Pro Wrestling

12 Wrestlers Who Never Won A World Title (But Should Have) Source:

Over the history of professional wrestling, only a relative handful have been good enough to be World Champion. It takes skill, support from fans and those in charge, and more than a little luck. It’s an exclusive club, and whenever something is so hard to attain, there are a lot of worthy competitors who, for whatever reason, just didn’t reach the top of the mountain. Maybe they didn’t have the exact set of skills, maybe an injury sidelined them before they could reach their goals, maybe they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. But for any of the wrestlers on this list, the fact that they were never a World Champion seems like the one missing line on the list of their career achievements, the one thing that it’s almost unbelievable that they never attained.

For the purposes of this discussion, we’re only counting the entire lineage of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship (which includes the WWWF, WWF, WWE, Undisputed, World Heavyweight, and WCW Championships). We understand that this may seem unfair to some people, so if you want to argue what classifies something as a “World” title, feel free to let us know in the Comments.

12. Wade Barrett

From the moment he made his debut on the first season of NXT, pretty much everyone knew that Wade Barrett had “it”. A well-built, good-looking wrestler with good skills and a seemingly endless well of charisma, many picked him right away to win a WWE contract and eventually become World Champion. Well, they were half right, as Barrett did win the competition, but everything else about his WWE career was pretty much a disappointment. As the top man in the Nexus faction, Barrett had several opportunities to win a World Title, but the booking did him no favors, and he was unsuccessful every time. Several times over the years, Barrett would look like he was about to set off on another massive push, only for terrible booking or badly-timed injuries to completely derail his career for months at a time. Eventually, allegedly tired of the circular path his career had become, Barrett asked for his release. The door may be open for him to return one day and finally reach the top of the mountain, but at this point, it’s looking fairly unlikely. Source:

11. William Regal

Another bare-knuckle brawler from England, Regal is often mentioned as one of the best wrestlers to never really rise to the main event for a number of reasons. In WCW, the comical nature of his gimmick basically created a limit on his upward mobility, and then the New World Order took over the show and any other heels were basically forgotten. In WWE, Regal often ended up in non-wrestling authority figure roles, even when he was still an active wrestler. In addition, his lifelong battle with substance abuse issues derailed his push several times, including a last one in WWE which saw him acting as GM, as well as winning King of the Ring, in what was rumored to be setting up for him to finally win that elusive World title, that was halted when he earned a second strike under the Wellness Policy. These days, Regal is comfortably (and fully) retired, working as the on-screen GM for NXT, and training the next generation of wrestlers behind the scene, a job he seems quite content with. Source:

10. Scott Hall

As Razor Ramon, Hall was a multiple-time Intercontinental Champion in WWF. He was part of the first two ladder matches in WWF history, and even won the first one, at WrestleMania X, which is considered one of the best matches in history. Unfortunately, his substance abuse issues and the fact that Vince McMahon allegedly didn’t see him as a main event talent led to him moving to WCW, where he kicked off the biggest angle in the existence of pro wrestling, as one of the original members of the nWo. And if there was ever a wrestling organization where anyone with even a sliver of talent and name recognition could have been World Champion, it would have been late 90’s WCW. However, somehow Hall never managed to hold the big belt in WCW, either, despite being only of the most popular wrestlers in the nWo, and one of the group’s best wrestling talents as well. Obviously, his abuse issues followed him to WCW, and would have possibly made him a liability to hold the World title, but given his constant presence on television for both WWF and WCW, it’s somewhat shocking that he never really got a shot to be the ultimate champion. Source:

9. Owen Hart

Even if his career had not been cut short by tragedy, it’s fairly unlikely that the youngest Hart Family member would have ever held the WWF Championship. In his early career, he was set against his brother Bret, and while their matches were excellent, there was never any indication that the feud was for any reason than to provide Bret with a disposable opponent (similar to how Hogan would be fed big, fat heels to overcome, Hart was fed decent workers so he could out-wrestle them). Owen was probably one of the best wrestlers in WWE at any point in his short career, but was never particularly treated as a true main event talent. He did fit comfortably into a mid-card position, fighting for the Intercontinental and Tag Team titles on multiple occasions, but many fans felt that not giving him a run with the WWF Championship was a criminal mistake by the company. Source:

8. The British Bulldog

As a singles wrestler, Davey Boy Smith never truly escaped the shadow of his successful run in a tag team, even though he managed to be part of the main event of SummerSlam 1992 (admittedly, that show took place in England, the first and only major WWE Pay Per View to do so), and as a result was held back from ever winning a World title in WWF. However, the real head-scratcher came during the early 90’s, after he was fired by WWF during the steroid trials and signed a mammoth contract with WCW. Bulldog was positioned at the same level as WCW main event faces like Sting, and even had World title shots against the dominant champion Vader on Pay Per View. It seemed inevitable that he would win the WCW Championship, but the company never pulled the trigger before Bulldog returned to WWF. Once he returned, Bulldog did receive several World title shots, but once again, never managed to secure the win necessary to walk away as Champion. Source:

7. Magnum TA

Magnum TA is one of the wrestling’s greatest “What If” stories. With excellent wrestling skills, a high level of charisma, and a strong Southern fan following, Magnum was clearly being groomed for an eventual run with the World Championship. His feuds with Nikita Koloff and Tully Blanchard are some of the most memorable in WCW (at the time known as Jim Crockett Promotions, the largest remaining NWA territory) history, and it seemed like the sky was the limit for Magnum. In fact, according to several people (including Dusty Rhodes, who was booking the promotion) the plan was allegedly for him to defeat Ric Flair for the title at Starrcade 1986, which was the WCW version of WrestleMania. Sadly, a tragic car accident in the months before Starrcade left Magnum partially paralyzed, and forced him to retire from professional wrestling at the prime of his career. Indirectly, his retirement ended up affecting the next name on this list, who was one of his greatest opponents, and who also never won a World title. Source:

6. Nikita Koloff

Koloff was one of the original evil Russian heels, and his battles with Dusty Rhodes and Magnum TA were legendary. Then, when the Cold War wound down and Magnum TA suffered his career-ending injury (which we just talked about), Koloff became one of the most beloved good guys in wrestling as a way to show respect for his former nemesis, joining with his former hated rival Rhodes to face off against the dastardly Four Horsemen. Koloff is also notable for being one of the biggest stars in wrestling to have never worked for WWE, and in fact never even reportedly considered it. Unfortunately for Koloff, those same Horsemen he fought had were led by Ric Flair, he of the multiple World championships, and his entire stable existed to ensure that Flair maintained control over the title. While Koloff had his share of chances, the time was never right for him, and a career-ending back injury took him out of the running in the early 90’s. Source:

5. Raven

One of the most recognizable names to come out of ECW, the man known as Raven is considered one of the most underrated workers, and one of the legitimately smartest people, in professional wrestling. While he was treated like a big star in ECW, and in fact the entire promotion revolved around him at several points in its history, his runs with WCW and WWE saw him relegated to the mid-card or lower, often completely forgotten about. To his credit, Raven was noted for using his intelligence and creativity to make the best of his relative obscurity, even reportedly booking his own angles that would run on “C” shows like Sunday Night Heat and were often fairly entertaining. However, Vince McMahon notably did not care for the wrestler (there’s an urban legend that Vince once walked into the WWE locker room and asked “Who the hell hired Raven?”), and WCW’s notorious glass ceiling also conspired to prevent Raven from ever reaching the top of other promotion. Source:

4. Ted DiBiase

Technically, DiBiase held the WWF Championship for a few days after Andre handed to it following The Main Event twin referee scandal, but the reign has never been acknowledged by WWE as legitimate. In fact, given his rampant attempts to buy his way to the title, it’s shocking that DiBiase never actually succeeded in his long-held goal. In addition, he was possibly one of the greatest heels to ever exist in professional wrestling, and was allegedly supposed to win the belt at WrestleMania IV before plans changed (rumors have it that the Honky Tonk Man refused to lose the Intercontinental title to Savage, so they booked him to win the WWF title instead, but those have never been confirmed). To be fair, he was the owner of the Million Dollar Title, which has been held by far fewer men and was reportedly one of the most expensive belts ever made, so maybe he doesn’t mind never winning the WWF Championship all that much. Source:

3. Jake Roberts

Jake “The Snake” is a case of a man who simply didn’t need to have a title to be one of the feature acts in any promotion he wrestled in, and as a result, he actually never held a single championship in WWF, which was his home for most of his career. Roberts is another wrestler who is considered to have a great mind for the business, and his popularity was so great at point in his career that he has repeatedly told a story that there were plans to have him feud on television with Hogan over the WWF Championship, but the fans sided with Jake over Hogan at house shows, so much so that they cancelled the plans out of fear that Hogan would be booed on TV. Whether or not the story is true, the fact of the matter is that Jake probably would have made an excellent WWF Champion. In addition, his long-running problems with drugs and alcohol also likely played a part in Jake failing to ascend to the highest levels of professional wrestling. Source:

2. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper

Roddy Piper was, almost as much as Hulk Hogan, a central figure in professional wrestling in the 80’s and 90’s. Attacking Jimmy Snuka with a coconut on Piper’s Pit is a moment that anyone who has heard of professional wrestling will remember forever. He was considered one of the best talkers in the sport, and for a time, he was the biggest heel on the face of the planet. It’s safe to say that the original WrestleMania was built on the back his feud with Hogan. He’s also one of the few wrestlers in history to have a relatively successful career in movies, including the cult classic They Live, known for it’s ridiculously long fight scene and Piper claiming “I am here to kick ass and chew bubblegum, and I’m all out of bubblegum”, a line which has been repeated and copied endlessly over the years. Unfortunately, for all his stardom, Piper was never going to be World Champion while Hulk Hogan was around, because his peak as a main event talent happened at the same time as the rise of Hulkamania, with Hogan holding the title continuously for years. Piper actually did not hold many major titles at all in WWE or WCW, even including a week-long nostalgia reign with the WWF Tag Team titles in 2006 that nobody remembers. Source:

1. Mr. Perfect

Ask any wrestling fan, it’s likely Curt Hennig will top their lists too. The man who claimed to be perfect in every way somehow never managed to win the top title in WWF or WCW, despite spending large amounts of time in both promotions and performing at a high level for most of his career. In fact, Perfect entered into a hot feud with Hulk Hogan in which he actually smashed the WWF title belt with a hammer, but somehow this never resulted in a Pay Per View match between the two (although they did wrestle many times on house shows). Just the fact that Perfect was in that position would suggest that some consideration had to have been made for him to win the title, even for a short period, but it never came to fruition. A serious back injury in the mid-90’s would stall his WWF career, and after he made the jump to WCW, it was clear that he was no longer the same wrestler he once was. Even then, his initial position as a Horseman might have led to title shots, but the schizophrenic booking of WCW at that point saw him almost immediately turn and join the nWo, getting lost in the shuffle soon thereafter. Despite being one of the best wrestlers of his generation, Curt Hennig somehow managed to miss out on the one thing that would have meant that his career was truly perfect. Source:
Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle is an avid wrestling and film fan. He's been writing about WWE, movies, and video games for Goliath since 2015.