When WCW officially began in 1991, they had been using the NWA World Championship as the main belt. They finally broke away to start their own title, which had more than a few changes over the years. There were two occasions (Ric Flair in 1994 and Bret Hart in 1999) where the title was briefly held up after a match but then just “won” by the champion again. Obviously, most of the title changes took place on PPVS, but as the Monday Night Wars began, free TV showed more.
At first, it was still rare and a huge deal when the title swapped hands. However, as WCW got crazier behind the scenes, they tried to get attention by swapping the belt more on TV. It was out of hand to the point of the belt changing hands multiple times in a week or even one night. Here is a listing of every WCW World title change that happened on free TV to marvel at how crazy this company treated its main title.
24 Ron Simmons – August 2, 1992
While this was technically a house show, it was taped and shown in full on WCW Main Event. Sting was to challenge Vader for the title, only to be taken out in an attack by Jake Roberts. Bill Watts pulled Ron Simmons’ name out of a hat to challenge Vader, and Simmons made history by becoming the first African-American World champion. It was a great moment to spark up WCW and be the first WCW World title change to air on live TV.
23 Randy Savage – January 22, 1996
Ignoring a brief vacancy in 1994, the WCW title remained steady on free TV until early 1996. Ric Flair had regained the title at Starrcade 1995, and he and Randy Savage kept up the battle as 1996 dawned. It came to a Nitro match with ample interference from Hulk Hogan and the Horsemen, with Savage coming out on top for the first time the belt changed hands on Nitro. Flair would regain it just a few weeks later at SuperBrawl, so this was really meant to push Nitro up a bit more in the Monday Night War.
22 The Giant – April 2, 1996
It’s still amazing how WCW pushed the Giant so hard in his first year. He had won the World title at Halloween Havoc on an odd DQ rule, only to be stripped of it fast. WCW kept pushing, and on April 2, 1996 Nitro, the Giant completely manhandled Ric Flair, chokeslamming his way to the World title. The Nitro episode actually aired on tape delay on April 29, but April 2 started the Giant’s reign, which ended at the hands of Hollywood Hogan at Road Wild.
21 Lex Luger – August 4, 1997
Hulk Hogan had dominated the WCW title through 1997 alongside the NWO and seemed set for the big battle with Sting. WCW held off on that but wanted to spark up Nitro to get a little more ratings victory over WWE. So on the August 4, 1997 Nitro, Lex Luger held off the NWO and upset Hogan for the title, a fantastic moment that looked like WCW was turning the tide. In reality, Hogan got the belt back a week later at Road Wild, so this wasn’t the major win fans hoped for at the time.
20 Hollywood Hogan – April 20, 1998
The WCW title began to be in flux as Sting’s Starrcade win wasn’t the epic moment fans expected. After the belt was held up, Sting lost it to Randy Savage at Spring Stampede. Savage was one of the most blatant placeholders ever, as the very next night on Nitro; he dropped the belt to Hogan. Thus, just a few months after Sting’s long-awaited victory, Hogan was back as champion, setting the tone for a rough year for WCW.
19 Goldberg – July 6, 1998
To this day, it’s debated whether putting Hogan-Goldberg on free TV was a bad idea for WCW. Yes, it sparked Nitro to a ratings win, but it was a match that could have drawn millions on PPV. Yet it was an epic night as Goldberg first defeated Scott Hall and then a wild match with Hogan, including the NWO, DDP, and Karl Malone. The pop when Goldberg pinned Hogan was arguably the biggest in WCW history, and seeing him with both belts was fantastic. This should have pushed the company to the top but instead became their last truly great moment.
18 Hollywood Hogan – January 4, 1999
So much has been written about the Fingerpoke of Doom, yet it’s still stunning how this one night sent WCW into the tailspin it never recovered from. WCW had already made the mistake of letting Kevin Nash end Goldberg’s undefeated streak for the title at Starrcade. The rematch was marred by Goldberg being questioned by the cops and Hogan coming back to challenge Nash. Cue the showdown, the poke, Nash laying down, the pin and the NWO reforming. It was a perfect storm of disaster and the start of a very bad period for this belt.
17 Sting/Diamond Dallas Page – April 26, 1999
With the ratings faltering, WCW decided to play “hot potato” with the titles was the way to go. “President” Roddy Piper ordered DDP to defend the World title against Sting, the pair having a pretty good match with Sting getting the belt. Having this happen so early in the show was surprising, so out came Kevin Nash demanding a title shot, which led to a four corners match with him, Sting, DDP, and Goldberg. Goldberg was on the way to winning when Randy Savage interfered, and DDP won the belt back less than two hours after losing it. Who knew WCW would get even crazier?
16 Hulk Hogan – July 12, 1999
Somehow, WCW managed to survive some crazy stuff in the early part of 1999, with Randy Savage defeating Kevin Nash for the title at Bash at the Beach. Once again, Savage was a brief placeholder as the next night on Nitro, he and Hulk Hogan had a match that was a far cry from their epic battles of the past. There was interference from Sid, Sting, and Nash, who hit Savage with a powerbomb, allowing Hogan to get a weak pin. It wasn’t quite the terrific moment as champion Hogan wanted.
15 Sid – January 24, 2000
Strap in, this one’s going to be a doozy. With the title briefly vacated in early 2000, Sid was challenging for it against Kevin Nash, who was also “commissioner” of WCW. Nash said that Sid had to face off against Don Harris to earn a shot against Nash. It was a convoluted move, with Sid managing to win and then, in a bad match, beat Nash for the title. So at least the babyface won, right? You forget this was 2000 WCW.
14 Kevin Nash/Sid – January 25, 2000
So the next night on Thunder, Nash announced that Sid hadn’t beaten Don Harris but rather Ron, Don’s twin brother. Thus, Nash stripped Sid of the title and awarded it to himself. He then agreed to defend it against Sid in a handicap match with both Harris brothers by his side. Oh, and it was a steel cage too. Sid ended up victorious to win the belt in a storyline that would set the tone for the chaos of WCW in 2000.
13 DDP – April 24, 2000
For such a great WCW star, Diamond Dallas Page’s runs as champion barely added up to over a month combined. He and Jeff Jarrett had a decent feud that ended in a steel cage match at Nitro. It was a nutty battle with David Arquette somehow involved, yet also a pretty good match between the two, with DDP taking advantage of a distraction to win the belt. It should have been the start of a good reign, but then the next night’s tapings had WCW making arguably their biggest mistake ever.
12 David Arquette – April 25, 2000
Yes, the moment WCW passed the point of no return. To try and get some extra attention off a terrible movie, WCW put David Arquette in a tag match with DDP against Bischoff and Jeff Jarrett, with whoever got the pin being the champ. Jarrett had DDP covered, but the ref counted the pin Arquette had on Bischoff, and the sight of this skinny actor with the WCW World title was beyond laughable. It’s still amazing the company lasted almost a year after this.
11 Ric Flair – May 15, 2000
After Jarrett regained the belt at Slamboree, he and Ric Flair got into a beef with Vince Russo pushing Flair as done. They fought on Nitro with Flair in black street clothes. Jarrett had the advantage, only for Flair to pull off a small package for the win. It was a surprise even to the announcers, and the good vibes marred by Jarrett and Russo beating up Flair before Nash made the save. Still, it was something to see Flair win the title one more time.
10 Jeff Jarrett – May 22, 2000
Sadly, an actual injury-marred Flair’s run with the belt as he seemed to collapse fighting Jarrett on Thunder. On the following NItro, Russo claimed Flair had suffered a brain aneurysm and was thus being stripped of the belt and given back to Jarrett. It was a lame moment but amazing; it was just the start of a chaotic week for the championship.
9 Kevin Nash – May 23, 2000
On the next day’s tapings of Thunder, Jarrett was set to defend the title in a triple-threat match against Nash and Scott Steiner. Not surprisingly, it was messy; plenty of interference and chaos abounded before Nash got the win for his fourth WCW World title. Think it can’t get even weirder than that? You forget what company and what year we’re talking about.
8 Ric Flair/Jeff Jarrett – May 29, 2000
Yep, it’s another “two swaps in one night” situation. The next Nitro opened with Nash calling a recovered Flair to the ring and saying that he was giving it back to him because Flair never lost the belt. It was a surprisingly unselfish move by Nash that got the show off to a good start. So, of course, Jarrett won the belt back later that night after special ref David Flair helped. Why WCW even bothered with this change in the first place is baffling.
7 Kevin Nash – August 28, 2000
Following the Bash at the Beach debacle, WCW seemed to be doing better with Booker T as champion. Rather than let Booker run with the belt and try to redeem it, Nash beat him for the title on Nitro after special ref Jeff Jarrett messed things up. It was incredibly annoying even if Booker would regain the title a few weeks later in a cage match at Fall Brawl. Of course, WCW had to follow that with something awful…
6 Vince Russo – September 25, 2000
The only thing worse than David Arquette as World champion? Vince Russo as the World champion. Sure enough, Russo booked himself against Booker T in a cage match in his hometown to boot. Russo was in weird “protective” gear as Booker easily tossed him around the cage. He was on his way to an easy win when Goldberg interfered and speared Russo right through the cage. That counted as an escape, so sure enough, Russo was the champion to drive WCW further down.
5 Booker T – October 2, 2000
Thankfully, even Russo had the sense to know him as champion was not a good thing and vacated the belt. He also knew Booker vs Jarrett for the title made sense. What made no sense was it being the ridiculous “San Francisco 49ers Box” match where the point was to open one of four boxes hanging around the ring and hope the title belt was inside it. The belt fell out of the final box to be picked up by the ref, but thankfully, he wasn’t named the champ, as it was Booker winning a match that sums up Russo perfectly.