The Top Ten Title Reigns Of All Time
Full Gear was the end of an era. When Hangman Page hit his second Buckshot Lariat on Kenny Omega and got the 1-2-3 it ended the Best Bout Machine's 346 day reign as AEW Champion. The question now is where does Kenny Omega's reign as All Elite Wrestling World Champion rank in the all time list? Well, considering I write Top Ten articles on the basis of statistical analysis, I thought I would go out and find out for myself.
Of course, I'm going to use various criteria to separate the best from the others using the following
Wrestling Observer Star Ratings/Cagematch ratings
Length of reign
Quality of opponent during the reign of a champion
Prestige of title and legacy of reign as pertains to developing the title's presige
In the interest of fairness, only one reign per wrestler/team will be included in this list otherwise this Top Ten would have been Okada and Tanahashi heavy
Also, losing by disqualification or count out will be held against certain wrestlers and their reign in this ranking.
#1- Kazuchika Okada- 4th IWGP Heavyweight Title Reign- 19/6/16- 9/7/18
When Kazuchika Okada lost to Kenny Omega at Dominion in their legendary 2/3 Falls Match, the argument is that it is on the Rushmore for greatest moments in wrestling history. The greatness of the match, Kenny finally winning the title are what makes the moment but the biggest take was that the legendary IWGP Title run of Okada was over.
All thirteen of Okada's defenses of NJPW's biggest crown hit 4 or more stars during his 720 day reign, the highest number from any champion including five getting the five or more stars from Dave Meltzer.
Okada would face three major world champions in his reign (Tanahashi, Naito, Marufuji) with two defences against future Hall of Famers included. Okada would also successfully defend his crown at successive Wrestle Kingdoms becoming the first wrestler to do so. For context, only Hulk Hogan has defended the WWE Title at consecutive Wrestlemanias. A candidate for one of the greatest of all time, Okada's fourth reign with the IWGP Heavyweight Title is undoubtedly the greatest of all time.
IWGP Heavyweight Champions with reigns over 365 days
Champs faced HoF's faced 4+ stars/7.50 rating
Okada (4th reign) 3 2 13
Tanahashi (5th reign) 3 2 9
Hashimoto (3rd) 3 2 1
Muta (1st) 2 3 1
Nagata (1st) 4 0 3
Okada (2nd) 2 2 8
Big Van Vader (2nd) 1 3 1
Hashimoto (2nd) 2 2 3
#2- Kenny Omega- 1st AEW World Title Reign- 2/12/20-14/11/21
Recency bias could be a claim from those reading this right now but when you look at Kenny's reign at AEW Champ, the numbers show that Kenny's 346 day reign deserves to be mentioned as one of the greatest of all time.
Like Okada, Omega had a 100% (7/7) success rate when it came to 4 star+ ratings with 2 hitting the 5 or more stars. Omega had defences against two former world champs in his reign (Moxley and Christian). Included in his seven defences of Pretty Platinum was a title vs title match against Impact World Champion Rich Swann, the only time anyone in our top ten successfully defended their belt in a Title vs Title match against a fellow World Champ.
The other metric that put Kenny high on this list is the upward tread of AEW buyrates when Kenny was Champ. The four PPV's that Kenny defended his title saw AEW post their 4 highest buyrates in their young life as a promotion. Also, Kenny's defence of his AEW belt in the Title vs Title match at Impact's Rebellion PPV drew the highest buyrate for Impact since the Spike TV cancellation of Impact in 2014.
We won't be seeing Kenny for awhile with Omega having surgeries to deal with the years of punishment that his body has taken over the last few years but no matter what The Best Bout Machine's future entails any future AEW Champion going forward will have a tough time living up to the greatness of Omega's reign.
#3- Hiroshi Tanahashi- 5th IWGP Heavyweight Reign- 4/1/2011-12/2/12
Hiroshi Tanahashi's numbers as champion can be seen in the chart in Okada's entry on this list but under scrutiny Tanahashi's reign is one of the greatest. 9 of Tana's 12 defences were rated with 4 ****+. Tanahashi would need to navigate nine different opponents in his fifth reign as champion, second to Okada's eleven different opponents. Only four IWGP champs have 9 or more defences in an individual reign to their name to compare how successful Hiroshi's reign was to others in NJPW history.
The most interesting number of Tanahashi's reign is 23,000. That is the number of paid attendees to Wrestle Kingdom 2012, an increase of 5,000 from the number that paid to watch the 2011 Kingdom show, the lowest in the history of the annual January 4th show before the pandemic. While the 23,000 would be dwarfed by the the 35,000 plus the years after, Tanahashi's reign was the start of the rebuilding phrase of NJPW after the companies worst business years in the 2010s
#4- The Young Bucks- 1st AEW World Tag Team Title Reign- 7/11/20-5/9/21
In the 302 day reign that Matt and Nick Jackson embarked on after beating FTR at Full Gear 2020, the Bucks defended their titles on 10 occasions at an average of a defence every 30 days until their loss to The Lucha Brothers. Nine of those matches would be rated at four stars or more (The Acclaimed, the Bucks' first defence are the odd ones out)
The statement that the Bucks are the longest tag champs in AEW history is very much a "duh statement" considering that the Jacksons have been champs for 40% of the titles just over two year existence (as of 24/11/2021) but when comparing their 302 day reign to other male tag reigns in the big two American companies since the start of 2017, only one team has a reign of more than 200 days, The Street Profits with a 224 day reign with the RAW Tag belts. If you want to claim that the 88 days The Profits wore the Smackdown Tag Titles should be added to the RAW reign because of the scenario in which they and the New Day swapped belts, I'd agree with you.
Tag Title Reigns of over 100 days in the big two American companies since Oct 2019
Days of reign 4****+ ratings
Young Bucks (1st AEW) 302 9
Streets Profits (1st RAW/SD) 312 0
Page/Omega (1st AEW) 228 4
Styles/Omos (1st RAW) 133 0
Usos (5th SD) 129* 0
Ziggler/Roode (1st SD) 128 0
New Day (6th SD) 111 0
*current reigning Champions
One of the biggest faults with the Bucks reign is the quality of opponents in regards to former major tag champs and Hall of Famers with the only team in Matt and Nick's opposite corner in a title defence with a major tag reign in their CV being The Lucha Bros. But you can put that down to the short life so far of All Elite Wrestling. But when it comes to evaluating the Bucks career this reign will go down as their career highlight.
#5- Bryan Danielson- 1st ROH World Title Reign- 17/9/05-23/12/06
The Bryan Danielson that we have seen in the first couple of months of his AEW run has not been alien to those who saw his run as ROH Champion. For 462 days, The American Dragon ruled Ring Of Honor successfully defending his ROH World Title on 38 occasions with 22 of those defences getting either 4+ stars or over 7.50 on Cagematch (Meltzer didn't give star ratings for a hefty portion of ROH in this period) with 10 matches not rated by either and some unusually low rated matches by Cagematch voters during Danielson's last few months as champ. Danielson vs Joe- 6.73 and Danielson vs Castagnoli vs Daniels in a Ironman Match-6.62 are interesting scores to be polite
Stats of ROH World Champions with reigns over 400 days in the 2000s
Days of Reign Defences Av. days between defences 4****+/7.50 N/R
Samoa Joe 645 31 20 13 16
Bryan Danielson 462 38 12 22 10
Nigel McGuinness 545 39 13 13 16
Amongst the 10 Danielson matches that are not rated is a defence against Kamala at a Liberty States Wrestling event on 30/9/06. Yes folks, we were a 3-count away from Kamala being ROH Champion (still would have been a better champ than Matt Taven). Kamala won via DQ, one of two losses via DQ or count-out for Danielson during his reign, making this the only reign in our list to have a DQ loss on its CV.
Danielson is seen by a lot of people as the best wrestler to ever to lace boots up and it's this reign that is one of the main pieces of evidence to support that claim.
#6- Mitsuharu Misawa/Kenta Kobashi- 1st/2nd AJPW World Tag Team Title Reign- 3/12/93-19/11/94 then 10/12/94-9/6/95
Winning the Tag Titles at the World's Strongest Tag Determination League 1993 beating Toshiaki Kawada/Akira Taue in the final match, Misawa and Kobashi would vacate the belts as per AJPW custom for the 1994 edition of the WSTDL (it would be the last time that this would happen until 2002). The relinquishing champs would win back the titles winning the league, beating Johnny Ace and Steve Williams in their final match to reclaim their crown, making them one of just two (Hansen/Tenryu in 1989 being the other team) to defend their belts in the tournament in the era of Giant Baba's ownership. Whether you should count this period of the AJPW tag belts lineage as one continuous reign is up for debate but this is my article and under my rules so I'm counting it as one reign.
Title reign with the most 5 star+ matches
Kazuchika Okada (4th IWGP Title) 5
Misawa/Kobashi (1st/2nd AJPW Tag) 3
WALTER (1st NXT UK Title) 3
Ric Flair (5th NWA Worlds Title) 2
Ricky Steamboat (1st NWA Worlds Title) 2
Akiyama/Misawa (1st AJPW Tag) 2
Kenny Omega (1st AEW World Title) 2
Young Bucks (1st AEW Tag Title) 2
While only defending the titles on 6 occasions at an average of 88 days per defence, all 6 defences would get 4 stars or more with 5 of those matches getting the full 5 stars.
One negative on the reign would be the lack of variety in opponents with the only rivals coming in their six defences beign Taue/Kawada and Williams/Ace but both teams have Hall of Famers in their team in Kawada and Williams.
The Kings Road era of AJPW is one of the most beloved eras in wrestling history and the reign of Kobashi and Misawa as tag champs is one of the cornerstones of that era.
#7- Samoa Joe- 1st ROH World Title Reign
The comparisons between Joe's 645 day reign and Danielson's reign are in Danielson's entry on this list. While Joe's reign was longer than Danielson's, Danielson had a better hit rate of four star plus/7.50+ matches but with 16 of Joe's 31 defences not rated, there is a element of unknown when it comes to the statistical analysis that this Top Ten demands.
Joe and Bryan both beat a major world champion and Hall of Famer during their reign, AJ Styles who had won the NWA Title in 2003. Joe would beat two eventual world champions in CM Punk and Bryan Danielson with the second Punk match in their ground breaking trilogy getting five stars.
The legacy of Joe's ROH Title reign is the establishing of ROH at the same level as NWA:TNA in the tier below WWE in the 00's despite the difference in finances in the two and with the working partnership with Pro Wrestling NOAH coming as a result of Joe and his reign, the ROH World Championship would become one of the most important titles in wrestling earning Joe his spot in our Top Ten
#8- Mitsuharu Misawa- 1st AJPW Triple Crown Title- 22/8/92-28/7/94
In the 705 days from his victory over Stan Hansen to his loss to Steve Williams, Misawa's title reign did live up to the promise of Misawa's journey to his title win. Seven of Misawa's eight defences have the ****+ mark to their name with a rematch against Hansen being the odd match out. This particular match got a 2.20 rating on Cagematch.
Like his tag title reign with Kobashi, the frequency and variety of title defences from Misawa would not be the same as other promotions main titles with an average of 88 days per defence with 4 diiferent wrestlers contending for Misawa's belt. Amongst those four, just one was a former major world champion (Hansen had two shots at the title), but three of the four are now Hall of Famers (Kawada, Williams joining Hansen) with Akira Taue the odd man out.
Misawa's 1st reign as AJPW's top guy would be famous for the June 6th 1994 match against Toshiaki Kawada which is proclaimed by many as one of the greatest matches in wrestling history. Misawa is regarded by many as the greatest of all time and it's this reign as AJPW's ace that is primary evidence for that claim.
#9- Roman Reigns- 2nd WWE Universal Title Reign
First off, before you all yell at me, I really didn't expect Roman Reigns current reign as Universal Champion to be in this list when I first conceived the idea of doing this Top Ten. I was expecting to wax lyrical on Shawn Michaels' first run as WWE Champion or CM Punk's 434 day run as champion. But then I looked at the stats.
Ratings Champs faced HOF's faced Matches lost by
4****+ (singles matches) (singles matches) DQ or Count-out
Reigns (8/20- )* 10 8 4 0
Hogan (1/84-2/88) 0 5 6 7
Savage (3/88-4/89) 1 1 1 1
Hogan (4/89-4/90) 0 2 1 5
Diesel (11/95-11/96) 2 2 3 1
Michaels (3/96-11/96) 4 4 4 0
Cena (9/06-10/07) 6 3 1 1
Punk (11/11-1/13) 5 7 4 4
Lesnar (4/17-8/18)* 1 1 0 0
Styles (11/17-11/18) 6 2 2 1
Bryan (11/17-4/18) 5 1 1 0
*title reign in question was a Universal Title reign
The stats don't lie. Roman Reigns' current Universal Title reign has the most 4 star or more matches in WWE history. The debate about whether that means Dave Meltzer overrates modern wrestling matches is a debate for another day but the amount of former world champs and Hall of Famers in his reign is impressive as is the fact that he has won every defence via pinfall or submission, an accomplishment that only Brock Lesnar shares with Roman out of those in the 365 days+ as a WWE main champion club but Roman's frequency of title defences is vastly superior than Brocks (Roman- 30.2 days per defence, Brock-72 days per defence).
Is Roman's reign going to a defining era in WWE history compared to the Attitude Era or The National Expansion Era? Hell no. The current era is probably going to be more defined by the WWE roster searching for an egg, but when it comes to comparing Roman Reigns' second Universal Title reign to others in ring, statisically it trumps all the others in WWE history.
#10- WALTER- 1st NXT UK Championship Reign- 5/4/19-22/8/21
A sub-promotion of WWE set up to cap the knees of the first attempt at putting professional wrestling from a UK company on free-to-air television in over 30 years that is holding events in a warehouse built from money from UK taxpayers with Nigel McGuinness yelling unintelligible nonsense on commentary, there are plenty of reasons to dislike NXT UK but yet WALTER's reign as NXT UK Champion was fantastic from the defence against Tyler Bate, the NXT Takeover match against Tomosso Ciampa to the pair of matches against IIja Dragunov which climaxed with the chef's kiss finale to WALTER's reign with the Austrian tapping out to Ilja's rear-naked choke.
Both Dragunov matches would get the five star+ treatment from Meltzer along with the Tyler Bate match at Takeover: Cardiff also getting the same rating. The pandemic and UK lockdown would not do WALTER's reign any favours with a nine-month gap between his victories over Dave Mastiff and the first Dragunov match but once WALTER could start travelling again, WALTER and his defences of his NXT UK gold became one of the highlights of the pandemic era.