Wrestling: Live Event Title Changes

Recently we had an interesting occurrence in WWE. Damage CTRL looked to have dropped the Women’s Tag Team Championship on a Live Event. It was reported that this was a botch, which was very shortly rectified. It was interesting to hear the story as this doesn’t happen often.

A title change, even a botch, is not something that happens at a live event. Those types of events are generally saved for a television audience. It is a surprise and one that had kept live event audiences on their toes. With the story breaking it gets one wondering. What have been some of the title changes during a live event? Are they numerous? Do they have any impact on the company? Let’s look at some of these instances below. (Note: No Hardcore Championship talk here, that’s too much reading)

Buddy Rogers v Bruno Sammartino (New York, May 1963)

Buddy Rogers won a “tournament” to become the first WWE Championship. It was a historic victory and one that keeps his name in WWE today. Unfortunately, a much larger championship victory took place just 36 days into his reign.

Meeting inside Madison Square Garden, Rogers and Bruno Sammartino went to war. It was a battle in that Sammartino emerged the victor with his new WWE Championship. Made even more vital by the unprecedented 2,800-day reign as champion that Sammartino enjoyed.

The Iron Sheik v Hulk Hogan (New York, January 1984)

Back before PPVs were coming to our houses, all we had was house show title changes. The biggest one of all of these is the birth of Hulkamania.

The Iron Sheik winning the strap was merely a transitional move, but one that paid massive dividends. He was the perfect heel for Hogan to conquer. It was this win that got a massive roar from the New York faithful. It was the start of the Golden Era of wrestling. WWE became a household name and wrestling entered the mainstream.

Tito Santana v Randy Savage (Boston, Feb 1986)

Tito was one of the greatest babyfaces of his generation. His ability to elicit a positive response from the crowd was unmatched by any on the roster. His championship victory over Greg Valentine was a huge win for him and started a great run that lasted nearly a year. Unfortunately, for Santana, a bigger star was waiting in the wings.

 It was clear to everyone that Randy Savage was going to be a star. He had the look, charisma and attitude necessary to ascend the card. It was only going to take a push to get him on the right path. That push came at the Boston Garden. As a heel Savage used some underhanded tactics to capture his first championship in WWE, but not his last.

Ric Flair v Bret Hart (Saskatoon, October 1992)

1992 was a changing of the guard in WWE. Gone were the giants of the Golden Age and in their place were smaller wrestlers who could outwork anyone in the company. It was a change in philosophy and one that benefited the company greatly.

One of the biggest moments of this shift was the championship win by Bret Hart. Hart had been a great tag team specialist who had blossomed into one of the company’s best. He had run his way through the mid-card and a shot at the big strap was on the way.

It was a shock that the change took place on a house show. Flair’s standing in the company may have had something to do with this but the result is there. Bret’s journey to WWE immortality started on that night in Saskatoon.

Bob Backlund v Diesel (New York, December 1994)

Bob Backlund was what one would call a transitional champion. After beating Bret Hart, at Survivor Series, no one expected a long run from the veteran. A big surprise to many but not as shocking as Backlund dropping the belt three days later.

Diesel measured up against Backlund, inside the garden, and in 8 seconds jackknifed his way to the WWE Championship. It was a huge shock for the WWE Universe. Diesel had been gaining steam as a babyface and his winning the strap on a house show was a huge story.

Jeff Jarrett v Edge (Toronto, July 1999)

Back in 1999, Edge was not the top-of-the-card guy he is now. He was branching out into a singles career and was still learning. He had been getting support from the WWE Universe but was now the time to put some eggs in the Edge basket?

That is what this title change was all about. WWE wanted to see if Edge was a viable singles competitor. They wanted to see if he was able to take the ball and run with it. Now, the title change lasted only a day but the result on that night spoke for itself. Edge put on a great match and his win got a great reaction. It was a sign of things to come for the Rated R Superstar.

Melina v Victoria v Mickie James (Paris, April 2007)

The triple threat for the Women’s Championship is a great example of things going awry. Taking place in France, for the Women’s Championship, it seemed like a lock for Melina to retain.

This lock was turned on its head when Mickie pinned Victoria to win the championship. From the look of the three wrestlers in the ring, this was not the outcome that was expected. It was soon rectified in a quick rematch,  but an interesting live event title changes nonetheless.

C.M Punk & Kofi Kingston v The Miz and John Morrison (Hamilton, December 2008)

The early aughts were not a great time for the tag championship. Most teams were thrown together, and matches spent more time on the lower card. It was not a time when tag team wrestling was taken very seriously.

The unimportance of the tag titles was highlighted in this title change. Taking place on a house show in Hamilton no one batted an eye at the change, but they should have. The Miz and Morrison started their fantastic tag title runs on that night. It was a run that brought both men to relevance and jumpstarted the career of The Miz.

Finn Balor v Samoa Joe (Massachusetts, April 2016)

Finn Balor was deep into a nearly 300-day reign as NXT Champion when NXT held its live event in Lowell. Balor hit a wall called Samoa Joe.

Joe was a veteran who was famous the world over but had never had any success in WWE. This changed when, to the shock of many, Joe went over Balor for the NXT Championship. It was a great win for Joe and one that started his WWE success.

A.J Styles v Kevin Owens (New York, July 2017)

Owens and Styles were money for WWE. Both were world-class wrestlers and any match they were a part of was a classic. That includes a match that no one in the world could have predicted.

The United States Championship was hot potatoes throughout their summer program and none was more surprising than this. Changes like this don’t take place at live events. It was probably done to add some spontaneity to their feud. A move that worked and added an extra level of excitement to their matches.

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