To become a World Champion in WWE, you need to be an extraordinary superstar. Every wrestler who laces a pair of boots dreams about being a World Champion in WWE someday, but not everyone gets to achieve it.
It's an accolade reserved only for an elite few, and in order to be crowned world champion, Vince McMahon needs to believe that you're World Championship material. Over the years, there have been so many different World Champions, many of them being handpicked. However, there were the exceptional few who made a believer out of Vince McMahon, who decided it was the right time to make them World Champion.
Also read: 5 signs that the WWE brand split has ended
But as we know, he has a reputation of being a bit stubborn and many superstars who were deserving of being world champions never really got the opportunity. However, there were a few rare cases where McMahon's back was against the corner and against his own judgment, he was essentially forced to make them world champions. Here are a few such cases.
#5. Daniel Bryan - WrestleMania XXX
Daniel Bryan's WrestleMania 30 main event triumph will always go down as one of the all-time great moments of the event. It was the perfect underdog story, where the hero ended up prevailing.
On-screen, Bryan had to go through a lot of obstacles, but in reality, Vince McMahon didn't believe that Bryan was World Championship material, despite the fact that he had won a World title in WWE before.
Either way, the fan reaction and rejection of Batista, coupled with CM Punk's departure, forced McMahon to change the plans for WrestleMania XXX and as a result of that, Daniel Bryan ended up walking out as World Champion.
Now it's a whole different story. It was clear during his run as WWE Champion in 2018-19 that McMahon believed in the "New" Daniel Bryan.
What adds to this feat of being heroic is how McMahon has always favored big and physical superstars to become champions and Bryan winning it was a change of course and something not in line with WWE's plans.
The WWE universe has a major part to play here and crowds have been vocal about Bryan not getting enough opportunities. The management paid heed and the rest is history.
#4. Kofi Kingston - WrestleMania 35
Sometimes when a superstar is so good and the moment is perfect, it's impossible to deny them. That was exactly what happened during February 2019, when the stars aligned for Kofi Kingston.
Kingston's story was that of a hard working, loyal employee who served the company well. He found championship success but was clearly viewed as a superstar "not good enough" to be at the top of the card.
By chance, Kofi Kingston replaced an injured (Mustafa) Ali for the Elimination Chamber match and two back-to-back stunning performances saw him win the hearts of the WWE Universe.
On-screen, McMahon played the foil to Kingston, with Daniel Bryan even referring to him as a "B+ Player". The original plans, according to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, was to have Bryan face a returning Kevin Owens at WrestleMania.
Instead, Kingston's rise in popularity and heartfelt story forced McMahon to swap plans and give Kingston his well-deserved WrestleMania moment.
The event was a landmark one for both WWE and Kofi as fans rallied behind the Ghanian superstar and even went on to dub the pay-per-view 'Kofi Mania'.
Kofi has been associated with the WWE for over a decade and has languished in the mid-card status for far too long. He needed to shatter the glass ceiling and he did it in style, winning the WWE championship.
#3. Hulk Hogan - WrestleMania IX
You're probably asking, "Why would Vince McMahon be forced to make one of the most decorated icons of pro wrestling a World champion?" Well, this case is a bit different from the previous two mentioned.
Hulk Hogan had left WWE in 1992 in the midst of a steroid scandal investigation and as a result, Vince McMahon decided to push a young Bret Hart to the top. The Hitman would walk into WrestleMania IX as WWF Champion, taking on Yokozuna.
Hulk Hogan incidentally happened to be returning for the event - in a far less prominent match, where he teamed with real-life best friend Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake in an unsuccessful effort at the tag team titles.
The problem was that Hulk Hogan had one condition for his return - he had to end WrestleMania IX as World Champion, otherwise there was no deal. Hogan still had money despite being far more trim and leaner than before.
It resulted in the worst ending in WrestleMania history, where Yokozuna beat Hart for the title and lost it to Hogan in 22 seconds.
Hogan was supposed to drop it to Bret Hart at SummerSlam in a "passing of the torch" match, but he refused to do that, so he dropped it back to Yokozuna soon after and departed WWE for good.
Hogan was one of the few wrestlers who garnered a status that was bigger than the industry itself. He dictated ticket sales and pay-per-view sellouts, and the WWE was in no position to negotiate with a demi god they had themselves created.
#2. Mick Foley - SummerSlam 1999
This is another rather different and bizarre case, where politics (literally) influenced the outcome of the match. At SummerSlam 1999, 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin defended the WWF Championship against Triple H and Mankind in a triple threat match.
The special guest referee was none other than former WWE commentator-turned-politician Jesse 'The Body' Ventura. The plan was for Triple H to go over and win his first world title. There were only two big problems: One, Jesse Ventura, did not want to raise the hand of a heel as he was a politician. Secondly, Stone Cold refused to put Triple H over because he didn't believe he was ready or at that level yet.
Due to this, Vince McMahon was forced to give in and instead put the title on the babyface Mankind/Mick Foley. Foley did drop it to Triple H the following night on RAW.
The Attitude-era programming was a battle against the odds to ensure that the WWE won the ratings battle against rivals WCW. They tweaked a lot of results to appease fans and bring in the necessary eye balls and succeed they did.
#1. Rey Mysterio - WrestleMania 22
With the tragic death of Eddie Guerrero in 2005, nobody on television honored him the way Rey Mysterio did. Wearing his "EG" armband throughout, fans increasingly desired to see Mysterio succeed and become World Heavyweight Champion.
Not only the fans, but everybody backstage, from the talent to the officials believed that the moment was right for Mysterio to win it. The only problem? Vince McMahon was the sole person who didn't want it to happen.
He was dead-set against Mysterio becoming World Champion but eventually gave into the pressure from everyone else. Court Bauer, one of the key creative figures at the time, said:
Everybody in the creative wanted Rey to be the champion except Vince [McMahon]. And Vince kind of gave in. And he was like, ‘Alright, I’m gonna make him champion but this is the date that we are going to take the belt off.’ So they were thinking to themselves, oh good. We’ll just make him as strong as we can up to that date. And Vince kept burying Rey, just to show them that they were wrong.”
It certainly felt and still feels like an injustice to Rey Mysterio and it was seen in his short title reign that allowed him to accomplish next to nothing. At least he still got his WrestleMania moment!