The fifteen worst first world title reigns in WWE history
When a pro wrestler becomes the world champion in the WWE, it's supposed to mean that they've officially cemented their status as a main-event talent.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of big names in the WWE whose first world title reign was also their weakest, due to either poor booking or just being really short. Almost all of them got a chance to redeem themselves later on, but that first reign often ends up being a blemish on a Superstar's career.
Here are the 15 worst first world title reigns in WWE history.
1 Roman Reigns
Won: Survivor Series (Nov. 22, 2015) vs. Dean Ambrose
Lost: Survivor Series (Nov. 22, 2015) vs. Sheamus
Length of reign: Less than five minutes
Let's be honest, Roman Reigns is going to have several more championship runs before Vince McMahon even considers giving up on him. So we're putting him on the list even though he has only been champion once.
After winning a 16-man tournament for Seth Rollins' vacated WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Survivor Series, Reigns only got a couple of minutes to celebrate before being blindsided by Sheamus, who successfully cashed in his Money in the Bank contact.
Won: New Year's Revolution (Jan. 8, 2006) against John Cena
Lost: Royal Rumble (Jan. 29, 2006) against John Cena
Length of reign: 21 days
After spending a decade in the WWE as a tag team and midcard wrestler, Edge finally ascended to main-event status when he became the first man to cash in the Money in the Bank contract, ending John Cena's first reign as WWE Champion. He even got to celebrate with the notorious "Live Sex Celebration" with Lita the next night on Raw.
But the reign was short lived. He only successfully defended the belt once (against an elderly Ric Flair) before dropping it back to Cena at the next pay-per-view.
Edge went on to become a 13-time world champion and a top heel on both brands. He was forced to retire in 2011 due to neck injuries and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2012.
3 The Undertaker
Won: Survivor Series (Nov. 27, 1991) vs. Hulk Hogan
Lost: This Tuesday in Texas (Dec. 3, 1991) vs. Hulk Hogan
Length of reign: Six days
Here's another moment the WWE tries to sweep under the rug.
After a year of dominance, the Undertaker got his first shot at the WWF Championship against Hulk Hogan at Survivor Series in 1991. Thanks to interference from his manager Paul Bearer and Hogan's rival Ric Flair, Undertaker won the title after delivering a Tombstone Piledriver to Hogan on a steel chair.
But the Deadman managed to hold the belt for only six days, as Hogan defeated him in the rematch by throwing ashes from Paul Bearer's urn in the "Phenom's" face (Hogan was able to get away with anything in front of the fans back in the day) and rolling him up for the pin. But (kayfabe) WWF president Jack Tunney stripped Hogan of the belt, which led to Ric Flair winning it at the 1992 Royal Rumble.
For all of the Undertaker's accomplishments, this one managed to be his first but mentioned the least.
4 Randy Orton
Won: SummerSlam (Aug. 15, 2004) vs. Chris Benoit
Lost: Unforgiven (Sept. 12, 2004) vs. Triple H
Length of Reign: 28 days
As a member of Evolution, Orton became the youngest world champion in WWE history when he beat Chris Benoit to win the World Heavyweight Championship at 24 years old.
Unfortunately for Orton, this was right in the middle of Triple H's infamous "Reign of Terror" where he was always trying to book himself to be "RAW's" world champion. Orton turned babyface when Hunter kicked him out of the faction the next night on Raw and dropped the title to him a month later. Orton chased after the title over the next few months but never managed to find his momentum as an underdog babyface.
He turned back into a heel in 2005, started the "Legend Killer" gimmick and 11 world championship reigns later he is now one of the biggest names on the roster.
5 CM Punk
Won: Monday Night Raw (June 30, 2008) vs. Edge
Lost: Unforgiven (Sept. 7, 2008) (was stripped due to kayfabe injury)
Length of reign: 69 days
WWE was in a weird position in 2008 with three separate brands and three world championships to promote. With John Cena booked to face Batista at SummerSlam and Triple H and Edge over on "SmackDown" McMahon opted to give a young CM Punk his first crack at being world champion.
Given that this was long before his days leading the Straight Edge Society or dropping "pipe bomb" promos, Punk was never booked as the focus of the show even though he held "RAW's" top title. Outside of a lackluster feud with JBL, there just wasn't all that much for Punk to do. He wasn't even beaten for the belt; it was just stripped from him due to a kayfabe injury at the Unforgiven pay-per-view and handed to Chris Jericho to crank up the intensity in his feud with Shawn Michaels.
Punk went on to be world champion four more times, including an impressive 434-day run from 2011-13, before leaving the company in 2015. He is now signed to the UFC and made his debut MMA fight in summer 2016.
6 Daniel Bryan
Won: TLC (Dec. 18, 2011) vs. Big Show
Lost: WrestleMania XXVIII (April 1, 2012) vs. Sheamus
Length of reign: 105 days
The WWE rarely mentions Bryan's first title reign; partially because it wasn't very good but mostly because it contradicted everything that was happened in his feud with The Authority leading up to WrestleMania XXX. But 18 months before he defeated John Cena for the WWE Championship at SummerSlam 2014, Bryan won the World Heavyweight Championship by cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase against Big Show at the TLC pay-per-view.
While the reign saw the birth of the "Yes!" chant and the beginning of his on-screen relationship with AJ Lee, Bryan's run as champ was easily forgettable. He feuded with Big Show and Mark Henry before losing the title to Sheamus in an 18-second match at WrestleMania XXVIII. Obviously, he would redeem himself two years later.
7 Rob Van Dam
Won: ECW One Night Stand (June 11, 2006) vs. John Cena
Lost: "Monday Night RAW" (July 3, 2006) vs. Edge and John Cena
Length of reign: 22 days
When the WWE decided to resurrect the ECW brand in 2006, Vince McMahon opted to strap a rocket to one of its most popular original stars — Rob Van Dam. Not only did he beat John Cena for the WWE Championship, but he was also named ECW World Heavyweight Champion on the rebooted brand's first show.
But RVD's run came to a grinding halt less than a month later. He was arrested on July 2, 2006, in Hanging Rock, Ohio, for having 18 grams of marijuana and five Vicodin pills in his car when he was stopped by police for speeding. The WWE acted swiftly and within two days Van Dam had lost both titles and was suspended from the company for 30 days.
Van Dam was then banished to the midcard and left the company a year later. He wouldn't joing a major pro wrestling promotion again until he signed with TNA in 2010.
8 Dolph Ziggler
Won: "SmackDown" (Feb. 15, 2011) awarded by Vicki Guerrero
Lost: "SmackDown" (Feb. 15, 2011) vs. Edge
Length of reign: Less than 12 minutes
This one was just ridiculous, so it's time for a recap!
The 600th episode of "SmackDown" opened with a 12-man tag match in which Edge won after hitting Dolph Ziggler with a spear. However, due to general manager Vickie Guerrero having banned Edge from using the spear in matches, Edge was immediately stripped of the World Heavyweight Championship and (kayfabe) fired from the WWE. In the final segment of the show, Guerrero named Ziggler (who she was romantically attached to) the new world champion.
However, the celebration was interrupted by returning "SmackDown" general manager Teddy Long, who reinstated Edge and gave him title match against Ziggler to close out the show. Edge won the title back, meaning Ziggler's first reign clocked in at 11 minutes and 23 seconds.
Ziggler wouldn't be world champion again until 2013, but that reign was cut short due to a concussion. This guy just can't catch a break.
Won: Extreme Rules (May 1, 2011) vs. Alberto Del Rio
Lost: "SmackDown" (May 3, 2011) vs. Randy Orton
Length of reign: Two days
When Christian returned to the WWE in 2009, most hardcore fans were afraid that he'd never reach the main-event status he had earned in TNA. But when Edge had to retire and relinquish the World Heavyweight Championship in 2011, McMahon decided to finally give Christian a world title run... for all of two days.
Many fans were disappointed in the booking, as Christian lost the title to Randy Orton, who already had plenty of runs as world champion. He'd get another reign (this one lasting a whole 28 days) a couple of months later, but the whole thing felt like one big waste of time.
10 Jeff Hardy
Won: Armageddon (Dec. 14, 2008) vs. Edge and Triple H
Lost: Royal Rumble (Jan, 25, 2009) vs. Edge
Length of reign: 42 days
After years of being loved by the fans but overlooked by the writers, Jeff Hardy finally won the WWE Championship in late 2008. But his title run was quickly cut short by McMahon's plans for WrestleMania XXV, which had Hardy booked to feud with his brother Matt on the undercard.
To kick-start their feud, Matt attacked Jeff during his championship bout with Edge at the Royal Rumble, causing him to lose the title. The brothers ended up in a forgettable "Extreme Rules" match at WrestleMania, and by the summer of 2009 Hardy was back in the the main event picture to feud with Edge and CM Punk.
11 Alberto Del Rio
Won: SummerSlam (Aug. 14, 2011) vs. CM Punk
Lost: Night of Champions (Sept. 18, 2011) vs. John Cena
Length of reign: 35 days
CM Punk was the hottest act in pro wrestling in the summer of 2011. Like all hot acts in the WWE in the past 15 years, Triple H wanted in on the action. So he had Punk beat Cena to unify both WWE Championships, have Kevin Nash attack him and Alberto Del Rio cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase to win the title so Punk could be free to feud with Nash and Triple H.
Del Rio showed promise as a cocky heel, but his first reign was the definition of a "transitional champion." He lost the belt to Cena at Night of Champions, won it back at Hell in a Cell then dropped it again two months later at Survivor Series to Punk.
Del Rio went on to be a main event heel on "SmackDown" but his first reign was just another example of the WWE not knowing what to do with someone when they quickly hand somebody new the world championship.
Speaking of which...
Won: TLC (Dec. 13, 2009) vs. John Cena
Lost: Elimination Chamber (Feb. 21, 2010) vs. John Cena
Length of reign: 70 days
Sheamus' first world title reign was nothing to write home about.
After being on the main roster for just 166 days, he defeated John Cena at the "TLC" pay-per-view after Cena tripped and fell through a table during a tables match.
At first fans were excited that somebody new was quickly getting pushed into the main event picture. That excitement quickly wore off when the WWE didn't have much for him to do outside of beating Randy Orton via disqualification at the Royal Rumble. He lost the title a month after that in an Elimination Chamber match and was forced into a forgettable feud with Triple H at WrestleMania XXVI.
Won: WrestleMania IX (April 4, 1993) vs. Bret Hart
Lost: WrestleMania IX (April 4, 1993) vs. Hulk Hogan
Length of reign: Less than five minutes
WresleMania IX is seen by many as one of the worst WreslteManias ever, and all you have to do is look at the final minutes to see why.
The main event saw Bret "The Hitman" Hart defend his WWF Championship against the monstrous Yokozuna. Hart lost the title when Yokozuna's manager, Mr. Fuji, threw salt in Hart's eyes as he was rolled up for the pin.
But then out came a returning Hulk Hogan, who rushed to Hart's aid and challenged Yokozuna to a championship match, which Hogan won in 22 seconds. The whole ordeal as orchestrated due to backstage politics, something Hogan was notorious for.
Roughly two months later, the whole thing was washed away when Yokozuna won the championship back and held on to it until WrestleMania X.
Won: King of the Ring (June 28, 1998) vs. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin
Lost: "Monday Night RAW" (June 29, 1998) vs. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin
Length of reign: One day
Kane's first world championship win was shrouded in controversy, but it ended way too quickly for most fans to get up.
At the King of the Ring pay-per-view in 1998 (yes, the same one where this happened) Kane faced WWF Champion "Stone Cold" Steve Austin in a First Blood match. Kane was named the winner when the Undertaker interfered and hit Austin on the head with a steel chair, causing him to bleed.
Much to the delight of the fans, Austin won the title back in a rematch one day later. It's hard to believe that Kane, who has been a cornerstone of the WWE for nearly 20 years, would lose his first world title so quickly.
Won: "Monday Night RAW" (Dec. 29, 1998) vs. The Rock
Lost: Royal Rumble (Jan. 24, 1999) vs. The Rock
Length of reign: 26 days
Mankind's first WWF Championship win against The Rock is seen as one of the biggest moments of "The Attitude Era." It's just a shame that is was so short lived
Mankind defend his title against The Rock at the next pay-per-view in an I Quit match, regarded by many as one of the best matches of 1999. But it ended with Mankind losing the title when The Rock used an audio recording to trick the referee into thinking Mankind had said "I quit!"
Mick Foley (and his many personas) is a beloved wrestling legend. And even though he was apart of some of the WWF's most memorable moments, he never got the chance to hold the belt for very long in his three reigns as world champion.