The Age of a Champion

0

There are literally millions of arguments on the internet about wrestling. But one that always comes up is that so-and-so is either too young or too old to be World Champion. Either they haven’t paid their dues or they’re past their prime to be a legitimate champion. And we’re not talking about when older guys come back, like Goldberg recently did to become a 50-year old WWE Universal Champion. We’re talking about when wrestlers capture their first World Championship. But what is too young or too old?

We here at Last Word on Pro Wrestling have tabulated the age of every World Champion since the inception of the NWA in 1948, at the time they won their first World Championship. We included all of the promotions that have legitimate stakes at a true World Championship – mostly if they are defended in more than one country. While many indies claim a World title, most are defended within a very small territory. For the sake of this discussion, these are the promotions we’ve included: NWA/WCW, AWA, WWWF/WWF/WWE, ECW (Original), TNA/Impact Wrestling, AJPW, NJPW, and Ring of Honor.

The Early Days (1940’s/1950’s): NWA

First Time World Champion: Leo Nomellini (31), Edouard Carpentier (31), Lou Thesz (33), Dick Hutton (34), Pat O’Connor (35), Orville Brown (40), Whipper Billy Watson (41)

Average Age: 35 years old

The Golden Age (1960’s): AWA, NWA, WWWF

Photo: WWE

First Time World Champion: Bruno Sammartino (WWWF, 28), Dory Funk Jr. (NWA, 28), Gene Kiniski (AWA, 31), Verne Gagne (AWA, 34), Fritz Von Erich (AWA, 34), Mad Dog Vachon (AWA, 35), Dr. Bill Miller (AWA, 35), The Crusher (AWA, 37),  Dick The Bruiser (AWA, 37), The Destroyer (Dick Beyer, AWA, 38), Buddy Rogers (NWA, 40)

Average Age: 34.3 years old

The Territory Days (1970’s): AWA, NWA, WWWF

First Time World Champion: Bob Backlund (WWWF, 29), Ivan Koloff (WWWF, 29), Pedro Morales (WWWF, 29), Harley Race (NWA, 30), Terry Funk (NWA, 31), Jack Brisco (NWA, 32), Dusty Rhodes (NWA, 34), Superstar Billy Graham (WWWF, 34), Giant Baba (NWA, 36), Nick Bockwinkel (AWA, 41)

Average Age: 32.5 years old

The Silver Age (1980’s): AJPW, AWA, NJPW, NWA/WCW, WWF

Photo: WWE

First Time World Champion: Tommy Rich (NWA, 24), Kerry Von Erich (NWA, 24), Rick Martel (AWA, 28), Curt Hennig (AWA, 29), Hulk Hogan (WWF, 31), Ric Flair (NWA, 32), Ronnie Garvin (NWA, 32), Jumbo Tsuruta (33), Vader (NJPW, 34), Tatsumi Fujinami (35), Randy Savage (WWF, 36), Ricky Steamboat (NWA, 36), Stan Hansen (AWA, 36), Larry Zbyszko (AWA, 38), Riki Chosu (NJPW, 38),Genichiro Tenryu (AJPW, 39), Otto Wanz (AWA, 39), Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler (AWA, 39), The Iron Sheik (WWF, 40), Andre the Giant (WWF, 42), Antonio Inoki (44, NJPW)

Average Age: 32.9 years old

The Attitude Age (1990’s): AJPW, ECW, NJPW, NWA, WCW, WWF

Photo: WWE

First Time World Champion: Mikey Whipwreck (ECW, 22), The Giant (Big Show, WCW, 23), The Undertaker (WWF, 26), The Rock (WWF, 26), Masato Tanaka (ECW, 26), Yokozuna (WWF, 27), Shinya Hashimoto (NJPW, 28), Masahiro Chono (NWA, 29), Kenta Kobashi (AJPW, 29), Terry ‘Bam Bam’ Gordy (AJPW, 29), Shane Douglas (ECW, 29), Sabu (ECW, 29), Keiji Mutoh (The Great Muta, NJPW, 30), Mitsuharu Misawa (AJPW, 30), Triple H (WWF, 30), The Ultimate Warrior (WWF, 31), Sting (NWA, 31), Kensuke Sasaki (NJPW, 31), Toshiaki Kawada (AJPW, 31), Shawn Michaels (WWF, 31), Raven (ECW, 31), Taz (ECW, 31), Kane (WWF, 31), Sandman (ECW, 32), Goldberg (WCW, 32), Barry Windham (NWA, 33), Nobuhiko Takada (NJPW, 33), Lex Luger (WCW, 33), Mick Foley (Mankind, WWF, 33), ‘Dr. Death’ Steve Williams (AJPW, 34), Rick Rude (WCW, 34), ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin (WWF, 34), Ron Simmons (WCW, 34), Mike Awesome (ECW, 34), Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart (35, WWF), Akira Taue (AJPW, 35), Diesel (Kevin Nash, WWF, 35), Sid Vicious (WWF, 36), Bam Bam Bigelow (ECW, 36), Scott Norton (NJPW, 37), Sgt. Slaughter (42, WWF), Diamond Dallas Page (WCW, 43)

Average Age:  31.7 years old

The Modern Era (2000’s): AJPW, ECW, NJPW, NWA, ROH, TNA, WCW, WWE

Photo: ROH

First Time World Champion: Low Ki (ROH, 22), Shinsuke Nakamura (NJPW, 23), Seth Rollins (Tyler Black, ROH, 23), Samoa Joe (ROH, 24), Daniel Bryan (Bryan Danielson, ROH, 24), Randy Orton (WWE, 24), Brock Lesnar (WWE, 25), Rhino (ECW, 25), CM Punk (ROH, 25), AJ Styles (NWA/TNA, 26), Justin Credible (ECW, 26), Austin Aries (ROH, 26), Batista (WWE, 26), John Cena (WWE, 27), Roderick Strong (ROH, 27), Steve Corino (ECW, 27), Jamie Noble (ROH, 28), Jack Swagger (WWE, 28), Tommy Dreamer (ECW, 29), Homicide (ROH, 29), Takeshi Morishima (ROH, 29), Ron Killings (R-Truth, NWA/TNA, 30), Hiroshi Tanahashi (NJPW, 30), The Miz (WWE, 30), Kazuyuki Fujita (NJPW, 31), Bob Sapp (NJPW, 31), Chris Jericho (WWE, 31), Nigel McGuinness (ROH, 31), Jeff Hardy (WWE, 31), Sheamus (WWE, 31), Hiroyoshi Tenzan (NJPW, 32), Chris Benoit (WCW, 32), Kurt Angle (WWE, 32), Edge (WWE, 32), Jeff Jarrett (WCW, 33), Christian (NWA/TNA, 33), Rey Mysterio Jr. (WWE, 33), Abyss (NWA/TNA, 33), The Great Khali (WWE, 34), Yuji Nagata (NJPW, 35), Satoshi Kojima (NJPW, 35), Booker T (WCW, 35), Yoshihiro Takayama (NJPW, 36), Eddie Guerrero (WWE, 36), Rob Van Dam (WWE, 36), Togi Makabe (NJPW, 37), Jerry Lynn (ECW, 37), JBL (WWE, 37), Ken Shamrock (NWA/TNA, 38), Minoru Suzuki (AJPW, 38), Scott Steiner (WCW, 38), Tadao Yasuda (NJPW, 39), Manabu Nakanishi (NJPW, 42)

Average Age: 31.4 years old

The New Era (2010’s): NJPW, ROH, TNA/Impact, WWE

Kazuchika Okada, NJPW (Photo: NJPW)

First Time World Champion: Kazuchika Okada (NJPW, 23), Adam Cole (ROH, 23), Eddie Edwards (ROH, 26), Michael Elgin (ROH, 26), Magnus (TNA, 26), Davey Richards (ROH, 28), Kevin Owens (ROH, 28), Dolph Ziggler (WWE, 29), Jay Briscoe (ROH, 29), Jay Lethal (ROH, 29), Kyle O’Reilly (ROH, 29), Bray Wyatt (WWE, 29), Roman Reigns (WWE, 30), Dean Ambrose (WWE, 30), Drew McIntyre/Galloway (TNA, 30), Jinder Mahal (WWE, 30), Chris Sabin (TNA, 31), Tetsuya Naito (NJPW, 32), Ethan Carter III (TNA, 32), Eric Young (TNA, 33), Alberto Del Rio (WWE, 34), Mr. Anderson (TNA, 34), “Cowboy” James Storm (TNA, 34), Bobby Roode (TNA, 34), Bobby Lashley (TNA, 36), Mark Henry (WWE, 40), Bully Ray Dudley (TNA, 40), Matt Hardy (TNA, 40), Christopher Daniels (ROH, 46)

Average Age: 31.4 years old

As we can see, for the most part, the age of 32 appears to be the general age that most wrestlers capture the World Championship. But of course, there’s been some exceptions on either end of the spectrum. Here’s a look at the 15 youngest World Champions and the 13 oldest.

THE 15 YOUNGEST FIRST TIME WORLD CHAMPIONS

Shinsuke Nakamura, NJPW (Photo: NJPW)
  • Brock Lesnar, 25 years, WWE, def. The Rock, August 25, 2002
  • CM Punk, 25 years, Ring of Honor, def. Austin Aries, June 18, 2005
  • Rhyno, 25 years, (as Rhino) ECW, def. The Sandman, January 7, 2001
  • Tommy Rich, 24 years, NWA, def. Harley Race, April 27, 1981
  • Kerry Von Erich, 24 years, NWA, def. Ric Flair, May 6, 1984
  • Randy Orton, 24 years, WWE, def. Chris Benoit, August 15, 2004
  • Samoa Joe, 24 years, Ring of Honor, def. Xavier, March 22, 2003
  • Daniel Bryan, 24 years, (as Bryan Danielson) Ring of Honor, def. James Gibson (Jamie Noble), September 17, 2005
  • Seth Rollins, 23 years, (as Tyler Black) Ring of Honor, def. Austin Aries, February 13, 2010
  • Kazuchika Okada, 23 years, NJPW, def. Hiroshi Tanahashi, February 12, 2012
  • The Big Show, 23 years, (as The Giant) WCW, def. Hulk Hogan, October 29, 1995
  • Shinsuke Nakamura, 23 years, NJPW, def. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, December 9, 2003
  • Adam Cole, 23 years, Ring of Honor, def. Michael Elgin, September 20, 2013
  • Low Li, 22 years, Ring of Honor, won 4-Way Iron Man Match for inaugural champ, July 27, 2002
  • Mikey Whipwreck, 22 years, ECW, def. The Sandman, October 28, 1995
Mikey Whipwreck, ECW (Photo: WWE)

THE 13 OLDEST FIRST TIME WORLD CHAMPIONS

Mark Henry, WWE (Photo: WWE)
  • The Iron Sheik, 40 years, WWF, def. Bob Backlund, December 26, 1983
  • ‘Nature Boy’ Buddy Rogers, 40 years, NWA, def. Pat O’Connor, June 30, 1961
  • Bully Ray Dudley, 40 years, TNA, def. Jeff Hardy, March 10, 2013
  • Matt Hardy, 40 years, TNA, def. Ethan Carter III, October 4, 2015
  • Mark Henry, 40 years, WWE, def. Randy Orton, September 18, 2011
  • Whipper Billy Watson, 41 years, NWA, def. Lou Thesz, March 15, 1956
  • Nick Bockwinkel, 41 years, AWA, def. Verne Gagne, November 8, 1975
  • Manabu Nakanishi, 42 years, NJPW, def. Hiroshi Tanahashi, May 6, 2009
  • Sgt. Slaughter, 42 years, WWF, def. Hulk Hogan, January 19, 1991
  • Andre the Giant, 42 years, WWF, def. Hulk Hogan, February 5, 1988
  • Diamond Dallas Page, 43 years, WCW, def. Ric Flair, April 11, 1999
  • Antonio Inoki, 44 years, NJPW, def. Masa Saito for inaugural IWGP title, June 12, 1987
  • Christopher Daniels, 46 years, Ring of Honor, def. Adam Cole, March 10, 2017
Photo: ROH

 

SHARE
Previous articleHideo Itami: Will He Go?
Next articleHow WWE Botched Bayley

Jamie Greer is the Managing Editor and lead writer for Last Word on Pro Wrestling. A lifelong wrestling fan who started with the WWF in the early 80’s, he now follows everything from the smallest indie to WWE. He’s also written for WrestleZone, The Windsor Star, Windsor Independent and other publications. He lives in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, with his wife and son.

LEAVE A REPLY