10 Wrestlers You Never Knew Were World Champion

Mr Perfect - Curt Hennig

It is the pinnacle of any wrestler’s career to win a World Championship. However, it is a honour that is bestowed on an extremely small number of grapplers.

However, some World Title reigns barely register a blip on many fans respective radars. This is in due in part to the lack of reach of the promotion in which they were won, the brevity of the reign or lack of success of the title run.

This feature looks back at 10 World Championship reigns that you may never know occurred.

#10 Bam Bam Bigelow

Bam Bam Bigelow

Bam Bam Bigelow was a major star for two decades, throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

However, despite headlining WrestleMania XI and capturing a wide array of titles in several different companies, he only ever reigned as World Champion once.

That World Title reign occurred in ECW. Bigelow captured the belt from Shane Douglas on the October 20, 1997 episode of Hardcore TV. However, his reign was short-lived and he dropped the strap back to Douglas just six weeks later, on November 30, 1997 at the November to Remember pay-per-view.

He was never considered for a World Title run again. Due to it’s brevity, many fans are unaware the reign ever occurred.

#9 Justin Credible

Justin Credible

Justin Credible was little more than a glorified jobber during his WWE run between 2001 and 2002. However, he was a major star in the dying days of ECW and held the ECW World Title for 161 days between April and October 2000.

After Credible dropped the belt, the title changed hands another three times in two months, quickly erasing Credible’s title run from memory.

His WWE status from 2001 to 2002, ensured Credible’s World Title reign was lost to history.

#8 Jerry Lynn

Jerry Lynn World Champion

Jerry Lynn is the one of a few wrestlers on this list to have won more than one World Title. However, neither reign unfortunately moved the needle and have been long since forgotten.

Lynn won his first World Title in ECW when he captured the belt from Justin Credible at Anarchy Rulz on October 1, 2000. Just four weeks later, the Lynn era ended when he dropped the strap to Steve Corino.

Nine years later, Lynn ended Nigel McGuinness’s epic 545 day Ring of Honor World Title reign as champion on April 3, 2009. However, his title run would only last 71 days before he dropped the belt to Austin Aries, who would them embark on his own lengthy reign as World Champion.

#7 Curt Hennig

Curt Hennig

Curt Hennig’s WWF character, was Mr. Perfect, an athlete that was perfect in every way. However, that didn’t result in Hennig winning a WWF World Title. He didn’t capture a World Title during his tenure in WCW either. However, some fans may be unaware, that Hennig does have one World Championship reign on his record.

That occurred way back in 1987, prior to his famed WWF run. Henning captured the AWA World Title from Nick Bockwinkel on May 2 that year. He would hold the belt for an impressive 373 days before dropping the strap to Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler on May 9, 1988.

#6 Barry Windham

Barry Windham was one of the leading players in JCP in the mid-1980s and seemed a dead certainty to lift the NWA World crown, during his epic feud with Ric Flair and The Four Horsemen.

However, in a shocking twist, Windham ended up turning heel in April 1988 and joining the Horsemen.

That put paid to his World Title aspirations and Windham gradually tumbled down the card. However, despite his reduced status, WCW gave Windham a belated NWA World Title run in February 1993 that is long forgotten. Although Windham held onto the strap for five months, it was rarely the focus of the company. Vader as WCW World Champion was the leading player and drawing card for the promotion, not Windham

Ironically enough, Windham dropped the belt at Beach Blast on July 18, 1993 to long-time rival/ally, Ric Flair.

#5 Rick Martel

Rick Martel

Rick Martel is best remembered as a comedy heel under his ‘The Model’ persona which he portrayed in the WWF between 1989 and 1995. However, prior to that, Martel played it dead straight during his tag team success in the Federation between 1986 and 1989 in teams, The Can-Am Connection and Strike Force.

He was also a serious competitor during his run with the AWA between 1982 and 1986. Martel enjoyed a long, credible reign as AWA World Champion between May 1984 and December 1985, which saw him lock horns with the likes of Ric Flair, Nick Bockwinkel and Stan Hansen amongst other legendary names of the era.

However, owing to his much more famous run in the Federation, this reign is no longer remembered by fans.

#4 Ken Shamrock

Ken Shamrock

After dabbling with pro-wrestling in the late 1980s and early 90s, Ken Shamrock made his name as a martial artist in Pancrase and the UFC.

In 1997, he joined the WWF and quickly ascended the ranks. Although he would hold Intercontinental and Tag Team gold, he would never capture the WWF World crown.

When he returned to MMA in 2000, it looked as if Shamrock would never win one of pro-wrestling’s ultimate prizes. However, a fleeting return to wrestling in 2002, saw ‘The World’s Most Dangerous Man’ win the NWA World Title and thus became the first recognised World Champion in NWA: TNA (now Impact Wrestling) history.

However, despite holding that distinction, Shamrock’s World Title run is somewhat lost to history as he lost the title just 49 days to another unlikely and long forgotten World Champion…

#3 Ron Killings

R-Truth World Champion

The future R-Truth, Ron ‘The Truth’ Killings upset Ken Shamrock to win the NWA World Title on August 7, 2002. The title win was significant as it marked the first (and still only) time an African-American had captured the NWA World crown.

That title reign lasted three months and Killings would capture the strap again two years later when he dethroned AJ Styles. His second reign only lasted a fortnight as he dropped the belt to Jeff Jarrett.

However, despite his World Title success in NWA:TNA, Killings is best known for his comedic persona during his second run with WWE from 2008. Over the past 14 years, Killings has only fleetingly flirted with the top of the card and has been an opening card act for many years. That is why memories of his World Title runs have faded into history.

#2 Dan ‘The Beast’ Severn

Dan Severn

Dan Severn had an instantly forgettable WWF run between 1998 and 1999. He was just another guy, firmly in the background amongst the crowd of larger than life characters that made up the Attitude Era.

What few people are aware of is that Severn enjoyed a four year NWA World Title reign between 1995 and 1999. However, this was during a period when the NWA did not have a presence within a major wrestling company. The belt was defended almost exclusively at low key live events.

What even less people will know is that ‘The Beast’ enjoyed a second (albeit brief) reign as NWA World Champion during March to May 2002. He vacated the strap when he refused to defend the belt on the inaugural NWA:TNA event, in which Ken Shamrock claimed the vacant title.

#1 Scott Norton

Scott Norton

Scott Norton is quite possibly one of (if not the) least deserving World Champions in history. What’s even more astonishing, is that Norton won the IWGP World Championship in front of the demanding Japanese audience.

What’s even more amazing is that he captured this title twice!

Despite his low card status in WCW, Norton captured the IWGP strap in a match with Yuji Nagata for the vacant title. He held the strap for just over three months until he dropped the strap in the Tokyo Dome on January 4, 1999. His IWGP title win was barely referenced on WCW television and did not result in a status enhancement in the West, where he was still portrayed as a glorified jobber.

Incredibly, after his WCW tenure ended later that year, Norton signed on with New Japan full-time and won the IWGP Title for a second time on March 17, 2001. That reign ended after just three weeks.

Due to his title wins not being known or discussed in the West in the pre-social media age, they are somewhat lost to history.

You can watch many of these World Title reigns exclusively on the WWE Network.