The WWE Championship has had a long history and many title holders. In its early days, many held it for months, even years. However, as wrestling evolved, title reigns became shorter and shorter. With the abundance of tv shows, pay-per-views and live events, there are many more opportunities these days for the title to change hands. Sometimes it borders on ridiculous, as in recent years we have seen several superstars win the title 10 times.
When Hulk Hogan and Bret Hart became five-time champions, in 1993 and 1997 respectively, it was an amazing milestone for both, but the pressures of the Monday Night Wars, a battle of television ratings week after week, led to the championship changing hands continuously to create a sense of curiosity and draw viewers to RAW. That is why the Rock is an eight-time champion, John Cena is a 11-time WWE Champion (plus three-time World Heavyweight Champion) and Randy Orton has eight reigns (and four World Heavyweight Championship runs). Edge won his first WWE title in 2006 and even though he retired just five years later, he amassed a total of 11 world title runs (four WWE Championships and seven World Heavyweight Championships.)
I’m not a fan of playing hot potato with world titles but that is what’s happened in the illustrious history of the WWE title. It was merged with the World title in December when Orton beat Cena in a unification bout. The WWE championship had 50 years of history up to that point and while it has had many champions with impressive runs, it has had some forgettable reigns as well, precisely because they were so short. Here are the 10 shortest WWE title reigns in its 50-year history.
10. Batista: 2 days
Two of Batista‘s title runs were cut short due to injuries. His run with the WWE Championship in 2009 was very short-lived. Batista defeated Randy Orton for the title on June 7 at Extreme Rules, but two days later it was announced on WWE.com that Batista had suffered a torn bicep and had to vacate the title as a result. Orton went on to win it back a week later and Batista was out of action for four months and turned heel shortly after his return. We can only guess as to where the WWE was planning to go when Batista initially won the title.
9. Bret Hart, Kane, Mankind: 1 day
You’d have to pinpoint the exact minute these three men won the title and when they lost it the following night.
Bret Hart won his fourth WWE title at In Your House: Final Four on February 16, 1997. He would defend it the next night in the main event of RAW, where he lost to Sycho Sid thanks to interference from Stone Cold. Instead of seeing Bret Hart defend the title at WrestleMania, Sid would headline against the Undertaker and lose. Needless to say, this was Hart’s most forgettable title reign.
Kane would get a taste of the gold at King of the Ring 1998 by defeating Stone Cold in a first-blood match thanks to interference from Mankind and the Undertaker. The next night on RAW, Austin demanded a rematch and got it. Austin would regain the title to set up a feud with the Undertaker. Kane would not become World Champion for 12 years, before he won the World Heavyweight Championship in 2010. Talk about getting a taste and then having something snatched from your plate.
Mick Foley’s three WWE title runs lasted a collective total of 29 days. Poor old Mick. His shortest was his final one. After shocking everybody by defeating Austin and Triple H in a triple threat match at SummerSlam 1999, he would defend it the very next night against Triple H. Thanks to help from Chyna and Shane McMahon, Mankind lost the gold and would never win it again.
8. Daniel Bryan: 22 hours
We can peg Daniel Bryan ahead of Kane, Hart and Mankind because after defeating Randy Orton at Night of Champions this past September, he was stripped of the title at the beginning of RAW the next night, making his reign roughly 22 hours.
Bryan defeated Orton but it was determined by COO Triple H that referee Scott Armstrong had fast-counted Orton and overturned the decision. The title was declared vacant and Bryan has yet to regain it. As short as this reign was, it wasn’t as short as Bryan’s first WWE title reign. We’ll get to that.
7. Triple H: 2 hours
No Mercy 2007 was probably the most bizarre night in the history of the WWE Championship. Triple H won and lost the title in the same night, yet had a successful defence in between. You’ll hear more context in a few slides, but for now, let’s just tackle this. Triple H won the title from Randy Orton in the opening match of the pay-per-view. A little over an hour later, Triple H was forced to defend his newly won title against Umaga, which he successfully did.
However, later on in the night, Orton invoked his rematch clause, which was granted by Vince McMahon and Triple H had to defend his tittle yet again. This bout was a Last Man Standing match. Following a RKO through a table, Triple H could not answer the referee’s 10 count and Orton regained the title, leaving Triple H with the shortest of his 13 World Championship reigns.
6. Rey Mysterio: 1 hour
Following CM Punk winning the title from John Cena at Money in the Bank 2011, he walked out of WWE with the title (don’t worry, this time it was scripted) and the title was declared vacant by Mr. McMahon. A tournament commenced to crown a new champion. A week later, Rey Myseterio triumphed over The Miz in the final to win his first and only WWE Championship.
The party was short-lived as Cena asked Mysterio for a shot that same night. Mysterio gave him one and Cena capitalized to win back the WWE Championship eight days after losing the former one to Punk. Following Cena’s victory, Punk returned with the original title intact. Suddenly we had two WWE Champions and Mysterio was left in the cold with nothing.
5. Randy Orton: 22 minutes, 55 seconds
I promised we’d come back to No Mercy 2007 and here we are. Orton won the title on two separate occasions in the same night. Before losing and regaining the title against Triple H, Orton was awarded a vacated title from Mr. McMahon.
Cena’s 13-month title reign had ended after he suffered a torn pectoral muscle. To start the pay-per-view, McMahon and RAW General Manager William Regal awarded the title to Cena’s scheduled no.1 contender, Randy Orton. After Orton was given the title, Triple H challenged Orton to a title match which was granted by McMahon. Triple H captured the belt, but as mentioned before, Orton won it back the same night. Events like this are why there have been several superstars with over 10 world title reigns.
4. Daniel Bryan: 4 minutes, 7 seconds
If you’re a Daniel Bryan fan, you’re very frustrated right now. It seemed Bryan was finally crowned the star of the next generation of wrestling at SummerSlam this past August. He defeated John Cena cleanly in a one-on-one match for the WWE title. That’s something very few people have done in the past 10 years.
However, Randy Orton strolled out with his Money in the Bank briefcase as Bryan was draped in confetti. Triple H then shocked fans by delivering a Pedigree to Bryan. Orton cashed in his opportunity and pinned Bryan, aligning himself with Triple H.
Since that night, Bryan has been constantly screwed out of the title and one can only hope that the WWE somehow gives us a big payoff at WrestleMania XXX and has Bryan avenge himself against Triple H to recapture the title.
3. John Cena: 3 minutes, 33 seconds
The shortest of Cena‘s 11 WWE Championship runs came at Elimination Chamber 2010. Cena entered the chamber against champion Sheamus, Triple H, Randy Orton, Ted DiBiase and Kofi Kingston. Cena and Triple H were the last two left and Cena forced Triple H to submit to the STF, winning the title.
Just moments later, Mr. McMahon came out and gave his new ally Batista a shot at the title Cena had just won. In a 30-second match, Batista speared Cena and finished him off with a Batista Bomb. Batista won the title, making Cena’s eighth Championship reign his shortest. Cena would gain redemption at WrestleMania XXVI by defeating the Animal to win it back. That’s quite a lot of flip-flopping.
2. Yokozuna: 2 minutes, 6 seconds
It was perhaps the most infamous ending in WrestleMania history. Yokozuna won his first WWE Championship at WrestleMania IX after Mr.Fuji threw salt in Bret Hart‘s eyes, allowing Yoko to pick up the victory and his first title.
Hulk Hogan then came out to protest in defence of Bret Hart, and Mr.Fuji offered Hogan a chance at the Championship Yokozuna had just won. Hart directed Hogan to go for it and Hogan found himself in an impromptu match with the title on the line. Fuji then missed Hogan with another handful of salt and hit the Champion instead. Hogan knocked down Yokozuna, dropped the big leg and won his fifth WWE Championship.
Yokozuna would regain it at King of the Ring that year, but this reign was certainly forgettable and not the best way Hogan’s ever won a title.
1. Andre the Giant: 1 minute, 48 seconds
The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase‘s adage that “Everyone has a price!” proved to be true even when it applied to the WWE Championship. Hulk Hogan‘s four-year title run ended when he was defeated by Andre the Giant in NBC’s ‘The Main Event’ on February 5, 1988. It was discovered that DiBiase had paid off the referee, as the official counted Hogan down despite his shoulder clearly being off the mat.
DiBiase’s master plan didn’t stop there, though. After Andre won, he immediately gave the belt to DiBiase, revealing that the Million Dollar Man had ‘bought’ the title from him. DiBiase’s reign is not officially recognized by the WWE. President Jack Tunney rendered the title vacant rather than let DiBiase hold it and recognized Andre’s actions as forfeiting the title. It would later go up for grabs in a tournament at WrestleMania IV. This one complicated, overbooked segment on The Main Event resulted in the shortest reign in the 50-year history of the WWE title.
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