8 fastest rises to become WWE World Champion
Some Superstars need time to find their bearings before they pursue the most treasured prize in sports-entertainment. Others just have a need for speed.
The road to becoming WWE World Champion may be arduous, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be a long one. There’s no time limit on how long a Superstar must wait before becoming the next No. 1 contender. Whenever that coveted title opportunity comes knocking, a challenger, regardless of experience, has to answer.
Needless to say, some of those contenders find those opportunities faster than others — and a rare few convert them in record time. Now, take a look at the eight Superstars who were fastest to come off their debut and win the WWE World Championship.
Kurt Angle (343 days)
Intensity, integrity and intelligence certainly go a long way.
Kurt Angle rode his fabled “Three I’s” to the WWE Title less than a year after his heralded debut at Survivor Series 1999. A mere 343 moons passed before The Olympic Hero added a professional wrestling title to go with his amateur ones, knocking off The Rock in a No Disqualification Match at No Mercy on Oct. 22, 2000.
Angle would remain champion until the following February when Rocky won his title back, but had two more runs with the supreme prize before eventually parting ways with WWE. Oh, it’s true.
Big Show (273 days)
Big Show’s one-day path to the WCW World Heavyweight Championship is a benchmark in sports-entertainment that will never be broken. But his fast lane to the WWE World Heavyweight Title is nothing to sniff at, either.
The World’s Largest Athlete clocked a scant 273 days between the night he erupted from beneath the ring until his fateful, emotional victory over Triple H and The Rock at Survivor Series 1999.
That he’s still looming large over the WWE Universe in 2016 is a testament to his enduring dominance of the sports-entertainment landscape.
Kane (266 days)
All those who side with The Devil’s Favorite Demon in the eternal Kane vs. Undertaker debate have a big ace in the hole for their arguments: The Big Red Machine won his first WWE World Title a lot quicker than The Deadman did.
Granted, he was only champion for a day, as his ill-gotten victory over “Stone Cold” Steve Austin at WWE King of the Ring 1998 was undone the next night on Raw during the rematch. However, he still fulfilled his monstrous promise less than a year after his infamous debut, securing a big win for little brothers and Kanenites everywhere.
AJ Styles (231 days)
Love him or hate him, AJ Styles has triggered a reaction from the WWE Universe since the moment he stepped out from behind the curtain at Royal Rumble 2016.
On day one, the capacity crowd at Orlando’s Amway Center cheered the unfamiliar Styles as soon as he entered WWE’s marathon bout in January. More than 100,000 WWE fans roared on day 70 for his WrestleMania debut at AT&T Stadium in Dallas. By day 210, the audience at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center hooted and hollered at the sight of The Phenomenal One celebrating after he definitively #BeatUpJohnCena.
Just 21 days later, they expressed shock and awe at the sight of this WWE newbie holding up the WWE World Championship for the first time. Now, only his doubters are silent while the buzz surrounding the “Face that Runs the Place” continues to gets louder.
Yokozuna (173 days)
BANZAI!!! As a Superstar who was both surprisingly light on his feet and brutally heavy in his attacks, Yokozuna wasted no time in pulverizing his way to a WWE World Championship.
It took Yokozuna only 173 days to achieve the mark that eludes most Superstars for their entire careers, dethroning Bret Hart at WrestleMania IX to win the big one. The downside is he only had the title for a minute. The upside is that Yokozuna’s second reign more than made up for it, as he held the title for an impressive 280 days.
Sheamus (166 days)
Clear the way, indeed.
The unbridled fury with which Sheamus debuted in 2009 understandably put him in line for a WWE World Title opportunity less than six months after he first stomped his way onto the scene. Given his unfamiliarity to the WWE Universe, he likely surprised many critics by actually converting that opportunity into championship glory.
By sending John Cena through a table at WWE TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs, The Celtic Warrior earned his pot o’ gold only 166 days after the first beat of the bodhrán rang out. Truth is, given all the beatings he bestowed after that fateful night, we should have known better.
Brock Lesnar (126 days)
Of all Paul Heyman’s pet projects, Brock Lesnar will always be the benchmark, and not just because of his crossover appeal or supremely enviable contract clauses. The Beast Incarnate was smashing barriers even when he was still “The Next Big Thing,” fired out of a cannon from OVW and straight into a WWE Title Match with The Rock in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-‘em 126 days after first setting foot in the big leagues.
It’s almost a blessing in disguise that this title was split into the WWE and World Heavyweight Championships immediately after The Anomaly won it. Had that not happened, he might have been the fastest-earning and longest-reigning Undisputed Champion of all time.
Ric Flair (113 days)
Like there was any doubt Ric Flair was going to be on this list.
Of all the opulence in “The Nature Boy’s” trophy case, the WWE World Championship is arguably the crown jewel of his collection, and not just because it’s sports-entertainment’s top prize. The way The Dirtiest Player in the Game went about winning it also sets him apart — he captured the title in unprecedented fashion by winning the 1992 Royal Rumble Match. The fact that he’s also the fastest to win it 113 days after his official WWE debut is just icing on the cake.
Space Mountain may be the oldest ride, but sometimes you gotta cut that long line to get to the good stuff.