The last decade of WWE programming has been interesting to say the least, with a lot of good and a lot of bad. Along the way, though, despite some of the more 'negative' viewpoints within the WWE Universe, there does seem to have been an influx of really intriguing WWE Championship reigns.
The belt itself has gone through a variety of different facelifts over the years, but along the way, one thing has always remained the same: if you hold that championship, you will forever hold a place in the history books - for better or worse. Today, we're going to take a look at the superstars who took the title and ran with it... then just kept running.
10 John Cena - 133 days
John Cena has been seen as ‘the man’ in WWE for longer than most of us can remember, and rightly so. He’s a 16-time world champion, and while many fans believe most of his important reigns happened in the first few years of his time in the main event scene, that isn’t necessarily the case.
Back at WrestleMania 29, Cena completed a two-year redemption story when he defeated The Rock to win the WWE Championship at MetLife Stadium. He held onto the belt for a few months before losing to Daniel Bryan at SummerSlam, in a tremendous match – despite a notably nasty elbow injury for John.
9 A.J. Styles - 140 days
The fact that this is the first of two appearances on this list for A.J. Styles tells you all that you need to know about The Phenomenal One. After a fantastic first six months with WWE upon joining in early 2016, he finally won the big one at Backlash 2016, after a really successful heel turn.
He was able to dethrone Dean Ambrose, before going on to hold the title all the way up until the Royal Rumble. He lost it to Cena, but in the process, the two men had one of the most intriguing and well-put-together WWE Championship matches of all time.
8 Daniel Bryan - 145 days
Daniel Bryan is best known as a babyface, but in recent times, he has really been able to thrive as a heel. His 145-day run with the title began in a pretty random way last year, as he was able to defeat A.J. Styles on an episode of SmackDown Live.
He carried the title really well all the way up to WrestleMania 35, where he was dethroned by Kofi Kingston. That’s nothing to be ashamed of, either, because KofiMania was on fire for all the right reasons.
7 The Miz - 160
Contrary to the support he gets from most fans these days, The Miz wasn’t a particularly popular individual back in 2010. Regardless of that, he was still able to win the WWE Championship when he cashed in his Money in the Bank contract on Randy Orton, during the final moments of Monday Night RAW.
We really enjoyed the way in which he was able to defend the title, whilst also staying pretty relevant on WWE television despite The Rock and John Cena attempting to overshadow him. In the end, though, Cena did get the last laugh, winning the belt at Extreme Rules in a triple threat steel cage match that also involved John Morrison.
6 Randy Orton - 161 days
Randy Orton as a heel is the best version of Randy Orton, and you simply cannot convince us otherwise. Back at Hell in a Cell 2013, he was able to defeat Daniel Bryan to win the vacant belt, and the rest, as they say, is history.
He held the title all the way up to WrestleMania XXX, when (finally) Daniel Bryan had his crowning moment on the grandest stage of them all. Interestingly enough, Randy wasn’t even involved in the finish of the match – with Batista being subbed by the leader of the Yes Movement.
5 Jinder Mahal - 170 days
In one of the most controversial title changes in WWE history, Jinder Mahal, who was nothing more than a jobber just a few months prior, was able to defeat Randy Orton and win the WWE Championship at Backlash.
His title reign wasn’t particularly well-received, with many fans questioning how he was even allowed to hold it for so long. In the end, he was beaten by A.J. Styles on a random episode of SmackDown Live over in Manchester, England – which, ironically, was pretty similar to how Styles lost the title one year later.
4 Seth Rollins - 220 days
One of the greatest endings to a WrestleMania in the history of WWE? We certainly think so.
Seth Rollins cashed in his Money in the Bank contract at WrestleMania 31, and proceeded to beat Brock Lesnar & Roman Reigns to win the title. At the time it was called the heist of the century on commentary, and when looking back on that night more than four years later, it definitely holds up as one of the most surprising and dramatic moments in WWE history. That’s quite a legacy to have, when you think about it.
3 Brock Lesnar - 224 days
Speaking of Lesnar, let’s talk about how he started the aforementioned title reign that ended at WrestleMania 31. The Beast Incarnate went into SummerSlam 2014 with all the momentum in the world, courtesy of the fact that he broke The Streak at WrestleMania XXX just a few months prior.
He went one-on-one with John Cena who, simply put, had absolutely no chance. He was squashed in a pretty decisive way by Lesnar, and really, WWE had no other choice at that stage due to just how much heat he had.
2 A.J. Styles - 371 days
In 2017, A.J. Styles defeated Jinder Mahal on a random episode of SmackDown Live to win the WWE Championship and went on to face Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series. In 2018, A.J. Styles lost the WWE Championship to Daniel Bryan on a random episode of SmackDown Live, with Bryan going on to face Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series.
It’s one of the strangest ways to book-end a world title reign that we’ve ever seen, especially when you consider the fact that A.J. actually held the belt for over a year.
1 CM Punk - 434 days
Despite all of the bad blood between the two parties, CM Punk’s WWE Championship reign will forever go down in history as one of the greatest runs of all time – and so it should.
He won it at Survivor Series 2011 by defeating Alberto Del Rio, he beat some of WWE’s finest to keep hold of the title for well over a year, and then he managed to become one of the best heels in the business yet again after starting his run as a babyface. In the end, though, it was The Rock who brought his run to a screeching halt at the 2013 Royal Rumble.