While the impressive length of the reign is what most people remember, the thing that really made Honky's IC Title reign unique was that he was a really crappy wrestler who should have been destroyed by nearly everyone he defended the title against. He became a huge draw on the house shows because he was matched up with one opponent after another whom he shouldn't have a hope in hell of beating, and the fans bought tickets because they thought this had to be the night he would finally lose. And once he did lose the title, he kept on losing and losing and pretty much confirmed that he was the luckiest wrestler in history to have held that belt for as long as he did.
But history has forgotten that as I said, so we'll focus on the length of his reign and look at champions in the modern era who not only exceed the Honky Tonk Man's IC Title reign in terms of length, but far exceed him in terms of accomplishments as champion.
5)CM Punk holds the WWE Title for 434 days (2011-2013)
Okay, he technically fell short of Honky's reign by 20 days, but while he never got to main event Wrestlemania, CM Punk accomplished a major feat by racking up the longest WWE Title reign in almost 30 years, and 7th longest in history. He obviously wasn't pushed as the star of the company during that time, but in a world where title reigns have been known to only last hours or minutes, much less days, having a title reign that stretches across three calendar years is a huge feather in CM Punk's cap that he can carry into his recent retirement.
4)Samoa Joe holds the ROH World Title for 645 days (2003-2004)
No, the ROH World Title is not on the level of everyone else on this list, but Samoa Joe's record-setting reign as the ROH World Champion was so important to Ring of Honor and the history of professional wrestling in the post-Monday Night Wars era that it merits inclusion.
ROH had suffered through nearly fatal financial problems and the embarrassment of the Rob Feistein scandal during 2003 and early 2004, but thanks to the strength of Joe's title defenses, particularly his legendary three match series with CM Punk, ROH not only survived but began a period of growth that would last several years and eventually lead them onto TV and PPV. Additionally, the wrestling style that Joe (and ROH in general) employed began to be adopted by wrestlers in WWE and TNA, and gave wrestlers like Punk and Bryan Danielson the stage to make their names and go on to extremely successful careers in WWE.
3)Demolition holds the WWF Tag Team Title for 478 days (1988-1989)
Demolition's first run as the WWF Tag Team Champions overlapped with (and exceeded) Honky's IC Title reign, but while Honky managed to hold his title for as long as he did through a combination of cheating, intentional countout and DQ losses, and sheer luck, Demolition earned their title reign on merit. They came in and destroyed Strike Force to win the title at Wrestlemania 4, then steamrolled over the Hart Foundation, the British Bulldogs, the Powers of Pain, the Twin Towers, and everyone else thrown in their path before being defeated by the Brain Busters in the summer of 1989. They were as unstoppable as any team to ever compete in the WWF, and would go on to hold the title two more times en route to becoming synonymous with the WWF Tag Team Title in the late 80s.
2)Hulk Hogan holds the WWF Title for 1,474 days (1984-1988)
Simply put, this is the most important title reign in the history of the WWF/WWE because without it, the WWF's golden era in the 80s may never have reached the heights it did. Yes, Hogan did beat every top wrestler in the business from Andre the Giant, to Terry Funk, to Randy Savage, and everyone else in between during a reign that was only surpassed in length by Bruno Sammartino's 1963-1971 run, but the importance of Hogan as champion went way beyond what happened in the ring. Hogan became the greatest ambassador the WWF ever had, becoming the biggest star in the history of the business and a bonafide media icon that gave the WWF national brand recognition because of his efforts during this time. No more needs to be said.
1)Ric Flair holds the NWA Title for over 400 days on five different occasions (1981-1990)
Hogan was the media superstar, but over on the other channel, Ric Flair was the greatest wrestling champion of his time, holding the NWA World Title on many occasions (the exact number is up for debate), five of which lasted more than 400 days, and one of which lasted over two years.
Flair's first title reign, won from Dusty Rhodes in 1981, lasted 476 days before he was defeated by Harley Race. When Flair regained the title from Kerry von Erich in Japan, he hung onto it for a whopping 793 days before being defeated by Dusty Rhodes on the 1986 Great American Bash tour. He regained the title from Dusty just days later and then held it for 412 more days before being defeated by Ronnie Garvin. Flair held the title for 452 days after winning it back from Garvin, and then he lost the title to Ricky Steamboat in the first of their classic three match series in 1989, won it back in the last match at Music City Showdown, and held it for another 426 days before losing to Sting.
On top of those lengthy title reigns, if you add together all of Flair's NWA, WCW, and WWF title reigns, he only comes 27 days short of tying Lou Thesz and his 3,749 combined days as NWA World Champion, and less than a year from matching Bruno Sammartino's combined 4,040 days as the WWWF World Champion. Flair still spent more time as the World Champion than anyone else in the modern era, even beating out Hogan's combined WWF and WCW title reigns by about a year.
Honorable Mention: Dan Severn holds the NWA Title for 1,479 days (1995-1999)
Dan Severn does get recognition due to the fact that he held the NWA World Title for over four years, longer than any of the other reigns on this list, but it comes with a few asterisks that prevented him from getting onto the main list.
For one, he held the NWA Title during an eight year long dark period following the incident in ECW when Shane Douglas threw down the belt. Aside from a few appearances with Severn on Monday Night Raw and at UFC tournaments, the NWA Title was not seen on national television between August of 1994 and July of 2002, when TNA bought the exclusive rights to the NWA Title to go along with their launch.
Aside from the lack of TV exposure, the title suffered from very infrequent defenses, with Severn usually having somewhere in the neighborhood of six to eight defenses per year. Severn's primary focus at the time was mixed martial arts, and while he may well have been the best choice to carry the NWA Title at the time due to his legitimate amateur wrestling and UFC credentials, professional wrestling was really his side job.
Even with the few defenses he had, Severn wasn't facing anywhere close to the quality of competition that past NWA Champions had. Challengers like Bobby Blaze, Al Snow, Jim Neidhart, Rick Ratchet, Leatherface, Hack Myers, Buddy Landell, and Jimmy Cicero simply don't rate as legitimate World Title contenders. Severn did get past Dory Funk Jr, William Regal, and Terry Gordy, but Funk and Gordy were way past their prime, leaving Regal as the only truly legitimate challenger he faced in his entire four years with the NWA Title.
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