The 10 fastest rises to the WWE World Heavyweight Title
Like a certain Australian rock band once said, it’s a long way to the top if you want to rock ‘n’ roll. Unless, of course, you’re these guys. Then it’s kind of a breeze. Not that we’re insinuating winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship is an easy task, not by a long shot, but there’s certainly evidence that some Superstars can, and will, climb the mountaintop faster than others. Here are 10 Superstars who streaked their way to the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in the least amount of days after their first WWE match, presented by Extra-Strength 5-hour ENERGY® shots.
Bob Backlund — 436 days
On the one hand, this WWE Hall of Famer and legitimately terrifying human being was the slowest of these 10 to win his first WWE World Heavyweight Championship, recording 436 days between debut and coronation. On the other, he held it for some 2,000 days, giving him the second-longest reign of all time behind fellow WWE Hall of Famer Bruno Sammartino. So it pretty much evens out. Backlund for President, then, now, forever.
The Undertaker — 370 days
Toll the bell in honor of The Undertaker, who spent 370 days in title-less purgatory before anointing his funeral parlor with the WWE Championship at Survivor Series 1991. Even more impressively (and somewhat appropriately), The Phenom defeated “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan to capture the prize, though he only lasted six days with it before Hogan bested him in the rematch. Not to worry, though: The Demon of Death Valley had three more runs with the title, including one as Undisputed Champion in 2002.
Alberto Del Rio — 359 days
Alberto Del Rio’s on this list. But, of course, you already knew that. The Essence of Excellence was earmarked by fate itself as a big deal fairly quickly in the eyes of the WWE Universe, so it was really only a matter of time before he had a World Title to his name. After a failed bid for the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania XXVII, Del Rio set his sights on the WWE Title, claiming it with one of the most controversial Money in the Bank cash-ins of all time at SummerSlam 2011, 359 days after his Rolls first pulled up to the Tron. To this day, fans cry foul over The Mexican Aristocrat’s opportunism, but to be fair, he did say it was his destiny. It’s your own fault if you didn’t believe him.
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 winning titles, leather or otherwise, in 2015 is a testament to his lingering dominance over 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 Title a lot quicker than The Deadman did. Granted, he was only king for a day, as his ill-gotten victory over “Stone Cold” Steve Austin at King of the Ring 1998 was undone the next night on Raw during the rematch, but he was a king still, having fulfilled his monstrous promise less than a year after his still-historic debut and winning one for little brothers and Kanenites everywhere.
Yokozuna — 173 days
BANZAI!!! As a Superstar who was both surprisingly light on his feet and brutally heavy in his attacks, Yokozuna not only revolutionized the perception of what an earth-shaking punisher is capable of, he also wasted no time in pulverizing his way to a WWE 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 before Hulk Hogan beat him for it, but Yokozuna’s second reign more than made up for it, as he held the title for a near-insurmountable 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 Title opportunity less than six months after he first stomped his way onto the scene. Given how new he was, perhaps the WWE Universe was surprised when he actually won that opportunity, sending John Cena through a table at WWE TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs to earn 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 Heavyweight 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 by winning the 1992 Royal Rumble Match, a feat that has never happened before or since. The fact he’s also the fastest to win it at all at 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.