Booking the WWE world championship is never easy and even the best laid plans can hit some pitfalls. I thought it would be fun to take a look back at 10 guys who while planned to win the WWE world title, failed to secure the gold around their waists.
Winners and losers may be predetermined in the WWE but not all ideas come together as planned. Back in different eras, Vince McMahon Sr. and Jr. would identify their future WWE world champion months, sometimes even years ahead of time. Yet for a multitude of reasons those plans shifted between the pencil and the bell. Here is a list of 10 planned WWE world championship title changes that never happened as scheduled.
Bill Watts defeating Bruno Sammartino for the WWWF championship in 1965 - The idea behind this blog came from this recent revelation on the Jim Ross podcast. Ross interviewed Watts and Watts claimed that he was scheduled to beat Bruno Sammartino for the title in what would have been 1965. Watts and Bruno had a red hot feud during this time period. Watts claims the office changed plans when he got in hot water for hitting a fan in a riot. Watts said that Vince Sr. told him to get out of the territory to avoid any legal heat. I had never heard this story before and it seems a bit hard to believe knowing how popular Bruno was at the time. Also, Bruno didn’t drop the belt for another six years. That leads me to think that there was never a plan for Bruno to drop the title. To that point, I see no incentive for Bill to make that up 50 years later. So who knows?
Batista defeating Randy Orton 2014 – You need to look no further than just a few months back for a case of a planned title change getting nixed by the WWE. The plan coming into 2014 was to bring Batista back with a big push, including a run with the WWE world title. The plan would have had Batista defeat Randy Orton at WrestleMania 30. Enter the YES Movement! A couple of circumstances dictated a change. CM Punk walking out and the media attention garnered by a Yes chant at the Michigan State vs. Ohio State basketball game forced the WWE’s hand. The WWE changed course and it was Daniel Bryan who left New Orleans with the WWE world title.
Eddie Guerrero defeating Batista in 2002 – Eddie’s story is a tragedy but one little known tidbit about this tragedy is that Eddie was booked to win the WWE world heavyweight title. The booking had Eddie penciled in to defeat Batista at the next SmackDown tapings, making him a two-time world champion. Batista actually wrote about this in his book as he was supposed to drop the title in a Triple Threat Match vs. Eddie and Randy Orton. Sadly Eddie never knew about this planned championship run.
Lex Luger defeating Yokozuna 1994 – There are actually two rumors surrounding Luger and Yoko. One is that Lex was supposed to win the title at WrestleMania 10. Luger has denied that rumor and said he knew in advance that he wasn’t winning. The second is that the Lex Express was supposed to leave SummerSlam with the title. That is true according to Luger. Luger revealed in an interview that Vince changed his mind after several of his peers threatened to walk out. Remember, this was the era of the Clique so that is quite possible. Most believe that Vince felt Luger wasn’t getting over at the level he hoped, thus plans changed. Regardless, it does appear that there was indeed a plan in place to put the WWE title around the waist of the Total Package.
Ted Dibiase defeating Randy Savage to win the WWE championship in 1988 - This one isn’t much of a secret as DiBiase and many others have talked about these plans on shoot interviews and podcasts. The original plans for WrestleMania 4 were to have DiBiase win and Savage chase him for the title throughout the summer. Hulk Hogan was leaving to film No Holds Barred and the thought was that Savage as the babyface on top chasing would sustain attendance. Nobody is quite clear on why plans change although some blame the Honkytonk Man. Savage was originally booked to beat HTM on the Main Event NBC special for the intercontinental title. HTM refused to do the job which brought Vince McMahon and the other bookers back to the drawing board. It is highly likely that if Savage won the I-C title as planned, DiBiase would have won the WWF title as originally planned. Regardless, I think things turned out for the best here with Savage winning and starting a year-long build to one of the most anticipated WrestleMania headliners in history.
Alberto Del Rio defeating Edge 2011 – Alberto was the flavor of the month leading into WrestleMania 27. Del Rio won the Royal Rumble and was the hottest heel in the company. Numerous reports indicated that he was a favorite of Vince McMahon. Del Rio was booked to win the WWE world heavyweight title at Mania 27 by defeating Edge. The creative team changed that decision because it is alleged that they thought it was too predictable. Unfortunately I don’t believe Del Rio never recovered the momentum he had going into Mania 27 for a variety of reasons.
Bret Hart defeating Hulk Hogan 1993 – This tale has become legendary although Hogan has denied in several interviews. Unfortunately what Hulk can’t deny is that many, including Dave Meltzer saw posters advertising the match for SummerSlam 1993 only to have the match mysteriously disappear off of the books. If you remember, Hulk defeated Yokozuna at WrestleMania 9 and lost it rather quickly (although today that would be an eternity) at King of the Ring. According to Bret, the plan was for Hogan to drop the belt to Bret at SummerSlam but refused feeling that Bret was too small. Vince reacted with the quick switch at K.O.R. and Hulk took off.
Booker T defeating Triple H 2002 – The stage was set and the plan was for Booker T to beat the Game for the WWE world heavyweight title at WrestleMania 19. While I have never seen this confirmed anywhere, one story accuses Trips of lobbying the office to change a planned finish which would have seen Hunter drop the belt to Booker at Mania 19. It worked and allegedly the title change was squashed. Another theory is that once the WWE signed Goldberg they changed plans thinking ahead to a Triple H vs. Goldberg feud so who knows.
Vader defeating Shawn Michaels 1996 – From several things I have heard and read, this title change was planned on two different occasions. The first was SummerSlam. According to rumors, Shawn Michaels just outright refused to drop the title fearing he would not get it back. Remember with Sid and Undertaker in the picture, that was probably a valid concern. The other planned title change was rumored to take place at Survivor Series. Shawn also got that one nixed and the match turned into Sid vs. Shawn which turned into a title change anyway. Vader never confirmed the details but has confirmed in interviews that he was promised a WWE title win twice when he signed with the company.
Steve Austin defeating Bret Hart 1998 -
I was reluctant to go with this one yet I saw this rumored in a number of different places so I caution you that it may be an urban legend. However, there does appear to be some kind of working plan going into WrestleMania 14 for a Austin vs. Bret title change. According to what I have read and heard, the plan was for Bret Hart to go into Mania with the WWE title and return the favor from 13 to Austin by putting him over for the title. Now of course as you know plans drastically changed when a) Austin broke his neck and b) more importantly, Bret left to go to WCW at the end of 1997. This was probably on the books at some point but I have to think that plans played out much better in everyone’s favor with the actual booking of the 14 main-event with Mike Tyson.
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