This Saturday, Dean Ambrose takes on WWE Heavyweight Champion Triple H at WWE Roadblock. Most fans assume this is just a filler match, a minor bump on the road to WrestleMania, but as the company incessantly reminds us, anything can happen in WWE. That’s mostly a marketing slogan, but when it comes to world titles, sometimes it’s very true. History has seen a surprising number of last-second world championship decisions, and a lot of guys have found out they were winning their first world title only shortly before the fans did.
Destiny can come knocking at any time, and as these eight former champions can attest, plans aren’t set in stone until you walk through the curtain…
Note: I’m only covering the WWE Championship, World Heavyweight Championship and WCW Championship in this article. No ECW, pre-WCW NWA or TNA Championship stuff. Also, I’m only looking at wrestlers’ first world title win, because really, that’s the one that matters.
Randy Savage (1988)
The Title Win
In February, at the NBC TV special The Main Event, André the Giant ended Hulk Hogan’s four-year WWF Championship reign thanks to the skulduggery of villainous ref Earl Hebner. André, apparently in need of beer money, would promptly turn the belt over to Ted DiBiase, revealing the whole schmozzle was a Million Dollar Man plot all along. Due to the controversy, the title was HELD IN ABEYANCE and a one-night tournament was held at Wrestlemania IV. The finals would come down to Randy Savage vs. Ted DiBiase, with Savage picking up the victory thanks to Hogan interference.
When Did He Find Out?
The plan going into WrestleMania IV was for Ted DiBiase to win the belt to further his feud with the Hulkster. Shortly before the show, as close as the day before according to some accounts, Pat Patterson pitched a different idea to DiBiase – rather than winning the real belt, DiBiase would lose, then create his own title, the Million Dollar Championship. DiBiase thought this would actually be a better heat-getter, and a gimmick he could ride long-term, so he went for it, and Savage got the surprise news he’d be the new Macho Man on top.