10 youngest WWE Champions ever
The WWE Championship is the most coveted prize in sports-entertainment. Some Superstars wait their entire careers for an opportunity to challenge for the title and some never earn the chance. However, there exists a small fraternity of WWE Superstars who have won the championship early in their careers – specifically before they reached the age of 30.
From The Russian Bear to The Deadman, WWEClassics.com crunched the numbers of the 10 youngest WWE Champions in history.
Pedro Morales (28 years, 3 months, 17 days)
Pedro Morales enjoyed a great deal of success in WWA and AWA before joining WWE in 1971. Upon his WWE debut, the Puerto Rican Superstar was wildly popular and earned the vacant WWWF United States Championship (a predecessor to the Intercontinental Title) by winning a tournament. Less than a month later, Morales challenged Ivan Koloff for the WWE Championship.
Just 21 days prior, Koloff ended the legendary title reign of Bruno Sammartino – thus making Morales’ chances look slim. However, Morales prevailed and defeated Koloff in front of an excited Madison Square Garden crowd. Morales was just 28 years old when he won the title and his reign would last nearly three years.
Ivan Koloff (28 years, 4 months, 24 days)
One of the most shocking incidents in WWE history occurred on Jan. 18, 1971, inside Madison Square Garden. After more than seven years as WWE Champion, Bruno Sammartino was defeated by “The Russian Bear” Ivan Koloff. A silent New York City crowd watched with jaws dropped as Koloff celebrated his victory and Sammartino’s legendary reign came to an end. “The Russian Bear” made his debut less than a year earlier and, though he only reigned for 21 days, he was able to secure the most coveted prize in professional wrestling at the age of 28.
John Cena (27 years, 11 months, 11 days)
John Cena’s explosive debut in 2002 saw him nearly defeat Kurt Angle and earn respect from The Undertaker. His “ruthless aggression” led him to challenge the likes of Brock Lesnar and The Deadman early in his career, eventually winning the U.S. Title at WrestleMania XX against Big Show.
One year after defeating The World’s Largest Athlete, the Cenation leader earned a huge opportunity for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 21 against JBL. The hard-fought battle against the self-proclaimed “wrestling god” proved Cena was ready to prove his worth – defeating JBL and claiming his first WWE Title at 27 years old.
Big Show (27 years, 9 months, 6 days)
Big Show made his in-ring debut at WCW Halloween Havoc 1995 and shocked the world by defeating Hulk Hogan for the WCW Championship. This victory cemented The World’s Largest Athlete’s place in history as the youngest WCW Champion at just 23. Never one to back away from a championship opportunity, Big Show stepped in for “Stone Cold” Steve Austin at Survivor Series 1999 in a Triple Threat Match against The Rock and WWE Champion Triple H.
Winning a four-on-one Handicap Match earlier in the evening, Big Show’s chances were slim against The Game and The Great One. Nevertheless, The World’s Largest Athlete stood victorious and became one of the youngest WWE Champions at 27 years old.
Bruno Sammartino (27 years, 7 months, 11 days)
For nearly three decades, WWE Hall of Famer Bruno Sammartino held a unique distinction in WWE’s history books. Not only is The Living Legend the longest reigning WWE Champion in history, but his victory against Buddy Rogers on May 17, 1963, also earned Sammartino the title of “youngest WWE Champion” – a record that stood for the next 30 years.
Although he was young when he first won the title, the Italian-born Superstar was an experienced competitor well into his 30s by the time his record-setting seven-and-a-half year reign came to an end at the hands of Ivan Koloff. Sammartino later regained the championship in 1971 and reigned for more than three years.
Randy Orton (27 years, 6 months, 6 days)
At SummerSlam 2004, Randy Orton made history by becoming the youngest World Heavyweight Champion at the age of 24. Already surpassing the legacy of his father — WWE Hall of Famer “Cowboy” Bob Orton — The Viper’s career was still in its infancy when he became the No. 1 contender to the WWE Championship at 27.
When John Cena was stripped of the title due to injury, Mr. McMahon awarded the championship to Orton at No Mercy 2007. In the opening match of the show, Triple H defeated The Viper, but later in the evening WWE’s Apex Predator beat The Game to regain the championship. Not only did Orton become one of the youngest WWE Champions, he also became a two-time champion in the same evening.
Undertaker (26 years, 8 months, 3 days)
The Undertaker’s legend began in November 1990 when he made his supernatural debut at Survivor Series. After beginning his WrestleMania Streak in early 1991, The Phenom quickly became the most mystifying Superstar in WWE history. Battling the biggest Superstars in WWE, including Sid Justice, Ultimate Warrior and “Macho Man” Randy Savage, The Deadman earned a WWE Title opportunity against Hulk Hogan at Survivor Series 1991. With an assist from Ric Flair, the 26-year-old Phenom defeated The Hulkster to win his first WWE Title — at the time becoming the youngest WWE Champion ever.
The Rock (26 years, 6 months, 13 days)
The Rock was born to be a WWE Champion. The son of WWE Hall of Famer Rocky Johnson and grandson of High Chief Peter Maivia, The Great One’s natural ability inside the squared circle was part of his DNA. After tasting championship glory as part of the 1991 NCAA Championship Miami Hurricanes football squad, The Rock set his sights on the WWE Championship.
After becoming Intercontinental Champion, The Rock’s ability and drive could not be contained and he eventually battled Mankind for the vacant WWE Title in 1998. With an assist from Shane and Mr. McMahon, the 26-year-old third-generation competitor solidified his own legacy as WWE Champion.
Yokozuna (26 years, 6 months, 2 days)
In the early 1990s, there were few Superstars who struck fear into the hearts of the roster like the massive sumo wrestler Yokozuna. Tipping the scales at nearly 600 pounds, the Japanese competitor dominated from the beginning. Eliminating “Macho Man” Randy Savage to win the 1993 Royal Rumble Match, Yokozuna earned an opportunity to face Bret Hart for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania IX. The WWE Hall of Famer defeated Hart on The Grandest Stage of Them All to win the WWE Title and become the youngest WWE Champion— a record that stood for nearly a decade.
Brock Lesnar (25 years, 1 month, 13 days)
In 2002, Brock Lesnar made his explosive WWE debut and left a path of destruction in his wake. A genuine freak of nature, Lesnar earned accolades competing at the University of Minnesota as a two –time All-American, Big Ten Champion and 2000 NCAA Champion. Winning the King of the Ring tournament in June 2002 — mere months after his debut — was just a stepping stone for the young Superstar. At SummerSlam 2002, The Anomaly defeated The Rock for the Undisputed Championship less than two months after his 25th birthday and earned his place in history as the youngest WWE Champion.