Earlier this week, it was announced that Ric Flair would be thrilled if John Cena tied or even surpassed his 16 World Heavyweight Championship wins, the current leading record which the WWE Hall of Famer holds.
The current United States Champion is a 15-time World Heavyweight Champion (three-time World Heavyweight Champion, 12-time WWE Champion), and will become a 16-time World Heavyweight Champion if he wins the WWE World Heavyweight Championship by defeating Seth Rollins at SummerSlam on August 23.
However, many fans have noted Cena may have already broken the Flair record nine years ago, as they believe Flair has only ever won two World Heavyweight Championships. This is because they are only recognising the championships he has won during his time in the WWE.
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How the WWE come up with the sixteen World Heavyweight Championship wins is like this. Flair is an eight-time NWA World Heavyweight Champion, six-time WCW World Heavyweight Champion, and two-time WWF Champion, making the total 16. Only recognising the WWF/E Championships would mean Flair is on a two-time World Heavyweight Champion.
Measuring on this statistic, it would mean Cena broke Flair’s World Heavyweight Championship win record nine years ago when he won the WWE Championship at the 2006 Unforgiven pay-per-view against Edge in a TLC match. This became his third World Heavyweight Championship, surpassing Flair’s two.
So why are the WWE recognising the WWE Hall of Famer’s title reigns if they weren’t won in the WWE? I believe this is out of mutual respect for the companies the WWE bought, as the WWE has bought out the NWA and the WCW.
However, many people feel WWE recognises Flair as a 16-time World Heavyweight Champion to show how great of a wrestler he was. Many young fans would have never seen Flair wrestle, but showing him off as a prestigious wrestler with these titles will give him respect by younger fans.
This has some credibility, as it is still showing respect towards the former companies that became part of the WWE we see today.
Some go as far as saying WWE only recognising the title reigns due to marketing. Once Cena wins title 16, they can produce DVDs of all his wins, t-shirts, mugs, key chains commemorating the occasion to make money. This is something the WWE will do, but I don’t believe it is the reason why the WWE recognises Flair as a 16-time World Heavyweight Champion.