This week after WWE Monday Night Raw, the WWE Network aired a very special episode of Dinner for 3. On that show, 16-time world champion “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, 13-time world champion Randy Orton, and two-time world champion Bruno Sammartino sat for dinner and spoke about professional wrestling.
Sports Illustrated interviewed Bruno Sammartino this past week, as well, and he talked about the interesting things concerning men like him and WWE wrestlers like Ric Flair, Randy Orton, and John Cena. It all came down to the much-celebrated record of 16 title reigns; something that Cena and Flair hold together.
“I had the title two times. I’ve heard someone just won the belt for the 16th time, and I’ve heard of other high numbers. It sounds a little bizarre to me, but that is just the business of today.”
It really should sound strange to Bruno Sammartino. While Sammartino only held two world titles over his WWE career, they spanned 4,040 days and 11 years. When it comes to the way professional wrestling used to be, the men who could hold the titles and never lose them were the true legends.
Bruno Sammartino also holds the record for the longest world title reign in WWE history at 2,803 days (over seven years without losing). That is one of the reasons that his nickname is “The Living Legend.”
It seems interesting to hear Bruno Sammartino mention how he heard that someone (John Cena) just won his 16th world title in the WWE since he was sitting at the table with “Nature Boy” Ric Flair for the WWE Network show. Flair also won 16 world titles over his career.
While Sammartino was never losing in the ’60s and ’70s, things changed somewhat in the ’80s. Sammartino was mostly wrestling in the East, with matches in New York, Pittsburgh, and those areas. By the time Flair was the NWA World Champion, the title holder was traveling around the world and wrestling over 300 days a year.
Lou Thesz was similar to Bruno Sammartino back in the day and actually had a 2,300-day title reign as the NWA World Champion from 1949 to 1955. Flair won his first world title back in 1981 and held it for 631 days. Between beating Kerry Von Erich and losing the title to Dusty Rhodes, Flair had another reign that lasted 793 days.
No other Ric Flair world title reign came close as he won and lost world titles a total of 16 times in the NWA, WCW and WWE combined.
John Cena is from an era that was even more different than that of Ric Flair. In his career, Cena held the WWE world title three times for a combined 155 days. His other 13 title reigns were with the WWE Championship, which he held for a combined 1,257 days. That is the WWE title that has the lineage stretching back to Bruno Sammartino.
For just one of his title reigns, Bruno Sammartino held the WWE title for 2,803 days. John Cena has held world titles 16 times for a combined 1,412 total days, just over half of the time that Sammartino held it without ever losing the title.
Of course, the world of entertainment is completely different now than it was when Bruno Sammartino was the top man in the world of the WWE. Fans would never sit still long enough for someone to hold the title for even two years, much less seven.
While it seems like Bruno Sammartino is talking down to current WWE superstars, that is not really the point. Sammartino said it was bizarre to think of great wrestlers losing their titles 15 or 16 times, but he doesn’t discount what someone like John Cena means to the WWE.
“If you wear that belt, it is a big deal and it should be treated that way. You should conduct yourself in and out of the ring like a champion.”
[Featured Image by WWE]