By their very definition, World Championships are supposed to represent the very best in a particularly industry. In professional wrestling, a few names are synonymous with World Champion: Ric Flair. Hulk Hogan. John Cena. Bruno Sammartino. Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Others, however, may be very good at what they do, but it's hard to picture them holding a promotion's top championship. Perhaps they weren't perceived at the same level as the biggest stars of the era; perhaps they weren't given the same opportunities. For whatever reason, you don't automatically equate their name with being a World Champion.
In compiling the Top 50 Surprising World Champions, Canadian Bulldog's World looked at the following promotions that, at one time or another, had a legitimate claim to calling their titleholders (mens and where applicable, womens) a World Champion:
AWA (from 1960 to 1990)
ECW (from 1994 to 2001 and again from 2006 to 2001)
IWGP (from 1987 to present)
NWA (from 1948 to 1993, and again from 2002 to 2007)
ROH (from 2002 to present)
TNA/Impact Wrestling (from 2002 to present, including various forms of the top championship)
WCW (from 1991 to 2001)
WWWF/WWF/WWE (from 1963 to present, including various forms of the top championship)
One note: there are several other promotions that have claims to World Championships, including the WWA and variations of the AWA and NWA, that claimed to have a World Championship. Given that most of these competitors pre-date our own knowledge of not only the promotion but the wrestlers themselves, we've chosen to exclude those groups.
49) Harvey Wippleman
Scrawny manager Harvey Wippleman captured his first (and only) World Championship on Raw in early 2000 in a Lumberjill Snowbunny Match. However, it was the WWF Women's Championship, with Wippleman wrestling in drag as Hervina.
Top 50 Surprising World Champions.jpg
WWE Hall of Famer Hulk Hogan was quite often the last person you saw in the show's opening credit and he headlined almost all of the SNME episodes in its first run, so his position here is a no-brainer. Opponents over the years included Bad News Brown, Haku, Terry Funk, The Honky Tonk Man, Ted DiBiase, Big Boss Man, Randy Savage, Andre The Giant, Mr. Perfect, Paul Orndorff and many more.
50) The Kat
Saving one of the strangest for first.... WWF Diva The Kat (a/k/a Jerry Lawler's ex-wife Stacy Carter) captured the WWF Women's Championship by winning a Four Corners Evening Gown Pool match at the Armageddon pay-per-view in 1999. She lost the gold about a month later in an equally strange setting....
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