5 Greatest World Heavyweight Championship Reigns In WWE history

The big gold belt had some memorable reigns.
The big gold belt had some memorable reigns.
Divesh Merani

Five years ago, John Cena and Randy Orton competed in a TLC Match with both WWE and World Heavyweight Championships being on the line. The two world titles were unified, as we were heading into the Network Era. A second world title would be revived on Raw when the Brand Split returned in mid-2016, but it was the introduction of the brand new Universal Championship. The World Heavyweight Championship remains retired, last seen on the shoulder of Brock Lesnar.

The big gold belt was extremely prestigious in the 1980s and 1990s, as the top prize in NWA and WCW. It made it's way to the WWE in 2002, introduced on Raw during the original brand split. Triple H was the first World Heavyweight Champion under it's latest lineage, monopolising the Raw main event scene for over two years. The likes of Batista, Edge and The Undertaker all got turns to hold the big gold belt in the years to come, primarily on Smackdown.

However, the last few years of its existence saw the world title turn into a glorified mid-card belt. Champions like CM Punk (in 2008), Jack Swagger and Daniel Bryan (in 2011) dealt heavy blows to the prestige of this once great championship. It was put to rest at TLC 2013 when Randy Orton defeated John Cena to carry both world titles. But there were some really memorable reigns with the World Heavyweight Championship during its eleven years of existence in the WWE.

Here are the five greatest World Heavyweight Championship reigns in WWE history.

Honourable mention: Sheamus (2012)

#5 The Undertaker (2009-10)

'Taker was on top of Smackdown for a while.
'Taker was on top of Smackdown for a while.

The Undertaker last won the WWE Championship in 2002, before the introduction of the big gold belt, as WWE was transitioning from the old ways into the new. Since then, he won the World Heavyweight Championship thrice, with his third reign being the best one. Despite an underwhelming start, with the Deadman beating CM Punk in an average Hell in a Cell match, the reign grew better and better. 'Taker defended the title in back-to-back multi-man matches featuring the likes of Punk, Batista, Rey Mysterio and tag team champions Chris Jericho and the Big Show.

Separate feuds with Batista and Rey Mysterio ensued, with a pretty eventful Smackdown main event scene, heading into 2010. After a great big man vs little man match against Mysterio at Royal Rumble, the Undertaker defended the title inside the Elimination Chamber. After getting some horrible burns during his entrance, the Deadman fought through and was in the final two alongside Chris Jericho. His reign ended on a shocking note when a desperate Shawn Michaels emerged from under the ring to hit him with the Sweet Chin Music, setting up the legendary Streak vs Career match for WrestleMania 26.

This was an effective world title run to cap off the Undertaker's full-time career as a wrestler, with the Deadman going on to wrestle only a couple of matches per year from thereon.

#4 Chris Benoit (2004)

Benoit's run started and ended with a bang.
Benoit's run started and ended with a bang.

While not the best-handled reign in the world, Chris Benoit's time as world champion was actually pretty good. He won the 2004 Royal Rumble match from the number one position and jumped over to Raw to challenge Triple H for the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 20. It would turn out to be a triple-threat match also involving Shawn Michaels, but the night was Benoit's. He won the match and the title in incredible fashion, making the Game tap out.

The following month at Backlash, Benoit won a second triple-threat match in Canada. With such a strong start to his reign, the next few months saw an obvious drop in importance. The Rabid Wolverine would pull off double duty at Bad Blood, teaming with Edge and defending the title against Kane. Benoit's reign ended in a stunning way when a 24-year-old Randy Orton pinned him in the main event of SummerSlam.

While the overall reign was not the best, the way in which Benoit captured the title made it more memorable.

#3 Chris Jericho (2008)

This was sneaky heel Jericho at his best.
This was sneaky heel Jericho at his best.

At seven weeks, this reign is the shortest on this list. However, Chris Jericho in 2008 was out of this world. His sublime character work has bumped this relatively short world title run in the top 3. Jericho was utterly destroyed in his Unsanctioned Match against Shawn Michaels at Unforgiven, seemingly ending this vicious feud. However, later in the night, World Heavyweight Champion CM Punk got attacked by Randy Orton and was deemed unable to compete in the main event Scramble match for the world title. This led to a battered and limping Chris Jericho taking Punk's place.

He would steal the victory in the final seconds of this match and somehow got hold of the World Heavyweight title. The main reason why this reign was so good was the legendary Ladder Match at No Mercy 2008 between Jericho and Michaels, a truly classic match. The future New Japan star would end up dropping the belt to Batista at Cyber Sunday, but not before he had a memorable few weeks with the belt. He would hold the World Heavyweight Championship two other times, but none stood out like this one.

This was arguably Jericho's best world title reign in WWE.

#2 Edge (2007-08)

Edge is the greatest World Heavyweight Champion in WWE history.
Edge is the greatest World Heavyweight Champion in WWE history.

Edge is the greatest World Heavyweight Champion in WWE history, winning the big gold belt a record seven times. He, and arguably Triple H, is the wrestler who is most synonymous with this title. He literally retired while holding it. The Rated-R Superstar enjoyed his best world title reign when he headed into 2008 as the world champion. He interjected himself in the Undertaker's classic feud with Batista and captured the title at Armageddon 2007 in a triple threat match, thanks to the debuting Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder.

His heelish ways would carry on as WrestleMania was approaching. After a feud with Rey Mysterio, the Ultimate Opportunist would face the Undertaker in the main event of WrestleMania 24. It was a worthy show closer and certainly one of the Deadman's best matches at WrestleMania. Edge tapped out to the Hell's Gate, but he put in a performance that he could be proud of. It was a fitting end to an entertaining reign.

It may have barely crossed 100 days, but Edge's consistency and character work make this the second greatest World Heavyweight title reign in the WWE.

#1 Batista (2005-06)

Batista's first world title reign was great.
Batista's first world title reign was great.

While Edge was the greatest World Heavyweight Champion in WWE history, Batista had the best reign with the belt. At 282 days, the Animal's run on top of Raw/Smackdown was a big hit. He, unfortunately, had to vacate the title after suffering a nasty triceps injury but what he did before that was incredible. Batista won the big gold belt in the main event of WrestleMania 21, destroying Triple H. He would continue to feud with the Game throughout the spring, with the rivalry culminating in a terrifyingly brutal Hell in a Cell match at Vengeance.

After that, Batista was drafted to Smackdown. His first feud on the Blue brand was against JBL, with the Animal standing tall after a No Holds Barred match at SummerSlam. He faced Eddie Guerrero at No Mercy, Guerrero's final pay-per-view match before his shocking and untimely death. Batista even won the WWE Tag Team Championship with Rey Mysterio as 2005 was coming to a close. He would have likely kept hold of the belt until at least WrestleMania 22, but injury got in the way.

Despite being cut slightly short, Batista's 2005 reign with the big gold belt was the best in its eleven years.

Edited by Vineet Aiyer


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