When you hear the words “World Champion” being uttered you likely think of a person who is the best in the world at what they do. In professional wrestling that has not always necessarily been true. The era of sports entertainment has seen movie stars, sideshows & even The Miz called ‘Heavyweight Champion of the World’. All too often being reliable, hard working and the best at your craft was not enough.
Great news for wrestling fans; WWE and others have wised up and realized that the men and women who will carry them into the next two decades are not fitness models who are so uncoordinated to walk, text and chew gum simultaneously they would need a full brain transplant, no, we’re looking at CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Damien Sandow and dozens of up and coming talents. The future looks bright for professional wrestling. Sorry Mason Ryan, it looks like you’re going to have to go work for Taco Bell.
Let’s keep in mind that midcard championships used to mean something, unlike today. Top 20 time….
Arn Anderson – Known by many as “The Enforcer”, “Double A” and the toughest man to ever drape himself in a Four Horsemen jacket, Arn Anderson is probably the toughest man I have ever spoken to. Arn was not just the pulse of the Horsemen, he was a scientific wrestling master, a powerhouse of a man and a no nonsense ass kicking kind of guy.
If Arn Anderson did something, you better believe it mattered and made sense, the words no waste in movement apply perfectly to Anderson. Had Ric Flair stepped away from the World’s Heavyweight Championship for six months or so and put a good word in, I believe Arn Anderson would be known as former World Heavyweight Champion today. Final verdict: Deserving.
“The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith – Picture Mason Ryan, now picture Mason Ryan with wrestling ability, basic coordination and charisma (no Welsh accent either, which is a plus). That was Davey Boy Smith, the man who had the look, the fan support and the ability. So, what happened? Sure, Bulldog failing to capture the gold was in part due to personal choices, but when you look at Shawn Michaels in the mid to late 1990’s, Davey Boy Smith was a boy scout in comparison to The Heartbreak Kid. So why no World Title? Well, in the early 90’s Smith just wasn’t ready yet, although by ’96 Bulldog was probably the best candidate for WWE Champion, aside from Bret Hart.
Why Mr. McMahon never let Davey Boy shine, we will never know, just keep in mind, McMahon approved Katie Vick, so the man is not immune to stupidity. Final verdict: Deserving.
Editor’s note: The Dynamite Kid didn’t make the list because he injured himself, messed up several times and burned too many bridge before his at that time seemingly inevitable world title runs.
Chief Jay Strongbow – The man was as over as over could be, he drew in fans and he could put on a show in the ring. Sure, the Chief wasn’t the most athletic man in the world, but then again, neither was one of the all time greatest WWE & World Champions of all time, Hulk Hogan. Unlike Hogan, Strongbow was a more than competent in-ring worker, as far as story telling went, besides he had a bad ass sleeper hold, perhaps the greatest sleeper of all time. Am I angry Strongbow didn’t make the list? No. But, I am shocked that he was never NWA World’s Heavyweight Champion. Final Verdict: Deserving.
Dean Malenko – Whether you called him “The Man Of 1,000 Holds”, “The Shooter” or just plain Dean Malenko, if you knew the name you agreed that “The Iceman” is as much an uncrowned world champion as any wrestler to ever lace a pair or boots. Malenko was a personal favourite of mine from the time he arrived in WCW until he retired in WWE from active competition.
Dean Maleko was a lot like Eddie Guerrero, Chris Jericho & Chris Benoit, only Dean was just a little bit more polished than his peers. Though unlike his peers, Dean Malenko was never seen as anything more than a workhorse by many, at least in his time. Though WCW & WWE didn’t realize it, they didn’t just have an organic wrestling machine on their roster, they had a funny, charismatic and deep character they refused to see until after the man had retired. In my humble opinion, Dean Malenko not winning a world championship title in either Extreme Championship Wrestling, World Championship Wrestling nor World Wrestling Entertainment is as big a disappointment as the famed ‘Montreal Screwjob’ was. Final verdict: Deserving.
George Steele – “The Animal” was a captivating, feared and credible figure in his day. Most people my age or a little older will remember the turnbuckle-pad eating, Liz stalking, stuffed animal cradling simpleton. But what many fans before my time remember was a dastardly, low-down, evil bad guy who could hang with the best of the best in the World Wide Wrestling Federation. But, did these attributes, accomplishments and deeds warrant a world championship run? Perhaps, but Steele does not make a strong enough case, at least in my mind. Final verdict: Inconclusive
Editor’s note: The negative comments Steele made about John Cena make me question the WWE Hall of Famer’s ability to recognize talent.
Dustin “Goldust” Rhodes – It never really matter if it was under the guise of “The Bizarre One” or if it was as “The Natural”. Goldust earned everything he received in the wrestling business, and not because of a legendary last name, but because he was a hard worker who learned, perfected and applied his skills in and outside of the ring.
As not only one of the best and most memorable characters in the Attitude Era, but one of the best mid-card champions in wrestling history. Goldust captivated millions of fans each week on Monday Night RAW and then on SmackDown for over a decade, on and off.
As an in ring wrestler, Dustin Rhodes was and still is competent and still very much in shape. Which brings me to yet another reason the son of the son of a plumber deserved to be world champion, talent. Based on talent, promo skills and charisma, Goldust should have been a 3 time WWE Champion by now. Final Verdict: Deserving
Greg Valentine – If you haven’t had the pleasure of watching Greg Valentine work, go right now and watch Valentine verus Backlund, I’ll wait for you. “The Hammer” Greg Valentine was a master of overhand forearm smashes, figure four leg locks and putting everyone’s favourite wrestlers on the shelf. Valentine got massive heat, was a natural villain and he had the menacing look of the time. Although Valentine was a notoriously slow starter, once he got going, you couldn’t stop the man from Seattle, Washington.
Despite never possessing a WWWF or NWA world heavyweight title, Valentine was one of the greatest Intercontinental Champions of all time, and one of the best United States Champions of all time. Though he never needed to hold the 15 pounds of gold, Greg Valentine was world champion material. Final verdict: Deserving
Honky Tonk Man – Although heavyweight gold runs in the family, Honky Tonk Man was never able to elevate himself above the Intercontinental Title tier. Then again the man from Memphis never needed to go any higher. Honky Tonk is famous for having the longest run as Intercontinental Champion in WWE history, and in my opinion he is top 5 as far as IC Champions go, behind Valentine, Macho Man & Mr. Perfect.
In my opinion Honky Tonk, due to limited in ring ability, lack of physical presence and lack of an intimidation factor, was not cut out to be world champion. Great Intercontinental Champion though.
Final verdict: Not deserving.
Jake Roberts – The man from Stone Mountain, the Snake, the innovator of the DDT, Roberts had it only, the psychology, the look, and the execution. When I was a kid, only one move mattered, and that was the dreaded D-D-T. But Roberts was more than a one trick pony, “The Snake” was mesmerizing, captivating and most of all devastating (Beastie Boys, yo!).
Jake Roberts would have put any one of Hulk Hogan’s world title regins to shame, given the opportunity, but since he decided to play a deadly game of Russian roulette with his life and professional career, this vision never came to be. Despite all this Roberts is one of the all time greats and he still deserved a run at the WWE World Title. Jake “The Snake” Roberts was the real deal, trust me.
Final verdict: Deserving, but he kind of fucked up with the drugs and drink.
Jesse Ventura – Win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat. I’m not sure if Ventura was talking about professional wrestling or politics when he said that, but what I do know is this, Jesse Ventura was the total package. You want to talk about presence, look at this robes, gaze at those clothes and watch him pose. Let’s talk promos, man was Ventura in a league of his own, especially on colour commentary, and he can still talk today. And in ring ability, sure, maybe he wasn’t Lou Thesz, but what Ventura was in the ring was credible, and that goes a long way when combined with “The Body’s” other attributes.
Jesse “The Body” Ventura, had he not had his in-ring career cut short, could have been the bad guy equivalent to Hulk Hogan. Besides, “The Body” was positively more charismatic, better looking and a better wrestler than Hulk Hogan ever was.
Final verdict: Deserving.
Junkyard Dog – When “Another One Bites The Dust” his the sound system in the arena, you were lucky if you heard more than the first 3 seconds of the song, the crowd was deafening as their hero made his way down that aisle. When the JYD came to town, shit was going down. No one lit a crowd up quite like the Junkyard Dog, whether it was in the territories or whether it was the World Wrestling Federation.
Sure, Dog wasn’t the greatest wrestler in the world, but with his charisma and the fanfare he brought everywhere he went, Junkyard Dog earned a hell of a lot in the business. However, he never needed a world title and I’m not sure he could have carried a larger promotion.
Final verdict: Kinda sorta deserving, but not quite there.
Mart Jannetty: As the not so renown half of the dynamic duo, The Rockers, Marty Jannetty never truly got the credit he deserved as a pure professional wrestler. Jannetty proved many times in singles action against the likes of Shawn Michaels, Rick Martel and even Kurt Angle that he could hang with anyone in the industry, mano y mano.
The problem with Jannetty was partying hard, self sabotage and a bad attitude, which all likely stemmed from too much, too young, too fast. But even when you look at Jannetty’s troubles, you still can’t deny that the man could have been much bigger in the realm of professional wrestling.
Let’s just look at Marty’s solo run; great matches, a good Intercontinental Title run and a great feud rekindled with the Heartbreak Kid himself, Shawn Michaels. With a few wiser decisions, an attire change and a decent haircut, Marty Jannetty could have been as big as Shawn Michaels, maybe even bigger. Plus Marty tells a great Iron Sheik story. “I give her short clothesline, Marty.” Is it controversial of me to call Marty the better wrestler from The Rockers? Because I’m saying it right now.
Final verdict: Talent wise, deserving.
Magnum TA – (This one involves a lot of background, as many are not too familiar with Magnum TA) In professional wrestling people like to talk about making an impact. And you can’t talk about making an impact in pro wrestling without mentioning Terry Allen. Touted as ‘the next Ric Flair’ by many within The National Wrestling Alliance, namely Jim Crockett Promotions, Magnum TA had everything; the look, the charisma and most of all the skills to back it up in the squared circle.
TA was a bad ass, Harley riding, wrassler. His Belly to Belly Suplex is easily the best in wrestling history, and one of the most well executed wrestling moves in general. Magnum TA could draw a crowd reaction like no one since Dusty & Flair. TA’s feuds with Tully Blanchard, Ric Flair & Nikita Koloff are legendary amongst old school wrestling fans, hardcore fans and many wrestlers themselves. Magnum was just about to reach that brass ring when the unthinkable happened….
A car accident in 1986 cut Magnum TA’s career short. The future of the NWA was altered when we heard Magnum would never wrestle or walk again. Thankfully Terry Allen persisted, hung in there and regained the ability to walk.
Magnum TA was unquestionably no more than half a year away from an NWA Heavyweight Championship of the World. What might have been.
Final verdict: Deserving.
Ted DiBiase – “Everybody’s got a price. Everybody’s gotta pay”. Those were the words of the dastardly “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase, a man who was not only more hated than a banker at a homeless shelter, but, a man who had all the wrestling ability, personality and smarts you could want in a main event wrestler.
Despite being the best bad guys in professional wrestling at the time, despite carrying WWE through the year of 1988 and despite being a ‘ring master’, Ted DiBiase never really got the credit he was due by WWE until his Hall Of Fame induction in 2010.
The Million Dollar Champion deserved world’s heavyweight championships in both The World Wrestling Federation and in The National Wrestling Alliance. And everyone today knows it.
Final verdict: Deserving.
Paul Orndorff – When people say The Hulkster had the physique, the charisma and the ring skills, I tell them “No. That’s Paul Orndorff”. If you could design the perfect specimen to combat a prime Hogan it would have been “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff, one of the best bad guys in WWE history.
Orndorff was a college football stud, a stud in the ring and a stud in general. If you want to talk about all time great smashmouth, slobber knocking, no apologies, ass kickers, you talk about Paul Orndorff. Orndorff, unlike Hogan, could hang in the ring with new and old throughout his entire career.
I can’t tell you exactly why “Mr. Wonderful” never won a world championship title run when that baboon Warrior got one, but it could have had something to do with Orndorff’s backstage attitude at the time, because he was certainly more than qualified enough.
Final verdict: Deserving.
Rikishi – Now this was certainly a shocking choice by WWE.com columnists. I would have went with “The Samoan Bulldozer” Umaga, myself, but hey, not everyone agrees 100 percent of the time.
Solofa Fatu, Jr. better known as the master of the Stinkface, Rikishi, was certainly deserving of a lot of accolades, but I just can’t picture anyone hanging out with Scotty Too Hotty & Grandmastah Sexay in the Title picture other than to lose.
Athletic big man yes, world champion material, no.
Final verdict: Undeserving.
Roddy Piper – “The Rowdy one”, “The Hot Rod”, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper was one of the biggest bad asses, one of the most dastardly vilains and at the same time one of the most beloved superstars of all time. Wearing his signature kilt, a devious smirk and his signature t-shirts, Piper was always stirring shit and getting people hot, crowd and roster alike. Whether it involved blatant racism, violent attacks or legendary venomous promos, Piper was the very best at garnering a reaction from the people, the media and the wrestlers (Hey’ remember when he kicked Cindy Lauper in the face?. It was more like ‘Girls Just Wanna Wear Dentures’.
In my opinion “Hot Rod” is the most deserving man on this list. Not only was he arguably the top heel in pro wrestling for nearly 10 years, Piper was the Lex Luthor to Hulk Hogan’s Superman. Piper got under your skin, got visceral reactions, made you get out your wallets, whether you wanted to see him get his ass beat or whether you wanted to see him live to fight another day.
If you’re a long time wrestling fan, you know Roddy Piper deserved to be world champion a dozen times over, but, you also know he was so big he didn’t even need a title to validate his position as an all time great. “Just when you think got answers. I change the questions”.
Final verdict: Deserving.
Scott Hall – Scott Hall was always a menacing, hulking and very hairy figure, but, during his early career in AWA, Hall was still very raw, unpolished and greener than a golf course. By the time he made it to the WWE as Razor Ramon, Hall was still learning. Paired with all time greats like Bret Hart & Bob Backlund early on helped Hall develop into quite the wrestler.
One of the greatest Intercontinental Champions of all time, Scott Hall put on great matches as Razor Ramon. He could cut good promos and he had found that certain something. Having great feuds with Shawn Michaels, The 1-2-3 Kid & Jeff Jarrett, Razor Ramon did everything but win the WWE Championship during his brief but exciting run.
When Scott Hall showed up in WCW on Monday Nitro with Kevin Nash, fans were surprised, but when Hogan dropped that big leg on his ‘ally’ Randy Savage, the world shook, and the New World Order was born. As The NWO’s spokesperson, Hall was having fun with his buddies Nash & Hogan… maybe a little too much fun. Hall’s workrate slacked, but his skill on the microphone improved. As Uncle Eric continued to throw bags of Ted Turner’s money at Hall, Nash & Hogan, Hall was pretty much mailing- in his in-ring performances.
Sure there was a lot of controversy, but Hall deserved to get his run, but WCW dropped the ball. Scott Hall could have been a great champion.
“Survey says…. One for the good guys”.
Final verdict: Deserving
Tatanka – I have no clue why Tatanka would even make a better than average list, yet he was put on a ‘Should have been world champion’ list. Tatanka making this list is even worse than inducting Koko B. Were into The WWE Hall Of Fame.
Final verdict: Hell no! Not even close to deserving.
William Regal – Perhaps the greatest in-ring competitor in professional wrestling history, Regal was and still is today one of the all-around best wrestlers in the world. Here’s why….
Mr. Regal can not only have a great match with anyone, regardless of style or skill level, he can talk on the mic with the best of them and Regal can get NUCLEAR heat, trust me, I’ve experienced all of this live, on television and online. It’s the passion, the undying love for the business and endless the pursuit of perfection that separates men like William Regal from the pack.
Still not convinced, go back and watch Regal’s feuds with Finlay, Punk and Dean Ambrose in FCW. Watch his promos as Commissioner Regal, watch for his comedic timing and best of all, watch the real pain and emotion during his feud with young Dean Ambrose.
Whether it was World Of Sport in the UK, New Japan Pro Wrestling, World Championship Wrestling or World Wrestling Entertainment, Regal has been the best everywhere he has gone.
Final verdict: Deserving.
As we come to a close one thing is certain, you don’t need a WWE, WCW, AWA or NWA Championship to validate a legendary career, but the image helps.