wrestling / Columns

Top 7 Worst World Title Changes

March 8, 2020 | Posted by Steve Cook
David Arquette WCW David Arquette's

I’m seeing a lot of people outraged over the most recent major title change.

People are very angry over the fact that Goldberg beat “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt to win the Universal Championship. I even see a few people cancelling their WWE Network subscriptions over it, which is the main way to show outrage in this day & age. Fricking Mack Culkin cancelled his Tampa plane tickets over it! What a damning indictment indeed.

I hate to tell you guys this. I have found seven worse World Championship changes over the years. We’re talking about World Championships here, not silly secondary titles like the Hardcore title or 24/7 title or whatever. These are major titles that promotions expected us to care about, yet subjected us to reigns from people too inept or too old or too poorly booked for us to possibly buy into. All worse than 53 year old Bill Goldberg.

7. Verne Gagne wins the AWA Championship (1980)

Verne had held the AWA Championship for most of the promotion’s existence. He was over, and was a good worker that could have a great match with everybody, so it usually made sense. When Verne won the title when he was 54 years old, and held it until he retired as champion, it was a bad look. When Nick Bockwinkel was randomly awarded the title afterwards, it was even worse. I have no idea how anybody thought this was good booking, other than Verne wanting to retire as Champion. Everybody else should have been trying to talk him out of it.

6. Jinder Mahal wins the WWE Championship

The justification behind this title reign was INDIA! 1.3 billion people! Yeah, I heard all of that and tried to bite my tongue while the WWE Championship matches were typically the worst part of any card they were on. Here’s the thing. Jinder Mahal has some positives. He’s a good looking dude. With the right workers around him, he can have good matches. If you build the guy up right, he could be the face of a company.

They didn’t. They wanted him to be champion to pander to a country they wanted to sell Network subscriptions to. He wasn’t even born in India. People saw right through that. When WWE eventually had a tour of India, they had Jinder jobbing to Triple H, long after he had lost the WWE Championship. It was a race-based idea they eventually realized didn’t work. I’m not sure they would have realized it other than the fact that Survivor Series was coming up & AJ Styles would probably be a better match for Brock Lesnar.

5. Hulk Hogan wins the WWF Championship (2002)

One can understand why somebody thought this was a good idea. When the NWO invaded the WWF in early 2002, it was a novel concept because it had Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall & Kevin Nash returning to the company. For Hogan especially this was a pretty big deal, as he had been the WWF’s top star throughout the 1980s. Once fans saw Hogan back on WWE television, they got that nostalgic feeling, to the point where they booed The Rock against Hogan at WrestleMania X8. It made for a classic WrestleMania match. The only problem was that it led to Hogan being booked as a champion.

It’s a key differentiation that I don’t think the booking team took account of. WWF fans had been conditioned to think that wrestlers of Hogan’s age were yesteryear. So they initially popped for seeing them against the WWF’s current stars. Once they put Hogan over them and made him a Champion, it was a bridge too far. It was like “Wait a minute. You’ve been telling us the younger stars have been the top guys for several years now. Now the old guys are beating them? WTF?”

Hogan was very over with the live fans. He wasn’t as over with television viewers. It was a key part of WWE’s decline during this period, though the Ruthless Aggression doc made no mention of it since Hogan is in their good graces.

4. Sgt. Slaughter wins the WWF Championship

Don’t get me wrong, I love the Sarge. He was one of my favorite old man workers during his random WWE appearances in the 2000s. Go back to the early 1980s and he was a top notch heel that eventually became freaking G.I. Joe. You won’t find many bigger fans of Sgt. Slaughter’s work here on the 411.

However, this lame Iraqi sympathizer gimmick that was a sorry attempt to draw some heat during the lead up to the Gulf War deserves all the crap that it got back then. Pushing Sarge on top of WrestleMania VII instead of a Hogan/Warrior re-match was a good way to make sure they didn’t have to run the LA Coliseum. The fans weren’t buying it, and not in a good way where they wanted to see Sarge get his ass kicked. Most people were tuning out, and the ones that weren’t tuning out were making bomb threats. There’s nothing good about that type of reaction.

3. Vince McMahon wins the WWF Championship

There was just so much nonsense going on here. For one thing, Triple H was trying to be built up here as a top star. For another thing, his valet, Chyna, is supposed to be a babyface in another feud while she was a heel in this match. Oh, and as we established after the match, Vince isn’t even supposed to be on television due to the stipulations from a match pitting Steve Austin vs. Undertaker in July. This was the horseshit excuse he used to vacate the championship and have a six-pack match for it at the PPV.

Which would have been fine if he didn’t wrestle Vince at the December PPV so Stephanie could turn heel on Vince. Just a lot of dumb stuff going on in 1999, which people who have watched 1999 WWF on the Network can back me up on.

2. David Arquette wins the WCW World Championship

I get the idea of pushing a popular actor. I even get the idea of pushing a popular actor that’s in a wrestling movie. It’ll get that USA Today coverage. Will it make anybody watch? Well, as WCW found out in the aftermath, no it won’t. Nobody wanted David Arquette to be the WCW World Champion. Wrestling fans didn’t want it. Arquette fans, how ever many there were, weren’t interested in seeing it. The idea died a quick and painful death.

The bright side: David gave all the money he got from WCW to the families of Owen Hart, Brian Pillman & Darren Drozdov. He was a wrestling fan. He knew how stupid the idea was. At least he gave the money involved to good causes.

1. Vince Russo wins the WCW World Championship

As bad as Arquette’s win was, at least they caught it on camera. At least he actually pinned somebody. At least there was the idea that the new champion could get some mainstream attention. Vince Russo got speared through a steel cage and they made that a title change. If AEW ever does something that stupid, TNT should cancel them on the spot. It was one of the final nails in the WCW coffin, and the worst World title change of all time without a doubt.

Add in the actual head trauma Russo suffered as a result of his stupid matches that nobody cared about, and this is the single dumbest push of any “wrestler” of all time. Certainly of any wrestler that ended up winning a World Championship. It’s not even close.

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Steve Cook