Since 1963 the WWE has been the defining name in professional wrestling, and no honor is higher than being WWE Champion. We went through the years and ranked every champion in the illustrious history of the company. Here is a ranking of all 43 champs.
43. Vince McMahon
Was there a more terrible idea than giving McMahon the title? Thankfully it only lasted six days. Not a good idea.
42. Andre the Giant
After Andre defeated Hulk Hogan, he immediately sold the belt to the Million Dollar Man. Jack Tunney entered and informed them that the title can’t be sold, The title was immediately vacated and Andre was no longer champion.
41. Rey Mysterio Jr.
After winning a grueling eight-man tournament to capture the WWE Title, Mysterio lost the belt later that night to John Cena. It’s baffling how he wasn’t given a better run than this, but, unfortunately, it’s his only moment as WWE Champion.
40. Stan Stasiak
Stasiak defeated Pedro Morales, ending his reign of champion after three years, and a little more than a week later lost it to Bruno Sammartino.
Kane defeated Steve Austin in a first blood match at King of the Ring and then lost it back to Austin the following night on Raw. It barely qualifies as a title run.
38. Buddy Rodgers
He was the first champion, but it wasn’t impressive at all. The match where he lost the title to Bruno Sammartino lasted less than a minute.
37. The Big Show
He’s been a superstar for years, but as far as title reigns, he’s had no big wins and usually dropped the belt with his first big defense.
Yokozuna had one of the worst title reigns ever, when he pinned Bret Hart at WrestleMania and then lost the title a few minutes later to Hulk Hogan.
Batista’s first reign lasted one day as he had to forfeit the belt, and his second didn’t even last a month before losing it at WrestleMania to John Cena.
34. Sgt. Slaughter
As much as you think Slaughter dominated, he actually never had a successful title defense, as he won it from the Ultimate Warrior only to lose it to Hulk Hogan soon after. He was another transitional champion.
33. Jeff Hardy
Hardy was one of the most entertaining wrestlers in WWE history and yet his title reigns were so lackluster they’re barely even memorable.
32. Rob Van Dam
Definitely the most disappointing ranking on the list, Rob Van Dam was an incredible athlete, but was forced to lose the title after a drug bust in 2006.
31. Alberto Del Rio
Del Rio has held the belt twice, to top off an illustrious career that includes two World Heavyweight Championships, a Money in the Bank win, and the 2011 Royal Rumble winner.
30. The Iron Sheik
While the Sheik was the one man to end Bob Backlund’s five-year run as champion, he quickly lost the belt to Hulk Hogan, which was the beginning of Hogan’s domination of the sport.
29. Ivan Koloff
The Russian Bear had the distinct privilege of ending Bruno Sammartino’s nearly eight-year reign as champion. He simply served as a transitional champ and dropped the belt three weeks later to Pedro Morales, but he will go down in history for ending the most historic championship run in WWF history.
28. The Miz
The Miz held the title for a little over five months, after defeating Randy Orton on an episode of Raw for the belt. He was the first Tough Enough contestant to ever win the title and had a fantastic win over Randy Orton at the 2011 Royal Rumble.
After two title wins over John Cena in controversial fashion, Sheamus held the title for about three months, until losing it to Randy Orton.
As big as Sid was, he just never reached the degree of success other big men achieved. His two title reigns only lasted a combined three months and served more as a vehicle to advance Shawn Michaels’ storylines.
Everyone loved Mankind, but as a champion his three championship reigns only lasted a total of two months including a month long reign after winning the belt during halftime of the Super Bowl.
24. John “Bradshaw” Layfield
In 2009, JBL won the Intercontinental Title from CM Punk and became the tenth Grand Slam Champion and the twentieth Triple Crown Champion. It didn’t last long, as he dropped the Intercontinental Belt to Rey Mysterio at WrestleMania XXV and then announced his re-retirement.
23. Billy Graham
Graham captured the title from Bruno Sammartino in 1977, but then something unprecedented happened; he didn’t lose the belt. During this time period, heels would usually drop the belt immediately to a new popular wrestler in order to launch a new career into superstardom. Graham changed all of this as he held the belt for nearly a year and defeated many of the top stars including Dusty Rhodes and Don Muraco.
Every title win was, in typical Edge manner, extremely impressive, but after that not too much happened. One reign only lasted three weeks and his total time as champion was a little less than five months.
21. Eddie Guerrero
His reigns didn’t stand out in any significant manner, but his match against Kurt Angle at WrestleMania 20 was one of the best matches in recent memory.
20. Chris Jericho
He beat Steve Austin and The Rock in one night, which is an incredible feat, but, unfortunately, neither of his title reigns were anything particularly special. He still remains one of the most popular wrestlers in WWE history.
19. Kurt Angle
Angle defeated The Rock at No Mercy 2000 to become the first man ever to win an Olympic gold medal and the WWF Championship. His reign didn’t last long, but before losing the belt back to The Rock, he had victories over The Undertaker and Triple H.
18. Ric Flair
As much title success Flair had in the NWA and WCW, he WWF title reigns never amounted to much, as he ended up losing his belt to Randy Savage and later Bret Hart.
17. Pedro Morales
Morales held the title for 1,027 days, which is the longest ever for a Latino wrestler and the fifth longest overall. He dropped the belt in December 1973 to Stan Stasiak, but continued to have a successful career until his retirement in 1987.
16. Brock Lesnar
Lesnar was a three-time champion who completely dominated the sport after an illustrious college football career. He won the title from The Rock at SummerSlam 2002 becoming the youngest champion ever at 25 years, 1 month, and 13 days.
15. Bob Backlund
Backlund’s two title reigns lasted an astounding 2,138 days. While it’s an impressive number, it was during a time period when no wrestling events were really televised and storylines changed depending on what city you were in at the time. Backlund came back to the WWF in 1992 and once again captured the belt for a short period before losing it to Diesel.
14. Randy Orton
Orton has the bizarre honor of becoming a two-time champion on one night at No Mercy in 2007 when he lost the title to Triple H and then won it back from him later in the night.
After holding both the Intercontinental and Tag Team Titles, Diesel captured the WWF Championship in Madison Square Garden where he hit Bob Backlund with a jackknife powerbomb and pinned him in 8 seconds. He only held the title once, but during his year reign he defeated some of the biggest names in wrestling, including Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart.
12. Shawn Michaels
While HBK will go down as one of the greatest wrestlers ever, his championship reigns always ended in controversy and prevent him from being the best of all time.
11. The Ultimate Warrior
Warrior won his first title at WrestleMania VI as he defeated Hogan and became the first man to hold the WWF Championship and the Intercontinental Championship. He had several successful title defenses including matches against Mr. Perfect, Ted Dibiase, and Rick Rude.
10. The Undertaker
The Undertaker isn’t known as much for his title reigns as much as his unbreakable WrestleMania undefeated streaks, but he’s held it four times, including his first title victory when he took the belt from Hulk Hogan.
9. CM Punk
In a time period when championship belts constantly change hands, Punk held the title for an astounding 434 days. He may not be a household name like others on the list, but his run as champion should be recognized for how incredible it really is.
8. The Rock
The eight-time champion always captivated fans no matter if he was playing the hero or the villain. His first title came in 1998 when he won a tournament by defeating Mankind. Now, he’s one of the biggest stars in the world.
7. Triple H
Triple H was not only a fantastic champion, but he was also a key element in transitioning the WWE after the Attitude Era ended. He’s defeated just about every recognizable name in the business and has held the title eight different times.
6. John Cena
Cena will go down as one of the greatest of all time as has more title reigns that any other wrestler in WWE history along with some of the greatest matches ever including his victory over JBL at WrestleMania 21.
5. Macho Man Randy Savage
Savage was a definitive champion in the WWE and, because of his charisma and work ethic, will go down as one of the greats. He held the title two different times but during each defense was part of some truly remarkable matches.
4. Bret Hart
Hart was one of the most beloved and popular champions of all time, as his reign of dominance started in 1992 when he defeated Ric Flair for the championship in his home country of Canada.
3. Stone Cold Steve Austin
Austin was responsible for the reemergence of wrestling popularity in the ’90s as he ushered in the Attitude Era. He won his first title in 1998 as his ongoing rivalry with Vince McMahon led to some of the greatest moments in wrestling history.
2. Hulk Hogan
Hogan defined wrestling in the 80s and had some of the most illustrious title defenses in the history of wrestling including his WrestleMania match against Andre the Giant in the Silverdome where over 90,000 people watched him defeat Andre.
1. Bruno Sammartino
The casual or younger fan may not know the name, but Bruno Sammartino held the championship for 4040 days in total, including an eight-year run as champion. He was insanely popular and in 1971 when he lost the belt to Ivan Koloff, fans were devastated, with many crying as Madison Square Garden was stunned. In 1973 he won the title back by defeating Stan Stasiak. Never again will the sport see a champion with such an impressive reign.