WWE SummerSlam 2014: Worst Title Changes at PPV
WWE's annual SummerSlam pay-per-view has been home to some of the most memorable title changes in company history.
Who will ever forget The Ultimate Warrior ending Honky Tonk Man's historic Intercontinental Championship reign in less than a minute at the 1988 show, or Bret Hart beginning his Hall of Fame singles career with a victory over Mr. Perfect for the same title?
There was British Bulldog's triumphant victory over Hart in front of 80,000 fans inside Wembley Stadium for the intercontinental title and Brock Lesnar's defeat of The Rock for the WWE Championship 10 years later in 2002.
For every one of the historic, emotionally charged title changes, however, several left fans scratching their heads and asking, "What just happened?"
On August 17, WWE will present the 2014 edition of SummerSlam. With John Cena booked to defend the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, Divas champion AJ defending her title and intercontinental champion The Miz taking on Dolph Ziggler, there are plenty of opportunities for switches that fall on either side of the aisle.
In preparation for the upcoming spectacular, and in hopes that none of the potential title changes that occur at the show make it onto a revised edition of this list one day, here are seven of the worst title changes in SummerSlam history.
Texas Tornado Wins the Intercontinental Championship (1990)
A last-minute replacement for the injured Brutus Beefcake, "Texas Tornado" Kerry Von Erich upset the great Mr. Perfect at SummerSlam 1990 and ended his reign as intercontinental champion.
Von Erich's victory over Perfect interrupted what would have otherwise been a reign of more than a year. Perfect, a fighting champion whose skills were undeniable, had restored legitimacy to the title and reapplied the label of "worker's title." With him as champion, the midcard had a centerpiece that could all but guarantee a great match on any card, in any city, on any night.
Tornado's win was nothing but surprise for surprise's sake. The absence of Beefcake resulted in a reshuffling of the card, and to make up for the lack of an advertised match, the decision was made to satisfy fans with the title switch.
Von Erich did nothing of note with the strap, losing it back to Perfect three months later.
The title change robbed fans and the company of what would have been one of the greatest Intercontinental Championship reigns of all time and, thus, is one of the worst in SummerSlam history.
Bertha Faye Wins the Women's Championship (1995)
By 1995, it was clear that WWE's attempt to reintroduce women's wrestling to a broad audience had failed. Alundra Blayze, known better to longtime fans as Madusa, had been a suitable centerpiece for the women's division, but a lack of truly marketable stars and quality competition doomed it from the start.
The wars between Blayze and the great Bull Nakano featured women's wrestling the likes of which the United States had never seen before. It was strong-style Japanese wrestling in which the competitors beat the unholy hell out of each other, and no one ever questioned their toughness. Unfortunately, it did not register with fans who were unfamiliar with the greatness that was unfolding before them.
When that program wrapped up, Blayze transitioned into a feud with newcomer Bertha Faye, whose real name was Rhonda Singh. A skilled heavyweight competitor, Singh would have been the perfect foil for the smaller champion, but instead of allowing her to be the monstrous challenger, the brain surgeons making up WWE Creative at the time turned her into a comedy act.
It was incredibly ineffective, and by the time the two talented women took to the ring in Pittsburgh for their Women's Championship at SummerSlam 1995, the fans could not have cared less. Blayze and Faye worked hard, but the crowd was largely indifferent to the match.
Faye won, and seemingly no one noticed. By the time Blayze regained the title prior to leaving for WCW, women's wrestling in WWE was dead, with the death knell being Faye's inexplicable and unnecessary victory.
Jeff Jarrett Wins the Intercontinental and European Titles (1999)
D'Lo Brown's rise in the summer of 1999 brought hope for millions of WWE who had watched the talented young star develop from an afterthought during his days with the hated Nation of Domination into one of the bright spots in a midcard full of future Hall of Famers. When he defeated Jeff Jarrett for the Intercontinental Championship and became one of the few Superstars to ever hold both that prestigious title and the European Championship simultaneously, many believed he was on his way to a substantial push.
It all came crashing down at SummerSlam in August when Brown dropped both of his titles to Jarrett following betrayals by Debra, who had feigned innocence in the face of verbal abuse by Jarrett, and Mark Henry, who had long been Brown's closest friend.
The booking choice opened up an opportunity for a rivalry between Brown and Henry, but no one benefited. Jarrett was no better or worse off than he had been months earlier, Brown was right back to the position he was in prior to holding both titles, and Henry had flip-flopped from babyface to heel for what felt like the 10th time that year.
It was really Brown's last chance to succeed as anything more than a quality midcard act, and WWE dropped the ball. It was a shame, considering what became of his career in the company following the unfortunate accident involving Droz some two months later.
Mankind Wins the WWE Championship (1999)
If any title switch in SummerSlam history ever left fans scratching their heads, unsure of exactly what they had just witnessed, it was Mankind's nonsensical victory in the Triple Threat match for the WWE Championship in 1999.
Matched up against champion "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and fellow No. 1 contender Triple H, Mankind had returned from injury in the weeks leading into the show and was inexplicably inserted into the title picture. Sure, it was Triple H who had sidelined him with a knee injury, but to throw him into the biggest match of the summer with little rhyme or reason felt like a mistake, especially considering all of the work that had been done to build Triple H for what many believed would be his coronation as the top heel in the sport.
The Game, a nickname he had recently adopted, had been the primary focus of writers Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara heading into the show. The entire build to the event had been centered on him winning the WWE Championship and officially becoming a main event star in Vince McMahon's company.
Adding Mankind to the mix muddied the waters and took the attention off the budding rivalry between Triple H and Austin.
When Mrs. Foley's baby boy pinned Austin and won the title, ending the night on a happy note and having his arm raised high in the air by special guest referee, governor of Minnesota Jesse Ventura, a month's work unraveled. What was to be Triple H's crowning moment became one of the most vivid examples of booking a happy ending for no reason other than to steal a few headlines in the morning newspapers by having a babyface celebrate a title win with Ventura.
Luckily, the damage was not irreparable, and Triple H won the title the next night on Raw, proving that Mankind's win the night before was wildly unnecessary.
Chyna Wins the Intercontinental Championship (2000)
When Chyna won the Intercontinental Championship in October 1999, she made history by becoming the first woman to do so. It was an extraordinary accomplishment and one she more than deserved based on the hard work and dedication she demonstrated by improving herself in the ring leading into the feud with Jeff Jarrett.
By the time SummerSlam 2000 rolled around, she was the love interest of Eddie Guerrero, who was thrilling audiences with in-ring abilities that were rivaled by few on the roster. A feud with Val Venis over the intercontinental title had been blossoming heading into the summertime spectacular, and to add a bit of sizzle to the steak, Chyna and Trish Stratus were thrown into the equation.
A Mixed Tag Team match was booked with the winner of the pinfall or submission becoming the new champion.
Chyna would pin Stratus and win the title, setting in motion a storyline that would see a jealous Guerrero turn heel and betray his significant other.
Sure, Chyna's win was essential to the storytelling that would play out over the months that followed, but in no way, shape or form did Chyna need another title run. While her first reign was fun, different and established the Ninth Wonder of the World as one of the biggest stars in the industry, the influx of talent such as Chris Benoit, Perry Saturn, Dean Malenko, Chris Jericho and Guerrero meant that it was no longer believable that she could convincingly beat her male counterparts.
Her title reign lasted only a month, proving that the switch was unnecessary. There were plenty of other options available to WWE Creative that could have been responsible for a schism between Chyna and Guerrero rather than padding the former's resume with a meaningless title reign. It devalued the title and set Guerrero's push back a month.
X-Pac Wins the Lightheavyweight Championship (2001)
By the time SummerSlam 2001 rolled around, X-Pac had all but outlived his usefulness to WWE. Once a stellar worker, injuries, age and a stale character had left him an afterthought in the eyes of the WWE fans.
Still capable of the occasional great match, as he exhibited in bouts against Billy Kidman and Jeff Hardy, the fact that he was the WCW cruiserweight champion entering the annual August extravaganza was a bit of a joke. He was nowhere near the level of competitor that the younger, more exciting WCW stars who had held the title had been, and it showed.
When he was booked against the popular Tajiri in a match to unify his title and the WWE Light Heavyweight Championship, many saw it as an opportunity to put the young, former ECW star over the established X-Pac and continue to build his reputation as one of WWE's future stars.
Those fans would be wrong as they inexplicably watched X-Pac defeat the red-hot Tajiri and win the light heavyweight title.
The decision was asinine.
Here was an aging vet, whose speed and agility were nowhere near what they had been years earlier as the 1-2-3 Kid, going over someone whom fans not only adored but respected as one of the better workers in a company full of outstanding wrestlers. It made no sense from a booking standpoint and served only to give one of Triple H's close friends another major win and title reign.
Alberto Del Rio Wins the WWE Championship (2011)
From a booking standpoint, Alberto Del Rio's WWE Championship win over CM Punk at SummerSlam 2011 made perfect sense. As the Money in the Bank winner, it was to be expected that he would seize an opportunity to beat the champion when he was at his most vulnerable, and that was exactly what he did.
From a business standpoint, however, the decision to take the title off the hottest babyface in the industry was a mistake. Punk was responsible for getting new eyes on the product. His "pipe bomb" promo ignited interest in wrestling and led to the Straight Edge Superstar becoming somewhat of a mainstream star that summer.
His merchandise was selling like Botox to Joan Rivers, and fans embraced him as the antihero they so desperately wanted. He was the polar opposite of the traditional good guy John Cena, and fans ate it up. There was clearly a boatload of money to be made in the Chicago native, and sacrificing that potential in order to put Del Rio over made little sense, financially speaking.
As it turned out, Punk's loss at SummerSlam did halt some of the momentum he had behind him entering that year's SummerSlam. In many ways, he became the generic good guy attempting to dethrone the hated villain and win back his title. He became an edgier, more opinionated Cena. He sold T-shirts and was a hero to millions but never quite regained that spark that ignited what many had hoped would be a revolution in the wrestling industry.
Del Rio was not the marquee heel that management had hoped he would be. A great worker with undeniable charisma, he never made that connection with audiences that made people want to pay to see him get beaten up.
He soon was sent packing to the SmackDown brand, where he wrestled Sheamus repeatedly for the less prestigious World Heavyweight Championship, further highlighting the major booking mistake WWE Creative made in August 2011.