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Title reign length or reign count: What's more impressive?
What is the barometer of greatness for a champion in WWE? Some argue that it's how many title reigns you can rack up, which proves your staying power in the championship picture for a long period of time. Others say it's the quality, not the quantity of a reign that matters; that keeping the title around your waist for months upon months (or possibly years) is the way to be remembered as a dominant champion.
While a strong case can be made on either side of this debate, WWE.com wants to know for sure: What is the true test of a champion's greatness?
Now that WWE Champion CM Punk's reign has stretched to WWE's longest in four years, it's an opportune time to lay out all of the talking points in an attempt to settle the score. Who better to lend opinions on the matter than WWE Superstars who have all risen to championship glory?
In this WWE.com exclusive, find out what John Cena, Daniel Bryan, Christian, The Miz and Booker T think as we present compelling viewpoints for reign length and reign count. Once you've read both arguments, cast your vote in WWE.com's poll and let your voice be heard.
Point: Longer title reigns
Here’s the dirty little secret about being a 10-time champion: you had to lose the title nine times.
It’s a nasty technicality that rarely goes mentioned when discussing multiple title reigns – and by the way, we’re pretty sure the total number of WWE.com championship reigns tops out at zero – but the fact remains that a Superstar who holds his title for a longer period of time was, quite frankly, less susceptible to defeat than one who had to fight tooth and nail to claim the prize time and time again. It takes a special Superstar to win a championship, to be sure, but there’s something to be said for the perseverance, skill or cleverness of one who won the title and kept it for a long reign.
“I think it's been proven that anybody can win a title given the right circumstances,” Daniel Bryan told WWE.com. “But whether you keep that title, that's the mark of a true champion.” Bryan held the World Heavyweight Championship for four months, and has recently been in the mix for CM Punk’s WWE Title, although he has yet to claim that title for himself.
It’s fair to mention that WWE’s “Yes!” man might be postulating just a bit, given the opportunistic methods with which he both won and retained the World Title. But there’s something to be said for a champion’s resilience, as well as the value of adapting to different situations.
The three longest World Title reigns in WWE history belong to three infamously ruthless Superstars – Batista, Triple H and Kane – known for pursuing victory by any means necessary. In that same vein, while some may call Bryan’s Steel Cage victory over Mark Henry and Big Show at the 2012 Royal Rumble – via escape rather than pinfall – the “coward’s way out,” it’s equally valid to say it was his best opportunity to remain at the mountaintop. And a champion, above all things, must keep his title safe.
John Cena, who has straddled both sides of the issue himself (he’s a 10-time WWE Champion, with several long reigns to his name), also sided firmly with the importance of a longer run at the top. “Having a longer title reign means you [competed at a top level] for a longer period of time,” Cena said.
There’s also the issue of standing tall in the face of repeated challenges for the championship. After all, everyone’s always trying to take down the top dog.
“When you have a title, you have a target on your back,” The Miz told WWE.com of the pressures of a championship. The Awesome One is certainly qualified to speak on long reigns; he holds the second-longest U.S. Championship reign since the title came to WWE, and he has the second-longest WWE Title reign of the last four years at, by his count, 160 days (current champ CM Punk has the first).
And it’s safe to say that, despite his recent woes, Miz isn’t looking for several quickie runs at the top when he makes his way back into the championship picture. The Awesome One wants respect, and he’ll earn it with the longer he holds the ultimate prize.
“It's more respectable to have longer reigns,” he said. “If you have it 50 times, that means you've lost the title 50 times. Congratulations. I've only lost the WWE Title once. But when I get it back, I won't ever lose it again.”
Counterpoint: Multiple title reigns
While lengthy championship reigns are certainly impressive, the true mark of greatness in WWE could lie with Superstars who have withstood the test of time and amassed a number of different titles over the course of their careers. Literally worn as badges of honor, championships collected by Superstars serve as “notches in their belts” — physical representations of battles fought and won.
Having a multitude of title reigns demonstrates that a Superstar is capable of dominance in a variety of situations over many years and proven in arguably the most crucial quality when discussing the greatest competitors in any sport — longevity.
Holding numerous titles is synonymous with durability and endurance, helping to solidify a Superstar’s relevance through generations and cement his place in WWE lore. Sure, long title reigns are a signifier of one’s ability at a particular moment in time, but does anyone really care about the one-time NFL rushing leader, or the plethora of Major League Baseball players who had that one great year and hit 40 home runs?
No, true fans remember players like Emmitt Smith, the Hall of Fame running back for the Dallas Cowboys who racked up four NFL rushing titles in his career, and MLB Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, who averaged 33 home runs over the course of his 23-year career.
While flashes can be appealing in any competitive environment, the true legends are those who manage to produce year after year on the big stage.
“Winning one [title] is great for your career as you put yourself in the history books with all the great champions,” five-time WCW Champion Booker T says, “But if you win multiple championships, it goes to one’s character as far as what he puts into the business.”
WWE Universe members hold Superstars like Ric Flair and John Cena in the highest regard because of the sheer number of times they held championship gold. Their multiple reigns span decades and endear both Superstars to WWE Universe members in different generations.
“The Nature Boy” accrued 16 World Heavyweight Championships during his illustrious career and held titles in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, ensuring that fathers and sons could share memories of “The Dirtiest Player in the Game” at the top of his game.
Likewise, John Cena has held the WWE Championship 10 times, a staggering statistic that gives the Cenation leader the distinct honor of holding that illustrious title more times than anyone else in WWE history.
“It’s easy to lose it,” Booker T added, “But to go back and gain it five times showed how hungry I was and how badly I really wanted to be on top as that franchise player for the company. That’s why I respect guys like John Cena.”
To that point, with 31 championship reigns to his name, Edge is one of the greatest performers the squared circle has ever known. One of just three Superstars to hold every active WWE prize — Kurt Angle and Big Show being the other two — it was prophetic when The Rated-R Superstar was voted “Most Likely to Be WWE Champion” back in high school. Perhaps it should have been, “Most Likely to Rack up Titles.”
Edge’s list of accolades includes four separate reigns as WWE Champion, seven as World Heavyweight Champion, five as Intercontinental Champion, and a staggering total of 14 tag titles, clearly showing that the WWE Hall of Famer possessed the ability to succeed in whatever he did inside the squared circle.
Edge’s best friend and the current Intercontinental Champion, Christian, says of multiple title reigns, “It’s a real sense of accomplishment, especially for guys who grew up as fans in awe of champions and who pretended to be champions and made their own titles when they were kids. To actually grow up and win those titles and to hold them means a lot.”
There’s no disputing that any title reign is worthy of the utmost respect, but a Superstar’s true meddle is earned through holding multiple titles and proving that they can endure through time.