For something as absurd as pro wrestling, most of their championships are decided in a somewhat-realistic manner. One athlete bests another thanks to superior power and athleticism, and walks around with a shiny belt until some skinny writer makes them give it to someone else.
Occasionally though, wrestling chucks that crap out the window, blatantly reminding us how fake their product is, and how dumb we are for watching it. This was never truer than during the late-90s and early 2000’s when, in the ongoing quest for ratings and headlines, supposedly prestigious championships were given to pretty much anyone who actively breathed oxygen. Those few years were both the most profitable in wrestling history and, in retrospect, the most humiliating to its fanbase.
Take any fat guy from any “America is way too obese” news segment, and imagine him winning the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, even though his feet barely left the ground. That still wouldn’t be as embarrassing as …
11. The Fabulous Moolah Wins the WWF Women’s Title (at age 76)
OK, so “actively breathing” was a loose requirement, as is proven by Fabulous Moolah winning a title eleven years after becoming eligible for Social Security.
Moolah is pretty much the greatest women’s champion ever, thanks to 28 consecutive years where she didn’t lose the belt, unless you count the times that she did (WWE doesn’t, because not being champion for 70 out of 10,000 days would be detrimental to her character or some crap.)
But her time was in the ’50s through the ’70s. By 1999, she was 76, looked 76, and wrestled like she was 76. Outside of shock value, there was no reason to have her win back the belt, and certainly not with the single worst roll up in recorded history. Even Moolah seemed embarrassed and uncomfortable about the win, or maybe it was just pain from her achy everything. She lost the title a mere eight days later, but the damage to the belt was already done.
But at least Moolah was a wrestler …
10. Vince McMahon Wins the WWF Championship
Despite his big ol’ muscles and awesome fake tan, Vince McMahon is not a wrestler, and never has been. This did not stop him from giving himself the WWF Title in 1999, but he at least had the common courtesy to do it in the flukiest manner imaginable. Basically, he got beaten to a bloody pulp, until Stone Cold Steve Austin attacked the Champion, Triple H. He then pulled an unconscious McMahon onto an equally-unconscious Triple H, the ref counted to 3, the owner of the company was Champion, and Jesus wept.
About a week later, McMahon forfeited the title, since he wasn’t a wrestler and all. Also, he didn’t feel like actually losing the belt in a match, and when you’re the boss, you get to make those kinds of decisions.
But at least McMahon was in shape …
9. Vince Russo (WCW’s Head Writer) Wins the WCW Championship
Head Writer was not some silly gimmick where Russo preached the virtues of proper grammar and feuded with anybody who dared plagiarize. No, he was literally the guy who wrote the stories for WCW. Like most people who write for a living, Russo was doughy and lacked biceps, triceps, or any other body part capable of being oiled and ogled.
For reasons that seem to boil down to “because I can,” Russo put himself in a match with WCW Champion Booker T, and actually won the damn thing. In pure hack writer fashion, his title win was a virtual ripoff of McMahon’s: he got beaten to a pulp, won on a complete fluke, and forfeited it a week later without losing.
But at least he didn’t break any rules while doing so …
8. Oklahoma (WCW’s Other Writer) Wins the WCW Cruiserweight Title
Wrestling doesn’t have weight limits like boxing or MMA, but occasionally a company will start a Light Heavyweight/Cruiserweight division, where everybody must be 215 pounds or under. Ed Ferrara, Vince Russo’s fellow Head Writer, was at least 60 pounds heavier than that, but such technicalities mean nothing compared to egos that need to be stroked.
In 2000 Ferrara, playing his character Oklahoma (a bad impression of legendary announcer Jim Ross), won the WCW Cruiserweight Championship, in a match so detrimental to humanity no footage exists online, anywhere. When something’s too awful for the Internet, it’s probably best to keep it hidden forever, because viewing it might cause all our faces to melt, like a bunch of Nazis staring at the Ark Of The Covenant.
Four days later, Ferrara vacated the title, continuing the tradition of non-wrestlers winning titles and never actually losing them. But somehow, being 60 pounds heavier than everybody else was preferable to being 60 pounds lighter …
7. Hornswoggle (A Little Person) Wins the WWE Cruiserweight Title
What’s that you say, 2007? You can embarrass wrestling fans just like 1999 and 2000? Trust us, we believe you!
This most magical of years saw Hornswoggle, a little person portraying a leprechaun who couldn’t speak or wrestle, win himself a title. The WWE held an Open Invitational for the Cruiserweight Title, where anyone was eligible to compete provided they were under 215 pounds and in the ring when the bell rang. Hornswoggle slid into the ring as the bell rang, making him an official participant, even though he immediately slid out and spent the entire match under the ring. He came out at the end, hit one move, got the pin, and won the title. The only way this could have been worse was if the referee had taken the belt for himself; he looked light enough, after all.
Unlike most “champions” we’ve mentioned, Hornswoggle did not immediately vacate the title. Rather, he was stripped of it, two freakin’ months later, once somebody finally realized a little person wrestling men two or three times his size was a bad idea. It was too little too late though, as the belt was never used again.
But at least Hornswoggle won his match …
6. Debra McMichael Wins the WWF Women’s Title by Losing
Back to 1999. Debra McMichael was known for two things, neither of which were her abilities in the ring. She and Sable, a woman also known for two things, had an Evening Gown Match for the WWF Women’s Title. The first woman to rip off her opponent’s dress, exposing her bra and panties, won. As degrading as this was, it was still preferable to watching them wrestle.
While Debra was distracted, Sable came from behind and ripped off her dress, winning in about fifteen seconds. However, Shawn Michaels (the storyline Commissioner at the time) decided that, because Debra looked so good in her bra and panties, she deserved to be Champion. So he simply gave the belt to her, which had to have pissed off the three fans in attendance who were expecting a real match.
Debra lost the title in an actual match about a month later, making her reign among the most dignified yet. Plus, at least she was the correct gender …
5. Harvey Wippleman Wins the WWF Women’s Title in Drag
Less than a year after Debra won the Women’s Title thanks to her uncanny ability to lose, the WWF put the belt on a newcomer named Hervina. Immediately after winning a 75-second classic for the ages, she pulled her wig off, revealing herself to be a dude named Harvey Wippleman. And it’s not like Wippleman was a big guy, or an accomplished wrestler. No, he was a 100-pound manager with less muscle mass (and ring skill) than even Russo.
A day later, he lost the title in 17 seconds to an actual woman, meaning his reign wasn’t just embarrassing; it was completely and utterly useless. However, at least Harvey worked in the wrestling business …
4. Judy Bagwell (A 50-Year-Old Mother) Is Handed a WCW Tag Team Title
Here’s a reign so completely embarrassing that the record books don’t even acknowledge it. But trust us, it happened. In 1998, Rick Steiner and Some Guy were WCW Tag Team Champions, until Some Guy got injured. Steiner was allowed to choose a new championship partner, and naturally he chose Judy Bagwell, the 50-year-old mother of one of the wrestlers he was feuding with. As you probably guessed, Judy wasn’t a toned, muscular cougar. Nope, she looked exactly like you’d expect a 50-year-old mother to look like, right down to wearing a sensible sweater in the ring.
WCW quickly realized how putrid an idea this was, and scrapped any plans for a Title Match involving Judy. The belts were completely ignored until Steiner himself got injured, and were then quietly vacated. Unfortunately for everybody involved, the Internet exists, and very not-quietly reminds the world that this horrific piece of wrestling history actually occurred.
But at least Judy could walk …
3. Bret Hart Wins WWE US Title in 2010. Post-Stroke.
We hate to lump Bret Hart, one of the best ever, in with all these jokers. But when you do something embarrassing and hurtful to wrestling, you do something embarrassing and hurtful to wrestling. Nobody’s allowed to suck simply because they used to be awesome.
Hart suffered a stroke in 2002, and was actually paralyzed for awhile. He made an amazing recovery, though he didn’t exactly gain nimbleness in his legs. Or arms. Or back. Or anywhere really. By 2010, he was 53 and could barely pull off a brisk jog, never mind a championship wrestling match. So, naturally, he took part in one. Kind of. Is it still considered a match if the people in your corner beat the living dogsnot out of your opponent for you? Because that’s what happened here. Bret did squat for the entire match, then locked his finisher on the champion, who immediately gave up due to the searing pain of an old man gingerly pulling on his kneepad.
One week later, Hart vacated the title, because non-wrestlers aren’t the only ones allowed to take the easy way out. But still, it could’ve been worse; Bret could’ve given the title to one of his kids …
2. David Flair Is Handed the US Title by His Father
Just because your parents are awesome at something doesn’t mean you will be too. Just ask David Flair, Ric’s skinny, clumsy, unathletic, uncharismatic son. Now, if David became a banker or whatever, that’d be fine. But no, he decided to become a wrestler. A title-sullying one at that.
At the time of his debut in 1999, Papa Ric was storyline President Of WCW, and he decided to flaunt his power by giving his son a title shot. Only Ric removed that pesky “match” thing, stripped the current champion of the belt, and gave it to David, who weighed only slightly more than the belt itself. The move was supposed to make us hate Ric and David, but instead made us hate WCW just a little bit more.
David stumbled around with the belt for a month and did jack squat with it, before dropping it to a totally imaginary person who never ever existed, nosireebob. But as bad as his win was, and as bad as any of these reigns were, not a one can compare to …
1. David Arquette Wins the WCW Title
Here it is: the single worst moment in wrestling history where nobody died. Arquette was promoting his 2000 film Ready To Rumble, itself a blemish on both the wrestling and movie industry. WCW decided the best way to advertise was to put their World Title on the film’s skinny, pasty, incredibly-annoying star. They were wrong.
Arquette’s win was predictably flukey; he won a tag team match, by pinning another non-wrestler, after getting beaten to a pulp the entire time. And he lost the title a mere 12 days later. However, the simple fact that this happened at all was enough to kill the World Title, WCW, and any hopes Arquette had of a serious career.
While it’s admirable that Arquette donated all his WCW money to families of dead or injured wrestlers, it still doesn’t make this idea any less worst-thing-ever. Unless a literal corpse wins a title one day, nothing can hope to make wrestling fans redder with embarrassment. Hell, David’s sister Patricia would have been a better choice. It still would’ve been atrocious, but at least she’s cute.
Jason’s a referee too, sometimes! He tells you all you need to know about the job with Things Your Local Pro Wrestling Referee Wants You To Know, and interviews Addy Starr, a wrestler far, far tougher than he.