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What does it feel like to win the WWE Title? Five former WWE Champions share their stories
What does it feel like to win the WWE Title? Former WWE Champions Mick Foley, The Miz, Kane, JBL and Sheamus share their stories from the nights they made sports-entertainment history.
We’ve all fantasized about it. Standing there on the edge of the bed, the leather belt from your dad’s best slacks hoisted high above your head, an audience of action figures screaming in tribute like a capacity Madison Square Garden crowd.
You’re not a true member of the WWE Universe if you haven’t dreamed about winning the WWE Title. But only 43 men have actually experienced the elusive thrill of capturing sports-entertainment’s most respected prize. To put it in perspective, more men have climbed Mt. Everest, been to outer space and won the Oscar for Best Actor than have captured the WWE Title.
In an effort to live vicariously through those select Superstars, WWEClassics.com spoke with former WWE Champions Kane, The Miz, JBL, Sheamus and Mick Foley to find out what it feels like to reach the mountaintop.
WWECLASSICS.COM: How well do you remember the night you became WWE Champion?
THE MIZ: Cemented in my mind for the rest of my life. Nov. 22, 2010. Cashed in against Randy Orton. I’ll never forget the faces on all the kids. I’ve never seen any reaction like that for a WWE Championship Match. It was, “I cannot believe that just happened.” That’s the best reaction you can possibly have.
WWECLASSICS.COM: What were you thinking while you were standing in the ring with the title in your hands?
THE MIZ: I had 50 different emotions. The first emotion was, “I can’t believe I just did it! Oh my God!” The second emotion is you realize you just won a title that you dreamed about when you were a little kid when you were imagining you were Ultimate Warrior and Shawn Michaels and you ran around and annoyed your mom. Then you start to get choked up. You’re like, “Oh my God, I’m about to cry.” Then you realize millions of people are watching at home and you overdo it so people don’t realize you’re choked up. You go through so many emotions. It’s like an out-of-body experience.
WWECLASSICS.COM: How did you celebrate that night?
THE MIZ: I went to Denny’s.
THE MIZ: That was the only thing open at the time we got out of that arena. So Maryse, my fiancée, and I went to Denny’s and I had a sweet and sour chicken skillet. It was a wonderful meal. The meal of champions.
WWECLASSICS.COM: Did you do anything dorky with your title that you’re willing to admit? Any embarrassing Christmas cards?
THE MIZ: Anything dorky? I didn’t put it in the refrigerator or anything.
WWECLASSICS.COM: Fair enough. Does winning the WWE Title make you part of a fraternity? Is there a secret handshake that only former WWE Champions know?
THE MIZ: No. WWE in general is one big fraternity and I’m still trying to get in it.
WWECLASSICS.COM: There are plenty of memorable WWE Championship Matches, but your Jan. 4, 1999, WWE Title win seems to be the most memorable. Do you think any other championship victory compares?
MICK FOLEY: Well, thank you, but I was in the crowd when The Iron Sheik beat Bob Backlund and that signaled the end of the era. The next month, I watched on the Madison Square Garden Network when Hulk Hogan beat The Sheik and that ushered in a new era. If someone wants to say [my WWE Title win] was one of the top 10 most important I’ll take it, but in no way am I saying it was the most important one.
WWECLASSICS.COM: Did the fact that you won the title on a taped show have any negative effect on your achievement?
FOLEY: I was just talking to a WWE Superstar who I can visualize as a future World Champion, telling them that in no way did the circumstances surrounding my title wins reduce them in any way.
WWECLASSICS.COM: Part of what made your title win so special was that it wasn’t supposed to happen. You never thought you’d be WWE Champion, right?
FOLEY: I never made winning the WWE Championship my goal. A.) I really didn’t think I’d ever get into WWE. Going back to the early ’90s, I just accepted I was not a WWE type of guy. B.) When I got here, I thought being WWE Champion wasn’t in the cards and I was fine with that. I based the success of my career around having great matches and giving fans their money’s worth. That was until I actually won the title, at which point it became the greatest thing in the world.
WWECLASSICS.COM: Your post-match celebration has become a highlight in its own right. What part of that moment sticks out to you now?
FOLEY: I did an impromptu two laps around the ring at a faster speed than I thought I was capable of. And I got hoisted onto the shoulders of D-Generation X and I couldn’t help but notice that Billy Gunn looked like he was thinking that should’ve been him. It was a great way to win the title and celebrate.
WWECLASSICS.COM: And, of course, there were no limousines or champagne bashes after the show.
FOLEY: Never, no. We had to drive through a blizzard to Boston, which should have been a little more than an hour drive that turned into a three-hour drive. I fully intended to order a nice meal and stay in a much nicer room than I ordinarily would have. Instead, I saw The Blue Meanie in the lobby, because there was no more availability at the inn. So I let him stay in my room. I celebrated my championship win by listening to the farts and loud snoring of Blue Meanie.
WWECLASSICS.COM: That’s one hell of a party. Where is the championship you won that night now?
FOLEY: I wanted to have it framed and put on the wall. But I won the championship from The Rock who won it from “Stone Cold” who had celebrated with a post-match beer bash for six months. So the title smelled like beer and mildew. It stunk up a closet for a couple of years, and then I ended up auctioning it to help a wrestler pay their medical bills. Even though I hadn’t displayed it, I loved that title. Someone in Japan has it on their wall now and it helped one of the guys.
WWECLASSICS.COM: You beat Eddie Guerrero to win the WWE Championship at The Great American Bash in June 2004. What do you remember about that night?
JBL: I remember the oceans started receding, the sky parted and there was a feeling of peace around the world. It was like the Cretaceous Period ending or something. The earth became vital again. I don’t want to overstate this, but it was probably one of the greatest dates in world history.
WWECLASSICS.COM: Did you always know that you would one day be WWE Champion?
JBL: There was no doubt that I’d be WWE Champion — everybody knew it. I mean it was really just a matter of destiny. When I was a kid, people said, “That’s the future WWE Champion.” Even in Sweetwater, Texas, where we didn’t get WWE, people knew I would be WWE Champion.
WWECLASSICS.COM: How did you celebrate your victory?
JBL: I went around and shook hands with all the people, because I had such a loyal fanbase of people who loved JBL. Then I took my wife out to a nice dinner and bought the tab for the restaurant. Then I actually bought the restaurant — still own it by the way.
WWECLASSICS.COM: Does any other achievement in sports-entertainment compare to winning the WWE Title?
JBL: No. I would say that’s bigger than Bob Beamon’s jump in the ’68 Olympics in Mexico City. That, to me, was bigger than Hank Aaron breaking Babe Ruth’s record. That was the biggest event in sports ever.
WWECLASSICS.COM: What do you remember about the night you beat John Cena for the WWE Title at WWE Tables, Ladders & Chairs in December 2009?
SHEAMUS: I remember that it was a very stressful night. There were a lot of nerves showing. I literally had only been on one pay-per-view in my entire career and that was the Survivor Series before that. So not only was it my first pay-per-view appearance in a singles match, but it was also a Tables Match, which I’d never been in before, for the WWE Championship. I went from the realms of ECW to a WWE Championship Match at a major pay-per-view in a matter of a couple of months.
WWECLASSICS.COM: How did the guys in the locker room feel about a young Superstar getting a WWE Title Match so quickly?
SHEAMUS: I knew a lot of people were expecting me to fall on my face, because a lot of people were upset that I had an opportunity at the WWE Championship. A lot of the Superstars were here from anywhere from five to 10 years and never had that opportunity before. I knew that a lot of people were expecting me to fail.
WWECLASSICS.COM: Did you always know you’d win the WWE Title one day?
SHEAMUS: You never know what’s going to happen in your career, but I was pretty confident in my own ability. I knew I didn’t look like everybody else, I knew I brought a very aggressive style that nobody else had and I didn’t doubt myself in any way. I’d come this far with WWE and I knew that once I got my opportunity, I’d take it. My opportunity just came a lot quicker than most people.
WWECLASSICS.COM: How did you celebrate your WWE Title victory?
SHEAMUS: My mate Drew McIntyre won the Intercontinental Championship, so we went out and had a few drinks, but not too much, because Raw was the next night. We knew that the next day was the start of a serious road ahead.
WWECLASSICS.COM: Did beating John Cena change your life?
SHEAMUS: It changed, because I achieved something that I wanted my entire life. Now my name was cemented in the history books with Legends like Bruno Sammartino, Bob Backlund, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Triple H and The Undertaker after only a couple of months. It was absolutely incredible. But I wasn’t getting too carried away, because I knew people thought I’d be a flash in the pan. I knew I’d have to work even harder now, because I didn’t want to be exactly that.
WWECLASSICS.COM: You defeated “Stone Cold” Steve Austin to win the WWE Championship in a First Blood Match at King of the Ring 1998. What do you remember about winning the title in such a unique bout?
KANE: What was unique about it wasn’t the stipulation — it was who the match was against. It was against Austin when he was on his ascension to becoming, perhaps, the top Superstar ever. To beat him at that particular time, that’s the thing that I really remember and what made it most special for me.
WWECLASSICS.COM: Did you celebrate in any special way after you won the title?
KANE: No, not really, because we had to go do TV the next day. I laid it out on my bed and looked at it before I went to bed and that was about it.
WWECLASSICS.COM: You lost the title to Austin the next night on Raw. Do you regret having such a short reign?
KANE: I certainly would’ve liked to have it for longer. Since then, I had a longer reign as World Heavyweight Champion, but just to be able to win [the WWE Title] was amazing. People say, “You only won it for a day!” Yeah, but so did Andre the Giant.
WWECLASSICS.COM: Is there any bigger accomplishment in WWE than winning the WWE Title?
KANE: That’s the mountaintop. If you look at the lineage and pedigree behind the World Heavyweight Championship, it’s very important as well. The WWE Championship means the most to everybody, but the World Heavyweight Title is nothing to sneeze at either.