John Bradshaw Layfield
Yes, John Bradshaw Layfield went on to hold the WWE title for the best part of a year and is viewed now as a legitimate main eventer- but when he actually become Number 1 contender back in 2004, no-one could believe it.
Bradshaw hadn’t even been close to the mid card prior to getting his title push. He had been working with Faarooq in a short-lived APA reunion and had just been involved in an angle which saw his partner get fired.
Bradshaw would vanish off air for a few weeks before returning as the JR Ewing-inspired John Bradshaw Layfield that we all know and loathe today. His new appearance was a surprise, but the fact that he was then catapulted into a feud for the WWE title at the following PPV, Judgement Day, was even more surprising.
Smackdown was in a very weak place at the time, and with Lesnar having just left and Kurt Angle being injured, the show desperately needed someone to feud with then champion Eddie Guerrero. Credit to JBL though, he got the gimmick over and was given the title a month later at The Great American Bash 2004, which is still one of the worst PPV’s in the company’s history.