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20 first championship victories in WWE
WWE Champion CM Punk is closing in on 300 days as champion. But, do you know the first title he won in WWE? What about “The King of Kings” Triple H? Do you recall the first title he captured? And, how about The Undertaker? He stakes claim to a phenomenal 20-0 WrestleMania streak, but do you know which iconic Superstar he beat to first taste championship glory? Take a look back at when 20 Superstars won their first title in WWE.
John Cena (WrestleMania XX)
It appeared to be just a matter of time before Big Show put away John Cena at WrestleMania XX to retain his United States Championship inside Madison Square Garden. Giving up a ton of size and strength to his massive opponent, Cena made up for it with his heart and determination. After fighting back from a devastating Cobra Clutch, Cena hit two Attitude Adjustments and used a foreign object to get the pin and his first title in WWE: the United States Championship.
Edge (July 24, 1999)
The Rated-R Superstar’s first championship in WWE did not come without controversy. In front of friends and family inside Toronto’s SkyDome (now called the Rogers Centre), Edge defeated Jeff Jarrett for the Intercontinental Championship … or so he thought. There was some confusion among officials about whether the impromptu bout was in fact a title match, and the prestigious prize was taken away from Edge.
However, the decision was made at ringside that it was indeed a title match and The Ultimate Opportunist was rightfully awarded the title. "It was one of the first moments where I got goose bumps inside of the ring," Edge said regarding the first title in his WWE Hall of Fame career.
Triple H (Raw: Oct. 21, 1996)
Before he became known as "The King of Kings," Triple H began his career competing as Hunter Hearst Helmsley. At the time, "Wildman" Marc Mero had stolen away one of Triple H's gorgeous valets, Sable, which set off a series of matches between the two.
When they locked up on Raw, the stakes were at an all-time high. In a seesaw matchup, Triple H battled Mero for his Intercontinental Championship. After some help from Triple H’s manager, Mr. Perfect — who leveled Mero with a vicious steel chair shot — The Game followed up with a Pedigree to capture his first title in WWE.
Batista (Armageddon 2003)
At Armageddon 2003, The Dudley Boyz thought they were victorious in a Tag Team Turmoil Match and were walking out with their World Tag Team Championships intact. However, General Manager Eric Bischoff had other plans.
Before The Dudley Boyz could celebrate, Bischoff announced they had to face one more team — Batista & Ric Flair. Already battered, the champions were no match for the fresh challengers. The win marked the first championship for The Animal in WWE.
CM Punk (ECW: Sept. 4, 2007)
Before CM Punk changed the very landscape of WWE with his legendary “pipe bomb” promo and later by becoming WWE Champion in 2011, The Straight Edge Superstar was looking to make a name for himself in ECW.
After becoming No. 1 contender in 2007, Punk capitalized by defeating John Morrison for the ECW Championship. It was just a glimpse of the success to come for Punk. Hear the voice of ECW, Joey Styles, call Punk’s first championship win. OMG!
Bret Hart (WWE Superstars: Jan. 26, 1987)
Bret "Hit Man" Hart and Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart had been on the tag team scene for a while, and they got their big break on an edition of “WWE Superstars.” Managed by "Mouth of the South" Jimmy Hart, The Hart Foundation took on The British Bulldogs with the World Tag Team Championship at stake.
Danny Davis was officiating the match and allowed some very questionable double-team maneuvers from The Hart Foundation. With the Dynamite Kid lying outside the ring, The Hart Foundation focused on Davey Boy Smith to get the win. The Hart Foundation would go on to hold their titles for 10 months.
Big Show (SummerSlam 1999)
After laying out Kane & X-Pac, the World Tag Team Champions, on an edition of Raw, The Undertaker & Big Show received a title opportunity at SummerSlam 1999. It was a tag team war featuring some of WWE’s most massive competitors.
Show and Undertaker's power was just too much for X-Pac to handle, as a Chokeslam from The World’s Largest Athlete and an Undertaker Tombstone garnered the win. The devastating pairing would only be able to hold onto the titles for about a week, though, as they ran into the Rock 'n' Sock Connection.
Brock Lesnar (SummerSlam 2002)
Brock Lesnar's immense size and nearly unmatched athleticism earned him the moniker "The Next Big Thing." At SummerSlam 2002, Lesnar proved he was, indeed, the next big thing when he defeated The Rock for the WWE Championship. With a crushing F-5, he became the youngest WWE Champion in history, a distinction he took away from The Rock.
Lesnar went on to hold the WWE Championship for nearly three months, successfully defending it against the likes of Undertaker (in a Hell in a Cell Match) and Edge.
Eddie Guerrero (Raw: April 3, 2000)
One night after WrestleMania 2000, Raw invaded the STAPLES Center (which sold out in 11 minutes), where Eddie Guerrero vowed to make all his ancestors in Spain proud by defeating Chris Jericho for the European Title.
In an end that surprised even Guerrero himself, he captured his first title in WWE and began his first of two European Championship reigns.
"Macho Man" Randy Savage (Prime Time Wrestling: Feb. 24, 1986)
Inside the Boston Garden, it looked like Intercontinental Champion Tito Santana had Randy Savage right where he wanted when he locked the “Macho Man” in a Figure-Four Leglock. Despite the agonizing pain, Savage made it to the ropes to break the hold. Next, Santana hit Savage with a suplex and almost locked in another Figure-Four.
But as the battle waged on, Savage reached into his tights and pulled out a foreign object. Then, just as Santana was driving Savage to the canvas yet again, the “Macho Man” blasted the champion in the skull with the object, leading to a pinfall victory to claim the Intercontinental Title.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin (Raw: May 26, 1997)
Normally bitter rivals, Shawn Michaels and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin teamed up to battle World Tag Team Champions Owen Hart & The British Bulldog. After HBK blasted British Bulldog with Sweet Chin Music, “Stone Cold” quickly made the cover to capture the victory.
Afterward, The Hart Foundation charged the ring and went to town on Michaels. After looking on from outside the ring, “Stone Cold” charged up the entrance ramp to attack Bret Hart. But before “Stone Cold” could inflict more damage on “Hit Man,” The Hart Foundation came to his rescue.
Ultimate Warrior (SummerSlam 1988)
At the inaugural SummerSlam in 1988 at Madison Square Garden, Intercontinental Champion The Honky Tonk Man did not know who his opponent would be. It was supposed to have been Brutus Beefcake, but due to an injury, a replacement had to be named. When the champion entered the squared circle, even ring announcer WWE Hall of Famer Howard Finkel didn’t know who the challenger would be.
Soon enough, though, Ultimate Warrior’s entrance music kicked in and he charged to the ring, as fans inside Madison Square Garden erupted. In record time, Warrior dispatched of The Honky Tonk Man, as "The Mouth of the South" Jimmy Hart looked on in disbelief.
Mr. Perfect (Superstars of Wrestling: April 23, 1990)
Mr. Perfect debuted in WWE in the middle of 1988 and immediately began racking up win after win, enjoying an undefeated streak for more than a year. He finally seized a golden opportunity after Ultimate Warrior had to vacate the Intercontinental Championship after winning the WWE Championship. A tournament was held to crown a new champion. In the finals, Mr. Perfect defeated former Intercontinental Champion Tito Santana to win his first title in WWE.
Hulk Hogan (Jan. 23, 1984)
With thousands of raucous fans behind him, Hulk Hogan battled The Iron Sheik inside Madison Square Garden. Hogan took all Sheik could dish out, including a backbreaker, Boston Crab, suplex and, finally, his signature Camel Clutch. But the Hulkster powered out of the hold, got to his feet and rammed Sheik into the turnbuckle, as fans went ballistic.
Then, with a big leg drop, Hogan dispatched of Sheik to claim the WWE Championship and usher in Hulkamania. Fans went wild after witnessing the landmark victory.
Booker T (SmackDown: Nov. 1, 2001)
Booker T is one Superstar who has done and seen it all. He boasts a rich championship history in both WCW and WWE, was a King of the Ring Tournament winner, served as a coach for the “Tough Enough” TV series, is current SmackDown General Manager and co-authored his upcoming autobiography. Did we mention he also invented the Spinaroonie?
However, he didn’t get his first taste of championship glory in WWE on his own. Instead, it was in tag team action when Booker T & Test defeated Chris Jericho and The Rock to claim the World Tag Team Titles. Can you dig it, sucka?
Sheamus (WWE TLC 2009)
It’s true that win or lose, The Great White loves to fight. Maybe the one thing he loves more is doing so with a title around his waist. And the only thing sweeter than that is when he captured his first.
In a shocking upset, Sheamus defeated John Cena in a Tables Match at WWE TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs 2009 to capture the WWE Championship for the first time. As they battled on the top rope, a war-torn Cena tried to superplex The Celtic Warrior. But before he could, Sheamus retaliated, finding the strength to hurl The Champ down onto the table and to his defeat.
The Rock (Raw: Feb. 13, 1997)
Before he was The Rock, Rocky Maivia was a red-hot newcomer, loaded with potential as the son of Rocky Johnson and grandson of “High Chief” Peter Maivia. During a special, live Thursday edition of Raw, the blue chipper caught reigning champion Triple H by surprise, dropping him into a small package as the Intercontinental Champion was gloating. Little did these two Superstars know that they would still be at each other's throats in some of the most high-profile and classic matches in WWE for years to come.
Daniel Bryan (Night of Champions 2010)
Long before he was screaming at the crowd or taking anger management classes, Daniel Bryan was a WWE NXT season one Rookie. After working his way through the groundbreaking competition and onto Raw, the submission specialist’s United States Title triumph at Night of Champions was two-fold.
Not only did he finally have his hands on championship gold in WWE after years of working his way up on the independence circuit, but he was able to get it by making his former NXT Pro, The Miz, tap out to the LeBell Lock.
Shawn Michaels (Saturday Night's Main Event: Oct. 27, 1992)
WWE Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels started as one-half of the explosive tag team The Rockers. But, after putting Marty Jannetty through a window on “The Barber Shop,” he began to make the impressive climb in singles competition.
With huge victories over the likes of Tito Santana and “The Model” Rick Martel, Michaels earned himself an opportunity at The British Bulldog’s Intercontinental Championship on Saturday Night's Main Event. HBK came through with flying colors, capturing his first title and setting himself on the road to legendary status.
The Undertaker (Survivor Series 1991)
After Hulk Hogan was brutally attacked by the undefeated Undertaker and Ric Flair, Hogan took on The Phenom at Survivor Series 1991 for the WWE Championship. During the match, the "Nature Boy" tried to steal the WWE Title. Though the Hulkster shooed him away, a distraction by Paul Bearer allowed Flair to throw a steel chair into the ring. That sealed Hogan’s fate, as The Deadman hit him with a Tombstone Piledriver onto the chair for the victory and his first championship in WWE.