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WWE World Championship

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WWE World Championship
WWE World Championship.jpg
The current WWE World Championship belt with default side plates
Current champion(s) Dean Ambrose
Date won June 19, 2016
Date established April 25, 1963
Promotion WWE
Brand SmackDown
Other name(s)
  • WWWF World Heavyweight Championship
  • WWWF Heavyweight Championship
  • WWF Heavyweight Championship
  • WWF World Heavyweight Championship
  • WWF Championship
  • Undisputed WWF Championship
  • Undisputed WWE Championship
  • WWE Championship
    (2002–2013, 2016)
  • WWE World Heavyweight Championship
  • WWE World Championship

The WWE World Championship is a world heavyweight championship created and promoted by the American professional wrestling promotion WWE on the SmackDown brand. It is one of two world titles in the WWE, complimenting the WWE Universal Championship that was created for the Raw brand. The championship was established by the then-World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) on April 25, 1963 as the WWWF World Heavyweight Championship, following the promotion seceding from the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA). It has undergone many name changes since its inception due to company name changes and title unifications. It is the oldest championship currently active in the WWE, and is presented as being the promotion's most prestigious title, with many matches for the title having headlined pay-per-view (PPV) events – including WWE's signature PPV event WrestleMania.[2] The title is currently held by Dean Ambrose, who is in his first reign.

For the period between 2002 and 2013, the title was one of two world titles in WWE, along with the World Heavyweight Championship, and one of three between 2006 and 2010, with the addition of the ECW Championship. Following the decommissioning of the ECW title, and later the 2013 unification with the World Heavyweight title, it was once again promoted as WWE's sole primary championship. With the introduction of the WWE Universal Championship at SummerSlam in August 2016, it is once again one of two world titles in WWE.



A diagram showing the evolution of various world heavyweight championships
Inaugural champion Buddy Rogers (shown here in the early 60s)

The title was introduced in 1963 with Buddy Rogers becoming the first champion. However, its origin is attributed to events that began in the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), which had various territorial member promotions. In the 1950s, Capitol Wrestling Corporation (CWC) was a member of the NWA and by 1963, CWC executives held a controlling stake over NWA operations. During this time, Buddy Rogers held the NWA World Heavyweight Championship until January 24, when Lou Thesz defeated Rogers for the championship in a one fall match. The CWC disputed the title change claiming the title can only be contested in a traditional two out of three falls match. Following this dispute over the result, CWC seceded from the NWA and became the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF). The WWWF World Heavyweight Championship was then established and awarded to Buddy Rogers with the explanation that he won a fictional tournament in Rio de Janeiro, supposedly defeating Antonino Rocca in the finals.[3] Affiliated with the NWA once again, the WWWF was renamed to World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in 1979, and after conclusively ending its affiliation with the NWA in 1983, the championship became known as the WWF World Heavyweight Championship, which was often abbreviated to WWF Championship, though the longer name appeared on championship belts until 1998.

Two-time champion and WWE Hall of Famer Bruno Sammartino, whose seven year-plus (2,803 day) first reign as champion is the longest in history

In 1991, World Championship Wrestling (WCW), a member of the NWA, established the WCW World Heavyweight Championship to replace the NWA's world title. In 1993, WCW seceded from the NWA and grew to become a rival promotion to the WWF. 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.[4] 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.

Title unification

Further information: Championship unification

In 2001, after Team WWF beat Team Alliance (WCW/ECW) at the Survivor Series of that year, the wrestlers of the Alliance became an essential part of WWF programing. There were two world champions, with The Rock holding the World Championship (the renamed WCW Championship),[5][6] and Steve Austin holding the WWF Championship.

The two championships were unified at Vengeance (2001).[7] At the event, Kurt Angle challenged Austin for the WWF Championship, and Chris Jericho faced The Rock for the (WCW) World Championship. Austin won against Angle, thus retaining the WWF Championship, and Jericho beat The Rock to become the new (WCW) World Champion. Following his victory, Jericho faced Austin and won, thus unifying the WWF and World Championships, and being referred to as the first undisputed champion. Jericho held the championship for four months until he lost it at WrestleMania X8 against Triple H.

Jericho held both the Big Gold belt (representing the "World Championship") and the WWF title belt (representing the WWF Championship) under the single "Undisputed" banner. A single belt was introduced for Triple H in 2002.[8][9][10]

Championship disputes

Triple H went on to hold the title for a month until he lost it at Backlash against Hulk Hogan. The undisputed title continued until the brand extension, which saw wrestlers being drafted to the company's main television programs, Raw and SmackDown!, with championships assigned to and authority figures appointed for each brand.[11] The holder of the Undisputed Championship was the only male wrestler allowed to appear on both shows.

In May 2002, the WWF was renamed to World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and the championship became known as the WWE Undisputed Championship. Following these changes, the championship remained unaffiliated with either brand as competitors from both brands could challenge the champion. Following the appointment of Eric Bischoff and Stephanie McMahon as General Managers of Raw and SmackDown! respectively, Stephanie McMahon convinced then-Undisputed Champion Brock Lesnar to become exclusive to the SmackDown! brand, leaving the Raw brand without a world title.[12][13] In response, on September 2, Bischoff disputed Lesnar's status as champion, stating Lesnar was refusing to defend his title against the designated No. 1 contender, and announced the creation of the World Heavyweight Championship, spun off from the Undisputed title and awarded to No. 1 contender Triple H. Immediately afterward, the WWE Undisputed Championship became known as the WWE Championship. The WWE Championship and World Heavyweight Championship switched brands a number of times before the first brand split ended in 2011.

Two-time champion CM Punk – shown with the "spinner" belt, which was used to represent the title from 2005 to 2013

In July 2011, CM Punk was involved in a storyline where he vowed to leave WWE with the WWE Championship when his contract expired on July 17, 2011, the date of the 2011 Money in the Bank pay-per-view. At the event, Punk succeeded in defeating the defending champion John Cena to win the title, and left the company with the physical championship belt. With the championship vacated by Vince McMahon the following night on Raw, Rey Mysterio won an 8-man Championship Tournament by defeating The Miz in the finals on the July 25 episode of Raw to be crowned the new WWE Champion, only to subsequently lose it later that night to Cena, for the latter's record ninth reign. However, following Cena's win, Punk returned to WWE with his own title belt, thereby creating the presence of two WWE Champions.[14] At the subsequent SummerSlam pay-per-view, Punk defeated Cena to solidify his claim on the title.

Title reunified and second brand split

Following the end of the first brand extension in 2011, both the WWE Champion and World Heavyweight Champion could appear on both Raw and SmackDown. In 2013, the night after Survivor Series, then World Heavyweight Champion John Cena made a challenge to then WWE Champion Randy Orton to determine an undisputed World Champion. Randy Orton defeated John Cena in a TLC match at the TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs pay-per-view on December 15, 2013, to unify the titles. Subsequently, the WWE Championship was renamed WWE World Heavyweight Championship.[15] The unified championship retained the lineage of the WWE Championship; the World Heavyweight Championship was retired.[16] Randy Orton and subsequent champions held both belts until a single belt was introduced to Brock Lesnar in 2014.

For the period between June 27 and July 25, 2016, the WWE World Heavyweight Championship was referred to as the WWE Championship[17] on and across WWE programs.[18][19] In light of the return of the WWE brand extension, WWE Champion Dean Ambrose was drafted to SmackDown on July 19. Ambrose then retained his title at Battleground on July 24 against Raw draftees Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns, making the title exclusive to SmackDown.[20] On the July 25 episode of Raw, to address the lack of a world title for the brand, the WWE Universal Championship was created; Finn Bálor became the inaugural champion at SummerSlam.[21] On July 26, 2016, updated the title information again and renamed the WWE Championship as the WWE World Championship, which was reflected on WWE programming.[22][23]

Brand designation

Following the events of the first WWE brand extension, an annual WWE draft was established in 2002, with Ric Flair and Vince McMahon heading up the Raw and SmackDown brands respectively. Further individuals acted as General Manager of Raw and of SmackDown in subsequent years. Each year, the General Managers participated in a draft lottery in which select members of the WWE roster were assigned to a brand. The revived ECW became a third brand from 2006 to 2010.[24] On August 29, 2011, WWE ended the brand extension and wrestlers (including all champions), were then free to appear on any program.

On May 25, 2016, WWE announced SmackDown would move to Tuesday nights and go live starting July 19 and also receive a unique set of wrestlers and writers, as opposed to Raw, thus reintroducing the brand extension. The draft took place on the live premiere of SmackDown.[25] On the July 18 Raw, SmackDown commissioner Shane McMahon named Daniel Bryan the SmackDown General Manager and Raw commissioner Stephanie McMahon named Mick Foley the Raw General Manager.[26][27]

The following is a list of dates indicating the transitions of the WWE World Championship between the Raw, SmackDown!, and ECW brands.


Championship moved to the Raw brand.

Championship moved to the SmackDown! brand.

Championship moved to the ECW brand.
Date of transition Notes
September 2, 2002 WWE Undisputed Champion Brock Lesnar signs with SmackDown! and the title becomes exclusive to that brand.
The championship was renamed the WWE Championship, and the World Heavyweight Championship was created for Raw.[28]
June 6, 2005 During the 2005 WWE draft lottery, World Heavyweight Champion Batista was drafted to SmackDown! while WWE Champion John Cena was drafted to Raw.[29]
June 11, 2006 Following WWE's planned revival of Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) as a third brand, Rob Van Dam was chosen by ECW Representative Paul Heyman to move to the new brand. At ECW One Night Stand, Van Dam cashed in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE Championship and bring the title to ECW.[30]
July 3, 2006 Edge won the WWE Championship, thereby bringing it back to Raw.[31]
June 23, 2008 WWE Champion Triple H was drafted to SmackDown during the 2008 WWE draft.[31]
April 13, 2009 WWE Champion Triple H brings the championship back to Raw following his drafting to the brand at the 2009 WWE draft.[32]
The championship remained exclusive to Raw until the end of the first brand extension.
August 29, 2011 End of first brand extension.
The WWE Champion and World Heavyweight Champion could appear on both Raw and SmackDown.
The championships were unified in December 2013, subsequently retiring the World Heavyweight Championship.
July 19, 2016 Reintroduction of the brand extension.
WWE Champion Dean Ambrose was drafted to SmackDown Live during the 2016 WWE draft.
The championship was renamed the WWE World Championship,[33] and the WWE Universal Championship was created for Raw.

Championship belt designs

Three-time champion Daniel Bryan – shown with the 2013–2014 version of the championship belt (over his shoulder); once the WWE Championship was unified with the World Heavyweight Championship, the champion also held the Big Gold Belt in conjunction with the WWE title belt from December 2013 to August 2014

Special custom belts have been created to match the characters of certain WWF/E World Champions:

A much larger version of the belt was created for André the Giant before WrestleMania III, although he never wore it as champion.[34] A custom championship belt was designed and constructed for The Rock, which featured his trademark Brahma Bull logo in the center as an answer to Austin's Smoking Skull Belt, but due to creative reasons it never appeared on television.[35]

The Big Gold Belt – which was used for the WCW Championship, World Heavyweight Championship, and other championships – was used in tandem with the WWF Championship belt after Chris Jericho unified the WWF and WCW Championships at Vengeance 2001 to form an undisputed championship. Raw owner Ric Flair presented Triple H with a single Undisputed Championship belt on the April 4, 2002, episode of Raw.[36] Taking inspiration from WCW, this belt's design featured a name plate. The championship later became the WWE Championship when it became disputed again in September 2002. It remained the championship's primary design until John Cena's custom "Spinner" belt was introduced in 2005.

The "spinner" belt's design, which featured a gold and diamond bling-bling style reflecting Cena's hip hop character at the time, became the WWE Championship's primary design from April 11, 2005, until February 18, 2013. The scratch WWE logo could be spun like modern spinner wheels on vehicles; this feature was later removed. The original design featured one side plate that read "WWE Champion" while the other side plate indicated the brand it was designated to. When it was first introduced, it featured a unique side plate design that read "SmackDown", though it was then replaced with one that read "Mon-Nite Raw" when John Cena was drafted to the Raw brand. When the title once again became SmackDown!'s primary championship after Triple H was drafted to the brand in 2008, the Raw plate was replaced with a second "WWE Champion" side plate. Edge had originally designed an entirely different custom belt than the "Rated R Spinner" design he used for his second reign, however, the plans were scrapped due to time constraints. Edge's custom belt replaced the scratch WWE logo with his character's "Rated R Superstar" logo.[37] The Miz later used a custom version of the spinner belt with the WWE scratch logo flipped upside down to look like an "M" to represent himself.

Four-time champion Brock Lesnar with the current WWE World Championship belt

On the February 18, 2013, episode of Raw, The Rock unveiled a new WWE Championship belt. The new title was partially designed by Orange County Choppers of American Chopper fame.[38][39][40] The championship featured a large cut-out of the scratch WWE logo (encrusted with diamonds) inside a large irregular heptagonal plate. The word "CHAMPION" appeared underneath the logo in large letters. On each side was a divider bar and a large plate. By default (mainly when the title was vacant), the side plates consisted of a red globe with the WWE logo underneath a crown. The reigning champions all had their logos onto the side plates as a similarity of the name plate feature.

Following the unification of the WWE and World Heavyweight Championships on December 15, 2013, the Big Gold Belt was used in tandem with the WWE Championship belt to represent the renamed WWE World Heavyweight Championship.[41] On the August 18, 2014, episode of Raw, reigning champion Brock Lesnar, who had won the title the night before at SummerSlam, was presented with a single championship belt; the current design for what is now the WWE World Championship. It has a slightly updated design from the belt introduced by The Rock in 2013 as a result of WWE adapting a new corporate logo originally used for the WWE Network. It features a large center plate dominated by a cut out of the new WWE logo inside an irregular heptagon with the capital words "World Heavyweight Champion" along the bottom edges, in very small print. The large side plates, like the previous design, feature removable round sections, allowing the holder's personal logo to be added to the belt; the default sections feature gold and red world maps with the WWE logo over them, with the only difference being that this new title's original side plates do not feature a crown at the top of the plates. Like with the Undisputed Championship, the Big Gold Belt was retired with the unveiling of the new belt.[42]

In what has become a tradition in recent years, WWE sends a WWE World Championship belt (with custom side plates featuring the team logo) to the winners of the World Series, the Super Bowl, NBA Finals, and Stanley Cup Finals.[43]


The WWE World Championship was the first world championship introduced into the promotion in 1963. The inaugural champion was Buddy Rogers, and there have been 46 different official champions overall and 11 vacancies.[2] The longest reigning champion is Bruno Sammartino, who held the title from May 17, 1963, to January 18, 1971, for a total of 2,803 days (7 years, 8 months, and 1 day); Sammartino also holds the record for longest combined reign at 4,040 days.[44] Andre The Giant is the shortest reigning champion, officially holding the title for 1 minute, 48 seconds.[1] The youngest champion is Brock Lesnar, who won the title at the age of 25, while the oldest champion is Vince McMahon, who won it at the age of 54. John Cena holds the record for most reigns with 12.

The current champion is Dean Ambrose, who is in his first reign. He won the title on June 19, 2016, in Las Vegas, Nevada at Money in the Bank by cashing in his Money in the Bank contract and defeating Seth Rollins, who had just defeated Roman Reigns minutes earlier to win the title himself.


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  30. ^ is WWE Champion here, having won it two nights ago.
  31. ^ a b [1]
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