World heavyweight championship (professional wrestling)
||This article is incomplete. (August 2011)|
In professional wrestling, the world (heavyweight) championship - alternatively, the global, international or universal (heavyweight) championship - is the name given to certain championships by promoters. A wrestler holding a championship with this name is referred to as the world (heavyweight) champion.
The name is usually (but not always) given to the championship that is presented as being the most prestigious of those contested within a promotion.
The name of the promotion is often preceded to the term "world heavyweight championship" as the complete name of the title. Examples of this included the ECW World Heavyweight, WCW World Heavyweight, and WWF World Heavyweight Championship. However, some are also correctly known simply as the "World Heavyweight Championship" without bearing the name of an organization. In some cases, this occurs in organizations where other world heavyweight championships are also competed for, as was the case in the AWA during 1960s and 1970s, the NWA and WCW in the early 1990s, and in WWE today.
Due to the term "world heavyweight championship" being applicable to any World Heavyweight Championship in general or to a specific one in particular, this often creates confusion over which championship is being referenced when the term is used. This is often the case when noting the accomplishments of Ric Flair, who is recognized by WWE as being a 16-time World Heavyweight Champion. The actual reference is made to Flair's accumulated NWA, WCW, and WWE Championship reigns.
Other championships have also been referred to as simply "world titles" despite not being World Heavyweight Championships. These often include championships with various classifications, including stipulation-based or weight class. Examples of such championships include the ROH World Television Championship and NWA World Light Heavyweight Championship.
Promotions can also recognize subordinate titles to world heavyweight championships that are often designated as regional, national, or international championships. Examples of these subordinate titles include the NWA North American Heavyweight Championship, WWE United States Championship, and WWE Intercontinental Championship, which are regional, national, and international subordinates respectively.
||The examples and perspective in this section may not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (December 2012)|
Most of the well-recognized world heavyweight championships today are derived from the first recognized version held by Georg Hackenschmidt in 1905 and Frank Gotch in 1908. Established in 1948, the NWA World Heavyweight Championship of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) directly traces its lineage to these reigns, thus making it the oldest active world title. With many regional territories appearing across the United States, the NWA was formed in 1948 as a governing body in professional wrestling, operating as a talent and brand name franchiser for the territory system. Though promotions that were members of the NWA retained their ownership and recognition of its champions, they were to recognize the NWA World Heavyweight Championship as the premier title over their own. The American Wrestling Association (AWA) was formed in 1960 from NWA territories that began to secede from the NWA during the late 1950s. Unilaterally, the AWA established the AWA World Heavyweight Championship and awarded the recognition to NWA World Heavyweight Champion Pat O'Connor only to later rule that O'Connor had forfeited the title to the AWA's Verne Gagne. The title along with the AWA became inactive in 1990 and was officially decommissioned in 1991. The NWA World Heavyweight Championship has since served as the foundation from which other world titles have originated. Consequently, titles that spun off from the NWA World Heavyweight Championship lineage, are connected to the historical reigns of Georg Hackenschmidt and Frank Gotch as well.
WWE is currently home to two such active world titles; the WWE Championship and World Heavyweight Championship. The WWE Championship was introduced in 1963 when Capitol Wrestling Corporation, the precursor to WWE, seceded from the NWA and became World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF). The WWWF World Heavyweight Championship was thus established as being produced from the NWA title when recognition was awarded to Buddy Rogers after he had lost the NWA World Heavyweight Championship to Lou Thesz. WWWF was renamed to World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in 1979 and the title became known as the WWF World Heavyweight Championship and later simply the WWF Championship.
Similarly, the WCW World Heavyweight Championship of World Championship Wrestling (WCW) was introduced in 1991 and was established when the recognition was awarded to NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair, thus being produced from the NWA title. WCW seceded from the NWA in 1993 and became a rival promotion to the WWF, growing into mainstream prominence along with them and eventually being involved in a television ratings war. Meanwhile, due to WCW's secession from the NWA, WCW opted to recognize Ric Flair's NWA World Heavyweight Championship reign at the time of the secession as the WCW International World Heavyweight Championship, which was then used for a fictitious WCW subsidiary until it was decommissioned in 1994. Ultimately, WCW was bought-out by the WWF, and the WCW World Heavyweight Championship was unified with the WWF Championship in 2001. Chris Jericho become the final WCW Champion and the subsequent WWF Champion, defeating The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin respectively.
The WWF Championship became the Undisputed Championship in professional wrestling with no other prominent world title to dispute the claim until 2002. The WWF was renamed to WWE and its title became the WWE Undisputed Championship while WWE was divided into franchises or "brands" known as Raw and SmackDown, which act as complementing promotions under WWE. The WWE Undisputed Championship was then designated to a single brand, becoming simply the WWE Championship after the World Heavyweight Championship (WHC) was created in 2002, spun off from the WWE Undisputed Championship. The WHC was awarded using the Big Gold Belt that had previously represented the WCW Championship, linking it to the latter as a spiritual successor, as acknowledged by the WWE.
In 2006, WWE became home to another world title that had also spun off from the NWA World Heavyweight Championship; the ECW World Heavyweight Championship. Originally of Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), the ECW World Heavyweight Championship was first introduced in 1992 in Eastern Championship Wrestling, the precursor to ECW. However, it was officially established in 1994 and produced from the NWA title when the promotion seceded from the NWA and became Extreme Championship Wrestling after Shane Douglas relinquished the NWA World Heavyweight Championship immediately after winning it and instead proclaimed himself the ECW World Heavyweight Champion. After ECW closed in 2001, its assets were subsequently purchased by WWE, and in 2006, the franchise was relaunched as a WWE brand complementary to Raw and SmackDown with the title being recommissioned and designated to the brand. The brand and title would continue to operate until 2010.
In Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA), a promotion founded in 2002, NWA titles held a dominant role through an agreement, which allowed the NWA World Heavyweight Championship to be operated within the promotion after TNA's NWA affiliation had ended in 2004. The agreement was abruptly voided in 2007 and Christian Cage was stripped of the title by the NWA. TNA then introduced the TNA World Heavyweight Championship and awarded the recognition to Kurt Angle while also recognizing NWA reigns recorded in TNA. Also founded in 2002, Ring of Honor (ROH) is a promotion that grew from the independent circuit of professional wrestling to become one of the major organizations. Originally introduced as the ROH Championship in July 2002, the title became established as the ROH World Championship a year later in May 2003.
 Examples of active world heavyweight championships
This is a non-exhaustive list of active professional wrestling championships currently or formerly named the "world heavyweight championship" or "world championship" (alternatively, "global", "international" or "universal").
|Championship||Home promotion||Home country||Date Est.||Current champion||Date won||Notes|
|AAA World Heavyweight Championship||AAA||Mexico||September 16, 2007||El Texano, Jr.||December 2, 2012|
|AJPW Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship||AJPW||Japan||April 18, 1989||Suwama||March 17, 2013||The "Triple Crown" refers to the three championships that were unified to create the AJPW Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship: the PWF World Heavyweight Championship, the NWA International Heavyweight Championship, and the NWA United National Championship.|
|CMLL World Heavyweight Championship||CMLL||Mexico||June 9, 1991||El Terrible||January 1, 2012|
|CZW World Heavyweight Championship||CZW||United States||March 27, 1999||Masada||March 10, 2012|
|FIP World Heavyweight Championship||FIP||United States||September 25, 2004||Jon Davis||February 1, 2013|
|GHC Heavyweight Championship||Noah||Japan||April 15, 2001||Kenta||January 27, 2013||In full, the Global Honored Crown Heavyweight Championship.|
|IWA Undisputed World Heavyweight Championship||IWA||United States (Puerto Rico)||October 28, 2000||Bonecrusher||January 29, 2012|
|IWGP Heavyweight Championship||NJPW||Japan||April 29, 1987||Kazuchika Okada||April 7, 2013||In full, the International Wrestling Grand Prix Heavyweight Championship.|
|NWA World Heavyweight Championship||N/A||United States||January 5, 1948||Rob Conway||March 16, 2013||The NWA World Heavyweight Championship has no home promotion; rather, it is contested in promotions that are members of the National Wrestling Alliance. The lineage of the NWA World Heavyweight Championship can be traced to the world heavyweight championship reigns of Georg Hackenschmidt in 1905 and Frank Gotch in 1908, thus making it the oldest active world heavyweight championship. It has served as the foundation from which several other world heavyweight championships have originated.|
|PWG World Championship||PWG||United States||August 30, 2003||Adam Cole||December 1, 2012|
|ROH World Championship||ROH||United States||July 27, 2002||Jay Briscoe||April 5, 2013|
|TNA World Heavyweight Championship||TNA||United States||June 17, 2007||Bully Ray||March 10, 2013|
|UWA World Heavyweight Championship||N/A||Mexico||August 15, 1977||Dr. Wagner, Jr.||June 18, 2004||The UWA World Heavyweight Championship was originally contested in the Universal Wrestling Association, which closed down in 1995. The UWA World Heavyweight Championship therefore no longer has a home promotion but continues to be defended in various other promotions.|
|World Heavyweight Championship||WWE||United States||September 2, 2002||Dolph Ziggler||April 8, 2013||The title was established as having spun off from the WWE Undisputed Championship as the successor to the NWA and WCW World Heavyweight Championship after the Undisputed Championship became exclusive to a single WWE brand. Originally introduced for the Raw brand of WWE, the World Heavyweight Championship moved to the SmackDown brand in 2005 and has since moved between both brands on multiple occasions, mainly as a result of the WWE Draft.|
|WWA World Heavyweight Championship||WWA||Mexico||September 4, 1986||Rayo de Jalisco, Jr.||March 21, 2003|
|WWC Universal Heavyweight Championship||WWC||United States (Puerto Rico)||July 21, 1982||Super Fenix||March 3, 2013||Originally known as the "WWC World Heavyweight Championship". The championship was renamed December 1983 after a bout between WWC World Heavyweight Champion Carlos Colon and NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair billed as being to determine the "Champion of the Universe".|
|WWE Championship||WWE||United States||April 29, 1963||John Cena||April 7, 2013||The title was established as the "WWWF World Heavyweight Championship" when it spun off from the NWA World Heavyweight Championship after Capitol Wrestling Corporation seceded from the NWA and created the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF). The WWWF reaffiliated with the NWA in 1971 but ended its relationship with the organization in 1983 and was renamed to World Wrestling Federation (WWF) while the title became known as the "WWF World Heavyweight Championship". This was changed to "WWF/WWE Undisputed Championship" upon unification with the WCW World Heavyweight Championship in 2001, subsequently abbreviated to simply "WWE Championship" upon the creation of the World Heavyweight Championship.|
|wXw Unified World Wrestling Championship||wXw||Germany||July 1, 2001||Axel Tischer||March 3, 2013||The wXw Unified World Wrestling Championship was as on 5 2010 June wXw World Heavyweight and wXw World Lightweight Championship was unified in a unification match. The history prior to 5 June 2010 is the the wXw World Heavyweight Championship.|
|Zero1 World Heavyweight Championship||ZERO1||Japan||October 26, 2007||Akebono||March 2, 2012|
 Examples of inactive world championships
This is a non-exhaustive list of inactive professional wrestling championships named the "world (heavyweight) championship" (alternatively, "global", "international" or "universal").
|Championship||Home promotion||Home country||Date Est.||Date retired||Notes|
|AWA World Heavyweight Championship||AWA||United States||May 18, 1960||December 12, 1990||The title was established in 1960 when the American Wrestling Association was formed from former National Wrestling Alliance territories. Unilaterally, the AWA awarded the recognition to the National Wrestling Alliance's World Heavyweight Champion Pat O'Connor, declaring him the inaugural champion. The AWA subsequently ruled that the title had been forfeited to the organization's Verne Gagne. The chain of events resulted in the AWA World Heavyweight Championship becoming the first of many world titles to have spun off from the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. The AWA and the title became inactive in 1990 and was officially decommissioned in 1991 with Larry Zbyszko as champion.|
|CWA World Heavyweight Championship||CWA||United States||1979||1981||Not to be confused with the CWA World Heavyweight Championship of the Catch Wrestling Association.|
|CWA World Heavyweight Championship||CWA||Germany||1973||2000||Not to be confused with the CWA World Heavyweight Championship of the Continental Wrestling Association.|
|ECW World Heavyweight Championship||ECW
|United States||April 25, 1992||February 16, 2010||Originally of the Extreme Championship Wrestling promotion, the title spun off from the NWA World Heavyweight Championship when Shane Douglas, after being crowned the NWA champion, rejected the NWA title in favor of the newly declared ECW World Heavyweight Championship. It remained inactive after Extreme Championship Wrestling closed in 2001, but was recommisioned in 2006 by WWE for the ECW brand. The brand and the title would continue to operate until 2010 with Ezekiel Jackson as champion.|
|IWA World Heavyweight Championship||IWA||Japan||1968||1981||Billed as being the first world title out of Japan. Not to be confused with the IWA World Heavyweight Championship of World Championship Wrestling.|
|ICW World Heavyweight Championship||ICW||United States||1978||1984||Abandoned upon the closure of ICW.|
|IWA World Heavyweight Championship||WCW||Australia||1964||1971||Not to be confused with the IWA World Heavyweight Championship of International Pro Wrestling.|
|MWA World Heavyweight Championship||MWA||United States||1940||1948||This early world title was the direct predecessor to the NWA World Heavyweight Championship of the National Wrestling Alliance. The Midwest Wrestling Association joined the newly formed National Wrestling Alliance in October 1948 and the MWA World Heavyweight Champion Orville Brown was then recognized as the first World Heavyweight Champion in the National Wrestling Alliance.|
|USWA Unified World Heavyweight Championship||USWA||United States||1988||1997||It consisted of the AWA World Heavyweight Championship and WCWA World Heavyweight Championship. While the owning promotions of both championships would end their titles' connection with the USWA Unified World Heavyweight title, the USWA continued to recognize the USWA Unified World Heavyweight Championship.|
|WCWA World Heavyweight Championship||WCCW||United States||1966||1990||Originally introduced as the NWA United States Heavyweight Championship of Texas and later renamed the NWA American Heavyweight Championship. It became the WCWA World Heavyweight Championship when World Class Championship Wrestling ended its business relationship with the National Wrestling Alliance in 1986.|
|WCW World Heavyweight Championship||WCW
|United States||January 11, 1991||December 9, 2001||It spun off from the NWA World Heavyweight Championship when NWA Champion Ric Flair was recognized as the first WCW World heavyweight champion in January 1991, during which WCW was in the process of separating from the NWA. Flair held both titles briefly before leaving WCW over a creative dispute in July of that year. The title was unified with the WWF Championship in 2001 with Chris Jericho as champion.|
|WCW International World Heavyweight Championship||WCW||United States||July 18, 1993||June 23, 1994||After WCW and the NWA ended their business relationship, WCW used the Big Gold Belt that had represented the NWA title to create the world heavyweight championship of WCW International, a fictitious subsidiary of World Championship Wrestling. It was unified with the WCW World Heavyweight Championship in 1994.|
|World Heavyweight Championship||NWA||United States||1929||1949||Not to be confused with the NWA World Heavyweight Championship recognised by the National Wrestling Alliance, with which it was unified in 1949.|
|World Heavyweight Championship||N/A||United States||1957||1963||An early world title of Omaha, Nebraska. It was unified with the AWA World Heavyweight Championship in 1963.|
|World Heavyweight Championship||N/A||United States||1946||1952||An early world title of the Pacific Northwest. It was unified with the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in 1952.|
|WWA World Heavyweight Championship||WWA||United States||1957||1968||Not to be confused with the other promotions of the same name.|
|WWA World Heavyweight Championship||WWA||United States||1964||1991||Not to be confused with the other promotions of the same name.|
|WWA World Heavyweight Championship||WWA||Australia||2001||2003||Unified with the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in 2003.|
|XPW World Heavyweight Championship||XPW||United States||1999||2003||Abandoned upon the closure of XPW.|
 See also
- Big Gold Belt
- Championship (professional wrestling)
- List of early world heavyweight champions in professional wrestling
- Undisputed Championship
- World tag team championship
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