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Ask 411 Wrestling: Is Roman Reigns the Longest Reigning Heel Champion in WWE History?

May 17, 2024 | Posted by Ryan Byers
WWE WrestleMania 39 Roman Reigns Image 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.
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Long may Peter reign:

As I write this Roman Reigns has been the WWE Champion for 552 days. Is this the longest ever run by a heel as champ? WWE has a history of face champions.

Peter’s question just goes to show you how big of a backlog I am working through here, because Roman went on to be champion for 735 days before he ultimately lost the belt to Cody Rhodes at Wrestlemania XL.

The answer to the question is pretty simple, though: Yes, Roman holds the record for the longest WWE Title run by a heel champion, and it’s not even close.

Of course, CM Punk had a 434-day title reign, but he split that reign between being a heel and being a face. He was a good guy when he won the belt on November 20, 2011 at the Survivor Series. He then turned heel on July 23, 2012 during the 1,000th episode of Monday Night Raw in St. Louis, Missouri. With Punk losing the title on January 27, 2013, he’s only got 188 days as a heel champion.

In light of this, who is the true second-longest reigning heel WWE Champion?

You’ve got to go back quite a ways to find an answer to the question, and it is none other than “Superstar” Billy Graham.

Graham defeated Bruno Sammartino on April 30, 1977 and dropped the belt to Bob Backlund on February 20, 1978, giving him 296 days as champion – a fair amount less than the Tribal Chief.

David T. is going out of business:

Were there any wrestlers (or even on-screen personalities) who worked for WCW or ECW but on the day their respective promotion closed, they just left the wrestling business altogether? If there aren’t any that straight-up left, then what would be the longest gap between one of them leaving WCW or ECW due to their closures and making their comeback, even if it was just some one-off indie show?

I was able to find two individuals who this applies to, though they’re relatively obscure.

The first and more prominent of the two is Nitro Girl Tygress, whose real name was Vanessa Sanchez. Though she started off as one of WCW’s house dancers, she was eventually transitioned into a role as a valet for the Filthy Animals stable and occasionally stepped into the ring alongside them. After her time in WCW came to an end, she tried forming the singing group Diversity 5 alongside four other former Nitro Girls (most notably Booker T’s wife Sharmell) and was in a couple of low level horror movies in 2002. It appears that she’s currently out of the entertainment industry and working a job in the real world.

The second is Dina DeStefano, who had a cup of tea in WCW as Big Vito’s sister Marie. When it was revealed that the wrestler Reno was dating Marie, Vito and Reno started feuding with one another over the girl. Then, several weeks later, it was revealed that Vito and Reno were brothers, at which point the bit with Reno and Marie dating was dropped because, well, that would have some rather icky implications. (Maybe they meant she was a “step-sister.” I hear that sort of thing is popular with a niche audience.)

DeStefano appears to have totally dropped out of the public eye after her time in WCW came to an end. She does have a Wikipedia article which states that she died in 2006 from a drug overdose, but the only source Wikipedia cites for this is her Cagematch profile, and it’s not entirely clear where the information on Cagematch came from. You can find obituaries online for people named Dina DeStefano, but it’s also not entirely clear that they’re the same person, leaving us with a bit of a mystery.

There you have it. Two WCW performers who dropped out of wrestling once the company closed its doors. If you have any idea what became of Marie, feel free to write in.

JonFW2 is climbing that mountain:

What’s your Mount Rushmore of entrance gear?

Looking specifically at items that wrestlers wore to the ring but took off to wrestle, I’d have to go with . . .

Gorgeous George’s Georgie Pins: Gorgeous George is a seminal character in the evolution of pro wrestling from its pioneer era to what it is today. As part of his over the top, effeminate gimmick, he would shed his gold-plated hairpins, called Georgie pins rather than bobby pins, upon entering the ring and toss them to the audience. Think of them like the prototype for Bret Hart’s sunglasses or Lanny Poffo’s frisbees.

Ric Flair’s Ring Robes: The Nature Boy was far from the first wrestler to wear a robe to the ring, but he and his designers elevated the robe game to heights well beyond what it had reached previously. From the blue and silver Starrcade look to the butterfly robe recently seen on A&E to the the heavily feathered number from his WWE retirement, the Man’s look was always on point. Ric Flair drip, indeed.

The Road Warrior’s Shoulderpads: As if Hawk and Animal weren’t terrifying enough on their own, why not adorn them with a bunch of six inch metal spikes? They were intimidating, they inspired numerous clones (hello to Demolition’s S&M gear), and they were involved in a great angle in which one of those spikes was unscrewed and used to blind Dusty Rhodes.

The Great Muta’s . . . well . . . everything: If I had to pick one wrestler to put at the absolute top of the heap for badass entrance attire, it is none other than the Great Muta. Even in the early days of the character, his “ninja”-like hoods and robes gave him an era of mystique and set him apart from other wrestlers. Then, as he progressed in his career, things just got more and more elaborate. There was Muta as a demon. There was Muta as a dragon. There was Muta as a pirate. There was even Muta as a Xenomorph at one point. I think I could just watch a forty minute compilation of this guy walking out to the ring in his different looks over the years.

Tyler from Winnipeg is stattin’ it up:

What’s the win/loss record between HHH and Kurt Angle?

Assuming that you are just talking about one-on-one encounters between the two men, Triple H has 19 career victories and Angle has 7. That includes house show matches, which are the main reason Trips has such a wide lead, as there was a Smackdown house show run in spring and summer of 2002 in which he beat Angle like a drum night after night.

In looking up the answer to this question, I did dig up on interesting piece of trivia:

Kurt Angle and Triple H once wrestled each other on a non-WWE show.

Specifically, on February 21, 2001 in Jonesboro, Arkansas, HHH defeated Angle via disqualification with Angle’s WWF Championship on the line on a card promoted by Memphis Championship Wrestling. The deal came about because MCW had an early version of a developmental agreement with the Fed at the time. In fact, the Angle/Triple H match in MCW came to an end when four WWF developmental talent ran in for the DQ.

Those men were Shawn Michaels trainees Shooter Schultz, Lance Cade, Brian “Spanky” Kendrick, and none other than Bryan Danielson – thirteen years before Danielson would beat Triple H for the WWE Championship at Wrestlemania XXX.

Errol wants to snap in to Slim Jim . . . or possibly a ligament:

We hear at times wrestlers getting injured by a wrestling move, but has a wrestler ever gotten hurt by a submission finisher or something like that?

The first example that came to my mind was the Sexy Star incident from 2017.

For those who don’t recall, on August 26 of that year, lucha libre promotion AAA held one of their flagship Triplemania events in Mexico City. In a lower card match on the show, Sexy Star was defending her Reina de Reinas Championship in a four-way against Lady Shani, Ayako Hamada, and Rosemary, the last of whom also wrestles as Courtney Rush and has gained some notoriety in Impact Wrestling.

Prior to the match, there was reportedly some ill will between Star and Shani stemming from the fact that AAA stripped Shani’s friend Taya Valkyrie of the Reina de Reinas for the sole purpose of putting it back on Sexy Star when she rejoined the promotion. During the Triplemania four-way, Shani hit Star with a stiff kick and things broke down from there, with the two women legitimately clocking each other and refusing to sell the other’s moves. This somehow resulted in Hamada also getting rough with Sexy Star and those two going at it.

Sexy Star then felt as though she was being targeted by legitimate attacks in the match. As a result, when it came time for the planned finish, which was Star submitting Rosemary with an armbar, Star applied real pressure and dislocated the other woman’s arm.

It should be noted that, even though there were some hard strikes thrown between Star and Shani and Star and Hamada, Rosemary did not participate in any of that and in fact willingly fed her arm to Sexy Star so that the finishing hold could be applied. Those close to Star tried to justify her actions by saying that she felt victimized by all three of her opponents in the match but, again, there is no real evidence that Rosemary did anything in the ring other than act professionally.

The wrestling industry did not take well to Sexy Star’s actions in this match at all, with numerous people condemning her. She has not returned to AAA since that match, though she was back to wrestling in small Mexican promotions (under the name Sexy Dulce, since AAA owns Sexy Star) about two months later. Hamada and Shani both stayed with AAA afterwards and actually wrestled each other to determine the new Reina de Reinas Champion as a result of the belt being stripped from Sexy Star.

Beenie is carrying this column on his back:

Have the tag team titles, WWE/WWF/WCW, ever been won or lost without all four of the competitors getting into the ring? I’m not talking about when someone is injured or for whatever reason can’t get to the ring. I’m talking about when everyone’s standing by the ring but the titles change hands before all the players can get in the ring.

Yes, though it’s been the function of an angle in every instance that I’ve found.

The first of these is WCW Superbrawl VIII in 1998, with the Steiner Brothers defending the Tag Team Titles against the Outsiders. Rick had wrestled the entire match for his team and cleared both of their opponents from the ring, at which point Scott entered for the brothers’ iconic pose in which Scott would straddle Rick while Rick barked. On this night, however, Scott dropped a double sledge on the Dog Faced Gremlin from that position, then giving him a butterfly suplex and making Rick an easy target for the Outsider’s Edge and the pinfall. Scott Steiner never officially tagged into the match on behalf of his team.

A variation on this theme occurred at WWE’s 2002 Judgment Day pay per view, when Tag Champs Billy and Chuck were set to defend against Rikishi and a partner hand selected by then heel authority figure Vince McMahon. McMahon chose Billy & Chuck’s manager Rikishi to team with Big Kish, presumably as a means of screwing the good guy over. However, miscommunication between the champs and their stylist lead to Rico clocking Chuck in the face with a spin kick, allowing Rikishi to get the pin. Rico did actually land the move that directly resulted in the pinfall for his team, but eagle eyed viewers will note that he never actually tagged in, which meant Rikishi remained the legal man, which is why the referee could count his pinfall on Chuck.

An even more confusing scenario took place at WWE Night of Champions 2008, where Tag Team Champions Hardcore Holly and Cody Rhodes had a defense booked against Ted DiBiase Jr. and a mystery partner. Holly was going to start the match for his team but DiBiase demanded Rhodes, at which point Cody tagged in and immediately DDTed ole’ Hardcore, giving DiBiase the chance to hit his finish for the win. Technically, Rhodes did tag in to the match and land some offense, but he tagged in on behalf of the Holly/Rhodes team and not the Rhodes/DiBiase team, so in a sense this qualifies as an answer to Beenie’s question.

Fast forward four years and we come to Monday Night Raw on October 25, 2010 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. At the time, we were in the middle of an inane angle in which Wade Barrett had forced John Cena to join the Nexus and do his bidding. Cena and fellow Nexus member David Otunga were the Tag Team Champions, and they defended against two more Nexus members, Justin Gabriel and Heath Slater. Cena appeared ready to start the match, but Barret ordered him out of the ring and had Otunga start instead. From there, on Wade’s instructions, Otunga laid down and was defeated by Gabriel and Slater. Though John Cena was in the ring to start the match, he was never legal because the bell never rang before Otunga replaced him in between the ropes.

Finally, I don’t think this quite works for Beenie’s question, but I wanted to mention it anyway just in case anybody reads things differently. I’m talking about the Hart Foundation taking the WWF Tag Team Titles off of the British Bulldogs on January 26, 1987 in Tampa, Florida. All four men did make it to ringside for that match, but, in a pre-match melee, the Dynamite Kid was downed by Jimmy Hart’s megaphone, and he laid on the arena floor for the entire match. Beenie said he was excluding matches in which a competitor was injured, but he also said he wanted to include cases in which all four guys made it to the ring, so . . . do with this one whatever you will.

MNBMB is a fan of the ladies:

Mickie James said she was told the women’s Evolution PPV was the lowest-rated pay per view ever in WWE history. Is this true?

No, it doesn’t appear to be.

On the June 13, 2021 episode of Wrestling Observer Radio, Dave Meltzer discussed the business that Evolution did. He reported that Evolution did underperform in terms of both viewership and ticket sales when compared to other “b-level” pay per view events by WWE, though it was not the lowest performing show of the year in which it occurred (2018). However, Meltzer went on to note that, at least in his opinion, WWE did promote Evolution significantly harder than it did most of its other b-level shows and that the return on investment from the increased promotion would be conisdered a disappointment.

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.