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Originally established as the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) Championship in 1963, the WWE Championship is viewed by many as the most prestigious world title in professional wrestling.

Of course, the WWE Championship isn’t the only world title the company has recognized over the years. After Vince McMahon bought out rival WCW in 2001, the WCW World Heavyweight Championship was brought into play before the two were unified in December of that year as the Undisputed WWF Championship.

In 2002, WWE brought back the Big Gold Belt but created a new lineage for the title, which ended in yet another title unification bout in 2013. A third world title was added to the company in 2006 with the resurrection of ECW but was dissolved when the brand was deactivated in 2010.

Then came the addition of the WWE Universal Championship, which was introduced in 2016 and remains active to this day. Yet another new version of the World Heavyweight Championship was added in 2023.

But for the purposes of this article, we’re only talking about the original.

If you’re curious, the longest-reigning WCW World Heavyweight Champion was Hulk Hogan, who held the title for 469 days after defeating Ric Flair in his debut match with the company in 1994. Under solely the WWE banner, Batista had the longest run with the Big Gold Belt at 282 days.

The longest-reigning ECW champ was Shane Douglas at 406 days. Under the WWE banner, it was Christian at 204 days. As for the WWE Universal Championship, the longest reign is the current run of Roman Reigns, who would actually crack the top five on this list as he passed the No. 5 entry when he hit his 1,028th day as champ in late June of 2023.

And for the WWE Championship, let’s take a look.

5. Pedro Morales (1,027 days)

Coming in at No. 5 is Pedro Morales, who was just the fourth man to hold the WWE Championship.

The Puerto Rican superstar became the first Latino wrestler to hold a world heavyweight championship when he defeated Ivan Koloff for the title in New York City on February 8, 1971.

Over the next 1,027 days, Morales defended the belt against the likes of Blackjack Mulligan, Freddie Blassie, The Shiek, and Ernie Ladd, among others, before dropping the title to longtime rival Stan Stasiak on December 1, 1973.

4. Bruno Sammartino (1,237 days)

After defeating Morales, Stasiak held the title for just nine days before dropping it to Bruno Sammartino, who became the first two-time WWE champion in history.

Sammartino held the belt for the next 1,237 days, finally losing it to Superstar Billy Graham in Baltimore on April 30, 1977. As you’ll see momentarily, this wasn’t Sammartino’s longest reign. And one has to wonder if this one would’ve been longer had Bruno not suffered a legitimate neck injury in a match at Madison Square Garden against Stan Hansen.

This injury prompted Sammartino to tell Vince McMahon Sr. that he could no longer continue as champion, which led to the loss to Graham.

3. Hulk Hogan (1,474 days)

Sitting at No. 3 on the list is Hulk Hogan and his first of six reigns with the WWE Championship.

Viewed as the future of WWE by Vince McMahon Jr., Hogan returned to the then-World Wrestling Federation in late 1983 and defeated The Iron Sheik for the title less than a month later on January 23, 1984.

Hogan held the title for the next 1,474 days, twice defending it in the main event of WrestleMania, first against King Kong Bundy and then against Andre the Giant in arguably the biggest (not greatest — there’s a difference) match in professional wrestling history.

The Hulkster finally lost the belt to Andre on February 5, 1988, in controversial fashion. The match aired as part of an NBC special, The Main Event, which drew 33 million viewers, still the highest-rated show in professional wrestling history.

2. Bob Backlund (2,135 days)

The 2,135-day reign of Bob Backlund is a bit tricky.

Backlund first won the WWE Championship on February 20, 1978, defeating Superstar Billy Graham. On November 30, 1979, he squared off with Japanese legend Antonio Inoki, who held the National Wrestling Federation (NWF) Championship, and lost.

A week later, Backlund regained the title in a rematch, but the bout was declared a “no contest” due to outside interference from New Japan’s Tiger Jeet Singh. Inoki then refused the title, thus rendering it vacant, and Backlund won it in a Texas Death Match with Bobby Duncum on December 17, 1979.

The issue is that WWE doesn’t officially recognize Inoki’s reign and recognizes Backlund’s as one continuous run.

There was another issue in 1981 involving Greg Valentine, who was “accidentally” (pure kayfabe) awarded the title in a match with Backlund, thus technically ending the reign. But WWE doesn’t recognize this exchange either.

In their lineage, Backlund was the WWE Champion for 2,135 days.

1. Bruno Sammartino (2,803 days)

Last and obviously not least is the first reign of Bruno Sammartino, who became the second WWE Champion in history when he defeated inaugural champ Buddy Rogers in 48 seconds on May 17, 1963, in New York City.

Sammartino held the title for the next seven years, eight months, and one day — a total of 2,803 days — before a shocking loss to Ivan Koloff on January 18, 1971.

In total, Sammartino’s only two runs with the WWE Championship lasted a combined 4,040 days. Second on the cumulative list is Hulk Hogan, whose six reigns lasted a combined 2,188 days.


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