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Ask 411 Wrestling: Is Goldberg the Only Man to Hold a World Title in Four Decades?

October 23, 2023 | Posted by Ryan Byers
WWE Super Showdown Goldberg Credit: WWE

Welcome guys, gals, and gender non-binary pals, to Ask 411 Wrestling. I am your party host, Ryan Byers, and I am here to answer some of your burning inquiries about professional wrestling.
If you have one of those queries searing a hole in your brain, feel free to send it along to me at [email protected]. Don’t be shy about shooting those over – the more, the merrier.

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Cactus from down in Disqus-land

I heard the most baffling fact in a video the other day: Bill Goldberg has been a world champion in four consecutive decades. My question to you, Ryan, is who else is in that club? My knowledge mostly pertains to US wrestling and modern joshi, and from that I couldn’t think of (or wiki) anyone else, with Sting being the only one that may have a shot still as far as mostly active wrestlers are concerned. Anyone I missed?

First off, let’s just verify that the claim regarding Goldberg is true. He was the WCW World Heavyweight Champion in the 1990, held the WWE version of the “World Heavyweight Title” in the 2000s, snagged the WWE Universal Championship in the 2010s, and regained the Universal Title in 2020, barely qualifying for a championship reign in this decade. Truly, that is an impressive indicator of the man’s longevity.

Does anybody else come close?

. . . kind of.

I was able to come up with two additional names, though, for reasons we’ll get into, none of their accomplishments are as impressive as Goldberg’s.

Let’s talk Keiji Muto, also known as the Great Muta. In the 1990s, Muto won his first IWGP Heavyweight Title in New Japan Pro Wrestling and was also the NWA World Heavyweight Champion for a spell, albeit during a time when that title was less prominent than it had been in the past. In the 2000s, he was IWGP Champion again, and he was also the All Japan Pro Wrestling Triple Crown Champion. In the 2010s, he won the Wrestle-1 Championship in the promotion that was, appropriately enough, called Wrestle-1. Finally, in the 2020s, not long before his retirement, he had a stint as the GHC Heavyweight Champion in Pro Wrestling NOAH.

So, you can argue that Muto ties Goldberg, but in my opinion Muto’s reigns come with some asterisks. In the 1990s and and 2000s, we’re good as far as I’m concerned – no question that those are real, legitimate world title wins. Things get murkier in the 2010s and 2020s, though. Wrestle-1 . . . was a thing. It was a promotion formed around Muto in the 2010s and, while I wouldn’t call it an indy, it was hardly as big as the biggest promotions during the heyday of puroresu and didn’t build a huge legacy, lasting only seven years. Was its main championship a world title? It’s arguable. As to the 2020s, many fans will say the GHC Heavyweight Championship is a bona fide world title, but that has much more to do with the history of the promotion and the title than it does their current state, as NOAH is not what it once was in terms of size or prominence.

That said, you can still make a case for the Great Muta. It’s not as great as the case for Goldberg, who was world champion in four unquestionably major promotions in four different decades, but it’s there.

From Muta, let’s go to Moolah. Yes, The Fabulous Moolah. She first held the Women’s World Title in the 1950s and had a lengthy run with the belt that sporadically got interrupted, also holding the belt in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Then, fast forward to 1999, and she once more reigned as the WWF Women’s Champion for eight days. That means she actually held her world championship in not four but five consecutive decades.

Let’s focus on a phrase in that last sentence, though. “Her” world championship. It’s no real surprise that Moolah was champ from the 1950s through the 1980s because, during those decades, she literally owned the championship in a non-kayfabe sense. The championship was her intellectual property, the belt was her physical property, and she controlled who held it. This is quite a bit different than Goldberg’s accomplishment of being hand picked by wrestling promotions to hold their top prize in different decades. However, if all you care about is the year and the fact that she held a title, then Moolah does qualify to be in this conversation.

I think that is everybody who even arguably qualifies as holding a world title in four consecutive decades. Cactus is right that there aren’t too many people left who could punch their ticket and accomplish this in the near future, either. Sting is certainly a possibility, though as of this writing he just announced his retirement date in 2024. Though he’s not currently active, I could see a world in which The Rock sneaks in a quick championship reign in the 2020s, which would give him the honors. Plus, if Brock Lesnar or Randy Orton somehow hangs on and nabs a big belt in the 2030s, they will also join this club.

Uzoma is lovin’ life:

Was Torrie Wilson supposed to become the inaugural Diva’s Champion instead of Michelle McCool before she retired?

No, probably not. Torrie was released in May 2008, which was reportedly a release that she requested due to ongoing back issues with doctors advising her that continuing to wrestle would not be in her best interest. Meanwhile, the two qualifying matches for the Great American Bash bout between Michelle McCool and Natalya Neidhart took place in June 2008 with the pay per view being in July.

Before all of that, Torrie hadn’t wrestled a match since November 2007.

It’s highly unlikely that WWE was planning on having her win a brand new championship at the same time she was dealing with medical issues that ultimately lead to her release and her retirement.

Scott is taking over:

As I often do when killing time, I turned on an old Royal Rumble the other day. I believe I was watching 1993 when it dawned on me that a lot of guys in the Rumble match went on to be in the NWO. My question is which Rumble match had the most NWO members in it, be it past or future?

Though the question was inspired by the 1993 Royal Rumble match, the answer is actually 1994. If you count all the variations of the stable over the years, including the early 2000s WWE version, there were nine future nWo members in that bout, those being Bret Hart, Lex Luger, Brian “Crush” Adams, Kevin “Diesel” Nash, Jeff Jarrett, Shawn Michaels, Randy Savage, Scott Steiner, and Virgil a.k.a. Vincent.

Tyler from Winnipeg is questioning our loyalties:

Could you see Jerry “The King” Lawler or Micheal Cole ever jumping to AEW?

At this point, Lawler is 73 years old and, in 2023, suffered his second stroke in the last five years. Though he’s seemingly recovered decently and has made a couple of public appearances since, I suspect his days of working anything close to full-time or making significant trips outside of Memphis are now behind him. Because of that, it strikes me as unlikely that he will leave WWE to sign a regular contract with AEW. That being said, if we wind up in a world where his WWE contracts expire and AEW is coming through his neck of the woods, I could see the King making a one-off appearance on a Dynamite or a Collision, similar to what the company has done with other legends like Dave Brown.

If I had to bet, I would bet on Michael Cole being a WWE lifer. He was brought into wrestling by the company, they have seemingly been happy with his work for a quarter century, and there have never been any reports of him having interest in working elsewhere. He’s even reportedly training other announcers for the E, which could be a role that he stays in should he or the promotion decide that he should no longer be on camera. Contrast that with somebody like Jim Ross, who is the voice of the WWF to a generation but who was not a product of that company’s system and who had well-publicized disagreements with upper management.

That being said, presumed lifers have changed employers in the wrestling industry before, so I wouldn’t make that there’s no chance of Cole crossing over, but I would say his staying put is far more likely than not.

Here’s a PPV question from Cartman You Guys (I don’t pick the names – I just reproduce them):

As I was rewatching Starrcade 91: BattleBowl: The Lethal Lottery: One More Colon (I kid), I began to wonder: Are Starrcade 91 and BattleBowl 93 the only two pay per views, ever, in which every wrestler on the show is an opponent and only one man can win it all?

First off, it’s worth noting that WCW did bust out the BattleBowl gimmick on two other occasions, those being Starrcade 1992 and Slamboree 1996. However, those shows don’t meet Cartman’s criteria because there were a few non-BattleBowl/Lethal Lottery matches on the cards, including Sting versus Vader in the King of Cable tournament finals on Starrcade ’92 and the unusual match of Konnan versus Jushin Liger on Slamboree ’96.

However, Starrcade ’91 and the standalone BattleBowl pay per views are NOT the only shows where all wrestlers on them are opponents and only one man can win it all.

And that’s all thanks to my old friends in TNA.

For those you who don’t recall, TNA spent most of its history being unable to book its way out of a paper bag. Though there were good matches here and there, they consistently failed to create the sorts of compelling storylines that would cause people to purchase PPV events. This made live pay per view mostly unprofitable for them. As a result, they abandoned the business model of monthly live PPV and reduced their lineup to live pay per views that ran about once a quarter.

However, TNA still had commitments to PPV providers, so they started running what they called “One Night Only” pay per views. These were shows taped at the Impact Zone, months ahead of their air dates, with little to no connection to the storylines on their weekly TV and little to no promotion anywhere. These weren’t shows that people were buying because there was a huge headlining match that they just had to see. These were shows that people bought because they were flipping through their PPV provider’s “on demand” menus late at night and had already watched all the spicier options.

Without headlining matches, TNA often relied on gimmicks to give the show some appeal, whether it was X Division specials, women’s specials, one night tournaments, or . . .


Of course, TNA didn’t own the rights to that name, so instead they called the event Joker’s Wild, featuring the same format of “randomly” drawn tag team matches giving the winners the ability to enter a battle royale at the end of the night for a big cash prize.

TNA actually ran five Joker’s Wild events, airing annually between 2013 and 2017. Technically, the 2014 version of the event doesn’t qualify as an answer to Cartman’s question, because they snuck a random women’s six man tag match on the card, but the others were all pure BattleBowl/Lethal Lottery goodness. There were some interesting guest stars on these shows, including John “Bad Bones” Klinger and current IWGP World Heavyweight Champion Seiya Sanada. The winners of the closing battles royale were, in order: James Storm, Ethan Carter III, Bobby Lashley, Drew “McIntyre” Galloway, and Moose.

Here’s another PPV question from Donny from Allentown:

What was the real reason behind the random WWF PPV in 1991-This Tuesday in Texas?The event wasn’t even advertised until the middle of the Survivor Series PPV. Was there some story behind as to why it took place? Or was it just used as a platform to bring Randy Savage officially back after being reinstated and also set up the Royal Rumble with the vacant WWF title?

It was an experiment by the WWF to see if they could make money by running pay per views just days apart as opposed to months apart, as had been the model up to that point.

The experiment failed, as Tuesday in Texas did not perform up to financial expectations and the notion of frequent PPVs was abandoned.

Of course, that didn’t stop TNA from trying weekly PPV eleven years later, causing them to lose their asses until outside funding from Panda Energy stepped in to save the Jarrett family from bankruptcy.

Connor has a mean fist drop:

Are The Rockers the greatest team to never be WWF Tag Team Champions?

No. Off the top of my head, the Rock n’ Roll Express and the Midnight Express were never WWF Tag Team Champions, so there are two teams better than the Rockers right there who never held the Fed’s tag straps.

And let’s not forget about most of the high level tag teams who wrestled primarily in Japan and Mexico.

I thought taking a question from Cartman was weird, but here’s another 90s television icon, as we’re joined by HellloooNewman:

I randomly came across a box of mid-90’s era “Apter Mags” (Pro Wrestling Illustrated, Inside Wrestling, etc.). When flipping through them, I noticed something that I found a little bit odd at the time. Those mags always referred to Balls Mahoney as simply ‘Mahoney’ and the 1-2-3 Kid as ‘The Kid’. I assume they dropped Balls (tee hee) because it was a family friendly magazine. But why did they drop the 1-2-3 portion of Sean Walkman’s name? We’re there other wrestlers that they did this to?

It was just an odd quirk of the magazines’ writers. There were several wrestlers over the years who they referred to by variations of names or older names. For example, they continued to refer to The Rock as Rocky Maivia for quite a while after that name was not in regular use on television, and they also used “Curt Hennig” for Mr. Perfect for some time.

Calling the 1-2-3 Kid just “The Kid” was probably just a function of the fact that the magazine had covered him for many years already as the Lightning Kid, not to mention the fact that he wrestled WWF matches as the Cannonball Kid, the Kamikaze Kid, and just plain the Kid.

Frankly, I get it. I referred to John Morrison as Johnny Nitro for years after that transition, at first because it was difficult to adjust to and then because I started to enjoy how irrationally angry it made some people.

Here’s one from El Redman, not be confused with Los Method Man:

With Roman Reigns currently holding the Universal title at time of writing, the two directly previous champions were Bray Wyatt and Braun Strowman, both of whom are no longer with the company. Has there ever been another time in history that the WWE or another major company that the previous two holders of a main event level title have no longer been with the company?

This is obviously an older question that I’m cleaning out from the archives, in part because Braun Strowman is now back with the company (though injured) and in part because referring to Bray Wyatt as “no longer with the company” without saying anything more would be a bit insensitive.

But to the meat of the question, yes, this has happened before. In fact, there’s a pretty early example from the history of the WWWF/WWF/WWE Championship.

Pedro Morales won the WWWF Title on February 8, 1971 in Madison Square Garden, defeating Ivan Koloff. Koloff was gone from the promotion almost immediately, wrestling a handful of matches there before going on a tour of British Columbia and ultimately winding up in the AWA by the end of ’71.

Of course, the champion before Koloff was Bruno Sammartino, and Sammartino famously took a hiatus from the promotion between early 1971 and early 1972, though he would ultimately return.

Morales would hold the WWWF Championship until 1973, so there was definitely a period during his reign where the prior two champs were not around.

We’ll return in seven-ish days, and, as always, you can contribute your questions by emailing [email protected]. You can also leave questions in the comments below, but please note that I do not monitor the comments as closely as I do the email account, so emailing is the better way to get things answered.