WWE European Championship
|WWE European Championship|
|Promotion||World Wrestling Federation/Entertainment|
|Date established||February 26, 1997|
|Date retired||July 22, 2002|
|Other name(s)||WWF European Championship|
The WWE European Championship was a professional wrestling championship competed for in World Wrestling Entertainment. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, multiple superstars held the European and WWE Intercontinental Championships within short spans of each other, and several held both titles simultaneously—dubbed as "Eurocontinental champions".
Established in 1997 as the "WWF European Championship", the title incurred a brief hiatus in 1999 due to then-champion Shane McMahon's desire to retire an "undefeated champion", before finally being unified with the WWE Intercontinental Championship in 2002. Despite its name, only two holders were actually from Europe: the British Bulldog and William Regal. It became a prominent singles title of the Attitude Era, being held by superstars such as Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho, Owen Hart and Eddie Guerrero, and competed for in the main event of the One Night Only pay-per-view in 1997.
The WWE European Championship was originally known as the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) European Championship. It emerged in 1997 when The British Bulldog became the first Champion after winning a tournament that was held over several shows in Germany, culminating in a finals victory over Owen Hart. Upon winning the belt, Shawn Michaels became the first Grand Slam Champion in WWE. Michaels is the only wrestler to have held both the WWF Championship and the European title at the same time.
After winning the European title, both D'Lo Brown and Al Snow were billed from different parts of Europe each week while champion. During Snow's reign, he and "Head" dressed up as various ethnic stereotypes corresponding to the European location they were billed from, though not always in a politically or geographically correct manner. The belt was retired briefly in April 1999 by then-champion Shane McMahon, who wanted to retire as an "undefeated champion". McMahon reintroduced the championship two months later and gave it to Mideon, who saw the title belt in Shane's travel bag and asked if he could have it.
The British Bulldog was the inaugural champion and has had the longest title reign with 206 days. William Regal and D'Lo Brown both have had the most title reigns, each holding it four times.
The shortest reigns as European Champion were those of Jeff Jarrett and Chris Jericho, who each held the championship for roughly one day. Jeff Jarrett defeated D'Lo Brown for the European Championship (along with the Intercontinental Championship) at Summerslam 1999 (in the opening match, around 8 PM EST) and gave it to Mark Henry the following night on RAW (around 10 PM EST). Chris Jericho defeated Kurt Angle in a triple threat match at Wrestlemania 2000 (by pinning Chris Benoit at around 10 PM EST) and lost the title to Eddie Guerrero on RAW the night after (around 9 PM EST). Jeff Hardy was the youngest champion, at 24.
The term "Eurocontinental Champion" is a portmanteau of European and Intercontinental, used to describe wrestlers who held both titles simultaneously. Three wrestlers were booked to accomplish this feat. The first was D'Lo Brown, who defeated Mideon for the European title at Fully Loaded in 1999 and two nights later at a Monday Night Raw taping, defeated Jeff Jarrett to win the Intercontinental Championship. A month later at SummerSlam Jarrett defeated Brown to win both titles, thus becoming the second Eurocontinental Champion.
On the February 10, 2000 edition of SmackDown! Kurt Angle defeated Val Venis to win the European Championship. At No Way Out seventeen days later Angle defeated Chris Jericho for the Intercontinental Championship and became the third man to hold both the European and Intercontinental Championships simultaneously. Angle held the titles until WrestleMania 2000, when he faced Jericho and Chris Benoit in a two-fall triple threat match for his belts. In a rarity, Angle lost both of his championships without being pinned or forced to submit; Benoit defeated Jericho in the first fall for the Intercontinental Championship and Jericho returned the favor in the second fall to take the European Championship.
The WWE European Championship, as it was next known, was retired in a ladder match on July 22, 2002 when Rob Van Dam (RVD) put his WWE Intercontinental Championship on the line, along with Jeff Hardy's European Championship. By winning that match, RVD merged the two titles together, and continued to hold the Intercontinental Title. RVD's title reign is not listed in the official European title history on WWE's website, but is acknowledged in WWE's official encyclopedia and past superstar profiles. The championship was once again deemed inactive.
- "WWE European Champion official history". World Wrestling Entertainment. Retrieved 2008-09-12.
- WWE.com: "History of the Intercontinental Championship"
- "This Day In History: Foley'S (First) Retirement, Angle Becomes 'Eurocontinental' Champion, Hornswoggle Gets His Name And More". PWInsider.com. 2009-02-27. Retrieved 2012-08-13.
- "William Regal's first reign". World Wrestling Entertainment. Retrieved 2008-09-12.
- "Jeff Hardy's Europen Championship reign". World Wrestling Entertainment. Retrieved 2008-09-21.
- "Rob Van Dam ECW 2006 profile". World Wrestling Entertainment. Archived from the original on 2006-12-16. Retrieved 2011-08-20.
- "Rob Van Dam Alumni profile". World Wrestling Entertainment. Archived from the original on 2007-12-13. Retrieved 2010-09-02.
- Brian Shields, Kevin Sullivan, WWE Encyclopedia: The Definitive Guide to World Wrestling Entertainment, (Dorling Kindersley Publishing, Incorporated, 2009), ISBN 0-7566-4190-X