WCW World Heavyweight Championship
|WCW World Heavyweight Championship|
Diamond Dallas Page as WCW World Heavyweight Champion in 1999.
|Promotion||World Championship Wrestling (January 11, 1991 – March 26, 2001)
World Wrestling Federation (March 26, 2001 – December 9, 2001)
|Date established||January 11, 1991|
|Date retired||December 9, 2001 (unified with the WWF Championship)|
The World Championship Wrestling (WCW) World Heavyweight Championship was a professional wrestling world heavyweight championship in World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). It existed within WCW between 1991 and 2001. Following the acquisition of WCW by World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, Inc. in March 2001, it became one of two world titles in the WWF, with its name being immediately abbreviated to the WCW Championship and finally, the World Championship in November. It continued to complement the WWF Championship until the following month, when both titles were unified. Nine months later, on September 2, 2002, its physical belt design, known historically as the Big Gold Belt, was restored by World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE—formerly WWF) to represent the World Heavyweight Championship, with no company name prefixed.
In December 1988, Turner Broadcasting purchased Jim Crockett Promotions, which had promoted under the name "NWA World Championship Wrestling". While the promotion remained a member of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), the use of the NWA name was gradually reduced on televised programming, in favor of the name "World Championship Wrestling", or "WCW". On January 11, 1991, Ric Flair defeated Sting to win the NWA World Heavyweight Championship and was recognized as the WCW World Heavyweight Champion. The new championship was not initially represented by its own title belt, and WCW continued to use the NWA World Heavyweight Championship title belt. Because of this, WCW regularly claimed the NWA World Championship lineage for its own championship.
Big Gold Belt 
On July 1, 1991, a creative disagreement with WCW Executive Vice President Jim Herd led to Flair leaving WCW for Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Federation. When Herd refused to return Flair's $25,000 deposit (that was left with the NWA), Flair kept the "Big Gold Belt" that had represented the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. WCW was forced to use a belt owned by Dusty Rhodes from the defunct Championship Wrestling from Florida with a gold-colored plate tacked on with the words "WCW World Heavyweight Champion", which was awarded to Lex Luger after he defeated Barry Windham in a cage match for the vacant championship at 1991's Great American Bash. Shortly after the Bash, a new, original WCW World Heavyweight Championship belt was created.
In late 1991, The Big Gold Belt was used for the revived NWA World Heavyweight Championship, a co-promotional gimmick between WCW and New Japan Pro Wrestling. In September 1993, WCW left the NWA for good over a dispute regarding the other NWA members demanding that NWA world champion be available for booking, and due to the use of the NWA World Heavyweight Championship on syndicated programming recorded months in advance. By fall 1993, Rick Rude was appearing at the "Disney Tapings" as the NWA World Heavyweight Champion, despite the fact that in regards to the storyline, Flair, who had returned to WCW and regained the NWA title, was still champion. After leaving the NWA, WCW kept the Big Gold Belt, and it was renamed the WCW International World Heavyweight Championship.
At Starrcade '93, Flair won the WCW World Heavyweight Championship, by defeating Vader. WCW decided to unify the WCW World Heavyweight Championship (represented by the new belt) and International Championship (represented by the "Big Gold Belt"), by having Flair wrestle Sting in June 1994. Flair won and the WCW International Heavyweight Championship belt replaced the old WCW World Heavyweight Championship belt, while the International Heavyweight Championship itself was dropped.
During Hollywood Hogan's 1996-1997 run as champion, as part of the New World Order story line, the title was spray painted with the NWO initials and referred to by nWo members as the "nWo" World Heavyweight Championship.
Acquisition by the WWF 
In March 2001, the World Wrestling Federation purchased World Championship Wrestling. Soon after, "The Invasion" took place and four of WCW's championships were defended on WWF programming including the WCW World Heavyweight Championship, which became known as the "WCW Championship". The WWF carried over the title, along with the United States Heavyweight Championship, Cruiserweight Championship, and the WCW Tag Team Championship.
After the "Invasion" concluded at Survivor Series in 2001, the title was rebranded as the "World Championship". The title was then unified with the WWF Championship at Vengeance where Chris Jericho defeated The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin to win the unbranded World Championship and the WWF Championship respectively. As a result, Chris Jericho was recognized as the last WCW World Champion, and he became the first Undisputed Champion in the World Wrestling Federation.
See also 
- WCW World Champion - Chris Jericho at WWE.com
- WCW World Heavyweight Championship history, from Wrestling-Titles.com
- "WWWF/WWF/WWE World Heavyweight Title". Wrestling-titles.com. Retrieved 2007-03-18.
- WWE.com - WCW World Championship history
- Wrestling-Titles.com: WCW World Heavyweight Title History
- Wrestling Information Archive - WCW Championship history (unofficial)[dead link]