AWA World Heavyweight Championship
|AWA World Heavyweight Championship|
|Date established||May 18, 1960|
|Date retired||December 12, 1990|
The AWA World Heavyweight Championship was a professional wrestling world heavyweight championship and the highest ranked championship in the defunct American Wrestling Association (AWA). All AWA trademarks, including the AWA World Heavyweight Championship, are now owned by WWE. The championship was generally contested in professional wrestling matches, in which participants execute worked finishes rather than contend in direct competition.
The AWA World Heavyweight Championship was established in May 1960, after the AWA became a separate promotion from the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA); the AWA had previously been a part of the NWA as its Minneapolis, Minnesota-area territory. The first champion was Pat O'Connor, who was recognized as the first champion upon the AWA's secession from the NWA as O'Connor held the NWA World Heavyweight Championship as well, which he won on January 9, 1959. The creation of the AWA World Heavyweight Championship along with the NWA World Heavyweight Championship would pave the way for the creation of many other world championships in other wrestling promotions. AWA Wrestling Association and the title became inactive in late 1990 and the organization officially closed down in August 1991 with the title also being decommissioned. The championship is featured in the video games WWE '13 as a downloadable title and as an unlockable title in WWE 2K14, WWE 2K15, and WWE 2K16.
In 1996, Dale Gagner and his associate Jonnie Stewart, former AWA employees, began using the AWA name in the state of Minnesota and formed a promotion known as AWA Superstars of Wrestling, infringing on the AWA name. The promotion also created their own version of the AWA World Heavyweight Championship. In April 2007, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) filed a lawsuit against Dale Gagner citing trademark infringement, as WWE owned all American Wrestling Association properties due to their purchase after the AWA's closure, including the AWA World Heavyweight Championship. In October 2008, the court ruled in favor of WWE. The court ruling prohibits Gagner from exploiting or trading on the AWA name or any other derivatives.
|†||Indicates the title changes not recognized by the AWA|
|1||Pat O'Connor||1||May 18, 1960||90||N/A||N/A||Held the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, which he won on January 9, 1959, in St. Louis, Missouri; recognized as the first AWA World Champion in May 1960, but was given 90 days to defend the title against Verne Gagne or be stripped of the title|||
|2||Verne Gagne||1||August 16, 1960||329||N/A||N/A||Awarded after O'Connor failed to defend the title|||
|3||Gene Kiniski||1||July 11, 1961||28||Minneapolis, Minnesota||Live event|||
|4||Verne Gagne||2||August 8, 1961||154||Minneapolis, Minnesota||Live event|||
|5||Mr. M||1||January 9, 1962||224||Minneapolis, Minnesota||Live event|||
|6||Verne Gagne||3||August 21, 1962||322||Minneapolis, Minnesota||Live event|||
|7||The Crusher||1||July 9, 1963||11||Minneapolis, Minnesota||Live event||Also won Omaha version of World Heavyweight Championship from Verne Gagne on February 15, 1963, in Omaha, Nebraska|||
|8||Verne Gagne||4||July 20, 1963||7||Minneapolis, Minnesota||Live event||Won both the AWA title and the Omaha title|||
|9||Fritz Von Erich||1||July 27, 1963||12||Omaha, Nebraska||Live event||Won both the AWA title and the Omaha title|||
|10||Verne Gagne||5||August 8, 1963||100||Amarillo, Texas||Live event||Von Erich's Omaha title was not at stake. On September 7, 1963, Gagne defeated Von Erich in Omaha in a title unification match and the AWA World Heavyweight Championship becomes the surviving title|||
|11||The Crusher||2||November 16, 1963||28||Saint Paul, Minnesota||Live event|||
|12||Verne Gagne||6||December 14, 1963||140||Minneapolis, Minnesota||Live event|||
|13||Mad Dog Vachon||
|May 2, 1964||14||Omaha, Nebraska||Live event|||
|14||Verne Gagne||7||May 16, 1964||157||Omaha, Nebraska||Live event|||
|15||Mad Dog Vachon||2||October 20, 1964||207||Minneapolis, Minnesota||Live event|||
|16||Mighty Igor Vodic||1||May 15, 1965||7||Omaha, Nebraska||Live event|||
|17||Mad Dog Vachon||3||May 22, 1965||91||Omaha, Nebraska||Live event|||
|18||The Crusher||3||August 21, 1965||83||Saint Paul, Minnesota||Live event|||
|19||Mad Dog Vachon||4||November 12, 1965||365 (57)†||Denver, Colorado||Live event|||
|—||Mr. Wrestling||1†||January 8, 1966||6||Omaha, Nebraska||Live event|||
|—||Mad Dog Vachon||5†||January 14, 1966||302||Omaha, Nebraska||Live event||AWA president Stanley Blackburn reviews the match from January 8, 1966, and declares it "no contest" on January 14, 1966, since Woods's legs are on the rope while pinning Vachon during the final fall later defeats Woods|||
|20||Dick the Bruiser||1||November 12, 1966||7||Omaha, Nebraska||Live event|||
|21||Mad Dog Vachon||5(6)||November 19, 1966||99||Omaha, Nebraska||Live event|||
|22||Verne Gagne||8||February 26, 1967||538||Saint Paul, Minnesota||Live event|||
|23||Dr. X||1||August 17, 1968||14||Bloomington, Minnesota||Live event|||
|24||Verne Gagne||9||August 31, 1968||2,625||Minneapolis, Minnesota||Live event|||
|25||Nick Bockwinkel||1||November 8, 1975||1,714||Saint Paul, Minnesota||Live event||Wrestled WWF Heavyweight Champion Bob Backlund to a double countout on March 25, 1979, in Toronto, Ontario|||
|26||Verne Gagne||10||July 18, 1980||305||Chicago, Illinois||Live event||Gagne retired from active wrestling while still the champion|||
|27||Nick Bockwinkel||2||May 19, 1981||467 (334)†||N/A||N/A||Awarded the title when Gagne retired|||
|—||Hulk Hogan||1†||April 18, 1982||6||Saint Paul, Minnesota||Live event||Defeats Bockwinkel, with both parties using a foreign object during the match, and is declared by the referee as champion|||
|—||Nick Bockwinkel||3†||April 24, 1982||127||N/A||N/A||Awarded back by AWA president Stanley Blackburn due to the involvement of a foreign object during the match|||
|28||Otto Wanz||1||August 29, 1982||41||Saint Paul, Minnesota||Live event|||
|29||Nick Bockwinkel||3(4)||October 9, 1982||501 (79)†||Chicago, Illinois||Live event|||
|—||Jerry The King Lawler||1†||December 27, 1982||0||Memphis, Tennessee||Live event||Held up afterwards|||
|—||Vacated||—||—||—||Memphis, Tennessee||Live event|||
|—||Nick Bockwinkel||5†||January 10, 1983||408||Memphis, Tennessee||Live event||Defeats Lawler in rematch|||
|30||Jumbo Tsuruta||1||February 22, 1984||81||Tokyo, Japan||Live event|||
|31||Rick Martel||1||May 13, 1984||595||Saint Paul, Minnesota||Live event||Wrestled NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair to a double countout on October 2, 1985, in Tokyo, Japan|||
|32||Stan Hansen||1||December 29, 1985||181||East Rutherford, New Jersey||Live event||Hansen took the championship belt and defended it on All Japan Pro Wrestling's cards in July 1986|||
|33||Nick Bockwinkel||4(6)||June 28, 1986||308||Denver, Colorado||Live event||Awarded when Hansen left the AWA|||
|34||Curt Hennig||1||May 2, 1987||373||Daly City, California||SuperClash 2||Title held up immediately after the match due to controversy over interference by Larry Zbyszko on Hennig's behalf, but the title is returned to Hennig days later after the AWA Championship Committee rules that there was no evidence of interference|||
|35||Jerry The King Lawler||1(2)||May 9, 1988||256||Memphis, Tennessee||Live event||Jackie Fargo was the special referee after getting more votes in a national telephone poll than Hennig's father, Larry "The Axe" Hennig. Lawler later defeated Kerry Von Erich on December 13, 1988, in Chicago to win the WCCW World Heavyweight Championship, and become the first Unified AWA World Heavyweight Champion.|||
|—||Vacated||—||January 20, 1989||—||N/A||N/A||Lawler was stripped of the title after the Continental Wrestling Association (CWA) split from the AWA|||
|36||Larry Zbyszko||1||February 7, 1989||368||Saint Paul, Minnesota||Live event||Zbyszko won a battle royal, last eliminating Tom Zenk|||
|37||Mr. Saito||1||February 10, 1990||57||Tokyo, Japan||Live event|||
|38||Larry Zbyszko||2||April 8, 1990||248||Saint Paul, Minnesota||SuperClash 4|||
|—||Vacated||—||December 12, 1990||—||N/A||N/A||Title stripped when Zbyszko left the inactive AWA for World Championship Wrestling (WCW). Official kayfabe reason was that Zbyszko refused to defend the title on a tour of Japan. Pro Wrestling Illustrated withdrew recognition of world championship status in January 1991. The vacant title was from this point recognised only as the AWA Championship.|
|—||Retired||—||1991||—||N/A||N/A||The AWA closed in 1991|||
|2||Nick Bockwinkel||4 (6)||2,990|
|3||Mad Dog Vachon||5 (6)||776|
|7||Jerry Lawler||1 (2)||256|
|17||Fritz Von Erich||1||12|
|18||Dick the Bruiser||1||7|
|Mighty Igor Vodic||1||7|
- List of early world heavyweight champions in professional wrestling
- World Heavyweight Championship (Omaha)
- USWA Unified World Heavyweight Championship
- WSL World Heavyweight Championship
- Zero1 World Heavyweight Championship
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