wrestling / Columns

Ask 411 Wrestling: Who has Forfeited More Titles Than Shawn Michaels?

November 4, 2019 | Posted by Ryan Byers

Welcome guys, gals, and gender non-binary pals, to Ask 411 Wrestling. I am your party host, Ryan Byers, and I am here to answer some of your burning inquiries about professional wrestling.

If you have one of those queries searing a hole in your brain, feel free to send it along to me at [email protected]. Don’t be shy about shooting those over – the more, the merrier.

Hey, ya want a banner?

Tyler from Winnipeg is trying to redeem himself following some questions about Goldberg a few weeks ago that nobody liked:

Besides HBK, who has forfeited their title the most times without actually wrestling?

Of course, Tyler is referencing the fact that Shawn Michaels has a reputation for losing titles in wrestling without actually dropping them in the ring. In all, I count six different occasions in which that happened to the Heartbreak Kid, namely:

1) In September 1993, he was stripped of the Intercontinental Title, allegedly due to failure to defend it but in reality due to a drug test failure;

2) In November 1994, he vacated the WWF Tag Team Titles due to a storyline breakup with his partner Diesel;

3) In September 1995, he and Diesel were stripped of the WWF Tag Team Titles for storyline purposes;

4) In October 1995, he forfeited the Intercontinental Title to Dean Douglas after getting beaten up by a marine (not to be confused with John Cena, a.k.a. THE Marine);

5) In February 1997, he vacated the WWF Title when, in storyline, he “lost his smile” and took a hiatus from wrestling, whereas in the real world he suffered a “knee injury” that many think was a ruse to get out of dropping the title to Bret Hart at Wrestlemania; and

6) In June 1997, he was stripped of the WWF Tag Team Titles when his future with the company was in question following a backstage fight with Bret Hart.

So, is there anybody who has lost more titles outside of the ring?

The answer, it turns out, is yes. There are at least three individuals who have lost more major titles outside of the ring than HBK and one who has lost the same number.

But, before we reveal who those men are, let’s lay out some ground rules. First off, the promotions that I looked over in order to compile these statistics are WWE, NWA, AWA, WCW, ECW, TNA, NJPW, AJPW, and NOAH. Second off, I am not counting angles in which a championship was “held up” due to a controversial match finish and then just determined a few days later in a rematch between the same two wrestlers, as I don’t think that really goes to the spirit of the question. Finally, I’m not counting circumstances in which a wrestler “loses” a title merely because the title itself was deactivated or forgotten about.

That said, who is the wrestler who has dropped the most major titles outside of the ring?

It’s Jerry “The King” Lawler.

It makes sense if you think about it, because Lawler has had a lengthy career, and he’s had most of that lengthy career in Memphis, where they played a bit faster and a bit looser with championships than in a lot of territories. Plus, even though I didn’t list Memphis/CWA/USWA in the promotions that I was covering, several titles defended there were recognized as AWA Titles at points and therefore included in my records.

In all, Lawler dropped at least eight titles outside of the ring, namely:

1) In 1978, he vacated the AWA Southern Tag Team Titles when his partner, the Mongolian Stomper, turned on him;

2) In September 1983, he was stripped of the AWA Southern Heavyweight Title for failing to defend it for thirty days;

3) On March 19, 1984, he vacated the AWA Southern Tag Team Titles when his partner, Jos LeDuc, turned on him (LeDuc had no doubt been watching Mongolian Stomper tapes prior to this);

4) On December 30, 1985, he lost a “loser leaves town” match to Bill Dundee and as a result had to vacate the AWA Southern Tag Team Titles, which he held with Austin Idol at the time;

5) On November 3, 1986, he vacated the AWA Southern Tag Team Titles when his partner Big Bubba, a.k.a. Tugboat, a.k.a. Typhoon, a.k.a. The Shockmaster, a.k.a. Uncle Fred, a.k.a. Fred Ottman turned on him (Man, why does that KEEP happening?);

6) On January 11, 1987, he vacated the AWA Southern Heavyweight Title due to injury;

7) In September 1987, he vacated the AWA Southern Heavyweight Title because he wanted to focus on winning the AWA World Tag Team Titles; and

8) On January 20, 1989, he was stripped of the most prestigious title that he has ever held in his career, the AWA World Heavyweight Championship, due to the termination of the working agreement between the AWA and his CWA promotion.

Though Lawler is clearly the king in this category, there are two men who come very close to him, having lost seven titles each in non-match situations. Who are they? Well, let me tell you a little story . . .

Yes, it’s the story of two brothers, Rick and Scott, who have the unfortunate distinction of getting stripped of titles a lot.

Interestingly, the seven championships that Rick and Scott were stripped off aren’t all the same championships, even though they spent a large portion of their careers teaming together. Let’s take a look at older brother Rick first:

1) In May 1989, Rick Steiner and Eddie Gilbert vacated the NWA United States Tag Team Titles so that Rick could start teaming with his brother Scott;

2) On February 20, 1991, Rick and Scott Steiner vacated the NWA United States Tag Team Titles due to the fact that they had just won the NWA World Tag Team Titles;

3) On July 18, 1991, the Steiners vacated the NWA World Tag Team Titles due to an injury suffered by Scott;

4) In November 1995, the injury bug bit Scott again, and the brothers had to vacate the IWGP Tag Team Titles that they held in New Japan;

5) On January 27, 1997, Eric Bischoff stripped the Steiner brothers of the WCW Tag Team Titles the night after the Steiners defeated the Outsiders for the belts. This was part of Bischoff being a heel authority figure tied to the nWo;

6) In January 1999, Rick Steiner and Kenny Kaos vacated the WCW Tag Team Titles (previously held by Steiner and Judy Bagwell) due to an injury to Steiner; and

7) On November 21, 1999, Rick was stripped of the WCW TV Title when he was once again injured.

And how about Scotty’s seven? Here goes:

1) On February 20, 1991, Rick and Scott Steiner vacated the NWA United States Tag Team Titles due to the fact that they had just won the NWA World Tag Team Titles;

2) On July 18, 1991, the Steiners vacated the NWA World Tag Team Titles due to an injury suffered by Scott;

3) In November 1992, Scott Steiner vacated the WCW World Television Title when he and his brother Scott jumped to the WWF;

4) In November 1995, the injury bug bit Scott again, and the brothers had to vacate the IWGP Tag Team Titles that they held in New Japan;

5) On January 27, 1997, Eric Bischoff stripped the Steiner brothers of the WCW Tag Team Titles the night after the Steiners defeated the Outsiders for the belts. This was part of Bischoff being a heel authority figure tied to the nWo;

6) On July 5, 1999, Scott Steiner was stripped of the WCW United States Championship as part of an angle; and

7) Almost exactly a year later, on July 9, 2000, Scott was again stripped of the WCW United States Championship as part of a storyline, as he used the then-outlawed Steiner Recliner in a match.

Though Jerry Lawler and the Steiner Brothers are the only individuals who I could find with more championship forfeits than Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair is tied with Michaels at six, and Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Kenta Kobashi, and Satoru Sayama (the original Tiger Mask) were not too far behind with five titles each lost outside of the ring.

Will S. comments on a hairy situation:

What’s your take on the current obsession with beards in pro wrestling? It seems that in recent years pretty much every pro wrestler has grown a beard of some sort, even those who haven’t done so in the past. It’s gotten to the point where so many guys have such a similar ‘look’ that it’s probably not even easy for the casual fan to tell them apart. Is this just a reflection of the current trend of society in general (facial hair is definitely in style for men right now)? Or is there actually some advantage to growing one?

You’re 100% right. I don’t think that the multitude of beards in professional wrestling these days is reflective of anything other than the general trend in society of men (particularly men in professional sports) growing beards.

The advantages to a professional wrestler of having a beard are relatively minimal. The only possible benefit that could think of would be that, from particular angles, facial hair might obscure wrestlers’ attempts to communicate with one another inside the ring, but even that advantage would be fairly minimal when you consider the fact that pro wrestling shows are now shot in high definition and feature some pretty extreme close-ups.

If anything, I would think that a beard, particularly a large one, would be more of a hindrance in wrestling, as it’s something that could be pulled on or cause a performer to more quickly overheat, to say nothing of the general scratchiness. If the old guy were still writing this column, you’d probably have a more definitive answer, given that: a) he wrestles and b) he’s bearded.

Uzoma is Marv-elous:

Considering the negative reception to Alex Marvez’s commentary at Double or Nothing and Fight for the Fallen, did AEW caught on to the point that it was why he has been replaced by Goldenboy for the PPVs and Tony Schiavone for Dynamite?

Marvez was a bit shaky in his early performances, but I don’t know that he was so terrible that he was canned as opposed to being given an opportunity to develop further, particularly when they knew before they put him on air that he had never done professional wrestling commentary before. I think that this is just a matter of the company having gotten ahold of a more well-known commodity (Tony Schiavone) and altering their initial plans based on that. As far as I know, Marvez is still with the company and doing voiceover work other than live commentary. For all we know, he may well be doing that as a means of improving before he makes a return to the broadcast team.

It’s a legendary question from Mohamed:

Why do old WWE legends always come back to bury talent and not elevate them to the top? Did Vince want this current roster to be crap on purpose?

Let’s take that question in two parts.

First of all, why do WWE legends frequently return to the ring? The answer is because they draw eyeballs to the product in a way that current stars simply do not. If you look at instances in which major stars from the past are announced in advance as being part of an episode of Raw or Smackdown, those episodes of Raw or Smackdown tend to do better in the television ratings than other, similarly situated shows. You can even see the differences in numbers on a segment-by-segment ratings breakdown of the same show, as, in the recent programs featuring Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair, ratings were often up for those segments that included the Hulkster and the Nature Boy, only for the numbers to dip after the old guys were off camera. Though we don’t have comparable statistics for network specials and traditional pay per view is largely a thing of the past, it would be reasonable to assume that, in most cases, if fans turn out in greater numbers to see legends on weekly television, they’ll turn out in greater numbers to see them on paid shows as well.

In other words, you keep seeing WWE legends on television because WWE legends positively impact business.

As to the second part of the question: Why don’t those legends put over current talent? I believe that’s a bit of an unfair generalization, as there are circumstances where older grapplers have put over the new generation, with a recent example being Mick Foley allowing Bray Wyatt to lay him out with his own finishing maneuver. However, you are correct that there are scenarios in which the star from a bygone era emerges victorious, including the Undertaker’s last few in-ring appearances or the WWE Universal Title reign of Goldberg.

Those wins occur, in large part, because they’re something that fans actually want to see. Though some of us who are more cold and calculating in our analysis of professional wrestling might want to see something like Bobby Roode pinning the Undertaker after a Glorious DDT, the fact of the matter is that Roode means next to nothing to the vast majority of fans watching the show and what will draw the biggest reaction from them is the nostalgia rush that they get from watching the Undertaker hit one more chokeslam and one more tombstone en route to picking up the three count.

There’s a delicate balance to strike between having young wrestlers go over and having established stars hold their ground, because, if you side with the young wrestler every single time, you run the risk of driving off fans by not giving them the outcome that they had hoped to see.

Paul has gotta be down with the clowns:

When the Insane Clown Posse joined WCW how did the talent feel? Anyone know what their contracts were worth or how this even came about? I do remember seeing them in ECW and WWF but their stints were brief so I presume they have some wrestling skills.

Honestly, I don’t know that there was a consensus opinion about ICP in WCW or in any other promotion that they’ve been a part of. If you listen to shoot interviews about them, about half of the people (usually guys who were “younger” wrestlers in the 1990s) are positive on Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent J and talk about how willing they were to learn despite never having been properly trained as wrestlers. The other half of them (usually guys who were “older” wrestlers in the 1990s) hate their guts, thought they were prima donnas, and wanted to get them out of the business immediately.

I wasn’t able to find any details on the Clowns’ contract with WCW, but they’ve admitted in shoots of their own that they were primarily using the exposure they got through wrestling to further their music careers and didn’t care much about making money off of their in-ring antics, at one point in their YouShoot stating that they were only making something like $500 per night in the WWF.

How did the WCW deal come about? Really, it was just a byproduct of them having become a known quantity in wrestling through their prior tenures in ECW and the WWF. For what it’s worth, they originally showed up in the WWF because of a phone call from legendary pro wrestling composer Jim Johnston, who wanted to bring them in specifically to record the track that they did for the Parade of Human Oddities.

That will do it for this week’s installment of the column. We’ll return in seven days, and, as always, you can contribute your questions by emailing [email protected].