The best WWE Wrestlers of all time – to never win a world title in the 21st century
10 Best WWE Wrestlers to Not Win a World Title in the 21st Century
The world title is the most prestigious belt in any wrestling company. Winning said belt shows that the company has belief in you as a top talent. In WWE, there have been many wrestlers whom fans would say are deserving of at least one world title reign. Unfortunately, the list is near endless of WWE wrestlers who should have held the top belts, but were not given the chance.
In terms of world titles in WWE, we are talking about the World Heavyweight Championship and WWE Championship, until 2013 where we had the belts combine. Then, the WWE Universal Championship was introduced in 2016 and became a world title. The ECW championship that was used from 2006 to 2010 does not count. This is due to not holding the same value as the WWE and World Heavyweight championships. So, who are the best WWE wrestlers to not hold a world title?
Both Matt and Jeff Hardy have been overlooked in their time in WWE. Jeff at least had his time to shine at the top, with three world title reigns in 2008 and 2009. However, Matt was never given the opportunity to hold the WWE or World Heavyweight Championship. This is a shame really, because he has had some great feuds in WWE over the years and he is an 11 time – yes, an 11 time – tag team champion in the company. Working with Edge, Jeff, MVP and Rey Mysterio in particular just elevated him and made me realise just how good he really is. TNA noticed this, which is why he held the TNA World Heavyweight Championship twice.
When Matt returned in 2017 after his success in TNA, he was not given the opportunity. Even after the return of his ‘broken’ character (called ‘woken’ in WWE), he was not elevated to the top. Golden opportunities come to mind, such as in 2009 when Matt and Jeff feuded. Instead of Jeff dropping the WWE Championship to Edge in 2009, the Hardy Boyz could have had a match at WrestleMania 25 for the title. It would have certainly been more enjoyable than the Triple H versus Randy Orton bout that main evented that year.
— MATT HARDY (@MATTHARDYBRAND) December 19, 2019
Out of everybody on this list, William Regal should have been the one to win a world title in WWE. Regal was a fantastic face and an even better heel. He could stick up for other wrestlers or target them, using his bare fists or iconic brass knuckles to back himself up. This was not all, as he was superb on the mic, evoking anger and emphasis so well. Finally, he was great in the ring and highly respected due to his technical abilities. Regal was also very entertaining as General Manager of Raw.
I could imagine Regal winning a world title in a similar way to John Cena defeating Big Show at WrestleMania 20. The crowd would love it if he was a face and appreciate it if he was a heel. Mind you I could not see him holding the title as a face for long, maybe a couple of months. As a heel, he could form a stable and have been the top guy for six months easily. Regal worked so hard for WWE and was so appreciated by fans, so it’s still baffling that he didn’t get his chance at the top. At least Regal won his fair share of belts in WWE. He is a four time European Champion, two time Intercontinental Champion, five time Hardcore Champion and four time Tag Team Champion. To top it all off, he was 2008’s King of the Ring.
🗓 ON THIS DAY 🗓
21st April 2008
William Regal is crowned the King of the Ring, beating CM Punk in the final on RAW.
— WrestlingShouldBeFun (@WSBFun) April 21, 2020
Montel Vontavious Porter is responsible for one of the best United States Championship reigns of all time. He was booked so well, being a cocky and arrogant character who could prove himself in the ring and on the mic. While the Smackdown mid card was not great in 2007, it was still impressive to see MVP hold the title for 343 days and have a great feud – and tag team title reign – with Matt Hardy in between. MVP won the U.S title one more time on the 17th March 2009, holding it for just over 70 days. He did not do much else in his first run with WWE, aside from forming a tag team with Mark Henry and being unable to claim the tag titles. In his second run, MVP has established himself as a future hall of famer, being a great manager and voice for Bobby Lashley.
Unfortunately, MVP is the manager for a WWE World Heavyweight Champion rather than being one himself. He could have achieved so much more if the cards were played right. To me, MVP looks like somebody who could’ve been a Money in the Bank winner. He could be your typical sneaky heel who times his cash in perfectly and receives a decent run. A world title run could be similar to his first U.S title run, not in the extraordinary length but rather how he could brag and enact a count out if he knows he would otherwise lose the title. A strong alliance with Mark Henry could have also been another opportunity. Winning the tag titles, MVP could have also pursued the world title and become a double champion for the second time.
If Bobby Lashley wins the WWE title tonight, it’s a huge victory for MVP as well.
— Alex McCarthy (@AlexM_talkSPORT) March 2, 2021
Cody Rhodes’ career in WWE got off to a wonderful start. He had feuds with Randy Orton and Hardcore Holly throughout his debut year in 2007, before winning the World Tag Team titles with Holly at just 22 years old. He afterwards formed Legacy alongside Ted DiBiase Jr, with the group led by Orton. This became the top stable in WWE for a fair while and it was clear there were plans for Rhodes to go far. After Legacy disbanding, Rhodes worked with a good number of other gimmicks, which he did his very best with. This includes the Stardust gimmick alongside brother Dustin Rhodes as Goldust. Despite hating this gimmick for many reasons, he did the best he could with it.
With his adaptability, Rhodes could have won a world title on several occasions, incorporating more than one gimmick in the process. Face or heel, he would have been great at the top of the company. It could have come around 2014, with him challenging the likes of Orton, Roman Reigns and more, rather than transforming into the Stardust gimmick I dislike so much. Feuds with Mysterio, Big Show, D-Generation X and The Authority were a joy to watch.
Rhodes earned five tag team titles and two Intercontinental titles in his time with WWE. In AEW he has had much more success in such as short time. He’s earned the AEW TNT Championship on two occasions so far and I expect him to earn more. I doubt Rhodes will return to WWE, despite him speaking highly of the company. He is shining elsewhere so it would make sense – at least in the near future – to stay away.
— WWE on ComicBook (@WWEonCB) May 24, 2020
Perhaps I am biased due to being a fan of his and being English, but if the cards were played right Wade Barrett could have been a dominant world champion. First arriving on the scene in 2010, he led the original group of NXT (known as Nexus) wrestlers onto the scene when they interfered in various Raw matches, particularly those involving John Cena. It was clear that Barrett was the ‘leader’ of this group and at the beginning he was booked very strongly. As the months went on Nexus looked weaker and weaker. Barrett then went to Smackdown, formed The Corre and they did not look much better.
After these stables Barrett became a solid mid-card wrestler, winning the Intercontinental Championship five times and winning King of the Ring in 2015. This former bare-knuckle boxer proved he was rough and tough in the ring, which made him a refreshing heel at times. He was not a cowardly character, rather he was prepared to go toe to toe with anybody. Due to his growing popularity as Bad News Barrett he would have also been a great face, in a similar way to Drew McIntyre’s current face run.
Barrett returned to WWE on the 26th August 2020, where he was a commentator for NXT and has been since. Unfortunately, I would say his wrestling career is finished, so we can only imagine what could have been.
TLC 2010: John Cena puts Wade Barrett underneath a rolling pallet before dropping some chairs on him.
— forever tired (@Maffewgregg) December 4, 2016
Now I know Shelton Benjamin is currently with WWE, but I am 99 percent sure he will not hold the WWE or Universal Championship in what remains of his career. Benjamin has recently turned 46, so will not be the man WWE look to for the next world champion. Put simply, Benjamin is wonderful in the ring and he can put on fantastic matches if given the tools to. The problem with Benjamin is he was never favoured by the company. He was also not the best on the mic, which most world champions (aside Bobby Lashley) are. With Lashley, MVP plays to a strength of his, which is his promo cutting. If Benjamin had a top manager, he could have been a solid world champion without having to do too much talking.
Benjamin has wrestled some great matches, including any ladder match he has ever been in and that classic with Shawn Michaels in 2005. Perhaps Benjamin being a world champion seems ridiculous and that’s a very fair point. But, if pushed correctly in the 2000’s, I could definitely see it. That time has passed however and since his return to WWE in 2017, he has done very little. Sure, he was part of The Hurt Business and won the tag titles with Cedric Alexander, but he did not feel special. Even Alexander – who was also been buried and misused – came out of the stable looking stronger than Benjamin.
Name a Wrestler that should've been WWE/World heavyweight champion
I start Shelton Benjamin pic.twitter.com/4dsrOjpWnz
— ៣Ʀ.Ʀ♬Ƭ3ᖱ Ʀ #SpiritBoxSZN (@MrRatedR06) June 29, 2021
When I was making this list, I was surprised to realise Ron Simmons (aka Faarooq) never received a world title in WWE, despite winning the WCW World Heavyweight Champion. This is especially surprising considering his role as the leader of Nation of Domination between 1996-1998. Even afterwards, he had a good run with APA and if he had not retired in 2003 when they disbanded, he could have gone on to win a world title in WWE. This may have been too late anyway, as he really should have won one in the late 90’s. Generally, his accolades with WWE are lacking, holding the tag titles three times and nothing more.
His former partner Bradshaw (transformed into JBL) went on a very good singles run in 2004, winning the WWE Championship and holding the title for nearly one year. This only makes me think about what could have been for Simmons. JBL was heavily booed throughout the duration of this run, but I doubt Simmons would have the same detest towards him around 2004.
Despite all of this, Simmons was a great worker for WWE and was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 2012. At least he still had some great moments after his retirement from professional wrestling. Most notably he would make cameos on Raw and say his now iconic catchphrase, “Damn”.
28 years ago Ron Simmons helped moved the wrestling industry forward. A true game changer. Two words to sum it up. RESPECT. And….wait for it….DAMN! pic.twitter.com/Oc2HEguM0y
— Adam (Edge) Copeland (@EdgeRatedR) August 2, 2020
R-Truth is a fan favourite in WWE. He is often treated as the comic relief in the company while still being able to put on great matches. Also, his storylines with the 24/7 Championship have been highly entertaining over the past couple years. R-Truth was not always the comic relief, as between 2009 and 2011 he was pushed and became a solid talent, appearing in Elimination Chamber matches and he even got a one-on-one match against John Cena in 2011 for the WWE Championship. This was unfortunately the closest he will ever get to winning a world title in WWE. R-Truth turns 50 next year so he has little time left. Chances are WWE will keep him in the 24/7 title picture for what remains of his career.
R-Truth without a doubt had the potential in the early 2010’s to be WWE or World Heavyweight Champion. He held the NWA World Heavyweight Championship twice (under his real name Ron Killings) while with TNA, showing that the company did believe in him. If he received the same belief in WWE, who knows what could have happened. I feel that as a face R-Truth would not have been an effective world title holder, at least in WWE. As a heel however, he has a vicious side that could have planted the seeds for a several-month title reign. If this had happened, we wouldn’t have the same R-Truth that we have today. I think that despite this, R-Truth has had a wonderfully entertaining career and will be missed in WWE once he steps away.
Should R-Truth have won the WWE Championship at Capitol Punishment 2011 from John Cena? pic.twitter.com/vgWcptfBaa
— Just Talk Wrestling (@JustTalkWrestle) June 20, 2021
Like former tag team partner R-Truth, Rhodes (or Goldust) was a comedy character throughout much of his WWE career. Whether it was R-Truth, Booker T or just by himself, WWE never saw him as a serious contender for a world title reign and would rather relegate him to comedy skits or the low end of the match card.
Not just was Goldust a comedy character, it was also quite controversial at times, especially early into the run. Nonetheless, as Goldust you would not expect Dustin Runnels to be the top guy at any point. As Rhodes however, he could have been a top heel. When we see the malicious side of Rhodes’ character, it works because there is intent and a rough and tough attitude. This could have been used to push him because of a desperation to win that coveted world title. Resorting to mischievous deeds and focusing on claiming the belt rather than being Goldust would have been an interesting path to take. Now 52, Rhodes is essentially finished with WWE and now at AEW, he is sure to retire soon.
What a moment it was when Cody and Goldust captured the WWE Tag Titles from The Shield.
The crowd were HOT for them winning the belts.💪 pic.twitter.com/f6pxa2fQLD
— Just Talk Wrestling (@JustTalkWrestle) April 25, 2021
Out of all the wrestlers here, Mr. Kennedy was perhaps the closest to having a world title. He won the Money in the Bank match in 2007, so the cards were laid out for him. He was unfortunately injured and subsequently gave up the briefcase. Earlier in 2007 he challenged Batista for the World Heavyweight Championship and lost twice. WWE clearly liked him and were it not for a hematoma, he probably would have won a world title.
When he returned following the injury, he was a mid-card wrestler, battling for the Intercontinental and U.S titles. He then violated a wellness policy in 2007. Then, allegedly due to complaints about his recklessness in the ring from Randy Orton, Kennedy was fired. It is safe to say his WWE career went somewhat downhill after the hematoma, but he was still a solid talent. His charisma and memorable entrance where Kennedy was his own announcer was also entertaining.
Since his departure from WWE he’s had moderate success. For example, he was TNA World Heavyweight Champion twice (as Mr. Anderson) in 2011. Now 45 and with Orton still in WWE, I doubt Kennedy will ever return.
— WWE Today In History 🌐 (@WWE__History) June 18, 2016
We hope you enjoyed the article ’10 Best WWE Wrestlers to Not Win a World Title in the 21st Century.’ Who do you think should have had a world title reign in WWE? Is there anyone in the company you think still should? Let us know!
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