The numbers keep getting higher for world champions; and we’re not talking about the length of their runs. The amount of times wrestlers are now crowned world champions is staggering compared to what it once was.
Even if a wrestler was a top star, he was lucky to have one championship win. When a wrestler was world champion, they truly carried the wrestling business on their shoulders. Now, you can have a champion who’s not even on TV for months at a time.
We’ve also seen the hot potato treatment with the world title, with guys exchanging it several times, raking in more championship wins on their resume. Some like the unpredictability, some feel it takes prestige away from the title. After all, more title wins under a wrestler’s belt means they also lost the title many times.
Either way, here are the 10 most decorated world champions in history. This list will only include WWE world title wins, that way Ric Flair doesn’t hog up our list.
10) Bret Hart, Kurt Angle, CM Punk: 5-Time Champion
There have been several five-time world champions in WWE history. Hulk Hogan was the first, but would win more. Bret Hart‘s WWE career ended with five, as did Kurt Angle‘s, and CM Punk‘s, and there will soon be several more.
Bret Hart became a five-time champion when he defeated The Undertaker at SummerSlam 1997. His combined reigns lasted a total of 654 days, with his longest coming in 1994, where he held the title from WrestleMania X to Survivor Series 1994. This was all over the span of a 14-year WWE career, so him being a five-time champion wasn’t all that crazy to believe. In fact, he had been in WWE for nine years before winning his first title in 1992.
Kurt Angle on the other hand was just about the quickest learner in wrestling history and won his first world title just 11 months after his debut. Looking back, you can’t say it wasn’t justified. He beat The Rock at No Mercy 2000 and he would go on to win four WWE titles and one World Heavyweight Championship in 2006, which would be his final title win in WWE. He’s gone on to win several more in TNA.
CM Punk had a tall mountain to climb, coming to WWE from Ring of Honor, and went to the main roster through WWE’s brand of ECW. He won the Money in the Bank contract at WrestleMania XXIV and cashed in on Edge, after the Rated-R Superstar was attacked by Batista. He would win via cash-in again the following year. His World Heavyweight Championship wins can’t compare to his reigns as WWE champion, first beating John Cena at Money in the Bank 2011, perhaps the best match of this era, and beating Alberto Del Rio at Survivor Series later that year. His last reign would last 434 days, the longest in over 20 years.
9) Batista: 6-Time Champion
Batista made his WWE debut in 2002 as Deacon Batista and many wondered what direction the beastly deacon would take. He joined Evolution in 2003 and was pegged as part of WWE’s future.
When plans with Randy Orton in 2004 didn’t work out, Batista was given the next big push, by way of challenging Triple H. After winning the 2005 Royal Rumble, Batista decided to face his former mentor at WrestleMania 21.
Batista would defeat Triple H for the World Heavyweight Championship and held it for nearly 10 months, before an injury forced him to forfeit the title. Batista would go on to become a four-time WHC and added a WWE title in 2010, a much more forgettable reign. After John Cena won the title at Elimination Chamber 2010, Batista was immediately given a match against Cena. He beat him quickly with a Batista Bomb, but would lose the title to Cena a month later at WrestleMania XXVI. That was his last world title win.
8) Stone Cold Steve Austin: 6-Time Champion
With Jim Ross calling all of Austin‘s WWE Championship wins, they all felt epic. It began at WrestleMania XIV when the WWE desperately needed to put the company in Stone Cold’s hands in their battle with WCW.
Austin won the 1998 Royal Rumble and it appeared he would have to conquer DX and Mike Tyson at WrestleMania. Tyson shockingly sided with Austin and Stone Cold won his much deserved first world title, with J.R. famously declaring, “The Austin Era has begun!”
What an era it was. Austin would win the title a total of six times, including some monumental wins over The Rock at WrestleManias XV and X-Seven. His sixth and final title win came on an October 2001 edition of RAW, reclaiming the title from Kurt Angle, who had beaten him a few weeks earlier. Austin’s run on top felt like it was too short, considering the enormous star he was. Injuries prevented him from racking up more title wins, but it’s hard to find a superstar whose run was more memorable.
7) Hulk Hogan: 6-Time Champion
Hogan gets the tiebreaker based on the cumulative length of his WWE title wins, an astounding 2,185 days. Including his WCW World Title wins, Hogan was a 12-time champion.
Hogan won his first WWE title shortly into his second stint with the World Wrestling Federation (at the time). He faced the villainous Iron Sheik who had just ended Bob Backlund’s four-year run as champion. Hogan defeated Sheik in just over five minutes and would go on to hold the title for over four years.
He would win the title again at WrestleMania V and VII. After losing to The Undertaker at Survivor Series 1991, he would then regain the title from the Phenom days after losing it with a victory at Tuesday in Texas. He was forced to vacate the title days later, due to the controversial nature of his title win.
His WWE run ended after winning the title at WrestleMania IX and dropping it to Yokozuna a few months later. Nine years would pass before his next WWE title win. He got a shot at Triple H‘s belt a month after WrestleMania X-8, right after turning babyface. With some unexpected help from The Undertaker, Hogan won his sixth and final WWE title, at the age of 48.
6) Undertaker: 7-Time Champion
The Undertaker will be remembered more for his 21-0 run at WrestleMania than his world title wins, but he still has seven to his name. His first reign was forgettable, lasting only days after defeating Hogan.
He would have to wait over five years for his next WWE title win, deservingly winning at WrestleMania 13 over Sycho Sid. There’s no doubt the Phenom was often overlooked when crowning champions.
Taker would have an additional reign in 1999, lasting only one month. After 1999, his next title win came at Judgement Day 2002, after defeating Hulk Hogan yet again. He would hold it for two months and wouldn’t win again until 2007. After winning his first Royal Rumble, The Undertaker defeated Batista at WrestleMania 23. He would win it again at WrestleMania 24, this time over Edge. His last title win came over CM Punk at Hell in a Cell 2009, before Shawn Michaels cost him the title at Elimination Chamber 2010.
With his streak over, it appears Taker’s days as a performer, much less a champion, are over.
5) The Rock: 8-Time Champion
The Great One became one of the youngest world champions in WWE history, winning his first title at the age of 26 at Survivor Series 1998, two years after his WWE debut.
Seven of The Rock’s eight title wins came in a four-year span, never quite having a long tenure as champion. He traded the title with Mankind on several occasions in 1999 before losing to Austin at WrestleMania XV. He would regain the title 13 months later with Austin’s help at Backlash 2000. After losing a month later, The Rock regained it at King of the Ring 2000. That was his longest title reign, going from June to October.
He won it again at No Way Out 2001, but lost to Austin at WrestleMania X-Seven. He would win the WCW championship twice later that year, before winning the WWE Undisputed title at Vengeance 2002. After losing to Brock Lesnar he took another hiatus from WWE
The Rock has the longest gap between world title wins at 11 years. After losing to Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam 2002, he came back to defeat CM Punk at the 2013 Royal Rumble. With the WWE’s newfound acceptance of part-time champions don’t be surprised if The Rock were to ever add another one.
4) Edge: 11-Time Champion
Edge was in the WWE for a long time before winning his first title. After becoming the first Money in the Bank contract winner, Edge waited nine months before cashing in his title, on a bloody John Cena following an Elimination Chamber match.
Unfortunately for Edge, original plans for him facing Cena at WrestleMania in a rematch were nixed and he dropped it back to Cena three weeks later. However, great talent couldn’t be kept down for long. Edge had firmly established himself as a top star by 2006 and he would go on to make up for lost time, winning a world championship a total of 11 times before retiring in 2011.
He won four WWE titles and seven World Heavyweight Championships. He’s one of the most decorated wrestlers in history, winning every title there was to win.
Sometimes it was bordering on ridiculous how many times Edge would drop the title, win it, drop it, win it, drop it. New t-shirt idea: “Win, Drop, Repeat.”
3) Randy Orton: 12-Time Champion
Randy Orton became the youngest world champion in WWE history at 24 years old at SummerSlam 2004. Over the least decade, he’s piled up 12 World Title wins, with eight WWE title wins and four World Heavyweight Championship wins.
After winning his first title win, a poor backstage attitude changed WWE brass’s mind, with them deciding Orton wasn’t ready to be champion. He dropped it to Triple H a month after winning it and wouldn’t hold a world title for three years.
He finally ‘won’ the belt after a torn pectoral muscle forced John Cena to vacate his title. Orton was the scheduled no.1 contender and thus was ‘awarded’ the title from Vince McMahon at No Mercy 2007. He’d put it on the line against Triple H minutes later, lose it, then regain it later that night.
Orton has gone on to have many more title reigns since then, his latest one coming at Hell in a Cell 2013 after defeating Daniel Bryan, before losing it at WrestleMania XXX.
2) Triple H: 13-Time CHampion
Triple H won his first WWE title from Mankind the RAW after SummerSlam 1999. Being the top heel that he was, Triple H would go on to dominate the world title picture for many years, winning both the WWE and World Heavyweight titles.
Some reigns were long, some were short.
After the introduction of the World Heavyweight Championship following the brand split in 2002, Triple H would dominate the RAW brand and that title for several years.
His longest reign went from Armageddon 2002 to Unforgiven 2003. He would win it several more times before dropping it to Batista at WrestleMania 21. He would not hold a world title for two and a half years, but made history at No Mercy 2007, becoming an 11-time champion with six WWE title wins and five World title wins to his name.
Triple H added one more title win in 2008 giving him the most WWE championship wins at the time and made him a 13-time World champion in WWE, the most at the time.
1) John Cena: 15-Time Champion
After winning his first WWE championship at WrestleMania 21 over JBL, Cena has won an astounding 15 world titles over the last decade.
His cumulative days on top as champion stands at 1,394 days.
His longest reign lasted from Unforgiven 2006, a TLC title win over Edge and went until No Mercy 2007, when a torn pectoral muscle forced him out of action for several months.
Like Edge and Randy Orton, Cena’s amount of title wins has been inflated due to the trigger-happy era of switching World Champions many times in a short period. Still, there’s no doubting that this is Cena’s era.
Cena has been the face of the WWE for a decade, enjoying a run on top that’s rivalled Hulk Hogan‘s in terms of tenure and fame. While wrestling fans have mixed feelings about him, he is WWE’s top star. He might pass Ric Flair‘s record when all is said and done. That’s just the nature of the business and there’s no end in sight for Cena’s career, even at the age of 37.
Ric Flair is actually the most decorated World Champion in wrestling history, with 16 world title wins recognized by WWE, but Flair claims the actual number is over 20, with 13 NWA World Title wins, eight WCW title wins and several more world title victories around the world.
Bruno Sammartino was ‘only’ a two-time champion, but his cumulative days as champion stand at an untouchable 4,040 days. That’s over 11 years as champion! By those numbers, some will always recognize Sammartino as the most decorated champion in wrestling history.