Despite a rich history of black wrestlers in the WWE, the vast majority of world champions have been white. While I’m not here to dispute the reason behind the lack of black world champions in WWE, the issue seems to have been somewhat addressed in recent years. In the last few years, WWE has allowed black talent to stop conforming to the stereotypes they place upon them, allowing stars like Big E, Bobby Lashley and Keith Lee to become some of the most popular men in WWE.
There have been very few black men to be named as one of the world champions in WWE. So few in fact that this list, at a push, has seven men on it. And that’s if you include Ezekial Jackson. You should never include Ezekial Jackson.
Black WWE Champions
The first ever of the black world champions in WWE was one of the greatest champions full stop. Although he is now more known as the biggest actor in the world, Dwayne Johnson is also a legend of the squared circle.
He was a focal point of the WWE Attitude Era, where he and Stone Cold Steve Austin were two of the biggest stars of all time. His feuds with the Texas Rattlesnake, and Mankind, among others, were some of the most intense feuds of all time.
The Rock was a trash talking, arrogant wrestler who took no shit and gave it back tenfold. The Rock won his first world championship in 1998. He turned heel by joining the Corporation to win the vacant WWF Championship, in a match against Mankind. He would go on to hold that championship a further seven times.
The latest win being in 2013, when he defeated CM Punk for the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble. His win brought many eyes on the product, and the following Wrestlemania had one of the biggest buy rates in history. The Rock would lose the championship to John Cena at that Wrestlemania, facing him for the second year in a row.
First Black WWE Champions
The Rock is one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. He was at the height of his powers during the most popular time in wrestling. He helped turn the tide in the war against WCW, and his catchphrases still resonate with WWE crowds today.
20 years after he quit WWE full time to be an actor in Hollywood, fans are still clamouring for a return of The Rock. Roman Reigns vs the Rock could be his last match. The pair are rumoured to be facing each other at Wrestlemania.
The Rock was the first Black WWE champions. He holds the most world championships of any black person in WWE, with 8.
King Booker (Booker T)
The five time WCW World Heavyweight Champion became the six time World Champion. He was the final WCW Champion, winning his fifth WCW title on the final episode of Nitro. WWE had bought WCW prior to the show, so on that show he won the WCW Championship the title was under the WWE umbrella.
However, even if we choose to exclude the WCW Championship from the conversation, Booker T is still one of the WWE’s black world champions. Booker T entered, and won, the 2006 King of the Ring tournament. He adopted the persona of King Booker, taking the royal gimmick of King of the ring too seriosusly. KIng Booker began to speak in a very poor English accent, and had his wife Sharmell refered to as Queen Sharmell. He also added to his “Royal Court” Sir William Regal and Sir Finlay.
King Booker won the World Heavyweight Championship after winning a Battle Royale on Smackdown to become the number one contender. He went on to defeat Rey Mysterio for the World Heavyweight Championship, ending a lacklustre reign for the luchador. Booker’s reign, however was thoroughly entertainer, with a long term feud against Batista the highlight.
Another highlight was a triple threat match at Cyber Sunday. Booker T faced off with WWE Champion John Cena and ECW Champion the Big Show. As was the gimmick of the show, mans voted for which man’s championship would be on the line. Booker T won the vote, and he defended his Championship against Big Show and John Cena in an entertaining match.
Booker T would eventually lose his championship to Batista at Survivor Series that year. It was his last ever World Championship in WWE. Although he would go on to win the TNA Heavyweight Championship during his run in TNA.
From “That guy who impregnated Mae Young with a hand” to World Heavyweight Champion is not a normal progression for most men. But Mark Henry is not most men. He is the strongest man in the world, who can apparently put a hand in a 90 year old money. I imagine he himself was the first entry into the hall of pain. As he pushed the first of the 5 fully formed fingers up his urethra.
Henry was a former ECW Champion in 2009, but would have to wait another two years before he tasted World Heavyweight Championship gold. His “Hall of pain” persona is what finally catapulted him to the main event. It came over ten years after his WWE debut. Before a match against the Big Show, Show warned Henry not to enter the ring to face him. Henry, being a former worlds strongest man, ignored the warnings, and was beaten down by the Big Show as a response.
Hall of Pain
This awakened something inside Mark Henry. After he returned the attack and the pair cost each other multiple matches, they met in a match at Money in the Bank. Henry destroyed the Big Show, crushing his leg in a chair and injuring the giant. He referred to the beating Big Show received as entering “The Hall of Pain”. Over the coming months, many superstars would enter the Hall of Pain, and the run would catapult the World’s Strongest Man into the Smackdown main event scene. He would have a high profile match with Sheamus at Summerslam, before going on to challenge World Heavyweight Champion Randy Orton at Night of Champions.
Henry’s run was constitent, in the way that he would destroy people as the monster that he always should have been. He was believable and vicous, and it was a run that I think gave him his place in the WWE Hall of fame. He would lose the title to Big Show at TLC that year. However, he attacked the Giant after the match, allowing Daniel Bryan to cash in his Money in the Bank contract to win his first World Heavyweight Championship.
From one man helping Daniel Bryan to win his first title to another defeating him for his first, Kofi Kingston’s journey to the top was not an easy one. He was poised for stardom in 2009, but a “stupid” mistake against Randy Orton curtailed a certain WWE title push for the formerly Jamaican star.
Kofi had several mid card title reigns, as well as a handful of tag team title runs over the years. He was known was the wacky ways he would avoid getting eliminated from the Royal Rumble, but that was about it. A fan favourite who was a solid midcarder.
Until Big E and Xavier Woods had something to say about that.
The New Day
Kofi Kingston was joined by Big E and Xavier Woods to form the faction the New Day. It was the first time Kofi had turned heel in WWE, and backstage people were unsure it would work. It worked. They became the most hated heels in the company, and then became so entertaining people could not help but cheer and turn them face. Eleven tag title reigns later, they had done it all, except for the groups one goal.
Big E and Xavier Woods are both quoted as saying their goal in the New Day was to make Kofi Kingston champion. There had not been a black WWE World Champion since the Rock in 2011, and fans were clamouring for the veteran Kofi to finally be given his due.
The group went through a series of gauntlet matches prior to Wrestlemania 35, to earn Kofi a spot to fight Daniel Bryan for the WWE championship. Bryan was doing his Savour of the Planet gimmick, and called Kofi Kingston a “B+ Player”, mimicking Stephanie McMahon’s line said to him years prior. Kofi had huge adversity to overcome, and fans were begging, pleading with WWE to give Kofi his moment.
At Wrestlemania, Kofi hit Bryan with a trouble in Paradise, and pinned him 1,2,3 in the middle of the ring to win his first and do far only WWE title.
Talent rushed to the ring, and Xavier Woods was visibly crying his eyes out at his friend achieving his dream. It was one of the greatest moments in Wrestlemania history, and a great WWE story to boot. After years of failure, Kofi Kingston finally made his way to the top of WWE.
Oh yeah, then Brock Lesnar squashed him in like 8 seconds to win the title. I will never be over that.
“The Almighty” Bobby Lashley was pegged as a World Champion from the day he set foot in WWE. OVW trainers reportedly had to keep him away from Vince McMahon, should he ever come down to watch the future talents being trained. They knew that if Vince saw him, they would call him up immediately before he was ready, squandering a promising career. Luckily, he did his time in developmental and came up as a star immediately.
Lashley was a two time ECW Champion, and pegged as the next big thing in WWE. He was part of the “Battle of the Billionaires”, aiding Donald Trump in shaving Vince McMahon bald by defeated Umaga at Wrestlemania 23. He moved into a feud with the Chairman, losing and gaining back the ECW Championship from Vince McMahon. However, he was forced to vacate the title after being drafted to Raw, and he set his sights on John Cena and the WWE Championship.
He challenged for the WWE Championship for the first time in a five man championship match. John Cena defended his Championship not only against Lashley, but also King Booker, Mick Foley and Randy Orton. John Cena would win the match, but he was not rid of Lashley yet. Bobby Lashley challenged him again at The Great American Bash, once again with a losing effort. That would be his last act in WWE, leaving to heal an injury before being released six months later.
Return and WWE Championship
It wasn’t until he had a run in TNA with the world title that WWE would bring Lashley back. He first found a great partnership with Lio Rush as his hype man, but the pair were soon split up for no good reason. Lashley then entered a storyline where Rusev (AEW’s Miro) wife, Lana, left Rusev for Bobby Lashley, and eventually married the former ECW Champion.
These storylines really flopped, and Lashley did not pick up steam until MVP became his manager in 2020. Together, they became the Hurt Business, and were joined along the way by Shelton Benjamin and Cedric Alexander.
With the new found confidence with the Hurt Business behind him, a new, more brutal version of Lashley appeared. After a year together, he helped the Miz cash in his Money in the Bank contract on Drew McIntyre. Miz became the Champion, but Lashley would beat him just a week later to win his first WWE Championship. It was a win 15 years overdue, but completely earned by the incredible improvement Lashley had shown since his last stint in WWE.
He would lose the title, ironically, to a cash in to Big E in September that year. Before that, he had title defences against superstars like Drew McIntyre and Bill Goldberg, cementing Bobby Lashley as a dominant force in WWE and one of the best black world champions in WWE history.
It was a long road to World Championship fame for Big E. He debuted in 2013, at Wrestlemania in the tag team championship match. He tagged with Dolph Ziggler against champions Team Hell No, comprising Kane and Daniel Bryan.
Big E and Ziggler would lose the bout, and he would later split from Ziggler and managed AJ Lee. Big E would go out on his own, and later that year would win the Intercontinental Championship. He defeated Curtis Axel at WWE Hell in a Cell to win his first championship since he was in NXT. In NXT, he was the second ever champion, winning the title from Seth Rollins and losing it to Bo Dallas.
His career did not really pick up until the formation of the faction “The New Day”. Along with Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston, the trio became one of the greatest tag teams in WWE history. The trio became a record elven time tag team champions, and broke the record for the longest tag team championship reign in WWE history. They held the titles for 483 days, surpassing the record set by Demolition.
The trio were split up in the 2020 WWE draft, with Big E sent to wrestle on Smackdown Live. Here he would win his second Intercontinental Championship, as well as his first Money in the Bank contract. He cashed his contract in on Monday Night Raw, pinning Bobby Lashley for the WWE Championship on the 13th of September for his first ever World Champion. In doing so, he became the second member of the New Day to win the WWE Championship. Big E is currently in a feud with Universal Champion Roman Reigns, and is currently still the WWE Champion.
Special Mention: ECW Champions
In 2007,the Undertaker won the Royal Rumble. In doing this, he won the right to challenge any world Champion in WWE for the their championship at Wrestlemania. He stood in the ring opposite three men, deciding which title to challenge for.
The three men in the ring were:
- Batista, the World Heavyweight Champion
- John Cena, the WWE Champion
- Bobby Lashley, the ECW Champion
The fact that Bobby Lashley was considered to be an option means that, at that time, the ECW Championship was considered a world championship in WWE. Whilst at some point it did lose this distinction, I will list all the black wrestlers the hold the ECW World Championship in WWE. But, not in the old ECW, as they weren’t under the WWE umbrella at the time.
The title was even referred to as the ECW World Championship when it was held by Rob Van Dam, Big Show, Bobby Lashley and Vince McMahon. It wasn’t until Lashley vacated the championship upon being drafted to Raw, and it was won by Johnny Nitro that they dropped the “World” portion of the name. Once Nitro (later John Morrison) became Champion, they began to refer to it as just the ECW Championship, diminishing it’s World Championship. It also began to be treated more as an afterthought at this point, and would never regain the prestige it had under the likes of RVD and Bobby Lashley.
While some may argue that Bobby Lashley’s first world championship was when he defeated Miz in 2021, they are incorrect. At the time when Bobby Lashley defeated the Big Show for the ECW World Champion, it WAS considered a world championship. As I mentioned before, the Undertaker had the choice to face Bobby Lashley for the ECW title at Wrestlemania, after he won the rumble. It was a World title.
Lashley won the title twice, losing it and winning it back from none other than Vince McMahon. After he beat Umaga at Wrestlemania 23 at the Battle of the Billionaires, he shaved Vince’s head with the help of Donald Trump. Vince, now sporting a do-rag, had it out for Bobby Lashley. He beat Lashley in a three-on-one handicap match, teaming with Shane McMahon and Umaga. Due to the stipulation of the match, Vince McMahon pinned Lashley to become the ECW Champion. Lashley would later win an identical match, before vacating the championship when he drafted to Raw in the 2007 WWE draft.
During his run as the ECW Champion, he could be the considered the third ever of the black world champions in WWE history.
An often forgotten reign by the World’s Strongest Man. As part of the talent trade agreement between ECW and Smackdown, stars like Mark Henry were permitted to appear on ECW. He teamed with Big Daddy V briefly, before being permanently drafted to the third brand in the 2008 supplement draft.
His title win was perhaps the least-ECW title win of all time. At Vengeance: Night of Champions in 2008, he defeated Kane and Big Show in a triple threat match to win the ECW Championship. Shortly after, the classic ECW title belt would be replaced by this silver monstrosity.
The reign would not be a long or particularly memorable one. The run was really a precursor to his Hall of Pain run, which I have already mentioned. He lost the championship to Matt Hardy that same year in September. Henry would try and fail to win the title back, before engaging in feuds with Finlay, Hornswoggle and Evan Bourne. He would be drafted the Raw the following year, ending his ECW Championship pursuit.
Even if we do not consider his ECW title run, Mark Henry would still count as one of WWE’s black world champions. This is due to his alter World Heavyweight Championship reign, as mentioned previously.
Last on the list is the last ever ECW Champion. Going into the final ever episode of ECW, Christian was the ECW Champion. The now called Christian Cage championship reign had been going for some time, but WWE had other plans for their third brand. It was to be replaced by NXT, the awful gameshow version where extremely talented wrestlers, like Bryan Danielson, would be put through ridiculous challenges which had nothing to do with wrestling.
On the final episode of ECW, WWE decided they needed a big shock to end the show. Thus, “Big Zeke”, the former bodyguard for The Brian Kendrick, became the last ECW Champion ever. After the show, the title was quickly retired and never mentioned again. Ezekial Jackson never really amounted to anything in WWE, and aside from a brief stint in Lucha Underground, had a rather unremarkable wrestling career. Despite this fact, he did make it onto a list of black world champions in WWE, so he has that going for him.
What do you think of this list? Should WWE be doing more to give equal opportunites to wrestlers of all races? Will we see more not just black world champions in WWE, but wrestlers of all races?
So, there are all the Black WWE Champions in the companies history. Depending on what you count as a world championship, then there have been a number of Black WWE Champions, some more impressive than the others. If you include the ECW Championship then the list grows even further.
Who do you think is the best Black WWE Champion in WWE history? Who should have become a WWE Champion but never did? Let us know in the comments or click next article to read more!