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People Power (4/26/2015): The Greatest Wrestlers Never To Be World Champion



Hi everyone. I'm Mark De Joya (@MDJSuperstar), the resident Director of Numbers & Such here at Smark Henry, and your regular host for the People Power surveys. Today, let's talk about the men who have never been given the opportunity to become World Champion.

"The Nature Boy" Ric Flair is arguably the greatest legend in our sport. He has claimed a record 16 officially-recognized World Titles throughout his legendary four-decade career spanning the NWA, WCW, and the WWE. Throughout his reigns, he has had one thing to say at the waves of challengers lined up to face him in the ring:

“To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man.” 

The "Nature Boy" knew what it meant to be The Man, the one king of the hill that every single man in the wrestling world was gunning for. And until you’d gone through Ric Flair and taken his gold, he was and would always be The Man.



On the other end of the spectrum, you have great wrestlers who may own a fond corner in our collective memories as fans, but have never quite gotten over that hump and became The Man by actually claiming World Championship gold.

The Smark Gilas-Pilipinas wrestling community recently answered a survey to identify who were the five greatest among these uncrowned kings - the wrestlers who may have won numerous secondary title reigns and perhaps even legendary status among their fans, but whether through bad luck, wrong timing, or simply by being out-shined by a brighter star, never quite made it to the top. 

Here's how the voting turned out.


*****

#5 (tie)
Scott Hall (30%) 


Championships & accomplishments
  • WWE Hall of Fame (Class of 2014) 
  • WWE Intercontinental Champion (4 times) 
  • WCW US Heavyweight Champion (2 times) 
  • WCW World Tag Team Champion (7 times) 
  • WCW World Television Champion (1 time) 
  • WCW World War 3 Winner (1997) 
  • TNA World Tag Team Champion (1 time) 
  • AWA World Tag Team Champion (1 time) 


Peak PWI Ranking
#7 out of 500 (1994)

“Big Stage” Winning Percentage
.599 (WWF/E, WCW, NWA/TNA)

Notable World Championship Matches: 
  • WWF: Lost to Bret Hart at Royal Rumble 1993 
  • WCW: Lost to Sting at Uncensored 1998 
  • WCW: Lost to Goldberg on a WCW Thunder taping in 1998 (dark match) 
  • WCW: Lost to Sid at SuperBrawl 2000 (Triple Threat with Jeff Jarrett) 

He oozed machismo, he’s been an outsider, he’s been both “too sweet” and “The Bad Guy.” He’s the man who made the ladder match famous, and he’s in the WWE Hall of Fame.

But whether you knew him as the swaggering Cuban Razor Ramon, or as a founding member of the nWo, Scott Hall has never been World Champion in any of the federations in which he’s competed. 

The thing about Hall is that it sometimes seemed like he was most comfortable as part of a unit. Over half of his career championship reigns came as part of a tag team. If you closed your eyes and tried to picture him in your mind, it always seems easier to imagine him standing beside Kevin Nash in The Outsiders or as part of the nWo (or even The Band, if you must) than standing alone. Even his brief WCW run as the "Lone Wolf" in 1998 felt unnatural and forced; you somehow always knew it was only a matter of time until he found himself as part of a collective once again.

Did he ever have the hunger to be World Champion? We don't rightly know. But Scott Hall seems happy enough just having conquered his own well-documented personal demons, we're glad to just be able to give him a resounding "Hey, yo!" of his own.

The Smark Henry Verdict:
Would have been a great World Champion, probably didn't want it badly enough.

*****

#5 (tie) 
Owen Hart (30%) 


Championships & accomplishments: 
  • WWE Intercontinental Champion (2 times) 
  • WWE European Champion (1 time) 
  • WWE World Tag Team Champion (4 times) 
  • WWE King of the Ring (1994) 
  • NJPW IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion (1 time) 


Peak PWI Ranking: 
#10 out of 500 (1994)

“Big Stage” Winning Percentage: 
.636 (WWF/E)

Notable World Championship Matches: 
  • WWE: Lost to Bret Hart at SummerSlam 1994 
  • WWE: Lost to Bret Hart on Action Zone #1 in 1994 
  • WWE: Lost to Diesel on Action Zone #14 in 1995 
  • WWE: Lost to Bret Hart on the WWF MSG Show in 1994


By all accounts, Owen Hart was a good dude - he was warm, he was funny, he was a terrific prankster, he was a tremendous family man whose ultimate goal was to be able to retire early with enough financial security to just kick back and spend time with his loved ones. He was also an excellent wrestler with the technical pedigree you'd expect from the Hart family, and a pioneering aerialist, busting out moonsaults and top-rope backflips as the Blue Blazer before they became mainstream. After taking down his older brother Bret at WrestleMania X to launch his main event run, and winning King of the Ring not long afterwards, you always knew he was getting pushed to the moon.

You could always sense however that being Bret Hart's little brother was so deeply ingrained into his identity. His best feud and matches were against Bret; he seemed at his most dominant when he was running as the Hitman's chief lieutenant in the reformed Hart Foundation. Vince McMahon famously fought the hardest to keep Owen under his wing even as the rest of the Harts fled to WCW in the wake of the infamous Montreal Screwjob.

The WWE never quite seemed to figure out how to maximize him in a Bret-less world; his vengeance-fueled Black Hart run to take down DeGeneration-X in return for running Bret out of the company fizzled out due to politics, he never quite seemed to fit in under the Nation of Domination, amd even his championship-winning tag run with Jeff Jarrett was ever-so-slightly meh.

Could he have been champion? Perhaps, but only under the right conditions. In between seething for Bret and aiming for financial security for his family, Owen Hart seemed a man who never hungered for gold. His issues were always deeply personal, and it's probably only right that he never claimed the sport's highest honor as his own.

The Smark Henry Verdict:
Would have been a great World Champion, but only in the right setting, which most likely needed to be with or against Bret Hart.


*****

#4
Davey Boy Smith (34%)


Championships & accomplishments: 
  • WWE Intercontinental Champion (1 time) 
  • WWE European Champion (2 times) 
  • WWE Hardcore Champion (2 times) 
  • WWE World Tag Team Champion (2 times) 


Peak PWI Ranking: 
#15 out of 500 (1993) 

“Big Stage” Winning Percentage: 
.663 (WWF/E, WCW) 

Notable World Championship Matches: 
  • WWF: Lost to Ric Flair in a 30-man Royal Rumble for the belt in 1992 
  • WWF: Beat Diesel by DQ at In Your House 4: Great White North in 1995 
  • WWF: Lost to Bret Hart at In Your House 5: Season’s Beatings in 1995 
  • WWF: Lost to Shawn Michaels at In Your House 8: Beware of Dog in 1996 
  • WWF: Lost to Shawn Michaels at King of the Ring 1996 
  • WWE: Lost to Triple H at Unforgiven 1999 (Six-Pack Challenge with The Rock, Big Show, Kane, Mankind) 
  • WCW: Won over Vader by DQ at Slamboree 1993 
  • WCW: Lost to Vader at Clash of the Champions XXIV in 1993

"The British Bulldog" was an awesome power wrestler. His stalling vertical suplex and gorilla presses were legitimately mind-blowing feats of strength. He was a man engineered to personify the brute power and strength we imagine a prototypical professional wrestler should have.

At the same time, for all his physical gifts, it is probably this power and strength that ultimately derailed the momentum Davey Boy Smith should have had in each of his potential World Championship trajectories: his alleged role in receiving human growth hormones (HGH) in 1992, his legal troubles stemming from a supposed bar-room brawl in 1993, his painkiller addiction stemming from a bad in-ring bump that worsened the condition of his heart, ultimately leading to his death from coronary arrest in 2002, just as he was training for an in-ring comeback. .

The Bulldog was a man whose greatest gift was his body. 

But looking back, it feels like his body was also the greatest foe that betrayed him each time he seemed poised for a championship run. Should he have been World Champion? A lot of people say yes. But the body that Davey Boy Smith relentlessly tooled to be the ultimate power weapon would always have the final say, and at each twist, each turn throughout his career, its answer, sadly, was always no.

The Smark Henry Verdict:
Would have been a great World Champion, but only with the most perfect support system in place - a company and running mates to help him navigate his many demons.

*****

#3
Jake The Snake Roberts (38%)



Championships & accomplishments: 
  • Hall of Fame (Class of 2014) 

Peak PWI Ranking: 
#100 out of the top 500 of the PWI years (2003) 

“Big Stage” Winning Percentage: 
.781 (WWF/E, WCW) 

Notable World Championship Matches: 
  • WWE: Lost to Ric Flair in a 30-man Royal Rumble for the belt in 1992

Jake "The Snake" Roberts is sometimes called the greatest master of psychology in the history of sports entertainment. His cold, incisive promos, his slithering physique and in-ring style, his legendary mind games against the likes of more physically-imposing rivals like "Macho Man" Randy Savage, "Ravishing" Rick Rude, the Ultimate Warrior, and even the Undertaker - all of these were the stuff of legend.

But consider this: Could you ever imagine The Snake trading in his trademark pet python for championship gold slung over his shoulder? The best Jake Roberts memories were always chillingly intimate and personal, from his war with Rude for wearing Roberts' wife's face emblazoned on his tights, to trapping the Ultimate Warrior in a coffin, to disrupting Randy Savage's wedding with a cobra. He was a man whose motivation never seemed to be the acquisition of gold, but to dismantle the very soul of each man he faced in the ring. 

Jake always used to say, "Never trust a snake."

That's true, you know. Because a snake is never after your gold. All he wants is your soul. Throughout his career, Jake Roberts has never been in a one-on-one match for World Championship gold. And in the deepest part of your heart, you know that's precisely how he would have wanted it.

The Smark Henry Verdict:
Probably better off never having been World Champion, not by circumstance but by choice.

*****

#2
“Rowdy” Roddy Piper (55%) 



Championships & accomplishments: 
  • WWE Hall of Fame (Class of 2005)
  • WWE Intercontinental Champion (1 time) 
  • WWE World Tag Team Champion (1 time) 


Peak PWI Ranking: 
#17 out of the top 500 of the PWI years (2003) 

“Big Stage” Winning Percentage: 
.617 (WWF/E, WCW) 

Notable World Championship Matches: 
  • WCW: Lost to Hollywood Hogan at SuperBrawl VII in 1997 
  • WWE: Lost to Ric Flair at Royal Rumble 1992 
  • WWF: Lost to Hulk Hogan by DQ at The Wrestling Classic in 1985 
  • WWF: Lost to Hulk Hogan by DQ at The War To Settle The Score in 1985

Quick - try to think of a moment when "Hot Rod" wasn't running his mouth, trying to get under a rival's skin, stirring up tempers with his manic rants. It's difficult, because Piper is a man whose greatest gift has always been that of being an instigator, a troublemaker, a sparkplug.

The trouble however is that men like these need a great foil to play up against, a singular hero to play Batman against their Joker. The Rowdy One will always be memorable for his legendary rivalries against Hulk Hogan or Ric Flair, or his controversial campaigns against Mr. T, "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka, "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase, and Adrian Adonis. A character in this mold works best on a man-to-man level, with the stakes at a deep-seated personal level.

It took Piper a decade to claim his first championship gold in the WWE, beating the Mountie for the Intercontinental Championship with his patented sleeperhold at the 1992 Royal Rumble, and even that felt strange. Men as chaotic as him aren't helped by owning gold - it grounds them, anchors them, puts them on the defensive rather than being free-wheeling mavericks.

I'm personally glad that Piper never became World Champion. If Edge made his career by being the Ultimate Opportunist, then "Rowdy" Roddy Piper was the Ultimate Antagonist. Because, as he famously used to say, just when you think you have all the answers, he changes all the questions.

The Smark Henry Verdict:
Probably better off never having become World Champion. His manic artistry seems to be better fit for a free agent of chaos.

*****

#1
William Regal (76%) 



Championships & accomplishments: 
  • WWE Intercontinental Champion (2 times) 
  • WWE European Champion (4 times) 
  • WWE Hardcore Champion (5 times) 
  • WWE Tag Team Champion (4 times) 
  • WWE King of the Ring (2008) 
  • WCW World Television Champion (4 times) 

Peak PWI Ranking: 

#18 out of 500 (1994) 

“Big Stage” Winning Percentage: 
.407 (WWF/E, WCW) 

Notable World Championship Matches: 
  • WCW: Lost to Randy Savage in a 60-man Battle Royal at World War 3 in 1995 
  • WWE: Lost to Kurt Angle in a 20-man Battle Royal on Smackdown in 2006 

He’s been a Lord, he’s been a King, he's been a "Real Man's Man," he’s been a scoundrel and a rogue. The one thing William Regal has never been is World Champion, and it's both obvious and perplexing as to why not.

On the one hand, his lifetime win-loss record is unimpressive. He's the only man on this list whose winning percentage in the majors is nowhere near .600 - in fact, he's lost three out of every five matches he's been in. He spent the bulk of his career dominating the midcard, with his most iconic runs being the defender of third-tier titles like the WWE European Championship or the WCW Television Championship. We know him better for getting his tea peed in by Chris Jericho, or for authority roles like being the General Manager of RAW and NXT than for his actual matches.

And yet, when Regal has been on, the man has been on. His run at King of the Ring 2008 was legitimately magnificent, defeating future World Champion CM Punk via submission in the finals, and owning the throne like he was born for it. He has, at multiple times throughout his career, been the Great Legitimizer, gladly putting over men like Goldberg, Dean Ambrose, Cesaro, Mr. Kennedy, and Chris Benoit as part of their respective journeys to credibility. William Regal lost a lot, but every time he did, you felt a little bit more respect for the man who beat him.

The thing about royalty is that you always respect them for the gravitas and generalship they carry with them. They may not always be down in the trenches fighting the gritty man-to-man melees, but you know they could knock you on your ass in a fight if you besmirch them. That was William Regal; he never needed a World Championship to make you believe he was royal. He always felt more right as an on-screen general than as a soldier marching to battle.

After all, when you've been lord, and when you've been king, what's one more gold belt to make you more of a man?

The Smark Henry Verdict:
Probably better off not having been World Champion, if only because he seems so magnificently well-suited to being an overall orchestrator rather than a day-to-day warrior.


*****



What do you think of the survey results? Got any violent disagreements? Leave us a comment below, and let us know your opinion.

*****

Mark De Joya (@MDJSuperstar) is an advertising professional and brand strategist by day, but dreams of being the Vince McMahon of the Philippines by night. He writes anything to do with numbers for Smark Henry: People Power, our weekly fan survey, and Best For Business, our regular financial report. With 18" arms and a 300-pound squat, he is also the official bouncer of the Smark Henry offices.

All photos were taken from WWE.com. Championship tallies, accomplishments, championship matches, and win-loss records are courtesy of the Internet Wrestling Database.

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