COMMENTARY | While most professional wrestlers have to pay their dues before reaching the height of the industry, some become World Heavyweight Champions at a very young age.
In fact, among the major American wrestling promotions, six wrestlers have become World Heavyweight Champion before reaching the age of 25. In some cases, these young wrestlers were already popular due to the success of other family members. Others represented a youth movement in promotions that wanted to distance their product from traditional wrestling organizations. However, some wrestlers handled their early success better than others.
Take a look back at the top five youngest pro wrestling World Heavyweight Champions in history.
5. Randy Orton (World Heavyweight Champion, 24 years old, 2004)
Randy Orton comes from an outstanding pro wrestling lineage that includes his grandfather Bob Orton, Sr., his father Bob Orton, Jr., and his uncle Barry O. Upon entering the WWE, the young Randy Orton shot straight to the top and won the WWE's version of the World Heavyweight Championship. Orton wasn't as successful as a babyface, but he turned heel in 2013 and defeated Daniel Bryan at SummerSlam in a controversial match to become WWE Champion.
4. Kerry Von Erich (NWA Champion, 24 years old, 1984)
As prodigious as Randy Orton's wrestling family tree is, it pales in comparison to Kerry Von Erich's. Rumors persist to this day that Kerry's older brother David was in line to become NWA World Heavyweight Champion before his untimely death. In 1984, Kerry defeated Ric Flair with a backslide at Cowboys Stadium to become NWA Champion. Kerry Von Erich was one month younger than Randy Orton was when each became World Heavyweight Champion.
3. The Giant (WCW Champion, 23 years old, 1995)
When The Giant joined WCW, the wrestling promotion dropped hints the size of leg drops that he was Andre the Giant's son. Given his size, personality, and mic skills, The Giant didn't need this kayfabe push to get over with wrestling fans. Despite his young age, he defeated Hulk Hogan in 1995 to become WCW World Heavyweight Champion. In 2013, The Giant is now The Big Show in WWE and Triple H is bringing him to tears in the latest angle.
2. Chris Candido (NWA Champion, 22 years old, 1994)
The NWA suffered one injustice after another in the early 1990s. First, Ric Flair joined the WWF while carrying the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. Then Shane Douglas threw down the NWA title after winning it in ECW. In 1994, the NWA turned to a young star named Chris Candido to try to rescue the famed wrestling alliance. Like Kerry Von Erich, Candido died far too young. Chris Candido passed away at 33 from complications suffered during surgery.
1. Mikey Whipwreck (ECW Champion, 22 years old, 1995)
While other promotions were resting on their laurels in the mid-1990s, Paul Heyman and ECW burst onto the scene and revolutionized the industry. ECW's stable of young wrestlers was willing to take unimaginable risks to entertain a young, rebellious core of wrestling fans. While Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan were struggling to maintain their spots elsewhere, ECW's Mikey Whipwreck was busy becoming the youngest World Heavyweight Champion in history.
Endnote on Tommy Rich and Brock Lesnar's young title reigns
Tommy Rich is the sixth wrestler I referred to earlier who was World Heavyweight Champion before reaching the age of 25. In 1981, Rich defeated Harley Race to become NWA Champion. However, Orton was five months younger than Rich was at the time each became World Heavyweight Champion, so Rich is out of the top five. Brock Lesnar became WWE Champion when he was 25 years old, so he was even older than Tommy Rich.
Wrestling promotions used in this article
I focused on the World Heavyweight Champions of the AWA, ECW, NWA, TNA, WCW, and WWE for this article.
Patrick Michael lives in New Orleans and has always been a big fan of pro wrestling. Patrick's favorite wrestling promotion was Mid-South Wrestling back in the 1980s. Patrick's favorite wrestling angle of all-time was the NWO and his favorite wrestler is Roddy Piper. Follow Patrick Michael on Twitter at patmichael84.
More from this contributor
- Sports & Recreation
- Randy Orton
- World Heavyweight Champion
- Kerry Von Erich
- Chris Candido
- NWA World Heavyweight Champion