World Heavyweight Championship (WWE)
|World Heavyweight Championship|
The World Heavyweight Championship title
(September 2002 – present)
|Current champion(s)||Dolph Ziggler|
|Date won||April 8, 2013|
|Date established||September 2, 2002|
The World Heavyweight Championship is a professional wrestling world heavyweight championship owned by WWE. It is one of two top championships in WWE, complementing the WWE Championship. The title is the most recent of five to be represented by the historic Big Gold Belt, first introduced in 1985. It was established under the Raw brand in 2002, after Raw and SmackDown became distinct brands under WWE, and has moved between both brands on different occasions, mainly as a result of the WWE Draft.
WWE introduced its World Heavyweight Championship in 2002, by Eric Bischoff with Triple-H becoming the inaugural champion on September 2. However, its origin is attributed to events that began in the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), which had many different territorial promotions as members. In the late 1980s, World Championship Wrestling (WCW) was a member of the NWA, having been formed by the purchase of Jim Crockett Promotions, which had absorbed many other NWA members, by Turner Broadcasting, which aired WCW's programming. During this time, WCW used the NWA World Heavyweight Championship as its world title. The WCW World Heavyweight Championship was soon established when the recognition was awarded to then-NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair in 1991. In 1993, WCW seceded from the NWA and grew to become a rival promotion to the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), itself a former member of the NWA. The championship belt was re-tooled at that time to reflect the change from NWA to WCW. Both organizations grew into mainstream prominence and were eventually involved in a television ratings war dubbed the Monday Night Wars. Near the end of the ratings war, WCW began a financial decline which culminated in March 2001 with the WWF's purchase of WCW. As a result of the purchase, the WWF acquired the video library of WCW, select talent contracts, and championships among other assets. The slew of former WCW talent joining the WWF roster began "The Invasion" which effectively phased out the WCW name. Following this, the WCW Championship was unified with the WWF Championship, the WWF's world title, at Vengeance 2001 in December. At the event, the WCW title was decommissioned with Chris Jericho becoming the final WCW Champion and the subsequent WWF Champion after defeating The Rock and Steve Austin respectively. The WWF title became the Undisputed Championship in professional wrestling until September 2002 with the creation of this World Heavyweight Championship, spun off from the WWE Undisputed Championship as the successor to the WCW title.
By 2002, the WWF roster had doubled in size due to the overabundance of contracted workers. As a result of the increase, the WWF divided the roster through its two main television programs, Raw and SmackDown, assigning championships and appointing figureheads to each brand. This expansion became known as the Brand Extension. In May 2002, the WWF was renamed to World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). Following these changes, the WWE Undisputed Championship remained unaffiliated with either brand as competitors from both brands could challenge the WWE Undisputed Champion. Following the appointment of Eric Bischoff and Stephanie McMahon as General Managers of the Raw and SmackDown brands respectively, Stephanie McMahon contracted then-WWE Undisputed Champion Brock Lesnar to the SmackDown brand, leaving the Raw brand without a world title. On September 2, after disputing the brand designation of the Undisputed title, Eric Bischoff announced the creation of the World Heavyweight Championship. Bischoff awarded the title to Triple H due to previously being Lesnar's scheduled opponent. Immediately afterwards, the WWE Undisputed Championship returned to being the WWE Championship.
Historical lineage 
Since its creation, the championship's history and reigns are often confused with other titles primarily because the championship does not bear the name of its designated organization. Contributing to this is the common usage of the terms "world championship" or "world heavyweight championship" in general for all acknowledged world titles. This results in allusions often being made to other titles including those of WCW and the NWA, amalgamating the history of this championship with the history of the belt that represents it. As affirmed by WWE, the World Heavyweight Championship is not a continuation of the WCW Championship, but rather its successor by way of the WWE Undisputed Championship, just as the WCW Championship spun off from the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. Due to its relation to both titles, its lineage is connected with the earliest recognized world heavyweight championship.
Brand designation 
Following the events of the WWE Brand Extension, an annual WWE Draft was established, in which select members of the WWE roster are reassigned to a different brand. After three years on the Raw brand, the World Heavyweight Championship switched brands during the 2005 WWE Draft Lottery, in which the WWE Champion John Cena was drafted to Raw while the World Heavyweight Champion Batista was drafted to SmackDown. After the 2008 WWE Draft, the WWE Champion Triple H was drafted to SmackDown, returning the WWE Championship to the SmackDown brand. On June 30, 2008, CM Punk used his Money in the Bank contract for a World Heavyweight Championship match against the World Heavyweight Champion Edge. The holder of the contract is guaranteed a WWE, World Heavyweight, or ECW Championship match at anytime of their choosing. This was done after Punk was drafted to Raw from the ECW brand, a WWE brand established in 2006 from purchased assets of the Extreme Championship Wrestling promotion. Punk defeated Edge to win the World Heavyweight Championship, moving the title to the Raw brand. The title remained on Raw until February 15, 2009 at No Way Out, when Edge won an Elimination Chamber match for the World Heavyweight Championship. However, with Edge being a member of the SmackDown brand at the time, the title was moved to SmackDown. On April 5 at WrestleMania XXV, the title returned to Raw after John Cena, a member of the Raw brand, defeated Edge and The Big Show in a Triple Threat match to win the World Heavyweight Championship. However, less than a month later at Backlash, Edge defeated Cena, bringing the title back to SmackDown. Since then, the title has not changed brands. When Jack Swagger, who was at the time a member of the Raw roster, cashed in his Money in the Bank contract and defeated World Heavyweight Champion Chris Jericho on the April 2, 2010 episode of SmackDown, the belt remained exclusive to the SmackDown brand, and Swagger was transferred to the SmackDown roster. On August 29, 2011, when all WWE programming became "Supershows" featuring the entire WWE roster, the World title (along with every other title in WWE) became available for all wrestlers to compete for, and can be defended on any show.
The inaugural champion was Triple H, and there have been 25 different official champions overall. The longest reigning champion was Batista who held the title from April 3, 2005 to January 13, 2006 for a total of 289 days. Triple H holds the record for longest combined reigns at 617 days. The shortest reigning champion was Big Show who officially held the title for 45 seconds. The youngest champion was Randy Orton, who won the title of the age of 24. The oldest champion is The Undertaker who won at the age of 44. Edge has held the title the most times with seven championship reigns. The current champion is Dolph Ziggler, who is in his second reign, defeating Alberto Del Rio on Raw on April 8, 2013 in East Rutherford, New Jersey following cashing in his Money in the Bank contract.
See also 
- "WWE Entertainment, Inc. acquires WCW from Turner Broadcasting". WWE. 2001-03-23. Retrieved 2008-05-24.
- WCW World Champion - Chris Jericho at WWE.com
- "WWWF/WWF/WWE World Heavyweight Title". Wrestling-titles.com. Retrieved 2007-03-18.
- Clayton, Corey (2007-09-06). "World Heavyweight Championship turns five years old". WWE. Retrieved 2008-12-23.
- "WWE Entertainment To Make Raw and SmackDown Distinct Television Brands".
- "Brock Lesnar Biography at SLAM! Sports". SLAM! Sports: Wrestling. Canadian Online Explorer. Retrieved 2008-12-21. "After the July 22nd edition of Raw, Lesnar defected to Stephanie McMahon's Smackdown brand. A month later, at SummerSlam 2002, Brock Lesnar defeated the Rock to become the WWE Champion, but while the previous title-holders had moved between Raw and Smackdown, Lesnar decided to remain exclusively on Smackdown, forcing Eric Bischoff's Raw brand to create its own World Championship."
- "Vince Mcmahon Biography at SLAM! Sports". SLAM! Sports: Wrestling. Canadian Online Explorer. Retrieved 2008-12-21. "The entire WWE roster was broken up into two separate camps, with some rivalry (especially between future General Managers Eric Bischoff and Stephanie McMahon) occurring."
- Nemer, Paul (2002-09-02). "Full WWE Raw Results - 9/2/02". WrestleView.com. Retrieved 2008-12-20.
- "World Heavyweight Championship reign history". WWE. Retrieved 2009-01-31.
- "World Heavyweight Championship turns five years old". WWE. Retrieved 2009-04-13.
- "WCW World Heavyweight Championship reign history". WWE. Retrieved 2009-01-31.
- Dee, Louie (2007-06-07). "Draft History". WWE. Retrieved 2008-12-21.
- "2005 WWE Draft Lottery". WWE. 2005-06-13. Retrieved 2008-12-21.
- Sitterson, Aubrey (2008-06-23). "A Draft disaster". WWE. Retrieved 2008-12-20.
- Adkins, Greg (2008-06-30). "Opportunity Knocked, Punk Answered". WWE. Retrieved 2008-12-20.
- "WWE SmackDown Roster and Champions". WWE. Retrieved 2009-02-16.
- "John Cena def. Edge & Big Show (New World Heavyweight Champion)". WWE. April 5, 2009. Retrieved May 10, 2012.
- "Superstars of Raw". WWE. Retrieved 2009-04-06.
- "Edge's fifth World Heavyweight Championship reign". WWE. Retrieved 2009-04-27.