Known most of his career as Edge’s little buddy, Christian held the WWE Light Heavyweight title briefly in 1998. However, the Instant Classic would bust threw the little guy glass ceiling (kind of like he did with the stage when in the Brood) and into main event status a few times in his career. However, unlike many members of this list, Captain Charisma had to leave WWE to get that top spot recognition.
Christian would leave the crowded WWE Roster for TNA in 2005, where he would go on to defeat Jeff Jarrett for the TNA (then NWA) Heavyweight Title at Against All Odds. After one more title reign, he returned to WWE in 2009 eventually capturing the ECW Title and World Heavyweight Title, both on two separate occasions. His most memorable win coming at Extreme Rules when he would win a ladder match over Alberto Del Rio with an assist from Edge to capture his first WWE Main Event Title.
Big Boy Titles: 2x WWE World Heavyweight Champion, 2x ECW Champion, 2x TNA/NWA Champion.
The late Eddie Guerrero is remembered these days as one of the greatest ring technicians ever. However, before Eddie would lie cheat and steal his way to the top, he was a 2 time WCW Cruiserweight champion. Eddie’s first Cruiserweight Title reign would come in 1997 at Fall Brawl, defeating the final legend on this list.
In early 2000, as many underappreciated talents of the time did, Eddie left WCW for WWE. Eddie wasted no time making a [frog] splash in the WWE debuting with fellow WCW expatriates Perry Saturn, Chris Benoit and cruiserweight legend Dean Malenko as the Radicalz. Eddie would have many memorable mid-card feuds, including debuting his Latino Heat gimmick in pursuit of his Mamacita Chyna, but it would take him until 2004 to make the leap to the top of the card, defeating Brock Lesnar at No Way Out to win his first and only major championship.
Big Boy Titles: 1x WWE Champion, WWE Hall of Fame Inductee
Jeff Hardy is easily the most controversial member of this list. However, in 2001 before he became the Charismatic Enigma, Jeff had short 20 day run as WWE Light Heavyweight Champion.
Unfortunately for Jeff, his reckless personal life has never endeared him to his employers, which hasn’t helped him maintain World Champion status. Yet, due to his wild in-ring style and connection with the fans, Hardy has been able to hover around the top most of his singles career. Jeff first made a name for himself as a singles star in 2002 by taking a pummeling at the hands of the Undertaker in a ladder match and refusing to give up. However, Jeff’s personal demons would catch up to him and he’d be out of WWE a year later.
Hardy would pop up in TNA in 2004 and receive multiple World Title Shots, always coming up short. Eventually Hardy would return to the WWE, finally winning his first world title in 2009 by defeating Triple H and Edge in a triple threat match at Vengeance. Since then Jeff has had a few title runs, most notably in TNA. Sadly, Jeff will most likely always be remembered for embarrassing incidents such as at Victory Road 2011, when he showed up in no shape to perform. The incident would cause TNA to have to offer complete refunds to their Pay Per View audience.
Big Boy Titles: 1x WWE Champion, 2x WWE World Heavyweight Champion, 3x TNA Heavyweight Champion
Billed at 5’6 and under 200lbs, Rey was the least likely member of this list to jump into the main event scene. A popular act in WCW, he was once informed by management that he would never be a main eventer as they didn’t believe a small lucha libre wrestler could be a top draw.
An 8x WCW/WWE Cruiserweight Champion, Ray’s first flight into the World Title scene come in 2006. Rey would enter the Royal Rumble 2nd, then would set a Rumble record by lasting 62 minutes for the victory. Later that year at Wrestmania 22 Rey would win his first major title by defeating Randy Orton and Kurt Angle in a triple threat match. He would go on to win 2 more World Championships.
Big Boy Titles: 1X WWE Champion (briefly), 2x WWE World Heavyweight Champion
Before Chris Jericho was the Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla he was Lion Heart Chris Jericho, a 4 time WCW Cruiserweight champion.
It’s well documented that Chris was unhappy with his placement on the WCW card and left for the greener pastures of the WWE in 1999. Chris instantly made his presence felt and arrived with one of the most memorable debuts in sports entertainment history. Chris’s first taste of a World Title came in April of 2000, upsetting Triple H on an episode of Raw. However, referee Earl Hebner would later reverse that decision, denying Jericho his first World Title. Chris went on to become the first ever undisputed champion by defeating both Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock in the same night at Vengeance 2001. Chris is now recognized as one of the top performers of his generation and is a 6 time world champion.
Big Boy Titles: 1x WWF Champion, 2X WCW Champion (after merger), 3x WWE World Heavyweight Champion
Note: I understand that the Intercontinental Title and US Title are both heavyweight championships. However, both are considered mid-card titles and this list is highlighting those who made it to the top of the industry.
About The Author:
Chris Luther is a NYC based comedian and non-profit fundraiser. Read some of his previous articles like Wrestlers Who Are Probably Smarter Than You: Raven or 7 Oblivious People Slowly Driving Us All Insane or follow him on Twitter @chriscantlose.