Several years ago, CM Punk claimed to be the Best In The World, based on his impressive 434-day reign as WWE Champion. But is he truly the best?
The best World Champions throughout history often got to the mountain top more than once, helping cement their ultimate legacy. Therefore, it make sense to combine all of their World Title reigns into a single number to establish dominance.
Which leads us to this experiment, which we don't believe has ever been quite done before.
In selecting the Top 50 Longest-Reigning World Champions, Wrestling Merchandise and Memories poured through the records of more than 200 recognized World Champions (men and women) in the following North American based promotions:
WWWF/WWF/WWE (1963 - present, although the Women's Championship was established in 1956; note this also includes the NXT Championship)
All Elite Wrestling (2019 - present)
TNA/Impact Wrestling (2002 - present)
ROH (2002 - present)
NWA/WCW (1948 - 2001, excluding the NWA Title beginning in 1993 when the company split from WCW)
AWA (1960 - 1990)
ECW (1992 - 2001 and 2006 - 2001)
From there, we combined the number of days for EVERY World Title reign each wrestler had, whether they were in the same promotion or not. Note that the calculations go up until August 28, 2020 - so the final figures are likely to fluctuate as time goes on.
Ready? Here we go!
Stone Cold Steve Austin
WHAT? WWE Hall of Famer Stone Cold Steve Austin is at the bottom of this list? WHAT? Even though he's a six-time WWF World Champion? WHAT? Because he had relatively brief runs with the championship between the years of 1998 and 2001? WHAT? Combined, Stone Cold was World Champion for 529 days.
WWE Hall of Famer Edge called himself The Ultimate Opportunist, using precarious situations to make himself WWE and World Champion 11 times between 2006, when he cashed in his Money In The Bank briefcase, and 2011, when he retired (for several years). Combined, Edge was World Champion for 548 days.
WWE Hall of Famer Beth Phoenix was one of the few bright spots for WWE's Divas division in the late 2000s. She held the WWE Women's Championship three times between 2007 and 2010 and a year later, The Glamazon won the Divas Title as well. Combined, Beth Phoenix was World Champion for 571 days.
WWE Hall of Famer Buddy Rogers became the first man to hold two different World Titles in wrestling. In June 1961, Rogers captured the National Wrestling Alliance World Title, and in 1963, he allegedly won a tournament to become the first WWWF Champion. Combined, Buddy Rogers was World Champion for 595 days.
Shayna Baszler was incredibly successful during her NXT run. The Queen of Spades held the NXT Womens Championship twice between 2018 and 2019. Combined, Shayna Baszler was World Champion for 548 days.
WWE Hall of Famer Larry Zbyszko first captured the AWA Title in early 1989 by winning a battle royal (only Ric Flair and The Great Khali have won World Titles in a similar way). The Living Legend dropped the belt briefly a year later and quickly regained it. Combined, Zbyszko was World Champion for 616 days.
The inclusion of Batista means that all four members of Evolution are part of this list. The Animal captured the WWE Championship twice and WWE's World Championship four times between 2005 and 2010. Combined, Batista was World Champion for 653 days.
Somewhat quietly, Mickie James has been one of the more dominant female competitors in the modern era. She held the WWE Women's Championship five times, the Divas Title once and in TNA, held the Knockouts Championship three times. Combined, Mickie James was World Champion for 686 days.
Asuka has been incredibly successful in WWE, capturing the NXT Womens Championship, SmackDown Womens Championship and, as of this writing, she is the Raw Womens Champion for a second time. Combined, Asuka has been World Champion for 702 days.
Seth Rollins has held world championships beginning in Ring of Honor (as Tyler Black). He's also held the NXT Championship, the WWE Championship twice, and the Universal Championship twice. Combined, Seth Rollins was World Champion for 741 days.
Mad Dog Vachon
WWE Hall of Famer Maurice "Mad Dog" Vachon was a staple of the AWA in the 1960's and 1970's, using his French Canadian roots to help the promotion draw crowds in Quebec. Vachon captured the AWA World Championship five times. Combined, Mad Dog Vachon was World Champion for 776 days.
AJ Styles has been World Champion, and in more than one promotion. During his years in TNA, he held the NWA World Championship three times and the TNA World Championship twice. He's also held the WWE Championship twice. Combined, he has been World Champion for 789 days.
WWE Hall of Famer Wendi Richter is perhaps best known for her two runs as WWF Women's Champion between 1984 and 1985, including the first WrestleMania. She also had a year-long run with the AWA Women's Championship. Combined, Wendi Richter was World Champion for 814 days.
Is CM Punk truly The Best In The World? Not on this list, though his runs are certainly impressive. Punk started out as ROH World Champion and then captured the ECW Title under WWE rule. From there, Punk held two WWE and three World Titles. Combined, CM Punk was World Champion for 820 days.
WWE Hall of Famer Jack Brisco was NWA World Heavyweight Champion twice during his career. The first came after a victory over Harley Race in July 1973 and lasted until December 1974, and the second from December 1974 to December 1975. Combined, Jack Brisco was World Champion for 866 days.
Shane Douglas made history in 1994, capturing the NWA World Title (that version not recognized by this particular list because of its vague ownership at the time), throwing it down and making himself the first ECW World Champion, and captured it three more times. Combined, Shane Douglas was World Champion for 874 days.
Samoa Joe captured the ROH World Championship in March 2003 and held the title until December of the following year. He also captured the TNA World Title in 2008 and the NXT Championship twice in 2016. Combined, Samoa Joe was World Champion for 955 days.
WWE Hall of Famer Pedro Morales has the distinction of being the first wrestler to win all three major WWF titles. But that was punctuated by a reign of the WWWF Championship that began in February 1971 and ended in December 1973. Pedro Morales was World Champion for 1,027 days.
In July 1961, Gene Kiniski defeated Verne Gagne for the AWA World Heavyweight Title and held it for under a month. Five years later, he defeated Lou Thesz for the NWA World Championship and held that belt for over three years. Combined, Gene Kiniski was World Champion for 1,159 days.
John Cena has been to the mountain top many times, winning the WWE Championship 13 times and the World Championship three times between 2005 and 2015. Combined, John Cena has been World Champion for 1,412 days.
Dory Funk Jr.
WWE Hall of Famer Dory Funk Jr. only had one world title reign, but it was a big one. Funk captured the NWA World Heavyweight Championship from Gene Kinishi in January 1966 and held onto it until May 1973, losing the title belt to Harley Race. Dory Funk Jr. was World Champion for 1,563 days.
WWE Hall of Famer Bob Backlund was a two-time World Champion, capturing the WWWF Champion in February 1978 and holding it until December 1983. He regained the WWF World Title in November 1994 and held the belt for only three days. Combined, Bob Backlund was World Champion for 2,138 days.
WWE Hall of Famer Hulk Hogan is one of the most successful champions in wrestling history. Between 1984 and 2002, he captured the WWF/E World Championship six times, and he also had six reigns atop WCW between 1994 and 2000. Combined, Hulk Hogan was World Champion for 3,362 days.
WWE Hall of Famer Lou Thesz dominated wrestling during the 1950s and 1960s, defeating Orville Brown for the his first championship. Thesz managed to win the NWA World Heavyweight Champion from Orville Brown and keep it for the equivalent of 10 years. Combined, Lou Thesz was World Champion for 3,749 days.
WWE Hall of Famer Verne Gagne is the most accomplished AWA performer in the company's history (and also, by sheer coincidence, its owner). Gagne managed to hold the AWA World Heavyweight Championship a record ten times between 1960 and 1980. Combined, Verne Gagne was World Champion for 4,677 days.
Nigel McGuinness is one of the rare cases where he's on the list despite only having one title run. McGuinness captured the Ring of Honor World Championship in October 2007 and held it until April 3, 2009, making a record 38 title defenses. Nigel McGuinness was World Champion for 545 days.
WWE Hall of Famer Sensational Sherri began her career in the AWA, where she captured the AWA World Women's Championship three times between 1985 and 1987. She left the AWA for the WWF and held the championship there for over a year. Combined, Sensational Sherri was World Champion for 561 days.
WWE Hall of Famer Randy "Macho Man" Savage is a six-time World Champion, having captured the WWF World Championship twice between 1988 and 1991 and the WCW World Championship six times between 1995 and 1999. Combined, Randy "Macho Man" Savage was World Champion for 573 days.
Long before he was The Model, Rick Martel was a cornerstone of the American Wrestling Association. Martel defeated Jumbo Tsuruta to win the AWA World Heavyweight Championship in May 1984 and managed to hold the belt until December 1985. Rick Martel was World Champion for 595 days.
Becky Lynch has held the Raw Womens Championship once and SmackDown Womens Championship three times between 2016 and 2020, including a period where she held both simultanously. Combined, Becky Lynch has been World Champion for 614 days.
WWE Hall of Famer Terry Funk first rose to championship prominence when he won the NWA World Heavyweight Champion in 1975 and held for 14 months. Decades later, he resurfaced in Extreme Championship Wrestling and held that belt twice. Combined, Terry Funk was World Champion for 632 days.
Austin Aries was Ring of Honor World Champion, capturing the belt in 2004 and again in 2009, enjoying length title reigns both times. He has also been on top of TNA Impact Wrestling twice. Combined, he has been World Champion for 684 days.
Orville Brown, whom many fans haven't have even heard of, was recognized as the very first NWA World Heavyweight Champion in January 1948. Brown held the championship until November 1949 when he had to vacate due to career-threatening injuries. Orville Brown was World Champion for 692 days.
WWE Hall of Famer Bret Hart may bill himself as The Best There Is, The Best There Was and The Best There Ever Will Be, but he's only 33rd best on this list. The Hitman captured five WWF World Championships between 1992 and 1997 and two WCW World Titles. Combined, Bret Hart was World Champion for 710 days.
Charlotte Flair has made a massive impact on womens wrestling in a relatively short period of time. Between 2014 and 2020, The Queen has held the NXT Womens Championship twice, the WWE Divas Championship once, the Raw Womens Championship four times and SmackDown Womens Championship five times. Combined, Charlotte Flair has been World Champion 752 days.
Is Daniel Bryan is one of the longest-reigning World Champions? YES! He held the WWE Title four times and the World Title once between 2011 and 2018, but he also had a lengthy run with the ROH Title in 2005-2006. Combined, Daniel Bryan was World Champion for 777 days.
WWE Hall of Famer Sting captured the NWA/WCW World Title eight times between 1990 and 2000. He also captured TNA's World Title four times. Combined, Sting was World Champion for 792 days.
Randy Orton has been one of the most consistent World Champions in WWE's modern era. Between 2004 and 2014, The Apex Predator has captured the WWE Championship nine times, and WWE's World Championship an additional four times. Combined, Randy Orton was World Champion for 820 days.
Adam Cole (Bay-Bay!) was a three-time Ring of Honor Champion between 2013 and 2017, and the longest-reigning NXT Champion to date beginning in 2019. Combined, Adam Cole has been World Champion for 848 days.
WWE Hall of Famer Alundra Blayze is perhaps best known for throwing the WWF Women's Championship into a trash can on Nitro, although she held that title three times during the 1990s and before that, was AWA Women's Champion. Combined, Alundra Blayze was World Champion for 869 days.
Pat O' Connor
Pat O' Connor captured the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in January 1959 from Dick Hutton. During his title reign, O' Connor was also awarded the AWA World Championship at the same time, although he never defended the belt. All told, Pat O' Connor was World Champion for 903 days.
WWE Hall of Famer Kurt Angle has far more than his Olympic gold medals in his collection of gold. Angle captured five WWE or World Championships between 2000 and 2006, and then won the TNA Championship another six times. Combined, Kurt Angle has been World Champion for 989 days.
WWE Hall of Famer Jeff Jarrett became a World Champion after his final run had ended with WWF. In 2000, he became WCW World Champion and held that title three more times over the next year. Then in TNA, he won the World Title six times. Combined, Jeff Jarrett was World Champion for 1,064 days.
WWE Hall of Famer Triple H has been one of the successful champions in recent WWE history, capturing the WWE World Championship nine times and the World Championship five times, between 1999 and 2016. Combined, Triple H was World Champion for 1,226 days.
Brock Lesnar may only appear in the ring sporadically, but he's left a massive impression on WWE. The Beast Incarnate has held the World, WWE and Universal Championships eight times between 2003 and 2020. Combined, Brock Lesnar has been World Champion for 1,447 days.
WWE Hall of Famer Harley Race captured the NWA World Heavyweight Championship seven times between 1973 and 1983 (plus one additional time where the reign wasn't recognized). Combined, Harley Race has been World Champion for 1,799 days.
WWE Hall of Famer Nick Bockwinkel was a multi-time World Champion in the American Wrestling Association, holding the AWA World Title four times between November 1975 and June 1986, and working as both a fan favorite and as a heel. Combined, Nick Bockwinkel was World Champion for 2,990 days.
WWE Hall of Famer Ric Flair is probably the most well-known multi-time world champion in wrestling history, as his sixteen world titles (14 in NWA/WCW and another two as WWF World Champion) has only be achieved by one other man. Combined, Ric Flair was World Champion for 3,722 days.
WWE Hall of Famer Bruno Sammartino holds the record for the longest run with the WWWF World Heavyweight Championship. He first held the gold in May 1963, with a reign lasting until January 1971. He regained the belt three years later. Combined, Bruno Sammartino was World Champion for 4,040 days.
The Fabulous Moolah
Although her name has been met with controversy in recent years, statistics don't lie. WWE Hall of Famer The Fabulous Moolah captured what was known as the NWA World Women's Championship and eventually became the WWF Women's Championship eight times between 1956 and 1999. Combined, The Fabulous Moolah was World Champion for a record 10,770 days -- the equivalent of 29 and a half years!