The 10 youngest champions in WWE history
April 12, 2018
Some competitors in WWE spend their entire careers fighting to achieve greatness, while others find themselves having greatness thrust upon them. And when that latter opportunity comes knocking, the grappler in question must respond, regardless of his or her readiness for the challenge.
That’s what makes bearing witness to the championship success of a young prospect so captivating. A wide-eyed Superstar receives an unlikely chance to go toe-to-toe with a titleholder and, defying historical precedent and common sense, capitalizes on the opportunity.
In the blink of an eye, anyone — even a precocious teenager — can take down a fighter who underestimates the challenge before them. Who are some of these competitors that seized glory before they were old enough to rent a car? Read on to discover the 10 youngest Superstars to ever win championship gold in WWE.
Paige (Divas Championship, 21 years, 7 months, 21 days)
One day after seeing AJ Lee improbably retain her title in the Vickie Guerrero Divas Championship Invitational at WrestleMania 30, NXT Women’s Champion Paige decided to show good sportsmanship on Raw by congratulating her WWE counterpart. Her gesture didn’t exactly go according to plan.
The rebel Superstar inadvertently offended AJ Lee, who felt slighted by the intrusion of some NXT upstart. Instead of developing mutual respect between the top women in WWE and NXT, Paige became an unlikely challenger in an impromptu Divas Championship Match requested by a more experienced titleholder seeking retribution.
Of course, AJ Lee’s plot didn’t unfold as she had hoped, either. The challenger, four months shy of her 22nd birthday and competing in her WWE debut match, pulled off the Paige Turner after successfully reversing the titleholder’s Black Widow submission maneuver. As quickly as she found herself in trouble, Paige turned her situation into a heroic underdog story that ended with the British grappler becoming the youngest Divas Champion in WWE history.
Rey Mysterio (Cruiserweight Championship, 21 years, 6 months, 27 days)
On June 16, 1996, Rey Mysterio made his WCW debut, challenging Dean Malenko for the Cruiserweight Championship at The Great American Bash. Although he was unsuccessful, the masked master of lucha libre opened eyes with his arsenal of high-flying moves. The Ultimate Underdog wouldn’t let a second opportunity against The Iceman slip away as he pinned Malenko on Monday Nitro to win the title less than a month later.
At just 21 years, six months and 27 days old, the sensational Superstar became the youngest competitor to earn the Cruiserweight Title at the time. Even more impressive was the fact that Mysterio beat a man who was much more experienced — 14 years Mysterio’s senior — and widely considered one of the top mat technicians in the world. The Master of the 619 would go on to win a record eight Cruiserweight Titles in a career that continues to shine to this day.
1-2-3 Kid (World Tag Team Championship, 21 years, 5 months, 28 days)
Less than one year after earning his moniker 1-2-3 Kid by upsetting an overconfident Razor Ramon on Raw, the fresh-faced highflier found himself in an odd tag team with former Rocker Marty Janetty. The Kid and the former Intercontinental Champion earned a World Tag Team Title Match against The Quebecers, Jacques & Pierre, managed by Johnny Polo.
The amazing French Canadians failed to take their smaller challengers seriously, calling the match a tune-up for their upcoming Royal Rumble defense against Bret & Owen Hart. As a result, they were upset for the titles on Jan. 10, 1994, on the one-year anniversary edition of Monday Night Raw. At 21 years and five months old, 1-2-3 Kid became one of the youngest champions in WWE history. Though a more serious Jacques & Pierre won the belts back seven days later at a non-televised event, the brief title reign cemented the fact that The Kid could score a 1-2-3 on any man at any time.
Essa Rios (Light Heavyweight Championship, 21 years, 2 months)
Wrestling under the monikers of Aguila and Papi Chulo, this highflier debuted in WWE in 1997 at 18 years old. The luchador finally found success in February 2000, with a new name and a new sidekick.
WWE Light Heavyweight Champion Gillberg issued an open challenge on the Feb. 13, 2000, edition of Sunday Night Heat. The call to action was answered by the red-haired luchador, now going by the name Essa Rios and accompanied by the fiery Lita. Gillberg could not keep up with the speedy grappler, spinning in circles as Rios darted around the ring.
In less than a minute, Rios had pinned Gillberg after a top rope moonsault to win the Light Heavyweight Title. At 21 years and two months of age, Rios was the youngest competitor to hold the championship, which was retired in late 2001.
Hornswoggle (Cruiserweight Championship, 21 years, 1 month, 23 days)
Hornswoggle became the youngest (not to mention the shortest) Cruiserweight Champion ever when he astoundingly defeated the comparably massive Jimmy Wang Yang, Shannon Moore, Funaki, Jamie Noble and defending titleholder Chavo Guerrero at The Great American Bash in 2007.
In a Cruiserweight Championship Open that invited all WWE Superstars weighing in at 215 pounds or less, the tiny troublemaker let the five participants in this high-flying collision wear each other down before emerging from underneath the ring and hitting his Tadpole Splash on a prone Noble to score the pinfall. It’s not a victory purists like to bring up in casual conversations — none of his opponents even knew he was in the match — but the record books will forever show that Hornswoggle was a legitimate Cruiserweight Champion at just 21 years of age.
David Flair (United States Championship, 20 years, 3 months, 29 days)
In January 1999 at the age of 19, Ric Flair’s son David debuted for WCW on the Souled Out pay-per-view as his father’s tag team partner against WWE Hall of Famers “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig & Barry Windham. Watching the match on WWE Network would indicate that the son of the 16-time World Champion had barely been trained to wrestle. Still, David and his father won the match.
Although Flair lacked his father’s considerable polish, he continued with WCW for the next two years, and was eventually awarded the vacant United States Championship by “Slick Ric,” who was then the WCW President. At 20 years old, David became the youngest U.S. Champion ever. Still, he’ll always be admired for his romantic relationship with Stacy Keibler. In that sense, Flair did live up to the standards set by his legendary dad. Wooooo!
Kenny Dykstra (World Tag Team Championship, 20 years, 18 days)
There’s not too many Superstars that start in sports-entertainment before they can drive a car. Kenny Dykstra is one of the few, first stepping in the ring at the age of 15. A standout trainee of WWE Hall of Famer Killer Kowalski’s school, Kenny signed with WWE at 18 and debuted on the main roster at 19.
As one-fifth of The Spirit Squad, Kenny and his cheerleading cohort Mikey pulled off a stunning upset when they defeated the titanic team of Big Show & Kane to capture the World Tag Team Titles. The win came just 18 days after his 20th birthday.
Tyler Bate (United Kingdom Championship, 19 years, 10 months, 8 days)
Tyler Bate strode into the WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament with an easygoing attitude. After all, he was two months shy of his 20th birthday. If he got knocked out of the tournament, more opportunities would surely await him down the road. But, as the WWE Universe would quickly find out, Bate didn’t need to wait very long. The teenage wonder showed strength and ability beyond his years in four grueling bouts over two days, defeating Tucker, Jordan Devlin, the towering Wolfgang and surviving an attack from the vicious Pete Dunne before putting The Bruiserweight away to become the first-ever WWE United Kingdom Champion.
And if you want to feel really old, chew on this: Bate’s trademark finisher — the Tyler Driver ’97 — takes its name from the Dudley, England native’s birth year, 1997.
René Duprée (World Tag Team Championship, 19 years, 6 months)
René Duprée was just 19 years old when he won the World Tag Team Titles alongside La Resistance cohort Sylvain Grenier for the first time on June 15, 2003, which made him the first teenager in WWE history to ever hold a championship. (Makes you feel kinda guilty about spending your teen years eating Funyuns in your best friend’s basement, doesn’t it?) Duprée's wasn't a fluke either. A year later, he'd win the World Tag Team Titles again — this time alongside Kenzo Suzuki — when he was only 20.
Nicholas (Raw Tag Team Championship, 10 years)
The average 10-year-old kid would be stoked beyond belief to get a replica Raw Tag Team Championship from the merch stand while watching WrestleMania 34 from the rafters. A shaggy haired preteen named Nicholas did them one better when he grabbed the real deal tandem titles alongside Braun Strowman on The Grandest Stage of Them All. Plucked from adolescent obscurity by The Monster Among Men, Nicholas was recruited from the crowd as Strowman's mystery partner for his tag bout against Cesaro & Sheamus. Commanded to stand on the apron and watch as Strowman bent The Bar, Nicholas did as he was told — although he did tag in briefly to give Braun a breather — and ended up as one-half of the Raw Tag Team Champions.
The reign was short-lived as the duo had to relinquish the championships so the kid could go back to the fourth grade. Still, Nicholas will forever be etched in the history books as WWE’s youngest champion — and the coolest one-named Superstar this side of Sting.