In a long, very long list of World Champions, we would be very few to be able to name them all. Some are pretty obvious because they had won it multiple times or because the Superstars who had won it are iconic. John Cena, Triple H, The Undertaker, Edge, Hulk Hogan or The Ultimate Warrior are World Champions we couldn’t forget as they had made the belt shine so bright and give a sense to it. But on the flip side of the coin, there are some wrestlers we forgot they had won it. Their title reign may have been very short or we may also refuse to relate this name to the idea of being World Champion. In the middle of a lineage of icons, here are the hidden gems of the history of WWE World Championship our minds have tried to keep as secret as possible.


Before he was a commentator and after he was a member of the APA with Ron Simmons, John “Bradshaw” Layfield had been WWE Champion. And the same way he won, he retained it 260 days the most controversial way. In a very J.R. Ewing way, JBL developed a gimmick of a Texas man with an anti-immigrant line. Supported by SmackDown General Manager Kurt Angle, JBL quickly became the #1 contender for the WWE Championship held at that time by Eddie Guerrero. After bullying Guerrero’s mother, JBL challenged Guerrero in a Texas Bull Rope match at The Great American Bash 2004. The initial decision of Guerrero’s victory was reversed by then-General Manager Kurt Angle, as the replay showed that JBL touched the fourth corner before Guerrero. 


Jack Swagger

At that time, Jack Swagger wasn’t claiming “We the People” alongside Zeb Colter. But he was already not the favourite wrestler of the WWE universe. Five days after winning the Money in the Bank Ladder Match at WrestleMania XXVI in 2010, Jack Swagger cashed in his Championship opportunity and defeated Chris Jericho. He tried at first to take the WWE Championship from John Cena the day after Mania but, when he realized Cena was not loopy enough, he changed his mind. But when Edge speared Jericho on SmackDown, Swagger seized the moment. His 79-day reign is not the most memorable of the history of the title but it existed…


Rob Van Dam

Rob Van Dam has always been synonymous with ECW and hardcore wrestling. The 4-time Hardcore Champion and 6-time Intercontinental Champion held the WWE Championship once. And he won it in ECW emblematic arena, The Hammerstein Ballroom in New York. At One Night Stand 2006, the crowd was firmly against John Cena as RVD was cashing in his Money in The Bank opportunity. The match was good but a man with a motorcycle helmet came out of nowhere and speared Cena through a table. It was Edge who also knocked out the referee. Rob Van Dam hit the Five-Star Frog Splash and Paul Heyman himself made him a World Champion. He became at the same time WWE and ECW World Champion. His 22-day reign ended when Edge defeated both RVD and Cena on RAW. 


Dolph Ziggler

The younger generations remind of Ziggler as the United States or Intercontinental Champion. But the former Spirit Squad pom-pom boy had been World Heavyweight Champion twice. In 2011, he retained the belt for one hour. Ziggler and SmackDown General Manager Vickie Guerrero plotted ways to take the title away from Edge, to the point of banning the Spear, and they succeeded in. But when Ziggler was about to celebrate, the official General manager Teddy Long came back and immediately called for a new World Title Match. A few years later, in 2013, accompanied by Big E and AJ Lee, Ziggler cashed in the Money in the Bank contract he won the night before at WrestleMania 29 on an injured Alberto Del Rio. His second reign lasted 70 days but was shortened by a legit concussion he suffered.


Roddy Piper

“Rowdy” Roddy Piper is widely considered among the top Superstars in wrestling history to never win a World championship. However, it looked like he’d won it, even if WWE never acknowledged it. At a February 1992 house show match with then-champion Ric Flair, Intercontinental champion Roddy Piper was able to land a narrow victory in a cage match, just touching the floor before Flair. Piper celebrated with the title, photos were snapped. But later it was revealed that neither title was on the line, despite Piper celebrating with both, and leaving ringside with both titles in tow. Piper defeated Flair in over a half-dozen more non-title steel cage matches on the house show circuit. Both titles had been on the line in several matches between the two on the house show circuit in the weeks prior, with all of the matches ending in disqualification.


Christian would have probably never been World Champion if Edge hadn’t had to retire in 2011. When he relinquished the belt a few days after WrestleMania 28, he in a way offered the title to his best friend and former tag team partner. Christian won a 20-man battle royal to face Del Rio for the vacant World Heavyweight Championship at Extreme Rules. If the Ladder match stipulation allowed Brodus Clay to be at ringside for Del Rio, Edge appeared to distract the two and allow his friend to reach the Gold. Christian would lose the belt only 5 days later to Randy Orton. The feud between Orton and Christian would last until Money in The Bank where Christian regained the title. He would lose it again to Orton 28 days after. 


Sgt. Slaughter

Despite him being a Hall of Famer, I never imagined Sgt. Slaughter as the WWF World Heavyweight Champion. But at Royal Rumble 1991, Ultimate Warrior put his Championship on the line against Sgt. Slaughter. Before the match, “Macho King” Randy Savage sent out his manager, Sensational Sherri, to the ring to announce that Sgt. Slaughter had agreed to give him a title shot if he could defeat Ultimate Warrior. But Ultimate Warrior refused to make the same promise, which led to Sherri interfering and distracting Ultimate Warrior. Savage ambushed Warrior and offered to Slaughter his only World Championship. He would lose it 64 days later at WrestleMania VII against Hulk Hogan.


The Great Khali 

In the Giant category, most of us can quote The Big Show or Mark Henry as former World Champions. Reminding of Khali is not that easy. In July 2007, Khali was feuding with Batista but Edge had to vacate the Championship due to an injury a few days before The Great American Bash. A 20-Man Battle Royal was held 2 days before the PPV to determine the new World Heavyweight Champion. The Great Khali was able to win the contest to become the new Champion, eliminating both Kane and Batista in one move. His 61-day reign ended when Khali was caught in his own trap, as he asked for a Punjabi Prison match against Batista and came up short to escape first. 


Vince McMahon

The list of the things Vince McMahon has never done is pretty short. He wrestled his kids, asked Superstars and announcers to kiss his ass as a sign of respect. And he had been World Champion for 4 days, thanks to his better enemy “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Triple H was the Champ on September 16, 1999, and an unscheduled match was announced. He would face his Boss for the World Championship. Despite Shane Mc Mahon being the referee, Mr. McMahon was obviously not going to win the match until Austin stunned Triple H and gave the Championship to McMahon. He decided to vacate the title during the following Monday’s Raw Is War, and Stone Cold earned a title shot in return. 


Antonio Inoki

WWE Hall of Famer and NJPW founder Antonio Inoki squared off with Bob Backlund on November 30, 1979, in Tokushima and defeated him to become World Champion. Just over a week later, on December 6, at the end of his Japan tour, Backlund would win a rematch, but it was later declared a no-contest by then-WWF President Hisashi Shinma, due to interference from Tiger Jeet Singh. Inoki refused to accept the belt. Backlund regained the vacant title after returning to the United States. Backlund’s title loss to Inoki is still not officially acknowledged by WWE. Since Inoki refused the title, Bob Backlund has been credited with a four-year title reign. At that time both the WWF and NWA were giving the top star of whatever organisation they were guests of a victory in front of the home crowd. The title would then revert back for some made up reason.

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By Steph Franchomme

News, Reviews, Social Media Editor, Impact Wrestling Reviewer, Interviewer Well, call me The Boss... And French...