It’s been said that Triple H is high on long title reigns, so it’s possible that CM Punk’s mind-boggling 400-plus day run as WWE champion may be a sign of change in the WWE.
Even though Punk has been overshadowed by John Cena throughout much of his reign, he’s done some terrific things as WWE Champion and in doing so, he has brought some prestige back to the title.
While the Attitude Era did wonders for the business, the WWF Championship was hot potatoed so much from 1998-2001 that it lost some of its value.
Things cooled off a little after the Attitude Era, but booking surrounding the World titles since the 2002 brand split has been very far from perfect.
The Brand-Split era has seen many pointless, month-long (or often shorter) World title reigns; this is a list of seven such reigns that devalued the title, made talent(s) look weak, or managed to do both.
Upon his debut, Brock Lesnar received a monster push, the likes of which would make Ryback blush.
Among other things, he won the King of the Ring, dismantled Hulk Hogan, defeated The Rock for the WWE title and beat the Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell match all in the space of about seven months.
After all of that, Lesnar lost the WWE Championship to the Big Show at Survivor Series when Heyman turned on him.
We can say fairly surely that the reason for the change was to help turn Brock into a babyface, and to lead to Angle vs. Lesnar at WrestleMania 19.
There are two problems with this.
Brock Lesnar was The Next Big thing, and he should’ve gotten a strong title reign to substantiate that, but instead he lost the championship in less than three months to the Big Show, who wasn’t exactly a top star.
Secondly, it did nothing to help Big Show, who ended up feuding with Undertaker through to WrestleMania 19.
Brock could have easily turned babyface mid-reign without losing the title, and Big Show could’ve feuded with Undertaker without winning the title.
Of course, Lesnar’s career flourished in spite of this loss, but it was still a pointless title change that did neither man good and only hurt the value of the title.
Chris Jericho was fresh off the feud of his career, having beaten Shawn Michaels in a ladder match at No Mercy to retain his World Heavyweight Championship.
Then, three weeks later he lost the strap to Batista at Cyber Sunday, only to get it back eight days later to effectively end their rivalry, baffling any thinking fan who saw it happen.
Perhaps Vince found out that John Cena would be cleared to return from injury at Survivor Series, so they made the switch to have Jericho lose the title to a returning Cena.
If this is the case, why did they not just go with Batista vs. Cena, or better yet, not have Cena return in a World Championship match?
Batista’s win and eight-day reign made both him and Jericho seem weak, as it looked like neither man could legitimately keep hold of the championship. For Jericho, this is compounded by his loss to Cena mere weeks later.
Not only that, but in the space of a month, the World Heavyweight Championship changed hands three times to three different wrestlers.
The quick switch devalued the title and the only person that got a good rub from it was already the company’s top star.
I was happy and excited for Jeff when he won his first World title at Armageddon in 2008.
Then, I was disappointed (but not shocked) a month later when the title went back to the man he won it from, Edge (who, by the way, would lose it at the following PPV).
Hardy had been booked in PPV WWE Championship matches in September, October (twice) and November, getting closer and closer to victory until he finally succeeded in December.
WWE teased us for over four months that they would give Hardy the strap, and by the time they did so, his whole title hunt felt a bit drawn out, but at least he finally won the big one.
His reign ended up being a quarter the length of his chase. Not the best payoff.
It’s unclear if Jeff was just a victim of wrong place wrong time—his win came just as the WrestleMania season was kicking off—or if Vince just didn’t have enough faith in him to keep the title for more than a month, period.
Either way, each problem could’ve been remedied by having him win the title a few months earlier—he could’ve then either had a longer reign, or his short reign would be less of an anticlimax.
As it is, though, if his title reign achieved anything, it was that it made his overdue title win look like a fluke.
Edge won the World Heavyweight Championship in November of 2010 to become a 10-time World champion, and would go on to defend the title against Alberto Del Rio at WrestleMania 27.
Somewhere in between, Dolph Ziggler was the World Heavyweight champion—for 11 minutes.
Every time Cole refers to Ziggler as a "former World champion" it slights every other wrestler who held either the World Heavyweight or WWE Championship.
That is, of course, not a shot against the super-talented Dolph Ziggler, who will hopefully become one of the company's top stars in 2013.
Ziggler didn’t win the title; he was awarded it by Vickie Guerrero because Edge beat him using a spear. And she also claimed he attacked Teddy Long.
So yeah, that’s why Dolph Ziggler is a "former World champion".
While this angle may have gotten Ziggler a little bit more over as an immoral heel with no integrity, it made him look ultra, ultra weak in the process.
Presumably, Ziggler will get a legitimate World title reign after he cashes in his Money in the Bank contract and we can forget this ever happened.
Some may argue that Christian’s two-day reign as World Heavyweight champion should be on this list.
That reign, however, at least started a summer long feud as well as Christian’s heel turn, so while it damaged Christian a lot, it at least had a point to it.
The two would go on to put on some terrific matches, and Christian would regain the title in July, but drop it back to Orton in August.
Henry then won the title off Orton a little over a month later.
Orton’s beating Christian for his ninth World title reign was not only unnecessary but it also made Christian look like a paper champion, as he was unable to successfully defend his title during either of his short reigns.
WWE could have just as easily had Christian find a way to retain the title and then have him drop it to Henry at the following PPV in a triple threat with Orton.
That way Christian wouldn’t look like a weak champion and Henry could’ve ripped apart two top stars to kick off his reign as champion.
As it stands, Orton’s month-long title reign made Christian look like a joke and put Orton on track to be a 25-time World champion by the time he retires.
Alberto Del Rio is a two-time WWE champion, and his timing couldn’t have been worse.
WWE planned for Del Rio to headline its tour of Mexico as the company's champion, but it definitely didn’t plan on CM Punk dropping a pipe bomb and becoming a megastar overnight.
So, Punk wins the WWE Championship in spectacular fashion, and then, in an attempt to stick to the plan, gets beaten by Del Rio who cashes in his Money in the Bank contract a month later.
CM Punk’s remarkable year-plus reign as WWE Champion really should’ve started at Money in the Bank when he beat Cena.
When they decided to go through the motions and put the strap on Del Rio, Punk’s momentum took a hit.
Now that Punk was out of the title picture, WWE handled him pretty much as poorly as it could have.
Night of Champions? Lost to Triple H. Hell in a Cell? Pinned by Del Rio in a Triple Threat. Vengeance? Lost in a tag match to Miz and R-Truth.
In spite of his two World title reigns, Del Rio is still having trouble getting fans to really care about him.
Thankfully, CM Punk is talented enough to rebuild the momentum that WWE so idiotically nearly destroyed, but it was still a very ill-thought out couple of reigns for Del Rio.
Before The Rock won his sixth WWE title in 2001, in the title's then 38-year history, Bret Hart and Hulk Hogan tied for the record for most WWE championship wins at five.
In 2012, John Cena is a 12-time World champion. Twelve. And he’s still the company's top babyface, meaning there are more championship reigns in his future.
The problem isn’t really that Cena has won the title so many times; it’s that so many of his title wins have been so short and/or unnecessary.
For instance, he won the World Heavyweight Championship off Edge at WrestleMania 25 only to lose it to him at the next PPV.
In 2010 he won the WWE Championship in an Elimination Chamber and held it for a solid 10 minutes before being beaten by Batista.
His most recent run as champion, his much celebrated 10th reign as WWE champion, lasted two weeks.
I joked before that Orton would be a 25-time World champion by the time he retires, but I wouldn’t dare make that joke with Cena, because I’d hardly be surprised if it happened.