What Is the Ideal Length of Time to Hold a WWE or AEW Championship?January 13, 2022
What Is the Ideal Length of Time to Hold a WWE or AEW Championship?
One of the greatest mysteries of professional wrestling is how to properly book champions. Even with complete control of the booking, every promotion struggles to find the right balance between longevity and surprise.
WWE has been criticized often for short title reigns, yet fans will decry runs that last longer than a few months for becoming stale. Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns have had long title reigns with very different reactions, while Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair have defined the women's title scene.
All Elite Wrestling has generally committed to longer title reigns, but the company has had inconsistent success with its champions. Kenny Omega and Jon Moxley have stood out, but Riho and Hikaru Shida needed better challengers for their title defenses.
Looking over the recent history of title reigns in WWE and AEW, there are some clear signs that point to what makes the best and worst champions.
WWE Men's Championships: Positive and Negative Examples
Positive: AJ Styles, WWE Championship (September 11, 2016-January 29, 2017: 140 days)
AJ Styles' first reign solidified his future with WWE. As a consistent performer and entertainer, he made every defense matter. While he lost the title a little too soon, it was a great introduction to him for those learning how good he can be.
Negative: Bray Wyatt, WWE Championship (February 12, 2017-April 2, 2017: 49 days)
Bray Wyatt had been a journeyman in WWE, taking the long road to gold. Even when he finally won, it was only to set up for him to be dethroned by Randy Orton, who was then shockingly beaten by Jinder Mahal. Wyatt never got much of a chance to shine, though that became the story of his WWE career.
Negative: Brock Lesnar, Universal Championship (April 2, 2017-August 19, 2018: 504 days)
Brock Lesnar was the first world champion in a long time to hold the title for more than a year. Given his infrequent appearances on WWE television, this reign stood out more for the many wrestlers who should have been champion instead.
Positive: Roman Reigns, Universal Championship (August 30, 2020-current: 500-plus days)
Roman Reigns has been a true exception to the rule with WWE. As a long-term champion, he has defended his title consistently, making each challenger feel worthy. It will be a matter of how much longer he lasts and who finally dethrones him.
WWE Women's Championships: Positive and Negative Examples
Positive: Sasha Banks, SmackDown Women's Championship (October 25, 2020-April 10, 2021: 167 days)
Sasha Banks has been struck by a serious of poorly booked short reigns. When she finally got her due by dethroning Bayley in a classic, it was a reminder of how good she can be. She held herself as a champion before falling to the perfect challenger in Bianca Belair.
Negative: Charlotte Flair, SmackDown Women's Championship (March 26, 2019-April 8, 2019: 13 days)
Charlotte Flair has been notorious for short reigns, padding her record as a 13-time champion. This was an especially egregious run as The Queen defeated Asuka two weeks before WrestleMania 35 so that she could be thrown into its main event, losing to Becky Lynch in a Triple Threat that also included Ronda Rousey.
Negative: Rhea Ripley, Raw Women's Championship (April 11, 2021-July 18, 2021: 98 days)
Rhea Ripley's win over Asuka felt like the beginning of something special. However, WWE never had a good idea of what to do with such a great talent. She lost to Flair before she could make it to 100 days as champion.
Positive: Becky Lynch, SmackDown Women's Championship (August 21, 2021-October 22, 2021: 62 days); Raw Women's Championship (October 22, 2021-current : 80-plus days)
While the fact that this reign has been split over two separate titles is bizarre, Becky Lynch has consistently delivered against fresh, young opponents. She will likely go to WrestleMania 38 as champion. She just needs a worthy challenger to finally stop her run.
AEW Men's Championships: Positive and Negative Examples
Negative: Chris Jericho, AEW World Championship (August 31, 2019-February 29, 2020: 182 days)
Chris Jericho made sense to win the AEW World Championship before anyone else, and his loss to Jon Moxley felt appropriate. However, the title reigns between never quite lived up to the hype of one of the true wrestling legends getting a final moment in the sun.
Positive: Jon Moxley, AEW World Championship (February 29, 2020-December 2, 2020: 277 days)
The arrival of Moxley was one of the first true moments in AEW, and he never looked back after winning the title. He helped put over Eddie Kingston while setting the stage for arguably an even better reign to come.
Positive: Kenny Omega, AEW World Championship (December 2, 2020-November 13, 2021: 346 days)
Kenny Omega reigned for just under a full year. In that time, he had fantastic matches with many of the best in AEW. He fought through some difficult challenges and some messy moments to take the title all the way to the perfect end, losing at the hands of his former friend and greatest rival, "Hangman" Adam Page.
Positive: 'Hangman' Adam Page, AEW World Championship (November 13, 2021-current: 61-plus days)
While his reign has barely started, Page has three Match of the Year contenders in as many defenses. He is a storyteller who has made the most of his time to date, but he does need to run with the title a while longer to truly shine.
AEW Women's Championships: Positive and Negative Examples
Negative: Riho, AEW Women's Championship (October 2, 2019-February 12, 2020: 133 days)
While Riho was a worthy winner of the first AEW Women's Championship, she did not have the challengers she needed at that time. Instead, she and Nyla Rose orbited each for months until the title change.
Negative: Nyla Rose, AEW Women's Championship (February 12, 2020-May 23, 2020: 101 days)
Rose's victory over Riho was the best match from the AEW women's division to that point, but she also struggled to find challengers. By the time Hikaru Shida was ready to take over, it was a foregone conclusion that she would be the next titleholder.
Negative: Hikaru Shida, AEW Women's Championship (May 23, 2020-May 30, 2021: 372 days)
In the middle of a pandemic, Shida held down the fort as champion. Unfortunately, AEW did not book her well to keep her consistently relevant. She had good individual matches but was often stuck waiting months for the next true challenger. Britt Baker's win ended up feeling inevitable.
Positive: Britt Baker, AEW Women's Championship (May 23, 2020-current: 228-plus days)
Baker has been lucky to win the title when the AEW women's division finally began to find its footing. She has had great defenses against Kris Statlander, Tay Conti, Ruby Soho, Riho and others. If the right woman steps up soon to dethrone her, her reign will become the standard for the division to match.
The best champions across the recent men's and women's reigns have generally been helped by a steady focus. The minimum length for a successful champion is 100 days, often closer to 200, though it can start to be too much when closing in on the 300 mark.
There are always exceptions, but fans have a limited attention span. Too much of anything can feel stale. That said, the best way to make a run feel dull is poor title defenses.
While WWE has struggled to get title reigns to the proper length due to constantly shifting stories, AEW has seen that the number of days as champion is not everything, especially in the women's division. It is a matter of who competes against the titleholder during their run.
A four-month reign can outshine an eight-month one if the champion has great wrestlers to compete against. It is also important that it always feels like the titleholder could lose but prove they belong at the top with every defense.
The ideal length for a reign is roughly 200 days with at least seven clean and successful defenses. While title runs can have bumpy false finishes, it is important to solidify the champion, even as a heel. They must be able to win big when it matters.
Not every champion can reach this stage, but WWE and AEW should book the true stars with this consistency. Names such as Big E or Bianca Belair needed that chance, and plenty of other talent certainly deserved better than the short reigns they had.