Wrestling outcomes are predetermined and everyone knows it. That’s not up for debate. And you would think that the results being known in advance should theoretically make it easier for titles to change hands inside the ring. However, sometimes that’s not what happens. People get injured before big matches, belts get dissolved and resurrected months or years later, backstage politics lead to sticky situations, and sometimes the people writing the shows create wacky situations in order to justify their paychecks. Whatever the case, there are definitely some champions in the history of professional wrestling that would rather people forget just exactly how they won their titles.
10. Owen Hart Pinned Someone Dressed As The Champion
Following the infamous Montreal Screwjob, the rest of the Hart Foundation attempted to follow Bret Hart out the door to WCW. Unfortunately for Owen Hart, he was the only one not allowed out of his contract, and stayed behind. Hart immediately entered into a feud with D-Generation X over their role in the Screwjob, and ended up feuding with the European Champion, Triple H (speaking of dumb ways to win the title, Triple H was only the champion because his friend and partner in D-X, Shawn Michaels, allowed himself to be pinned and lose a match that had been set up to punish both men). In order to mess with Hart, Triple H agreed to a title match, but instead sent out Goldust dressed in a silly costume and pretending to be the champion. The tables were turned on D-X, however, when Hart defeated Goldust and Commissioner Slaughter announced that the title change would still count, even though the man who was actually champion had not even participated in the match.
9. Psychosis Became Champion Because The Previous Guy No Longer Existed
Oh, WCW, sometimes we miss you and your wacky booking shenanigans that always result in someone having to clarify that yes, this did happen. In 1999, as the nWo was becoming less cool by the day and WWE was pulling away in the Monday Night Wars, WCW, desperate for anything that would cause some sort of buzz, created a tag team called The West Hollywood Blondes, which was two wrestlers named Lenny Lane and Lodi playing a ridiculous homosexual gimmick. The act was incredibly offensive, and WCW was forced to pull them off of television, but not before Lenny Lane had already won the WCW Cruiserweight title. To get around this without putting the team back on television, they gave the title to Psychosis and told everyone that he had won it at a house show. The only problem was, that house show never existed, and pretty much everyone knew it. Psychosis would lose the title immediately, and years later, the official lineage for the Cruiserweight title makes note of the fact that Psychosis was awarded the belt due to WCW dropping the West Hollywood Blondes gimmick.
8. Lord Steven Regal Filled In For An Injured Champion Just To Lose
Back in the 90s, before the Monday Night Wars made wrestling a multi-million dollar industry, syndicated shows (like WWF Superstars) were often taped months in advance, over multiple hours at the same location, because it was much cheaper to do that rather than run live shows every week. At one point, WCW hit upon a great solution that would not only let them pre-tape months worth of content, but also ensure that the shows got the “right” reaction from the live audience: they rented a studio at Walt Disney World and rigorously screened fans at the door to make sure nobody would do anything aside from following the “Cheer” and “Boo” signs that would flash during the show. This is all true. The trick was, WCW also ran live Pay-Per-Views and occasional “Clash of the Champions” specials on television, and had to make sure that the events of those shows fit into the pre-taped shows that would be airing at the same time. This all caught up with them when they decided to delay a title change between The Hollywood Blonds (Steve Austin and Brian Pillman) and the 4 Horsemen (Paul Roma and Arn Anderson) until the last possible Clash show. Before that could happen, Pillman suffered a serious injury, which was a problem, because footage of the new champions was going to start airing the next week. With no time to think of a better solution, Lord Steven Regal (you might know him as William), who had no association with the Blonds at all, was dubbed “interim champion” for the show, filled in for Pillman, and lost both the match and the title he’d never actually won.
7. Kanyon Won A Completely Unrelated Match And Was Awarded A Title
Many people can point to the WCW/ECW Invasion angle of 2001 as the point at which WWE started to descend from the highs of the Attitude Era and out of the mainstream consciousness. The Invasion angle was booked terribly at every turn, and each decision seemed to be the wrong one. Take, for example, how WWE handled the WCW United States title. When WCW was purchased, Booker T defeated WCW Champion Scott Steiner on the final Nitro to ensure that the belt would have a clear lineage in the new, WWE-owned reality (Booker was one of several WCW wrestlers picked up by WWE in the sale, Steiner was not). At the time, however, Booker was also the WCW United States champion, and during the Invasion, WWE, for whatever reason, decided to keep all the active belts (over a dozen!) in circulation. So, on an episode of Smackdown, Booker T was told to simply give the title to Chris Kanyon, a fellow WCW wrestler, who had adopted the gimmick of “Alliance MVP” after he and two other wrestlers won a meaningless and thrown-together six-man tag match at the Invasion Pay-Per-View. Much like most of the titles over the course of the Invasion, Kanyon would not hold the championship for long, which is only fitting, since he never really won it in the first place.
6. Cody Rhodes Was On Both Teams In A Title Match
Years ago, the man who is now known as Stardust was little more than a mostly-untested rookie with loads of potential and a famous family name. Fortunately, he was taken under the wing of the notably curmudgeonly Hardcore Holly, in what would turn out to be the veteran’s swan song in WWE. The two adopted a strange mentor-student relationship, but were reasonably successful as a team, eventually claiming the World Tag Team Championships (due to the brand split, there were actually two sets of tag team titles floating around WWE). However, both men soon faced a challenge from Ted DiBiase, Jr, another mostly-untested rookie with potential and a name you might recognize. DiBiase somehow managed to talk Holly and Rhodes into putting their titles on the line against him and a mystery partner that he would not reveal until the match. Unless you’ve completely missed the foreshadowing, you might see where this is going. As the match began, Cody Rhodes revealed himself to be DiBiase’s partner, costing his team the tag titles while winning them at the exact same time. Rhodes and DiBiase would go on to form The Legacy along with Randy Orton, and Holly never wrestled in WWE again. That last part is just a coincidence, but also true.
5. Mideon Found A Title In A Gym Bag
Back in the glory days of the Attitude Era, Shane McMahon tried to be a wrestler. And he wasn’t bad, actually. As part of Vince’s Corporation, he actually managed to defeat X-Pac and become the European Champion. And then he retired from wrestling, undefeated, taking the title with him. But much like Shane’s in-ring career, the European title would make a comeback. Months later, after forcing his father out of the Corporation, Shane created the Corporate Ministry by merging his stable with one led by The Undertaker (listen, the Attitude Era was really weird, let’s leave it at that). One of the wrestlers in the Ministry, Mideon, happened to be going through Shane’s gym bag backstage for some reason, and discovered the European title, which he took (apparently with Shane’s blessing) and began defending as a legitimate title again.
4. Hacksaw Jim Duggan Pulled A Title Out Of The Garbage
If you though finding a title in a gym bag was bad, here’s WCW to go one step further. In late 1999, Scott Hall won the WCW Television Championship (a belt that was designed to be defended regularly in matches with a strict time limit), but was already the WCW United States Champion and didn’t want to defend both belts. His solution was simply to dump the TV Title in the trash. Weeks later, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, who had been fired and re-hired as a janitor, declared that he had recovered the belt while cleaning up, and was therefore now the TV Champion. Allegedly, the plan was to use the belt exclusively on WCW’s Saturday Night show, which nobody cared about anyway, but a couple of months later, WCW underwent another change in creative direction and the Television title was retired once again.
3. Triple H Was Awarded A Championship For Being Triple H
This was a dark period for a lot of WWE fans. In 2002, shortly after the infamous Brand Extension, where the entire roster was divided up between Raw and Smackdown and kept separate from each other outside of the occasional Pay-Per- View, Raw found itself without access to the WWE Undisputed Champion. As a quick explanation, after the WCW/ECW Invasion ended, the WWE and WCW World Titles were merged into one championship, and the person holding that belt could freely move between brands due to there being only one, real, Undisputed Champion. However, the champion at the time, Brock Lesnar, was lured into an exclusive contract on Smackdown by then-General Manager Stephanie McMahon. This led Raw GM Eric Bischoff to create the World Heavyweight Championship, using the old WCW Heavyweight title to represent it, and the first champion was crowned by…pulling it out of a briefcase and giving it to Triple H. And thus began a long period where Triple H ruled over Raw like some ancient emperor, occasionally losing the title but always regaining it fairly quickly afterwards, cutting off the pushes of young stars like Rob Van Dam, Booker T, and Randy Orton in the process. It took until 2005, at WrestleMania 21, for Batista to finally wrest control of the title away from Triple H for an extended period and end what is definitely considered a low point in WWE’s history.
2. David Arquette Pinned Someone Who Wasn’t The Champion In A Tag Match
One of the many dark days at the end of WCW was the World title reign of David Arquette, star of the Scream movies and the non-award-winning Ready To Rumble film that WCW had a hand in producing. And while it was bad enough that an actor was presented as the World champion of a wrestling organization (even Arquette himself, as a wrestling fan, thought it was a terrible idea), what is even worse is the manner in which Arquette became champion. While doing promotion for Ready To Rumble on WCW television, Arquette was hassled by WCW President Eric Bischoff and WCW Champion Jeff Jarrett, and forced into a tag match with his partner and co-star from the movie, Diamond Dallas Page. Somehow, a stipulation was added that put the WCW Title on the line, where the man who scored the pinfall would also win the title. As it happens, Arquette somehow managed to pin Bischoff, and was therefore now the WCW World Heavyweight Champion, despite not actually beating the previous champion (as well as, and we can’t stress this enough, not actually being a wrestler).
1. The WWE Hardcore Championship
For silly title changes, the WWE Hardcore title is a category unto itself. The belt changed hands in airports, in hotel rooms, at amusement parks, on the banks of the Mississippi River, while one competitor was asleep, any place you can imagine. It was held by both men and women, by a nameless member of the Godfather’s entourage, by a man dressed as a woman, by backstage interviewers, and by two people at the same time. It was actually the first title to change hands as part of the WCW/ECW Invasion. Over the four short years in which the belt existed, it officially changed hands 229 times. And most of this is because of the “24/7” rule that stated the the belt was always on the line, as long as there was an official referee there to count the pin, which was instituted two years into its existence. The longest any one person held the Hardcore title was just over three months, although that pre-dated the “24/7” rule. It was perhaps the most hotly contested title in WWE history, which is incredible considering that it was created as a joke present for Mankind from Vince McMahon and initially wasn’t intended to be a real championship.