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The 411 Wrestling Top 5 4.29.13: Week 217 – Top 5 Worst Title Changes

April 29, 2013 | Posted by Larry Csonka

Hello everyone and welcome to 411 Wrestling’s Top 5 List. What we are going to is take a topic each week and all the writers here on 411 wrestling will have the ability to give us their Top 5 on said topic, plus up to three honorable mentions.

So, on to this week’s topic…


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Ryan Byers
5. Punk, Swagger, & Miz’s MITB Cash-Ins – I’m so sick of the Money in the Bank gimmick. First off, WWE has given up on coming up with original ways to play off of it. Worse than that, though, is the fact that they don’t even book the one MITB cash-in storyline they’ve managed to come up with effectively . . . and that’s why I’ve lumped the original cash-in title wins of CM Punk, Jack Swagger, and Mike the Miz together for my number five entry. WWE gives the briefcase to a midcard guy, and you’d think it could elevate them, right? Wrong. First off, they tend to job the guy out for several months between his briefcase win and his title win. Then they book the actual cash-in to be the cheapest win imaginable. Then they don’t even bother to book the guy strong AFTER the cash-in, so, even though he’s a titleholder, he hasn’t actually been elevated in any appreciable way. So, what we’ve gotten is a run of impotent guys with belts who barely qualify as champions. Can we PLEASE get rid of this briefcase gimmick already?

4. Abyss Wins NWA Title by DQ – One of the big themes of this list is that I loathe situations in which people backdoor their way into major championships. (And, yes, I consider MITB “backdooring” your way into the title.) When TNA established that its rules included changing titles on count out or disqualification, I thought it was a good idea so long as they never actually changed the title that way. See, if you’ve got the rule in place, it at least implicitly tells fans that you’re not going to have cheap DQ or count out finishes in championship matches, which helps the promotion gain a degree of credibility. However, as soon as you actually change the title by DQ or count out, you shoot yourself in the foot because then you’ve got a finish that is infinitely lamer than a champion retaining on DQ or count out. Not only did TNA screw up by putting the title on Abyss via DQ, they put it on him via DQ in the worst way imaginable, by having Sting hogtie him and beat him with a baseball bat. So, immediately, everybody’s first impression of the new champion is him getting his ass beat. Brilliant.

3. David Arquette Wins the WCW Title – This has been written about time and time again over the past decade, so I don’t know what I can say that will add to the story. You don’t need to tell me it was an all-time lousy idea. You know that. I watched the episode of Thunder that included this match when it very first aired on television, and, as soon as the main event was announced, I felt this rock forming in my stomach because the “guy who gets the pin gets the title” stipulation for the Jarrett/Bischoff vs. Page/Arquette tag team match was announced in an ambiguous enough way that you suspected they might do something cutesy with it. Unfortunately, they did the cutsiest (and therefore worst) angle possible, and it is now memorialized as one of the poorest booking decisions in wrestling history. Plus, as a result of Arquette’s win, our ears were assaulted by the brutal cover of “We’re Not Gonna Take It” that served as his entrance music. Playing that song after having a 90-pound actor win the world heavyweight title is just kicking a wrestling fan while he’s down.

2. Vince Russo Wins the WCW Title – People complain about David Arquette winning the WCW A LOT. Far fewer people mention Vince f’ing Russo winning the WCW Title when they go over asinine booking moves made by the company. Despite this fact, I think that Russo getting the championship was actually the worse decision. There are a few reasons for that. First, when he won the title, at least Arquette managed to hit an offensive move on an opponent and pin him. Russo was speared out of the door in a steel cage match by Goldberg, so, much like Abyss, he won the title by getting his ass handed to him. Second, as much as it pains me to admit this, I can to a degree understand why WCW would put the title on Arquette. He was a fairly popular actor at the time, and they were looking for a mainstream publicity rub. Russo, however, barely meant anything to wrestling fans, so I don’t know how he could have meant anything to non-wrestling fans. Finally, while Arquette was fairly humble (almost embarrassed, it seems) by his title win and is obviously still a huge fan, Russo throughout his life has been creative poison that ruined what could have been many good years of wrestling in different companies. Let’s just say I can see Jim Cornette’s problem with this guy.

1. Dolph Ziggler’s FIRST World Title Reign – No, I’m not talking about his Money in the Bank cash-in, though I’m not really a fan of it either. I’m talking about Dolph holding the big gold belt in 2011. Edge actually beat him in a championship match, but Vickie Guerrero through general manager wackiness stripped the title from Edge after the show went off the air and subsequently awarded it to Ziggler. The worst part is that this didn’t even happen on the same show as the Edge/Ziggler match . . . it happened after the fact, so Dolph didn’t even get a “moment” where he won the belt, no matter how lame that moment would have been when it occurred. Instead, we got this week long period, including an episode of Monday Night Raw, where the championship was in this weird limbo and it was never even made entirely clear as to whether Ziggler was or was not the champion. He was “officially” declared champ on the following episode of Smackdown, and he lost the title roughly ten minutes later in a rematch with Edge. This accomplished literally not one thing. Much like Andre the Giant’s WWF Title reign, this is one of those situations where the championship’s legacy is diluted by a cheapy title change and it’s even more frustrating because there were very simple ways to do virtually the exact same angle without doing the quick title change and devaluing the strap.

Jack McGee
I am not just going with strictly “title changes,” but am also doing titles being stripped/awarded to hopefully make my list a bit different.

5. WCW Shits on the TV Title: Hacksaw Defeats Trashcan to Become New Champion – I was a big fan of the NWA back in the day, and loved the concept of the TV Title. It was always something I looked forward to on the programming, but the title eventually started to mean less and less, and then it meant nothing. In late 1999 Scott Hall won the once coveted TV Title, via forfeit, in Denver, Colorado. The next week he tossed the title in the trash, and the title was done. But then, in one of those “ONLY IN WRESTLING THINGS,” in February of 2000 Janitor Hacksaw Jim Duggan found the title in a trashcan, in Bethlehem, PA. He would go on to defend the title on WCW Saturday Night against guys like Robert Gibson. Yup…

4. HBK Relinquishes IC Title to Dean Douglas, Douglas Immediately Loses to Razor Ramon – I am a huge Shane Douglas fan (ECW fanboyism, sue me) and I always felt that he got a shit deal in WWE, due to not being on the Kliq’s butt buddy. Nothing gave this theory more support than the events in October of 1992. Flashback, Shawn Michaels is a huge asshole at this time, gets drunk, tries to get his dick wet, passes off the wrong person and gets beat up by 173 marines. Michaels has to come to In Your House, and since he cannot defend the title, relinquishes it to Dean Douglas. Minutes later, Douglas was made to defend against Razor Ramon, and he lost the title like a fucking goof. The Kliq got their way, and Douglas would be back to the land of extreme a few months later.

3. Abyss Defeats Sting via DQ For The NWA Title – Early on in the days of the “NWA: TNA” product, they had a rule that the title could change hands on a DQ. This became null and void quickly as Jarrett would run the same main event finish, using smoke, mirrors, soldiers and guitars to routinely defend his NWA Title. So much so that the company stopped mentioning the rule. And then at Bound for Glory 2006, Sting and Abyss have a wild brawl, and when the ref tries to keep order, Sting clotheslines him and we have our DQ. Sting then tosses Abyss off the stage through a barbed wire board. They brought back a rule that they never really established, Abyss won the title and was sabotaged from day one because he looked like shit. This was simply horrible.

2. Kevin Nash Becomes World Champion in 2000 WCW (Fuck January) – 2000 WCW was a giant clusterfuck, but there were ways to salvage the promotion. Unfortunately, the way they treated the WCW world title killed any chance they had at credibility. January of 2000 was just an insane time, with the WCW world title being pissed on, set of fire and finally shit on as it was vacated THREE TIMES that month. One was Bret Hart due to concussion; then Benoit won and left the company, and then this gem. Kevin Nash, the president of WCW, strips Sid Vicious of the title. Kevin Nash then declares himself the new world champion. And then, on Thunder, Nash lost the title back to Sid, in a handicap match, with Ron Harris as Nash’s partner. This is why people hated WCW at the end.

1. The Finger Poke of Doom – While the actions of WCW 2000 were horrendous, “The Finger Poke of Doom” takes the cake and set the stage for the line of bad decisions that WCW would make on the way to demise. As an NWA fan that transitioned into a WCW fan, fuck everyone involved for doing shit like this to kill a company I grew up with and loved to watch.

5. Hulk Hogan beats Yokozuna, WrestleMania IX You knew someone had to have this on their list, right? Clearly a way for Vince to sway Hogan to show up, the main event of Mania had Yokozuna relying on cheating to beat Bret Hart for the WWF title. Hogan, who had no relationship with Bret at all, came down to the ring to see to him and Mr. Fuji suddenly challenges Hogan for the title. With Bret “urging” him on, Hogan goes in, ducks a salt blow, hits a clothesline, the leg drop and ends Yoko’s reign in less than three minutes. Sure, a pop from the fans but insulting to both Yoko and Bret to see them overshadowed by a long-absent Hogan just to satisfy that monster ego of his. A sad capper to the worst Mania of all time and worse considering Hogan and Vince would fall out and he’d leave just months later, making it all unnecessary.

4. Steve Austin is given US title, loses it two minutes later I’ve known die-hard WCW fans who say the day Hogan signed on in 1994 is when the true spirit of WCW died seven years early. Suddenly, WCW was the cartoonish place they’d always fought against with slews of Hogan’s old cronies given big pushes. That was showcased at Fall Brawl as Ricky Steamboat was to defend his newly won US title against Steve Austin. But Steamboat had been badly injured (and would be forced to retire) so came out in street clothes to give the belt to Austin. Before Steamboat even left the ring, Nick Bockwinkel announced that Austin would defend the belt against Hacksaw Jim Dugan. In what may well be the lowest moment of his career, Austin was back dropped, covered and lost the belt in just 30 seconds. Absolutely terrible to see Duggan get the belt like this and would fuel the anti-WCW hate Austin would use to turn himself into a superstar. So not only a bad move for the belt but would cost WCW big time a few years down the road.

3. Ricky Steamboat loses Intercontinental Title to the Honky Tonk Man I’m a huge Ricky Steamboat mark so this one still burns me. After stealing the show at WrestleMania III and winning the title, Steamboat should have had a long reign with great matches against various foes. But he wanted time off for his newborn kid and WWF was against that. Supposedly, Butch Reed was going to get the belt but didn’t show up that night. However it was, to choose the Honky Tonk Man, a comedy heel to hold the second biggest title in the company was a bad move. I was outraged when it happened and the fact HTM is the longest-reigning IC champ ever still annoys me. A man like the Dragon deserved to lose to a real star, not like this and remains a big blow to his career.

2. Hulk Hogan “beats” Kevin Nash for WCW World title The Fingerpoke of Doom. I wrote an entire Spotlight just on how terrible this was for WCW. After ending Goldberg’s Championship streak way too early when fans were still hot for him, Nash, then booker, made it worse. Having Goldberg “arrested,” Hulk Hogan suddenly shows up, seeming to set up a conflict with Nash. They face off in the ring, Tony Schivone hypes it up…then Hogan pokes Nash down, covers him, gets the win and they celebrate. Folks say the damage was giving away the Mankind title switch on RAW but no, this was when WCW started to go downhill hard and fast. Rather than keep things hot with Goldberg, they went to the old and tired NWO once more, a clear sign of who was in control and no surprise WCW’s talent started giving up then, a massive blow to the company’s fortunes.

1. David Arquette wins WCW World title The moment WCW passed the point of no return. Sure, they’d been circling the drain for a while but to see them put their biggest title on a third-rate actor just to promote a terrible movie was the moment we knew it was over. To be fair, Arquette himself knew what a bad idea it was and gave the money WCW paid him to the families of Owen Hart and others, which deserves credit. It wasn’t even a regular match, DDP and an “injured” Arquette against Jeff Jarrett and Eric Bischoff in a mess of a battle ending with Jarrett covering DDP but the ref counted Arquette over Bischoff and the reaction to him holding the belt was terrible to say the least. Yes, the Fingerpoke was bad but this was worse by far and just horrible to see happen.

5. World Heavyweight Title – Dolph Ziggler/Jack Swagger – This is a reference to both Jack and Dolph’s first title run. Dolph’s lasted all of an hour before losing it in one of those shows that make you shake your head at the writer’s circle and want to hit them all at the same time. A hell of a blemish on a dude that may very well be doing some big things in the time to come. There was literally no confidence in this, and I still don’t understand why they chose to go this route. Byers covers it pretty thoroughly, but suffice to say, this thing was ridiculous.

As for Swagger’s reign, it lasted all of two months, right? But it felt like forever. Swagger’s reign was cliché and boring. This is another instance where I saw no faith in the person they gave the title to. It seemed like whenever a heel handled the WHT, they neutered him and turned him into a caricature without any real layers or character development. Swagger’s first run was by a character that was one-note and insignificant. He could bring it in the ring, sure, but it mattered so little when he was in the ring attempting to be the trophy-wielding jock. Between his extreme lisp and scattered promos, this was a horrible change, and like Ziggler, would have been better served a few years later.

4. Cruiserweight Title – Hornswoggle – Ok, the CW title was never really something that we should have taken seriously. We should have understood that the moment Jacqueline won the belt, and they gave us the opportunity to really get it after Chavo Classic won it. Some slight revamping lasted roughly a year before Chavo and Hornswoggle had their little series, all resulting in Hornswoggle winning the Cruiserweight Title, and taking it off into Munchkin Land to never be seen again. I’m not saying the title was setting the world on fire, but titles, by definition, are a tool to use for booking purposes and although it was never really a “necessary” title, it was a fun one. I suppose I don’t miss it much, considering it may very well have continued to be treated like shit, but handing it over to mini-man Horny was a horrible decision.

3. World Heavyweight Championship – The Great Khali – Boy was this bad. I know, I know…we got the Punjabi Prison match out of this! And who didn’t enjoy that?! Khali will forever be a sideshow act that harkens the old days of wrestling, when carnival tents were the norm, and arena’s were only a dream. I’m sure he’s a nice guy, and he’s laid down for more people than a Tijuana prostitute, but he brings nothing to the World Heavyweight Title, and his reign was the definite proof of that.

2. WCW Heavyweight Title – David Arquette – I was never a WCW kid, but my buddies were. Seriously, they would gloat as to how they were poaching my beloved WWF for talent, and how everyone was flocking over to WCW for a “better” show. Man, they were dumb. Anyways, one such moment I got to really stick it to em was this little morsel of history. By this time, the WCW wasn’t exactly on steady footing, and were driving down the road to failure full speed ahead. This was simply..awkward. I’m not wrestling purist, claiming that the title is the most prestigious item a wrestling organization can have, but a lot of merit comes with that statement, and handing it over to a dude who agreed more with the sentiment of the title, than brushing his own ego should have been one of the first (of many) signs that this was just a bad idea.

1. WCW Heavyweight Title – Hulk Hogan – The Fingerpoke of Doom is something that will live on in wrestling lore forever, and that is NOT a good thing at all. There are few moments that are pointed at as the catalyst of the demise of the WCW, and although I won’t say this is the ultimate moment, this is certainly in for the running. It was a horrible idea, and a complete display of egotism. Nash, even today, shows that he’s really not the smartest man, and his mind is controlled by his emotions more than any other influence. This is evidence of a man not knowing what the hell is right for a business, and I’d fear his touch on any book in the future. This was an historic change that added nothing to no one, but hurt a whole lot of people afterwards.

Francisco Ramirez
5. Nash ends the Streak – Many point to the Fingerpoke of Doom as the beginning of the end for WCW, I’m of the opinion it started the night before. Without a doubt, Goldberg was the biggest thing happening and possibly the savior of WCW at that point. His mythical undefeated record aka the Streak was the talk of many, and as we all know sooner rather than later, we’d see the end of it. It came to happen at Starrcade when Kevin Nash took out Bill Goldberg with a Jacknife, after the cattle-prod assist from Scott Hall of course. Now, what bothers me regarding this title change is as follows, it was a face vs. face match, Nash at the time was extremely popular as the leader of the Wolfpack. It would make sense if this was a heel turn for Nash, leading to a program between himself and Goldberg, Goldberg chasing the title. Instead, the next night on Nitro, the infamous Fingerpoke of Doom occurred, leading to the steady decline and eventual end for WCW.

4. Rey Mysterio wins WWE Championship, loses it an hour later to Cena – After Punk left the WWE after his win over John Cena at Money at the Bank, a tournament was held for the vacant WWE Championship. Rey Mysterio and the Miz met in the finals, Rey Mysterio winning the WWE title. Instead of a celebration, perhaps a rematch with the Miz, or hell, a face vs. face program with the former champion John Cena, no, it’s announced Cena would receive his title rematch later that night. Of course Cena won, making the previous Rey victory essentially pointless. At the very least they could have saved it for the following week.

3. Hollywood Hogan Bash at the Beach debacle – Ok, here we go. So the word is Jeff Jarrett, the then WCW Champion was supposed to go over Hollywood Hogan and retain his title. Hogan apparently decided he would be winning the title, exercising his creative control clause. So the bell rings, Jarrett lays in the middle of the ring, and Hogan, after some words aimed at Vince Russo, puts a foot on Jarrett and picks up the victory, along with the title. Russo shoots on Hogan, lawsuits are filed, and the only positive from this soap opera moment was the title being vacated, or the match being erased from the record books depending on who you ask. Jeff Jarrett facing Booker T and Booker T breaking through the glass ceiling and becoming World Heavyweight Champion for the first time.

2. Hornswoggle becomes Cruiserweight Champion – The one thing the WWE was never able to top, was the Cruiserweight division. Although they did have their own Light-Heavyweight Championship and division, it never came close to the WCW Cruiserweight division. After the WCW buyout, the WWE Cruiserweight Championship floundered, even though there was talent that could run with the belt. The division and title was essentially killed at the Great American Bash when then champ, Chavo Guerrero defended the title in a Cruiserweight Open against the likes of Jamie Noble, Funaki, Shannon Moore and Jimmy Yang Wang. Hornswoggle ran into the ring as the bell rang, apparently making him a participant. He proceeded to stay under the ring, until the right moment came, and after a Tadpole Splash on Jamie Noble, he became the new champion. He briefly feuded with Jamie Noble and eventually the championship was killed off. Leaving guys like Justin Gabriel, Tyson Kid, Evan Bourne, Sin Cara, and Hunico without a division they can run wild in.

1. Vince Russo wins the WCW World Title – The cream of the crap as far as I’m concerned. I can justify David Arquette winning the WCW World Heavyweight Championship to some extent because David Arquette makes movies, he’s a freaking celebrity! Perhaps not a huge celebrity, but a celebrity nonetheless. An added bonus is DDP’s claim that all the money Arquette made in WCW, he gave to Brian Pillman’s widow. I can see the positive in that. What I can’t by no means justify, is Vince Russo winning the title. He won it in a cage match with Booker T and Goldberg, by being Speared out of the cage. The following Nitro he vacated the title because he’s no wrestler, and doesn’t want the title, why in the hell would he book himself to win it then?

List your Top Five for this week’s topic in the comment section using the following format:

5. CHOICE: Explanation
4. CHOICE: Explanation
3. CHOICE: Explanation
2. CHOICE: Explanation
1. CHOICE: Explanation


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Larry Csonka