In the '70s and '80s, professional wrestling wasn't as widely televised as it is today. The amount of regional promotions around the world meant that exposure to these different companies was limited, and that they had to do all they could to draw in audience members. For this reason, title defenses and changes were a lot more commonplace at non-televised shows, otherwise known as 'house shows', in order to create the idea that 'anything can happen'. Sadly, modern-day 'sports entertainment' is quite a bit more formulaic and safe with things like these, and WWE in particular tend to stick to televised title changes in order to build the prestige and attention of both the championships and the champions. House show title defenses almost ALWAYS end with the champion retaining their belt, but there have been a few recorded instances of new champions being crowned. Granted, these are often to capitalise on a hometown audience for a certain competitor, create buzz for an upcoming pay-per-view, or just a means to let the original champion win it back within a couple of days, but it's still an exciting moment for fans in attendance who perhaps aren't expecting it. Here are 20 notable cases of titles changing hands within the WWE, WWF, WCW, and ECW, all within the modern era.
Honourable Mention: WCW World Television Championship
Yep. The WCW World Television Championship can go in this article. Despite the gimmick of the belt basically requiring a TV camera to be broadcasting the match to the world's living rooms, the title changed hands an amazing 61 times at house shows. The belt itself only endured 107 reigns in total, meaning that more than 50% of the times that it changed hands, it was doing so against its own selling point. Then again, there were only a couple of WWE European Champions that actually hailed from Europe (or even defended the title on European soil), and the same ruling applies to the U.S. title as well. WCW likely just used the belt to add a little extra prestige to their live events and draw ticket sales, as the title changed hands between the likes of Booker T, Stevie Ray, Chris Benoit, and Lex Luger at house shows across the late '90s.
Honourable Mention: WWE Hardcore Championship
Before the WWE changed its policies to ensure no head shots with weapons and no (intentional) bleeding, the hardcore division was one of the most entertaining and absurd parts of any given show. In 2000, then-Hardcore Champion Crash Holly offered to defend his title belt 24/7, no matter the time nor place. As a result, he and plenty of other superstars ended up amassing huge tallies with the belt, with Holly himself winning the belt no less than 22 times. This rule enabled the company to use it to their advantages at house shows, and between 2000 and 2002 the championship changed hands at non-televised events an amazing 123 times. Some nights would see the title move around between a dozen different guys, and it would often be the person who walked into the event as champion having to run around and regain it before the night was out. Guys like Raven, Bradshaw, Steven Richards, Bubba Ray Dudley, Shawn Stasiak and Goldust all racked up a lot of reigns with the belt, even if each instance only did last a matter of minutes. Though the WWE is a lot safer and less prone to its superstars suffering concussions without the hardcore division, it would be entertaining to see the beaten-up strap come alive once again, purely to give house shows a bit of unpredictability again.