The debut of the Golden Legacy
by Matt Storm
Welcome to the debut edition of Golden Legacy! Here, championships are recognized for the special recognition they can bestow on the men and women of Professional Wrestling, especially the roster of World Wrestling Entertainment.
Just what does being a champion mean? That answer carries one direct answer in my honest opinion. In theory it means the organization sees enough in a particular talent or tag team to put championships around their waists with the belief they can not only work consistently with a variety of talent with different styles, but also capture fan interest big enough to increase television ratings, live event attendance, and WWE Network subscriptions.
The formula for a successful championship reign encompasses a few factors,
Talent must actually possess the above traits to carry the grind as usually even when a champion may not be prominently featured on TV, they are almost certainly working the weekly live event loop and key international tours where championship defenses carry much interest to fans overseas that only get to see them in person twice a year maximum.
Second, it really depends on how much the company has invested into making a championship and its champion valuable and credible. As we’ve seen with World Title reigns of Chris Jericho & Jack Swagger, and US Title runs by Cesaro & Dean Ambrose, endless non-title losses, infrequent title defenses, and a parade of cheap victories can turn what should have been a game changing reign into a mere footnote of what could have been. If a talent finds themselves right where they were prior to their reign or in an even worse position, then the championship itself is devalued and the audience is trained to never take it seriously or the talent contending for it. So many factors to consider!
Before I delve into the current champions, here are some very key factors I utilize in analyzing their reigns to date:
-Length of title reign
Successful title defenses on TV & PPV and all live events
-Quality of challengers
-How they are used on television, competing or not
I’ve also compiled five lists ranking champions from longest reign to shortest reign. Some important notes on them:
-To be comprehensive, I merged the reigns of both the Women’s Championships and The Divas Championship. Thus while Nikki Bella’s 2nd reign of 301 days is indeed the longest reign in that title’s history, it is only the 11th longest reign of any female champion in company history.
-I also don’t recognize WWE’s history of The Fabulous Moolah’s run being a single reign lasting over 10,000 days. In reality, she had 8 reigns, many of which were under the NWA banner before the WWF acquired the belt.
-To be comprehensive I combined the histories of the WWE Title and World Heavyweight Championship (2002-2013) and the WWE Tag Team (2002-2010) and World Tag Team Championships before both were merged.
With all that out of the way, let us see how everyone reigning in their respective divisions have been faring.
All information is as of 11/30/15.
The United States Championship
Current Top 10 Champions by Length:Number in () indicates reign number.
1. Lex Luger (3): 523 days
2. Rick Rude: 419 days
3. Dean Ambrose: 351 days
4. Montel Vontavious Porter: 343 days
5. Nikita Koloff: 328 days
6. Ric Flair (2): 265 days
7. Steve Austin: 240 days
8. Shelton Benjamin: 240 days
9. Cesaro: 239 days
10. Jimmy Snuka: 231 days
Current Champion: Alberto Del Rio
Date Won: 10/25/15
Event: Hell In a Cell 2015
Won From: John Cena
Days Held: 36
Successful Defenses: 10
Current Ranking: Tied with Lance Storm’s 2nd reign for the 97th longest in history
Thus far, no defenses have been made on TV and PPV.
Live Events: Thus far, the bulk of his title defenses were made on the most recent European tour which saw Del Rio retain against Fandango, Jack Swagger, and Swagger & King Barrett in Triple Threat Matches. Over the weekend of 11/28 and 11/29, he successfully defended the championship against Neville.
While it is early into ADR’s reign, one can’t help but get the feeling he is something of a placeholder until John Cena makes his return in December and very likely enters into a 5th reign with the US Title. And it shouldn’t be that way in my opinion.
When Del Rio made his shocking return at HIAC’s US Open Challenge, it was a genuine surprise very rare in today’s wrestling landscape. He definitely was on few’s radar as ever even seeing action inside a WWE ring considering the circumstances of his departure and subsequent remarks about the company. Yet there he was, putting away Cena clean with a superkick to the side of the head. It was a strong return that so far hasn’t seen similar heights in the aftermath.
Now, Del Rio’s actual in-ring work isn’t in question, at least not in my mind. If anything he’s been even crisper and spot on than he was during his first run. He and Roman Reigns tore the house down at Survivor Series when few expected it to be passable. Rather, the US Title itself hasn’t been presented as having the prestige it did when the likes of Rusev and Cena held it.
Further hampering the situation is the lack of chemistry between Del Rio and current adviser Zeb Colter. Both issues play into ADR’s current title program.
Properly built, there’s nothing wrong with a feud against Jack Swagger. Swagger is more than capable of delivering in the ring and is a decent enough talker with a crowd pleasing catchphrase. The issue at hand is prior to the ongoing feud, Swagger was absent from even the bottom rung shows like Main Event and Superstars. And even before he vanished, he was mainly enhancement talent or stuck on the all too frequent treadmill of trading wins&losses but staying in place.
While it was nice that his former alliance with Zeb was remembered and plays into the story, it remains difficult to view it as anything more than an acceptable midcard program. The driving issue of Del Rio & Colter’s intent on creating a “MexAmerica” is not too enthralling either leaving little to sink one’s teeth into as far as this is concerned.
There’s little doubt that if they meet at the upcoming TLC PPV as expected, ADR will retain and face off with Cena upon his return. And that will be where we’ll get a clear picture of what his future really holds. If he were to retain, would legitimate potential challengers like a Dolph Ziggler, Ryback, Neville, etc be built up for him to work with?
And if he dropped the title back to Cena, where would he stand then? Some feel he’s already settled back into the role he had before leaving and is just another guy. He has WAY more talent in him to be featured as such, so this is one to keep an eye on.
WWE Tag Team Championships
Current Top 10 Champions:
1. Demolition: 478 days
2. Jimmy & Johnny Valiant: 370 days
3. Professor Toru Tanaka & Mr. Fuji: 337 days
4. Paul London & Brian Kendrick: 333 days
5. The British Bulldogs: 294 days
6. Carlito & Primo Colon: 280 days
7. Adrian Adonis & Dick Murdoch: 279 days
8. The Hart Foundation: 274 days
9. Mr. Fuji & Mr. Saito: 258 days
10. The Wild Samoans (3): 252 days
Current Champions: The New Day
Reign #: 2
Date Won: 8/23/15
Event: Summerslam 2015
Won From: The Prime Time Players (defending champions), Lucha Dragons, and Los Matadores (Fatal Four Way match)
Days Held: 99
Successful Defenses: 30
Current Ranking: 69th longest reign in history
Television & PPV:
-Monday Night Raw (9/14/15)
d. Prime Time Players
-Night Of Champions (9/20/15)
-retained via DQ Loss to The Dudleyz
-WWE Network Special: Live At The Garden (10/3/15)
retained via DQ loss to The Dudleyz
-Hell In A Cell (10/25/15)
d. The Dudleyz
On the road, New Day have turned back challenges of PTP, Dudleyz, and Lucha Dragons. On the most recent European tour, they defeated PTP & Dudleyz in Triple Threat matches and PTP & Lucha Dragons&Los Matadores in Fatal Four way matches.
For a group many had deemed “lame”, “out of touch” and a “failure”, the trio of Kofi Kingston&Big E&Xavier Woods have transformed into arguably both the hottest and most entertaining act the company has going at the moment. After all, who doesn’t love a trombone and a unicorn being invoked at the same time?
Due to their over the top antics and Big E’s loud booming introduction for his crew eliciting a crowd response few others are netting right now, they have been all over TV with the tag titles directly kept in focus amidst their sermons and insistence that they rock.
That they’ve been able to parlay their real life friendship and chemistry into their personas (Big E in particular has always made me laugh in videos where he has been that funny all along) is a nice bonus to compliment their in-ring talent which has always been there. Their series against Tyson Kidd&Cesaro during their first run was fantastic and something I wouldn’t mind at all seeing revisited down the road.
As with any modern day tag team though, the longevity partly relies on a freshly stocked division for the reigning champions to work with. WWE’s has been an ebb and flow ever since Triple H’s influence saw tag teams get renewed interest back in 2012. New Day had a fun series with The Dudleyz and now have the recently reunited Usos and strongly pushed Lucha Dragons to defend against. It wouldn’t surprise me to see a Triple Threat Ladder Match announced for 12/13’s TLC PPV to be announced this coming week; it would allow for new champions and a way for New Day to stay in the mix as they’d hilariously protest being dethroned without being pinned.
With or without the titles, they’re the faces of the division and there’s always a chance an NXT duo or two could see their way onto the main roster (imagine the fun they’d have with Enzo & Big Cass!) I
In a nutshell, New Day is here to stay and that is something I can CLAP for!
Current Top 10 Champions:
1. The Honkytonk Man: 454 days
2. Pedro Morales (2): 425 days
3. Randy Savage: 414 days
4. Don Muraco (2): 385 days
5. Greg Valentine: 285 days
6. Mr. Perfect (2): 280 days
7. The Rock (2): 265 days
8. Shelton Benjamin: 244 days
9. Cody Rhodes: 236 days
10. Pat Patterson: 233 days
Date Won: 9/20/15
Event: Night of Champions 2015
Won From: Ryback
Days Held: 71
Successful defenses: 21
Current ranking: Tied with Goldust’s first reign for the 60th longest in history
Television & PPV:
-Thursday Night Smackdown (10/1/15)
Retained via count out loss to Ryback
-WWE Network Special: Live at MSG (10/3/15)
d. Chris Jericho
-Hell In a Cell 2015 (10/25/15)
On the road, Owens has spent the duration of his reign thus far retaining the IC Title via DQ losses to Ryback (Sept/Oct) and Dean Ambrose (Nov). His wins have come in Triple Threat Matches against Rusev&Dolph Ziggler (10/4) and Ziggler&Ambrose (11/28 and 11/29)
For my money, it’s difficult to argue that there’s been anyone working harder within the company to get both himself and his championship noticed and pushed into the spotlight than Kevin Owens.
After coming up short in his bid for the United States Championship against John Cena over the Summer, many wondered where the former Ring of Honor and NXT standout would go from there. With the capturing of the Intercontinental Championship, Owens has netted himself a significant amount of television time, interview time, and occasional work at ringside calling the action while potential challengers do battle. While it is true that the prestige of the IC Title has yet to reclaim the glory days seen in the 80s and 90s, Owens himself has made it a point to rise above that and carve out a niche for himself.
That skill has come in handy as the focus on the championship itself has been shaky at best. His last defense at HIAC found itself sandwiched between a WWE World Title match and the HIAC war between Brock Lesnar and Undertaker; certainly not an enviable spot even as a semi-main. Still, Owens managed to shine in the 5-6 minutes he had to retain over Ryback. And the night after he and Dean Ambrose had an excellent match at Survivor Series, Owens found himself in a rushed tag team encounter that didn’t even yield him or the other three match participants an entrance. That’s hardly a ringing endorsement from the company that the title is high on the priority list.
Even with those questionable decisions, Owens once again managed to make some waves individually. Whether it was an old school promo outside the arena on the HIAC Kickoff show where he ran down the Lakers or in a sitdown interview with Michael Cole prior to Survivor Series where he declared that the feat of holding both an IC Title and World Title would matter before he accomplished it, K.O. has left an impression on the general audience.
With his next challenger set for 12/13’s TLC PPV in Ambrose, Owens had an opportunity to once again steal the show even with company limitations placed on him in terms of placement and time given to work. He’s made perfect use of every minute he’s received since he arrived on the main roster so far, thus there is little doubt he won’t rise to the occasion here especially against the ultra talented and perfect foil in the Lunatic Fringe. In a perfect world, Owens would go onto a World Title program after his run ends. While it’s not an impossibility, it’s not as certain as it would’ve been in the heyday of the IC Title. But no matter what, he’ll simply keep fighting because that’s just what he does.
WWE World Heavyweight Championship
Top 10 Champions:
1. Bruno Samartino: 2,803 days
2. Bob Backlund: 2,135 days
3. Hulk Hogan: 1,474 days
4. Bruno Samartino (2): 1,237 days
5. Pedro Morales: 1,027 days
6. C.M. Punk (3): 434 days
7. John Cena (3): 380 days
8. Randy Savage: 371 days
9. Hulk Hogan (2): 364 days
10. Diesel: 358 days
Reign #: 4
Date Won: 11/22/15
Event: Survivor Series 2015
Won From: Roman Reigns (MITB cash in)
Days Held: 8
Successful Defenses: 2
Current Ranking: Tied with Batista’s 3rd reign as World Heavyweight Champion for the 151st longest reign in history
Television & PPV: None to date
On 11/28 and 11/29, Sheamus retained via DQ losses to #1 contender Roman Reigns.
It’s become abundantly clear that the fourth run as a World Champion was designed with one goal in mind: To try and convert doubters of Roman Reigns into sympathetic fans of his chase to finally realize a sustained reign as WWE World Heavyweight Champion. And on paper it’s a completely sound theory. Since his return the night after Wrestlemania 31, Sheamus has found his groove as a dependable hard hitting brawler, just the kind of man Reigns can showcase his own intensity against. He has easy heat magnets (the Mohawk and braided beard) and he does behave like a traditional rotten heel given he ruined Roman’s hard fought climb to the top at Survivor Series, reducing a dream come true to a mere five minutes of celebration.
However, the execution of the plan left many viewers feeling cold as ice. In order for those not baking Reigns a hero cookie quite yet to flip over to the side of the Roman Empire, his adversary would need to be built up as a monster both in actions and in the ring; someone so vile that they’d find themselves rooting Reigns on and finally accepting him as the heir apparent to the John Cena position as THE man. In the case of Sheamus, this was absent all the way up to the conclusion of the PPV. Not hours earlier, he had been portrayed as an out of touch white guy in a comedy line that didn’t quite hit the mark, and was abandoned by his partners in an elimination match devoid of hype or even participation announcement beforehand. To make matters worse, the following night on Raw he was background noise for the Reigns/Triple H staredown and the return of his alliance with Rusev and King Barrett resulted in all three being disposed of by Reigns (albeit with a chair in hand).
The lack of long-term planning has resulted in an audience essentially apathetic to a rivalry that will at least more likely than not deliver the goods in their TLC Match on 12/13. So far the company has gone a strange route in realizing the goal of the bulk of their fanbase welcoming Reigns into the fold. Plus it further dampens down Sheamus who will likely fall back into the middle of the pack once this short reign concludes and weaken his potential to bolster the IC&US Title divisions. As I write this, Raw is 45 minutes into tonight’s broadcast so we shall see if anything can be salvaged. Otherwise, it’s really the waste of a title and two talents with plenty to offer in the right setting. Ultimately, this title reign will be defined on whether or not Reigns sees an increase in crowd support and very little else, if anything.
WWE Divas Championship
*Unless noted otherwise, reigns in top 10 are those of the WWF/WWE Women’s Title
Top 10 Champions
1. The Fabulous Moolah: 3,651 days
2. The Fabulous Moolah (3): 2,862 days
3. The Fabulous Moolah (5): 2,113 days
4. The Fabulous Moolah (4): 947 days
5. The Fabulous Moolah (2): 527 days
6. Rockin Robin: 502 days
7. Trish Stratus (6) 448 days
8. Sensational Sherri: 441 days
9. The Fabulous Moolah (6): 380 days
10. Alundra Blaze: 342 days
Just outside the top 10 are the Divas Championship Reigns of Nikki Bella (2) 301 days, ranked #11, and AJ Lee’s first reign (295 days) ranked #12.
Date Won: 9/20/15
Event: Night of Champions 2015
Won From: Nikki Bella
Days Held: 71
Successful Defenses: 9
Current ranking: Tied with Lita’s first reign as Women’s Champion and Eve Torres’ second reign as Divas Champion for the 49th longest reign in history
Television & PPV:
-Hell In a Cell 2015 (10/25/15)
d. Nikki Bella
-Survivor Series 2015 (11/22/15)
-Monday Night Raw (11/23/15)
Retained via double count-out vs. Paige
On the November portion of the European tour (11/5-11/14)r, Charlotte retained in Triple Threat matches over Paige and Alicia Fox and in singles matches against Paige.
Much like Kevin Owens and the IC Title and Seth Rollins during his WWE World Heavyweight Championship reign, Charlotte has found herself trying to stand out when put behind the eight ball by creative decisions that have dampened her title reign thus far.
Since ending the reign of terror of the self-absorbed Nikki Bella, Charlotte’s in-ring work has been really solid thus far in my opinion. Her title matches on PPV have been given time to develop and her wins over Bella and Paige were pretty good, hard hitting successful defenses. And her 11/23 defense against Paige was good as well, going 15 minutes.
Sadly, to date her own efforts haven’t been matched by the company. The “Divas Revolution” suffered from too many Trio Wars without forward progress or full utilization of the women she debuted with (Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch) grinding it to a halt as far as interest was concerned. And of course none of us will soon forget the contract signing she had with Paige prior to Survivor Series. Suffice to say, the tasteless act of invoking the late Reid Flair did little to please fans fully aware of what the NXT women accomplished there under the careful eye of Triple H. In this author’s opinion, this is a situation where Vince McMahon and his top circle could just easily replicate what we’ve seen in NXT and with a little patience, they can reap the benefits while the women see their hard work pay off rather than result in further scorn through no fault of their own.
Even the potential of a Charlotte vs. Banks renewal on the main roster is threatened by absent strong emphasis on Sasha; her 11/23 win over Lynch was presented as four minute filler with poor Becky deemed unworthy of an entrance that night. This is no way to reach the female portion of the audience who may also be enthralled with the UFC’s Ronda Rousey (who WWE is always quickly to name drop when hyping the women’s division).
The women can deliver in the ring when called upon to, this much is known and clamored for. Cheap heat lines that serve to only drag company image down the sewer and throw away matches are not helpful in the least bit. Your audience has to feel full commitment in having the division shine bright in a bold and serious manner as seen in NXT or else the “bathroom break” stigma of the past will continue to haunt the efforts of the current generation eager to legitimate re-brand women’s wrestling for a global fanbase.
Starting with dropping the term Divas, retiring the butterfly title, and bringing back the term Women and its championship would be a fine start; I whole hardheartedly agree with everyone that has opined about that. Follow that up by letting the ladies organically build their feuds over who is the better wrestler and making it known that the title IS the holy grail and there can still be hope for change to be noticed. Once more, I have no doubt that Paige vs. Charlotte at TLC and potentially Banks vs. Charlotte will tear down the house. But if nobody cares in that house, what has been gained?
Have any thoughts, comments, different points of view? Feel free to hit me up on Twitter (@RandomStormGuy) and let your voice be heard! Until then, I will return following TLC with a further look at.. Golden Legacy.