WWE World Heavyweight Championship
|WWE World Heavyweight Championship|
The current WWE World Heavyweight Championship belt with default side plates
|Date won||November 22, 2015|
|Date established||April 25, 1963|
The WWE World Heavyweight Championship is a world heavyweight championship created and promoted by the American professional wrestling promotion WWE. The championship was established by the then-World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) on April 29, 1963 as the WWWF World Heavyweight Championship, following the promotion seceding from the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA). The title is currently held by Sheamus, who is in his third reign.
It is the oldest championship currently active in the promotion, and is presented as being the most prestigious title in WWE, with many matches for the title having headlined pay-per-view (PPV) events – including WWE's signature PPV event WrestleMania.
For the period between 2002–2013, the title was one of three world titles in WWE, along with the World Heavyweight Championship and ECW Championship (2006−2010). But following the decommissioning of the ECW title, and unification with the World Heavyweight title, it is once again promoted as WWE's sole primary championship.
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 would dispute the title change claiming the title can only be contested in the 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 following an apocryphal tournament in Rio de Janeiro, defeating Antonino Rocca in the finals. 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 and later simply as the WWF Championship when Stone Cold Steve Austin won his first WWF world title on March 30, 1998.
In 1991, World Championship Wrestling (WCW), a member of the NWA, established the WCW World Heavyweight Championship to replace the NWA's world title. WCW then 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. 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 (which had become known simply as the "World Championship") was unified with the WWF Championship on December 9, 2001. At the event, Chris Jericho defeated The Rock and Steve Austin to win the (WCW) World Championship and WWF Championship respectively. Jericho, recognized by WWE as the final WCW World Champion, went on to hold both the Big Gold belt (representing the "World Championship") and the WWF title belt (representing the WWF Championship) under the single "Undisputed" banner. WWE recognized these belts as representing separate championships until the introduction of a single belt by Triple H in 2002.
In 2001, after Team WWF beat Team Alliance (WCW/ECW) at the Survivor Series of that year, the superstars of the Alliance would become an essential part of WWF programing. There were two world champions, with The Rock holding the World Championship (the renamed WCW Championship), and Steve Austin holding the WWF Championship. It was announced that the PPV following Survivor Series of that year would be a WWF Vengeance that would carry the slogan "One Undisputed Champion". It was announced that there would be three matches to unify the (WCW) World and WWF Championships. It was announced that Kurt Angle would challenge Austin for the WWF Championship, and Chris Jericho would face The Rock for the (WCW) World Championship. Austin would win against Angle, thus retaining the WWF Championship, and Jericho would beat The Rock to become the new (WCW) World Champion. Following his victory, Jericho would face Austin and win, thus unifying the WWF and World Championships. Jericho would hold the championship for four months until he would lose it at WrestleMania X8 against Triple H. Ric Flair awarded the new Undisputed WWF Championship belt on the first Raw after the draft to Triple H. Triple H would go on to hold the title for a month until he would lose it at Backlash against Hulk Hogan. Many would hold the Undisputed title afterwards. By this time, the brand extension had begun. Superstars were drafted to the company's main television programs, Raw and SmackDown!, with championships assigned and figureheads appointed to each brand. 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 Undisputed WWE Championship. Following these changes, the undisputed championship remained unaffiliated with either brand as competitors from both brands could challenge the Undisputed WWE Champion. Following the appointment of Eric Bischoff and Stephanie McMahon as General Managers of the Raw and SmackDown! brands respectively, Stephanie McMahon convinced then Undisputed Champion Brock Lesnar to become exclusive to the SmackDown! brand, leaving the Raw brand without a world title. In response, on September 2, Bischoff disputed Lesnar's champion status, 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 Undisputed WWE Championship became known as the WWE Championship.
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 seemingly 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. At the subsequent SummerSlam pay-per-view, Punk defeated Cena to solidify his claim on the title.
Following the events of the WWE brand extension, an annual WWE draft was established. 2002 saw Ric Flair and Vince McMahon heading up the Raw and SmackDown brands respectively. Further individuals would act as General Manager of Raw and of SmackDown in subsequent years. Each year, the General Managers would participate in a draft lottery in which select members of the WWE roster were assigned to a brand.
On August 29, 2011, WWE ended the brand extension and wrestlers (including all champions), were then free to appear on any program.
The following is a list of dates indicating the transitions of the WWE World Heavyweight 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||Brock Lesnar signs with SmackDown! and the title becomes exclusive to that brand.|
|June 6, 2005||During the 2005 WWE draft lottery, the World Heavyweight Champion Batista was drafted to SmackDown! while the WWE Champion John Cena was drafted to Raw.|
|June 11, 2006||Following WWE's planned revival of the 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.|
|July 3, 2006||Edge won the WWE Championship, thereby bringing it back to Raw.|
|June 23, 2008||Triple H was drafted to SmackDown during the 2008 WWE draft.|
|April 13, 2009||WWE Champion Triple H brings the championship back to Raw following his drafting to the brand at the 2009 WWE draft. Title remains on Raw until August 29, 2011, when the brand extension was ended.|
Following a challenge made by then World Heavyweight Champion John Cena the night after Survivor Series to determine an undisputed World Champion, December 15, 2013 at the TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs pay-per-view, WWE Champion Randy Orton defeated World Heavyweight Champion John Cena in a TLC match to unify the titles. Subsequently, the WWE Championship was renamed WWE World Heavyweight Championship. The unified championship retained the lineage of the WWE Championship and the World Heavyweight Championship was retired.
Special custom belts have been created to match the characters of certain WWF/E champions:
- The Ultimate Warrior – white, blue and purple leather straps
- Stone Cold Steve Austin – Smoking Skull belt
- Edge – "Rated-R Superstar" spinner belt
- The Miz – The 'W' which represented WWE, turned upside down to 'M' to represent The Miz
A much larger version of the belt was created for André the Giant before WrestleMania III, although he never wore it as champion. 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.
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, to February 18, 2013. The physical belt itself originally 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.
On the February 18, 2013, episode of Raw, The Rock unveiled a new WWE Championship belt. The new title (which was partially designed by Orange County Choppers of American Chopper fame) 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 a WWE logo underneath a crown. The reigning champions all had their logos onto the side plates as a similarity of the name plate feature.
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 Championship at Vengeance 2001 to form an undisputed championship. Raw owner Ric Flair presented Triple H with a single Undisputed WWE Championship belt on the April 4, 2002 episode of Raw.
Following the unification of the WWE and World Heavyweight Championships in 2013, the Big Gold Belt was used in tandem with the WWE Championship belt to represent the renamed WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
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 WWE World Heavyweight Championship belt, which had a slightly updated design 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 WWE logo inside an irregular heptagon with the 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.
The WWE World Heavyweight Championship was the first world championship introduced into WWF in 1963. The inaugural champion was Buddy Rogers, and there have been 44 different official champions overall and 12 vacancies. The longest reigning champion was 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. André the Giant is the shortest reigning champion, officially holding the title for 30 seconds. The youngest champion is Brock Lesnar, who won the title at the age of 25, while the oldest champion is Mr. McMahon, who won it at the age of 54. John Cena holds the record for most reigns with 12.
The current champion is Sheamus, who is in his third reign. He defeated previous champion Roman Reigns after cashing in his Money in the Bank contract and attacking Reigns, who had just assaulted Triple H after defeating Dean Ambrose in a tournament final to win the vacant title on November 22, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia at Survivor Series.
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