The 10 Greatest WWE Champions of ALL Time

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- For decades the WWE Championship has been the top prize in the world of professional wrestling. Every wrestler, or "superstar," as the company prefers to call them, dreams of attaining the coveted belt. It's an honor that only a few who train their entire lives get to have.

While there are many great champions in the history of the company, some of them stand out from the others. This list hopes to single out ten of the best champions in the history of the company. What makes them the best varies from wrestler to wrestler. Some made history by holding the championship longer than anyone else. Others participated in stories that are still remembered and talked about fondly years later, while still others are simply immensely popular.

Note: while WWE used to be the WWF, the company has switched to using "WWE" in all references to the past, so we will do the same.

Randy Orton

The son of "Cowboy" Bob Orton, Randy Orton is one of the top wrestlers in the WWE today. Orton is a 12-time champion, holding the WWE Championship eight times, and the World Heavyweight Championship four times. Orton is the youngest-ever World Heavyweight Champion, capturing the title at age 24, and, more recently, is the first-ever WWE World Heavyweight Championship.

Orton won his first world championship when he was part of the Evolution faction with Triple H, Ric Flair, and Batista. His championship reign lost his a spot in the faction, leading to a feud with Triple H and Flair. Orton would later go on to have memorable feuds with The Undertaker, Edge, and John Cena.

Recently Orton was involved in a months-long feud with Daniel Bryan, during which time Orton unified the WWE Championship and World Heavyweight Champion belts before ultimately losing the unified title to Bryan.

Bruno Sammartino

Back when the WWE was known as the WWWF Bruno Sammartino was the wrestler to beat. He's the longest-reigning WWE Champion, holding the belt only twice for more than 11 years, or 4040 days, to be exact.

To capture the belt then known as the WWWF Championship Sammartino defeated "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers in only 48 seconds at Madison Square Garden in 1963. Sammartino would go on to carry the belt until 1971 when he lost to Ivan Koloff.

Sammartino held the belt again from 1973 until 1977 before retiring for the first time in 1981. After a four-year stint with the company from 1984 to 1988, Sammartino retired a second time. After years of not being involved with the company Sammartino was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2013, an honor that was long overdue for the record-setting champion.

Must read: The 10 MOST Extreme WWE Matches of ALL Time

Hulk Hogan

"The Immortal" Hulk Hogan defined not just the WWE, but wrestling in the 1980's. With 12 championship reigns, six WWE Championships and six WCW World Heavyweight Championships, Hogan is the third-longest combined reigning champion behind Bruno Sammartino and Bob Backlund.

Hogan helped define wrestling for many fans, and was in the main event for the first few WrestleMania shows. In the first WrestleMania Hogan teamed up with Mr. T to battle Rowdy Roddy Piper and Mr. Wonderful Paul Orndorff. In WrestleMania III Hogan managed to body slam Andre the Giant to defend his championship in a moment that WWE loves to remind its fans of at every possible moment.

More recently Hulk Hogan returned to WWE to host WrestleMania XXX. He hasn't performed in a WWE ring in years, but the fact that he still gets raucous ovations is a testament to how much he contributed to wrestling.

Must read: The 10 MOST Extreme WWE Matches of ALL Time

Shawn Michaels

Known as The Heart Break Kid and Mr. WrestleMania, Shawn Michaels is a four-time world champion, and the first-ever Grand Slam Champion. Michaels held the WWE Championship three times, and the World Heavyweight Championship once. He was the first wrestler in the history of the company to win the European, Intercontinental, Tag Team, and Heavyweight championships.

Michaels participated in a number of firsts in the WWE. He was part of the company's first ladder match against Razor Ramon, and the first Hell in a Cell match against The Undertaker.

After an injury in 1998 Michaels retired from wrestling, only to come back in 2002 with a memorable feud with Chris Jericho leading to WrestleMania XIX. Michaels ended his career in 2010 after losing to The Undertaker at WrestleMania twice in two of the most memorable matches in the history of the company.

Must read: The 10 MOST Extreme WWE Matches of ALL Time

Stone Cold Steve Austin

Stone Cold Steve Austin is one of the key figures of the Attitude Era, perhaps best known for his feuds with WWE CEO Vince McMahon. Austin spent a lot of time in the main event, whether he was champion or not. Throughout his time with the company Austin won the WWE Championship a total of six times.

Known for his foul language and tendency to drink more than few beers while on the job Stone Cold Steve Austin was the ultimate power fantasy for wrestling fans. He was the one guy who could flip his boss, spray him with beer from a fire hose, then proceed to beat him up.

As champion Austin had memorable feuds with The Rock, The Undertaker, Triple H, and Kane. He even had a run-in with Mike Tyson until Tyson turned on then-champion Shawn Michaels to help Austin win the championship at WrestleMania XIV.

Must read: The 10 MOST Extreme WWE Matches of ALL Time

CM Punk

Before he unceremoniously left the WWE CM Punk was one of the top wrestlers in the business. In his last title reign Punk held on to the WWE Championship for a total of 434 days, longer than anyone else in years. Punk held the WWE Championship twice, and the World Heavyweight Championship three times. He also held WWE's ECW Championship once.

Before becoming the longest-running WWE champion in the modern era CM Punk was perhaps best known for threatening to leave the company with the WWE Championship. In one of the most memorable storylines of recent years Punk aired his grievances with the WWE on stage, vowing to win the championship the night his contract expired at Money in the Bank 2011. In his hometown of Chicago Punk defeated John Cena to win the belt before leaving the company.

Punk's title reigns were not without their issues. Despite his great matches against wrestlers like Chris Jericho, Punk was often not as prominently featured in pay-per views as others like John Cena. That doesn't make him any less impressive, however.

Must read: The 10 MOST Extreme WWE Matches of ALL Time

Triple H

In his current incarnation Triple H is the corporate executive who also happens to be one of the best wrestlers on the roster. While sometimes it seems like his legacy is embellished to make him seem more important than he really was in The Attitude Era, there's no denying The King of Kings is one of the top champions of the modern era.

Triple H is a 13-time world champion, holding the WWE Championship belt eight times, and the World Heavyweight Championship five times. That includes one of the shortest WWE Championship reigns in WWE history when he beat Randy Orton for the title at No Mercy 2007 and defended the belt against Umaga later in the show, before ultimately losing the belt that same night in a Last Man Standing match against Randy Orton. Triple H's other title reigns were more impressive, however, and included clashes with Chris Jericho, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and The Rock.

Perhaps Triple H's biggest contribution, however, is as a founding member of D-Generation X with Shawn Michaels. The faction helped define WWE when the company was competing against WCW. The faction is arguably one of the most influential in the history of the company.

Must read: The 10 MOST Extreme WWE Matches of ALL Time

The Rock

The Great One is best known, at times, as the wrestler who left to become a movie star, only to come back for a few high-profile matches. In his most recent run in the WWE The Rock managed to end CM Punk's historically long reign as WWE Champion, only to lose the title a few months later in a rematch of the "once in a lifetime" match with John Cena. Before that, though, The Rock accomplished more than most other wrestlers.

The Rock is a ten-time world champion, holding the WWE championship eight times, and the World Heavyweight Championship twice. During those title reigns he feuded with the likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin, Triple H, Mankind, The Undertaker, and Brock Lesnar.

With his numerous catchphrases The Rock was one of the key figures of The Attitude Era, when the WWE enjoyed a lot of popularity. He was involved in many of the most memorable moments of that time period, including the main event of WrestleMania X-Seven, which is largely considered one of, if not the, best pay-per views the WWE ever produced. He lost that match to Stone Cold Steve Austin, but that doesn't make it any less memorable, or The Rock's career any less impressive.

Must read: The 10 MOST Extreme WWE Matches of ALL Time

The Undertaker

In recent years The Undertaker has only wrestled a few matches a year, and sometimes only one a year, at WrestleMania. But long before Paul Hayman's client Brock Lesnar broke the Undertaker's undefeated streak at WrestleMania XXX, The Deadman was just like every other wrestler on the roster, wrestling year-round. Through his various incarnations from an undead undertaker to an America-loving biker, The Undertaker has held the WWE championship four times, and the World Heavyweight Championship three times, making him a seven-time champion.

Since debuting in 1990 The Undertaker feuded with many of the biggest names in the WWE including Ultimate Warrior, Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Randy Orton, and Edge. He's come up against the best the roster has to offer, and beat most of them.

While The Undertaker is one of the most memorable wrestlers in WWE history his legacy stands on its own outside of his championship reigns. In fact, most of his most memorable matches had no championship gold at stake. At King of The Ring 1998 The Undertaker threw Mankind from the top of the Hell in a Cell in one of the most memorable wrestling moments of all time. And his back-to-back WrestleMania matches with Shawn Michaels are simply spectacular.

Must read: The 10 MOST Extreme WWE Matches of ALL Time

John Cena

It's no secret that John Cena isn't exactly the most well-liked person on the WWE roster. Don't worry, if the crowd doesn't tell you how much the hate him, Cena himself will make it a point to mention it every so often. The fact that many older fans hate him doesn't detract from his accomplishments, however.

Since debuting in the WWE in 2002 John Cena has held a world championship belt a total of 14 times. He's an 11-time WWE Champion and a three-time World Heavyweight Champion. Cena has beaten just about everyone on the current roster at least once, and if he hasn't beaten them, it's probably because they were never in the ring together. Even when he isn't champion he's the wrestler everyone has to go through before they can truly be someone, or at least that's what he says.

What truly sets Cena apart, though, is what he does outside of the ring. While it's easy to dislike John Cena the character for overcoming the odds so often that it's expected of him, it's very hard to hate John Cena the person. Cena holds the record for granting the most wishes through the Make-A-Wish Foundation with more than 400 wishes granted. There's no way anyone like that is going to be much lower on this list, no matter how predictable and frustrating his character can be at times.

Must read: The 10 MOST Extreme WWE Matches of ALL Time

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