5 WWE World Heavyweight Champions who lost the title without being pinned
Seth Rollins was the WWE World Heavyweight Champion, but thanks to a knee injury, his mighty reign has come to an end. That's a bitter end for a fighting champion, but it’s not the first time a titleholder has been knocked off the mountain without technically being beaten. In fact, there’s precedent for WWE World Heavyweight Champions losing their titles in Triple Threats, Fatal 4-Ways and other unique matches without being the one to suffer the defeat themselves. Rollins should be very familiar with the first example …
… Because that’s how Rollins got his title in the first place. The Beast Incarnate had been defending his WWE World Heavyweight Championship against Roman Reigns in authoritative fashion at WrestleMania 31. A late-game Reigns comeback left The Anomaly bloodied and dazed, though The Big Dog himself was worse for wear as well. Enter Rollins, who invaded Suplex City with Money in the Bank Contract in hand, turning the match into an on-the-spot Triple Threat and ultimately pinning Reigns, the challenger, to wrest the title away from Brock, the champion. Incidentally, this was not the first WrestleMania where this happened …
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… Because the same thing happened the previous year. Randy Orton had been slated to defend his WWE World Heavyweight Championship against Batista in reluctant fashion at WrestleMania 30, until a late-game push by the WWE Universe threw Daniel Bryan into the mix as the third competitor in the match. The Beard, who had to get through Triple H in the night’s opening contest to earn his spot in the match at all, battled from underneath the whole bout as The Viper and The Animal — and the rest of The Authority — conspired to put him away in schemes of varying severity. Bryan raged back to win it all, though, pouncing on a previously RKO’d Batista to apply the “Yes!” Lock for his historic, tapout victory.
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If there’s anything that overshadowed that lovely moment, it was The Undertaker’s defeat at the hands of Brock Lesnar, which wasn’t the first time The Phenom suffered a lopsided loss. Take, for example …
… This one. Before there was Payback, there was Vengeance, one of WWE’s original, comeuppance-themed pay-per-views, the 2002 edition of which boasted The Undertaker as what was then called the WWE Champion. Opposing Big Evil in a Triple Threat Match were The Rock and Kurt Angle, and those odds proved just insurmountable enough for The Deadman to come out on the losing end of things. After a grueling battle that saw him felled by Angle, for all intents and purposes, The People’s Champion pounced on The Olympic Hero with a Rock Bottom to take the title home for himself. Truth be told, this was something of a pattern in the Attitude Era for The Great One, as evidenced by …
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… This wonky contest from King of the Ring 2000, which put Triple H’s WWE Championship up for grabs in a Six-Man Tag Team Match, of all things. The stipulation went, whoever got the pin in the Six-Man Tag became the new champion, regardless of who they pinned or whether, indeed, they were the champion at all going into the match. The Great One, Kane & The Undertaker teamed with Triple H, Mr. McMahon & Shane McMahon in the contest, and if not for a complete breakdown between The Brothers of Destruction, Kane might have gotten the title after a Tombstone to The King of Kings. The Deadman put a stop to that and chaos ensued, the upshot of which saw The Rock take advantage with a Rock Bottom on Mr. McMahon to win the title. Seems severe punishment for The Chairman, but old-school wrestling fans might argue that he had it coming, thanks to …
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… This match, which wasn’t advertised as a Triple Threat, but thanks to some now-legendary behind-the-scenes scuttlebutt, was ultimately revealed as a stacked-deck situation against the then-WWE Champion, Bret Hart. On the verge of departing WWE for WCW and its Scrooge McDuck-caliber cash cushion, The Hitman was defending his WWE Title against Shawn Michaels in his native Canada at Survivor Series 1997 when he found himself trapped in his own Sharpshooter hold. Nothing new there, except Mr. McMahon, who was ringside, called for the bell even though The Excellence of Execution had not submitted, forcibly stripping him of the WWE Title.
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The maneuver ensured his champion would stay in-house, but it earned McMahon a loogie — and later, a fist to the face — from The Best There Is, The Best There Was, and The Best There Ever Will be. However, it also kick-started the Attitude Era, and Hart eventually got proper revenge when he battered The Chairman with a chair at WrestleMania 26. So, really, everyone won in the end.
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