Roman Reigns is approaching God-like status in WWE. With Night of Champions in the boos, Reigns has now held a World Championship for 1,000 days. It is a reign that not many wrestlers, especially in this day in age, haven’t had the privilege of enjoying. A reign that has begun to draw comparisons to other greats of wrestling history.
In the annals of WWE, there have been only a few wrestlers who have risen above the rest. There have been those that have had multiple title reigns, lengthy runs with the straps or have become legends of the business. They have set themselves apart from the rest of the field.
Now that Reigns has established himself as the top star of the era does he deserve to be put with other greats? Has he accomplished enough to put himself on the top of the heap? Let’s look at some of the greatest of all time and see how the current champ measures up.
How Does the Run of Roman Reigns Stack Up?
The Living Legend Bruno Sammartino was one of the first big stars of WWWF. Holding the World Championship for a total of 11 years, across 2 reigns, he was the best in the company. He was also one of the biggest babyfaces the company had. In a time where stars were hard to find Sammartino presented a larger-than-life character to the world. It was because of him that Vince McMahon Sr. found success and it was because of him that Madison Square Garden was sold out every night for decades.
Sammartino was truly the best of a generation, perhaps two generations. He defended his World Championship nearly 400 times against all who would oppose him. It separated him from others of the time and made sure he would go down as one of the greatest in wrestling history.
Now that Roman Reigns is at his 1,000 days does he compare to Sammartino? Not quite. Sure, Reign’s modern-day reign is impressive, but it is a drop in the bucket when compared to Sammartino. He is also lacking in the title defenses with a paltry 27 defenses. The Head of the Table has a long way to go before he meets up with The Living Legend.
Andre The Giant
The Eight Wonder of the World was an incredible specimen. At 7 foot 4 inches and weighing close to 530 lbs Andre was head and shoulders above the rest of the locker room. This put him in the advantageous position of being a massive draw that would sell out any arena he was booked to appear at.
In his earlier years, he was also incredibly agile for a man his size. He would routinely put on some good to great matches against the biggest heels of the era. These matches would be compelling and give everyone a reason to flock to the arena.
Andre was never one for championships, however, holding the WWE Championship and Tag Titles just once was a low point. He should have been given a better chance with the belts, but he was one that in theory never needed a championship. Still, it was a blemish on an otherwise stunning resume.
This may cause some controversy but Roman is one that should rank higher than Andre the Giant. Reigns and Andre both brought prestige to the company, but Reign’s legacy may be greater. During his time Reigns has received a larger list of career accolades and frankly, his match quality is high above Andre’s. Being the Eight Wonder of the World is not enough to put the giant above the Head of the Table.
Hulk Hogan is the reason that we watch WWE today. Under his leadership, the company went from a regional promotion to one of the biggest wrestling companies the world has ever seen. Sure, during the wrestling boom of the 80’s there were others but none that came close to Hogan. His charisma was unmatched and his relationship with celebrities outside the industry brought mainstream attention to the product that was present in the regional days.
Hogan also has a monopoly over the WWE Championship. His six reigns were a record, at the time, and his 1,474-day initial reign as champion served as the measuring stick going forward.
Hogan was also one of the first wrestlers to break into the movie business. His influence over pop culture was one that no one in wrestling can claim. He became a household name and remains one of the most recognizable faces to this day.
Look, Reigns has been great as the champ. He has been fantastic as a heel champion and his matches have become must-see television. He still, however, has a long way to go before being in the same conversation as Hogan. His influence over the industry and pop culture is nowhere near Hogan’s level, nor may it ever be.
Bret Hart deserves all the credit in the world. During a time in which a lot of WWE’s future was unknown, he was the flag bearer. He was asked to shoulder the responsibility and he did a fantastic job of it. At the top of the card, he continuously put on great match after great match. He gave the audience a reason to tune in weekly and saved WWE.
During his career, Bret was also one of the most decorated athletes the company had. He held every major championship multiple times and was what one would call a fighting champion. Bret ducked no man and regularly defended his titles on television. Something that was not the norm for the ones that came before him.
Bret is another WWE great who should be ranked above Roman Reigns. Reigns’ title defenses work against him here. With only 27 defenses over a three-plus year period, Reigns has rarely been in the ring. Sure, it gives a big-fight feel to his defenses, but it also makes it seem like he is hoarding his championship. Not wanting to risk losing his place at the top of the card.
Bret never experienced the length of reign that Roman is in the middle of but in the case of both of their careers, it’s quality over quantity.
The Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels may be the best performer in the history of wrestling. From his days as a tag team specialist to his career resurgence, in the early 2000s, he would routinely put on fantastic matches. These were just great matches but matches that stole the show every night and gave him his well-deserved reputation. It was this reputation that set HBK apart from every other wrestler. There was no one who could come close to how showmanship and storytelling in the ring.
Michaels was not one to receive a ton of championship reigns during his time with the company. He had his time with the Tag Team, Intercontinental, and WWE Championship but those reigns were not incredibly long and were not very memorable. His talent was with his mat skills.
This is someone that would get a lower ranking than the current WWE Universal Champion. Reigns may not have the laundry list of great matches that HBK does, but he has amassed quite an impressive resume.
Roman Reigns also has had more significant reigns with championships than HBK. The length and importance of his runs with the titles place him on a different level than that of the Showstopper.
Steve Austin will go down as one of the greatest wrestlers in history. He was at the forefront of a prosperous time and was one of the most popular wrestlers of all time. His beer-drinking, ass-kicking, anti-authority gimmick was one that resonated with the audience. It brought the masses out to arenas and the money came flowing into the company. It was an incredible accomplishment and one that only one other man can say he came close to.
During his meteoric rise, Austin was adorned with as much gold as the company could throw on him. His six WWE title reigns spanned his main event run and the championship became a part of him. It was fantastic and a great way in which to bring prominence back to the main strap.
Roman Reigns is building off a foundation laid by Steve Austin. Reigns has been great during his time with the company, but it is easy to take over when the arena is already full. Reigns were stepping into a great situation, one that he took the and ran with but an already established entity nonetheless. The fact that Austin built what he did puts him much higher on a list of greats than Reigns can ever hope to be.
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