Winning a singles world title in the WWE is one of the most coveted accomplishments in all of wrestling. After all, the company is unquestionably the biggest wrestling entity in the world and when you win the world championship there it typically means that you are thought of as one of their biggest stars. That is why anyone currently holding a WWE world championship has the wrestling world’s attention whenever they appear in public and are heavily scrutinized. Additionally, most wrestling fans are students of the history of the company’s most celebrated history, so you’d, therefore, think there may not be that many facts about them that are mostly unknown. You’d be very wrong and realizing that is what inspired us to write this list of the fifteen most shocking things you didn’t know about them.
In order for a fact to be in considered for inclusion here, it has to pertain to one of the WWE’s world championships. We have not limited ourselves to the WWE Championship itself, as there have been several other names for world championships in the company over the years. Finally, we want to make it clear that we can’t assure that every reader will be surprised by each fact, as everyone's knowledge base is different, but the majority of fans will be greatly surprised by what they are about to read.
15 First Masked Champion
At the King of the Ring event that took place in 1999, there was a unique bout for the WWF Championship. In a first blood match Kane fought Stone Cold Steve Austin at his zenith for the belt and as result of the insane popularity, Austin enjoyed at that time, a lot of people expected the title to remain in his hands. That became a lot more questionable when The Big Red Machine pledged to set himself on fire if he lost and sure enough the belt ended up changing hands. Holding the belt for the first time in his career, Kane also earned the distinction of being the first masked wrestler to ever get a singles world title reign in the history of the company. Here’s a bonus fact for you as well: he lost the title the next night and wouldn’t regain singles world title status until winning the ECW World title in 2008 or the World Heavyweight championship in 2010.
14 Six Custom Looks
Over the history of the WWE, a long list of their superstars have earned singles world title wins and at various times that has meant a cosmetic change to the belt itself. Generally, that comes in the form of a custom plate of some kind but six different times the actual look of the championship was customized to fit their character. Three men, “Superstar” Billy Graham, The Ultimate Warrior, and Sgt. Slaughter had the color of the leather strap changed, although in Slaughter’s case it was changed back to the traditional black so that doesn’t count. The next person to join this elite club was Steve Austin who carried the well-remembered Smoking Skull belt. Finally, John Cena, Edge, and The Miz all wore the belt during its spinner days and had the emblem in the middle changed to match their branding.
13 No Championship Match At The Inaugural WrestleMania
There are a lot of people who look forward to the Royal Rumble each year and consider it to be their favorite bout of the year. That is partly because it is a unique match we only see annually but the other reason is because of the prize the winner receives. The last man standing in the ring without being thrown over the top rope to have both feet hit the floor automatically gets a world title match at the show of shows, WrestleMania. The reason why this is so exciting is because that is considered to be a match that only important superstars get to be involved in so fans salivate at the possibilities. However, at the very fist Mania event, there was not even a match for the title at all as Hulk Hogan, the reigning champ, was involved in a tag team match alongside Mr. T.
12 CM Punk’s Lengthy Reign Was Longer Than The Rock's Combined Reigns
CM Punk is persona non grata in the WWE world these days but there was a time not that long ago where he was one of the company’s most bankable stars. As a result, he is the person who had the longest world title reign in the company over the last twenty-five years when he held the distinction for four hundred thirty-four days in a row. With such an impressive accomplishment he was able to outlast legends of the ring like Mick Foley or John Cena when it comes to individual runs but there is an even more impressive stat. That one run outlasted every single time The Rock held a world title combined, which only adds up to three hundred sixty-seven days. It is a lot more understandable when you remember how often the belt changed hands back then but it still seems pretty wild to us.
11 Ivan Koloff’s Unusual Title Win
When speaking of the best world title holders in the history of the WWE it is extremely likely that Ivan Koloff’s name will not come up. The man who put an to Bruno Sammartino’s first reign as champion, which lasted nearly three thousand days or more than seven and a half years, that is one of the most legendary matches in wrestling history. However, there is more to that moment as there has never been another title change that was anything like it. According to all involved, including both Ivan and Bruno, the crowd was completely silent when they realized what had just happened. There is another fact about it that is talked about a lot less, however, perhaps due to the weird crowd response: Ivan wasn’t given the belt in the ring, only getting it in the back later.
10 Oldest Champion
Generally speaking the WWE, and the main man behind the scenes Vince McMahon, have preferred to focus on younger champions as they like to be seen as hip. However, there has been a surprisingly long list of older wrestlers to get their time in the spotlight with the biggest titles in the company. People like Hulk Hogan who won the title at forty-eight years old or Bob Backlund who was forty-five successfully bucked that trend but neither holds the record. Instead, Vinnie Mac himself won the WWE Championship at fifty-four and their version of the ECW Championship at a staggering sixty-one years old. While neither time he won a belt was due to his own physical prowess and each run came to an end quickly it is pretty ballsy that he made himself champ. In fact, it is remarkable that he doesn’t get more crap about it similar to what Vince Russo gets for putting the WCW title on himself.
9 Shortest World Championship Reign
It wasn’t until the nineties that the WWE began to move their world title around a lot, more on that later, but it may surprise you to learn the shortest reign as champ proceeds that decade. Instead, it took place back in 1988 when André the Giant, one of the most beloved figures in wrestling history, won his only world title during his time in the company. Beating Hulk Hogan through nefarious means, including the introduction of a second and evil refereeing Hebner brother, he almost instantly turned and gifted the title to Ted Dibiase. In fact, his was champ for only one minute and forty-eight seconds which is why he holds this distinction. We guess that if you aren’t going to have a lengthy run holding it for the shortest amount of time ever is pretty cool.
8 Longest Lay Off Between Reigns
We already mentioned the fact that years went by between Kane’s first run as a singles world champion and the next and briefly touched on the gap that Vince McMahon had too. However, there are several other former WWE singles world champions who went years between runs, we’re looking at you Shawn Michaels, Undertaker, and Triple H, but there is one man whose gap is the biggest. Bob Backlund officially only trails behind Bruno Sammartino when it comes to longest single reign with a championship but that isn’t the only interesting stat about him and the big belt. He also is the record holder for the longest gap between runs with the title. That is because his first run came to an end in 1983 and he didn’t get his hands on a WWE world title again until 1994.
7 Fourteen Singles World Championship Distinctions
Big fans of the WWE will most likely realize that the WWE really cares about the verbiage that is used on their television. That is why you don’t hear them talk about hospitals, belts, DQs, Factions, or a long list of other words these days. That is also a large portion of the reason why their world championships have been known as a long list of names over the years, whether it was through the subtraction or replacement of certain initials or words like heavyweight, undisputed, and universal coming and going or the rearrangement of words that explains a lot of the changes. On top of that, the purchases of both ECW and WCW meant that they had a version of both of those companies big belts for a period of time.
6 Shortest World Title Match
When we were writing the entry on the longest layoffs between world title runs in the WWE we discussed the fact that Bob has an interesting history with the company's main titles. Not wanting to give away a future entry we left off another noteworthy distinction he has a part in because when he lost the title a second time the circumstances were among the most unique in company history. A match at a house how that took place in Madison Square Garden during 1994, it consisted of Diesel hitting Bob with a Jackknife Powerbomb and pinning him in only eight seconds. A moment that was meant to usher in Kevin Nash, known as Diesel at that time, as the leader of the “New Generation”, him absolutely trouncing an old-timer wasn’t exactly subtle.
5 Amount of Title Changes in the 90s
For the first several decades of the WWE’s existence, there were a few transitional champions, like Stan Stasiak and The Iron Sheik, but most of the time champions had extended runs. In fact, there were two men who are recognized as having runs that lasted more than two-thousand days and there were an additional three runs that lasted more than a thousand days. Wow had things changed by the time the nineties came to an end as that decade featured a record-breaking thirty-nine title changes. In fact, there wasn’t a single instance in which a wrestler was a champion for more than a year straight as Diesel’s run was the closest at three hundred fifty-eight days. Think that isn't too unusual? Well, consider this, there hasn’t been another decade since the company was founded where a champ didn’t surpass that mark.
4 Unified With Lesser Titles
Holding a world championship is supposed to be an achievement that means that you are the best of the best that the company has to offer. Interestingly enough, however, if you actually look at the history of the company, the World Heavyweight Championship was unified with a trio of much lesser titles. That is because the WWE in 2002 seems to have suddenly decided that they had far too many titles and promptly solved that issue. First off, the European Championship was unified with the Intercontinental Championship when Rob Van Dam defeated Jeff Hardy for it on Raw. Next, RVD kept his run going by adding the Hardcore Championship’s history to the Intercontinental lineage trough another unification match just over a month later by beating Tommy Dreamer, once again on Raw. Finally, Triple H unified the Intercontinental belt with his World Heavyweight Championship with one last unification match, this time against Kane who’d won the belt from RVD, at No Mercy.
3 More Than One “Screwjob”
The “Montreal Screwjob” is arguably the most talked about single event in wrestling history but it isn’t the first time a so-called screwjob took place. Some people know that when Wendi Richter lost the WWF Women’s Championship to the Spider Lady, who turned out to be The Fabulous Moolah, it was called a screwjob too. However, Ivan Koloff himself admitted that he was the victim of the first screwjob in company history during his short three-week run with the title. Evidently, during a filmed match he had with a mostly forgotten wrestler by the name of Mario Milano, the referee called for the bell while he was in a submission despite him not giving up. Shortly thereafter the match was restarted much to Ivan’s confusion until he got to the back and it was revealed to him that if he didn’t do as told a title change was now on film and he could be replaced.
2 One Wrestler, Two WrestleManias, Four Matches
We’ve already discussed how important a world title match at WrestleMania is but that has been slightly lessened at various times over the years. That is because of things like the brand extension have meant that there is more than one such bout on the card which somewhat takes away from the importance of at least one of those fights. However, a lot of fans don’t realize that there were WrestleMania cards years earlier, back when there was only one title, where two matches for the big belt took place. A very rare occurrence, but an even more interesting tidbit is that each event included one person that was involved in both matches, Yokozuna, fought for the title four times over the back to back Manias. Fighting Lex Luger, Hulk Hogan, and Bret Hart for the title, the latter of which he battled at both events, it was an impressive feat.
1 Hot Potato Year
The Attitude Era is the most celebrated time in wrestling history but things got pretty crazy. Newer fans who’ve only heard about the period in glowing terms since may be surprised that not everything was universally beloved, as many fans feel the importance of the belt was lessened. That is because in 1999 alone the champion was switched an insane eleven times over the calendar year. That means on average it could be depended on to change almost every month. On top of that, in both 1998 and 2000, five more reigns also began. It may have made things exciting for a time but when things are changed that often a run with the belt seems less important. In fact, The Rock held the title for just two days at one point and Mick Foley had a one-day run during 1999, which seems unreal in retrospect.