Christian didn't put his hands back on the World Heavyweight Championship against Randy Orton at Over The Limit. By doing so, the WWE used an Old School tactic to put the World Title on a transitional Champion for a few days until their designated Champion got the Gold.
If Christian's case is different from all those in the past, he is still a transitional Champion, so he will get his own slide.
Transitional champions are used to pass the Belt from a babyface to another babyface without getting them to battle each other. When it was required, for the various reasons I will explain in the following slideshow, a heel wrestler was scheduled to beat the reigning World Champion to then lose the Title just few days later against the one wanted by WWE.
So, with no more introduction, let's go back in time to explore the history of the transitional World Champions in WWE.
The original Nature Boy, Buddy Rogers himself, once was a transitional Champion. It is still unclear if it was meant to turn like that, but his reign only lasted 18 days. Most part of his legacy was already behind back then, but there are two different versions about his loss against Bruno Sammartino.
According to the urban legend, Rogers was not in condition to wrestle, but he was forced to defend his Title despite he suffered an heart attack a few days before the match.
However, Sammartino claimed that The Nature Boy was in great shape and he was just mad to drop the Championship so he made it short and went down for the pinfall after only 48 seconds.
Ironically, the first transitional Champion was the inaugural WWE Championship holder who won a fictitious tournament in Rio De Janeiro on April 29, 1963, to make history.
The flamboyant heel eventually lost the Belt against Sammartino, who started his record 2,803-day reign as the World Champion.
We can only speculate on the reasons why Sammartino himself didn't win the made-up tournament to determine the first WWWF World Champion. It would make sense to think that the newborn promotion wanted to put the Gold on their flagship guy in front of an actual live audience.
They probably also wanted to start to build his legend with a spectacularly short match against one of the biggest names in the business.
The Russian Bear was one of the wildest heels ever and a hardcore pioneer. On Jan. 18, 1971, the most hated wrestler of the time ended the longest World Title reign in wrestling history when he defeated Bruno Sammartino, who held the Belt for nearly eight years.
The crowd was so shocked that a complete silence invaded the Madison Square Garden and, after the new Champion was announced, Koloff was escorted backstage and the officials even avoided handing him the Belt to prevent a riot.
In the meantime, Sammartino remained in the ring to keep the crowd's attention and a part of the audience started to cry while he was on his way out.
The shocking victory's aftermath was still felt when Ivan Koloff dropped the Championship to Pedro Morales 21 days later. It became a classic way to pass the Title from a babyface to another babyface that would be used many times later in history.
P.S.: Cheap plug... You can read more about him in an article I called "WWE Gone Wild: The 25 Wildest Wrestlers of All Time:"
Pedro Morales was enjoying his 1,027th day as the WWWF Champion when an upset happened on Dec. 1, 1973. It was until Stan "The Man" Stasiak picked up the Belt with a surprising clean victory against Morales.
Stasiak's reign was cut short, only nine days later when he dropped the Title to Bruno Sammartino.
Morales already defended the Title against Sammartino in the first ever babyface vs. babyface Championship match ever, at the legendary main event of "Showdown At Shea 1972". The contest ended after a 1 hour and 16 minutes time limit draw in front of a crowd that went nuts after the officials declared they had to comply with a curfew.
Stan "The Man" Stasiak, the Master Of The Heart Punch, debuted his wrestling career in 1953 and he was way past his prime but he was the perfect established heel to do the transition job between Morales and Sammartino; and, despite it only lasted nine days, this Championship reign was the exclamation mark of an already legendary wrestling career.
The transition reign of The Iron Sheik was more that just about a Championship handled from Bob Backlund to Hulk Hogan, who were both babyfaces. It was also a transition between two eras in WWE history, from territory exclusive to the mainstream media concepts.
Hogan was the designated man to carry the company on his shoulders because he was the prototype of the kind of wrestler Vince McMahon wanted. Bob Backlund was then seen as a dinosaur, from the old school and without enough charisma to connect with huge audiences.
With Backlund refusing to turn heel, The Iron Sheik was already an established top villain, so he was the best option to be a transitional Champion. He portrayed an anti-American character and used the early '80s Iranian political issues with the USA to generate even more heat.
Hulk Hogan was built to become a new American Hero so his Championship win against the evil Sheik launched him into the superstardom. Then, the rest is history.
In one of the most infamous moments in pro wrestling history, Andre The Giant cheated his way to the win to end Hulk Hogan's legendary reign.
It was on Feb. 5, 1988 and 33 million American viewers saw it live on TV. On that historic day, Andre sold the Belt to The Million Dollar Man who was stripped from the Title.
It marked the end of one of the most important era in WWE history; it was the time for the transition between the mid-80s boom and the upcoming '90s.
This led to the WrestleMania 4 tournament over the vacated WWF Championship won by the late Randy "Macho Man" Savage. Hogan passed the torch, without losing to him, to the new face of WWF and his future rival.
P.S.: For those interested, I recently wrote an article dedicated to WrestleMania IV and it can also be considered as a tribute to Macho Man before he passed away, since it highlights his career's biggest moment. You can read the article here:
Slaughter had the longest transition reign with 64 days after he defeated The Ultimate Warrior at the 1991 Royal Rumble, with some help from Randy Savage.
The former American Hero turned coat and became an Iraqi sympathizer so the tables were set for the most patriotic WrestleMania of all time.
The WWE didn't want to repeat the previous year's face vs. face confrontation between Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VI, so they opted for something different.
With the Gulf War raging in Iraq, Vince McMahon wanted to capitalize on those events and he went with one of the biggest connection between politics and wrestling.
The whole setup was also to continue the grueling feud between Savage and Warrior that culminated at WrestleMania VII, in a match that stole the show.
For some reason, and I won't enter into that, the creative team preferred to put the WWE Championship on the line for Hogan instead of having it for The Ultimate Warrior vs. Randy Savage match.
It would be hard to believe that the legendary Ric Flair was once used as a transitional Champion, but it really happened in 1992, just like the "original" Nature Boy nearly 30 years earlier.
Randy Savage, who was the reigning WWF Champion, lost the Belt on Sept. 1 against Flair helped by Razor Ramon, only to lose it 41 days later against the uprising Bret Hart.
An interesting fact about those Title changes was that it didn't happen on a pay-per-view event or on a big TV program such as Saturday Night Main Event.
The match between Savage and Flair took place on the first of September, but was only shown on a syndicated program 13 days after.
Then, Bret Hart vs. Ric Flair took place on an untelevised event but later released on video.
This reign will be remembered as one of the shortest ever, if not the shortest. For a few minutes, Yokozuna was the Champion after he defeated Bret Hart at WrestleMania IX, but right after the match, Mr. Fuji challenged Hulk Hogan who accepted.
Hogan won the WWE Championship in only 21 seconds. That would become his last World Title reign in WWF before he left for WCW.
The whole storyline made of that WrestleMania's main event one of the worst, especially since Hogan dropped the Belt 70 days later against Yokozuna at the King Of The Ring pay-per-view.
Bob Backlund was no longer on the top of the mountain during his second run with WWF and he was used as a transitional Champion for a three-day reign after he won the Title at the 1994 Survivor Series.
It was the last time a classic transition between a babyface to another one happened. It was to handle the Belt from Bret Hart to Diesel.
Hart was scheduled to face his brother Owen in a legendary feud I once illustrated in a previous article* and no Championship was required.
Diesel was then built to be one of the most dominant Champions in the mid-'90s, so he squashed the poor Backlund in less than 10 seconds to eventually hold the Gold for 358 days. Ironically, Diesel lost the Title to Bret Hart at the 1995 Survivor Series and turned heel in the process.
After more than 16 years without using the transition reign concept, the WWE did it in 2011, but due to an unexpected event. This time it was not to be the bridge between two babyface wrestlers, but because of Edge's retirement.
When the Rated-R Superstar dropped the World Heavyweight Championship on April 15, the Title was vacated. So, at the following Extreme Rules pay-per-view event, on May 1, it became Alberto Del Rio vs. Christian in a ladder match over the vacated Belt.
However, in the meantime, with Edge's premature retirement, the WWE held a last-minute draft that sent Alberto Del Rio to Raw and Randy Orton to Smackdown!
Then, with the World Heavyweight Championship being on the Blue Brand and the WWE Title already on Raw, Christian won the match, but only to lose five days later against Randy Orton.
That transition was more to keep an ongoing storyline and for practical reasons, because the Title had to remain on Smackdown! but apparently, the WWE didn't want Christian to keep the belt as it was not their initial plan.
They also probably did it to please Orton, who was removed from the flagship show.
As you could see, the transitional Champion concept is an Old School tradition that re-appeared with a twist nearly 17 years after the last actual occurrence in 1994.
For some reason, in the middle of the '90s, the concept was abandoned. However, no matter the length they held the gold, those men were a selected few who at least put the hands on the coveted Gold and most of them are legends.
There have been short reigns, but it was not exactly for transition purpose. For example, in 1999, right in the middle of the Attitude Era, the Title changed hands 12 times. However, those many changes and short reigns were more for shock value than for any kind of transition.
Is the use of transitional Champions an obsolete concept, only good back in the day? Or can it be used nowadays? I don't have the answer, but I hope you enjoyed that trip down the memory lane and let me know if I missed any transitional Champ.