Re: Bruno Sanmartino's 8 year run with the WWWF title, historians assemble!
WWE tried with Brock Lesnar with the Universal championship. than members of the fanbase complained since he wasn’t on WWE programming reglarly, so it was interrupted with run by Reigns and Rollins, even though the run was designed to give some credibility back to the company.
WWE also tried with CM Punk with the WWE Championship, whose reign the fans were far more receptive to, and he was there pretty much every week. But he was usually placed in the midcard for title defenses. And then he lost the belt to the Rock, because Rock had to job to Cena at WM29, because Cena always needs his win back. Punk would have carried it to Wrestlemania otherwise.
The closest was to Sammartino in recent memory is Okada in New Japan. Two straight years (June 2016-June 2018) as IWGP Heavyweight Champion, plus a previous 9 month reign that started in July 2015 (that was briefly interrupted for 2 months by Naito). So nearly 3 years as champion, which is quite a feat in this day and age.
It’s possible to have long reigns today, but the fans have had to relarn that over the last few years after years of hotshotting in the Attitude Era and even WCW 2000. Even then, they don’t have the patience that the fans of Sammartino’s time had.