Being labeled a "transitional" champion in the WWE might come with some negative connotation as it implies that the champion is not expected to hang onto their title for long, but that's before you start really digging into what this designation actually means. Looking at which WWE Superstars fans have deemed as transitional, the scope of their runs is all over the place. You not only have some runs that last for less than a couple of months, but then there's one that happens to be one of the longest runs in SmackDown history.
So with length of the run no longer being the only identifiable quality of a transitional champion, what is? It really comes down to how memorable of a run each champion has overall. How many feuds do they have? How many big match moments do they have? Did they feel like the top star at the time, or were they planning second fiddle to another main eventer? That's where the real heart of the argument lies.
With that kind of varied criteria in mind, there are actually a few WWE Superstars that have made the most of their transitional runs over the years. Acting as sort of a test run for longer title runs later (or just a positioning at the top tier of the card), these superstars made the most of their transitional championship runs. Who do you think are the best transitional champions in the WWE? Let us know all of your picks in the comments!
You can't really talk about the best transitional champions without the prime example of a temporary run in Bob Backlund. Backlund is a legend who definitely worked in extremes with both one of the longest and one of the shortest championship reigns ever. While this three day reign and loss to Diesel is infamous, it's also the kind of infamy that should be respected as it's part of the reason he's such a massive legend. It takes a real sport to work at both such high highs and infamous lows.prevnext
Speaking of extremes, John "Bradshaw" Layfield is the other major example of an unexpected definition for a transitional champion. Although he had held onto the championship title for nearly 300 days, he was also very clearly being used as a buffer for other big names on the come up like John Cena. With that being said, JBL served as the perfect kind of heel with a solid character that was not about to shift the storylines for the other growing stars in any major way. He was a completely reliable heel champion to play keep away for as long as the WWE needed.prevnext
Speaking of reliable champions, John Cena has the ability to make even his transitional championship runs count. He's such a big name that when someone new wins it off of him it's a bigger deal than most. This was especially the case with Brock Lesnar's win back in 2014. The stage was already set for Lesnar to win the title once more following breaking Undertaker's streak, so Cena ended up being a proper foil that didn't need a lot of time to build up and went the extra mile to lose in a big way when the proper time came for Lesnar to reign.prevnext
Speaking of Brock Lesnar, regardless of where you sit on the type of champion Lesnar has been showcased as over the years, he did sort of come to the rescue at one of the most surprising and pivotal times in recent memory. When Roman Reigns revealed that he had leukemia and left WWE television, Lesnar had to step back into the role as champion to give new stars and stories time to build in a story essentially without the main character. It was a rough extension in many respects, but it was one that was important and crucial in terms of wrestling history.prevnext
One of the more defining transitional champions was the one who's name was made pretty quickly, Kane. It was a situation where the championship never quite felt like Kane could hold onto for long, but it worked especially well to continue building an identity for the star outside of the long running story with the Undertaker. Although he would end up losing his title the night after, Kane winning against Stone Cold Steve Austin at King of the Ring is just one of those memorable moments in Kane's history. That brief win and lose transition ended up being monumental in the long run.prevnext
Although you can count Dwayne The Rock Johnson here as well, Chris Jericho stands out just a little more due to how many huge moments he would have during his transitions as champions. The unbranded WCW World Championship was on him just as much as it wasn't during a certain time, but then this all eventually led him to becoming the first Undisputed Champion. Jericho unfortunately ceased to reach these kinds of heights until he left the company, he remains an important figure serving as a much need pivot in the history of the titles overall.prevnext
Edge is kind of a tragic transitional champion. Although he had been on the top for quite a long time, none of his championship reigns seemed to last that long compared to those who ended up having it before and after. At the same time, it's a testament to the flexible kind of star that Edge is and was. Edge could be placed in pretty much any feud and believably win the title every now and again to shake things up. Looking back now you can see where Edge was used to fill in needed gaps, but back then it didn't feel that way! Here's hoping his new era avoids this too.prev