wrestling / Columns

Who Are The Greatest Wrestlers To Never Be World Champion?

March 18, 2019 | Posted by Justin Watry
Roddy Piper

Hi, I’m Justin Watry. You may remember me from such columns as March 2012’s “WWE WrestleMania 28: Sheamus Should Defeat Daniel Bryan In Less Than A Minute” and October 2016’s “WWE NXT: Bobby Roode, You’re Next.”


On the latest episode of The 411 Foresight Wrestling Podcast (which you can listen to below), Mr. Matty Moses and I counted down our top ten finishers of all-time. It was a good time recording and included quite a few little tidbits about yours truly growing up on wrestling. Towards the end though, the conversation shifted to a Twitter question on who was the greatest to never be WWE World Champion. It is a common topic that is often brought up but one that always elicits different responses. Because of that, I figured why not go decade by decade and name the biggest star. Note I am only talking about WWE here.

Best To Never Be World Champion

The 1980’s – I am starting with the 1980’s and moving forward to today’s era because this is really when wrestling became WRESTLING. Anything before this is kinda unknown and/or hard to find legitimate figures for. For the sake of this column, a few names instantly come to mind…

Andre The Giant – I am not counting his ‘screwjob’ victory with the Hebnars. Sorry. There is only one reason why Andre The Giant never became WWE World Champion during his run, and no, it is not because of his health. It is because of Hulk Hogan. There is no doubt about it. In any other era and any other company, Andre would be holding that belt for years straight.

Jake The Snake Roberts – This was a name mentioned on our podcast two days ago, and I agreed…but disagreed at the same time. If anything, a title run on top would have made more sense in the 1990’s. However, the thing was he reminded me too much of Bray Wyatt (who did get a pointless filler month long reign). The dude just does not NEED the belt. His gimmick and character has different motives and honestly would come off as too strange or too weird as WWE World Champion. He is a Hall of Fame talent, with or without any kind of championship victory.

Rowdy Roddy Piper – Same with others in the 1980’s (Paul Orndoff, Jimmy Snuka, Ted DiBiase, etc), Rowdy Roddy Piper was living in Hulk Hogan’s world whether we liked it or not. I argued AGAINST Piper ever becoming champ during the decade. My comparison would be if some young hot shot came into the New England Patriots office and said he was taking over the team and was changing everything top to bottom, he would get laughed at and booted from the building. The Patriots are arguably the best sports team in the world for the past 20 years and consistently win Super Bowls. You’d be a fool to want to stop the Hulk Hogan Money Train. As much as that may have sucked for Piper and others, business is business.

The 1990’s – Times have changed. There were a bunch of transitional title reigns in the 90’s and many ‘unproven’ stars got a run with the gold. This was unlike the previous decade where it was solely the Hogan Show and nobody else stood a chance. Let’s start with somebody we talked about on The 411 Foresight Wrestling Podcast.

Owen Hart – Okay, I am going to catch some flak for this. I made the remark that adding on a short reign for Owen Hart would not have added to his career but instead taken away from it. In June 1998, Kane won the WWE World Title for one day. Rather than that victory adding to his resume, it almost felt like a punchline that followed him around. Same with the idea that giving Owen a quick run with the gold would have helped. If anything, it would have done the opposite. Owen Hart is a future WWE Hall of Famer regardless of any padding of his stats (he will get inducted someday folks).

Mr. Perfect – Again, I am sticking to WWE here. I loved the music. I loved the character. I loved the entire presentation. Heck, I even got a kick out of his 2002 Royal Rumble return. It’s just that the timing never fit. Only once would it have made a tiny bit of sense, and that meant interrupting the Hulk Hogan Show, which was a big no no. Perfect was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame already, and I do not believe many look back at his career as a negative. Nothing but positives when discussing him.

Goldust – Just for kicks (to the golden globes), can you imagine?

Razor Ramon – In a decade where Vince McMahon became WWE Champion, in a decade where Sid got multiple main event spotlights, in a decade where Diesel held the title for a year, in a decade where even Lex Luger was pegged for a lengthy run with the belt (that never actually happened), you can’t tell me Razor Ramon could not have done SOMETHING. The feuds with Shawn Michaels, Diesel, Bret Hart, and others basically write themselves. Same with his jump to WCW. I understand during his struggles but otherwise, he was right there with others going toe to toe on the mic and in the ring.

The 2000’s – WWE had won the war within the wrestling industry and even though the company took many risks to come out on top, their prized possession stayed with mostly proven draws. Stone Cold, Triple H, Kurt Angle, Brock Lesnar, Hulk Hogan, The Undertaker, John Cena, Batista, Edge, Eddie Guerrero and others held the gold without much of a big backlash from fans. Some never did get that opportunity…

Test – A personal favorite of mine. He was the perfect payoff to leaving Survivor Series 1999 with the WWE Championship (not big Show) and although that was not in the 2000’s time period, the fact remains he had many chances to reach the top. I thought his T&A tag team breakup could have meant more. His Alliance heel turn in 2001 could have meant more, especially since he could not be fired for a year due to his Survivor Series 2001 win. I thought he had something going for him in mid-2002. Heck, watch back King of the Ring 2002 where Jim Ross is hyping him up as a future mega star before losing to Brock Lesnar in a hard hitting bout. Test even got a Summerslam spot versus The Undertaker. His demons eventually beat him, and it was a sad day.

Christian – No, Impact Wrestling does not count as a “World” Title. Nor does the NWA-TNA Title. Would anybody consider R-Truth a former “World” Champion? No. Even Christian himself only considers his WWE World Titles runs. Anyways, Captain Charisma did get his moment to shine, but that was in 2011. Thus, he qualifies here as someone who more than proved his worth every step of the way. Chris Jericho got his time. Eddie Guerrero got his time. Edge got his time. Even The Great Khali had a World Title run (in 2007). Sadly, when it finally felt like Christian’s moment to shine, John Cena and Batista were in the middle of long-term reigns. No way WWE was going to screw that up. Just bad timing for the CLB.

Rhyno, Billy Gunn, Rikishi, John Morrison, William Regal, Dean Malenko, Shelton Benjamin – All near misses in my mind but have their own supporters…

Kane – A one day reign in 1998 and a five month (dominating) run on Smackdown in 2010. During the 2000’s though, The Big Red Machine did a whole lot of mid-card wrestling and losing in main events. I do think the company had two time frames where he may have been able to squeeze in a WWE World Champion win but understand why it never happened. First was when he unmasked in 2003 – a move I was all for. The man was doing MONSTER ratings for his segments and went eight months without being defeated clean. On RAW, it was all about Bill Goldberg and Triple H, so that was a dead end. Then came Fall 2002 after he returned from injury. Kane got an IC Title win out of it but fell short of beating HHH for the World Title. Well, that was in the midst of a Shawn Michaels/Triple H story line, so again, I get it.

The 2010’s – Today’s era, starting from January 2010 up to March 2019. As mentioned on the podcast, I do not include the NXT Championship as a real “World” Championship. All due respect to Andrade Almas but no, I would not list him as an official WWE World Champion in the record books.

Drew McIntyre – I am starting with The Stud. As outlined on the 411 Forecast Wrestling Podcast, he has a great path to the top right now. Taking out The Shield one by one is his way to the Universal Championship on Monday nights. First, he took out Dean Ambrose. At WrestleMania 35, he plans to take out Roman Reigns. Then comes Seth Rollins, who will be the new Universal Champion by then. Boom, boom, boom. By summer time, do not be shocked if Drew is on top of Raw while Reigns (and others) are on Smackdown LIVE to boost star power for the FOX move in October. Truthfully, you can flip that scenario and send McIntyre to the blue brand with the same result. Future main event star folks.

Kofi Kingston – I am only mentioning him because it looks like he might finally get that moment in three week’s time. I was never high on Kofi Kingston, nor did I see the big deal behind his early 2010 ‘demotion.’ Dude is clearly athletic and popular. The mid-card is right where he has been for years before The New Day and with The New Day that is exactly where he was staying put. An unfortunate injury to Mustafa Ali is the only reason he is getting a main event run right now. While the conclusion is still to be written, I do know many of his long-time fans believe he has been World Champion material for ten years. Therefore, here you go. Kofi Kingston!

Sami Zayn, Cesaro, Lashley, Samoa Joe, Braun Strowman, Bobby Roode, Finn Balor – Never say never, am I right? Still time left in the year. Patience is key with these guys. Patience. If Jinder Mahal can go from losing clean to Mojo Rawley to winning the WWE Title within a month, anything is possible!

Shinsuke Nakamura – Did great in his NXT debut. Did great as NXT Champion. Did great after appearing on Smackdown LIVE. Did great pinning all-time legends such as John Cena and Randy Orton clean. Did great as the 2018 Royal Rumble winner. Did great as the challenger for the WWE Championship at the biggest event of the year, WrestleMania! Did absolutely nothing of note since losing that night. I know fans got a laugh from his heel turn and dug his feud with AJ Styles, but that has not netted him the top prize in the industry. You have to believe Nakamura is worth more than the United States Championship and/or teaming with Rusev (another guy I could have named in this column). Love him or hate him, he had a high profile 2016, high profile 2017, amazing first three months of 2018, and has done absolutely jack since. It has been a quiet 11 months ladies and gentlemen. Send Nakamura to Raw, turn him back face as a top star, and let’s get things on track again.

SUMMARY: There you have it. Lots of names from the last four decades, some deserved and some just favorites of mine. What do YOU think?

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