Who Are the Youngest Pro Wrestling Champions?
One of the things that make professional wrestling so interesting is the fact that, unlike other sports, age is never an issue here. Great wrestlers start off young, make their way to fame and simply carry on performing for as long as they like. However, it takes real skill to win a title at a young age. Not many performers are athletically mature enough for that, though they may be excellent wrestlers. We’ll take a look at some of the performers who managed to get in the game quickly and, with no time to waste, snatched those titles to become the youngest pro wrestling champions ever.
We’ll start off with Randy Orton, a known and beloved WWE superstar who comes from a famous wrestling family; his father Bob Orton Jr. and grandfather Bob Orton Sr. both achieved worldwide success. Randy’s first step towards this career was amateur wrestling he did in high school, before joining the Marine Corps. This life didn’t quite fit him, so he decided to carry on the family tradition, despite his father’s warning that it is a lonesome life on the road. Orton began training in 2000 and signed for the WWF next year, quickly becoming a fan favorite. Furthermore, he joined the immensely popular Evolution stable consisting of Triple H, Ric Flair, and Batista. Orton got the chance for a heavyweight title at SummerSlam in 2004 against the champion Chris Benoit. Randy defeated him and became the youngest champion at only 24.
Big Show (The Giant)
Next up is Paul Wight, better known as Big Show. Seven feet high and weighing 450 pounds, Paul was introduced to the wrestling world of WCW as the son of Andre the Giant; thus his ring name became The Giant. He made quite a debut, appearing at a Halloween Havoc against Hulk Hogan. Due to some irregularities, including Jimmy Hart’s intervention, Hogan was disqualified, making the Giant WCW’s world heavyweight champion. Although he was stripped of the title a week later, he is still one of the youngest wrestlers to ever hold a title, since he was only 23 at the time. In 1999, he joined the WWE and continued making history.
The next name on our list belongs to the late Chris Candido, a New Jersey-born wrestling star who competed in numerous promotions like NJPW, TNA Wrestling, WCW, and even for WWF for a while. Candido began training when he was only 14, so it is only natural that he would find a place on our list. He made his debut for Larry Sharpe’s WWA and later joined the Eastern Championship Wrestling, forming “The Suicide Blonds” stable. In 1994, Chris got a chance for a title in the tournament finals against Tracy Smothers. He won and became one of the youngest NWA heavyweight champions ever. He was 22 at the time.
Mikey Whipwreck is the true personification of one’s love for pro wrestling. Before turning pro, Mikey worked as a part of the ring crew, setting everything up and making sure the show goes as planned. He did this just so he could get close to this amazing sport, without pay as long as he could have the ring for himself and his friends before and after the match. He made his debut in Extreme Championship Wrestling and became known for his passive approach where he would often take as many hits as possible before making a move. This wearied down the opponent and let Mikey take over. As he became more and more skillful, new opportunities arose and, in 1995, he was put up against The Sandman in a ladder match for ECW world title. Whipwreck won and, being 22 years old at the time, joined the ranks of the youngest champions ever.
Now comes Rey Mysterio Jr, although he is not really a junior anymore. Similarly to Candido, Rey began training when he was 14 years old and his coach was his uncle, Rey Mysterio Sr. Born in Mexico, Mysterio trained in accordance with the Lucha libre tradition, famous for its aerial maneuvers. He performed for a number of promotions before signing for World Championship Wrestling where he obtained his first title during WCW Monday Nitro. He took on Dean Malenko and eventually won his first cruiserweight championship title. Though only 21, he managed to defend the title for three months against various attacks from Ultimate Dragon, Malenko again and others.
Jose Saldana (Essa Rios)
Finally, there’s Jose Saldana. This Mexican wrestler gained recognition performing for various promotions both in Mexico and USA. While he was in WWF, he went by the name of Essa Rios, Papi Chulo, as well as Mr. Aguila. Only 18 years old when he joined WWF, Saldana managed to stir up some things and in 2000, three years later, got a shot for the light heavyweight championship title in a fight against Gillberg. It could be that Saldana was just in the right place at the right time, as he managed to defeat Gillberg in less than a minute, but lost the title a week later to Dean Malenko. Either way, the fact remains that being 21 years old at the time, Saldana (actually Essa Rios) got to be the youngest wrestler ever to hold a championship title.
We’ve tried to gather the most memorable wrestlers from the group, although there are probably more of them who could be here. Who else do you feel belongs on the list?