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Steve Cook’s Top 5: Most Unlikely WWE Champions

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Jinder Mahal WWE Championship

How many of us expected Kofi Kingston to win the WWE Championship this year? Cook takes a look at other unlikely WWE Champions.

If you say “me”, you’re lying. Kofi’s always been a well-liked Superstar, but he was never pushed at the level of a top champion. Heck, he was only in the Elimination Chamber match because Mustafa Ali got hurt. The WWE Universe got behind him, and all of a sudden he was beating Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania.

It’s one of the most unlikely WWE Championship ascensions I can remember. Here are five even more unlikely ones.

5. Sheamus

The Celtic Warrior was certainly an imposing fella when he made his debut on the ECW brand. Not too long afterward he moved over to the Raw brand and scored some dominant victories over Jamie Noble, forcing the poor man into retirement. He was building a little momentum, and all of a sudden he found himself in a “break-through battle royal” for Superstars that had never won the WWE Championship & Randy Orton. Sheamus won the battle royal, got a tables match with John Cena at TLC, and won his first WWE Championship 166 days after his debut on the main roster.

Sheamus was the anti-Kofi, in that he didn’t have to wait terribly long for his moment on top. It happened so soon that nobody was really expecting it. Sheamus has certainly had his ups & downs since, but I think most would agree that he’s proven to be a worthy championship-level competitor. He didn’t end up being an embarrassment to the championship.


 

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4. John Bradshaw Layfield

Bradshaw had been solidly in the middle of WWE cards for nearly a decade prior to his push to the top of SmackDown & the WWE Championship. He was a solid enough wrestler & occasionally he’d stiff the heck out of people to our amusement. After years of being the cigar-smoking beer-drinking redneck that hung out with Faarooq & got paid by other Superstars to protect them from their rivals, Bradshaw broke up with his tag partner and embraced the right-wing stock market expert side of his personality. This led to a feud with WWE Champion Eddie Guerrero & eventually winning the championship.

I don’t remember anybody calling for a Bradshaw world championship push, or a heck of a lot of people being happy with it when it did go down. Hindsight has led to many praising the JBL title run as a good piece of business, but it didn’t do a heck of a lot of business when it actually happened. The JBL title run was one of those title runs that enforced the idea that the Raw champion mattered more than the SmackDown champion.

WrestleMania VII Sgt Slaughter Hulk Hogan

3. Sgt. Slaughter

Slaughter had been a wildly popular face for most of the 1980s & was one of the men most identified with ‘MERICA before ‘MERICA was something people said. Slaughter was more used as a secondary babyface to wave the flag & feud with foreign heels while Hulk Hogan carried the strap & ran things on top of the card. Sarge was a good hand, and had the WWF Championship changed hands more often in the mid-80s, he probably would have been in contention for the spot.

When it finally did happen for him in 1991, it was the result of a series of shocking developments. Slaughter had been gone from the WWF for several years due to a disagreement over who should get Sarge’s GI JOE money. Sarge said he should, the WWF said they should. By the time that dried up, the news was all about Iraq & the idea was hatched that Slaughter could turn his back on his country & become an Iraqi sympathizer. This led to a title run from the Royal Rumble to WrestleMania, during which Operation Desert Storm came & went. The WWF’s crass attempt to capitalize off a war didn’t have the box office results they were hoping for, and Slaughter was asking for his old country back sooner rather than later.

2. Bob Backlund (1994)

Much like Slaughter, Backlund took a lengthy leave of absence from the WWF in the second half of the 1980s. By the time he came back in 1992, much of the viewing audience had no memory of him as WWF Champion. I was born four months after Hulk Hogan beat the Iron Sheik, and there weren’t a bevy of video tapes at Blockbuster with Backlund matches on them.

It was innocent enough at first. Backlund was a mid-card babyface that played by the rules. He served as a throwback to a different era. After losing a somewhat random title opportunity against Bret Hart on Superstars, Backlund snapped. He put the crossface chicken wing on countless unsuspecting fools before beating Bret for the championship at Survivor Series. Though he would point out that he had never been beaten for the championship, and was merely regaining the belt. As much as we all love Mr. Backlund to this day, his three-day reign in 1994 is still one of the more unlikely championship title runs in history.


 

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Vince McMahon Laughing

Honorable Mention: Vince McMahon

WCW wasn’t the only company that put their championship on a non-wrestler. Granted, Vince probably could have taken Vince Russo & David Arquette in a handicap match, but his title reign was one of the more unlikely and certainly the most pointless in WWE Championship history. The dude beat Triple H with his son officiating & Stone Cold Steve Austin helping out because reasons, then vacated the title a week later. Triple H won it back in a six-pack match at the next PPV.

Why doesn’t Vince make the list? Because it’s his company, and which wrestling company owner hasn’t won their main championship at one point or another?

1. Jinder Mahal

The Modern Day Maharaja definitely looked the part. He had the size of a WWE Champion. Jinder had the demeanor of a top heel champion. He carried himself with dignity & from all accounts was easy to do business with. Making him WWE Champion was a justifiable attempt to appeal to 1.3 billion people in India.

There were only a few problems. Jinder had been treated like a joke for the majority of his WWE stint. His win-loss record made the 2018-19 Lakers look like a juggernaut. It wasn’t like there was a catalogue of classic Mahal matches. There weren’t countless wrestling fans demanding that Jinder be pushed to the top of the card. Jinder just randomly got a push after moving to SmackDown in the SuperStar Shakeup, then he randomly beat Randy Orton to win the championship with no real build.

Had Jinder been properly built up in the months prior & fans been conditioned to think he was a legitimate contender, it could have worked. Instead it was an unlikely experiment that resulted the way most people expected.


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Steve Cook: 10 Commandments For Wrestling Fans

Be a good fan.

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Wrestling Fans

It’s an amazing time to be a fan, but that great power brings great responsibility. Steve Cook steps in with an all-too-important list of commandments for wrestling fans!

We live in a crazy time. I feel like it’s getting crazier the further we move along. I’m not sure what I can do otherwise than try to set behavioral standards for wrestling fans attending events right now. I would prefer not to do such a thing, but wrestling fans are not giving me a choice with their antics recently. If they acted like rational people I could remain silent, but instead they choose to act like assholes and force my hand. I wish they wouldn’t, but I have no choice but to strike them down.

I have 10 Wrestling Commandments for Wrestling Fans, and they need to accept them.

10. Thou shalt apply deodorant

This is the biggest common courtesy you can do for your fellow wrestling fans. Let’s be honest, a lot of us are going to be sweating buckets during a show. The experience is never going to be lemony fresh. Deodorant does make a difference. It’s one layer to suppress the stink, and maybe it ends up losing the battle, but it puts up a good fight.

9. Thou shalt not consume more than you can handle

Knowing your limit & staying under that limit suppresses a lot of situations. I’m one of those guys that can consume way too much and not do anything too crazy most of the time, but not everybody has my constitution. Which is great for them, as they don’t have to worry about dying of liver failure before they hit 50.

8. Thou shalt not hold up signs blocking fans’ view

I can only name one time I could approve of such a thing. I attended the 2012 Royal Rumble in St. Louis. A fan right in front of me had a sign. I was outraged at first, but then I realized the sign said “I Paid To See Daniel Bryan”. Then I shook the man’s hand and gave him my approval as a fellow Daniel Bryan fan. As it turned out, Bryan worked the opening match, so I didn’t have to deal with it most of the night.

7. Thou shalt not compare African-American Wrestlers to other African-Americans

The worst fan experience I can remember being a part of was an ROH show in Dayton, Ohio with Jay Lethal in the main event. I don’t know why that was the time they felt the need to compare Lethal to Gary Coleman or Webster or other famous African-Americans they could think of, but it was a humiliating experience as a wrestling fan without racist tendencies, and I understood why ROH would be hesitant to bring Japanese talent to the Montgomery County Fairgrounds. Just so so bad.

6. Thou shalt spend freely at the merchandise table

The merch table is where the wrestlers make most of their money on most of the shows you will attend. If you really want to show your appreciation for a wrestler, this is where you will spend your money.

5. Thou shalt not use profanity

This is one I’ve been guilty of far too frequently. I grew up watching Tony Soprano & Al Swearengen, so profanity is undeniably part of my vocabulary. Especially at sporting events with quality opposition & questionable officiating. It’s not an admirable trait though, especially when pro wrestling is most enjoyed as a child. Try to keep it clean if a child is within eyesight. They’ll learn these words eventually, but you don’t want it to be from you.


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4. Thou shalt not use “insider terms”

The problem I have is with people who use insider terms wrongly. Also, with people that use them to heckle the wrestlers. I hate people that try to act like they know things when they really don’t. I’ve been writing these columns for years and have read more than most people on the Internet, but I still wouldn’t use insider terms to heckle wrestlers. If I wouldn’t go there, you shouldn’t.

3. Thou shalt cheer for whomever you please

This is a debatable one. One popular school of thought, especially among wrestlers, is that fans should cheer the faces & boo the heels no matter what. It’s said to reflect poorly on a heel if he gets cheered, therefore if a fan truly appreciates the bad guy wrestler they should boo anyway.

I reject all of this nonsense. If you like a wrestler, cheer them. I don’t want to train fans to lie, so I won’t. I mean…can somebody really boo Chris Jericho in 2019? He’s an evil man, but I would cheer if he walked out in an arena I happened to be in. I couldn’t help myself. The man is a wrestling legend. If Jericho, or Flair, or somebody on their wavelength came out, I would cheer regardless of whatever a wrestling promoter told me to do.

2. Thou shalt not touch the wrestler, unless thou art high-fiving a fan favorite

This seems like common logic, but it’s been ignored far too often lately. Scarlett Bordeaux had the temerity, the unmitigated gall to work a show in Cancun over the weekend, and some overeager ringsider wanted to get all touch-feely.

What the hell? In what universe is that kind of behavior acceptable? I don’t give a damn about Scarlett’s persona or her ring attire or whatever. What makes fans think they have the right to cop a feel on anybody? Money? I know we elect people to public office based off of money, and we don’t care if our presidents grope females, but we hold wrestling ringsiders to higher standards than our Presidents apparently.

We should hold our Presidents to higher standards, but this isn’t a 10 Commandments for Presidents column. If somebody higher on the foodchain wants me to write that column, I will with pleasure.

1. Thou shalt remain on your side of the barrier

This seems like the easiest commandment to live by. As fans, we should all know our place is in the audience. We’re not getting paid to be part of the show. Yet, some dumbass marks think they are part of the show and need to participate. Very recently, there was the asshole that got owned by an angry Samoan.

I wish I had an angry Samoan at hand to deal with people that annoyed me. I don’t, but most wrestling shows do. My feeling is that once you cross the barrier, you are subject to whatever punishment the people employed by the company feel is acceptable. If it’s getting your ass kicked by an angry Samoan, it is what it is. You are entering into their workplace. Their workplace often involves violence. It isn’t their fault if you don’t know how to work.


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Tiffany’s Takes: WWE Raw (6/17/19)

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WWE RAW The IIconics

Tiffany’s Takes kicks off the week with look at WWE Raw that featured Seth Rollins vs. Daniel Bryan and The New Day in a 2-Out-Of-3-Falls Match!

It’s the go-home show for Stomping Grounds! How will WWE Raw make a case for fans to tune in?

Universal Championship: Seth Rollins might a babyface, but that doesn’t mean he’s afraid to get nasty. I LOVED this nasty side of the BeastSlayer and the warning about what will happen to anyone who sides with Corbin over him. THIS is a Universal Champion I can definitely get behind.

I love it when a face makes good on a threat. I lost count on how many prospective refs Seth destroyed, but he definitely got his point across to Corbin and his cronies: Do NOT piss off Seth Rollins.

I enjoyed the six man tag, though an actual, conscious ref was not as fun as EC3 playing Bernie from Weekend at Bernie’s (look it up on Wikipedia if you have no idea what I’m talking about). I had a rant all done about how dumb it was to have Rowan interfere and ruin Rollins vs Bryan, but it wasn’t needed. That was a great match, can we have more of those, please?

United States Championship:  If Elias wasn’t such a slimeball and mediocre singer, I’d almost feel bad for him after he got beat up by every person involved in the Fatal Five Way #1 Contender’s Match for the United States Championship, including two guys he used to be allied with.

The match was actually better than I’d expected, though I did somewhat appreciate the story building of Lashley helping to get Strowman eliminated as payback for Strowman eliminating him. My one big gripe is that this match didn’t go for very long, but I am THRILLED that Ricochet won and will get a shot on Sunday!

RAW Women’s Division: Have I ever mentioned that I’m over this Becky Lynch/Lacey Evans feud? I have? Good, because I wasn’t sure I’ve mentioned how boring I’m finding Becky’s ongoing problems with Emmie Slattery (Evans). I did appreciate them bringing up that Evans is a former Marine because I hate that they’ve taken someone who is a legit badass and can be such a great example for girls and turned her into a pinup who espouses sexist nonsense that has no place in modern America. HOPEFULLY, Scarlett (Lynch) will finally triumph over Emmie and move on to someone else.

Thank you, God, they made the IIconics look like competent champs! Their title run has been build on them looking stupid and it’s hurt them so badly. Even with a tainted win, it was a win over serious opponents, which they needed. Again, I loved edgy Bayley, but I hate that she’s playing into Alexa’s plan to steal the title. Hopefully, someone gets to Nikki and makes her see sense before something really goes wrong.

Raw Tag Team Division: After an absence of several weeks, Viking Raiders finally returned to RAW for some pillaging, and had to deal with the Greenjerks watching their match, for some reason, and that was about the most interesting thing about that match, since I don’t think we got the names of the poor guys they squashed.

I liked the Revival proving that there is no honor among thieves when they stole money from Drew McIntyre. I appreciated WWE trying to enhance McIntyre’s heel creds by having him attack Heath Slater, but it just felt forced.

I know Good Brothers are leaving in the fall, but I LOVED the reunion between them and Styles. Oh, what could’ve been if Vince had pulled his head out of his ass. That said, it looks like Styles’ words got to them so this last run might be pretty good. I did enjoy the tag match between them and the Usos, but it wasn’t long enough for me, plus Good Brothers looked ridiculous.

24/7 Championship: I’ll give Truth and Carmella their dues for trying to be clever with those disguises. They would’ve gotten away with it if not for the camera crew.

Roman Reigns vs Shane McMahon: If Shane and Drew haven’t gotten the message about pissing off Roman Reigns, I’m pretty sure they learned it tonight after Roman beat the hell out of Shane, to everyone’s delight, including mine.

Firefly Fun House: NOPE. Just…NOPE! He still gets points for the literature nod, but that’s it. I draw the line at maggots, but at least the rabbit was okay. Also: The world is ROUND, you inbred!

Overall Comments: So, how was RAW tonight? That was actually the best go-home show they’ve had in awhile. Every story got built and we got some great matches. Whoever was booking tonight should get a raise.

There’s been some discussion about Seth’s conduct, but it makes sense when you realize that he’s on his own. Ambrose is gone and Roman is dealing with his own issues. Seth’s got no one to watch his back and Lesnar is lurking around, so he’s getting paranoid and sick of everyone’s BS.

I’m ready for Alexa to get her ass kicked on Sunday and I hope Nikki Cross comes to her senses soon. I’m thrilled that the IIconics are finally being treated like legit performers and not just jokes.

Rollins vs Bryan didn’t disappoint, but the fact that we still don’t have a guest ref is cause for concern.

That’s it for Tiffany’s Takes! Tune in tomorrow for SmackDown and 205!


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