*Here are scenarios where these grapplers could have become champion.
“Rowdy” Roddy Piper
The Hot Rod could have won the title at The Wrestling Classic in November of 1985, then lost it back to Hulk Hogan in the main event of WrestleMania II. How that changes history: King Kong Bundy’s push is aborted and there is no boxing match with Mr. T at WrestleMania II. No great loss. Roddy Piper competed in WCW in the late 1990s, but even when the WCW Championship changed hands like a hot potato, The Hot Rod still could not capture the gold.
Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat
The Dragon revolutionized pro wrestling with his Intercontinental Championship Match against “Macho Man” Randy Savage at WrestleMania III, but asked to take the summer of 1987 off to tend to his family. That is not the way to get in Vince McMahon’s good graces. Had he put the needs of the promotion ahead of his personal life, he might have challenged Hulk Hogan for his spot as top baby-face circa WrestleMania IV just as The Ultimate Warrior did at WrestleMania VI. How that changes history: Ricky Steamboat would have been booked as one of the elite along side Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage. There might not have been room at the top for The Ultimate Warrior. Ricky Steamboat did win the WCW Championship from “Nature Boy” Ric Flair in 1989.
“The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase
Andre the Giant could have been allowed to sell the title to The Million Dollar Man on The Main Event after his controversial win over Hulk Hogan. Ted DiBiase then loses the belt to “Macho Man” Randy Savage at WrestleMania IV. How that changes history: There is no title tournament at WrestleMania IV, but the big matches that were part of the tournament like Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant and Jake “The Snake” Roberts vs. “Ravishing” Rick Rude could still be booked. The main event also remains the same.
Jake “The Snake” Roberts
After turning heel over the summer, Jake Roberts could have defeated Hulk Hogan at Survivor Series 1991 instead of The Undertaker. How that changes history: Since The Undertaker’s first title reign was short and barely even acknowledged for several years, his career would not have suffered much. The Undertaker was a protégé of Jake Roberts at the time, so The Phenom could still be part of the angle and the title would probably still be declared vacant before the 1992 Royal Rumble.
“Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig
Tough to say as, unfortunately, Mr. Perfect was not involved in many angles with WWF Champions save for a brief feud with Hulk Hogan circa the 1990 Royal Rumble. Maybe he could have ended The Ultimate Warrior’s reign at Royal Rumble 1991 and then been in the main event of WrestleMania VII against Hulk Hogan? How that changes history: Sgt. Slaughter gets shafted big time, which I am not advocating. I am trying to come up with scenarios which do not alter history too much. Curt Hennig was at least the AWA Champion before joining the WWF in 1988.
“Ravishing” Rick Rude
Another tough one. Rick Rude departed for WCW while The Ultimate Warrior was the WWF Champion. He would have been another candidate to bridge the gap between The Warrior and Hulk Hogan in 1991 since he already beat The Warrior at WrestleMania V for the Intercontinental Championship. How that changes history: It was not my intent to pick on Sgt. Slaughter’s title reign, but erasing a reign of Hulk Hogan, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, or The Ultimate Warrior would alter WWF history to such a degree that it would be total fantasy booking without any link to reality. Rick Rude had three reigns as the WCW International Heavyweight Champion during the transitional period when the promotion showcased two heavyweight champions.
Owen could have defeated Bob Backlund at the Madison Square Garden houseshow the weekend after Survivor Series 1994 instead of Diesel. Owen had helped Backlund win the title. Betraying Backlund and taking the belt from him could have been phase two of Owen’s plan. Owen loses the belt to Diesel at Royal Rumble 1995. Bret “Hit Man” Hart interferes in that match. How that changes history: Diesel still faces Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XI, but Bret and Owen’s respective matches are a bit more tricky. Even with Yokozuna as his mystery tag team partner, Owen may not have challenged for the WWF Tag Team Championships. Owen could have fought Bret in the “I Quit” Match with “Rowdy” Roddy Piper as guest referee, taking the place of Bob Backlund. Bret vs. Backlund at WrestleMania XI was the weakest of the matches they competed in during their 1994-1995 rivalry anyway, but I do not enjoy leaving Yokozuna without a match. The roster was real thin at the time and I cannot think of worthy adversary for Yoko.
The Lex Express steadily derailed after he failed to take the gold from Yokozuna in the main event of SummerSlam 1993. In my own humble opinion, it was for the best that Yokozuna was booked as this unstoppable heel champion until WrestleMania X. Vince McMahon also chose wisely by having Bret “Hit Man” Hart be the hero who slayed the monster. The only other opportunity I can think of to make Lex champion would be to interrupt Diesel’s year long title reign in 1995. Lex could win the belt at the King of the Ring and lose it back to Diesel at SummerSlam. How that changes history: King Mabel never main events a pay-per-view and perhaps Lex does not jump to WCW and appear on the inaugural Monday Nitro, effecting the early days of the Monday Night War.
Not unlike Mr. Perfect, Razor Ramon was a perennial contender for the Intercontinental Championship. The only WWF Championship Match I can recall him competing in was against Bret “Hit Man” Hart at Royal Rumble 1993. That was not the right time for him to become champion, nor should he have ended Diesel’s 1995 reign. A likely scenario would have been for Scott Hall to not join WCW in 1996, remain with the WWF, turn heel, and feud with Shawn Michaels. They could have had another Ladder Match? They were tied at one a piece, so a rubber match to settle things? How that changes history: Scott Hall appearing announced on Nitro caused the Monday Night War to escalate in a big way. Scott Hall and subsequently Kevin Nash changed the industry forever in 1996. Like Roddy Piper, Scott Hall was one of the few WCW main event talents to not have a run with the WCW Championship in the late 1990s.
The Honky Tonk Man
He had the charisma, but not quite the wrestling skills to be the WWF Champion.
“The Texas Tornado” Kerry Von Erich
He had the body builder physique the WWF loves, but lacked the promo ability.
“The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith
The same situation as with Kerry Von Erich. Great physique, generic promos.
An Intercontinental Champion who became WCW and TNA World Champion.
With his androgynous gimmick, he could have challenged Shawn Michaels in 1996.
Had he not returned to ultimate fighting, he may have become the WWF Champion.
Dwayne Johnson, a third generation superstar, made his WWF debut at Survivor Series 1996. This event was held in the most famous arena in the world, Madison Square Garden. He competed under the name “Rocky Maivia,” borrowing “Rocky” from his father “Soul Man” Rocky Johnson and “Maivia” from his maternal grandfather “High Chief” Peter Maivia. It was a traditional Survivor Series tag team elimination match and Rocky became the sole survivor. Just a few months later, Rocky won the prestigious Intercontinental Championship on a special Thursday night edition of RAW by defeating Hunter Hearst Helmsley. These two rising stars would become bitter rivals in the years to come. Rocky made his WrestleMania debut at WrestleMania XIII in Chicago. He faced The Sultan, who in actuality was his cousin Rikishi Phatu under a mask. After the match, Rocky was saved by his father Rocky Johnson. This wholesome “goodie two shoes” routine was not embraced by the fans and they soon turned on Rocky. He was serenaded with chants like “Rocky Sucks!!!” and “Die, Rocky, Die!!!” It wasn’t long after that he lost the Intercontinental Championship to Owen Hart. Rocky then vanished from WWF programming for several months while nursing an injury.
In the fall of 1997, Rocky reinvented himself by joining the controversial faction, “The Nation of Domination,” and shortening his in-ring name to “The Rock.” The Rock was now brash and arrogant, trash talking fans as retribution for them turning their backs on him. The Rock then had a run-in with his greatest rival, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, who in defiance of Vince McMahon, surrendered the Intercontinental Championship to The Rock, only to then (in typical rattlesnake fashion) toss the championship belt into a river. The Rock’s next opponent for the IC Title was the “World’s Most Dangerous Man” Ken Shamrock. They battled at both Royal Rumble 1998 and WrestleMania XIV, with The Rock hanging onto his title by hook or crook. During this time there was also a power struggle between The Rock and Faarooq, the leader of The Nation. The Rock eventually usurped Faarooq and led The Nation for the remainder of its existence. Ken Shamrock finally defeated The Rock in the finals of the 1998 King of the Ring tournament, then The Rock reignited his feud with Hunter Hearst Helmsley, who was now a member of D-Generation X and known as Triple H. Triple H defeated The Rock at SummerSlam 1998 in a Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Championship.
The Rock was then booted from The Nation, bringing an end to the group, and was finally embraced by the fans, who accepted him as the “People’s Champion.” This was short lived however as The Rock defeated Mankind at Survivor Series 1998 in the finals of the “Deadly Game” tournament for the vacated WWF Championship with the aid of Mr. McMahon. The Rock had become the youngest WWF Champion in history and re-dubbed himself the “Corporate Champion.” Mankind then upset The Rock for the championship a month later in a match that helped to turn the tide of the “Monday Night War.” The Rock and Mankind continued to clash for WWF Championship in 1999. The Rock bested Mankind in an “I Quit” Match (documented in the film “Beyond the Mat”) at Royal Rumble 1999, only for Mankind to win the title back in the Halftime Heat “Empty Arena” Match. The rivalry culminated when The Rock defeated Mankind in a Ladder Match on Monday Night RAW, which led to The Rock defending the title against “Stone Cold” Steve Austin in the main event of WrestleMania XV. It was a “No DQ” Match and Austin won the championship for a third time in his career. The Rock gained a measure of revenge by throwing Stone Cold into a river just as Austin had submerged the IC Championship two years prior.
The alliance between The Rock and the McMahon’s quickly soured when he failed to regain the championship from Stone Cold. The Rock was on his own and again held the moniker of “People’s Champion.” In the fall of 1999, he formed an unlikely tag team with Mankind known as “The Rock & Sock Connection.” The Rock and Mankind won the WWF Tag Team Championships on three occasions. The Rock then won the 2000 Royal Rumble Match, but did not receive a one-on-one WWF Championship match at WrestleMania 2000. Instead, he, The Big Show, and Mick Foley (in what was his final match before officially retiring) all challenged Triple H for the gold in a Fatal 4-Way Match. Triple H retained the title thanks in large to his father-in-law Mr. McMahon, but The Rock won the title from Triple H twice in the next several months, first at Backlash and again at King of the Ring, making him a five time champion, tying the then record with Hulk Hogan and Bret “Hit Man” Hart. His fifth title reign was also the longest of his career. That reign was ended by Olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle at No Mercy.
The Rock won the championship back from Kurt Angle at No Way Out 2001, making him a record breaking six time champion and setting up a rematch with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin at WrestleMania XVII. Once again, The Rock was screwed over by Mr. McMahon, who shockingly (and somewhat inexplicable) sided with his arch nemesis, Steve Austin. The Rock was then banished from the WWF by Mr. McMahon, allowing him to star in “The Scorpion King.” The Rock returned at the behest of Mr. McMahon to aid the WWF in defending itself from the invading WCW / ECW Alliance. The Rock won the WCW Championship from Booker T at SummerSlam 2001, but there was lots of dissention in the WWF locker room when The Rock lost and quickly regained the WCW Championship from “Y2J” Chris Jericho. Despite of this turmoil, The Rock was the sole survivor when Team WWF defeated The Alliance at Survivor Series 2001. Mr. McMahon and his then co-owner “Nature Boy” Ric Flair choose to unify the WWF and WCW Championships. The Rock and Steve Austin were odds on favorites, but Chris Jericho defeated both at Vengeance 2001, becoming the first Undisputed Champion.
Perhaps the biggest victory in The Rock’s career was at WrestleMania XVIII in Toronto when he defeated Hulk Hogan, who had returned to the WWF after a nine year absence. After WrestleMania, the WWF was divided into brands, RAW and Smackdown!, and rechristened as the WWE. The Rock was the # 1 pick for the Smackdown! brand, which was appropriate since the program was named after one of his many catchphrases. The win over Hulk Hogan may have cemented The Rock as one of the all time greats, but he spent the next two years as a part-time superstar, splitting his time between competing and making movies like “The Rundown” and “Walking Tall.” Though his appearances were sporadic, he still won the WWE Championship for a seventh time. A record that would last seven years. He lost the championship to Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam 2002 and Lesnar became the new youngest champion in history. The fans also began to tire of The Rock around this time, feeling that he had gone “Hollywood” and abandoned them, so The Rock renounced the people in 2003 and defeated Hulk Hogan once again at No Way Out. The Rock still had once last hurdle to overcome and that was to defeat “Stone Cold” Steve Austin in their final showdown at WrestleMania XIX, which he did. The next night on RAW, The Rock hinted that he would retire, but was instead challenged by former WCW Champion Bill Goldberg, who was making his WWE debut. Goldberg defeated The Rock at Backlash and “Brahma Bull” would not compete again for almost a year. The Rock returned for WrestleMania XX in Madison Square Garden, the same arena where he debuted eight years earlier, reuniting with Mick Foley to take on Ric Flair, Randy Orton, and Batista in a Handicap Match. “Evolution” defeated “The Rock & Sock Connection” and the “Great One” quietly retired.
Seven years later, the “People’s Champion” triumphantly returned to be the emcee of WrestleMania XXVII in Atlanta, but a war of words between himself and John Cena escaladed into The Rock costing Cena the WWE Championship in the main event against The Miz. John Cena accused The Rock of being a hypocrite for leaving the WWE while still in his prime whereas The Rock claimed that Cena was an unworthy successor to the stars of the “Attitude Era.” The Rock vs. John Cena was announced as the main event of WrestleMania XXVIII, but first they had to team together to defeat The Awesome Truth (The Miz and R-Truth) at Survivor Series 2011 in the logical venue that was Madison Square Garden. WrestleMania XXVIII emanated from The Rock’s hometown of Miami and he eventually overcame John Cena just as he had both Hulk Hogan and Steve Austin at WrestleMania’s past.
The Rock was encouraged by his victory and set his sights on the WWE Championship. CM Punk had held the gold for fourteen months, 434 day to be specific, before finally being beaten by The Rock at Royal Rumble 2013. The Rock was now a ten time world champion and a rematch with John Cena at WrestleMania XXIX in New Jersey was made possible by John Cena’s victory in the Royal Rumble Match that same night. The Rock gutted his way through the match after suffering a hernia in the opening minutes, but was finally bested by John Cena after dominated the feud for two years. Only time will tell what is on the horizon for the People’s Champion when it comes to returning to the WWE.