After Triple H began his 12th run as a World Champion recently, I started thinking--who are the greatest WWE/F Champions ever? Who had the biggest impact? Who had lengthy reigns? All this was taken into account.
So, without further ado, the top ten WWE/F Champions of all-time--
10.) The Nature Boy Ric Flair (2 Reigns)--
Flair came to the WWF surrounded by controversy. He left the NWA/WCW in a spat over money and brought with him WCW's World Title (the big gold belt as it was known), claiming on WWF TV to be the "real" world champion.
He would win his first WWF Title at the 1992 Royal Rumble, defeating 29 other superstars, including the Immortal Hulk Hogan, to win the title. He would, however, go on to lose the title just three months later at Wrestlemania VIII to "Macho Man" Randy Savage.
Flair would claim his second and final WWF Title in September of that year, defeating Randy Savage at a house show. Flair would hold the belt just one month before dropping it to Bret "Hitman" Hart. He would return to WCW by 1993.
9.) "Macho Man" Randy Savage (2 Reigns)--
After a lengthy heel run to start his WWF career, Savage would become a successful face culminating in his first WWF Title by defeating "Million Dollar Man" in a tournament at Wrestlemania IV, with help from Hulk Hogan.
This would lead to the epic feud between Savage and Hogan that stemmed from Savage's belief that Hogan was after Miss Elizabeth. The feud came to a climax at Wrestlemania V, where Hogan ended Savage's nearly year-long reign.
Savage wouldn't sniff the title again until three years later when, at Wrestlemania VIII he defeated Ric Flair for his second title run. He would successfully defend it through Summerslam of that year, but would lose it back to Flair in September before departing to the WCW in 1994.
An interesting note: of all of Savage's WWF & WCW title reigns, they all ended with losses to either Flair or Hogan.
8.) The Undertaker (4 Reings)--
The Dead Man has had a long history in the company and it all began at the 1990 Survivor Series.
After an impressive winning streak, he was granted a shot at Hulk Hogan's WWF Title at the 1991 Survivor Series. He would win the match, but in controversial fashion, as Ric Flair pushed a chair into the ring resulting in a tombstone piledriver on the chair. The title would be vacated only to be won back by Hogan at "Texas Tuesday".
The Undertaker would enter into a myriad of feuds with odd characters until finally getting another shot at the title heading into Wrestlemania 13. There, he defeated "Psycho" Sid to claim his second WWF title.
That reign, however, would end at Summerslam of that year when an errant Shawn Michaels chair shot allowed Bret Hart to pick up the victory, launching a tremendous feud between Michaels and the dead man.
His third reign would come during the Austin Era, with help from Mr.McMahon, at Over the Edge (the event where Owen Hart tragically lost his life). This reign would be totally uneventful, as he would drop the title back to Austin a month later on Raw.
His final reign as WWF champ, this time named WWE, would come after his career went full-circle, defeating Hulk Hogan at Judgement Day 2002. Another short reign followed as he would drop the belt to The Rock in a tremendous triple-threat match at Vengeance two months later.
Though the dead man has cemented his place in history, his title reigns have always been troublingly short.
7.) Mankind (3 Reigns)--
A month after being screwed over by the McMahon's at the 1998 Survivor Series: Deadly Games PPV, Mankind got a WWF Title match against The Rock on the December 29th edition of Raw is War.
The ring would be surrounded by the Corporation and DX, who was there to back up Mankind.
Late in the match, all hell broke loose and the ref was taken out. Austin's music hit as the place erupted. The Rattlesnake charged to the ring, leveled The Rock with a chair and made his exit. Mankind made the cover and picked up the win, celebrating by running around the ring and hugging his wife and kids.
He would lose the belt at the 1999 Royal Rumble in controversial fashion in an "I Quit" match with The Great One. Just two days later, however, he defeated the Rock for his second reign in an empty arena match during half time of the Super Bowl.
After losing the belt back to Rock in a ladder match on an edition of Raw, Mankind wouldn't get another shot until Summerslam 1999 in a triple threat match with Triple H and Austin, who was champion. According to the rumors, Triple H was actually supposed to win but Austin refused to drop the belt to him. So Mankind ended up scoring the win, then dropped the title to Triple H the next night on Raw.
Mankind was arguably the most unlikely WWF Champion in history, but he was certainly one of the most entertaining ever.
6.) "Heartbreak Kid" Shawn Michaels (3 Reigns)--
The Showstopper, the Icon, Mr.Wrestlmania--Shawn Michaels was "The Man" during the mid-90s and it all began with his legendary victory over Bret Hart at Wrestlemania 12 in a 60-minute Iron Man match. He would hold the belt until the Survivor Series of that year, losing to Sycho Sid.
Michaels would regain the title at the 1997 Royal Rumble, setting up a re-match of the previous Wrestlemania between Hart and Michaels. That wouldn't happen, however, as Michaels forfeited the title due to a knee injury. In reality, Hart believes that Michaels feigned the injury so that he wouldn't have to do the job.
The rocky road between the two would come to an end at the 1997 Survivor Series, where Hart defended his WWF Title in his home country of Canada against Michaels. Everyone knows what happened next.
McMahon and Michaels misled Hart into thinking he would retain, resulting in the Montreal Screwjob that ended up with Michaels leaving a very angry Montreal with the WWF title and Bret Hart leaving for WCW.
Michaels would damage his back severely against The Undertaker in a casket match at Royal Rumble 1998 before dropping the title to Steve Austin at Wrestelmania XIV.
He was arguably the greatest showman of all-time and played both heel and face roles tremendously before having his career shortened.
5.) Bret "Hitman" Hart (5 Reigns)--
The Calgary, Alberta native started from the very bottom and rose to the top of the charts in the WWF, going from tag team job to WWF Champion by 1992, when he defeated Ric Flair at a house show in Saskatoon.
He would go on to lose to the massive Yokozuna at Wrestlemania IX before winning a rematch with the native of Japan at the event the following year. After a six month reign as champion, he would lose a "Throw in the Towel" match to Bob Backlund at the 1994 Survivor Series.
At the 1995 Survivor Series, Hart would end Diesel's year long reign as champion, utilizing a small package to defeat the big man. He would hold the belt until Wrestlemania 12, losing to Michaels in the epic Iron Man match.
It would be another year until Hart re-gained the title, winning a fatal-four-way match at In Your House: Final Four against Austin, Undertaker and Vader but would end up losing the belt the next night on Raw to Sid.
Hart's final reign as champion would come at Summerslam 1997 when some accidental interference from Michaels would help him defeat The Undertaker. Michaels would get the last laugh, however, as the Montreal Screwjob would result in Hart's final match in the WWF.
Hart would leave on bad terms, but will always be remembered as a fighting champion and a great technical master. It's a shame that his backstage problems with Michaels disrupted what could have been an even better feud.
4.) Bruno Sammartino (2 Reigns)--
Though Bruno held the title just twice in his career, his first win in 1963 would serve as the longest reign in WWF/E history. From the time of his win, it would be eight years (think about that one, Cena haters) before he would relinquish the belt, losing to Ivan Koloff in 1971.
Sammartino would regain the title from Stan Stasiak in December of 1973 and would hold the title three and a half years before finally losing to "Superstar" Billy Graham in April of 1977.
"The Italian Strongman" would leave the WWF on bad terms, feeling he was cheated out of a percentage of the gate he was owed by Vince McMahon Sr. He has since been on bad terms and refuses to work for or be acknowledged by the WWF/E.
3.) The Rock (7 Reigns)--
The Great One would begin his title history at the 1998 Survivor Series. He entered as a fan favorite and left as one of the most hated men in the WWF, joining Vince McMahon's Corporation stable after winning the WWF title.
He and Mankind would trade the title back and forth through early 1999 before The Rock was forced to chase Steve Austin for it after losing it to him at Wrestelmania XV.
He would regain the title at Backlash 2000 before trading it with Kurt Angle and Triple H during 2000, winning it back from Angle at No Way Out 2001. He would again drop the title to Austin at Wrestlemania, though this time Austin made the dramatic heel turn, joining up with McMahon.
His final reign would come at Vengance 2002 after winning a triple threat match with Angle and then-champion Undertaker. Rock would pass the torch at Summerslam that year, dropping the belt to up and comer Brock Lesnar.
Like the Undertaker, Rock had plenty of reigns but lacked that truly long and established reign. Still, no one can take away the fact that he has held the title more times than anyone in history.
2.) Hulk Hogan (6 Reigns)--
Hulkamania began in 1984 when the Hulkster defeated the Iron Sheik to claim his first WWF Title. It would last until February of 1988 when he would lose the belt to Andre the Giant, who immediately tried to give it to Ted Dibiase.
He would engage in an epic feud with Randy Savage leading up to Wrestlemania V, taking the title from Savage. After holding the belt all year, a match for the ages was set up as Hogan took on Intercontinental Champion the Ultimate Warrior in a title vs title match at Wrestlemania VI, which was won by the Warrior.
Main eventing his third straight Wrestlemania, Hogan would win the title for the third time, defeating Sargeant Slaughter at Wrestlemania VII. He would swap the title with the Undertaker before vacating it due to the controversial nature of the matches.
After a time out of the spotlight due to the steroids trial that nearly destroyed Vince McMahon, Hogan made a surprise return at Wrestlemania IX to defeat the Japanese mammoth, Yokozuna. But just two months later, Hogan would drop it back to Yoko and would depart the WWF, eventually landing in WCW.
He would make his return to the WWF in 2002, winning the Undisputed Championship, holding it a month before losing to The Undertaker.
Hogan will forever be remembered for first taking wrestling main stream but also for the way he would seemingly over come the odds at any time. He set the stage for John Cena, for better or worse.
1.) Stone Cold Steve Austin (6 Reigns)--
The most important WWF champion ever and for good reason--the company was in major trouble in it's battle with WCW and Austin's immense popularity helped catapult the company back to the top after his win at Wrestlemania XIV.
He would quickly swap the belt with Kane in the summer of 1998 before losing it in a triple threat match with Kane and the Undertaker. He wouldn't regain the title until Wrestlemania XV, defeating The Rock to begin his third reign.
He and the Undertaker would trade the title in 1999 with Austin eventually going on hiatus before returning in 2000. He would win his fifth title in dramatic fashion, turning heel and uniting with Mr.McMahon after beating The Rock at Wrestlemania 17.
His final reign would come after he lost the belt to Kurt Angle in October of 2001, regaining the title one month later before losing to Chris Jericho in a title unification match.
Austin's first few title runs were the catalyst in the triumphant return to the top for the WWF. Without him, the WWF might not be in business today and there would be no WWF/E title to speak of.
Next up--I'll cover the ten greatest WCW Champions of all-time.