In the world of wrestling today there is maybe a handful of top promotions for any pro wrestler to go to with the big dog being WWE. For any wrestler in any promotion the main goal remains the same, win the company’s top title. If the company picks you to win the title, you are usually the face of the company just look at John Cena for an example of a top guy. WWE doesn’t own the whole wrestling world though, there are plenty of places for wrestlers to go like New Japan, Ring of Honor and even Lucha Underground and plenty of top prizes to win. Today, I rank the top 5 most prestigious titles in the world based on lineage, popularity and history.
1. WWE World Heavyweight Championship
Longest reign: 2,803 days (Bruno Sammartino)
Most reigns: 12 (John Cena)
First champion: Buddy Rogers
So obviously the biggest promotion in the world has the most prestigious belt. The WWE World Heavyweight title was first introduced on April 25, 1963 when Buddy Rogers won the title in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The list of men who have held this title are really some of the reasons why we have WWE and wrestling as a whole in the first place, the list includes John Cena, Hulk Hogan, Bruno Sammartino, Triple H, The Rock, Steve Austin, Ric Flair and The Undertaker. Keep in mind that is just half the list if incredible superstars to hold this belt. The WWE championship really started a trend in the wrestling world, yes the NWA world title came before it but this belt really set the standard and that is because so many legends have held it. Every aspiring wrestler wants to one day win this belt and be recognized as the top star in WWE.
2. IWGP Heavyweight Championship
Longest reign: 489 days (Shinya Hashimoto)
Most reigns: 7 (Hiroshi Tanahashi)
First Champion: Antonio Inoki
New Japan Pro Wrestling is the second biggest promotion in the world. Usually, if top indy stars don’t make it to WWE they go to NJPW because it is basically the WWE of Asia. Countless WWE Hall of Famers have competed in New Japan and credit the company with helping rejuvenate their careers. Take a look at Luke Gallows for example, he wasn’t good at all in his first WWE run but he left the company, improved drastically in Japan and now is back in WWE thanks to the wrestling styles of New Japan. The one thing you can say New Japan is better than WWE at is their strong style of wrestling. The IWGP Heavyweight Championship is so prestigious because to the fans of NJPW, that is their WWE championship and since NJPW is the second biggest promotion their title is the second most prestigious in the world. Some notable people who have held the belt include Brock Lesnar, Shinsuke Nakamura, Vader, AJ Styles and Tatsumi Fujinami. Whoever holds this belt is always on WWE’s free agency radar because Vince McMahon knows that whoecer the champ is, they earned that right by becoming the best wrestler in Japan. The IWPG Heavyweight championship will always be regarded as a top title in the world today.
3. Ring Of Honor World Heavyweight Championship
Longest reign: 645 days (Samoa Joe)
Most reigns: 2 (Austin Aries and Jay Briscoe)
First Champion: Low Ki
The ROH World Heavyweight Championship is truly a special title. For starters, it is the second biggest title in North America and some of the people that have won this title have gone on to compete in WWE and even win the WWE World Heavyweight championship. Ring of Honor is the third biggest promotion in the world, every die hard wrestling fan will tell you that. Some of the shows they put on produce match of the year candidates and the company can even boast that they are the breaking ground for future WWE stars. Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe are just a few of the names who have won the ROH world title and have gone on to win other championships in WWE. More famous indy stars who have won this title include Jay Lethal, Jay Briscoe, Low Ki and Adam Cole. Ring of Honor can honestly say that they are a bigger promotion than TNA and based on their current program with NJPW, it seems as though ROH is heading to a brighter future.
4. WWE Intercontinental Championship
Longest Reign: 454 days (The Honky Tonk Man)
Most Reigns: 9 (Chris Jericho)
First Champion: Pat Patterson
The WWE Intercontinental championship may not seem prestigious in this day and age but it is actually WWE’s second most important title. Back in the days of old, the Intercontinental title was actually a huge deal, so much so that it was on the line in the main event of WrestleMania 6 and is the only time in history that this title was defended in the main event of a WrestleMania. The match between Ricky Steamboat and Randy Savage at WrestleMania 3 is regarded as one of the best ‘Mania matches of all time and that match was for the Intercontinental title. This belt has mostly been won by some of the best pure wrestlers like Kevin Owens. Shelton Benjamin, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero and Kurt Angle. The list of hall of famers and future hall of famers that have won this title include Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Steve Austin, The Rock, Daniel Bryan and Chris Jericho. The state of the title today is basically in a mid card state and that really isn’t all that bad. Guys like Sami Zayn, Cesaro, Dolph Ziggler and The Miz can still put on spectacular matches for this belt and bring back a bit of a new “spark” to this title.
5. TNA World Heavyweight Championship
Longest Reign: 256 days (Bobby Roode)
Most reigns: 6 (Kurt Angle)
First Champion: Kurt Angle
Side Note: This does not take into account the NWA TNA history of the belt
Even though TNA is headed right into the gutter, their main championship still has a rich history. The TNA world title is the fifth prestigious title in the world simply because some of the best pure wrestlers ever have won this title. The list includes Kurt Angle, AJ Styles, Samoa Joe, Austin Aries, Bobby Roode and Eric Young. The guys over at Pro Wrestling Illustrated even ran a poll for the top 5 prestigious titles in the world and on that poll, the TNA world title was also voted as the fifth most prestigious title in the world. A fun fact about this championship is only two former world champions (Magnus and Chris Sabin) have never appeared in WWE or NXT (3 if you count Bobby Roode, although he made an appearance at NXT Takeover: Dallas). Many fans will be shocked if TNA is still around for another five or so years because of the financial situation they are in but for the time being, the TNA World Heavyweight championship is the fifth most prestigious title in the world today.
Writer’s Note: Agree or disagree with this list? Feel free to tweet me @repete617 on twitter or email me any questions you have, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org