Over the years, there have been many Championship belts in WWE, each one with its own lineage and history. But the top prize in all of Sports Entertainment has always been the WWE Championship, which dates back to 1963, when it was known as the World Heavyweight Championship of the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF).
There have only been 50 men, over those 54 years, that have held the WWE Championship, which should tell you something about the prestige associated with it. Every single man that pulls on a pair of wrestling boots and trunks has dreams of one day holding that Championship aloft over their head after a stunning victory. They dream of carrying the belt for long periods, taking part in the best matches on every card, sending the fans home happy after a main event spectacle. In fact, there are those in the Sports Entertainment business who say that if you don't see the WWE Title as your ultimate goal, then you shouldn't even be in the business at all!
This quiz will test even the most knowledgeable of WWE fans, as we're not simply asking you to name champions; rather, we want to find out if you know who each one of these 25 men defeated to win their very first WWE Championship! This quiz involves some of the biggest names to ever compete in WWE, and takes us right up to date with the current (somewhat controversial) champion...
Jinder Mahal is the current WWE Champion, having won the belt at the recent Smackdown-brand exclusive PPV Backlash. He's also easily the most controversial champion in a very long time, as up until barely a month before he climbed atop the mountain, he had been languishing in the mid-card. In fact, from his return to WWE in August 2016 until he won the big one in May 2017, he had only won two televised matches! It seems that WWE is trying their level best to monetize the Indian market, which has one of their largest social media fanbases, and Jinder being champion is a big part of this business move.
In July 2013, Bray Wyatt and his sinister Wyatt Family made their debuts on WWE's main roster. With his intriguing character, equal parts spooky supernatural villain and legitimately frightening backwoods hillbilly preacher, Bray quickly became very popular with fans and feuded with top stars like John Cena and The Undertaker. Unfortunately, he tended to resoundingly lose these feuds. This is why, when Bray finally captured his first WWE Championship inside the Elimination Chamber in February 2017, the fan response was tremendous. Even though he is technically a heel, they felt he deserved it and looked forward to a long title run. But then he dropped the belt to Randy Orton in the worst match of WrestleMania 33 less than two months later. Sigh!
John Cena has been either WWE or World Heavyweight Champion 16 times in his hugely illustrious career. In fact, Cena has been champion so many times that a large section of the fanbase resents him for it, and often cries out for other newer faces to get a chance in the main event spots. You'll have to cast your mind way back to 2005 to find Cena's first WWE title win, which came in the Smackdown brand's main event match at WrestleMania 21.
The Miz is one of the longest tenured superstars on WWE's roster, having made his debut in 2006. That's over a decade on WWE TV without many significant gaps, and during that time he has amassed a huge amount of championships and accolades. Not bad for someone who was written off as little more than a reality TV star (after he initially came to fame in MTV's The Real World)! Miz's one and (thus far) only WWE title reign occurred in 2010, and he held the belt for six months, including a successful defence against John Cena at WrestleMania 27.
The best there is. The best there was. And the best there ever will be. This catchphrase perfectly describes Bret 'Hitman' Hart, arguably the best pro-wrestler to ever lace up a pair of boots. Bret was one of the very biggest stars in wrestling in the 1990's, and was one of a select few visionaries who helped popularize the superb technical in-ring performance of 'smaller' wrestlers. Strangely, Bret actually captured his first WWF Championship during an untelevised house show in his native Canada (Saskatoon, to be exact)!
We've already mentioned Randy Orton a few times, as Jinder Mahal and The Miz both won their first belts at his expense. We guess, though, whenever you're a 13-time World Champion like Randy, you're going to have a bunch of losses in there. The important thing is that he has won it back on so many occasions, and remains a main event player to this day! Randy actually became the youngest World Champion in WWE history in 2004, at the age of 24. But it would take him another three years before he won his first WWE Championship, at the No Mercy PPV in 2007...
The Showstopper. Mr WrestleMania. The Heartbreak Kid. Shawn Michaels was all of these things over the course of his storied WWE career, and has a very legitimate claim to being known as the best of all time. Starting out as a member of the exciting tag team The Rockers in the 1980's, Shawn became a solo star in the 90's, and after a 4 year in-ring retirement from 1998-2002, he returned and wrestled until 2010. His first Championship win is closely associated with the phrase 'the childhood dream come true'...
These days, Dave Bautista is probably better known for his big-screen acting roles like Drax in Marvel's Guardians Of The Galaxy, or Mr Hinx in the James Bond movie Spectre. But before he sought a career in Hollywood, 'The Animal' Batista was one of WWE's biggest stars of the 2000's. By the time Batista captured his first WWE Championship in 2009 inside a Steel Cage, he had already been World Champion on four previous occasions, dating back to his historic win over Triple H at WrestleMania 21.
Stone Cold Steve Austin
The 'Texas Rattlesnake' Stone Cold Steve Austin was the biggest star of the Attitude Era, which was one of the biggest boom periods in pro-wrestling history. It has been said by many in the know that his popularity (and therefore the profits he and the company enjoyed) eclipsed even Hulk Hogan's at the height of Hulkamania! Austin won his first championship in 1997 in the main event of WrestleMania 14, in a match that helped ignite his defining feud (against his boss, Mr. McMahon), and that also featured the presence of special enforcer Mike Tyson!
Alberto Del Rio
Currently plying his trade at Impact Wrestling, as well as all over the independent circuit, Alberto El Patron (or Alberto Del Rio as he was known in WWE) is one of the most successful latino wrestlers in the world. During a comparatively short main roster career (from 2010 until 2014, then again from 2015 to 2016), Del Rio captured both the WWE Championship and World Heavyweight Championship twice each. His first WWE title came after a Money In The Bank cash-in at SummerSlam 2011...
Nowadays, Dwayne Johnson is the highest-paid actor in Hollywood and regularly stars in mega blockbusters like the Fast & Furious franchise and Baywatch, as well as holding down the lead role in the HBO TV series Ballers. He's a genuine pop-culture phenomenon, and it all started way back in the late 90's when he became WWE's 'most electrifying man in Sports Entertainment'! His first WWF Championship reign came in the finals of a tournament, after the title had been vacated after Kane and The Undertaker pinned Steve Austin simultaneously, then fought in their own title match to a 'no contest'...
'The Phenom' is one of the biggest stars to ever grace Sports Entertainment with his spooky presence, and if his match against Roman Reigns at this year's WrestleMania 33 does indeed prove to be his last hurrah, his storied career will go down in the history books as one of the best of all time. His first reign came right at the start of his WWE career, a year after making his debut at Survivor Series 1990. But who did he beat...?
It's often said that CM Punk was never meant to succeed in WWE. He wasn't the biggest guy, didn't have the best physique, was covered in tattoos and had no problem voicing his opinion backstage. He was also championed backstage by Paul Heyman so much that it turned some WWE personnel against Punk. And yet, he became a true trailblazer for the kind of talented, technically sound indie star that is currently thriving in WWE. His greatest achievement was his run as WWE Champion that lasted a massive 434 days; the longest reign of the modern era. But who did he beat to win his first title?
Chances are, if you say the words 'pro-wrestling' to any non-fan in the world, they will immediately think of Hulk Hogan. For our money, he is synonymous with Sports Entertainment, and even though his personal life has been the subject of controversy in recent years, he is still most people's image of a pro-wrestler, Amazingly, Hogan's first WWF Championship reign lasted a gargantuan four years, something which would simply never happen in this modern day and age! But who did The Hulkster conquer to attain his first title?
Back in 2015, which really wasn't that long ago in the grand scheme of things, the idea of AJ Styles as WWE Champion would have been unthinkable. Styles was 'Mr TNA', a man so closely associated the WWE's only realistic competition, that the thought of him signing with WWE seemed highly unlikely. There was also the fact that Styles is a smaller, technical wrestler, and would have stuck out like a sore thumb in WWE's land of the giants. And yet, after debuting at Royal Rumble 2016, Styles went on to have one of the best first years in WWE history, capturing the Championship a mere seven months after his first appearance!
Speaking of former members of The Shield... Seth Rollins was the first member of that highly successful three-man unit to capture the WWE Championship, and how it happened has gone down in history as one of the greatest WrestleMania moments ever. Going into WrestleMania 31, Rollins was Mr Money In The Bank, and as a conniving heel, we should've been expecting a cowardly cash-in on a beaten-down babyface. But no one truly expected it to go down during the main event of the biggest show of the year! So, when it did, the WWE Universe lost their collective minds!
In an earlier entry, we talked about how CM Punk was never pegged to succeed in WWE. Well, his success paved the way for future smaller, less 'traditional' superstars, and Daniel Bryan (who had wrestled Punk for many years on the indie scene prior to joining WWE) went on to become arguably the most purely popular superstar of the modern era. The WWE Universe loved Daniel Bryan with a passion that burned in their veins. They wanted him to succeed. Nay, they demanded he succeed. And so, when he won his first WWE Championship at SummerSlam 2013, fans were overjoyed! For a few moments, at least...
The Ultimate Warrior
The Ultimate Warrior might be second only to Hulk Hogan in terms of mainstream recognizability during WWE's late 80's/early 90's boom period. He was simply a megastar. His combination of a jacked physique, powerful (and sometimes nonsensical) promos and that famed energetic run to the ring made him a favourite with children of the era. Warrior's first WWF Championship title win came at 'The Showcase Of The Immortals': WrestleMania 6 in the Skydome, in Toronto, Canada. Warrior was the Intercontinental Champion at the time, and the match put that belt, plus his opponents' WWF Championship on the line...
'Macho Man' Randy Savage
Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior were the two biggest superheroes of the their era of wrestling, with their impressive physiques and colourful characters making them household names. But there was a third wrestler, who was perhaps even more charismatic and colourful than both of them combined, and he was considerably better when it came to in-ring competition as well: 'Macho Man' Randy Savage. At WrestleMania 4 in 1988, Savage won a 14-man tournament for his first WWF Championship, after the belt was vacated...
'The Lunatic Fringe' Dean Ambrose was the third and final former member of The Shield to taste WWE Championship glory. The fact that all three members of that stable went on to become recognised main event talents in their own right should tell you something about their quality as a unit! They were incredible. At the Money In The Bank PPV in 2016, Ambrose defeated five other men to capture the briefcase, which gave him the opportunity to cash-in for a WWE Championship at any point over the coming year. He chose to cash-in on that very night...
'The Cerebral Assassin'. 'The Game'. 'The King Of Kings'. Over the years, the artist formerly known as Hunter Hearst Helmsley has picked up quite a few monickers in WWE. But, above all else, Triple H has proven himself to be a winner, with a fierce dedication to all aspects of the business. He is currently WWE's Chief Operating Officer, and still manages to find time to wrestle a few times a year and regularly appears as an on-screen character. His first title victory came on an episode of Monday Night Raw in 1999, after a complete change in demeanour and attitude lead him on a quest for the top spot...
Roman Reigns is one of the most divisive figures in WWE history. On the one hand, he was one third of The Shield, one of the most popular and successful stables in recent memory. He is a top notch in-ring performer, and regularly delivers the goods in any big match environment he is placed into. And yet, fans boo him relentlessly as they see him as WWE's 'poster boy'. He was handpicked to be the face of company, and detractors argue that he was shoved down everyone's throats as a main eventer far sooner than he should have been. Reigns' first Championship win came, like a few others on this list, after a tournament. Seth Rollins had injured his knee badly while he was Champion, and the belt was vacated, leaving room for Reigns to battle his way to the tournament final...
Kurt Angle recently returned to WWE TV for the first time in over a decade. He was inducted into the 2017 Hall Of Fame, and then went on to be named the on-screen General Manager of Monday Night Raw, giving him the opportunity to interact with a whole new generation of talents. Angle is often credited as arguably the fastest learner in the history of Sports Entertainment. People say he picked up on the business with superhuman quickness, despite having no experience in it beforehand. He was an Olympic Gold Medallist in freestyle wrestling, yes, but pro-wrestling is a different ball game entirely. Angle won his first WWF Championship a mere 11 months after debuting on television...
Kane, who is still a member of the WWE roster to this day and has been one of the company's best-ever servants, has only held the WWE Championship once in his career. And it was for one solitary night. This seems insane when you think about how big a star he has been, and for how long he's been a fixture in top-tier feuds, but there it is! He did win the World Heavyweight Championship in 2010, which was nice, but his sole WWE Championship came way back in 1998...
We're rounding out our quiz with the 'Beast Incarnate'...BRRRROOOCCCKKKK LLLEEESSSNNNAARRRR!!! Ahem. We're sorry. But that's really the only way to say Lesnar's name, especially after hearing the great Paul Heyman say it so often on WWE TV! Brock is the current WWE Universal Champion (the replacement belt for the World Heavyweight Championship), and he is one of the biggest draws to ever compete in combat sports. Lesnar won his first WWE Championship after a mere five months on the main roster, making him (at that time), the youngest champion ever, at 25 years old. But who did he victimize on that night?