Most Iconic Title Changes in Pro Wrestling History

Discussion in 'The Wrestling Archives' started by IrishCanadian25, Sep 16, 2015.

  1. IrishCanadian25

    IrishCanadian25 Going on 10 years with WrestleZone

    Mar 29, 2007
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    So I popped on the main WZ page to check the news today and found the interview done with Bob Backlund to be especially interesting. This one excerpt was the inspiration for this thread:

    Looking back on it, Billy Graham dropping the WWF Title to Bob Backlund is legendary. It launched one of the longest and most historic World Title reigns in history, and given what a legend Graham was already, it set Backlund up as a success.

    So, in the history of wrestling, what do you feel have been the most iconic Championship Changes ever? Either because the moment was huge, the names were huge, the representation of the passing of the torch, etc.

    A few I'd like to nominate:

    The Ultimate Warrior wins the WWF Title from Hulk Hogan.

    Hogan was pretty much the standard bearer for the entire 6 year history of Wrestlemania at that point, having never lost the title without some degree of major controversy. When Warrior went over Hogan clean, signifying that there was a man who could potentially match Hogan in popularity, the landscape changed.

    Steve Austin wins the WWF Title from Shawn Michaels.

    Truth is, as much as the WWF tried to build up the "Tyson backing DX" storyline and make it seem like there was doubt to who'd be going over, the Main Event of Wrestlemania 14 felt far more like a coronation than a match. The match itself was terrific, no doubt about it, but most fans knew that the WWF was moving to Austin as its biggest star, and the moment was appropriate.

    Goldberg wins the WCW Title from Hollywood Hogan.

    As opposed to the first two I listed, which took place as the main events of Wrestlemania, this occurred on an edition of Monday Nitro, and was as excited as I've ever been as a fan. Goldberg going over Hogan, clean, in Georgia, was electric, and it's the 3rd most excited I've ever seen a crowd get (behind the Foley vs Rock title match on Raw when Austin's music hit and behind when the Bulldog beat Bret Hart at Summerslam in Wembley), so this match has to make the list of all-time iconic title changes.
    tdmoon likes this.
  2. Stone Cold Tea

    Stone Cold Tea Getting Noticed By Management

    Dec 4, 2014
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    There's loads going through my mind but too much to type so i'm going to go with.......

    Edge. When Vince came out and announced Edge was cashing in it was fucking HUGE.
    As you all know it was the first time it was been cashed in and many many people assumed that Edge would just announce beforehand and then bang we had a Main Event set in advance. Instead the way it was done after Cena had just been through a grueling match in the Chamber and when Edge came out and cashed in 3 spears later and The Ultimate Opportunist was born.
    The Brain likes this.
  3. Hollywood Naitch

    Hollywood Naitch The current reigning and defending

    May 27, 2010
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    The first one that jumped to mind was definitely the Austin title win at WrestleMania 14, where he became WWF Champion for the first time. Austin had been red hot for a long time at that point, and it's impressive that WWE held fire on making him Champion, resisting the urge to stick the belt on him and waited for the grandest stage of them all before pulling the trigger on him.

    It was clear that the Stone Cold era had arrived, and you could tell that he was the guy that the machine was going to get behind for the foreseeable future. With the move towards a more edgy product and the start of the "Attitude Era", Austin was the perfect poster boy as HBK's career was thought to be over.
  4. BestSportsEntertainer

    BestSportsEntertainer I Don't Need No User Title

    Jun 29, 2015
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    Mankind on Raw 1/4/99. The loudest pop ever. The final nail in the coffin of WCW. Throw in Austin, Rock, and Vince and this is the best change ever.
  5. klunderbunker

    klunderbunker Welcome to My (And Not Sly's) House

    Jan 8, 2007
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    Wow I can't believe no one has brought this up.

    Hulk Hogan b. Iron Sheik - January 23, 1984.

    This is the moment that introduced the world to modern wrestling. The idea of someone being squashed for the World Title hadn't been seen since Sammartino beat Rogers twenty plus years earlier. Hogan came in and blew the doors off wrestling with pure charisma and completely changed the way we look at the business. Not only was he a different kind of wrestler, but he took Sheik apart in less than seven minutes, broke his finishing hold and dropped the big leg for the pin.

    Hogan had returned less than a month earlier and was now the WWF World Champion. Imagine if say Braun Strowman was challenging Seth Rollins this Sunday and winning the title in a match that quick. That sort of thing hadn't happened and still doesn't happen to this day, but it launched the biggest career in the history of wrestling. How many times have you hear Gorilla say the line "Hulkamania is here."? It's iconic and probably the biggest game changer in wrestling history.
    tdmoon and Hollywood Naitch like this.
  6. Wolf Pac

    Wolf Pac Mid-Card Championship Winner

    Sep 22, 2010
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    The Rock def. Triple H - Backlash 2000

    His first title win was at Survivor Series 1998 but his title win at Backlash was his most iconic. There's a reason why people say this should've happened at Wrestlemania 2000 (and it was originally planned for WM 16), the pop for Austin's return and the moment Rock hits The Peoples Elbow on Triple H and pins him, were huge. It was a Wrestlemania moment done at a B-PPV. I was fine with it happening at Backlash though. Triple H made history, being the first heel to walk out of the Wrestlemania main event the winner and still the champion. It solidified him as a mega heel. And it made The Rock's title chase better and the payoff worth it.
    John McCass likes this.
  7. Stone Cold Tea

    Stone Cold Tea Getting Noticed By Management

    Dec 4, 2014
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    Another one that comes to mind is the 1st time The Rock won the title. Hear me out.

    Leading up to SS98 The Rock was on fire. It was clear to all (from my opinion of watching youtube videos and what i've learnt over the years) that he was something special and the crowd loved to cheer him. As you all know The Rock turned heel and became corporate champion much to the dismay of the fans. For the months up to Mania15 The Rock and Mankind traded the title a few times before The Rock dropped the title to Austin. In these months it was clear that The Rock whilst still been a heel was over with the fans and that left them waiting and waiting to find a reason to cheer him. Finally the night after 'Mania The Rock left the corporation and BOOM he went from been the corporate champion to the man we know today as the peoples champion.
  8. John McCass

    John McCass You talkin' to me?

    Dec 24, 2014
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    This was an iconic moment. I was watching WrestleMania 31 and Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar were beating the tar out of one another. The crowd desperated didn't want Reigns to blow the trumpet of triumph. They were booing the living shit out of Roman Reigns and his every attempt at offense.

    It was set in stone that Lesnar wouldn't walk out of the event as the WWE World Heavyweight champion. The moment was filled with unpredictability. People loved when Lesnar threw punches but they despised Reigns' getting even a little offense in.

    And then something miraculous happened. A familiar music resounded the arena and the spectators were filled with delight. Excitement was at top. I screamed at the top of my voice (while watching it on my TV, can you imagine.)

    This became one of the best title changes because

    • Fans wanted this to happen. People loved every second of it.
    • This was the first ever Money in the Bank cash in at Wrestlemania.
    • The way this match happened. Seth Rollins' insertion into a one-on-one match was iconic.
    • This was unique.
    Hollywood Naitch likes this.
  9. Hard Hit Prince

    Hard Hit Prince Not really working as a

    Jul 14, 2012
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    CM Punk def. John Cena (c) - WWE Championship - Money In The Bank

    I don't think there's a bigger moment in wrestling in the last 15 years. That changed the landscape of WWE and you can feel it now, with most of the independent wrestlers getting a shot to thrive in the WWE. I'm not gonna go out and say that CM Punk is the sole reason for it, but he's probably the biggest proof that the guys in the indy scene had IT. In many ways he changed how the company looked at his wrestlers and to the outside world.

    Also, it was a five-star classic. Probably my favorite match ever. He defeated Cena as clean as you could get. He had an entire city with him. The crowd tells the story. I can listen to the match only and still be in awe. CM Punk may be overrated, but dang, that moment was THAT good.
  10. Trill Co$by

    Trill Co$by Believes in The Shield!

    Nov 10, 2009
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    I'm disappointed in you all... Yesterday was September 17th and not one of you mentioned the one moment that would be the beginning of creating one of the world's greatest World Champions ever... In 1981 a young Ric Flair would win his first of 16 recognized World Championships, and that would only begin the legacy of the dirtiest player in the game. A record so phenomenal that it caused Daily Show's Jon Stewart to intervene and refuse to let Cena tie for the record!
    Jack-Hammer and tdmoon like this.
  11. Soulblazed

    Soulblazed Eccentric Enigma

    Dec 28, 2011
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    Some good mentions so far...

    Here's a few more...

    In 1971 Ivan Koloff cleanly defeated Bruno Sammartino, dethroning Sammartino, the then WWWF Champion for the past 8 years. The crowd was stunned, the ref, fearing a legit riot didn't even give Koloff the WWWF Title, instead Koloff left the ring without the WWWF Title in his hands. People were crying and couldn't believe Sammartino lost the WWWF Title. For newer fans, picture the fans' reactions to the Lesnar vs Taker Wrestlemania 30 ending except that it was on a much bigger scale.

    The full match of Koloff vs Sammartino

    The other match is The Undertaker vs Hulk Hogan "The Gravest Challenge" at the 1991 Survivor Series. This match helped to solidify Taker as the #1 threat in the WWF, despite him only being in the WWF since the 1990 Survivor Series. Also, it helped to establish the Flair/Taker alliance, not to mention testing the fans' reactions to Taker as WWF Champion, especially considering that Hogan wouldn't be around all the time post 1991. I remember being 7 years old watching this match on my TV and being overjoyed when Taker defeated Hogan for the WWF Title with Flair's help. Also, it's interesting to note that while the crowd was split early on for Taker and Hogan, towards the last 5 minutes of the match the crowd sides more with Taker.

    Full match-
  12. Jack-Hammer

    Staff Member Moderator

    Mar 26, 2009
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    Quite a few great ones mentioned.

    For me, one that springs to mind, that hasn't been named yet, was Shawn Michaels defeating Bret Hart at WrestleMania XII in the Ironman Match to win his first WWF Championship; "the boyhood dream" came true.

    Another one is Macho Man Randy Savage winning the vacant WWF Championship at WrestleMania IV. While not a traditional title change, this was one of the very, very few times in WWE history in which a tournament was held in which the tourney itself felt like it truly mattered. I don't think there were any particularly great matches, overall, during the tournament, but this was the first time in the title's, at the time, 25 year history it'd been vacant and Savage winning was one of those big, legendary WrestleMania moments.

    Another one that springs to mind took place on February 20th, 1989 at the Chi-Town Rumble event where Ricky Steamboat won the NWA World Heavyweight Championship from Ric Flair. To me, Steamboat never struck me as a long term main eventer; he didn't have the personality, charisma or promo ability but we all know what a phenom he was inside the ring. This was during the time in which Flair & Steamboat were having that amazing, classic series of matches that are remembered today as some of the best of all time by many. Steamboat won the title and you could tell it was a big moment for him, the locker room emptied, fans were going nuts, etc. Steamboat will never be thought of as one of the all time great champs, he dropped the title back to Flair about 2.5 months later, but that was a highly memorable and iconic title change in my eyes.

    Another one that probably hasn't reached "iconic" level, but one that probably will in years to come, is Daniel Bryan winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania XXX. In terms of straight forward title changes, without MITB cash ins, it's arguably the most memorable one to go down in WWE since CM Punk dethroned Cena at MITB 2011. It was a great WrestleMania moment and it'll probably be considered a classic.
  13. stingray11214

    stingray11214 Cena is no Bruno & Cole is no Solie

    Aug 14, 2014
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    December 9, 2001. The night wrestling got set on its' ear. Chris Jericho wins BOTH the WCW and WWF World straps. It forever changed the game at WWF. VKM loved his muscle-bound behemoths, his larger than life cartoon characters. Here comes a "regular guy" out of nowhere to defeat two of the most iconic men in wrestling at the time: The Rock and Steve Austin. It would give rise to the men who were not the "WWF-Type" to succeed in the company: Guerrero, Benoit, Misterio. Take away this night, and the entire history of pro wrestling would have been much different. You might not have even seen John Cena as champ, as he is really not the behemoth that VKM liked.
    tdmoon likes this.
  14. Checkmate

    Checkmate .you.lose.

    Sep 22, 2008
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    Lots of great ones mentioned already.

    John Cena Wins the WWE Championship (Wrestlemania 21)

    The first of 15 for Cena, back when he wasn't the face of the company yet. He ended JBL's lengthy reign and started one of his own. Then, he went on to main event PPV after PPV until people got sick of him. But, 10 years later, John Cena is still the face of the company, a modern Hogan or Austin figure who will be Hall of Fame bound one day. And, on that note, Batista's win at WM 21 could also be thrown out there as iconic.

    Randy Orton becomes the first WWE World Heavyweight Champion (TLC 2013)

    Okay, it's technically the WWE title with a dissolved big gold belt in there somewhere, but when Orton beat Cena to unify both titles, it marked a moment not seen since Jericho's big night back in 2001. Granted, Orton and Cena were already in double digits of one-on-one encounters, so this match was less about them and more about the title unification itself, but it still stands as an important moment in recent WWE history.
  15. OYDK

    OYDK King Of The Ring

    Feb 19, 2014
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    Chris Benoit beats HHH and Shawn Michaels at Mania 20

    This will never be mentioned on WWE TV again, but it was an iconic moment no doubt. I remember the announcers going crazy over the "18 years" it took Benoit to win that title, and to do it in the main event of Wrestlemania by defeating two of the greatest ever was fitting. Throw in Eddie coming out and that makes this, sadly, one of the greatest Mania moments of all time.

    Ultimate Warrior beats HTM for IC Title at Summerslam 88

    May not be a World title win, but iconic nonetheless. Warrior answering Honkey's open challenge at Summerslam and ending the longest reign of all time in 30 seconds, shot him into the stratosphere. It put him right next to Hogan, which was seen as nearly impossible at this time.

    Ron Simmons becomes first African American World Champion

    Strictly iconic for this reason. Nobody remembers Simmons defeating Vader on this night, but they all know who the first black world champion in history was.
  16. X

    X RIP Sgt. Michael Paranzino / RIP CM

    Feb 6, 2007
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    I'm gonna have to pretty strongly disagree with you on that one IC, as despite what modern WWE revisionism might try to make you believe, Backlund's reign was the furthest thing from a "success". Business IMMEDIATELY went down with him at the helm and it basically ended Vince Sr.'s tenure at the head of the company, as no one agreed with him putting the belt on Backlund and it took his son buying the company and putting the belt on Hogan to really turn things around again business wise. Backlund has always been a company man though so he gets the benefit of the WWE history rewriting machine. Backlund, though a very solid worker, had very little charisma as champion and was a totally unproven commodity when he took the belt, and the fans took note of that and responded by simply not coming out to shows anymore. I've always quite liked Backlund, but his reign was a disaster, not a success.

    There are the really obvious ones--- Austin at WM14, Warrior at WM6, Hogan beating the Sheik at MSG, etc. But I'm gonna go in a different direction and go with Genichiro Tenryu defeating Jumbo Tsuruta for the AJPW Triple Crown. I was initially going to go with Misawa's defeat of Jumbo in 1989 because it's more important long term but I was mistaken in believing he won the title there, as that wouldn't come for a few more years, so this was the next best option for something a bit different. Although in hindsight it may not seem as major because Tenryu's star faded and he didn't become the mega-star everyone thought he would (which was entirely his own fault for leaving All Japan at the height of his popularity and push) it was a definite passing of the torch moment from one of the stalwarts of the 80s to one of the men looked at as the next big thing. Plus, the match itself is phenomenal like all of their series of matches were.

    tdmoon likes this.
  17. Really?

    Really? Pre-Show Stalwart

    Dec 24, 2014
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    There are a few that come to mind:

    - Steamboat beats Savage: One of my favourite all time matches that set the bar for Mania matches.

    - Ultimate Warrior beats HTM: The was before the internet ruined surprises for everyone... I remember popping when I heard his music, and then for it to only last seconds was great.

    - Steamboat beats Flair at Chi Town Rumble: I know that the third match of the trilogy gets a lot of hype with Flair winning the belt back, but I prefer this match as Ricky winning was not expected. Flair was going to get the strap back, we all knew.

    - Tie: Arquette wins WCW title and Russo wins WCW title: Iconic for all the wrong reasons and part of what led to WCW hitting the tank.

    - Michaels beats Hart in the screw job: No title change since Hogan beating Shiek changed the course of wrestling as much as this did.
    tdmoon likes this.

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