The Undisputed WWE Universal Champion, Roman Reigns has racked up over 1,000 days as champion. ‘The Tribal Chief’ pinned Braun Strowman in a Triple Threat match-up to end ‘The Fiend’ Bray Wyatt’s title reign and capture the Universal Title at Payback on August 30, 2020.
He then unified WWE’s World Titles when he turned back the challenge of WWE Champion, Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 38. Reigns is the longest reigning World Champion in WWE since Hulk Hogan’s first WWF Championship run was terminated on February 5, 1988. However, his reign is still only the sixth longest in WWE history.
This feature looks back at the five longest World Title reigns in company history.
#5 Pedro Morales – 1,027 days (February 8, 1971 – December 1, 1973)
Pedro Morales’s place in history as the fifth longest World titleholder in WWE history appears to be under imminent threat from Roman Reigns.
Morales was the successor to Bruno Sammartino as long reigning babyface World Champion. Morales was immensely popular amongst the Hispanic market and racked up almost three years as champion.
He upended Sammartino’s conquerer Ivan Koloff to lift the gold on February 8, 1971 before dropping it to Stan Stasiak on December 1, 1973.
In the interim, the Puerto Rican star contested many memorable feuds with the likes of George Steele, The Sheik and Ray Stevens.
#4 Bruno Sammartino – 1,237 days (December 10, 1973 – April 30, 1977)
Following his legendary, near eight year reign as WWWF Champion, Bruno Sammartino was persuaded by Vince McMahon Sr to embark upon another World Title run. Sammartino was apparently advised that this would not be a long reign and existed solely to boost live attendance in the short term.
However, Sammartino’s second reign was another epic run, clocking in at three and a half years. It was another phenomenal success. ‘The Living Legend’ dethroned interim champion Stan Stasiak on December 10, 1973.
The highlight of his final reign was his intense feud with Stan Hansen, enlivened by Hansen legitimately injuring the beloved Sammartino with a botched slam. However, the WWWF expertly claimed that Hansen’s Lariat clothesline caused Sammartino’s neck injury instead. That made Hansen’s finisher the most feared move in wrestling and led fans to believe Sammartino’s title was in legitimate jeopardy. Sammartino defeated Hansen in their title bouts and turned back all challengers until he was finally dethroned by Superstar Billy Graham on April 30, 1977.
#3 Hulk Hogan – 1,474 days (January 23, 1984 – February 5, 1988)
One of the biggest stars (if not the biggest) Hulk Hogan also enjoyed one of the longest World Title reigns in WWE history. After Bob Backlund’s epic run as champion was terminated by The Iron Sheik in shady circumstances, a rematch seemed inevitable. However, Vince McMahon Jr had other plans.
He had recently acquired the services of Hulk Hogan, the man who he saw as the face of his national expansion. It was Hogan who crushed The Iron Sheik in mere minutes on January 23, 1984 to kick off a four year reign which saw the WWF reach a whole new international audience.
‘The Hulkster’s’ reign encompassed some hugely significant bouts, such as his epic series with Paul Orndorff and his historic WrestleMania III victory over Andre ‘The Giant.’
His reign was finally ended by Andre on a colossal screwjob in the NBC TV special ‘The Main Event’ which drew an incredible 33 million viewers; still a pro-wrestling record.
#2 Bob Backlund – 2,135 days (February 20, 1978 – December 26, 1983)
Bob Backlund was planned to be the next figurehead of the WWF for a year prior to his eventual title win. The story goes that Vince McMahon Sr informed Superstar Billy Graham prior to his title win over Bruno Sammartino the date he would lose the belt and to whom. Backlund was that man.
Nothing, not even Graham’s incredible box office success could deviate McMahon Sr from his plan. For his part, Backlund fit the bill as champion superbly. His amateur credentials and all American boy persona was a major hit with the masses and his reign stretched for almost six years.
He was renowned for clashing in a series of champion versus champion bouts against NWA World Champion, Harley Race and AWA Champion, Nick Bockwinkel amongst others.
Although WWE credit Backlund’s reign as uninterrupted, there were two instances where the title was temporarily held up in matches against Harley Race and Antonio Inoki.
However, the history books credit Backlund as having the second longest World Title reign in WWE history.
#1 Bruno Sammartino – 2,803 days (May 17, 1963 – January 18, 1971)
Bruno Sammartino’s inaugural reign as WWWF Champion lasted an epic 2,803 days. That near eight year World title reign is a record that will never, ever be broken.
Renowned for his superlative strength and likeable nature, Sammartino was a box office smash. He sold out Madison Square Garden a record 187 times.
‘The Living Legend’ dethroned ‘Nature Boy’ Buddy Rogers in just 48 seconds. Rogers had been hospitalised three times in April 1963 for chest pains so Vincent McMahon Sr made the decision to crown a new figurehead for his promotion.
That was the 27-year-old Sammartino. ‘The Italian Strongman’ turned back all challengers over his epic reign, including such luminaries as Gorilla Monsoon, Killer Kowalski and George ‘The Animal’ Steele.
His reign finally concluded on January 18, 1971, when he was pinned by ‘The Russian Bear’ Ivan Koloff. Legend has it that you could hear a pin drop in MSG, such was the crowd’s shock that their hero had been defeated.
You can revisit these WWE World Title reigns exclusively on the WWE Network.