WCW International World Heavyweight Championship
|WCW International World Heavyweight Championship|
The Big Gold Belt represented the WCW International World Heavyweight Championship from 1993–94.
|Date established||September 1993|
|Date retired||June 23, 1994|
The WCW International World Heavyweight Championship is a defunct professional wrestling world heavyweight championship that was contested in World Championship Wrestling (WCW) between 1993 and 1994. Although it was owned and controlled by WCW, the championship was presented as the highest accolade of "WCW International", a fictitious subsidiary. The championship was contested at WCW events and at several events in Japan under the aegis of New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW).
Represented by the historic Big Gold Belt, the championship originated as the world heavyweight title of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), an umbrella organization of wrestling promotions from which WCW withdrew in 1993. At that time, WCW was responsible for deciding which of their wrestlers would hold the NWA championship. When the NWA withdrew WCW's control of the booking of their championship, a fictitious alternative was created to promote the use of the title belt.
Over the title's history, eight title reigns were shared between four wrestlers. Rick Rude held the belt the most often, with three title reigns. His reigns also comprise the longest total time as champion with 202 cumulative days. Hiroshi Hase is the champion with the shortest reign of eight days; Rude holds the longest individual reign of 178 days. Ric Flair was the first and last titleholder.
The WCW International World Heavyweight Championship has its origins in the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, the principal championship of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA). The NWA was a syndicate of wrestling promotions who would book an overall champion. In 1991, the NWA World Heavyweight Champion was Ric Flair, who held the title when he wrestled for WCW. Flair was simultaneously considered the WCW World Heavyweight Champion; he was stripped of both titles because he left to work for rival company World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now WWE). Lex Luger was chosen as the next holder of the WCW World Heavyweight Championship, which would remain the promotion's primary title throughout WCW's existence until the company merged with WWF; Masahiro Chono was chosen to win a tournament designed to crown the next holder of the NWA championship. As a result of WCW withdrawing its membership of the NWA in September 1993, the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, now once again held by Flair, no longer carried the NWA name, but WCW retained the physical belt they had used to represent the title. This belt became the WCW International Heavyweight Championship. The NWA then appointed Eastern Championship Wrestling as the promotion in charge of booking an NWA champion.
Ric Flair was the first WCW International World Heavyweight Champion; he had defeated Barry Windham for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in July 1993 and held it at the point when WCW withdrew from the NWA two months later. For a brief time following WCW's withdrawal, the championship was not officially named; it was referred to as the "Big Gold Belt" until WCW management renamed it the WCW International World Heavyweight Championship. This was not intended to be the "International World Heavyweight Championship" contested by WCW, but rather the "World Heavyweight Championship" of a fictitous promotion named WCW International.
Flair was then booked to lose the championship to Rick Rude in the 1993 Fall Brawl event. Rude engaged in a promotional tour in Japan with the championship; WCW held a partnership with Japanese promotion New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW). Rude lost the championship briefly to NJPW wrestler Hiroshi Hase as part of this arrangement, regaining it after eight days to set up a loss to Sting. An angle in which Rude defeated Sting for the championship in another NJPW-organized bout was then set up. The finish was arranged to involve Rude illegally using the title belt as a weapon to score the victory, causing officials to declare the win null and void. Sting refused to accept the title without "winning" it back. This match caused a back injury to Rude, which ended his in-ring career.
A match for the then-vacant championship was held at the 1994 Slamboree event, in which Sting was booked to defeat Big Van Vader. The title last changed hands at the Clash of the Champions XXVII event in 1994. The angle matched Sting against Flair, who was now the WCW World Heavyweight Champion, in a championship unification match as a way of eliminate the WCW International title. Flair was booked to win the match, unifying both championships and ending the existence of the WCW International World Heavyweight Championship.
|No.||The overall championship reign|
|Reign||The reign number for the specific wrestler listed.|
|Event||The event in which the championship changed hands|
|—||Used for vacated reigns to avoid counting it as an official reign|
|1||Ric Flair||1||July 18, 1993||63||Biloxi, Mississippi||Beach Blast 1993||
Initially known as the NWA World Heavyweight Championship when won. Championship belt began to be referred to as "WCW International World Championship" instead during this reign.
|2||Rick Rude||1||September 19, 1993||178||Houston, Texas||Fall Brawl 1993|||
|3||Hiroshi Hase||1||March 16, 1994||8||Tokyo, Japan||House show|||
|4||Rick Rude||2||March 24, 1994||24||Kyoto, Japan||House show|||
|5||Sting||1||April 17, 1994||14||Rosemont, Illinois||Spring Stampede 1994|||
|6||Rick Rude||3||May 1, 1994||<1||Fukuoka, Japan||Wrestling Dontaku 1994|||
|—||Vacated||—||May 1, 1994||—||—||—||
Rude's victory is reversed due to use of the belt as a weapon. Sting refuses the title, leaving it vacant.
|7||Sting||2||May 22, 1994||32||Philadelphia, Pennsylvania||Slamboree 1994||
Defeated Big Van Vader for the vacant championship.
|8||Ric Flair||2||June 23, 1994||<1||North Charleston, South Carolina||Clash of the Champions XXVII|||
List of combined reigns
|Rank||Champion||No. of reigns||Combined days|
- Lawler 2002, p. 113.
- "Slam! Sports – Wrestling – Ric Flair". Canoe.ca. Retrieved October 15, 2015.
- "WCW World Heavyweight Title". Wrestling-Titles.com. Retrieved October 15, 2015.
- "NWA World Heavyweight Title". Wrestling-Titles.com. Retrieved October 15, 2015.
- Reynolds & Baer 2003, pp. 136–137.
- Woodward, Buck (January 16, 2009). "PWInsider Q&A: WCW International World Title, Maryse, MVP and More". Pro Wrestling Insider. Retrieved October 16, 2015.
- Molinaro, John F. "History of New Japan at the Fukuoka Dome". Canoe.ca. Retrieved October 16, 2015.
- Shields 2010, p. 110.
- "'WCW International' World Heavyweight Title". Wrestling-Titles.com. Retrieved October 16, 2015.
- Lawler, Jerry (2002). It's Good to be the King... Sometimes. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0743475577.
- Reynolds, R. D.; Baer, Randy (2003). WrestleCrap: The Very Worst of Pro Wrestling. ECW Press. ISBN 1550225847.
- Shields, Brian (2010). Main Event: WWE in the Raging 80s. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 145160467X.