One of the biggest matches of the year is the showdown between Daniel Bryan and John Cena at SummerSlam.
A strong undertone in the buildup of their match is that Bryan is far smaller than the usual type of superstar the WWE like to represent their company.
Vince McMahon has called him diminutive and ‘toothpick sized’ in an obvious attempt to endear him to fans, but the truth is some of the company’s most successful performers have been relatively small men.
The following are the greatest ‘small’ world champions in the modern era of the WWE.
The two main criteria for rankings are quality and number of world title reigns, although success in the WWE outside of championships will also be considered.
Rey Mysterio’s various reigns as world champion were mostly disappointing.
He’s had three world title reigns in total: two as world heavyweight champion and one as WWE champion.
His WWE championship reign lasted less than a night and his second run with the big gold belt was only 28 days long.
During his first run as champion, starting at WrestleMania 22, Mysterio suffered several clean losses to larger foes.
However, the fact that a man of his height became world heavyweight champion in the WWE is simply astonishing.
Mysterio, at 5'5", is the shortest and lightest man to hold a world championship in WWE hsitory.
The time Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero spent as the world champions of Raw and SmackDown respectively are eerily similar.
At WrestleMania XX, Eddie successfully defended his WWE championship, while Benoit won the world heavyweight championship in the main event.
Unfortunately, both talented superstars were overshadowed by others during parts of their reigns.
While Guerrero feuded with Kurt Angle on SmackDown, the spotlight was still on Brock Lesnar and his rivalry with Goldberg.
Similarly, Raw was dominated by the program involving Triple H and Shawn Michaels during Benoit’s run.
At 133 and 154 days respectively, Guerrero and Benoit each had solid reigns, though neither man would ever recapture world title gold.
Of all the entrants on this list, Chris Jericho has won the most world titles.
A six-time world champion, Y2J has had one of the most decorated careers of any superstar in WWE history.
He’s main evented WrestleMania, stolen the show at countless events, won a ridiculous amount of titles and was the first ever undisputed champion.
Admittedly, some of Jericho’s reigns were lackluster, but his longevity and consistency as a top performer is unquestionable.
At 6'2" and 218 pounds, CM Punk isn’t exactly short, but he’s not nearly as muscle-bound as even the other entrants on this list.
His physique, of course, has come into question on WWE television, with Triple H calling him ‘skinnyfat’ and Kevin Nash urging him to ‘hit the gym’.
Well, Punk is a five-time world champion who held the WWE championship for almost three months longer than Nash did. Take that, Big Sexy.
However, as with Guerrero and Benoit, Punk frequently found himself being overshadowed by others.
Stars like Brock Lesnar, The Rock and John Cena frequently stole the spotlight from The Second City Saint.
Still, not even one of those elite megastars can claim to have the longest WWE championship reign in the modern era.
Who’s better, Shawn or Bret? This debate has raged on for years and will continue for many years.
Hart was arguably more of a trailblazer; he won the title in 1992 when the main event scene was largely compromised of larger men like Hulk Hogan and Yokozuna.
Michaels would follow suit, winning the title off The Hitman at WrestleMania XII in 1996.
Bret also had one more world championship reign than HBK did; he won the WWF title five times while Michaels had four runs with a world championship.
Still, Hart would retire in 2000 while Michaels was consistently terrific in his tenure with the WWE from 2002-10.
Each man has an equally strong claim to being the greatest champion in the company's history.