In recent years, World Wrestling Entertainment has held its Night of Champions pay-per-view in September and it has, traditionally, been the one time of the year that emphasis has been put on the company’s championships.
In the past, titles were the centerpiece of rivalries, the ultimate goal of every man and woman that stepped between the ropes. Who will ever forget the “Ultimate Showdown” between Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior, a champion versus champion match that was the main event of Wrestlemania 6. There was no personal hatred between the two. Neither wanted to do physical harm to the other. No, Hogan had the WWE title and Warrior wanted it. As Intercontinental Champion, he was next in line for a shot and the match that resulted is still remembered fondly today.
How about the Honky Tonk Man spending one full year as the Intercontinental Champion, selling out buildings as the heel everyone paid to see get beat up. Then there are Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart, two of the greatest in-ring performers of all time, who carried the company in less-successful times. Stone Cold, The Rock and Triple H would see the company through its greatest period while John Cena would lead it into the future.
In recent years, the prizes have become little more than props, influencing fans to purchase replica belts for $300 (or more) at merchandise stands. In the ever-changing world of sports entertainment that places profit over history and prestige, that should not have been unexpected.
That does not mean that we cannot look back on the many champions that have come through World Wrestling Entertainment during its long and illustrious history. These are the men (and woman) that brought meaning to the titles and, in some cases, were elevated by the role as titleholder.
These are the 25 greatest champions in WWE history.
The Superstars on this list had to have met one of the following criteria: 1) the length and quality of their title reign, 2) did they revolutionize the sport while they were champion, or 3) are they the Superstar most immediately recognizable with their given title