You can sense the times changing when the mid-card of WWE consists of bonafide World Champions from some of their biggest rivals. The indy revolution in WWE and the gradual shift towards getting seasoned performers rather than green poster boys have translated into high-quality matches being delivered on a regular basis.
AJ Styles gave Brock Lesnar one of his greatest matches when they first faced each other at Survivor Series 2017. This was repeated only when Lesnar faced Daniel Bryan at the same pay-per-view the following year. These matches showcased just how talented the Superstars were.
"The Phenomenal One" is one of the many stalwarts of other promotions who have denounced the age-old myth of WWE as being the burial grounds for 'outsiders'. These wrestlers accomplished monumental feats in companies looking to become WWE's replacement, only to give away their best talents to the bully in the yard.
In this piece, we take a look at the incredible records that these WWE superstars (both current and past) still hold, which may surely have been the driving force behind their WWE signing.
#1 WWE Hall of Famer Sting - Most pay-per-view appearances for WCW, 1st inductee into the TNA Hall of Fame
Sting is a wrestling legend. He was one of the pillars of WCW, staying with the company till its last show. He would join TNA following WWE's acquisition of WCW, building the foundations of the current IMPACT Wrestling promotion. He finally made his way to WWE in 2014, but his WWE career was lackluster, to say the least. The Icon is currently displaying his exceptional wrestling skills in All Elite Wrestling.
Given that Sting was a pivotal figure in WCW, it wouldn't be a surprise to know that he has had the most pay-per-view appearances for the company at 94. Also, his contributions to making Total Nonstop Action wrestling a legitimate threat to WWE for quite some time earned him the honor of being the very first inductee into the promotion's Hall of Fame.
#2 Bobby Roode: Longest Reigning TNA World Champion, Second Most Tag Team Title Reigns
The former NXT Champion was one of the top stars during TNA's heydays. Along with "Cowboy" James Storm as part of the highly-entertaining Beer Money Inc. moniker, Roode rose through the ranks to become a world title contender.
Roode and Storm held the title on five different occasions with a combined reign of 514 days; both of which are records. By the time Roode was done with the fruitful alliance, he was a top heel champion in the making, forcing the company into giving him his biggest push to date. He was also able to hold the tag titles one more time with Austin Aries, thus giving him 6 reigns with the titles.
His one and only reign with the TNA World title came right after his split with Storm that lasted for 256 days. It will be interesting to see whether he manages to surpass that figure with the WWE title, which we hope he will win sometime in the near future.
#3 Chris Hero/ Kassius Ohno: Second longest match in pro wrestling history
The 'original member of the Shield' was the gatekeeper of NXT before being released, but never forget that he is a legend on the independent circuit due to his unbelievable achievements.
Chris Hero -- now known as Kassius Ohno -- wrestled a charity match for SMASH! Wrestling, the proceeds of which went to ALS Canada. The match, dubbed as an 'Infinity Gauntlet', saw Hero wrestle for three hours against 9 different wrestlers that accounted for 17 matches (11 wins, 6 losses and 1 draw).
For every 30 minutes he wrestled, $500 was raised for charity. He managed to accumulate $3446 at the end of the grueling contest that interestingly also included Rich Swann.
The only match that lasted longer than this was the one that took place for Shockwave Impact Wrestling, which went on for 12 hours and was booked as the Ultimate Iron Man Match.
#4 Adam Cole: Most ROH Title Reigns; Kyle O'Reilly: Shortest Reign
Members of the Undisputed Era can surely start a riot at ROH if they ever decide to drop by at one of their shows. Adam Cole is certainly up there with some of the best world champions in the promotion's history that includes Samoa Joe, Daniel Bryan, Nigel McGuinness, and Kevin Owens.
Cole has held the title three times over a combined span of 445 days and 22 defenses. On the flip side, his current stablemate O'Reilly has an embarrassing record of holding onto the title for the least amount of time -- 33 days with 0 title defenses in his single reign.
While Cole would want to continue in the same vein, the same can't be said about O'Reilly.
#5 Shinsuke Nakamura: IWGP Intercontinental Championship records
The IWGP Intercontinental title could be renamed the Shinsuke Nakamura Championship if his exploits with the title are anything to go by. With 5 reigns and 8 defenses spanning over 901 days, the King of Strong Style single-handedly brought the title on par with the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.
During his record-breaking reigns, Nakamura amassed many countless classic matches with the likes of AJ Styles, Kota Ibushi, and Hiroki Goto, to name a few. His dominance over the prestigious title was such that the second-most title defenses by a champion stand at five as well, something that Tetsuya Naito has accomplished.
#6 AJ Styles: Most matches in TNA/Impact Wrestling history, First TNA Grand Slam Champion
AJ Styles is one of the greatest of all time; let's get that out of the way first. He is possibly the only man to have legendary careers in three of the biggest promotions in the world; TNA, NJPW, and WWE. An indie legend, the Phenomenal One has proven all the self-proclaimed pundits wrong by cracking the WWE puzzle in a surprisingly short period of time.
Styles, though, will forever be remembered for putting TNA on the map by accomplishing everything in his 12-year career with the promotion, which goes by the name IMPACT Wrestling these days. With 217 matches to his name and the distinction of being the first-ever Grand Slam champion, he is the greatest of all time in the company's short history.
Apart from being Mr TNA, the former WWE Champion also has the most PPV appearances in pro wrestling history. AJ Styles is on top with 277 matches while John Cena is not even in the top 10 with 161 appearances.
#7 Kurt Angle: Most TNA/Impact Wrestling world titles
Kurt Angle's career could have been a mere afterthought had it not been for TNA's hospitality back when he was forced to leave WWE in 2006.
Fast forward to ten years later and the Olympic gold medalist had six world title reigns spread across 600 days while also being an active TNA Hall of Famer. Bobby Lashley, who is the second most successful TNA Champion in history, beat Angle in his final match with the company in 2016.
All the top names that the company built on left for WWE, leaving Angle's record nearly untouchable. This makes it very likely that Angle will continue to hold this record for the foreseeable future, unless Impact Wrestling is able to change things up completely and have a new dominant Champion who continues to work for them for multiple years.
#8 & #9 Daniel Bryan and Nigel McGuinness: Most world title defenses
One of the greatest ROH wrestlers who is unfortunately a retired WWE employee: Nigel McGuiness as well as Daniel Bryan, are regarded as the forefathers of Ring of Honor. Both the indy pioneers have won the world title on one occasion but held it for an outrageous amount of time.
Bryan was a champion for 462 days while McGuiness had the strap on his waist for an astonishing 545 days. Despite the difference in their reigns, the perennial rivals have defended the championship 38 times each.
Moving onto the final entrant in this list, who held the world title longer than Bryan and McGuiness in his solitary run with the ROH World Championship. Any guesses?
#10 Samoa Joe: Longest Reigning ROH World Champion
1 reign, 29 defenses, 645 days, one scary human being. Samoa Joe is the greatest world champion in Ring of Honor history. It was during this obnoxiously lengthy reign that his unforgettable trilogy of matches with CM Punk happened.
The wrestling fraternity was forced to stand up and take notice of the Maryland-based promotion back in 2003. For a man who was told by Jim Ross and Bruce Pritchard that he would account for nothing in the world of pro wrestling, proving naysayers wrong in an upstart promotion was all the more difficult.
The Samoan Submission Machine left WWE to join AEW in 2022.
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Find out which legend regrets never facing Hulk Hogan here