And so we come to the end of this special with the big belt, the WWE World Championship. I have to say that this list did not come lightly. There have been some legendary names that held this belt and at the end of the day, there are many wrestlers who simply are not going to make the cut due to the fact that there were just better wrestlers to choose from out of the litter. But overall, I took the ten wrestlers who made the belt amazing and those whose careers were shaped because of it. I know this list is going to be controversial, so let’s get started.
10. Kurt Angle
We start off this list with a man who ascended the ranks of the professional wrestling ladder so quick that it boggles the mind of just how successful he was. Kurt Angle is a former Olympic Gold Medalist in Wrestling. He is an amazing physical specimen and after he retired from the mat, he turned his exploits to professional wrestling. It would be one year later that Angle was WWE Champion.
Quite an amazing feet over the span of two years all things considered. Kurt Angle had that perfect mix of good wholesome charm that was either mind numbingly annoying or joyously patriotic, dependent upon whether or not he was playing a heel or a face. While his heel work is certainly much better, it cannot be denied that he was an absolute gem in the ring and on the mic. Angle held the title four times over his career and makes his way onto the number ten spot.
9. Shawn Michaels
The Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels may very well be the best all around entertainer on this list. Shawn Michaels was a wrestler on the smaller side, who had a great physique, and came onto the scene when the WWE was in some serious hurting time. The mid 1990’s were not a kind time for the WWE who were getting their asses handed to them on a regular basis by the dominant WCW. Shawn Michaels along with Bret Hart remained the two solid acts in the main event scene during that time and put on some stellar shows.
Michaels will always be remembered as the consummate entertainer. He had the look, he had entrance music, he had the skills on the mic, and he had the Kliq backing his play. All around, few will argue the success of HBK Shawn Michaels.
We reach the first controversial selection on this list. CM Punk is still a very controversial topic in Pro Wrestling. The war that has been going on between the WWE and CM Punk for well over a year now has not shown any signs of letting up. From accusations of mal practice, to contract disputes, to firings, and accusations on both sides, neither side has come out looking good. On the one hand, you have the WWE, who is the supposed nefarious entity, intent on selling their product at the expense of their athletes and CM Punk coming across as a cry baby who is upset that he didn’t get his way.
While CM Punk’s future with the company is doubtful at this point to say the least, one can safely claim that CM Punk is one of the best wrestlers of this generation. He had been a solid worker for years in the indie promotions, when he came into the WWE, he was an instant success. It didn’t take long for Punk to rise to the ranks and become a sensational act, which ultimately culminated into his 434 day title reign in 2011. It is a feat that probably won’t be broken for sometime and it earns him a spot on this list.
7. Bret Hart
The best there is, the best there was, and the best that ever will be, while that statement may not carry a lot of weight behind it, it is without a doubt that is one of the best in all of those categories. Bret “The Hitman” Hart is easily one of the most accomplished technical wrestlers to ever step between the ropes. The guy had amazing in ring psychology and his mastery of wrestling holds and manuevers elevated him to the top. Bret Hart is what happens when you combine the technical mastery of Dean Malenko with the charisma of Chris Jericho. He is one of those wrestlers who is by all accounts the total package (much more so than Lex Luger).
Bret Hart was one of the shining rays of light in the WWE during the mid 1990’s. He, along with Shawn Michaels were the two bread winners of the company who was fighting against the WCW at the time and as such, he was an instant draw for any wrestling fan. He is, of course, most well-known for the Montreal Screwjob where Vince McMahon screwed him out of the WWE Championship after Hart decided to go to WCW (which overall turned into a poor decision). The resulting screwjob completely changed the game of professional wrestling and has shaped the industry to what we see it today. Hart won 5 championships over his lifetime and finds himself at the solid spot of number 7.
6. Triple H
Triple H is most certainly a wrestlers who career is shrouded with controversy. Out of all the wrestlers out there, it can be said that Triple H is the guy who politically masterminded his way up the ranks of the WWE until he is where he finds himself now, which is second in command to Vince McMahon along with his wife Stephanie McMahon. As a member of the Kliq, the man who married the bosses daughter, and constant accusations that he held down various wrestlers in order to push himself to the top of the business as well as pushing his initial title reign when other wrestlers did not feel he was ready, he is certainly an interesting case.
But one cannot deny that Triple H is still one of the best, politicking aside. The guy is a strong wrestler and a strong, larger than life character. Along with his other colleagues, Triple H got big during the height of the Attitude Era and became the pioneer wrestler (by his own volition) in the Ruthless Aggression Era. Overall, Triple H has held the championship eight times and remains as one of the most decorated wrestlers in WWE history.
5. John Cena
Say what you will about John Cena, the guy is this generations Steve Austin and Hulk Hogan and there is simply no denying that. As I have said before, I personally have no problem with John Cena. He is the Hulk Hogan character. Eat your vitamins, get some sleep, work hard, and so on and so forth. The kids love him, casual fans love him, hardcore fans hate him, and me personally I think he is fine doing what he is doing. He does have a predictable, but solid move set, he works harder than anyone on that roster, and he is the face of the company for the better part of two decades.
John Cena has held the WWE belt on 12 different occasions, more than any wrestler in history with Triple H, The Rock, and Randy Orton tied for second with 8 and out of those 12 reigns, he has had 2 that have been longer than 200 days. That is impressive no matter how many ways you look at it. Say what you will about Cena, he has most certainly earned a spot on this list as one of the all time great champions.
You cannot have a list of the greatest WWE Champions of all time and not include the man, whose two title reigns in the WWE, spanned 4040 days! Not to mention one of them alone still holds the record for longest title reign with 2803. If there was anyone who made the original WWWF great, it was Bruno Sammartino. The big Italian had the look and the drive to take the WWE into the next level.
Back in the day, the feuds tended to center around the major ethnic groups of New York City and Sammartino was the representative of all the Italian people in New York. He was loved, he was an amazing wrestler, and he easily finds a spot at number four because of it.
3. Stone Cold Steve Austin
People will be angry that Austin is not higher on this list, competing in the number two or number one spot, but you do have to understand that compared to the other two who took the top two spots, it is warranted. If Stone Cold Steve Austin had not suffered the slew of injuries that he suffered over his career, Austin would have taken the top spot as he was the voice of an entire generation of wrestling fans and headed the Attitude Era.
The Texas Rattlesnake was one serious son of a bitch. The beer swilling, foul-mouthed, son of a gun that Austin was made him a perfect fit during the time when wrestling pushed the limits of what it could have on television. Austin held the title on six occasions that spans over 500 days. One of the best in the business, Austin will always be considered as one of the greats.
2. Hulk Hogan
Yes, I am well aware that Hulk Hogan said some horrifically racist things. I am not denying that he made some very insensitive statements. But, sometimes you have to put horrific shit like that aside and judge someone on their performance and when it comes to the realm of performance, there are few that could top the Hulkster. Hulk Hogan was never the greatest wrestler. Even by the standards of his time period, the man had a very limited move set, none of which were moves that looked all that devastating in retrospect. But, what Hogan lacked in wrestling ability, he made up for in charisma.
Wrestling is a funny business. Athleticism takes a back seat to someone’s charisma or in some cases sheer size. Hogan was a big man who had the look and charisma to back his play. It is the reason why wrestlers like Hulk Hogan, The Big Show, Kevin Nash, and The Miz are world champions and wrestlers like Ken Shamrock, Steve Blackman, and Shelton Benjamin never sniffed the belt. No offense at all meant to these guys, but you tend to need a set package to be world champion and Hulk Hogan was the embodiment of that. Arguably the most recognizable wrestler of all time, Terry “Hulk Hogan” Bollea may be a racist, but he is still a solid world champion.
This may strangely be a controversial choice for number one considering I passed up Sammartino, Hogan, and Austin to get to this point, but please, hear me out. The Rock, as far as World Champions are concerned is surprisingly not that illustrious. The Rock has held the title 8 times over his career, the longest consecutive reign has been 119 Days. The rest of them bounce around the 20-40 day marks. Tragically that is not that good when it comes to reigns. The Attitude Era had the belts going around like hot potatoes so it does make sense that he never had an extended reign with the belt until 2000. As a matter of fact, out of all the people on this list, he is the only one who seems to be missing an extended time with the belt that lasts longer than 4 months.
BUT, out of all of the 44 men to hold that belt since its inception in 1963, there isn’t a single wrestler who better represents and embodies the total package of what it means to be a professional wrestler than Dewayne “The Rock” Johnson. The Rock is the wrestler who had the most charisma out of any person in WWE history, flawless mic skills, insane athleticism, a great physique, appealed to both children and adults, and his wrestling moves were perfect. The Rock may not have the most stellar championship record, but the fact that he held the belt is a representation of someone who everyone can get behind as a champion. The Rock did turn down the WWE to make a very successful acting career, but he has been known to return from time to time and it is always a welcome change of pace.
Thank you for reading. It certainly has been a fun couple of posts for this one, but for now we can finally put this wrestling special to rest once and for all! If you enjoyed this post, please like and subscribe for more from me.