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The 10 greatest NWA/WCW Television Champions
On Nov. 29, 1999, Scott Hall unceremoniously threw the WCW Television Championship in the trash. The nWo founding member’s blatant disregard for one of WCW’s most historic and distinguished titles was shocking and particularly insulting to the rich legacy of the championship that was created in Mid-Atlantic Wrestling in 1974 and was held by Ric Flair, Sting and many more of sports-entertainment’s most legendary competitors.
After looking through the storied history of the NWA/WCW TV Championship, WWEClassics.com ranked the 10 greatest competitors to hold the title. Each entry was chosen based on their impact as champion, combined title reigns and the prestige the competitors brought to the championship.
Check out our rankings and tell us how we did in the comments section below and on Facebook.com/WWEClassics.
The Great Muta
Although The Great Muta was only a one-time WCW Television Champion, his impact and legacy made the Japanese legend a memorable TV Title holder. First appearing in NWA/WCW in 1989, Muta battled the likes of Ric Flair and Lex Luger, but these rivalries paled in comparison to the one Muta shared with Sting. In September 1989, the innovator of the Shining Wizard defeated WCW’s face-painted franchise at a Live Event in Atlanta to capture the Television Championship.
The Great Muta’s victory solidified his reputation in the United States as he successfully defended the title against tough opponents like Dick Murdoch and Eddie Gilbert during his 121 days as champion. Sting tried to reclaim the title from the competitor from The Land of the Rising Sun on multiple occasions, but ultimately failed. In the end, it was the muscle of The Four Horsemen, Arn Anderson, who brought an end to Muta’s sole TV Title reign.
Rick Steiner was one-half of legendary sports-entertainment duo The Steiner Brothers. As seven-time WCW Tag Team Champions and two-time WWE World Tag Team Champions, Rick and Scott left an unquestionable impact as a team. But Rick Steiner also enjoyed a great deal of success as a singles competitor. As a three-time Television Champion, The Dog-Faced Gremlin’s first title victory may be the most memorable in the championship’s history.
As a member of The Varsity Club, Rick Steiner was often mocked and ridiculed by stable mates Mike Rotunda and Kevin Sullivan. Fed up with his treatment, Steiner left the faction and challenged Rotunda for the Television Championship at Starrcade 1988. Few believed The Dog-Faced Gremlin had a chance against the smug Rotunda, but he overcame the odds and beat his arch nemesis in front of more than 10,000 fans in Norfolk, Va. The reaction Steiner received when the official counted three remains one of the loudest ovations in sports-entertainment history.
The Television Championship has long been regarded as a title that launched careers and proved a competitor’s credibility. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that the first championship won by two-time WWE Hall of Famer and 16-time World Champion Ric Flair was the TV Title. Not yet “The Nature Boy” he would one day become, a young Flair defeated Paul Jones for the TV Title in 1975.
After surviving a near-fatal plane crash that same year, Flair’s future in sports-entertainment was questionable. Miraculously, he persevered, returning to the ring in 1976 before beating Rufus R. Jones to win the TV Championship for a second time in April 1977. Flair lost the title to longtime rival Ricky Steamboat after 72 days, but he went on to become one of the greatest competitors ever to set foot inside the squared circle.
By 1985, Dusty Rhodes was a three-time NWA Champion and one of the most popular competitors in the world. But during his renowned rivalry with The Four Horsemen in the mid-1980s, The American Dream brought a heightened relevance and prestige to the Television Title through a series of rough brawls with Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson over the championship.
Rhodes defeated Blanchard twice for the title, with his first victory ending the Horseman’s record 353-day reign as champion. Rhodes’ second run as champion finished prematurely due to injury, resulting in the title being vacated. Although Arn Anderson won a tournament for the title and reigned for 248 days, it was The American Dream who defeated The Enforcer to reclaim his prize.
The WWE Hall of Famer’s final TV Title reign ended at the hands of Tully Blanchard at Starrcade 1986, but the status of the championship carried on thanks to the blood, sweat and tears that Rhodes left on the mat in pursuit of the title.
Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat
WWE Hall of Famer Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat held a number of prestigious championships throughout his legendary career, including the NWA World Title and the Intercontinental Championship. But before he captured those vaunted titles, Steamboat played a crucial role in bringing prestige and honor to the Television Championship.
In 1977, The Dragon won the NWA Mid-Atlantic NWA Television Championship — the precursor to the WCW TV Title. The victory helped the young Steamboat make a name for himself in sports-entertainment, especially since the Superstar he defeated was rising star Ric Flair. Steamboat beat Paul Jones to capture the title a second time in 1978 before it was vacated in 1980.
When The Dragon returned to WCW in the ’90s, the WWE Hall of Famer won the Television Title two more times following legendary battles with “Stunning” Steve Austin and Paul Orndorff.
As a founding member of The Four Horsemen, WWE Hall of Famer Tully Blanchard was synonymous with “toughness” in sports-entertainment. Acclaimed for his tag team with Arn Anderson, Blanchard was also a formidable singles competitor, which was made clear during his record-setting 353 days as Television Champion.
Blanchard first defeated Mark Youngblood for the title in March 1984 and held it for nearly a year before losing it to Dusty Rhodes. The legendary WWE Hall of Famers traded the championship three times between 1985 and ’86 during a personal rivalry that symbolized the deep animosity between The Four Horsemen and The American Dream. Blanchard defeated The American Dream at Starrcade 1986 to end their rivalry over the title and went on to hold the championship for an impressive 263 days. Still, Blanchard’s initial 353-day run remains the standard bearer.
Lord Steven Regal
Given the long line of workhorses who carried it, the WCW Television Title was often representative of the toughest competitors in the Atlanta-based organization. And few WCW TV Champions were tougher than Lord Steven Regal.
Regal captured the Television Title on four occasions, with all of his reigns combining for a total of 557 days as champion. The British brawler’s title victories didn’t come easily either as he wrestled the championship away from Ricky Steamboat, Lex Luger, Larry Zbyszko and Ultimo Dragon. Beating four legendary competitors, the dangerous Regal proved that he could hold his own against any Superstar in any mat style.
Between 1993 and 1997, Booker T and his brother, Stevie Ray, captured the WCW Tag Team Championships 10 times as Harlem Heat. An injury to Stevie Ray in late ’97, though, prompted Booker T to chase the Television Championship as a singles competitor.
Making history at the first African-American to win the title, Booker T bested Disco Inferno to capture the prize in December 1997 and went on to hold the championship on a record six occasions. Helping to maintain the competitive nature and importance of the title during a time when The New World Order dominated WCW’s airwaves, Booker battled feared competitors like Scott Steiner and Fit Finlay for control of the championship. The Television Title was crucial to Booker T’s evolution as a singles competitor, becoming a five-time WCW World Champion and a one-time WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
"Stunning" Steve Austin
Before “Stone Cold” opened a can of whoop a** and became arguably the most popular WWE Superstar in sports-entertainment history, he competed as “Stunning” Steve Austin in WCW. During his tenure in the Atlanta-based organization, The Texas Rattlesnake began to solidify his reputation in legendary confrontations against Barry Windham and Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat over the WCW Television Title.
First defeating Bobby Eaton for the championship in June 1991, Austin won the title two times for a combined 431 days as champion, proving he was one of the toughest members of Paul E. Dangerously’s Dangerous Alliance. When the WWE Hall of Famer lost the championship the first time in a 2-out-of-3 Falls Match to Barry Windham, he regained it in less than a month and dominated all challengers for the majority of 1992. Eventually, The Texas Rattlesnake moved on to greater prizes like the WWE Championship.
No competitor was more closely associated with the Television Title than Arn Anderson. A four-time holder of the championship, Anderson defended the title for more than 100 days every time he carried it. Given the TV time-limits often enforced during battles for the title, defeating the founding member of The Four Horsemen was no easy task.
Regarded as one of the toughest competitors of all time, the Horseman brought a great deal of prestige to the Television Championship as he stopped dangerous competitors like The Great Muta and Buzz Sawyer during his multiple reigns. Veterans and newcomers alike challenged “The Enforcer” for the championship, but most ended up in a chiropractor’s waiting room after feeling Double A’s spinebuster.