot at a world title, took home the gold from perennial fan favorite Eddie Guerrero. Few men have ever raised in the wrestling world ranks so fast, as the mad Texan.
12 Chyna Defeats Jeff Jarrett for the WWF Intercontinental Championship
From the moment Chyna debuted in the WWF, it was obvious that she was an utterly unique talent. A woman who looked as powerful as almost anyone on the roster, no matter their gender, she spent years at the side of Triple H before breaking new ground in the wrestling world. The first woman to ever compete in The Royal Rumble and King of the Ring tournament, she is also the first and to-date, the only woman to win the Intercontinental Championship. After losing her first opportunity, she competed in, thankfully, the only Good Housekeeping match ever and did the previously impossible.
11 The Undertaker defeats Hulk Hogan for the WWF World Heavyweight Championship
The Undertaker has been employed as a wrestler, by the WWE, for more than twenty-five years and if rumors are true, he may just be the most respected man to ever be a part of their locker room. When he wrestled Hulk Hogan for the Heavyweight Championship at the 1991 Survivor Series, he’d only debuted one year and seven days earlier. A rookie with one hell of a gimmick, going up against the business’ biggest star, the odds of the champ walking out with his reign intact seemed insurmountable. Instead, the business saw the Phenom’s first rise.
10 Jeff Hardy defeats Triple H for the WWF Intercontinental Heavyweight Championship
When Stone Cold Steve Austin embraced Vince McMahon at the end of WrestleMania X-Seven, everyone was appalled. The very next night, he joined forces with Triple H to become the Two-Man Power Trip, the most powerful duo in all of wrestling. Soon thereafter Hunter became the Intercontinental Champion and nobody expected his run with the belt to come to an end so quickly, and especially not at the hands of The Hardy Boyz. Coming out on top during a Smackdown match, being chosen to unseat the former world champ, was a massive turning point in Jeff’s career, largely because fans were so amazed.
9 “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan defeats Kevin Nash for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship
Supremely popular with the WCW fan base at the time, Kevin Nash won the WCW title from Goldberg in a match where three people interfered on his behalf. Remaining a good guy because his character didn’t seem to realize what had happened at the time, Nash promised to give the former champ a rematch. A few months later, on the night Goldberg was set to get his shot, he was arrested and suddenly Hollywood Hogan took his place. When the bell rang and Hulk poked Kev, he flopped to the ground and months of storylines were thrown away. Reuniting the nWo, making Goldberg look like a fool and diminishing the importance of the belt in a single match is a mistake nobody predicted.
8 DDP defeats Ric Flair, Sting and Hollywood Hogan for Flair’s WCW World Heavyweight Championship
WCW spent years relying on older wrestlers who’d made themselves huge stars in other companies to headline their cards. Diamond Dallas Page was a wrestler who was as old as those men but despite his incredible passion and respectable wrestling skill, lacked their pedigree. That was why, when he took part in a four-way match for the belt with three men who were all multiple time world champs, it seemed like a no-brainer that he wouldn’t win. Obviously, that was not the case and he shoved our disbelief down our throats by becoming an admirable three-time champion.
7 Edge defeats John Cena for the WWE Championship
The Money in the Bank contract is arguably the best new concept to hit the WWE since The Royal Rumble debuted. Entitling its winner to a championship match at a time of their choosing, the first man to carry the case was Edge and the way he used it never even entered the minds of most fans. Coming out at the behest of Vince McMahon after a hard fought Elimination Chamber match where John Cena retained, Edge took advantage of the battered and bruised champ and won. There were six men who’d been advertised to have a chance to walk out with the belt that night, in retrospect it was the perfect moment for the ultimate opportunist, but we’d never seen anything like it before.
6 Bob Backlund defeats Bret Hart for the WWF World Heavyweight Championship
The second man to serve as the face of the company, Bob Backlund’s first run with the gold lasted an amazing 2,135 days. Considered to be the all-American boy, Bob was the consummate good guy, always standing up for what is right and carrying himself in a way that was beyond reproach. When he rejoined the roster in the nineties, he “snapped”, slapped then champ, Bret Hart in the face and put him in his Crossface Chickenwing. At the 1994 Survivor Series, the two men battled for the WWF’s ultimate prize and Backlund eked out a win when Owen Hart betrayed his brother and threw in the tower. A blast from the past who nobody thought had a legitimate shot at winning, Backlund surprised fans everywhere.
5 Bret Hart defeats The Miz for the WWE United States Championship
When The Hitman left for WCW, it seemed like hell would have to freeze over for him to ever associate himself with the WWE again. Years of resentment slowly began to thaw and after he worked with his former boss on a DVD and even took his rightful place in the Hall of Fame, the tides seemed to be changing. Finally, one night in 2009, he made his way out on Raw and stepped inside a WWE ring for the first time in over a decade. Still, with his severe injuries, which ended his in-ring career, still dogging him certainly Bret wouldn’t actually compete, right? Winning the last gold belt of his career, calling what happened a match is awfully charitable. Hart, a man who’d suffered severe concussions and a stroke won a major title in the biggest wrestling company in the world. They absolutely protected him but that fact is too ridiculous to anticipate.
4 Ivan Koloff defeats Bruno Sammartino for the WWWF World Heavyweight Championship
Bruno is without question one of the most accomplished professional wrestlers ever. A Hall of Famer who served as the face of the company for more than a decade, he held the WWWF Championship for nearly eight years straight. When the “Russian Bear” Ivan Koloff got a shot at the gold in Madison Square Garden, he was just the latest in a very long list of challengers and there was no reason to believe the outcome would be any different. Legend has it, that when the match came to an end, the world’s most famous arena was so shocked and silent, you could actually hear a pin drop.
3 Tazz defeats Mike Awesome for ECW World Heavyweight Championship
At the height of the Monday Night Wars, roster raids had become something of an arms race for the top two competing wrestling companies. The WWF was clearly beginning to take the lead in the ratings and in the battle for talent, so when WCW wanted to shake things up they convinced the current ECW champ to abandon ship. A crazy moment which resulted in a legal battle where Paul Heyman held all the cards, he was able to force his former employee to lose the belt in any way he chose. Asking the WWF to loan him Tazz, a former ECW champion himself, a WWF contracted wrestler beat a WCW contracted wrestler for the ECW championship. We’re not likely to see something so convoluted again anytime soon.
2 Vince McMahon defeats Triple H for the WWF Championship
It has been said that the Chairman of the Board, Vincent Kennedy McMahon, always wanted to be a wrestler himself but his father forbade it. Vinnie, after years of feuding on screen with The Texas Rattlesnake, had taken part in some classic matches but was still and executive, not a wrestler. When 1999 began, Mr. McMahon hadn’t won any of his company’s accolades so when he triumphed in The Royal Rumble it was strange enough. When Steve Austin stunned Triple H and dragged an out of it Vince onto his prone body, wrestling fans were left aghast.
1 David Arquette defeats Eric Bischoff for DDP’s WCW World Heavyweight Championship
When Vince Russo gained creative control in WCW, it seemed like a genius move for the struggling company. He’d been the head writer of their more successful rival when they were breaking viewership records left and right. If only, they were able to streamline his idea as effectively as his former boss had, they may still be running today. A B-level celebrity, who looked like he couldn’t fight his way out of a wet paper sack, winning the greatest symbol of excellence in WCW, may be his most infamous contribution to the company. A horrible idea, that degraded the esteem of a highly sought after accolade, the only thing Arquette’s win did manage to accomplish is to surprise the public more than any other title change.