Ranking Every World Heavyweight Champion in WWE History

Scott CampbellFeatured ColumnistNovember 3, 2012

Ranking Every World Heavyweight Champion in WWE History

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    Following the brand extension in May 2002, WWE Undisputed Champion Brock Lesnar signed an exclusive contract with Smackdown, leaving Raw without a recognized world title.

    This led to Raw General Manager Eric Bischoff bringing back the decomissioned WCW World Championship and he awarded it to Triple H on Sept. 2, 2002.

    Now known as the World Heavyweight Championship, the belt became the premier world championship, due to its association with the company's flagship television show.

    After WWE Champion John Cena was transferred to Raw in 2005, the World Heavyweight Championship moved to Smackdown, and is now regarded as the company's secondary world title.

    The Big Show recently ended Sheamus' impressive seven-month run with the strap at Hell in a Cell, and this led me to wonder where 'The Great White' would figure when compared to past champions.

    In 10 years, only 24 men have held the coveted title and this article will count down every World Heavyweight Champion, ranked by how many days in total they managed to hold on to the belt.

24. Dolph Ziggler (11 Minutes)

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    Dolph Ziggler is in the unfortunate position of having the shortest time as World Heavyweight Champion in history. By some distance.

    On the Feb. 15, 2011 episode of Smackdown, General Manager Vickie Guerrero awarded the title to Ziggler after Edge was fired, as per the stipulation of a previous title match between the two. Minutes after being named champion, Teddy Long re-hired 'The Rated-R Superstar', who promptly regained the belt from 'The Showoff'.

    The embarrassingly short title reign almost killed Ziggler's credibility, and it is to his immense credit that he has regained so much momentum in the last 18 months. Currently the holder of the Money in the Bank briefcase, 'The Showoff' is destined for a lengthier run with the title in the near future.

23. The Big Show (6 Days)

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    Had he not recently regained the World Heavyweight Championship from Sheamus at Hell in a Cell a mere six days ago, 'The World's Largest Athlete' would have found himself at the bottom of this list.

    After defeating Mark Henry in a Chairs match at TLC in December 2011, an incapacitated Big Show would find himself on the receiving end of Daniel Bryan's Money in the Bank cash-in. All told, his first run with the title lasted only 45 seconds.

    Finding himself (somewhat surprisingly) as World Heavyweight Champion once again, Big Show will be hoping he can establish himself as more than a transitional champion.

21. Shawn Michaels (28 Days)

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    Three months after his in-ring return in August 2002, Shawn Michaels captured the World Heavyweight Championship in the inaugural Elimination Chamber match.

    Unfortunately, Michaels would only hold onto the belt for four weeks before dropping it to Triple H on Dec. 15, 2002 in a Three Stages of Hell match.

    Remarkably, this would be the only singles championship 'The Heartbreak Kid' would win during his second run with the company before his retirement in 2010.

    It seemed as though Shawn Michaels was only given the belt in an effort to prolong interest in an ongoing rivalry with Triple H. Although he is undoubtedly one of the greatest stars ever, he was not one of the greatest World Heavyweight Champions.

21. Jeff Hardy (28 Days)

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    The most popular star in the company at the time, Jeff Hardy finally captured a world title when he defeated Edge in a ladder match for the World Heavyweight Championship in June 2009.

    However, immediately following the match, CM Punk ended Hardy's inaugural title reign in mere minutes after cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase.

    'The Charismatic Enigma' defeated Punk in a rematch a month later to win the title for a second time, but he only managed to hold onto the belt for four weeks before losing a TLC match to the 'Voice of the Voiceless' at Summerslam.

    Jeff Hardy left the WWE at the peak of his popularity in August 2009, and would have no doubt added more world title victories to his list of accomplishments. Despite the quality of his feud with Punk, both of his reigns as World Heavyweight Champion were a little lackluster.

20. Christian (30 Days)

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    Fans were ecstatic when Christian finally captured his first World Heavyweight Championship on May 1, 2011 when he defeated Alberto Del Rio in a ladder match to win the title vacated due to Edge's career-ending injury.

    Only 48 hours later, 'Captain Charisma' dropped the title to Randy Orton on an episode of Smackdown. This instigated an excellent feud between the two, which saw Christian regain the belt via disqualification two months later at Money in the Bank.

    This time, Christian would hold onto the belt for only four weeks before Orton regained the strap in a No Holds Barred match at Summerslam.

    Despite the huge audience reaction to his title win, Christian was only given two short reigns as World Heavyweight Champion. It seemed as though the creative team didn't see him as a top star, and he has hardly been near the title picture since.

19. The Great Khali (61 Days)

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    After Edge was forced to vacate the title due to a serious injury, someone backstage thought it would be a good idea to make The Great Khali World Heavyweight Champion.

    Winning a 20-man Battle Royal for the title on the July 17, 2007 episode of Smackdown, Khali is quite possibly the worst wrestler to ever win a major world title. Holding onto the belt for two months, 'The Punjabi Warrior' engaged in a tedious feud with Batista before dropping the belt to 'The Animal' at Unforgiven.

    Given the belt due to the desperate shortage of main-event stars at the time, The Great Khali was a terrible choice of World Heavyweight Champion, and his reign thankfully ended after less than nine weeks.

17. Jack Swagger (82 Days)

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    Two days after winning the Money in the Bank match at WrestleMania 26, Jack Swagger cashed in to defeat Chris Jericho for the World Heavyweight Championship on March 30, 2010.

    Coming only 18 months after his television debut, 'The All-American American' was nowhere near ready for the main event and his career nosedived following this disastrous title run.

    Booked as a cowardly champion, Swagger only defended the belt successfully three times, including getting himself intentionally disqualified against The Big Show at Over the Limit.

    After dropping the belt to Rey Mysterio a month later in a fatal four way match, Swagger plummeted to the role of jobber before disappearing from television this September.

17. Kurt Angle (82 Days)

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    Kurt Angle won his first and only World Heavyweight Championship on Jan. 10, 2006 when he transferred to Smackdown and won a 20 man Battle Royal for the vacant belt in his debut appearance.

    Rumour has it 'The Olympic Hero' was given the nod after first choice Shawn Michaels allegedly refused to move to the blue show.

    Angle successfully defended the belt against the likes of Mark Henry and The Undertaker, before dropping the strap to Rey Mysterio in a triple threat match at WrestleMania, where 'The Ultimate Underdog' pinned third participant Randy Orton.

    Angle would leave the company four months later, making this his final title run with the company. Although he was only a transitional champion, the Olympic gold medallist still gave his usual 100 percent in the ring every time he defended the title.

16. Goldberg (84 Days)

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    Six months after his long-awaited WWE debut in March 2003, Goldberg captured his only World Heavyweight Championship from Triple H at Unforgiven.

    However, his three-month stint as champion was disappointing to say the least. Spending most of the title reign continuing his feud with Triple H, Goldberg's sparsely defended the belt before dropping it back to 'The Game' in a triple threat match that also featured Kane at Armageddon.

    Goldberg left the company after only a year following WrestleMania 20, and one of the most disappointing careers in recent WWE history is deserving of a similarly poor title reign.

15. Mark Henry (98 Days)

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    Fifteen years after his debut with the company, Mark Henry finally won the World Heavyweight Championship from Randy Orton in September 2011.

    Entering a feud over the title with The Big Show, 'The World's Strongest Man' held onto the belt for three months before finally losing to 'The World's Largest Athlete' in their third pay-per-view collision at TLC in December.

    Before suffering a serious injury that has kept him sidelined for months, Mark Henry had finally found his place among the top tier of company talent.

    Rumoured to be in line for a huge push upon his return, 'The World's Strongest Man' may very well enjoy further World Heavyweight Championship success.

13. John Cena (105 Days)

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    John Cena captured his first World Heavyweight Championship from Chris Jericho in November 2008, and held onto the belt for 12 weeks before losing it to Edge in an Elimination Chamber match at No Way Out.

    Less than two months later, Cena won the belt for the second time at WrestleMania 25 in a triple threat match also involving 'The Rated-R Superstar' and The Big Show. This time, the polarizing superstar would only hold the belt for 21 days, dropping it once again to arch-rival Edge.

    Although it may seem surprising the face of the company has only won the World Heavyweight Championship twice, the focus on the WWE Championship as the premier title means John Cena won't be in contention for this belt again anytime soon.

13. Daniel Bryan (105 Days)

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    Five months after winning a title shot at Money in the Bank, Daniel Bryan cashed in on The Big Show to become World Heavyweight Champion in December 2011.

    Entering a feud with 'The World's Largest Athlete' and Mark Henry, Bryan retained the title by any means necessary for almost four months, before dropping the strap to Royal Rumble winner Sheamus in just 18 seconds at WrestleMania 28.

    It just so happens that losing the title was the best thing that happened to Daniel Bryan, as he has since gone on to become one of the most popular stars in the entire company. Will he likely become World Heavyweight Champion again sometime in the future? YES!

12. Chris Jericho (106 Days)

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    Chris Jericho captured the World Heavyweight Championship on three occasions, yet his longest run with the belt came to only 49 days.

    Y2J first captured the belt in September 2008, holding onto the belt for seven weeks before losing to Batista at Cyber Sunday. Eight days later in a steel cage rematch on Raw, Jericho won the title for a second time. This second reign was the shortest, lasting only 20 days before a returning John Cena lifted the belt at Survivor Series on November 23.

    Jericho's third and final run as champion began when he won an Elimination Chamber match on Feb. 1, 2010. However, less than six weeks later he was dethroned when Jack Swagger cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase.

    Despite being a three-time champion, Chris Jericho was never given a sustained amount of time with the belt, making all of his title reigns forgettable, with the only real highlight coming from a heated feud with Shawn Michaels in late 2008.

11. King Booker (126 Days)

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    After winning the King of the Ring tournament in 2006, Booker T went on to win the World Heavyweight Championship from Rey Mysterio on July 23.

    Embracing his regal gimmick, King Booker held onto the belt for four months, successfully retaining the belt against the likes of Batista and John Cena, often with help from his associates in 'King Booker's Court.' King Booker finally dropped the belt to 'The Animal' at Survivor Series.

    Five years after his debut with the company, Booker T finally became World Heavyweight Champion and used the opportunity to cement his position as one of Smackdown's top main-event heels, and is one of the more underrated champions to hold this particular title.

10. Randy Orton (128 Days)

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    Randy Orton became the youngest World Heavyweight Champion in history when he captured the belt for the first time at Summerslam 2004, at the age of only 24.

    'The Viper' only held the title for four weeks before dropping it to former mentor Triple H at Unforgiven. Following this, Orton would focus his attention on the WWE Title and would not capture another World Heavyweight Championship for nearly seven years.

    Beginning his second reign following a win over Christian on the May 3, 2011 episode of Smackdown, Orton held the belt for two months before trading it back to 'Captain Charisma' for four weeks. His third and final reign lasted only 35 days before it was ended at the hands of Mark Henry at Night of Champions in September.

    Still only 32 years old, 'The Apex Predator' has remained out of the title picture for long enough that it is surely only a matter of time before he is crowned World Heavyweight Champion for a fourth time.

9. Rey Mysterio (140 Days)

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    After winning the 2006 Royal Rumble, Rey Mysterio became World Heavyweight Champion at WrestleMania 22, overcoming Kurt Angle and Randy Orton in a triple threat match.

    'The Ultimate Underdog' was champion for nearly four months, defending the belt against the likes of Orton, Angle and JBL. Mysterio's title reign was ended by King Booker at The Great American Bash in July, following interference by Chavo Guerrero.

    A second run with the title came over four years later, in a fatal four way match in June 2010. This run was much shorter, as Kane cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase only four weeks after 'The Master of the 619' became champion. Since then, a combination of persistent injuries and a reduced schedule have led Mysterio to a comfortable position in the mid-card.

    Rey Mysterio's first reign as underdog champion was much more rewarding that his second spell as transitional title holder, and it seems unlikely that 'The Ultimate Underdog' will hit the same heights again.

7. Kane (154 Days)

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    Kane only managed to hold the WWF Championship for 24 hours back in 1998, but 12 years later he enjoyed the joint-fourth longest individual World Heavyweight Championship reign in history.

    At Money in the Bank 2010 'The Big Red Machine' won a title shot, which he cashed in at the same event on Rey Mysterio. Defending the title against the likes of Mysterio, The Undertaker and Edge, Kane dominated Smackdown for five months before losing the belt to 'The Rated-R Superstar' on December 19.

    Many thought that Kane would never win another world championship before his lengthy World Heavyweight Championship run, so it's safe to say you can never count out 'The Devil's Favorite Demon' to win the title again someday.

7. Chris Benoit (154 Days)

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    2004 Royal Rumble winner Chris Benoit conquered the mountain when he defeated Triple H and Shawn Michaels in a triple threat match at WrestleMania 20 to win his first World Heavyweight Championship.

    During a five-month reign 'The Crippler' defended the belt against Kane and Triple H, before rising star Randy Orton emerged with the gold following their match at Summerslam on Aug. 15.

    Chris Benoit never managed to solidify his position in the world title picture despite his unquestionable in-ring talents, and this remained his only run as World Heavyweight Champion.

6. CM Punk (160 Days)

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    On June 30, 2008, CM Punk cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase on Edge to become World Heavyweight Champion for the first time. A little over two months later, Punk lost the title without having a chance to defend it after a storyline injury at Unforgiven in September.

    Cashing in his second consecutive Money in the Bank briefcase, 'The Voice of the Voiceless' captured the title from Jeff Hardy on June 7, 2009. Holding onto the belt for seven weeks, Punk lost the rematch to 'The Charismatic Enigma' at Night of Champions.

    Four weeks after this, Punk began his third and final reign as champion at Summerslam in August, which ended at the hands of The Undertaker at Hell in a Cell on Oct. 4.

    'The Second City Saint' is currently breaking longevity records with his current WWE Championship reign, so it is a little ironic that the longest of his three stints as World Heavyweight Champion lasted only 69 days.

5. The Undertaker (207 Days)

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    After emerging victorious in the 2007 Royal Rumble, The Undertaker went on to WrestleMania 23 to defeat Batista and become World Heavyweight Champion for the first time. A little over five weeks later Edge cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase to end the first reign of 'The Deadman'.

    The following year, 'The Phenom' pinned 'The Rated-R Superstar' to become champion for the second consecutive WrestleMania. This run with the belt lasted only a month before Smackdown General Manager Vickie Guerrero stripped The Undertaker of the title after his Hell's Gate submission was deemed 'too dangerous.'

    In October 2009, 'The Deadman' began his third and final reign as champion after besting CM Punk at Hell in a Cell. This would become his longest run yet with the title, holding onto the belt for 140 days before losing it at No Way Out in an Elimination Chamber match, following interference from Shawn Michaels.

    Despite capturing the belt for two WrestleManias in a row, both title reigns were disappointingly short, before a third run that was slightly more befitting of a legend. Now on a severely reduced schedule, it is unlikely that The Undertaker will taste world title gold again.

4. Sheamus (210 Days)

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    When Sheamus recently lost the World Heavyweight Championship to The Big Show at Hell in a Cell, it brought to an end the third-longest individual title reign in history.

    Capturing the belt in only 18 seconds at WrestleMania 28, 'The Celtic Warrior' dominated the competition and successfully defended the strap against stars including Daniel Bryan, Alberto Del Rio and Dolph Ziggler.

    Seemingly unstoppable as champion, it came as something of a surprise when 'The Great White' was dethroned after almost seven months by 'The World's Largest Athlete.'

    Almost guaranteed another run with the belt in the near future, Sheamus' lengthy run as champion helped cement his place as a top-level star, while also attempting to restore some prestige to a belt that was subjected to a number of short-term title holders.

3. Edge (409 Days)

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    Despite being a record seven-time World Heavyweight Champion, the longest individual reign Edge had with the belt lasted only 105 days.

    Edge's first run as champion began in May 2007 when he cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase on The Undertaker, before a pectoral injury forced him to vacate the strap 10 weeks later. By the end of the year 'The Rated-R Superstar' was champion again, beginning his longest stint with the belt before falling victim to 'The Deadman' at WrestleMania 24.

    'The Ultimate Opportunist' regained the belt on June 1, 2008 but at the end of the month, CM Punk cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase to prematurely end Edge's time as champion.

    Between February and April 2009, Edge enjoyed a further two short runs with the belt during a memorable feud with John Cena.

    The record-breaking sixth championship victory came in a fatal four way match in December 2010, before 'The Rated-R Superstar' was stripped of the title a mere 58 days later on February 15, 2011.

    Regaining the strap only minutes after seeing it awarded to Dolph Ziggler, Edge's seventh and final reign as champion carried on until his untimely retirement following WrestleMania 27.

    One of the few stars to retire as a reigning world champion, 'The Ultimate Opportunist' held the belt more times than anyone else, and is rightly remembered as one of the great World Heavyweight Champions.

2. Batista (507 Days)

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    Cementing himself as the company's newest superstar when he defeated mentor Triple H to win the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 21, at 282 days Batista's inaugural run as champion is the longest individual reign in the title's history.

    Vacating the belt due to injury after eight months in January 2006, Batista regained the belt in November and remained champion until WrestleMania 23 where he fell victim to Royal Rumble winner The Undertaker.

    Beginning his third stint as champion in September 2007, 'The Animal' would hold onto the belt for three months before coming up short in a triple threat match against 'The Deadman' and Edge at Armageddon, where 'The Rated-R Superstar' emerged victorious.

    A fourth and final reign came when Batista won the title from Chris Jericho at Cyber Sunday in October 2006, only to drop the strap eight days later in a Steel Cage rematch on Raw.

    The only man to hold the belt for over 100 days on two separate occasions, as World Heavyweight Champion 'The Animal' became the top star on Smackdown, as well as one as the greatest champions to ever hold the belt.

1. Triple H (616 Days)

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    The first-ever World Heavyweight Champion, Triple H was awarded the belt on the Sept. 2, 2002 episode of Raw and went on to capture the belt no less than five times, ultimately becoming the most successful champion in the title's brief history.

    After Shawn Michaels claimed the title following the inaugural Elimination Chamber match at  Survivor Series in November, 'The Game' recaptured the belt in a Three Stages of Hell Match at Armageddon a month later.

    This led to an impressive 280-day run as champion, before 'The Cerebral Assassin' was finally dethroned by Goldberg in September 2003. Twelve weeks later, Triple H found himself as World Heavyweight Champion for a third time after emerging victorious in a triple threat match featuring Goldberg and Kane.

    Holding the belt for three months, 'The Game' eventually dropped the strap to Chris Benoit in a WrestleMania 20 three-way that also featured 'The Heartbreak Kid.'

    Becoming champion for an unprecedented fourth time after overcoming protege Randy Orton at Unforgiven in September 2004, Triple H would hold the belt until it was vacated on the Nov. 29 episode of Raw.

    'The King of Kings' began his fifth run with the championship by winning an Elimination Chamber match for the vacant title at New Year's Revolution on Jan. 9, 2005, and remained champion until his final reign was ended by Batista at WrestleMania 21 on April 3.

    Including his eight WWE Championships, Triple H has spent well over 1,000 days as a world champion in the WWE. The company's first World Heavyweight Champion, he could very well be the greatest to ever hold the title.


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    In 10 years there have somewhat surprisingly been only been 10 men to hold the belt for more than 100 days, with Batista the only to manage this feat twice.

    The number of inconsequential title reigns over the years have only helped to devalue to World Heavyweight Championship, and it now finds itself the company's secondary world championship by some distance.

    Hopefully, Sheamus' lengthy title run is the catalyst for the belt to return to a more prominent role in the company. But we'll see.

    What do you think?

    Do the rankings justify the stars to hold the belt?

    Who do you think is the greatest-ever World Heavyweight Champion?

    You know the drill; sound off in the comments below!