Given the trend of micro title runs in the WWE, Ric Flair's 16 titles is ever more in danger of being broken.
We know the suspects to set the new record. Assuming a retirement age of 45 or cessation of title reigns by then (even though The Undertaker's still winning titles at 45), total titles by current stars will be forecast.
Sixteen is the official record as recognized by the WWE and includes Ric Flair's time in the NWA, WCW, and WWF/E.
If yesterday's titles changed hands as much as today's, Nikita Koloff, Magnum T.A., Tully Blanchard, Roddy Piper, among others would be multiple world champions instead of none. That fact in itself lends to the amazement of how one man (Flair) could win the title so many times. Sixteen was untouchable in that landscape of wrestling, but needs to be calibrated for today's wrestling scene.
There are currently 13 men on the active WWE roster (not counting Batista) who've held a WWE world title at least once. To further stray from the old landscape, there are now two champions within the same company (WWE and World).
So far, 16 has been a tangent which is frequently approached but never overcome. It will soon become an ancient relic in today's WWE.
Given the drive to keep pay-per-views fresh and intriguing, the bouts in which 16 is tied and broken will dominate the selling of those PPV's.
To further up the stakes, it could happen at a Wrestlemania, putting the record on the line against the Undertaker's famous undefeated streak. Yet still, 20 vs. 16 sells better, but there's no certainty that the WWE can keep the belts on/off certain people long enough to reach that point.
Another likely possibility is to have two wrestlers tied at 16 battling at possibly Wrestlemania to see who can reach the unprecedented 17. It's also a safe bet that the record won't be broken on a taped edition of Smackdown.
After 17 is reached, all bets are off as to what the 'new 16' will be. World titles might start changing hands match after match on the same PPV.
Don't just think any Joe Headlock will be allowed to reach wrestling's Holy Grail. Other sports wish they could choose their record bearers (namely Barry Bonds in baseball).
But wrestling's different, they can choose, despite what Vince McMahon's goons tell you.
So foremost, it won't be anyone on the wrong side of controversy. There's much talk of flagships in wrestling and the chosen person must also be a walking example of
how the most decorated world champion should be.
Ric Flair has been the standard of a champion since 1991 when be beat Harley Race's eight titles. After 19 years and counting, Ric Flair is still "The Man."
But who are the likely candidates to set the new 16?
Here's the breakdown.
World Champion since 1999, 13 titles, almost 41 years old, 1.28 titles per year since first run .
Triple H is nearer to the record than anyone in the WWE. Two things lend him to the mold of the record holder, his look/ring action being constantly compared to former record holder Harley Race, and his close relationship with current holder Ric Flair.
He seems to be self-grooming himself to be the next logical step in that progression. It doesn't hurt to be in favors with the one who will ultimately make the decision, Vince McMahon.
At his pace, he's set to finish with 18 titles over four more years.
World Champion since 2004, 6 titles, 30 years old, 1 title per year since first run.
Randy Orton surprisingly doesn't receive as many titles as expected, despite a title per year being a worthy accomplishment.
Set to have 21 titles after 15 more years.
World Champion since 2008, 3 titles, 32 years old, 1.5 titles per year since first run.
Punk doesn't come to mind as someone who always wins titles but is consistent in averaging 1.5 titles per year.
His star will be brighter as more veterans begin to leave. On pace to end with between 22 and 23 titles over 13 more years.
World Champion since 2006, 9 titles, 37 years old, 2.25 titles per year since first run.
"You think you know me..." After spending eight years under the tag wrestler label, Edge broke out having at least two title runs per year. At that rate, he will have 25 total titles given eight more years of shelf life.
World Champion since 2009, 2 titles, 32 years old, 2 titles per year since first run.
Believe or not, Sheamus could be the one to set the new record in the end.
In addition, if he is indeed being mentored by Triple H, he would be the next logical progression to hold the new record after Triple H breaks it (see Triple H above for explanation). After 13 more years he's on pace for 28 titles.
World Champion since 2005, 9 titles, 33 years old, 1.8 titles per year since first run.
Cena's advantage over Sheamus is already having nine titles with about the same amount of shelf life left.
Cena is a safe bet since he will leave a lasting positive image over his long period of time in wrestling.
Projected to have between 30 and 31 titles after 12 more years.
As mentioned at the outset, 16 is based on organizations recognized by the WWE.
For example, there's been no mention made by the WWE of Christian being a two time NWA Champion while in TNA. There are a few others who may break Flair's record with the dreaded asterisk attached to their name.
Here are a few other considerations who will come close while falling under the standard NWA, WCW, WWE/F banner with TNA sponsored titles added.
World Champion since 2000, 10 titles, 41 years old, 1 title per year since first run
TNA announces Angle as a 13 time champion. He has 10 pro-wrestling world championships between his time in the WWE and TNA. In 4 more years, he's on pace to finish with 14 titles.
World Champion since 2000, 10 titles, 42 years old, 1 title per year since first run .
Jarrett's titles are comprised of his time in WCW and TNA. He's on pace to have 13 total after three more years.
World Champion since 1989, 12 titles, 51 years old, 0.6 titles per year since first run.
Sting's a bit beyond 45 but is still in the title scene.
He currently has 12 titles including the WCW International World Heavyweight Championship (NWA/WCW 'big gold belt').
The way it looks now, John Cena will be the greatest wrestler ever with 31 total World Titles held.
Given those rates of winning, don't expect the WWE to stall careers and revenue for the sake of keeping 16 intact.
In the end, will a 'new 16' be good for business?
Agree, disagree, feel free to comment...