Just to clear this up, this is NOT a list ranking the Greatness of the actual Wrestlers in general, but ONLY about how great they were as NWA World Champions during their title reigns.
Here are the 10 NWA Champions with the greatest reigns (not ranked by length):
10. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat
Ricky Steamboat won the NWA World Heavyweight Championship once, when he defeated Ric Flair at the NWA Chi-Town Rumble 1989 PPV.
He defended the title successfully against Terry Funk & Ric Flair, before losing it back to Flair at NWA WrestleWar 1989.
9. “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes
Dusty Rhodes is a 3 time NWA World Heavyweight Champion, after winning the title in 1979, 1981 and 1986.
He defeated “Handsome” Harley Race at his first two title wins and “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair at his last one.
Rest In Peace Dusty Rhodes
October 12, 1945 – June 11, 2015
8. Gene Kiniski
Gene Kiniski won the NWA World Heavyweight Championship on one ocassion, when he defeated the great Lou Thesz in 1966.
He would lose the belt to Dory Funk Jr. 3 years later in 1969.
Rest In Peace Gene Kiniski
November 23, 1928 – April 14, 2010
7. Pat O’Connor
Pat O’Connor won the NWA World Heavyweight Championship once in 1959 by defeating then champion Dick Hutton.
O’Connor held the belt for 2 and a half years, before losing it to legendary “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers.
Rest In Peace Pat O’Connor
August 22, 1924 – August 16, 1990
6. Terry Funk
Terry Funk won the NWA World Heavyweight Championship on one ocassion, when he defeated Jack Brisco in late 1975.
Funk held the title for a little longer than a year before losing it to Harley Race in early 1977.
Terry is one of 2 Wrestlers on this list, who still wrestled in 2015, and we can not rule out yet another match in 2016…
5. Dory Funk Jr.
Terry’s Brother Dory Funk Jr. won the NWA World Heavyweight Championship once, when he beat Gene Kiniski in 1969, 6 years before his brother won the title.
And just like his brother years later, Dory lost the belt to the legendary Harley Race.
Similar to Terry, Dory Funk Jr (age 74) is also still wrestling in 2015, only he is mostly competing in 6 man Tag matches for AJPW, where he doesn’t have to do much actual ring work.
4. Jack Brisco
Jack Brisco won the NWA World Heavyweight Championship on 2 occasions, once in 1973 and a year later in 1974.
He first defeated Harley Race for the belt, then lost it to AJPW Promoter Giant Baba in Japan, before winning it back from Baba only 7 days later.
A year after his second title win, he lost the belt for good when he was defeated by a young Terry Funk.
3. “Handsome” Harley Race
Harley Race is a former 8 times NWA World Heavyweight Champion, after winning the Championship in 1973, 1977, 1979 (2x), 1980, 1981, 1983 and 1984.
He defeated some great Wrestlers for the title, like Dory Funk Jr., Terry Funk, Dusty Rhodes, Giant Baba (2x), Tommy Rich, and Ric Flair (2x).
Only 1 person held the NWA World Title more often than Harley Race …
2. “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair
… and that person is Ric Flair, who won the NWA World Heavyweight Championship a record of 10 times.
Between 1981 and 1993, Flair defeated opponents like Dusty Rhodes, Harley Race, Kerry Von Erich, Ron Garvin, Ricky Steamboat, Sting, Tatsumi Fujinami, and Barry Windham.
Flair had his last match in 2011, wrestling his archnemesis Sting in TNA.
1. Lou Thesz
Arguably one of the greatest Professional Wrestlers of all time, Lou Thesz is a 5 time NWA World Heavyweight Champion.
Thesz held the title
from 1949 to 1955,
from 1955 to 1956,
from 1956 to 1957,
again in 1957,
and one last time
from 1963 to 1966.
Rest In Peace Lou Thesz
April 24, 1916 – April 28, 2002
To see the Honorable Mentions, who didn’t make the list, make sure to check out the next page.
Others who didn’t make the List:
• “The Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers
• “The King of the Mountain” Jeff Jarrett
• “The Modern Day Warrior” Kerry Von Erich
• “Wildfire” Tommy Rich
• Giant Baba
• “The Beast” Dan Severn
• “The World’s Most Dangerous Man” Ken Shamrock