WWE title changes are not always celebratory moments for the fans, to say the least.
Most of the time, they just happen because a heel won. Sometimes, the circumstances can make the change a lot worse.
It can go much deeper than that, though.
A babyface can win the title under screwy circumstances. If they're questionable enough, they can heel him to the fans, which in some ways, stings even more.
In chronological order—since they're all similarly disappointing—let's count down some of the most frustrating ones.
Bret Hart had built up a decent reign as WWF Champion going into WrestleMania 9, where he was facing Royal Rumble winner Yokozuna. It was a natural matchup, as they were the top babyface and heel respectively when the match went down.
Late in an OK but disappointing main event, Hart managed to get a variation of the Sharpshooter on Yokozuna, and since Hart was the one closer to the ropes, it seemed like he couldn't escape. Just when Hart seemed ready to win, manager Mr. Fuji threw salt in his eyes. Hart released the hold, and Yokozuna pinned him.
The problem isn't just that a heel won at WrestleMania; it's how he won. Salt in the eyes is not a finish. Salt in the eyes is the transition the leads to a finish, but Yokozuna didn't do anything afterwards like hit a legdrop.
It actually got worse from there.
Hulk Hogan, who worked in the semi-main event tag title match, came out to protest the decision. Fuji issued a challenge for no adequately explained reason, and Hart told Hogan to go get him. Fuji accidentally threw salt at his charge, and Hogan followed up with a clothesline and a legdrop to win the title.
It was one thing for Hart to get screwed by a heel, but another babyface sneaking in to end up with the title was even worse. Hogan was not a good fit in the WWF anymore, and he came off like an opportunist who stole the title from his "friend" Bret.
Anyway, enough with Bret Hart being screwed...
Aww, hell no. Not rehashing this one. Let's try again.
In 2011, CM Punk famously won the WWE Championship from John Cena in Chicago and "left the company" with the belt, which gave cause for Vince McMahon to fire Cena in the storyline.
The next night on Raw, Vince announced a tournament for the title. Miz and Rey Mysterio ended up in the finals, but the match was delayed a week so Vince could fire Cena, which didn't happen because Triple H came out to relieve McMahon of his duties.
Mysterio beat Miz to win the title the next week. Since Cena wasn't in the tournament, he challenged Mysterio...to a match later that night. It was an excellent match, and Cena won the title after beating a much smaller man who already wrestled that night.
He came off like a total heel. It was a terrible way to get the belt back on him.
After the match, Punk returned with his own belt, and the fans were noticeably favoring him, which I'm sure was helped by how badly Cena was positioned that night. I think WWE eventually learned from this night, because it dropped any kind of Hulk Hogan-style whiny overtones afterwards.
Speaking of Punk and Cena's two belts...
To determine the true WWE Champion, Punk and Cena faced off in a rematch at SummerSlam with Triple H as referee. Punk won (albeit with Triple H missing Cena's foot on the rope), unifying Cena's "interim" title with his lineal title claim.
After the match, Kevin Nash came out of the crowd and powerbombed CM Punk for some reason. I think it was eventually explained, but it never made any sense. Money in the Bank winner Alberto Del Rio immediately ran out and cashed in to win the title.
The problem here was less that Punk lost the title and more that his momentum coming off Money in the Bank and his "pipe bomb" promo was stopped dead. He was going to be shunted into a feud with Nash, but that was cancelled, so he faced Triple H and lost.
Punk won the title back a few months later at Survivor Series to set up his long run, but it wasn't until his heel turn close to a year after the title loss that he really got his mojo back.
Look, I accepted this was going to happen, and it was probably the best thing for business. The problems were in the execution.
It started well enough. Punk, whom The Shield had been helping, could lose the title if he was disqualified but initially won by count out when the lights went out and The Rock was put through one of the announcers' tables. Of course there was a restart, and The Rock won.
The problem was how he won. He just hit the spinebuster and the People's Elbow and that was it. No string of near falls. No Rock Bottom. Punk lost to moves that usually aren't finishers, and it made him look too weak.
Going into WrestleMania and Punk's match with The Undertaker, it felt like he wasn't enough of a threat, and the way he lost the title didn't work. Plus, while I loved his big near fall against The Undertaker, the spot that everyone bought as being a possible finish was Punk cheating by hitting Undertaker with the urn.
Punk's back on his feet now, but I'm not sure he would be without the couple of months off he had after WrestleMania.
Like Rock beating Cena, it was the right move. Hell, I even said as much that night. That doesn't make it any less of a visceral gut punch, though.
I saw Bryan Danielson on and off from pretty much the beginning of his career as the masked American Dragon in Shawn Michaels' Texas Wrestling Association. He showed promise, but he wasn't that different from the many high-flying junior heavyweights all over the independent scene at the time.
I saw him next after he had gone through the WWE developmental program and trained with William Regal, among others. He dropped the mask and completely changed his style to a lot of kicks and submission wrestling. He put himself on the map by making it to the finals of the 2001 ECWA Super 8 Tournament.
From then on, I followed his career closely and was a huge fan. His ROH title defense against Kenta at the debut show at the Manhattan Center is still one of the greatest matches I've ever seen live, and it was actually a fairly similar match to Bryan's win over Cena, as weird as that sounds. Both had long, extended sequences of false finishes that took up much of the second half of the match.
So when he won by using Kenta's Busaiku Knee, I went bonkers. That was so cool! Look, confetti! Fireworks! Bryan just thanked his mom and dad! Hey, it's Randy Orton, but we expected that...good, he's leaving.
Wait, why is Triple H still in the ring? This isn't good. Dude, get out of the ring. Seriously, get out of the ring.
To heck with that dastardly Randy Orton and Triple H. To heck with them.