Back in the quote-unquote good old days of the Attitude Era, WWE didn’t have quite as impressive a European presence.
Whereas nowadays we have NXT UK – complete with UK-based Takeover events - and a bevy of European tours and talent such as Aleister Black, Becky Lynch, Cesaro and Finn Balor, back in the late 90s and early 2000s, WWE rarely visited these shores for any prolonged period of time.
The company were doing so well in the United States, that there was no real need to depart for the often exhausting excursions.
WWE did, however, create a special European Championship which was ostensibly for the benefit their overseas fans, who were just as hooked on the product as their American counterparts.
The championship was established on February 26 1997 - this day 24 years ago - and the inaugural champion was decided in a classic match between the British Bulldog and Owen Hart in the main event of a Raw hosted in Berlin, Germany (although the match didn't actually air until March 3...)
Over the next five or so years the title would see more ups and downs than WWE’s stock price. The European Championship was at various times held by legends and Hall of Famers, being defended at WrestleManias and placed in the centre of important storylines.
Overall, the European Championship left a complicated legacy during its brief existence in the wrestling world. With that said, determining the merits of each individual champion can be a tricky business.
Here are the ten best WWE European Champions...
10. Triple H
The Cerebral Assassin is no stranger to championship gold, having racked up an impressive 14 World title reigns, five Intercontinental Championships and three Tag Team titles. Throw in a Royal Rumble, King of the Ring and a couple of Slammy’s and you have an illustrious career befitting one of the greatest to lace a pair of boots.
Before solidifying himself as World Title material, though, Triple H had to climb the ranks like everyone else, putting a shift in and showing he could wear a belt, elevating himself, the title and his opponents when entrusted with the responsibility.
The Game got his chance in the fall of ’97, when he captured the European Title in an absolute non-match with DX stablemate Shawn Michaels.
Trips initially lost the title without really losing it himself, with Owen Hart beating The Artist Formerly Known as Goldust, who was dressed as Triple H, massive fake nose and all.
It wouldn’t be too long until The King of Kings regained the title from Owen, going on to hold it for a not inconsiderable 120 days before dropping it and moving swiftly on to bigger and better things.
For his programme with Owen and the odd decent defence here and there, Triple H cracks the top ten.