10 Worst Title Reigns That Followed a Money in the Bank Cash-In

The concept of Money in the Bank is one that’s inherently interesting and exciting. The idea that at any time, the briefcase holder could show up and claim their spot at the top of the company, totally changing the landscape of the WWE is something that will almost certainly never get old.

When the briefcase holder finally decided it’s their time to shine, it’s always a memorable moment, even when the wrestler in question is one the audience doesn’t particularly care for. While the action of a wrestler showing up and winning a title in shocking fashion has led to some of the most legendary WWE moments ever, the discussion surrounding it often only focuses on the win and not what came after it.

It’s all well and good crowning a new champion in memorable fashion, but the next day, work has to start on making that champion a good one; a task which has seen a surprisingly high failure rate. So that’s what I’m covering today, as, in this two-part post, I look back at what every wrestler to successfully cashed in the Money in the Bank contract did with the title after winning it. Starting with the worst.

To be clear here, I’m ranking these items on a couple of things. First, there’s the pure numbers, namely, the number of days they reigned as champion. I’m also looking at the overall quality of the titles reign. How were they booked as champion? How many great matches or interesting storylines did they take part in while holding the belt? Finally, there’s the critical matter of how that wrestler continued to be treated after losing their championship. Was their stock in the company raised to a level above what they were at before holding the briefcase? Or did they just sink straight back down to where they were or – in some cases – did they sink even further?

I’m also not counting Asuka in this list as her title reign is still ongoing and I don’t think it would be fair to rank it yet.

So, with that in mind, let’s get going with these rankings.

10 – Alberto Del Rio – 2011
(WWE Championship)

Cashed In At: Summerslam 2011
Won Title From: CM Punk
Days As Champion: 35
Lost Title At: Night of Champions 2011
Lost Title To: John Cena
World Titles Since: 3

When people think back to the summer of Punk and how it was utterly squandered by WWE before suddenly changing their minds and course-correcting in November, what people tend to focus on in regards to Summerslam 2011, is Kevin Nash. I can’t say I blame anyone for doing so because let’s be real here, it was 2011 and this is Kevin Nash, whose physical prime was in about 1987; I know that’s before he was famous but, in many ways, that’s the point.

Anyway.

What I’d like to look at here is the oft-forgotten clusterfuck that the WWE title went through following Kevin Nash’s attack on Punk as Alberto Del Rio cashed-in his contract and became champion. The move itself was a terrible one. Punk was arguably hotter than any superstar in WWE had been since the attitude era and to not give him the chance to have a run at the top in favour of the unproven Del Rio seemed like it was throwing money directly in the bin.

Realising this, WWE knuckled down and made Del Rio into a legitimate main-eventer who wowed crowds the world over.

…hmm? What? What is it? That didn’t happen? Well, what did?…you serious? Wow, ok.

The night following his win over Punk. CM Punk decided he would get justice for this crime by…not attempting to get a rematch and went after Nash. Instead, Del Rio successfully defended his title against Rey Mysterio is a pretty decent match (unlike Swagger, Del Rio was actually a respectable in-ring competitor). It seemed like WWE might actually be trying to make something of him.

Then, just over a month later, he lost the title to John Cena. I’d love to give more detail, but that’s really it. Nothing even remotely interesting surrounded it, Del Rio and Cena had a match, Cena won, job done.

That brings up an interesting point because, based on that, I imagine you’d think that this reign should be much lower down on the list. The thing is, Del Rio actually wins bonus points in the last category of my criteria because, despite being a shitshow, Del Rio did actually see his stock in the company raise significantly following this title reign.

He won the title back from Cena just two weeks later. Although he would lose it back to CM Punk rather quickly, he was still treated as a legitimate upper midcarder in the following years. He even saw two more fairly substantial reigns with the World Heavyweight Championship a couple of years later.

So, even though his actual title reign was awful, the longlasting effects of it were beneficial to Del Rio, so the whole endeavour has got to be given some credit. Not much, mind, but some.

9 – Randy Orton -2013
(WWE Championship)

Cashed In At: Summerslam 2013
Won Title From: Daniel Bryan
Days As Champion: 28
Lost Title At: Night of Champions 2013
Lost Title To: Daniel Bryan
World Titles Since: 2

When I was first putting the research together for this list, I had honestly anticipated Orton’s title reign to be among the top. In my mind, he had cashed in at Summerslam and then held the title all the way through to next year’s Wrestlemania, but that’s actually not the case.

Instead, after Orton teamed up with Triple H to ruin Daniel Bryan’s crowning moment, Orton was immediately thrown into a rematch with Bryan at the next Pay-Per-View, Night of Champions. At this show, Bryan won the title back…for about 23 hours. It transpired the next night on Raw that the referee, Scott Armstrong, had performed a fast-count (sort of) for Daniel Bryan’s successful pinfall attempt. Even though it was made very obvious that Triple H had paid Armstong to do this deliberately, it was used as grounds to strip Bryan of the title.

Now, you might have noticed there that I only spent a single sentence talking about Orton’s reign. That’s because it’s roughly how important it was to all of this. Despite, being dubbed “the face of the WWE” he was just being used as a surrogate for Triple H, who wasn’t an active wrestler at the time.

While the number of world titles Orton won after this is just two, don’t let that fool you. Orton was already a certifiable megastar in WWE and had firmly secured his spot as a future legend for the company. After (eventually) winning the WWE title back thanks to various people being paid to screw over Daniel Bryan, he held it all the way through until Wrestlemania 30, where Bryan would reach the crowning moment of his career (for real this time).

Orton was a fantastic foil, but as it stands, all of that is moot in regards to his place on this list, because the fact is, the title reign following his Money in the Bank cash-in was a total non-factor in just about every conceivable way.

8 – Alexa Bliss -2018
(Raw Women’s Championship)

Cashed In At: Money in the Bank 2018
Won Title From: Nia Jax
Days As Champion: 63
Lost Title At: Summerslam 2018
Lost Title To: Ronda Rousey
World Titles Since: 0

The main problem with this reign is that it actually came at the end of Alexa Bliss’ first run at the top, instead of the beginning. Had this whole thing happened in reverse, this would probably be top 5 material because Alexa Bliss’ run at the top of BOTH the Smackdown & Raw women’s divisions throughout late 2016, 2017 and early 2018 were fantastic.

Bliss had been conquered at Wrestlemania 34 earlier that year by Nia Jax after seeing well over a year dominating WWE’s women’s division, so when she won the briefcase, it seemed odd, especially in the face of brilliant up-and-comers like Ember Moon. We didn’t have to wait long to find out what WWE’s game was though, as later on that night, Bliss would interfere in the Jax/Rousey match and cash-in her contract.

This seemed to be done for a couple of reasons. For one thing, Nia was not popular and, despite being a face, fans did not really care for her as the Raw Women’s Champion. The second was that WWE wanted to hold off on crowning Ronda as champion until Summerslam, but that was 2 months away, so they needed a story to tide themselves over in the meantime. So, why not revisit the Wrestlemania feud between Nia and Alexa? What’s that? Because we’re all sick of it? Pfft, who gives a shit?

As it stood, Alexa did a fine job as champion, by this point in time, she had an evident grasp on her heel persona and was as brilliant with it as she always was. The match the pair had at Extreme Rules was pretty decent too, thanks to a bunch of chaos injected by Ronda Rousey and Mickie James’ presence at ringside.

The main problem with this reign is that there was no drama to it because we were all just waiting for Ronda to win the title at Summerslam. I’m not saying that was a bad thing, I seem to be one of the only wrestling fans that enjoyed Rousey’s run as champion, along with believing she’s a great wrestler, but whatever. My point is, there was never any goal for Bliss’ title run other than to stall for time until Summerslam.

As I mentioned at the beginning, despite having many reigns as Raw & Smackdown women’s champion, this reign happened right at the end of that period, and as such, she’s only moved down the card since. She’s currently doing a fantastic job as one-half of the tag team champions. Still, she in no way benefitted long-term from holding the briefcase after everything else she’d already accomplished.

7 – Jack Swagger -2010
(World Heavyweight Championship)

Cashed In At: Smackdown 30th March 2010
Won Title From: Chris Jericho
Days As Champion: 79
Lost Title At: Fatal 4 Way 2010
Lost Title To: Rey Mysterio
World Titles Since: 0

JACK ONE TWO.

Honestly, I hate that theme so much, but it’s going to be in my head for the next week, and I may as well try and take you down with me.

All the other title reigns I’ve covered so far on this list have all been bad because of some sort of exceptional circumstances or completely bonkers booking decision that was made by WWE that ruined the whole thing. This title reign isn’t like that. While it’s still relatively short, clocking in at just under 3 months, it’s a hell of a lot longer than any other reign I’ve covered so far. There wasn’t any weird or stupid booking that occurred during it, and he didn’t lose the title in any kind of unusual way. So what makes it so bad?

Well, it’s actually quite simple. The thing that made this title reign among the worst on this list was Swagger himself. I hate to say this because his current work in AEW is delightful, but he just wasn’t ready in 2010. He had a good look to him, and he even had a legitimate amateur wrestling background to boot. Unfortunately, he was yet to find a personality or in-ring style that clicked with audiences.

As a direct consequence of this, there was usually very little interest in any of his major title feuds. He got some solid wins under his belt against the likes of Chris Jericho and even a clean Pay-Per-View victory over Randy Orton. The problem is that those matches were crap. The veterans did what they could for Swagger. However, the more he wrestled, the more obvious it became to everyone watching that he hadn’t built up the ability to carry a world title and it’s no surprise that none of his PPV title defences ever got the main event spot. Combine this with a personality that had little-to-no charisma, and it became clear that this wasn’t going to work.

It’s a shame because something like this is the whole point of what I believe Money in the Bank should be. It’s a rocket to strap to someone’s back to give them the chance to prove that they’re world championship material. Unfortunately, using it on untested wrestlers is always going to lead to some failures, and this was the case with Swagger.

6 – Dolph Ziggler – 2013
(World Heavyweight Championship)

Cashed In At: Raw 8th April 2013
Won Title From: Alberto Del Rio
Days As Champion: 70
Lost Title At: Payback 2013
Lost Title To: Alberto Del Rio
World Titles Since: 0

Ziggler’s cash-in is one of those moments that you could use to singlehandedly justify the existence of the Money in the Bank concept. I’m a sucker for watching a crowd go absolutely mental for something and the moment Ziggler’s music hit on 8th April 2013 is one of the biggest, most excited reactions I’ve ever heard from a wrestling crowd.

Unfortunately, that night is about where the good times stopped. However this time, it wasn’t directly WWE’s fault. Ziggler was initially set to defend the title at the Extreme Rules Pay-Per-View that May. Sadly, that match would never happen as Ziggler suffered a concussion at a Smackdown taping and was taken off of TV for a month to recover.

When he made his return, he reignited his feud with Alberto Del Rio, the man he had won the title from and their match at Payback was a surprisingly well-told story that was able to successfully execute the rare “double turn”. Del Rio ruthlessly targetted Ziggler’s head (playing off of the concussion angle), and Ziggler pressed on, resilient as ever, reversing the face/heel roles going into the match.

As good as this was, it was also the end of Ziggler’s title reign. A rematch was scheduled for the next Pay-Per-View (Money in the Bank, funnily enough) and Ziggler’s entourage, consisting of AJ Lee and Big E Langston, turned on him and cost him the match. After this, Ziggler abandoned his world title pursuit in favour of getting revenge on his former friends.

Ziggler would have a small handful of world title matches in the years since, but he’s never been in with a chance of actually winning. While his cash-in has undoubtedly immortalised him in the minds of modern fans, the unfortunate events that followed it did nothing to elevate his long-term standing in the company.

5 – Rob Van Dam – 2006
(WWE Championship)

Cashed In At: ECW One Night Stand 2006
Won Title From: John Cena
Days As Champion: 22
Lost title At: Raw 3rd July 2006
Lost Title To: Edge
World Titles Since: 0

This is a case is just a bit sad, more than anything else. This is because if things had gone as they were originally planned, this probably would’ve landed towards the top end of the list. Sadly, as it often does, real-life got in the way and put a premature end to this story.

RVD’s cash-in at ECW One Night Stand is one of the better cash-ins we’ve ever been greeted by. Taking place at the second version of the event, this match was actually a full-length affair due to RVD announcing his intensions to cash-in on Cena in advance of the event. It was the kind of beautiful chaos that reminded us all of the good ol’ ECW days, resulting in the man who was arguably ECW’s biggest star during its lifetime winning WWE’s grand prize.

Things started off in promising fashion. Heyman reinstated the ECW Champion and gifted it to RVD, making him a double champion. RVD retained the title against Edge at the Vengeance Pay-Per-View and then retained the ECW Championship against Kurt Angle just two nights later in a pair of quality matches. Things were going well, and RVD was riding a wave of momentum. Unfortunately, things were about to come crashing down.

In the early hours of 3rd July, RVD and fellow ECW alumni Sabu were pulled over by police for speeding on the highway. While they were being questioned by the police, the car was searched, they were found to be in possession of hash and were arrested. This was a direct violation of WWE’s Wellness Policy and was technically a firable offence. They weren’t fired, however, a triple threat match where RVD defended the WWE title against John Cena and Edge was immediately scheduled for Raw that night where Edge walked away as the champion. The following night on ECW, RVD lost his ECW Championship to the Big Show, and he was promptly suspended for 30 days.

It’s impossible to know how far RVD would’ve gone with the title had this incident not occurred, but if the first few weeks were any indication, it probably would’ve been something really memorable. As it stood, RVD would leave WWE in 2007 and would only return for brief stints in the midcard in the years following. As such, he never reached the world title scene again.

4 – CM Punk – 2008
(World Heavyweight Championship)

Cashed In At: Raw 30th June 2008
Won Title From: Edge
Days As Champion: 69
Vacated Title At: Unforgiven 2008
World Titles Since: 6

After being moved to Raw in the 2008 draft, CM Punk immediately made his presence felt on the red brand by taking advantage of a laid-out Edge (courtesy of Batista) to crown himself World champion for the first time in his WWE career. Almost immediately, things didn’t look to be favouring the new champion. Less than a month into his reign, Punk was forced to defend his title against Batista. While he did retain the championship, it was only via Disqualification after Kane appeared and attacked both men.

A rematch was scheduled for the next night on Raw, which had a near-identical outcome, as the match ended in a no contest, allowing Punk to retain once again. This led to an odd situation in which Batista turned his hunt towards John Cena’s WWE Championship (for seemingly no reason at all), and JBL targetted Punk’s title instead. This admittedly went better for Punk, as he was able to get a pinfall win over JBL at Summerslam, although it must be said that there was little exciting or unique about the match, due in part to the fact that it was buried under much bigger matches.

So far, so standard for WWE in the late 00s right? Well, you’re not wrong, and if Punk had actually lost his title in a match, then this might have jumped up several spots on the list. However, WWE managed to make it so much worse than it needed to be.

Going into Unforgiven, CM Punk was set to defend his championship in a 5-man championship scramble, featuring Kane, Batista, Rey Mysterio and JBL. Unfortunately, Punk never got to the match as earlier in the night, he was attacked by Randy Orton’s Legacy stable and was deemed unable to compete, thus forfeiting the championship. While this might have made sense if Punk had suffered some sort of legitimate injury and couldn’t take part in the match, that wasn’t the case, Punk was perfectly healthy and even wrestled the next night on Raw.

Instead, for whatever reason, WWE saw fit to simply take the title off of Punk for basically no reason, coming up with the lamest of excuses to do so in kayfabe. Punk had a rematch with the eventual winner of the championship scramble, Chris Jericho (who was announced as Punk’s replacement), the next night on Raw. He lost, and that was that. The weirdest part about all of this is that Punk wouldn’t even attempt to seek revenge on Orton for this until 2011, where he suddenly remembered it and used it as the basis for their Wrestlemania 27 feud.

Without taking into account the way it ended, this championship reign would’ve been slightly below average at best. Still, when you take into consideration that Punk never even got the chance to lose the title in the ring, the whole thing becomes an absolute joke. Amazingly, it would take another 6 years of this kind of treatment for Punk to walk out of the company.

3 – Edge – 2005
(WWE Championship)

Cashed In At: New Year’s Revolution 2006
Won Title From: John Cena
Days As Champion: 21
Lost Title At: Royal Rumble
Lost Title To: John Cena
World Titles Since: 10

You know what they say: first’s the worst…almost.

With the hindsight of the greatness that Edge would go on to achieve throughout his career, it’s easy to fool yourself into thinking that Edge’s first title reign was just another glorious accomplishment in his long list of career highlights. Unfortunately, the reality of the matter is quite different. As iconic as his cash-in was, very little of interest would follow, and it wouldn’t last very long.

The “live sex celebration” became a very memorable moment in WWE history for obvious reasons, but it wasn’t actually any good. What followed it was a pretty decent micro-feud where Edge put away Ric Flair in a TLC match of all things. However, following that, the man Edge had stolen the title from, John Cena, came knocking and it was all over.

Cena was already growing a bit of reputation as the guy who wins every title match regardless of whether it’s actually a good idea, a trend was not about to be bucked. Cena had his rematch against the Rated R Superstar less than a month after he lost the title and if you need to me to tell you who won, then clearly you haven’t been paying attention.

Cena would go on to main event Wrestlemania 22 against Triple H, while Edge got himself into a feud with Mick Foley. While this feud and the match that came from it were brilliant, it wasn’t the world title match that we had all hoped Edge would be partaking in that year. In the years since New Years Revolution 2006, WWE has framed the moment of Edge’s first cash-in as the real moment he seized the main event scene in WWE by storm. In reality, it would take at least another six months for him to get a world title reign that aligns with the legendary status his career is held to today.

2 – Brock Lesnar – 2019
(Universal Championship)

Cashed In At: Extreme Rules 2019
Won Title From: Seth Rollins
Days As Champion: 28
Lost Title At: Summerslam 2018
Lost Title To: Seth Rollins
World Titles Since: 1

When it comes to elevating a wrestler, that was obviously never the intention with this one. Brock Lesnar is inarguably the biggest megastar of WWE’s modern era, and there was literally no way possible that his stock could be elevated any higher than it already was. Instead, Brock’s acquisition of the briefcase and subsequent title reign served the singular purpose of creating an excuse to have a full-length rematch of Brock Lesnar vs Seth Rollins, which had lasted a mere two minutes at Wrestlemania 35 earlier in the year.

The match in question turned out to be a great one. Rollins fared exceptionally well against a version of Lesnar who was very clearly “on” that night at Summerslam. It was easily the match of the night and reminded people of what a brilliant wrestler Rollins is, during a time where character stagnation and letting out his frustrations at the fans on Twitter was causing audience investment in him to plummet.

That said, the result was a title reign that was, quite frankly, pointless. It consisted of just two matches, the cash-in where Lesnar won the title and the rematch at Summerslam where he lost it. While I don’t doubt the fact that the Rollins/Lesnar rematch was the right move for Summerslam, I don’t think the Money in the Bank briefcase was even remotely required to achieve that. As has been shown countless times in the past, the only justification you need for Lesnar getting a title shot is Lesnar showing up on Raw and declaring he wants one.

As I said, this entry gets a higher entry than Sheamus’ purely because it was more successful in executing its primary goal. That said, it was still a waste of the Money in the Bank concept and deprived another wrestler of the opportunity of a lifetime.

1 – Sheamus – 2015
(WWE Championship)

Cashed In At: Survivor Series 2015
Won Title From: Roman Reigns
Days As Champion: 22
Lost title At: Raw 14th December 2015
Lost Title To: Roman Reigns
World Titles Since: 0

Traditionally, the purpose of the Money in the Bank briefcase is to take a wrestler who hasn’t quite got their breakthrough into the main event scene yet and strap a rocket to their back to turn them into a verifiable megastar. So I don’t think it’ll be much of a surprise that Sheamus’ title reign landed last on this list when you consider that its entire purpose was to get someone else over. That someone else being Roman Reigns.

The thought process behind this title reign was a simple and surprisingly clever one. The audience at large were still staunchly against Roman Reigns as the face of the WWE, favouring more versatile wrestlers such as Dean Ambrose or Kevin Owens. So the conundrum for WWE was simple, how do they make everyone happy about Roman Reigns winning the WWE title? Enter Sheamus.

Sheamus tends to be quite a polarising wrestler, but the most prominent opinion of him amongst fans (myself included) is that he’s got a lot to offer the company as a tough midcard wrestler. However, as a main-event competitor, he’s always been quite underwhelming. So the idea was simple. If Sheamus wins the WWE title, then everyone will hate that, so when Roman Reigns wins the title from him, everyone will love it.

As cynical and shortsighted of a plan as it was, it absolutely worked. Although the match between the pair at 2015’s TLC event – where Sheamus retained the title – wasn’t all that great, the rematch the next night on Raw (featuring Vince McMahon as a special guest referee) went down an absolute treat as fans screamed their approval when Roman Reigns ended Sheamus’ run at the top.

While this title reign did technically serve its intended purpose, that purpose was an inherently flawed one that not only failed to give Sheamus any kind of longlasting credibility as a main event level competitor, but didn’t even create any longlasting goodwill for Roman Reigns. By the time 2016 rolled around, the audience was back to their Roman loathing ways, booing him out of every arena he entered.

Everything about this title reign was an absolute failure and a complete waste of the briefcase.

Every WWE World Champion Since the 2016 Brand Split Ranked

In 2016, WWE realised that their roster was far too big for only one set of champions all of a sudden, thanks to NXT signing every free agent they possibly could, also the Smackdown ratings were tanking but I’m sure that’s not important. Their solution was to do what they did from 2002 to 2013 and make Raw and Smackdown separate brands with their own world champions.

We can argue the merits of this decision until the cows come home but that’s not what I’m here to do. Instead, just three years later in 2019, we’re facing a situation where the brand split could very well be ending in October thanks to the new Fox deal coming into effect. The future on this is still unclear, however in the event, we are about to see it all end, now would be a good time to start looking back.

Since the brand split started, we’ve seen 16 different world championship reigns between 14 different men across both brands, and not all of them are up to the prestige level that you’d expect from the grandest prize in all of pro-wrestling. With that in mind, I’m going to dive in and analyse all of these title reigns and comprehensively ranking them.

These rankings are going to based on a combination of the pure numbers, the quality of their matches and the overall impact that they left on their respective titles. NOTE: I’m not going to be including current champions, Seth Rollins and Kofi Kingston in these rankings since, as of the time of writing they have each only been champion for 3 weeks and it would be unfair to assess an incomplete title reign.

12 – Finn Balor – 1 Reign
(Universal Championship)

Won from: Seth Rollins at Summerslam 2016
Lost to: Vacated on Raw 8/22/16 due to injury
Days as champion: 23 Hours
Best match as champion: vs Seth Rollins at Summerslam 2016

I know, I’d like things to be different as well.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment on the list (although there’s a bit of competition for that dishonour), we all thought the chosen one had ascended with WWE finally fully embracing our NXT beloved when the recently debuted Finn Balor became the first ever Universal Champion at Summerslam. Even if the fans stupidly weren’t paying attention to the match because they were so fixated on how awful the brand new Universal Championship looked, people were over the moon at the former Prince Devitt’s rise to the top of the company.

Sadly, the celebrations would be fairly short-lived, as the next day the news came out that during the match with Seth Rollins where Balor had won the belt, he suffered a Labrum tear during a powerbomb to the ringside barricade during the match. This injury would require Balor to have surgery with an estimated recovery time of 6-8 months, meaning he wouldn’t be able to compete as champion and was forced to vacate the championship that he had only just won.

It’s always going to be one of the big “What if?” questions in WWE history. How long would his reign have been? Who would he have eventually lost the title to? How many amazing matches would he have had? and so on, and so on. Unfortunately what we’ve got was a 23-hour reign where he didn’t even lose the title in a match, so it, unfortunately, can’t be placed anywhere other than the bottom of the list.

11 – Roman Reigns – 1 Reign
(Universal Championship)

Won from: Brock Lesnar at Summerslam 2018
Lost to: Vacated on Raw 10/22/18 due to Leukaemia
Days as Champion: 63
Best match as champion: vs Finn Balor on Raw 8/20/18

What is it with the Universal title at Summerslam?

Roman Reigns winning the Universal Championship was a complete and total inevitability going into 2018, with most excepting it to happen at Wrestlemania 34. Instead shockingly – and pretty stupidly – Brock Lesnar retained the championship at Mania in order to convince The Beast to extend his contract for another year, this meant the title change was pushed back to that year’s Summerslam instead.

As much as the match itself was crap, when Roman held the title high it felt like a breath of fresh air washing over Monday Night Raw since Lesnar’s reign as an absentee champion was long past its sell-by date at this point. Having a fighting champion on the show every week was invaluable to the red brand since now it didn’t feel like everyone was just spinning their wheels every week until Brock came down from his mountain top to defend the title once or twice a year.

That said, in the brief time Reigns was holding the title, there wasn’t a great deal to love about it. It was refreshing to see the title every week for once, but Roman was busy in 6 man tag matches for a lot of his reign thanks to The Shield reuniting for the 147th time since they originally broke up. His only actual title defences were against Finn Balor the night after he won it, which was a good match; against Baron Corbin in September for no discernable reason and against Braun Strowman inside Hell in a Cell, a match which mostly consisted of people who weren’t in the match fighting on the outside before Brock Lesnar broke into the cell and caused the match to end in a No Contest which was ridiculous.

The title reign wasn’t off to the greatest of starts come October, however, it was likely to run for many more months, so there was still time to turn things around.

Tragically, it wasn’t to be, as on the October 22nd edition of Raw, Roman Reigns announced his Leukaemia that had gone into remission 11 years ago had returned and he would be taking an undefined amount of time off until he recovered. Thankfully, the Leukaemia went into remission again earlier this year and Roman has now returned to action, however, it meant that his Universal Championship reign had to end prematurely with him vacating the belt just before he was due to defend it against Strowman and Lesnar at Crown Jewel.

This reign stands above Finn Balor’s due to the fact that Reigns actually had 64 days to do something with the title before vacating it, even if that something wasn’t very good. That said, a short reign with a vacated title at the end still can’t rise any higher than this.

10 – Goldberg – 1 Reign
(Universal Championship)

Won from: Kevin Owens at Fastlane 2017
Lost to: Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania 33
Days as champion: 27
Best match as champion: vs Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania 33

Goldberg. Champion. In 2017. I honestly still can’t believe it.

Goldberg created one of the most shocking moments in recent memory at Survivor Series 2016, where he pinned the hyper-protected Brock Lesnar in under five minutes. When this happened it was clear that a Wrestlemania rematch was in the works for the two, and it also became clear that WWE wanted the Universal Championship to be at stake in that match as well. Naturally, the sensible thing to do would’ve been to put the title on Brock Lesnar for that match, since it would be ridiculous if the 50-year-old Goldberg won a world championship after not wrestling for over a decade…

What’s that? They did it anyway? Oh.

Goldberg walked into Fastlane to face Kevin Owens for the Universal Championship, and 22 seconds (and a distraction from Chris Jericho) later, Goldberg was your new Universal Champion. Madness. Goldberg wouldn’t wrestle another televised match until Wrestlemania, meaning there’s very little to analyse here. Everyone knew that Goldberg would be losing the title to Brock at Mania, so we were never going to get any kind of extended reign from Goldberg, which is probably for the best.

After 27 days of doing precisely nothing with Raw’s top prize, he walked into Wrestlemania, had a short but fun match with Brock, and then did the favours for Brock Lesnar, kicking off his first of two reigns with the title. The following night on Raw, Goldberg addressed the fans, thanked them and we haven’t seen him in the ring since.

Goldberg was the very definition of a transitional champion. He won the Universal Championship for the purpose of a single match, and once that match was done it was all over. If it wasn’t for the two reigns where the title was vacated, then this would most certainly be dead last.

9 – Randy Orton – 1 Reign
(WWE Championship)

Won from: Bray Wyatt at Wrestlemania 33
Lost to: Jinder Mahal at Backlash 2017
Days as champion: 49
Best match as champion: vs Bray Wyatt at Wrestlemania 33

It says a lot about the Universal Championship, that this is the first entry on the list that actually feels like a proper title reign. It wasn’t the longest reign in the world, but Randy actually acted like a champion during this time, including wrestling more than two matches for his entire reign.

As much as it did enough to be classed as a proper title reign, it was arguably one of the worst title reigns in recent memory for a couple of reasons. For one thing, he won it at Wrestlemania in what was probably the most disappointing and boring match on the whole show, and it doesn’t bode well that it can also be classified as his best match during this rather short reign.

Following this, we had a rematch in the one and only “House of Horrors” match, featuring some of the most spooky imagery imaginable! Such as lots of baby dolls badly taped to the ceiling, a hand popping out of an obviously fake wall and….erm…a tower of sticks? It was that level of bad that goes past being so bad it’s funny into just plain awful, what’s more, is it wasn’t even for the title. This was mostly because they wanted to give Bray the win without giving him the title, but it was justified in kayfabe by the fact that Jinder Mahal stole the title the Smackdown before the match.

This brings us to the sad an awkward fact that Randy Orton would end up losing this WWE title to…Jinder Mahal, a man who up until a month prior to this, had lost more matches than Curt Hawkins, and that’s Hawkins’ whole gimmick. It was an extremely boring match as well, with the only thing even remotely exciting is when Randy almost accidentally killed one of the Singh brothers by dropping him neck first on the announce table.

Even compared to Orton’s 12 other world championship reigns this is among the worst of them. When you’re only notable matches as champion are the two that you lost, you know it can’t be any good.

8 – Jinder Mahal – 1 Reign
(WWE Championship)

Won from: Randy Orton at Backlash 2017
Lost to: AJ Styles on Smackdown 11/7/17
Days as champion: 170
Best match as champion: vs AJ Styles on Smackdown 11/7/17

I’m as surprised as you are that it landed this high up.

When Jinder Mahal pinned Randy Orton at Backlash 2017, the entire wrestling community went through various stages of grief all at once. There were those that reacted with unbridled anger that WWE would sully the most prestigious prize in the business like this; others gave an extended sigh and prepared themselves for the dark times to come, and there were a few who laughed maniacally in twisted delight at the sheer ridiculousness of what just happened.

These would very much be the three camps that stuck around for the entirety of Jinder’s 5 and a half month WWE title reign, even though it felt like it lasted a couple of years. No-one was quite sure what to make of it at the time, with a whole range of opinions flooding the internet following every one of Jinder’s awful title matches.

Jinder spent the next three months putting on some of the worst matches of the year with Randy Orton, including a Punjabi Prison match where The Great Khali helped Jinder to victory only to never have his appearance explained and Khali hasn’t been seen since. He then moved on to fight the new golden boy of Smackdown live in Shinsuke Nakamura, a feud which is remembered only for the racism involved when Jinder claimed that Shinsuke’s facial expressions always “rook” the same in front of an audience who just seemed to be made uncomfortable by the whole thing.

Things were looking to hit their worst point yet going into Survivor Series, when a match with Universal Champion Brock Lesnar on the horizon, only for AJ Styles to mercifully take the title away from the Modern Day Maharaja 2 weeks before the event.

Though opinion may have been divided at the time, it’s pretty clear looking back that Jinder’s reign as champion was pretty damn bad. All of his PPV title defences sucked and the only match of his reign that could really be considered good is the one in which he lost it to AJ. Not only that, but AJ’s mammoth reign that would follow it meant that Jinder’s reign was almost immediately forgotten and Jinder every quickly fell back down the card into the same position he was before his title win. Granted not all of that can be placed on his shoulders, but when you spend over 5 months as world champion it doesn’t elevate your standing in the pecking order at all when you finally lose it, then you were clearly never up for the world title in the first place.

7 – Bray Wyatt – 1 Reign
(WWE Championship)

Won from: John Cena at Elimination Chamber 2017
Lost to: Randy Orton at Wrestlemania 33
Days as champion: 49
Best match as champion: vs John Cena vs AJ Styles on Smackdown 14/2/17

Bray’s and Randy’s are very easily comparable, since their titles reigns came consecutively, and they spent the same number of days as champion, which means you can really boil the argument down to who did more with the title?

Admittedly that’s a pretty easy argument because even though Bray’s reign was a lot shorter than most of us wanted it to be, and the build to his Wrestlemania match with Orton was absolutely bizarre, Bray actually had some really enjoyable matches for the title. The Elimination Chamber in which he won it, is perhaps the best Chamber match in history, and his triple threat against former champions Cena and Styles two nights later on Smackdown was fast-paced and tense action from bell to bell.

His time as champion brought the best out of him as a performer, with him having a couple of the best matches of his career during this very short run. Even on Smackdown, Bray was front and centre every week, regardless of whether or not he’s wrestling, which is something that can’t be said for several of the champions on this list.

Given there was all this great stuff involved with the title reign, why isn’t it higher? Well, for one thing, the length brings it down, as much as you don’t need months and months as champion to make an impact, Wyatt’s reign really felt like it could’ve done more time to really give Bray back the credibility he’d lost over the years, losing matches to basically everyone. Also, the match where he lost the title at Wrestlemania 33 was boring, as I previously mentioned, and unfortunately the manner in which someone loses a title can have a big impact on the opinion of their reign.

In the annals of WWE history, Bray Wyatt’s brief time at the top probably won’t be remembered fondly by many, but when you break it down you can see exactly what Bray Wyatt at his best can be if he was ever given a real chance to shine.

6 – John Cena – 1 Reign
(WWE Championship)

Won from: AJ Styles at Royal Rumble 2017
Lost to: Bray Wyatt at Elimination Chamber 2017
Days as champion: 14
Best match as champion: vs AJ Styles at Royal Rumble 2017

It’s really weird to think that John Cena’s record tieing 16th world title reign only lasted two weeks. Then again, about 12 of Cena’s title reigns were all transitional really.

Given that I dropped Randy so low for a reign over three times as long as this one, this may seem like an odd choice, but as short as Cena’s reign was, there were great matches during it.

The match where we won the title was Styles was arguably the best main roster match of 2017 and capped off an absolutely brilliant feud from 2016 to boot. Then he had a surprisingly good match against Randy Orton on Smackdown where a shorter match length allowed for a more exciting match than most of their other encounters. Then his reign was topped off with arguably the best Elimination Chamber match in history where he would lose the title to Bray Wyatt.

Cena’s reign was incredibly brief, but he managed to do more with the title in that time than everyone else I’ve already talked about so far, putting on many great matches and leaving a reign that is still remembered and talked about fondly to this day. Moreso than that, it proves just how good John Cena can be for a world championship when it’s done properly. If Cena ever gets his historic 17th world title, I certainly wouldn’t mind if it was anything like this one.

5 – Dean Ambrose – 1 Reign
(WWE Championship)

Won from: Seth Rollins at Money in the Bank 2016
Lost to: AJ Styles at Backlash 2016
Days as champion: 84
Best match as champion: vs Roman Reigns vs Seth Rollins at Battleground 2016

Ambrose’s reign is a little weird in the context of this list because although it started before the brand split began, the majority of this reign took place inside it.

It started with one of the most exciting WWE moments in recent memory, where Seth Rollins would shockingly beat Roman Reigns for the WWE Championship pretty much as clean as possible, only for Dean Ambrose to cash in the Money in the Bank briefcase he won earlier in the night and walk about of Las Vegas as WWE Champion at long last.

Ambrose’s title reign was something most people had wanted ever since The Shield broke up in 2014, and finally seeing him hoist the title high was a brilliant moment for fans (even if I think he was the worst wrestler of The Shield, but that’s neither here nor there). Also, since it was a long time coming, they had to do something memorable with the reign itself, which I think they achieved for the most part.

After a great match with Rollins that ended in a double pin, and a follow up on the night the brand split began where Ambrose would come out victorious, we got the match fans have been begging for for years, when Ambrose, Rollins and Reigns would face off against one another in a triple threat match for the title. While that match didn’t live up to many people’s expectations, it was still a fantastic contest, that would eventually end with Ambrose walking out still with the title, bringing it to the blue brand for the foreseeable future.

It had been going well up until this point, but it was soon to come crashing down, as Ambrose would then put on a 15-minute snoozefest against Dolph Ziggler for the title at Summerslam, and it was becoming clear that Ambrose’s title reign was fun, it needed to end pretty soon. One kick in the plumbs from AJ Styles later and Ambrose would find his title reign over at Backlash 2016.

Ultimately, Ambrose’s title run did have some crap stuff in it, but it will generally be remembered for the good stuff a lot more than it is the bad, and with Ambrose having left WWE just a couple weeks ago, I don’t think this was a bad legacy to leave behind.

4 – Kevin Owens – 1 Reign
(Universal Championship)

Won from: Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins & Big Cass on Raw 8/19/16
Lost to: Goldberg at Fastlane 2017
Days as champion: 188
Best match as champion: vs Sami Zayn Raw 9/5/16

Kevin Owens’ reign was filled with a whole host of ups and downs, it reign that by many standards would be considered mediocre at best, so it says a lot about the state of the WWE world title scene that it’s landed this high…

Owens’ reign started off to a very good start as far as I’m concerned. Following Finn Balor’s tragic Labrum tear after winning the title. WWE quickly set upon crowning their next Universal Champion who would actually be able to carry the title over the coming months. So a Fatal 4 Way formed between Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens and Big Cass.

Most expected either Rollins or Reigns to walk away with the title here, since, up until now, Owens hadn’t been treated like he was on the world title level for the longest time. Fate would strike again, however, as after laying out Roman Reigns, Triple H looked to hand Seth Rollins the victory only to suddenly turn on the architect and hand the title to Kevin Owens. With Raw ending with Triple H holding Owens’ hand aloft in a brilliant moment.

Owens title reign will likely be remembered mostly for his excellent partnership with Chris Jericho as an extremely entertaining duo who bounced off of each other perfectly. This would also mean that very nearly all of Owens’ major title defences would end in some form of dirty finish, with Jericho and occasionally Strowman getting involved to save Owens’ skin. His title run also ended in disappointing fashion with a 22 second lost to Goldberg thanks to another interference from Jericho.

If you look at Owens’ title run in terms of his matches and PPV defences then it seems like one of the worst, but when you consider how entertaining he was week to week on Raw with Chris Jericho, including the absolutely perfectly done “Festival of Friendship” segment, then it’s one that will always be looked back on fairly fondly.

3 – Brock Lesnar – 2 Reigns
(Universal Championship)

1st Reign:
Won from: 
Goldberg at Wrestlemania 33
Lost to: Roman Reigns at Summerslam 2018
Days as champion: 503
Best match as champion: vs AJ Styles at Survivor Series 2017

2nd Reign:
Won from: 
Braun Strowman at Crown Jewel 2018
Lost to: Seth Rollins at Wrestlemania 35
Days as champion: 156
Best match as champion: vs Daniel Bryan at Survivor Series 2018

Groan all you want, but the numbers don’t lie.

In a bubble, Brock Lesnar’s two reigns with the Universal Title seem amazing. With over 600 combined days with the title, and nothing but clean wins in every single defence, Lesnar’s world title reigns seem like the template for what a perfect one looks like. Unfortunately, this title reign didn’t happen in a bubble and anyone who watched through Lesnar’s time at the top knows all too well why it’s not higher up.

While Lesnar did almost always retain his title cleanly, and most of his title defences were Ok-Great matches, the problem was to do with his schedule. During his first run as champion which, bare in mind, lasted 503 days, Brock Lesnar wrestled a total of 12 matches, and that’s including non-televised matches. Compare that for a second to Randy Orton, who wrestled 21 matches – almost double – in just 49 days as champion.

That said, it did have some upsides. For one thing, a Brock Lesnar title defence felt like a big deal, and there was always a lot of speculation made around who his challenger was going to be. Also, with the exception of the Roman Reigns matches, the stories building up to the match were generally very compelling. Samoa Joe’s feud with Lesnar felt intense and finally gave Joe that killer instinct he’d been lacking before that point, Finn Balor got to show that he can hang with the biggest and the best and Braun Strowman was elevated from mid-card monster to main event murderer.

I think that’s the thing with Brock Lesnar as champion, with the exception of Kane, and in his later matches, Strowman, everyone who fought Lesnar for the title came out of the feud looking better than when they went in. It didn’t matter if they lost, because guys like Joe and Balor got to show their in-ring intelligence when trying to take down an indestructible foe, and in a strange way, it would bring the best out of whoever he was competing against.

I’ll admit, if Brock Lesnar never wins another world title again, then I’ll be very happy with that since I really feel like WWE overplayed their hand in 2018 with Lesnar, but it did serve a purpose and several other wrestlers benefitted from his presence at the top.

2 – AJ Styles – 2 Reigns
(WWE Championship)

1st Reign:
Won From:
 Dean Ambrose at Backlash 2016
Lost to: John Cena at Royal Rumble 2017
Days as champion: 140
Best match as champion: vs John Cena at Royal Rumble 2017

2nd Reign:
Won from: 
Jinder Mahal on Smackdown 11/7/17
Lost to: Daniel Bryan on Smackdown 11/13/18
Days as champion: 371
Best match as champion: vs Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series 2017

A man who many thought would never even wrestle in the WWE, let alone reign as champion for over 500 days, AJ Styles has done much better for himself in WWE than I think most of us thought he ever would.

AJ’s first reign as champion was shorter but arguably more effective than the second. Being a heel allowed for much greater opportunities for his character to be entertaining, not to mention I just generally think AJ’s always been better at being a heel, especially in WWE. Beating Dean Ambrose with a swift kick to the balls only added to the shock of a man who was then still considered Mr TNA winning the WWE Championship and it carried on great from there.

He had a great triple threat against Cena and Ambrose at No Mercy before going on to get entangled with James bloody Ellsworth for far too long, even going as far as having Ellsworth being directly responsible for AJ retaining after an excellent TLC match between Styles and Ambrose at the PPV of the same name. Then there was the match at the Royal Rumble with John Cena, which as I’ve already mentioned is perhaps the best WWE world title match in recent memory.

His second one wasn’t really as good if you ask me, and this second reign is the main reason I’ve dropped him to second place. It started off very well, with him finally getting a good match out of Jinder Mahal and ending the reign that felt like it was going to last forever. He then went on to have a fantastic match with Brock Lesnar, and it seemed like things were going to be great. He had his formality of a rematch with Jinder the next month, then had a couple of OK matches at the Royal Rumble and Fastlane before finally looking towards Wrestlemania 34.

His match with Shinsuke Nakamura was very good indeed, however it was marred by a couple of things. The first was that Shinsuke didn’t win when it felt like he should have, although that wasn’t too big of a deal since Nakamura turning heel after the match meant the story still had legs. However, it also has to be mentioned that many fans (myself included) didn’t really feel like it met expectations. Admittedly this is down to what you could argue were unreasonably high standards we got from seeing AJ vs Nakamura wrestle a year earlier in New Japan Pro Wrestling, but it still felt like it ended quite suddenly, and about 2 minutes too soon.

This would’ve been fine if the rest of the feud had delivered, but it really didn’t. What we got was a match the Greatest Royal Rumble event, where it ended in a double countout; another one at Backlash which ended in a double KO because both men simultaneously kicked each other in the balls and a pretty good Last Man Standing match at Money in the Bank, but the magic was long gone by that point and left fans disappointed once again after Shinsuke Nakamura failed to win the title.

Following this was a short, but entertaining feud with Rusev before we were launched into the destroyer of families known as Samoa Joe. Once again this feud started off rather well, with a very good match at Summerslam that showcased a rare example of a DQ finish that enhanced the story. Unfortunately, that turned out to be the only highlight of the feud as a dirty finish at Hell in a Cell led to two more mediocre title matches that the fans at large really couldn’t have cared less about by this point.

The dying breaths of this title reign would go some short way to redeeming it a little as the match in which he lost the title to Daniel Bryan was great but suffered slightly from not being on a PPV.

Ultimately, AJ’s title reigns were good, the first one especially was great, and the length of them allowed AJ to establish himself as an all-time legend in WWE in just 3 short years. However, whenever I think back to these title reigns, I’m always going to be reminded of the mediocrity that came with a large portion of the second one, so I can’t honestly give it number one.

1 – Daniel Bryan – 1 Reign
(WWE Championship)

Won from: AJ Styles on Smackdown 11/13/18
Lost to: Kofi Kingston at Wrestlemania 35
Days as champion: 144
Best match as champion: vs Kofi Kingston at Wrestlemania 35

You can have your Kenny Omegas and your Kazuchika Okadas any day, but Daniel Bryan is the best wrestler in the world.

When Daniel Bryan made his miraculous return from injury in March 2018, it only seemed like a matter of time before he held world championship gold once again. Bryan was the biggest babyface in recent memory, so having him standing victorious with the WWE Championship in his hands would be the perfect way to cap off his return year.

How foolish we all were…

Once again we found ourselves building to Survivor Series, where AJ Styles was set to have a rematch with Brock Lesnar from the previous year’s event, he just had to get past Daniel Bryan one night on Smackdown. We would then be hit with a double whammy of shockers on that night, with not only Daniel Bryan taking the title from AJ Styles, but cheating to do it, officially turning heel.

After putting on one of Brock Lesnar’s best ever matches at Survivor Series, Bryan came out week after week on Smackdown with a brand new personality, calling the fans fickle and reminding us all that our planet is dying and it’s our fault. It’s the kind of gimmick that on anyone else would seem stupid to be a heel, since the majority of wrestling fans seem to agree with that line of thinking, but Bryan was so good at saying it in a way that just pulled the boos out of you, even if you agreed with his message.

Bryan would have a match with Styles at TLC where Bryan would adapt his wrestling style to his new persona, focusing on old-school holds, strikes and technical wrestling instead of his more explosive babyface offence which resulted in a brilliant match; which ended in the master of the small package reclaiming his throne. The pair would then have a not quite as good match at Royal Rumble, hindered heavily by the fact that it had to follow Becky Lynch winning the women’s rumble and the finish involved interference from Erick Rowan of all people.

Past that match Rowan’s presence would only help Bryan as a character, giving him not only a big dude to have his back, but someone who agreed with his message, which only added to his preachy persona. Following the Royal Rumble, Bryan was set to defend his title in an Elimination Chamber match, when the cruel hand of fate would cause Mustafa Ali to go down with an injury and pull out of the match, leaving a spot open. Enter Kofi Kingston.

In one of the most unexpected, yet wonderful stories in recent memory, Kofi Kingston would take Ali’s place in the match, and remind us all that he’s one of the best, and deserves to be recognised as such. This became the main story of Bryan’s title reign going into Wrestlemania 35, and it couldn’t have been any better. Bryan and Kingston went 25 minutes at the start of a gauntlet match on Smackdown, in which Bryan showed exactly why he’s the best wrestler in the world because he can go to absolutely any length to make his opponent look like the best wrestler to ever do it, without making himself look totally inept.

It was in large part thanks to Bryan’s performance in this match and the ending of the Elimination Chamber that we all got behind Kofi Kingston as much as we did. It all culminated in the best match of the Wrestlemania 35 card, where Kofi would finally overcome and take the title from Bryan.

Daniel Bryan may not have had that long of a reign with the WWE Championship in comparison to other champions on this list, but Bryan got more out of his 144 days as champion than someone like Styles did in over 500. While Bryan was champion he was able to elevate himself, and anyone he ever got in the ring with to stratospheric heights, and that is the mark of a champion that is truly one of the greatest to ever do it.

And those are my rankings! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this and a share would be greatly appreciated if you enjoyed. If you disagree with this list then let me know in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo! Finally, make sure to come back next week, where we’ll be diving back into the mines of Doctor Who opinions.