The prestige that comes with holding a championship is the pinnacle for any pro wrestler’s career, but holding two (or indeed more) at any given time is a feat like no other. Accomplished only by the greatest to enter the squared circle, a pro wrestling double champion is someone deemed fit enough to be the backbone of a promotion, representing them in a way that only champions can.
This has occurred – to some extent – in more or less every major North American promotion. AEW’s Jay Lethal achieved great success in Ring Of Honor, elevating both the World and World Television Championships to become equals. In IMPACT Wrestling, Kurt Angle’s 2007 ascension to the top of the company, holding all of the active male championships by himself, represented precisely what he was; the best all-round performer on the then-TNA roster.
In WWE, there has been no shortage of outstanding double champions, ranging from dominating double World Champions to superb runs with two mid-card championships at once. Who, exactly, are they?
In 2015, Seth Rollins achieved the top of the mountain when he captured his first WWE World Heavyweight Championship, doing so in incredible fashion. ‘The Architect’ cashed in his Money In The Bank briefcase during the closing moments of WrestleMania 31, stealing the championship from under the noses of Roman Reigns and defending champion Brock Lesnar.
At that year’s SummerSlam, Rollins dethroned John Cena – albeit with outside interference from TV personality Jon Stewart – to capture the United States Championship for the first time. Although he only held the secondary championship for a month, losing it back to Cena at the following month’s Night of Champions, Seth’s time as a double champion has been one of the heights of his WWE career.
This has been one of a few times where Seth Rollins has reigned as a dual champion. The former Tyler Black held the Raw Tag Team Championships in 2018 while in possession of the Intercontinental Championship, and then again in 2019 during his time as Universal Champion.
Within a few months of his official WWF debut at Survivor Series 1999, Kurt Angle grew instantly into a megastar at the peak of the Attitude Era. Part of his initial success saw ‘The Olympic Gold Medalist’ holding the company’s European and Intercontinental Championships at the same time, thus being deemed the ‘Eurocontinental’ Champion.
The WWE Hall of Famer first lifted the European Championship by defeating Val Venis on a SmackDown broadcast in February 2000. Angle then added to his title lineage when he ended Chris Jericho’s second of nine Intercontinental Championship reigns at that year’s No Way Out just weeks later.
Kurt Angle didn’t last particularly long with both championships in his possession, famously losing both in one watch at WrestleMania 2000. Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit would leave the sixteenth ‘Showcase of the Immortals’ as the new European and Intercontinental Champion, respectively, meaning ‘The Wrestling Machine’ lasted just 35 days as a double champion.
This wasn’t the only time Kurt Angle celebrated double champion status. In the now-IMPACT Wrestling, he spent a few weeks in the summer of 2007 holding the company’s World Heavyweight, X Division, and World Tag Team Championships, as well as New Japan’s Third Belt Championship.
Prior to his tragic passing two years later, Owen Hart spent a few weeks in the spring of 1997 as a double WWF champion, holding both the Intercontinental and World Tag Team Championships at the same time. Joined by Hart Foundation teammate The British Bulldog for the latter, ‘The Black Hart’ was at the peak of his career during this period.
Although his and Davey Boy Smith’s 246-day reign as World Tag Team Champions was a largely uneventful affair, it was Owen Hart’s reign as Intercontinental Champion that reminded audiences of what he was capable of. Losing the championship to ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin at SummerSlam 1997, the Hart Foundation man inadvertently dropped ‘The Texas Rattlesnake’ with a botched Tombstone Piledriver, breaking Austin’s neck in the process.
Owen Hart, as a result, would begin boasting about the incident. Despite the severity of the injury, the error was worked into Owen’s storyline during this time, as he began wearing an ‘Owen 3:16’ t-shirt in mockery of Austin. This, surprisingly, was an idea of his, rather than an order from management. Bruce Prichard spoke of the infamous shirt during an episode of Something To Wrestle (h/t WrestlingNews.co):
“So I was thinking what if Owen had a shirt that said, ‘I broke Steve Austin’s neck?’. We did that on the back but on the front, we did the ‘Owen 3:16’ just as kinda a take-off on the Austin 3:16 thinking that heel fans or people might gravitate to that because of the Austin 3:16.
I think it was Owen [Hart] who had that idea. It was either Owen or Vince [McMahon] but it came from the idea from wanting to put ‘I broke Austin’s neck’ on a shirt like Greg Valentine’s ‘I broke Wahoo’s leg’.”
When it comes to double champions in pro wrestling, you don’t often associate the feat with WWE’s female Superstars. Their treacherous booking of the division over the years has prevented this but in April 2019, Becky Lynch changed the trajectory of this narrative.
By defeating both Ronda Rousey and Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania 35, ‘Big Time Becks’ won both the Raw and SmackDown Women’s Championships, the former of which she held for a little over a year! In fact, Becky held the red brand’s Women’s Championship for 399 days; just 35 days shy of tying CM Punk’s sensational WWE Championship reign between November 2011 and January 2013.
This included a series of incredible pay-per-view outings vs. Sasha Banks, Asuka, and Lacey Evans. Becky Lynch’s final televised defence against ‘The Sassy Southern Belle’ came in the midst of her and Seth Rollins’ position as the faces of WWE, defeating both Evans and Baron Corbin in a legendary Extreme Rules match at the titular 2019 event.
Although ‘The Man’ only reigned as SmackDown Women’s Champion for a mere 42 days during this period, Lynch’s status as a double champion goes untouched. When you speak of the great double champions from WWE history, Becky Lynch jumps to mind, not for its recency, but for its unmatched tenure and legacy.
The Ultimate Warrior
There’s a slight caveat here. The Ultimate Warrior was a double champion in the World Wrestling Federation, but his reputation as such isn’t commonly referenced. The real-life James Hellwig was forced to relinquish the Intercontinental Championship upon his defeat of Hulk Hogan for the WWF Championship at WrestleMania VI, owing to the company’s bizarre rule which stated no wrestler could hold two championships at any given time.
He was, however, one of the first WWE Superstars in history to be a double champion (Bob Backlund being the official first as the WWF Heavyweight and Tag Team Champion in 1980). The Ultimate Warrior was the reigning Intercontinental Champion heading into the sixth annual WrestleMania, meeting WWF Champion Hulk Hogan in ‘The Ultimate Challenge’. A befitting name, given the match on offer.
Despite his incredibly short tenure as a double champion, The Ultimate Warrior was fine as the WWF Champion; he just wasn’t good enough. Hulk Hogan was crowned champion again a year later at WrestleMania VII, with Sgt. Slaughter serving as a transitional champion between the pair.
Taz may not have been a double champion in WWE, but his inclusion is a must. ‘The Human Suplex Machine’ was so confident in his ability to reign atop the mountain that was Extreme Championship Wrestling that, in the absence of an injured then-ECW World Heavyweight Champion Shane Douglas, he created his own championship; the FTW Heavyweight Championship.
The May 1998 It Ain’t Seinfeld card saw Taz unveil the championship in emphatic fashion:
“And, hey, everybody knows that there’s no way a f*ck from Pittsburgh can beat up a man from Brooklyn. So what I got right here, I am the world champion, and I have the proof. You can call it the Brooklyn Title or the F*ck The World Belt!”
Again, so confident was Taz in his quest for the official ECW World Heavyweight Championship that he voluntarily dropped the title to Sabu when the time was right. Taz pulled an unconscious Sabu on top of him in December 1998, claiming to no longer require the championship. He would ultimately dethrone Shane Douglas for the legitimate championship just a few weeks later.
To achieve double champion status, Taz defeated Sabu in a gruesome Extreme Death Match at Living Dangerously 1999. Although these titles had technically been unified, the now-AEW star maintained possession of both physical championship belts. Taz would spend 252 days as the official ECW World Heavyweight Champion, reigning for the majority of 1999.
‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin
‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin spent a handful of times reigning as a double champion, much to the chagrin of Vince McMahon. The 2009 Hall of Fame inductee held both the Intercontinental and World Tag Team Championships for a few weeks in 1997 just as he suffered a broken neck, before then reigning with the WWF and World Tag Team Championships the following year.
It wasn’t until 2001, however, that the former Ringmaster enjoyed his greatest dual championship reign. Having turned heel at WrestleMania X-Seven to win his fifth WWF Championship, Austin joined up with Triple H to form The Two-Man Power Trip. Together, they became the new WWF World Tag Team Champions at Backlash 2001 by usurping The Brothers of Destruction in a unique Winners Take All contest.
This was hardly the first time that ‘Stone Cold’ had been a double champion, but it was the first time he’d done so while being a gloating double champion. He flexed both championships, not viewing one as being greater than the other, helped by Triple H also holding the Intercontinental Championship.
Although he used the championships almost as an excuse to mask the insecurities of being a heel after spending years as the babyface Attitude Era kingpin, Steve Austin did so while continuing to be the incredible performer he always was. That he succeeded immensely in both the good and bad guy roles is a testament to the magnitude of his star power.
Rob Van Dam
Incredibly, Rob Van Dam has been a four-time double champion in WWE; two of those double championship reigns saw ‘The Whole F’N Show’ retire both the European and Hardcore Championships, doing so in the space of 35 days. These came during Van Dam’s second and third runs, respectively, as WWF Intercontinental Champion.
RVD’s first stint as a double champion came in Extreme Championship Wrestling, though. During his impeccable 700 days as ECW World Television Champion, the former ‘Mr Monday Night’ would capture his second set of ECW World Tag Team Championships alongside Sabu, holding those for 125 of those 700 days, but even this wasn’t Rob Van Dam’s crowning moment as a double champion.
That would come in 2006 following RVD cashing in the Money In The Bank briefcase. Dethroning John Cena for the WWE Championship at 2006’s ECW One Night Stand, Van Dam was then awarded the ECW Championship by Paul Heyman. Again, he didn’t reign particularly long as a double champion, but the image of a legendary ECW grappler pictured with both the WWE and ECW – albeit the WWE branded version – World Championships was truly a sight to behold.
Much like ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels was a double champion during a couple of eras of his career. ‘The Heartbreak Kid’ first achieved the status when he teamed with his Two Dudes With Attitudes partner Diesel to capture the World Tag Team Championships while also in possession of the Intercontinental Championship. During this time, ‘Big Daddy Cool’ also held the WWF Championship.
Perhaps Michaels’ more famous iteration as a double champion came following the Montreal Screwjob. Capturing the WWF Championship from Bret Hart, the D-Generation X man was, at the time, also the European Champion. The secondary championship was never really a key factor for Michaels during this time, but he did dethrone The British Bulldog – Bret’s Hart Foundation pal – to lift the gold.
What makes Michaels’ run as European Champion during this period so memorable is the manner in which he dropped the championship. Clearly not in need of the title now that he was the reigning WWF Champion, ‘The Showstopper’ would voluntarily drop the title to Triple H, intentionally losing the bout to award ‘The Game’ his first European Championship.
Shawn Michaels ultimately dropped the WWF Championship a few months later to 1998 Royal Rumble winner ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin, being forced into early retirement after severely injuring his back at that year’s Rumble event.
No matter how many double champions there are in history, no one will ever top Chris Jericho’s outstanding run with the WWF and World Heavyweight Championships between December 2001 and March 2002.
It’s a title victory impossible to forget. ‘Le Champion’ defeated both The Rock and ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin on the same night at Vengenace 2001 to become the Undisputed WWF Champion. Like Taz, Jericho technically unified these championships but as both physical championship belts remained in existence, he qualifies for double champion status.
Speaking during a live event with Inside The Ropes, Chris Jericho recalled how he initially discovered he’d be leaving the December 2001 pay-per-view as the company’s inaugural Undisputed Champion:
“It’s a huge accomplishment. It’s something that I still hang my hat on every day. Now you would think that because it’s such a big deal I must have known about this for months beforehand. It must have been decided with meticulous storytelling and warning so that I could think of what to do, and you would know all of this stuff. No, that’s not how it happened. You know how I found out that I was going to become the first Undisputed Champion?
I was in catering. I was sitting there minding my own beeswax, and right over there was Vince McMahon and The Undertaker. And Vince started talking loudly so he knew I could hear him but he wasn’t talking to me, and he said ‘Hey Taker, You know how you know the business is going down the toilet? Well we’re putting the belt on Jericho!’
That’s how I found out, six hours before the show with a thinly veiled insult.”
Despite losing the championships to 2002 Royal Rumble victor Triple H just a few months later, Chris Jericho’s victory on 9 December 2001 remains one of the most talked-about and important wins in WWE history.