For years, Roman Reigns has been a focal point of WWE’s promotional might. Since the breakup of the Shield, his faction with Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose (now Jon Moxley), Reigns has been pushed to the top of WWE.
This push has grown into a historic title reign. Reigns will be champion for a full 500 days when the next episode of SmackDown airs Friday. He won the title on August 30, 2020, defeating Braun Strowman and “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt at the Payback pay-per-view.
Tuesday, he will surpass Brock Lesnar’s 503-day reign as the sixth-longest of a top champion in WWE history. Only Bruno Sammartino (twice), Bob Backlund, Hulk Hogan and Pedro Morales kept a championship run going longer than that. Reigns has defied the WWE’s modern era booking, which has included more frequent title changes than in the distant past.
Still, in some ways, the title is in as much jeopardy as ever. With the run-up to WrestleMania coming and a hot feud with Brock Lesnar underway, recent events have opened up options for the company. Will Roman make it to WrestleMania as champion? Or will he lose it to Seth Rollins at the Royal Rumble and have to chase Brock to get the big match? It could go either way, but Reigns is still the titleholder for now.
As the milestone approaches, here’s a look at some interesting aspects of this run by the numbers:
Reigns will be champion for 500 days Friday.
While the Universal title does not share a lineage with the WWE title, it is presented by the company as a major championship. With that in mind, it’s set to become the longest reign for a top-of-the-card title since Hulk Hogan’s first. That one began Jan. 23, 1984 and didn’t end until Feb.5, 1988.
Today’s pro wrestling is a much different busines than when Hogan embarked on what turned out to be that 1,474-day reign as champion. The WWF believed in long-term superhero champions then. Reigns won’t come anywhere near that long of a run with the belt, but 500 days and counting is worth noting.
Reigns kept the title all 365 days of 2021. He became the first top champion to keep his title throughout an entire calendar year since 2012. That was the year CM Punk both began and ended it as WWE Champion. Punk’s reign lasted 434 days in total.
Reigns has defended his title 17 times during this run. The WWE hasn’t toured consistently since just before the pandemic. House shows are fewer and further between than in the past. When they have had house shows, Reigns has mostly been working six-man tag team matches with the Usos. It makes for fewer overall defenses than usual, but that’s the nature of the schedule now.
Eleven men have challenged Reigns for the Universal title in those 17 defenses. Jey Uso, Braun Strowman, Kevin Owens, Daniel Bryan, Edge, Cesaro, Rey Mysterio, John Cena, Finn Balor, Brock Lesnar and Sami Zayn have been the ones to attempt to wrest the belt from Reigns.
Drew McIntryre and Big E have also faced Reigns as champion. Those don’t go on the list because they were Survivor Series matches, pitting the WWE Champion against the Universal Champion, without titles on the line.
Reigns’ schedule has been kept to a minimum. There have been six calendar months in this run in which Reigns has only wrestled one match.
WWE has worked hard to make Reigns’ matches special. He rarely wrestles on SmackDown or RAW, and without many house shows, there have been six months in which is title defense was his only match.
There’s one more six to mention. The WWE title has changed hands six times since Reigns captured the Universal title. Randy Orton, McIntyre, The Miz, Bobby Lashley, Big E and Lesnar have all won the WWE title since August 2020.
Five men have challenged Reigns more than once. Jey Uso, Owens, Bryan, Edge and Finn Balor have received multiple shots. Only one has more than two, however (see below).
Five is also the number of times Reigns has defended the Universal title on SmackDown. The others were all part of pay-per-view shows on Peacock.
Daniel Bryan challenged Reigns four times, the most of anyone. From Feb. 21, 2021 at the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view, to the Title versus Career match on SmackDown on Apr. 30, Bryan was in four consecutive Universal title matches. That SmackDown was his last with the company before moving to AEW and wrestling under his real name, Bryan Danielson.
2 (OR MAYBE 3)
Two of those challengers, Bryan and Strowman, are no longer with the company. Neither is Wyatt, part of the match in which Reigns captured the championship. Cena is no longer a full-timer and might be included on the list of former WWE wrestlers, but Cena has also said he’s not done wrestling quite yet and isn’t leaving WWE.