I've had this idea for a while but feel it's very fitting to do now. John Cena has just become a 15 time World champion and is close to the legendary record of Ric Flair's 16 time. According to wikipedia, which is always trustworthy, it claims Flair is a 26 time World champ I worked it out as 20 (22 if you include the WCW international title which I like to as that's the only World title the late Rick Rude got to hold but I won't). My idea is to compare each reign with each other now for the benefits of this I will only be looking at the “official” records but even that has Flair as a 17 time champ. Will not go into great details but will try to show some highlights of that reign for the benefit of time.
Reign 1Flair: Defeated Dusty Rhodes 17/9/81-Lost to Harley Race 10/6/83 (476 days)
As odd as this sounds this is the forgotten reign to many. Flair would be established from his 2nd reign on as it happened at the first big show that was Starrcade. The controversial reigns began right from the beginning as Ric would lose the belt to Jack Veneno on 29/8/82 in a decision that was to stop a riot from breaking out, the belt was returned the same day. Flair also lost the title for 17 days to Carlos Colon on 6/1/83 which is sometimes recognised but sometimes not.
Cena: Defeated JBL 27/6/05-Lost to Edge 8/1/06 (280 days)
I think many would agree that Cena's first reign was the right move, he had really gotten over and become a star. The match at Mania 21 was bad but they recovered in a excellent I Quit match at Judgement Day. Cena would be moved to Raw and that's when the now infamous “Cena sucks” started as his weaknesses were exposed on the live show. Outside that he had a good run with Jericho and Angle on PPV's until he became a victim of the first ever cash in.
Flair: Defeated Harley Race 24/11/83-Lost to Kerry Von Erich 6/5/84 (118 days)
The build up for the match with Race was really the making of Flair as a top champion. Sadly timing was not on Ric's side. Flair would lose it to Race again in New Zealand for 2 days in March and then lose it to Kerry in May. Now many feel it was David Von Erich's reign but he sadly pasted away and some feel the late Fritz used that to get Kerry the title on the David Memoriam show.
Cena: Defeated Edge 29/1/06-Lost to Rob Van Dam 11/6/06 (133 days)
Ending Edge's reign far too early, I think they should have done it at Mania with Cena winning the rumble. He would have a program with Triple H at Mania instead, which was rushed. This reign is mostly remembered for how it ended, this was the infamous One Night Stand title match with just a insane crowd and Cena playing a great heel that night.
Flair: Defeated Kerry Von Erich 24/5/84-Dusty Rhodes 26/7/86 (763 days)
Proving Kerry wasn't ready the belt it came back to Flair less than a month after losing. This ended up being Flair's longest reign as champion during which time he was married to Dusty Rhodes. The 2 main evented 2 back to back Starrcade events and the rivalry is legendary. Dusty would finally win it at the Great American Bash in a steel cage match.
Cena: Defeated Edge 17/9/06-Vacanted due to Injury 2/10/07 (380 days)
Much like Flair Cena's 3rd reign would end up being his longest and I would argue best. Winning the title in a great TLC match at Unforgiven he would go on to have great matches with Umaga, Shawn Michaels and Randy Orton. As well as having several multi man matches and pulling decent showings from the Great Khali & Bobby Lashley. Mr Kennedy would injury Cena ending the reign but at the time he likely would have lost it to Orton at the No Mercy show anyways.
Flair: Defeated Dusty Rhodes 9/8/86-Lost to Ron Garvin 25/9/87 (412 days)
Dusty didn't get long with the belt until it was back around Flair's waist. This run should have been shorter, at Starrcade 86 Magnum TA was meant to challenge Flair and was rumoured to be winning the title. Sadly he got into a car accident that ended his career so instead Nikita Koloff took that spot and failed to take the belt. One thing I've not mentioned is that during these reigns as NWA champ Flair would be travelling endlessly and working non-stop he was a true world champ and because of that details of specifics can be hard to come across. Regardless he'd lose the title to Garvin in a odd choice but it was the company trying to make a new star.
Cena: Defeated Chris Jericho 23/11/08-Lost to Edge 15/2/09 (84 days)
This was Cena's first reign as World champion and it was his return from injury to a bad reaction in his home town no less. This is a pet peeve of mine the returning star getting the big title straight away. This run was also not that good, his 2 matches with Jericho were so-so and the JBL match at the Rumble had everyone focused on HBK outside rather than the 2 in the ring. This reign is only really notable for Edge who lost the WWE title at Elimination chamber and then stole Kofi Kingston's spot to win the World title at the end of the night being the only man to do 2 Elimination Chamber matches on the same night.
Flair: Defeated Ron Garvin 26/11/87-Lost to Ricky Steamboat 20/2/89 (452 days)
One of Flair's best reigns he produced some of his greatest matches during it. Winning the title back at Starrcade 87 he would go on to have some star making matches with Sting at the first Clash of Champions and then onto Lex Luger at Starrcade 88. His loss to Steamboat was the first of their now legendary trilogy in 89.
Cena: Defeated Edge 5/4/09-Lost to Edge 26/4/09 (21 days)
Pretty meaningless. Cena won it at Mania for the babyface win but lost it right back less than a month later in a pretty good Last Man Standing match.
Flair: Defeated Ricky Steamboat 7/5/89-Lost to Sting 7/7/90 (426 days)
The trilogy ended and Flair moved right on to Terry Funk, that would end in a real good I Quit match. Flair's reign would run back into Lex Luger while Sting was out with a knee injury. Flair got the best out of Luger a feat very few could. Sting was ultimately the end goal here and he would finally get his big win and the title at the Great American Bash.
Cena: Defeated Randy Orton 13/9/09-Lost to Orton 4/10/09 (21 days)
Back to the WWE title and a feud that had already been done to death. It was during this time that WWE loved these 2 together but they really didn't produce the best matches. Again rather meaningless reign.
Flair: Defeated Sting 11/1/91-Vacanted when he left for WWF 8/9/91(181 days)
Now this reign has a lot of questions around it. First there was the fact Flair had lost to Tatsumi Fujinami on 21/3/91 in New Japan and it's said that he regained in on 19/5/91 however this much like Colon is sometimes recognised and sometimes not. This reign is also seen as the birth of the WCW World title. Why I don't know because Flair would leave for the WWF and the title went vacant so you could start the history of that title with Luger but I don't think people want that.
Cena: Defeated Randy Orton 25/10/09-Lost to Sheamus 13/12/09 (49 days)
Talk about overkill. Cena won the title in a 60 minute iron man No DQ falls count anywhere match which had a huge amount of falls. This was followed by a pretty nothing triple threat with DX and then the tables match where Cena threw himself through a table to give Sheamus the title.
Flair: Won the Royal Rumble for vacant title 19/1/92-Lost to Randy Savage 5/4/92 (77 days)
A very quick raise in WWE for one Ric Flair. What is arguably the best Rumble in history saw Flair put on one of the best performances to claim the title. Immediately moved onto a feud with Savage over Elizabeth may not have been the best story but produced a great match in the end. Flair was meant to work Hogan at Mania that year but after testing it on house shows it was decided to go with Savage.
Cena: Defeated Sheamus 21/2/10-Lost to Batista 21/2/10 (About 5 minutes)
I can't count this reign. This was the Elimination Chamber and Vince McMahon just gave Batista a title match straight after. If you wanted to do that why not add Batista into the match, have Cena destroyed during it and then Batista takes the easy win coming in last. This made no sense.
Flair: Defeated Randy Savage 1/9/92-Lost to Bret Hart 12/10/92 (41 days)
A pretty nothing reign here only done so that Bret could get the belt beating a heel. Both changes were just thrown out on TV as well which was rare for 92.
Cena: Defeated Batista 28/3/10-Lost to Sheamus 20/6/10 (84 days)
A ton of Cena/Batista matches ranged from Last Man standing to I Quit, many with goofy finishes. While you can give credit to WWE trying to give Sheamus another shot the way they did it was wrong, the Nexus was the focus at Fatal 4 Way and you completely forgot that Sheamus had pinned Cena in that match.
Flair: Defeated Barry Windham 18/7/93-Vacanted 13/9/93 (57 days)
Flair's final reign as NWA champion before the NWA and WCW would go their separate ways as he returned to WCW just a little over a year after leaving. This run would go on under the new title of WCW International title but like I said not counting them here. All I remember from this run was that the Windham match was really underwhelming for how good they were.
Cena: Defeated Miz 1/5/11-Lost to CM Punk 17/7/11 (77 days)
One of the times many were happy to see Cena with the title was ending the Miz's reign. Cena would then have to take on Miz again for a few months and even main evented with R-Truth! The lose to Punk at Money in the Bank is one of the highlights of recent years coming off the infamous pipe bomb promo weeks before and it being Punk's “last match”. The match itself was fantastic and is still one of my personal favourites.
Flair: Defeated Vader 27/12/93-Vacanted after double pin with Steamboat 17/4/94 (111 days)
The first official run as WCW champion for Flair. The match with Vader at Starrcade 93 came in at no.1 in WWE's essential Starrcade collection and it's hard to argue it. A great emotional match. The duo would have a rematch at Superbrawl and then Ric would go to a draw with Steamboat. I often hate how these double pins lead to vacanted titles, surely in a draw the champ should retain.
Cena: Defeated Rey Mysterio 25/7/11-Lost to CM Punk 14/8/11 (20 days)
Another reign I don't count. During this time Punk was still WWE champion and reappeared just a week after leaving meaning he was still the champ and Cena wasn't in many people's views. The fact Punk won again 20 days after at Summerslam makes my point. But granted the match between Mysterio & Cena gets lots of love from that Raw.
Flair: Defeated Ricky Steamboat 21/4/94-Lost to Hulk Hogan 17/7/94 (87 days)
A decision match gave Flair the title back and he'd go on to defeat Barry Windham at Slamboree. The international title would reach it's end during this reign as Flair would defeat Sting on a Clash of Champions to Unify them just in time for Hogan to come in and be the man in his debut.
Cena: Defeated Alberto Del Rio 18/9/11-Lost to Alberto Del Rio 2/10/11 (14 days)
I'm getting tired of typing pointless reign. For the matter of 14 days just let Del Rio keep the damn thing especially since Punk was winning it a matter of weeks after that.
Flair: Defeated Randy Savage 26/11/95-Lost to Randy Savage 22/1/96 (26 days)
No point in the reign really. Much like WCW in 94 onwards they took things that worked in WWE and just put it on their show. The good thing is I loved watching Flair & Savage work together.
Cena: Defeated The Rock 7/4/13-Lost to Daniel Bryan 18/8/13 (133 days)
The first time Cena entered triple digits since his 3rd reign. Sadly Cena was lumped with Ryback for 2 months and the Mark Henry, which wasn't bad as it had the great retirement angle and the 2 did decent. It was the lose to Daniel Bryan where he shined as it was a great match and losing clean to Bryan could have made him if they didn't ruin it with the cash in and dumb booking after.
Flair: Defeated Randy Savage 11/2/96-Lost to the Giant 22/4/96 (71 days)
The Giant was less than a year into his career and he was beating Ric Flair for the World title, on Nitro but still it's a win. Flair was playing a crazy person obsessed with Savage at the time and I guess they just wanted the Giant/Hogan program to have the title. I don't know WCW was weird in 96.
Cena: Defeated Alberto Del Rio 27/10/13-Lost to Randy Orton 15/12/13 (49 days)
Back to the World title and back to winning the title when coming back from injury. This pretty much killed Del Rio but honestly he was long gone before Cena beat him. This reign is historic or will be as it's the last World title run before the titles were unified.
Flair: Defeated Hulk Hogan 14/3/99-Lost to Diamond Dallas Page 11/4/99 (28 days)
Just a random month reign which is mostly remembered for the crazy match where he won it. It was a barbed wire steel cage first blood match where Flair was bleeding before Hogan and then won by pinfall during the figure 4. A 4 way with Hogan & Sting at Spring Stampede saw DDP win the title pinning Flair after special ref Randy Savage dropped a top rope elbow, nothing was simple in 99.
Cena: Won a Money in the Bank for vacant title 29/6/14-Ongoing
Many didn't like it but it made the most sense for him to win the title. Now while this is ongoing it's rumoured that Brock is going to win the title at Summerslam making this just another random reign for Cena.
Reign 16 & 17
Flair: Defeated Jeff Jarrett 15/5/00-Stripped by Vince Russo 22/5/00, awarded by Kevin Nash 23/5/00-Lost to Jeff Jarrett 23/5/00
Oh WCW 2000 how stupid and bad you were. Just reading this should highlight how bad it was and that was just one week! It was a final hurray for Flair but it just felt wrong. This was also after David Arquette so that belt meant nothing.
Final ThoughtsBoth have had pretty pointless reigns and both have had some of the best in that titles history. Whether your a Cena fan or not he's synonymous with the WWE title now, even having the thing redesigned and that sticking for 8 years! Cena's reign are easier to look back on while Flair's has a lot of footage missing or is just too hard to find unless you are hardcore historian which I'm no where near. When looking at the 2 it became clear to me the big difference was length and the trust of putting the title on Flair and letting him run with it. Cena's the man in WWE but to me it would speak higher if they had let him had fewer longer runs than the number he's had, just look at the runs which lasted less than 3 months he's had more of those than lengthy reigns. In comparison look at CM Punk's reign that lasted 434 days and how meaningful it ended up, granted that was partly because of Punk but that was one reign that left a mark. Some of Cena's reigns are such a blur I'm sure some people aren't even aware they happened. By the way this isn't meant to be endless shots at Cena but honestly it gives me piece of mind by comparing the 2 as I don't want Flair's record broken by anyone, this way I have the comfort of if it is broken I don't think it'd be as meaningful as Flair had better reigns for the most part at least in my view.