Nikki Bella and the 5 longest reigning Divas Champions
Back in July 2008 when Michelle McCool defeated Natalya in a tournament final to become the first Divas Champion, the WWE Universe was slow to embrace the new title. The Women’s Championship had long stood as the standard-bearer for female wrestling with a lineage that dated back to The Fabulous Moolah’s emergence as champion in 1956. What did this new title have going for it besides a strange butterfly faceplate?
Over time, though, the Divas Championship became the focal point of the division as it enveloped the Women’s Title while making stars out of Beth Phoenix, Maryse and, most recently, Nikki Bella. Once dismissed alongside her twin sister, Brie, as little more than eye candy for channel surfers, the determined Nikki reinvented herself as a spinecracking roughneck who turned an overlooked title run into a march toward history. On Sept. 15, 2015, she accomplished her goal of becoming the longest reigning Divas Champion ever. These are the women she passed in the record books to get there.
Michelle McCool — 159 days
When Michelle McCool forced Natalya to tap out at The Great American Bash on July 20, 2008, to become the inaugural Divas Champion, she proved that she had come a long way since her WWE Diva Search rejection in 2004. Still, even though McCool’s first-ever reign proved to be momentous and extensive, it did foreshadow upcoming changes in her disposition.
As champion, she slowly began to reveal a more vicious side of herself, which fully came out on the Dec. 26, 2008, episode of SmackDown. After her Divas Championship reign was surprisingly ended at 159 days by Maryse, McCool blamed the loss on special guest referee Maria and brutally attacked her after the match.
Beth Phoenix — 204 days
In fall 2011 — after forming an imposing tandem with Natalya — Beth Phoenix challenged Divas Champion Kelly Kelly. After failing to wrest the title from her beautiful rival at SummerSlam and Night of Champions, Phoenix finally captured the Divas division’s greatest prize at WWE Hell in a Cell on Oct. 2, 2011. From there, she carved out a legacy as the most dominant, overpowering, physically imposing woman to ever hold the title.
After successful defenses against Kelly, Eve and Tamina, Phoenix’s lengthy reign ended at 204 days on the April 23, 2012, episode of Raw, when Nikki Bella capitalized on the champion’s ankle injury to win the title in a hard-fought Lumberjill Match.
Maryse — 212 days
Maryse defeated Michelle McCool on SmackDown on Dec. 26, 2008, to begin a run that would last for much of the next year. Coming into her own as a villainous, vindictive champion, the French-Canadian beauty held onto the Divas Title for 212 days before falling to Mickie James at Night of Champions on July 26, 2009. The gorgeous Diva exited WWE soon after, but the landmark reign earned her well-deserved repute as a great nasty.
AJ Lee — 295 days
By the time AJ Lee had the date she won the Divas Title permanently inked across the nape of her neck, you knew her championship reign wasn’t just some passing fancy. It was a love affair — a particularly enduring one that began on June 16, 2013, and has lasted for 295 days. In the face of varied — and ever-improving — challengers like Natalya, The Bella Twins and Naomi, AJ didn't just defend the Divas Title; she elevated it. Her Gollum-like obsession with her precious gave the championship new worth, and by the time Paige wrestled it away from her, you knew it was a prize worth fighting for.
Nikki Bella — 301 days
Back in 2012, when people were still characterizing Nikki Bella as the personification of everything that was wrong with WWE’s female contingent, she held the Divas Title for exactly six days. Three years later, the powerhouse of the Bella brood has become the longest running Divas Champion in history, and the focus of every female looking to make an impact in sports-entertainment. If you didn’t predict Nikki’s breakout as a beautiful wrecking machine, don’t feel bad. Few people could. At the same time, don’t deny it. This woman is running things right now. Imagine what she’ll be doing in another three years.