Wrestling fans are very nostalgic. They like to go back and reminisce about old times. They also tend to root for their favorite Superstars who have been around for a long time, regardless of whether that performer is supposed to be working as the babyface (good guy) or the heel (bad guy).
Superstars such as John Cena, Randy Orton, Triple H, Dave Batista, The Undertaker, Steve Austin, The Rock, Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, and other instantly recognizable household names, have all cemented their legacies as some of the greatest World Heavyweight Champions in wrestling history. But there have been many other talented performers who have not enjoyed as many World Title reigns as some of the names previously mentioned.
Wrestling fans like to see talented performers get rewarded with at least one good World Championship title reign at some point before their career comes to a close. Many of the performers that will be profiled on the following list may have had as little as one World Championship reign throughout their career.
10. Matt Hardy Wins WWE's ECW Championship
WWE Unforgiven, September 7, 2008, The Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio
Matt Hardy is one of the most polarizing and complex stars in wrestling history. Often overshadowed by his younger brother Jeff Hardy, Matt has tasted his fair share of success (and controversy) in wrestling.
Matt Hardy's first major singles championship victory of any kind happened back in 2001 when he captured the WWE European Championship while still teaming with Jeff. Matt was one of the longest-reigning European Champions in WWE history.
In the early 2000s, after The Hardy Boyz had finally split up, Matt found success on the SmackDown brand as "Matt Hardy: Version 1.0". Matt enjoyed a fairly lengthy run as the WWE Cruiserweight Champion from February until June of 2003, and his "Mattitude" heel gimmick seemed to get over with the WWE fans. Matt eventually returned to the Monday Night Raw roster to be closer to his real-life and on-screen girlfriend, Amy "Lita" Dumas. This was when Matt Hardy's career took an unexpected turn.
In 2005, the news broke over the internet that Lita had been cheating on Matt in real life with fellow WWE Superstar Adam "Edge" Copeland. Their personal issues resulted in Matt Hardy being released from his WWE contract in April of 2005. In what turned out to be one of the most controversial and memorable situations in WWE history, Matt Hardy gained tremendous support from the wrestling fans, who felt that it was unfair that WWE had terminated Hardy's contract. It also put an incredible amount of heat on Edge and Lita, who became the two biggest heel characters on WWE programming.
Vince McMahon and WWE officials realized that money could be made off of this tense situation, and Matt Hardy was officially re-signed by WWE in July of 2005, although this was not officially acknowledged on television until August. Hardy waged war against Edge and Lita on television for months until their feud finally culminated in a "Loser Leaves Raw" Match. Due to outside interference from Lita, Edge was victorious over Matt Hardy.
Hardy was then moved back to SmackDown where he continued to be one of the most popular Superstars on the brand. In 2007, Hardy engaged in what would become a year-long feud against SmackDown newcomer Montel Vontavious Porter over the WWE United States Championship. MVP would often get the best of the veteran until Hardy finally defeated MVP for the U.S. Title at Backlash 2008.
Hardy was drafted to WWE's re-launched version of Extreme Championship Wrestling during the 2008 Draft while still in possession of the United States Championship. Although Hardy would lose the U.S. Title to SmackDown's Shelton Benjamin at The Great American Bash, he would quickly rebound and capture his first and only World Championship at Unforgiven 2008.
ECW Champion Mark Henry defended the Title in a Championship Scramble Match against Matt Hardy, Chavo Guerrero Jr., Fit Finlay, and The Miz. Whoever was the current ECW Interim Champion at the end of the 20-minute period would officially leave Unforgiven as the champion. Matt Hardy became the Interim Champion and managed to avoid being pinned or submitted by the end of the time period, thus leaving as the new ECW Champion.
After all that Matt Hardy had been through in his career, after all of the adversity that he overcame, after all the years of being overlooked, Matt Hardy was finally a World Champion in WWE. And he was the first Hardy to become a WWE World Champion, as his brother Jeff didn't finally win a WWE World Title until December of 2008 at the Armageddon pay-per-view when he defeated Edge and Triple H in a Triple Threat Match for the WWE Championship.
Matt Hardy's reign as ECW Champion lasted from September of 2008 until January of 2009.
9. Dolph Ziggler Wins The World Heavyweight Championship
WWE Monday Night Raw, April 8, 2013, The Izod Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey
Dolph Ziggler is one of the most talented Superstars that WWE has seen over the past decade. His ability to have show-stealing performances with anybody he works with has earned him the respect and admiration of WWE fans for years now. Ziggler is a one-time WWE United States Champion and a four-time WWE Intercontinental Champion. Ziggler was awarded his first WWE World Heavyweight Championship in February of 2011 by SmackDown General Manager Vickie Guerrero under controversial circumstances. Ziggler lost the World Title to Edge only minutes after being awarded the prestigious championship.
From 2011 until 2013, Ziggler continued to impress the WWE Universe with his solid performances on Raw, SmackDown, and WWE pay-per-view events on a weekly basis. He enjoyed a good run with the United States Championship for the better part of 2011 and frequently worked with top Superstars such as Randy Orton, C.M. Punk, and John Cena throughout 2011 and 2012.
However, many fans took notice that despite Ziggler's stellar performances, he often came out on the losing end of his matches against WWE's top Superstars. He did score a major victory in the summer of 2012 though, as he captured the highly-coveted Money in the Bank briefcase at the Money in the Bank pay-per-view in July of 2012. Ziggler held on to the briefcase for nearly a year before finally cashing it in on the Raw following WrestleMania 29. After World Heavyweight Champion Alberto Del Rio had just won a match against Jack Swagger, Ziggler made his way down to the ring and forced Del Rio to defend his gold with an injured ankle. Ziggler targeted Del Rio's ankle before taking him down with a Zig Zag and pinning him to become the new World Heavyweight Champion in front of an excited crowd in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Many within the WWE Universe were happy to see Dolph Ziggler finally capture a World Championship after years of solid in-ring performances. Although injuries plagued Ziggler's World Title reign, he still remains a top contender for all of WWE's championships.
8. Tommy Dreamer Wins WWE's ECW Championship
WWE Extreme Rules, June 7, 2009, The New Orleans Arena/Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana
Tommy Dreamer will best be remembered as being "The Heart & Soul of Extreme Championship Wrestling". He remained loyal to the original ECW from the time he joined the promotion in 1993 until ECW went out of business in 2001. Dreamer worked for WWE for several years after ECW closed down, but he was mostly just used as a jobber to help put other talents over. In late 2004, WWE released a documentary called The Rise & Fall of ECW, which sparked a renewed interest in the ECW brand. In June of 2005, WWE paid tribute to ECW with what was labeled as being a "one night only" reunion show, ECW One Night Stand. Dreamer teamed up with The Sandman in the main event of One Night Stand to take on Bubba Ray & D-Von: The Dudley Boyz.
Following the tremendous success of the ONS pay-per-view, WWE held another ONS event a year later in June of 2006, followed by the full-time re-launch of a new ECW that same month. Tommy Dreamer and a handful of other ECW Originals were signed to new WWE contracts to be a part of the ECW re-launch.
WWE's new version of ECW was nothing like the original ECW and was poorly received by the fans. WWE quickly released most of the ECW Originals from their contracts until only a few, including Tommy Dreamer, were left on the roster. Tommy Dreamer was often booked to lose most of his matches on ECW to younger stars such as Elijah Burke, Kevin Thorn, John Morrison, and Jack Swagger.
In 2009, Tommy Dreamer announced that his contract with WWE and ECW was set to expire and that he would leave WWE and ECW if he did not win the ECW Championship by the time his contract expired. Dreamer finally captured the ECW Championship at Extreme Rules and continued his career in WWE and ECW.
Dreamer held the WWE ECW Championship for nearly two months before losing it back to Christian at the July Night of Champions pay-per-view.
On the December 29th, 2009 episode of ECW, Tommy Dreamer lost a match to Zack Ryder where Dreamer's WWE/ECW career was on the line. He legitimately parted ways from WWE shortly after losing this match to Ryder.
Tommy Dreamer has stayed active on the independent circuit since his WWE career ended in December of 2009. He formed a promotion called House of Hardcore and has also had an on-again-off-again working relationship with TNA Impact Wrestling since 2010.
Although Tommy Dreamer never achieved much in WWE, he is considered to be an icon to the hardcore wrestling community and will forever be remembered for his unwavering loyalty to the ECW brand. He was also the only wrestler to hold the ECW Championship in both the original ECW and WWE's version of ECW.
7. Christian Wins The World Heavyweight Championship
WWE Extreme Rules, May 1, 2011, St. Pete Times Forum/Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida
Much like Marty Jannetty of The Midnight Rockers and Matt Hardy of The Hardy Boyz, Christian's career has always been compared to that of his former longtime tag team partner, Edge. Edge is one of the most decorated champions in WWE history, having held no less than 11 World Championships in total, as well as countless other championships during his legendary career.
Looking at their accomplishments on paper though, Christian has accomplished nearly as much as Edge. Without comparing Christian's career to Edge's, Christian has had a spectacular career of his own and has held World Championship gold on six occasions.
Christian left WWE after a seven-year career in 2005 and joined NWA-TNA, where he would become a two-time National Wrestling Alliance World Heavyweight Champion. Many fans agreed, and still agree to this day, that this was a good career move for Christian at the time. It appeared as though no matter how hard he worked in WWE and no matter how popular he became with the fans, WWE did not view Christian as being main event/World Champion material. When his WWE contract expired in late 2005, Christian refused to sign a new contract, opting to continue his career in the young up-and-coming promotion, Total Nonstop Action Wrestling.
Going back to his original "Christian Cage" wrestling name, Christian enjoyed a good three-year run in TNA from 2005 until November of 2008. Christian Cage was always used as a main event superstar during his time in TNA and had memorable feuds against the likes of Jeff Jarrett, Sting, Kurt Angle, and Samoa Joe. He captured the historic NWA World Heavyweight Championship on two occasions while TNA was still under the NWA banner and proved to the wrestling world that he was more than capable of performing at a main event level and carrying a company on his back.
After leaving TNA in late 2008, Christian returned to WWE as part of their re-launched version of Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW). Although ECW was made to look inferior to WWE's Raw and SmackDown programs, Christian did seem to bring new life to the brand. Christian dominated ECW all throughout 2009 and became a two-time ECW World Heavyweight Champion. He consistently put on excellent performances on ECW's weekly television program, as well as WWE pay-per-view events. Even though WWE no longer acknowledged the ECW Championship as being a "World" Title, Christian certainly seemed to hold the championship in high regard, as did his fans.
WWE discontinued their ECW brand in February of 2010. In what was considered to be a questionable decision by many fans, WWE booked Christian to lose the ECW Championship to Ezekiel Jackson on the very last episode of ECW. The reason being that WWE officials had high hopes for Jackson and wanted him to have momentum as he moved on to the Raw and SmackDown programs.
Christian seemed to flounder in WWE after ECW was discontinued. He worked on Raw and SmackDown throughout 2010 but was never really used as a main event star like he was in ECW. He took some time off due to injury in September of 2010 and returned to WWE programming in February of 2011.
In April of 2011, Christian's best friend and longtime tag team partner Edge was forced to retire from in-ring competition after suffering a neck/spinal injury. Edge was the World Heavyweight Champion on the SmackDown brand at the time of his retirement, thus vacating the World Title. A new World Heavyweight Champion would be crowned at the 2011 Extreme Rules pay-per-view, as Christian squared off against he and Edge's rival Alberto Del Rio in an Edge & Christian specialty, the Ladder Match. Christian emerged victorious and captured his first major World Championship in WWE. It was a truly satisfying moment for Christian's fans, who felt that he was long overdue for a good World Title reign.
However, in yet another questionable and controversial decision on WWE's part, Christian was booked to lose the World Heavyweight Championship to Randy Orton at the very next set of Friday Night SmackDown tapings, which took place on Tuesday night. Fans were shocked and disgusted when the news came out after the Tuesday night tapings that Christian had been booked to lose the World Heavyweight Championship after only two nights as champion. With SmackDown airing on television on Friday nights at the time, Christian's World Heavyweight Title reign is officially listed as having lasted five days.
The outrage from fans prompted WWE officials to keep Christian in the World Title scene, and he would eventually get a tainted victory over Randy Orton at the Money in the Bank pay-per-view in July after Orton kicked Christian in the groin. The stipulation of the match stated that if Orton got disqualified, Christian could win the championship via DQ. Christian lost the World Heavyweight Title back to Orton once again at the following month's SummerSlam pay-per-view.
Christian never did taste World Championship gold in WWE again after his loss to Randy Orton at SummerSlam 2011. He did defeat Cody Rhodes to become a four-time Intercontinental Champion at the 2012 Over the Limit pay-per-view, but after that, Christian's career started to wind down after suffering numerous injuries, including several concussions.
Christian still makes occasional appearances for WWE, but has not wrestled a match since early 2014.
6. Raven Wins The NWA-TNA World Heavyweight Championship
NWA-TNA Slammiversary, June 19, 2005, The Impact Zone in Orlando, Florida
Raven is widely regarded as one of the most overlooked and underutilized performers in wrestling history. After spending time in both WCW and WWE in the early 90s under the names of Scotty Flamingo and Johnny Polo, Scott Levy finally landed the biggest role of his career when he joined Extreme Championship Wrestling in 1995 and became the Raven character.
Raven virtually dominated ECW for two years until he parted ways from ECW and signed with WCW in mid-1997. WCW was a much larger platform than ECW and Raven was featured somewhat prominently, at least for a mid-carder. Much like he did in ECW with Raven's Nest, Raven assembled a unique cast of characters for a stable in WCW which was known as Raven's Flock. However, during a time in WCW that was dominated by the New World Order (nWo) and their war against WCW's top stars, the Flock was never given much of a chance to become anything more than a group of glorified jobbers.
Raven did capture some championship gold in WCW though, as he captured the World Tag Team Championship with Perry Saturn, as well as the prestigious United States Championship.
Raven left WCW in late 1999 and returned to ECW. He won the ECW World Tag Team Championship with longtime rival Tommy Dreamer and the duo managed to hold the belts for a few months before losing them to The Impact Players: Lance Storm and Justin Credible.
Raven joined World Wrestling Entertainment, then known as the World Wrestling Federation, in September of 2000 at the Unforgiven pay-per-view. During most of his time in WWE, Raven was never used for much of anything outside of WWE's Hardcore Championship division. He did find success in the Hardcore Title scene though, as he would become a record-setting 27-time WWE Hardcore Champion.
After a rather lackluster run in WWE, Raven parted ways from the company in January of 2003 and immediately joined the young upstart company, Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, which was the largest member of the legendary National Wrestling Alliance at the time. Raven made it very clear from the time he joined NWA-TNA that his mission was to become the NWA World Heavyweight Champion.
Although TNA had a number of big-name wrestling stars pass through their doors during their early years, Raven and TNA Founder Jeff Jarrett were the only two big-name stars who competed for NWA-TNA on a consistent, weekly basis. Raven was always a top contender for the NWA World Title but was never quite able to achieve his goal of winning it. At least not until 2005.
Raven was entered into the King of the Mountain Match for the NWA World Championship at TNA's three-year anniversary pay-per-view, Slammiversary. He waged war against "The Monster" Abyss, "The Alpha Male" Monty Brown, Sean "Syxx-Pac" Waltman, and "The Phenomenal" A.J. Styles in the five-way reverse Ladder Match where the only way to win was to hang the NWA World Title belt above the ladder. After a grueling match against four other elite contenders, Raven finally fulfilled his destiny by becoming the NWA-TNA World Heavyweight Champion after two-and-a-half years of setbacks.
Raven ruled as the NWA World Heavyweight Champion in TNA throughout the summer of 2005 before losing the Title to former champion Jeff Jarrett in September, just before TNA landed a Saturday night timeslot on Spike TV.
Raven would then go on to feud against TNA authority figure and wrestling legend Larry Zbyszko. Raven eventually won his feud against Zbyszko and then briefly feuded against Abyss. After this, Raven seemed to take a back step on TNA programming. He formed a new stable in 2006 known as Serotonin, which included Johnny Devine as "Havok", Frankie Kazarian as "Kaz", and "Maverick" Matt Bentley as "Martyr". Serotonin never found much success in TNA before eventually splitting up in 2007.
Raven's last storyline in TNA was a bizarre one. He found himself involved in the morbid story that had developed between "The Sinister Minister" Father James Mitchell and his storyline "sons", Abyss and Judas Mesias. This angle lasted for a number of months, but Raven ended up leaving TNA in March of 2008.
Raven has since made a few brief comebacks in TNA. He appeared off-and-on throughout 2009, again feuding against Abyss. In 2010, he was used as one of the many ECW Originals who were brought into TNA for the stable Extreme Violence 2.0. Raven left TNA once again in late 2010 and has not been seen on a major wrestling program since.
The Raven character was one of the most purely fascinating characters to come along in wrestling over the past two decades. Although Raven never achieved much success in the major promotions like WWE and WCW, Raven will always be remembered by die-hard wrestling fans who followed promotions like ECW and TNA. His work for TNA in particular was probably the best work of his career, both in terms of his in-ring performances and his promos. He helped carry TNA throughout their early years when it was hard for TNA to sign very many big-name stars from WWE, WCW, or ECW to full-time commitments. It was a great moment for TNA fans and Raven's fans when he finally won the NWA World Heavyweight Championship at Slammiversary 2005, and many fans would agree that this was a great time in the history of TNA Wrestling.
5. Bubba Ray Dudley A.K.A. Bully Ray Wins The TNA World Heavyweight Championship
TNA Impact Wrestling Lockdown, March 10, 2013, The Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas
Bubba Ray and D-Von Dudley, collectively known as The Dudley Boyz or Team 3D, are quite possibly the greatest tag team in the history of professional wrestling. They are certainly the most accomplished. They are recognized as being 23-time World Tag Team Champions, having won tag team gold in WWE, WCW, ECW, TNA, and Japan. Bubba and D-Von have always been viewed as being a package deal, but in 2010 in TNA Impact Wrestling, Team 3D ended up going their separate ways.
At TNA's 2010 Turning Point pay-per-view, Team 3D lost a match to Chris Sabin and Alex Shelley: The Motor City Machineguns. This was labeled as being Team 3D's retirement match, but later that week on TNA Impact, Brother Ray attacked Brother Devon after their farewell speech and left him unconscious in the ring. Brother Ray was now known as "Bully Ray" and Brother Devon was simply known as Devon.
Bully Ray and Devon would both go on to enjoy success as singles competitors in TNA Impact Wrestling. Devon, working as a babyface, would capture the TNA World Television Championship. Bully Ray became one of the top heels on the entire TNA roster and was frequently used in main event matches.
Throughout 2012 and 2013, TNA was terrorized by a mysterious motorcycle gang known as The Aces & Eights. Originally disguising themselves in masks and bandannas, one-by-one, the identities of the Aces & Eights members would be uncovered. At Bound For Glory 2012, Devon was revealed to be the Sgt. At Arms for Aces & Eights. Five months later at Lockdown 2013, Bully Ray squared off against Jeff Hardy for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship. In one of the biggest swerves in TNA history, Devon gave a hammer to his half-brother Bully Ray, who then used the hammer on Jeff Hardy. It turned out that Bully Ray had been the President of Aces & Eights from the beginning.
Bully Ray was now the TNA World Heavyweight Champion as the leader of The Aces & Eights. Devon also held gold, as he was in his second reign as the TNA World Television Champion. Team 3D was now ruling TNA Impact Wrestling. After all of their years together as a tag team and all the championships they had acquired, Bully Ray and Devon now held the two biggest singles championships that TNA had to offer.
The Aces & Eights eventually dissolved in November of 2013, but Bully Ray and Devon remained with TNA throughout 2014, eventually being inducted into the TNA Hall of Fame.
Team 3D returned to WWE as Bubba Ray & D-Von: The Dudley Boyz in August of 2015.
4. Mark Henry Wins The World Heavyweight Championship
WWE Night of Champions, September 18, 2011, The First Niagara Center/HSBC Arena in Buffalo, New York
Despite Mark Henry's incredible size and the fact that he is legitimately the World's Strongest Man, most wrestling fans never thought that Mark Henry would ever win a major World Championship in WWE. Untimely injuries have always plagued Mark Henry throughout his career, making it extremely difficult for WWE to really bank on Mark Henry. But from the years of 2008 until 2011, Mark Henry enjoyed a period of time where he was able to avoid major injuries and really become the main event star that WWE had always wanted him to be.
From 2008 to 2011, Mark Henry's work in the ring improved drastically. He won the ECW Championship in 2008, which was a surprising victory in and of itself considering that Henry hadn't held gold in WWE since 1999 when he briefly held the WWE European Championship. WWE's version of the ECW Championship was always in somewhat of a state of limbo. WWE seemed to stop referring to it as a "World" Championship at some point in 2007, although some fans still viewed it as being a World Title. Whether or not WWE's ECW Championship was a "World" Title is still debated to this day, but Mark Henry certainly viewed it as being a World Championship.
Mark Henry had a good run in ECW until he was moved to the Monday Night Raw brand during the 2009 WWE Draft. He was a popular babyface on Raw for two years until he found himself back on the SmackDown brand once again during the 2011 WWE Draft. Mark Henry turned heel and went on an absolute reign of terror on SmackDown, creating what he referred to as his "Hall of Pain". He injured and sidelined a number of Superstars during the summer of 2011, thus inducting them into his Hall of Pain.
Henry was on the roll of his career and it appeared as though nobody could stop him. Even WWE's Apex Predator, "The Viper" Randy Orton, was no match for Henry at the 2011 Night of Champions pay-per-view. Henry dominated Orton throughout most of the contest and finally defeated Orton with a thunderous World's Strongest Slam to claim the prestigious World Heavyweight Championship. The fans in attendance looked on in shock and horror as the fearsome Henry gave an impassioned victory speech after the match.
Henry would go on to successfully defend the World Heavyweight Championship against the likes of Randy Orton, The Big Show, and Daniel Bryan before eventually losing the Title to Big Show at the Tables, Ladders and Chairs pay-per-view in December of 2011.
3. Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit Win WWE's Two World Championships
Guerrero: WWE No Way Out, February 15, 2004, The Cow Palace in San Francisco, California/Benoit: WWE WrestleMania XX, March 14, 2004, Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York
Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit may not have been related by blood, but they were brothers in every sense of the word. Their respective careers had been mirror images of each other. They traveled all over the world perfecting their craft, and they both had to overcome adversity because of their physical stature. Many people thought that neither one of them would ever become a WWE World Champion because they were "too small" and didn't have "the right look".
Benoit and Guerrero had always been recognized as being two of the very best wrestlers on the face of the planet in terms of pure in-ring talent. It seemed like it was almost impossible for either one of them to have a bad match against any opponent. They both had a very unique charisma about them as well. Benoit was the silent machine. A technical wrestling expert who would systematically destroy his opponents in the ring with his vast knowledge of submission grappling and hard-hitting offense. Eddie Guerrero could work very well as either a babyface or a heel, but many would agree that he truly shined as a heel. Eddie could play a hilarious comedy character, or he could be a cold, stone-faced, borderline psychotic, truly dangerous heel.
Whether they were working as the babyface or the heel, nobody could deny that Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero were two of the best performers in the history of the wrestling business.
By the year 2004, Benoit and Guerrero had both amassed a large collection of championships in wrestling promotions around the world, including WWE. But neither one of them had ever been a WWE World Champion. In January of 2004, Chris Benoit won the Royal Rumble Match, which gave him the option of challenging for the WWE Championship on the SmackDown brand or the World Heavyweight Championship on the Raw brand. Benoit jumped from SmackDown to Raw and entered the World Heavyweight Title scene with the likes of Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Kane, Randy Orton, and other top stars on Raw. Meanwhile, Eddie Guerrero stayed on the SmackDown brand and defeated Brock Lesnar at the No Way Out pay-per-view in February of 2004.
On March 14, 2004, at WrestleMania XX in Madison Square Garden, "The Crippler" Chris Benoit finally captured the World Heavyweight Championship after defeating Triple H and Shawn Michaels in one of the greatest Triple Threat Matches in wrestling history. It was an emotional moment as Triple H submitted to Benoit's Crippler Crossface submission hold, but the real emotion came during Benoit's post-match celebration. In one of the most iconic scenes in WWE history, Benoit's good friend Eddie Guerrero joined Benoit in the ring to congratulate him and share in the celebration. Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit stood in the center of the ring with their respective WWE World Titles as confetti fell from the ceiling.
2004 was an amazing year to be a wrestling fan because of Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit finally getting the World Championships title reigns they had worked so hard for. They broke through the size barrier and demonstrated that sooner or later, the cream always rises to the top. Their hard work, dedication, and ridiculous amount of talent in the ring made it impossible for WWE and the fans not to take notice. Although they both would only enjoy one World Championship title reign in WWE, nobody can ever change or try to deny the fact that Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit captured the two most prestigious prizes in their profession at the time and forever cemented their legacies as two of the all-time greats.
2. Terry Funk Wins The ECW World Heavyweight Championship
ECW Barely Legal, April 13, 1997, The ECW Arena in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
"The Original Hardcore Legend" Terry Funk began his professional wrestling career in 1965 and has competed all over the world. He and his older brother, Dory Funk Jr., were trained by their father, the legendary Dory Funk Sr. Terry Funk used to epitomize what "old school" wrestling was all about. He was synonymous with the National Wrestling Alliance and all of the rich history and tradition that the NWA represented. In 1975, Funk defeated the great Jack Brisco for his first (and only) NWA World Heavyweight Championship. Terry Funk was much like Jack Brisco, Ric Flair, Harley Race, Pat O'Connor, Buddy Rogers, Nick Bockwinkel and Verne Gagne in the sense that he was a "pure" wrestler in his younger days. When you think about those wrestling greats, you might think of black-and-white video footage and photographs.
However, Terry Funk was a revolutionary trendsetter, very much ahead of his time. Funk displayed a unique ability to evolve, change with the times, and reinvent himself as he got older. In the 1980s, Terry Funk became more vicious and more dangerous than he had been previously in his career. He blatantly referred to himself as being "middle aged and crazy".
In one of the first "hardcore" moments in American wrestling, Terry Funk gave Ric Flair a devastating Piledriver through a table after Flair had just won a classic bout against Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat for the NWA World Championship. This was shocking for many fans, who were not very accustomed to seeing such a violent act take place in the NWA. Flair and Funk would go on to have a stellar performance at Clash of the Champions IX in an "I Quit" Match. After a hard-fought war between the two wrestling greats, Funk was forced to submit to Flair's Figure-Four Leglock.
Funk spent the better part of the 1990s working for the hardcore wrestling promotion known as ECW: Extreme Championship Wrestling. ECW was the Number 3 promotion in the United States behind the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and World Championship Wrestling (WCW). ECW was known for its edgy, risqué, and downright violent programming, which made it vastly different from WWF and WCW. ECW was certainly a completely different universe than what Funk had been a part of in the 60s and 70s with the NWA. But Funk gave his heart and soul to ECW in an attempt to help make ECW a profitable wrestling company. Funk was more than willing to work with the young ECW stars who could benefit from having an experienced veteran teach them all he could.
Funk's time in ECW was another example of his ability to evolve. He was a completely different wrestler at this point than what he had been 20 years earlier. Funk was a savage. Funk was not afraid to use any weapons he could get his hands on and use them to inflict severe damage to his opponents. Terry Funk was a major threat to anybody he stepped into the ring with, despite the fact that he was now in his early 50s.
On April 13th, 1997, ECW held their very first pay-per-view event, Barely Legal. The main event of the show was essentially two matches combined into one huge main event. Terry Funk battled The Sandman and Stevie Richards in a Three-Way Dance Elimination Match to determine who would challenge Raven for the ECW World Heavyweight Championship to close out the show. Funk managed to beat The Sandman and Stevie Richards, but was immediately attacked by a fresh Raven. Funk was a bloody mess and couldn't even stand up to fight Raven. Raven pulverized Terry Funk, but Funk refused to accept medical treatment and refused to submit to the younger and physically superior ECW World Champion. Raven underestimated the heart and the fighting spirit of Terry Funk, and the old lion was able to catch Raven with a quick roll-up pin to capture the ECW World Heavyweight Championship at 53 years of age.
Funk's ECW World Title victory was probably the most emotional moment in ECW history. The ECW fans and Funk's coworkers were all brought to tears at the sight of seeing Funk, who had contributed so much to ECW and professional wrestling as a whole, finally get a reward and a "Thank You" for all of his hard work.
1. Kane Wins The World Heavyweight Championship
WWE Money In The Bank, July 18, 2010, The Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri
Kane is quite possibly the most underutilized and underappreciated Superstar in WWE history. When he first debuted on WWE programming at Badd Blood 1997, he was made to look like an unstoppable killing machine. His physical abilities in the ring, combined with his ungodly displays of supernatural power, were truly terrifying to WWE viewers in the late 1990s. But as time went on, "The Big Red Monster" was made to slowly look less and less indestructible.
More often than not, Kane would come out on the losing end in his never-ending feud against his older half-brother, The Undertaker. When Kane captured his first WWE World Championship at King of the Ring 1998 in a First Blood Match against "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, it appeared as though WWE fans were set to experience a reign of terror that had never been seen before in the history of wrestling. However, Kane lost the WWE Championship right back to Steve Austin the next night on Monday Night Raw. It would be more than a decade before Kane would taste World Championship gold again.
As far as championships go, Kane is one of the most accomplished wrestlers to ever grace a WWE ring. He is a two-time Intercontinental Champion, a 13-time World Tag Team Champion, and a one-time Hardcore Champion. But Kane has only had three World Heavyweight Title reigns in WWE, if you count WWE's version of the ECW Championship as a "World" Title, which was - and still is - debatable. Not including the ECW Championship, Kane has been a two-time WWE World Champion, with his first World Title reign only lasting roughly 24 hours.
Kane has had countless World Title matches throughout his career against a plethora of World Champions, but his overall Win/Loss record is poor, to put it mildly. But Kane had the best year of his career in 2010 on Friday Night SmackDown. 2010 was the year that Kane made history at the Money in the Bank pay-per-view, becoming the first Superstar to capture the MITB briefcase and cash in the MITB contract on that same night against Rey Mysterio, who had just successfully defended the Title against Jack Swagger.
Kane had an amazing five-month reign as World Heavyweight Champion on Friday Night SmackDown. The epic saga between Kane and The Undertaker saw its final chapter unfold throughout the summer and fall of 2010, with Kane finally getting the better of his older brother for the first time in their careers. Kane ended up losing the World Heavyweight Championship to the legendary "Rated R Superstar" Edge at the TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs pay-per-view in December of 2010.
Looking back, there's no doubt that 2010 was the year that Kane finally received a true reward for all of his contributions to WWE. Although he's made to look like a psychopath on television, Kane is one of the most well-liked and highly respected performers behind the scenes in WWE. Many of his coworkers felt as happy for Kane as the WWE fans did when he finally got the dominant World Title reign that he deserved.