John Cena is a 16 time world champion

Ranking the 5 Greatest WWE Champions in history

John Cena carried the company into a new era as WWE Champion

In the history of WWE, a small percentage of men who have passed through the door have been lucky enough to be chosen for greatness. They are the cream of the crop, the champions of the promotion.

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Since breaking away from the National Wrestling Alliance in 1963, WWE has forged its own reputation with its New York glitz and Hollywood glamor. During that time, several have vied for the chance to be the face of the franchise. Of those who ascended to the throme, a mere fraction have been enough to move the needle or carry the company on their back.

That's why being a champion or figurehead is so important. It's not just about winning; it's about representing the promotion. Having said that? Here's a look at the five greatest WWE Champions of all time.


#5 - Stone Cold Steve Austin

Stone Cold Steve Austin captured the imaginations of millions
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Many would likely expect the Texas Rattlesnake to be much higher on this list, considering he was the man who basically saved WWE from financial collapse in the 90s. As a character, the Stone Cold persona swept the nation and caused a pop culture attraction to sports entertainment like we've never seen before.

However, most of Austin's title reigns were largely underwhelming, as he was much better in the role of challenger.

Being a working class underdog who had to chase the brass ring was always the role he was better suited for. So, he's more on this list for his influence rather than having a lengthy or meaningful championship run.


#4 - John Cena

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The only name from the modern era on this list, John Cena practiced what he preached. When he talked about Hustle, Loyalty and Respect, it wasn't a catchphrase. That's just the way he went about his job.

A role model, An inspiration and A Soldier of Hustle, Loyalty and Respect!

Sportskeeda wishes one of the greatest of all times, @JohnCena, very Happy Birthday 🥳!
#WWE #JohnCena #SmackDown

There is perhaps no performer who has been more doggedly dedicated to WWE and its success. Cena was rewarded as the face of the Ruthless Aggression Era. Not because he was the most skilled worker, but because he was a complete package that the company could sell.

Cena had good looks, charisma, athleticism and a positive attitude. He is a superhero by any measure of that expression. When you factor in all his work with the Make-A-Wish Foundation and other charitable endeavors, it's easy to see why he was given the keys to the castle.

Criticize John Cena's wrestling all you want; that's your right. But no one can deny that he was an honorable champion and terrific ambassador for the WWE brand.

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#3 - Bret Hart

The best there is, best their was, and the best there ever will be

Many criticized The Hitman by saying that he wasn't a credible champion because he didn't draw the gate. But those criticisms are unfounded when you look closer and realize that the entire industry was down for a large portion of Bret Hart's time on top.

The 90's were almost like a decade split into two. The first half saw the Excellence of Execution carrying much of his competition. The New Generation was largely a failure, but not due to who the face of the company was. It mostly fell to the creative direction that Vince McMahon was going with.

It was a cartoonish and silly time for WWE, yet a serious champion stood atop that massive pile of junk. Talk about a round peg in a square hole. If anything, Hart propped up the promotion when it was bleeding money and losing popularity.

He became embroiled in some of the earliest feuds of the Attitude Era, engaging in classics with Steve Austin and his longtime rival Shawn Michaels. This is when many would argue he was at his best.

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His time on top, while confusing and disjointed, still got the company through a tough, transitional time. So the Hitman nails down the third spot on this list.


#2 - Hulk Hogan

While never a dynamic wrestler in terms of his overall mat skills, Hogan didn't have to be. He was larger than life in so many ways that he captured the imagination of the world when he became the company's standard-bearer in the mid 1980's.

Hulk Hogan graces the cover of a WWF program, shortly after becoming champion.

His influence cannot be overstated - not only in regards to WWE and the success of Vince McMahon - but in wrestling as a whole. He is, quite frankly, the man who took it all from the grappling game to the world of sports entertainment.

Despite some of the controversial things he's said and done in the past, you have to give the devil his due. Hogan was the undisputed face of the industry for well over a decade. He's one of the most influential entertainers of all time and helped shape WWE into the empire it has become today.

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Hulk Hogan was a money-drawing champion at the gate and a cash cow in merchandising. He came along at the perfect time, right when the company needed him.

That's why The Immortal One is ALMOST the greatest titleholder that McMahon ever had, brother.


#1 - Bruno Sammartino is - and will always be - the greatest WWE Champion of all time

Bruno Sammartino created a legend that will likely never be topped

11 years. That's how long Bruno Sammartino held the championship over the course of two title reigns in the 1960s and 70s. That's a total of 4,040 days as the King of New York.

Sammartino's first run lasted over eight years, and many fans believed that he would never be defeated and eventually retire as champion. The night he lost the belt to Ivan Koloff at Madison Square Garden, it was said you could have heard a pin drop in the building. The crowd was legitimately shocked into silence.

His second reign was much shorter, but still lasted an astounding three more years. His dominance over WWE led many to believe that no one could ever replace him as the face of the franchise. He was a Big Apple cult hero and a pop culture icon.

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At one point, he was as recognizable and marketable as any athlete on Earth. He re-defined the company, making it a serious stand-alone promotion, and not just under the auspices of the National Wrestling Alliance. He was Vince McMahon Sr.'s chosen one. Had he failed, perhaps the entire WWE experiment would have failed along with him.

He didn't. Instead, Bruno Sammartino stood tall and set an example for every champion that ever followed him. He made the promotion into a symbol of excellence in professional wrestling.

Because of his efforts and the efforts of the other names on this list, the lore of WWE will live on. Here, now and forever.

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Edited by
Jacob Terrell
 
 
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