WWE: 10 Underutilized WWE Champions
"Because sure, you beat legends. You beat Stone Cold and you beat Rock on the same night 10 years ago and that made you the WWE Champion. But you were never really the man like how I'm the man, were you?" - CM Punk to Chris Jericho on Monday Night Raw
Wow, those are pretty harsh words coming from Punk.
We know it was just part of a promo, just a way to add fuel to the fire in his mic battle that night with Chris Jericho.
But it does point out one thing that is very interesting to me—just because you are the champ doesn't necessarily mean you are "the man."
It is very ironic, because some would say that about CM Punk now.
He is carrying the WWE Championship, but most still see John Cena as the main guy in the company. Still, he is right about his position when it comes to Jericho. Even though he has held the WWE Championship a few times, he was never really branded as "the guy."
That's not to say he wasn't deserving.
Jericho is one of the best workers, most charismatic and most over wrestlers in the business. But when it comes to him and other wrestlers for that matter, sometimes in wrestling, it's just not your time to get that kind of a run.
Maybe they were injury-prone.
Maybe they had a lot of heat from the crowd for a short time before it died down.
Maybe there was a guy in the company that was more popular than them.
Whatever the case, some wrestlers' time at the top just isn't meant to be for the long haul.
So that got me thinking about other wrestlers that deserved longer, solidified runs at the top as champ who never got the chance.
I would like to discuss some of them with you.
With that I present to you, 10 underutilized WWE champions.
Days as Champion: 37
Dave "The Animal" Batista is one of the most popular post-Attitude Era WWE superstars, but I'm guessing he probably could have fit in during that time just fine.
Not considered a great in-ring performer by most critics, he worked hard and positioned his way into being a power player in the WWE.
Surprisingly enough, "Big Dave" has only been the WWE Champion twice for a combined 37 days.
For having the look, charisma and size that Vince McMahon just dies for, you'd think he would have had a longer time at the top. Word has it that Batista likes to do things his way in the back, so maybe that could be a reason for his short-term success.
Batista is always in the mix, just not "the man" for any long period.
But he has been the World Heavyweight Champion four times, so I guess that balances things out.
Rob Van Dam
Days as Champion: 22
Rob Van Dam often called himself the "Whole F'N Show."
Well, one faithful night at ECW One Night Stand, he got his chance to be just that.
"Mr. Monday Night" won his only WWE Championship when he defeated John Cena by cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase.
To top it off, he was given the ECW World Heavyweight Championship by Paul Heyman when ECW was resurrected by the WWE. This would make RVD the only man to ever hold both the ECW and WWE Championship as well as the first to hold both at the same time.
All this made sense, considering RVD has always been a popular wrestler and was hugely over at the time. An array of aerial assaults and moves unique only to his move set always kept him a fan favorite.
But an untimely suspension due to a drug arrest halted the only run at the top Rob Van Dam would ever get.
Who knows how far or how long his run would have lasted?
RVD always seemed like a people's champion type of wrestler, someone the fans definitely could have gotten behind.
The Iron Sheik
Days as Champion: 28
I want you to think really hard about this one.
Is there a bigger heel in the history on the WWE than The Iron Sheik?
If you were an American wrestling fan, you hated this man. WWE used real-life conflicts between America and rival nations to propel his ire from the fans.
But even through the hatred, you had to respect him.
If not respect, definitely fear him and his vaunted "Camel Clutch" finishing hold.
And if not fear or respect, I am sure he would have no problem making you humble!
But I'll stick with respect, as he was the man to break Bob Backlund's almost six-year title run.
Like many wrestlers in the 80s, he was up against Hulkamania, as he ended up dropping the title to Hulk Hogan before his run really got started. Some credit his famous match with Hogan as the launching point of Hulkamania, so that's not bad to have on your resume.
I think someone as hated as The Iron Sheik would have been a good choice to have a babyface the capacity of Hogan chase him and the title for a while.
It could have built up both guys more in the process. But Hogan went on to become the biggest wrestler of all time and The Iron Sheik is doing just fine himself.
So hey, what do I know?
Days as Champion: 98
The inspiration for this list, Chris Jericho is never shy to speak about his accomplishments.
Above all, he was the first undisputed WWF champion.
For those who don't know what that means, he unified the WCW Championship (now the World Heavyweight Championship) and the WWE Championship (then the WWF Championship) when he defeated The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin at Vengeance.
Enough with the history lesson.
Being the first man to win the Undisputed WWF Championship and defeating The Rock and "The Rattlesnake" in the same night, you'd think Jericho would be destined to be mentioned amongst the all time greats.
It really hasn't worked out that way.
Don't get me wrong, Jericho has had an illustrious career. As he mentioned on Raw, he has had five-star matches, show-stealing WrestleMania matches, numerous title runs, and maybe the greatest debut in WWE history.
But Jericho, while he's seen as a legend to the IWC, seems to be viewed more like an upper mid-card guy to the WWE.
Be it his size, or the style he works, Jericho has never been "the man" as CM Punk stated.
But that's OK, he'll always be "the Man of 1,004 Holds" to me.
Days as Champion: 64
Sgt. Slaughter might have been the first casualty of Hulkamania.
After his face turn and feud against The Iron Sheik, he possibly could have been the biggest face in the WWF. One of the greatest gimmicks and most notable wrestlers from the 80s, you'd think Sgt. Slaughter would have had great success.
Hulk Hogan is too big an elephant in the room to be noticed over him, so Slaughter had to settle for being the No. 2 face in the WWF at the time.
He was still immensely popular, turning his popularity into a action figure in the G.I. Joe line of toys. That's pretty sweet, but not as sweet as being the No. 1 guy.
After a heel turn and winning the WWF Championship (defeating the Ultimate Warrior for the WWF title, holding the belt for just 64 days), he eventually dropped the strap to—guess who?— Hulk Hogan.
Fear not, the Sarge is still around making us all remember what it is to be a true American.
Days as Champion: 42
Jeff Hardy splashed onto the WWF scene as a tag-team wrestler with his brother Matt, as they formed to make the Hardy Boys.
The Hardys are one of the most popular tag teams in WWE history, but it wasn't until Jeff branched out as a singles competitor that he would get his strongest push. Being a smaller guy who worked a high-flying style, many thought he would never rise above the mid-card.
Boy, were they wrong.
Once Jeff went solo, he reached almost-icon status within the company.
Don't get it confused.
I am not saying he was on the level of a Hulk Hogan or Steve Austin.
But "The Charismatic Enigma" garnered a cult following in the WWE Universe almost the ilk of a rock star.
He used that following to grasp an opportunity to get a run at the top. When he finally won the WWE title, it felt like a 10-year journey had finally been reached.
Jeff Hardy finally got over the hump.
Well, that's what we all thought. Shortly after defeating Triple H and Edge in a triple-threat match, he dropped the title back to Edge.
Since then, Jeff Hardy's career has been filled with turmoil. Be it from injury, drug abuse or trouble with the law, his demons are the sole reason that his time at the top was cut short.
At least he was able to give his legion of fans the one opportunity to call their favorite wrestler "champion."
Days as Champion: 47
Mick Foley is the epitome of making more with less.
He didn't have the look, he didn't have the size, he didn't have the athleticism or ability.
What he did have was a lot of heart, charisma and the willingness to do whatever it took to pop a crowd. He really can talk on the stick, too. Foley had three faces and we loved them all.
Be it pulling a sock out of his tights, falling off (or through) a 20-foot-high Hell in a Cell cage, shucking and jiving as Dude Love or having death matches with Terry Funk in Japan, Foley was always enduring and that sincerely nice guy that we have all come to respect.
This man has truly paid his dues in the business.
But even with all of that, Foley has never really been looked at as a top guy.
A serviceable guy? Yes, someone you can put the belt on to have a feel-good moment or to transition it to a bigger guy. He had three runs as the WWF champion that lasted a total of 47 days.
It doesn't matter though.
We still love Mick Foley.
His first WWF Championship title victory on Monday Night Raw versus The Rock may have been the moment that ended the Monday Night Wars.
If for not anything else, it was just a special moment in WWE history.
Days as Champion: 118
"To be the man, you gotta beat the man!"
A famous phrase from arguably the most famous wrestler on the planet, Ric Flair.
You have to be the man if you can call yourself a 16-time World Champion.
Flair would consider himself a 21-time World Champion, but who's counting?
But even with all the accomplishments and title reigns, he can only call himself a two-time WWF Champion.
That is nothing to sneeze at, as most wrestlers would die at the chance to be on top just once.
But Ric Flair is Ric Flair, and you would think that the WWF would have appreciated him a little bit more.
The only man to say he won the WWF Championship by winning the Royal Rumble, Flair's WWE run was never as over as many thought it would be. Part of it was in how he was booked, part of it being that his planned feud with Hogan fell apart with the infamous steroid scandal to hit in the early 90s.
I say we call for WWE to give "The Nature Boy" one last run with the title. Because with all he has accomplished, Ric Flair deserves to go out on top.
Days as Champion: 18
The original "Nature Boy", Buddy Rogers was the inaugural WWE Champion.
At the time, after Vince McMahon and Joseph Mondt withdrew membership from the National Wrestling Alliance, they formed the WWWF (World Wide Wrestling Federation, which is now the WWE today).
Rodgers was the perfect wrestler to head their new promotion, being given the title after it was announced that he had won a tournament for it held in Brazil.
He transcended the wrestling landscape as he was able to become a popular star at the beginning of the television age.
He was what Hogan, Flair, Austin and John Cena are to their generations.
As a strong, powerful, charismatic, intelligent man, he drew a large audience and had huge success in other promotions before coming to the WWWF.
Rodgers went on to drop the WWWF championship to Bruno Sammartino (ironically the longest-reigning WWE Champion of all time, holding the title for an amazing 4,040 days) after suffering a heart attack.
If it weren't for his sudden heart ailment, I am confident that Buddy Rodgers would have held onto his title a lot longer.
André the Giant
Days as Champion: 1
It's hard for me to even fathom how André the Giant could only be the WWF Champion for one day.
Not even one full day!
I understand he suffered from tons of injuries and mobility issues, but this is the man who was involved in probably the biggest WWF match of all time.
You know, the one where he faced off against Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania III.
Billed at 520 pounds and 7-foot-4, André the Giant was one of the biggest spectacles in sports entertainment and a huge reason why for WWF was able to pack The Pontiac Silverdome with over 93,000 people at WrestleMania III.
The one time André did carry the WWF Championship, he immediately sold it to "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase.
Jack Tunney, WWF president at the time, deemed the purchase of the title invalid. This caused the title to become vacant.
Ted DiBiase often said, "everybody's got a price."
Well, I think this price was too high because for my money, André the Giant should have gotten a longer run as the face of the World Wrestling Federation.
Who Would You Add to the List?
Was there anyone that I left off the list?
Anyone on my list who you would take off?
List them in the comments below!
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