We continue forward with our special on the Best and Worst champions of the WWE with one of the most prestigious titles to grace the ring, the World Heavyweight Championship. Before it was just recently unified with the WWE Championship, the World Heavyweight Championship was a belt created by the WWE in order to give a Champion for each brand, Raw and SmackDown when the two brands split in the early 2000’s. While it may not boast a long and distinguished history like the WWE Championship belt, it does have the honor of being held by some of the greatest talents in pro wrestling history. So we continue this special with a list of the best and worst wrestlers to hold the World Heavyweight Championship.
Keep in mind this is my opinion that I based on the prestige of the wrestlers and their title reigns. If you disagree with the list or even agree, please leave it in the comment section below.
5. Jack Swagger
I’m not normally one to dish out a lot of punishment to wrestlers that are deemed ‘pushed too early’. I don’t mind an early push in someone’s career if the wrestler has the talent in the ring and on the mic to back up their play. After all, if a wrestler has a natural talent for the business there is no need to have them languish in the midcard for the sake of them sitting there. This is a subject I will bring up later in the best section.
However, when it comes to Jack Swagger… I can see what they mean. This guy will probably win the award for wrestlers in the WWE who were pushed to early that actually held the World Championship. It is easy to see what they were trying to do. Kurt Angle is one of the greatest wrestlers to ever enter the ring or wrestle on the mat for that matter. Jack Swagger had a similar background and a similar look. He was also booked as an ultra patriotic wrestler for that matter. This guy was meant to be Kurt Angle 2.0. The only problem… He is a black hole of charisma. The guy simply doesn’t have the mic skills or the charisma to be a champion and while he was champion while his in ring matches were great, he was unable to build momentum and created a mediocre title run until he was pushed back down to the midcard where he wrestles to this day.
Rey Mysterio remains to this day as one of my favorite pro wrestlers of all time. When I was a kid I was easily won over by the WCW’s Cruiserweight division and preferred their high flying action to the slow plodding of the main event roster and I still keep this feeling to this day. Call me odd but I have always preferred my wrestlers small, quick, and technical to the stereotypical land of giants so when Rey Mysterio finally won the World Championship you will find few people as excited as I was… Then came the terrible booking.
Let it be known that when I make these lists, my feelings of the wrestler come secondary to the title reign themselves, because I hold fast that Rey Mysterio is still to this day one of the most underrated wrestlers in the world and deserved far more substantial World Championship reigns then was given to him. But winning the biggest prize in the WWE and being under 5’10 means that you are about to be Vince McMahon’s bitch. During Rey Mysterio’s first title reign following WrestleMania 22, the high flying superstar was practically jobbed out and billed as a undervalued underdog while holding the belt, eventually losing it to Booker T in his horrific ‘King Booker’ gimmick. Rey would win the belt one more time at the disaster of a PPV Fatal 4 Way but only hold the title for less then a month before dropping it to Kane who would go on to have a decent and underrated title reign. Mysterio remains one of my favorite wrestlers, but as World Champion… They really fucked him over.
3. Jeff Hardy
I loved the feud between CM Punk and Jeff Hardy. It was the collision of two of the most polar opposites of life styles that are both fan favorites for a similar yet completely different reasons. This is a feud that writes itself, Jeff Hardy being a daredevil wrestler with a long and tragic history of drug abuse and CM Punk being one of the most talented workers in the business with a firm belief in a straight edge lifestyle. If you have these two on the same roster it is almost a foregone conclusion that they have to face one another.
When it comes to this feud there was a clear winner and a clear loser and the clear loser was Jeff Hardy. The duo feuded after CM Punk snaked the title from Jeff by cashing in the Money in the Bank and Jeff would gain the title one more time at Night of Champions before losing it again to Punk and never regaining the title back after that. Jeff’s two title reigns equal out to less than a full month and was only given the title during the Hardy/Punk feud. It was not memorable and never established Hardy as a legit champion, thus earning him a spot on the infamous list.
Of course he is going to make this list. Back in the days of the WCW, Bill Goldberg was the man. The streak is legendary and Goldberg, though a VERY inexperienced wrestler and probably not the greatest in the ring has the look and charisma that will get you far in the wrestling business. During his WWE run, Goldberg was able to snag the belt off of Triple H for several months of uneventful title reign before he had had enough of the WWE and wanted out.
I never was a big fan of Goldberg, just as I am not a big fan of Brock Lesnar. Neither man seem to give a rat’s ass about pro wrestling and in my opinion should stay out of the business. Which is why their WrestleMania match is considered one of the worst of all time. Goldberg makes this list because he was a mediocre wrestler that brought nothing to the title when he held it for 3 months before dropping it back to Triple H. A forgetful title reign to someone who didn’t deserve it in the first place.
This is a no brainer. Everyone knows that The Great Khali was going to be number one here. The Great Khali’s title reign is not only number one on this list, but would be fighting for the top spot of worst World Championship reigns in wrestling history. It is no fault of Dalip Singh, the man took his marching orders in stride and was hanging around in the WWE when it was clear that he could barely walk, let alone compete. I don’t fault him at all for being a man with one hell of a heart. But when it came to the ring The Great Khali could barely work a mediocre match, let alone be a legitimate championship contender.
The Great Khali is one of the biggest problems I have with the WWE. The fact that his mere size is enough for him to earn a title shot when you have smaller wrestlers like Rey Mysterio, Jeff Hardy, Daniel Bryan, and so forth working diligently to put on amazing matches and yet they get pushed down because they are smaller while The Great Khali gets a championship reign when I worry if he can physically walk to the ring without his knees giving out on him. Khali won the championship on SmackDown in a 20 man Battle Royal and held the title for a painful 61 days before he lost the title to Batista; a title reign that will forever be followed with the question just what in the hell were they thinking?!
Yes! Yes! Yes! Before this whole Yes! Movement thing, Daniel Bryan did have a very underrated World title run when he cashed in his Money in the Bank contract on Big Show. This was WWE’s first opportunity to pull the trigger on Bryan, attempting to build a new star. They would later have him job hard to Sheamus in under 18 seconds at WrestleMania, a move that has thoroughly been ran through the ringer by every single wrestling fan that every existed.
While the title may have ended on less than ideal terms, this was Bryan’s first world title run and was a good precursor to the superstar that we would see when he finally won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania earlier this year.
4. Chris Benoit
Say what you will about him and I am not one here to talk about tragedies, but when Chris Benoit won the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania and met his friend Eddie Guerrero who was also WWE Champion in the ring, it sparked a wave of emotions and created one of the most iconic moments in WrestleMania history.
It hard to believe that within a matter of a couple of years that both wrestlers would be dead, but even before this occurred. These two title reigns marked a changing of the guard so to speak in the wrestling business. Where smaller wrestlers were being valued for their time and effort and given legitimate title reigns instead of being forced to languish in the midcard while the big lumbering masses got the spotlight. Some, like Kevin Nash find this to be a bad thing while people like me say that this was one of the most important moments in all of professional wrestling. Finally pro wrestling was able to catch up to the times and allow a wide variety of world champions instead of hamstringing themselves. While WWE is still trying to fully embrace this, I feel change is good and Chris Benoit’s world title reign reflects that.
Benoit may have only held the title for 154 days, but it what the title reign represented that equaled out to a positive for professional wrestling today.
As I mentioned earlier with Jack Swagger, Sheamus is the wrestler that is on the good aspect of being pushed early and building a legitimate champion. Unlike Swagger, I still feel that Sheamus has the charisma and the athletic ability in the ring to create a legitimate champion. He is clearly a top flight level guy and I feel that WWE saw this and struck while the iron was hot. Granted injuries continue to plague the pasty white wrestler but while he was healthy in the WWE, his WWE and World Heavyweight Championship reigns speak for themselves.
Near the end years of the World Heavyweight Championship, Sheamus won the belt in ‘controversial’ fashion when he beat Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania in less than 20 seconds. What should have been a world-class title match turned into a joke, but that was not the fault of Sheamus who would go on to a 210 day title reign as champion with some legit defenses before dropping the belt to Big Show of all people.
The Rated R Superstar himself, Edge’s career may have been cut short, but during his tenure it is easy to see why he is one of the best wrestlers to ever step inside the squared circle. A Tag Team icon and a WWE and World Heavyweight Champion, Edge took his fame and ran when it came to being one of the all time best workers in the business. He had a charisma and a look to him that was simply infectious and served him well in the waning years of his career.
Edge boasts 7 World Heavyweight Title reigns, more than any other person in WWE history and with good reason. His feud with John Cena are the stuff of legend and each of his title reigns have great significance to them. Definitely one of the best in WWE history and one of the best to hold the Big Gold Belt.
Say what you will about his past, say what you will about the fact that he put down up and coming talent in order to get over as the wrestler of that generation, and say what you will about the laws of nepotism and marrying the bosses daughter… Triple H ruled the roost when it came to the early 2000’s with the creation of Evolution, a damn good Four Horsemen clone that represented the past, present, and future of the business and the fact that he ruled over the World Heavyweight title for a number of years, it is easy to see why Triple H takes the top spot. With the exception of brief title reigns from Shawn Michaels, Goldberg, and Chris Benoit, Triple H was the guy in the early 2000’s after The Rock went to movies, Stone Cold retired, and a void was left in the main event scene, it was taken up by The Game who made Raw his own personal playground.
I hated Triple H as champion when I was younger and apparently the feeling was shared among the wrestling community who wanted to see some younger talent in the driver seat. But looking back on it, I can safely say that that was what a super heel is supposed to do, hate them and make them want to remove the title from them so on that level I can give him props and say that without a doubt out of all the wrestlers to hold the World Heavyweight belt, Triple H was the best.
Thank you for reading and as always if you enjoyed this review then please like and subscribe for more from me. Next up on the list is the two other defunct belts before we get to our current run, the World Tag Team and Women’s titles.