I was recently watching some wrestling from the past online (any listeners to our podcast will be shocked!) and Jim Ross put over that fact that, at the time, Rob Van Dam was the best wrestler to never have won the world title. As well all know, Rob would win the title at the second ECW one night stand by honorably declaring when he was cashing in the Money In The Bank briefcase against John Cena. This fact seems to have been forgotten about when the talk was John Cena was the first to give a cash in date against CM Punk at RAW 1000. RVD’s reign would be a short one, due tot he fact that he like to drive with his shirt off (amongst other things).
The point of this is that the statement Jim Ross made really got me thinking as to who really were the best wrestlers to never win the Heavyweight title. In today’s day and age the title is passed around to seemingly every guy getting a main event push in the company. “Back in the day”, when the Heavyweight champions had reigns that lasted for years or the men chosen for the title were limited to a select few, there were definitely many top notch wrestling talents that did not get a run with THE belt. So, as I got to thinking about it, here are some of the guys that could have had a chance as Heavyweight Champion and not dropped the ball, in my opinion.
Jake “The Snake” Roberts
Jake Roberts was someone that not only had a methodical wrestling style which fit his “Snake” persona perfectly, he could give tremendous interviews. No matter if Jake was a heel or a babyface, he made you feel something for him one way or another. I can vividly recall cheering him against Earthquake and being in awe of him when Jake faced off against the Macho Man. In his DVD release Jake talks about how he was used by Vince McMahon as the guy who got Hulk Hogan’s next challengers ready for the spotlight. Now whether that is true or not, Jake Roberts’ opponents do read like a great Hall of Fame list. Ricky Steamboat, Andre the Giant, Honkytonk Man, Ted DiBiase, Randy Savage, The Undertaker, and Rick Rude were just some of the superstars that The Snake had feuds with in the 1980s and 1990s. Jake even came back in 1996 to feud with Hall of Famer Jerry Lawler. Not only did Jake Roberts never win the WWF Heavyweight title, but he was never a champion of any kind in WWF.
The man that made “Hey Yo” famous was never the Heavyweight champion of either WWF or WCW. Based on the political nature of WCW and Scott Hall’s personal “demons”, I fully understand and accept why he never wore the Big Gold Belt in World Championship Wrestling. Had he been in sound mind and given the opportunity, however, I do feel that Scott Hall could have just as successful a run as others who held the World Title at the time, with the obvious exception of Goldberg. In the WWF, Razor Ramon was immediately thrust into the main event spotlight upon his debut in the fall of 1992 by attacking Randy Savage and teaming with Ric Flair at the main event of the Survivor Series that year. He would then have a WWF Title match against Bret Hart to main event the Royal Rumble in 1993. After that match, Razor moved down the card and would finish out the year as Intercontinental Champion. Hall never managed to get past being a 4 time IC Champion and held the WCW equivalent, the US title, twice while in that company. In WCW, Scott was a 7 time Tag Team Champion, 6 as the Outsiders with Kevin Nash and once with The Giant (Big Show). If Razor was clean and sober, I don’t see any reason that he could have been given a run with the belt in the 1993-1996 time that he was in WWF. Business was down and there was no breakout star at that point so I can’t see the company doing worse business-wise with babyface Razor on top compared to Diesel or even Shawn Michaels.
“The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase
The Million Dollar Man was actually scheduled to win the WWF Championship Tournament at Wrestlemania IV but The HonkyTonk Man refused to drop the Intercontinental Title to Randy Savage, feeling that Honky had more left in his IC title run, and this lead to The Macho Man being booked as the winner of the tournament. I am also not counting his “unrecognized” WWF Title run that lasted about a week when Andre The Giant relinquished the title to DiBiase. It’s hard to argue with the result of Savage as champion as this lead to the best angle that WWF has ever done, The Mega Powers Explode, which culminated a year later at Wrestlemania V. With hindsight being 20/20, I could have definitely accepted DiBiase as the next challenger for Hogan after Wrestlemania V. The only thing that would have needed to change, in my opinion, is his Wrestlemania V match against Brutus Beefcake. Nothing against The Barber, but I would have built up DiBiase with a more meaningful match at Mania 5 in order to move him into a feud with Hogan. The Million Dollar Man was a hot act and having Ted as the WWF Champion is something that I could have absolutely accepted in 1989. I would have even had time change the style of the belt, just as Austin and Cena have done, to what we know as the Million Dollar Title.
The Ravishing One was one of my favorite talkers of all time. While he is a former Intercontinental Champion and feuded with superstars such as The Ultimate Warrior, Jake Roberts, and Paul Orndorff in the WWF, it was Rick Rude’s WCW run beginning in late 1991 where I thought that he could be the World Champion. Rude was the leader of the Dangerous Alliance stable and immediately came in to WCW and beat Sting for the US title in November of 1991. In 1992, with Madusa as his manager, Rude received WCW World Title matches against champion Ron Simmons. This is where I would have had Rude win the title, as Simmons was victorious in every match the two would wrestle. Rude would go on to win the NWA title, which was in the beginning stages of its descent in prestige. Had Rude held the WCW title, he could have had excellent title matches against Sting, Steamboat, Davey Boy Smith, and the returning Ric Flair. As is the case with most of WCW’s existence, business was not on fire in 1992-93 and so I see no reason that Ravishing Rick Rude should not have been given a chance to run with the World Title.
I will apologize to all of our readers from Minnesota in advance, but I am not counting Curt’s AWA Title run for the purposes of this column. If a tree falls….well you get the point. Mr Perfect was another in a long line of wrestlers that suffered from Hulkamania. Hennig, just like TedDiBiase, had all the talent in the world both in the ring and on the mic but the WWF plans at the time just didn’t have room for a WWF Title run for Mr. Perfect. The best that Curt was able to do was to be a two time IC Champion, which in the early 1990′s was not a bad thing at all. Mr Perfect and the Genius do have the historical distinction of being the creators of the Hardcore title as the duo destroyed Hulk Hogan’s WWF Title belt with a hammer on Saturday Night’s Main Event and it’s that belt that Mr. McMahon presented to Mick Foley as the Hardcore Title. In 1991 Sgt. Slaughter beat The Ultimate Warrior for the WWF title setting up a lackluster attempt at patriotism for Hulk Hogan to defend the honor of America against the Iraqi sympathizer Slaughter. I would have used Perfect as the one to beat Warrior, keeping the IC title on Kerry Von Erich in late 1990. It wouldn’t have been a long run but couldn’t have done any worse for business than Wrestlemania 7 did as presented.
I have no doubt that in today’s WWE, all of the above men would be former WWF or World Heavyweight Champions and probably multiple time champions at that. In any business it’s a better problem to have too much of a good thing as opposed to not enough. In the cases of Jake Roberts, Ted DiBiase, and Mr Perfect there was definately too much talent in WWF, to the point where I can’t question too much of the top booking. Sure, I elminate Sgt Slaughter from the picture and insert Curt Hennig and I find a bigger role for Ted DiBiase after the Mega Powers finished exploding but, in the big picture, neither of those changes would drastically alter the course of wrestling history.
The more important fact to me is that not one of the above wrestlers NEEDED the belt to get over. Curt Hennig and Ted DiBiase are already WWE Hall of Famers and Razor, Rude, and Jake all deserve to be in, and will probably be in the future. It’s that kind of depth that WWE today is lacking in most of their monthly Pay Per View events. Wrestlemania generally has 3 or 4 top matches that capture fans imagination and, shockingly, does far and away best buyrate of the year. The Royal Rumble sometimes has a top title match to go along with the Rumble match itself, and that is the case this year with Rock in the title match, but that has been inconsistent over the years. When I think back to Wrestlemania 6 and an undercard match between Jake Roberts and Ted DiBiase, I think of how that would be such a huge match given today’s depth but it was an upper midcard match at the time.
Times have changed, such is life, and I don’t think that we will ever see guys get a huge push that doesn’t result in a WWE title win again. In 2012 the “flipping” of titles has really slowed down in WWE and hopefully that trend will continue in the futre. The 1980′s and early 1990′s saw titles change at a snail’s pace while WCW and the Attitude Era in WWF was the other extreme, with champions changing weekly. What the WWE is hopefully finding is a happy mediun, and that’s just fine with me.
Agree? Disagree? Did I miss something? I’d love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org