The Truth About Johnny Saint’s 20-Year World Championship Reign


Hamish Woodward

There is no doubt that Johnny Saint is one of the greatest wrestlers to ever come out of the United Kingdom.

Dubbed “the man of a thousand holds“, he was one of the biggest stars during the golden age of wrestling in Great Britain, appearing regularly alongside Big Daddy and Kendo Nagasaki on ‘World of Sport’ on Saturday afternoon.

Saint is often revered as one of the greatest technical wrestlers of all time, inspiring current-day stars like Bryan Danielson and Zack Sabre Jr in their quests to become technical wrestling masters.

Many people will remember Johnny Saint as a legendary world champion. The English wrestler is purported to have held the World Lightweight Championship for twenty years, winning it in 1976 before vacating the belt in 1996.

However, the truth is not quite as is claimed.

Johnny Saint did not hold the World Lightweight Championship for twenty years

Despite him claiming it in a WWE produced video with William Regal, Johnny Saint did not hold the World Lightweight Championship consecutively for twenty years.

Saint is a former World Champion and did win the coveted title during his career. It was the length of his title reign (or reigns) that has been disputed, and what we are here to clear up.

Rather than holding the championship once for twenty years, Saint actually held the belt ten times – the most reigns of anybody since Yukio Tani became the first champion in 1904.

Saint held the belt for the majority of the twenty years between 1976 and 1996, although he dropped the title numerous times.

Johnny Saint recently joined the WWE as the General Manager of NXT UK.

While the details of the matches, including the dates of many, are lost to time due to the nature of wrestling back then, Cagematch has the details of Saint and the men who he lost his World Championship to.

According to their reports, Johnny Saint won his first World Lightweight Championship against Jim Breaks at the Royal Albert Hall on the 3rd November, 1976 (the match aired on TV on the 13th November, 1976).

Saint won the belt which had been vacated by George Kidd, who had retired as champion earlier that year. The Master of a Thousand Holds held the belt until some time in 1979, where Steve Grey would win the title for the first time in his career.

The belt changed hands soon after (with some reports claiming as early as the following day) when Saint won it back from Grey. He held it for five more years until defeated by Jackie Robinson, although Saint regained his title just one day later.

The belt then traded hands between Saint, Breaks and a wrestler called Jon Cortez between 1984 and 1986. Saint eventually ended up with the Lightweight World Championship for the 9th time before losing it in a match against Mike “Flash” Jordan in Croydon in 1987.

Jordan also defended the title against Saint in a match on World of Sport wrestling, winning by Technical Knockout after pushing Saint from the top rope to the outside, injuring him so badly he could not continue.

This was the penultimate time Johnny Saint would lose the World Championship in a match, as he regained the title from Jordan in a 1988 match in Wolverhampton.

Saint continued to hold the World Lightweight Championship even after the wrestling was taken off ITV by Greg Dyke in 1988, defending it throughout the UK in a number of promotions as wrestling quickly declined.

In 1992, Saint battled against his old nemesis Steve Grey in Bristol, putting the World Championship on the line once again. Grey shockingly won the bout, winning his second Lightweight World title 13 years after his first.

Six months later, Johnny Saint regained the belt (again in Bristol), and eventually retired in 1996 as the champion, vacating the belt.

Ever since Saint vacated the title on October 11th, 1996 the belt has remained inactive. Joint Promotions went under in 1992, while All-Star Wrestling continues as a local promotion, a shell of its former self from the heyday of British wrestling.

So, while Johnny Saint did not hold the Lightweight World Championship for twenty years straight, he was involved with the belt throughout the two decades, and was the champion for most of that time.

His claim is untrue, but pretty damn close.


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