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WWE World Heavyweight Championship
- This article is about the best-known WWE championship, one that was once defended only on the Raw brand of WWE. For the newer WWE top championship, once defended only on SmackDown, see World Heavyweight Championship (WWE).
|WWE World Heavyweight Championship|
Daniel Bryan celebrating with the WWE World Heavyweight Champion after winning it at WrestleMania XXX
|Date won||August 17, 2014|
|Date created||April 29, 1963|
The World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) World Heavyweight Championship is a professional wrestling world championship in WWE. It is the original world title of WWE, and is largely considered the highest-ranking title in WWE. For a little more than two years (April 2009 to August 2011), it was defended only on the Raw brand, but can now be defended at any WWE event.
The WWE World Championship was introduced in 1963, with Buddy Rogers becoming the first world champion on April 29. Its introduction is said to have come about because of events in the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), a promotion with many branches (also known as "territories") in North America and worldwide. In the 1950s, Capitol Wrestling Corporation (CWC) was an NWA territory, and by 1963, CWC executives had a large amount of control over NWA. During this time, Buddy Rogers held the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, the world title of the NWA, until Lou Thesz defeated Rogers for the championship on January 24, 1963. After a dispute over the result, CWC left the NWA and created a new promotion, the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF). This new company then created a backstory for its new title, claiming that the WWWF World Heavyweight Championship had been spun off from the NWA World Championship, and that a tournament had been held in Rio de Janeiro to crown a new champion. Buddy Rogers was billed as the winner of this tournament, having defeated Antonino Rocca in the finals. (In reality, no such tournament took place.) Affiliated with the NWA once again, the WWWF was renamed to World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in 1979. After WWF broke ties again with the NWA in 1983, this time for good, the championship became known as the WWF World Heavyweight Championship and later simply as the WWF (World) Championship by the 1990s.
In 1991, World Championship Wrestling (WCW), another NWA territory, established the WCW World Heavyweight Championship alongside the NWA world title. WCW then left the NWA and grew to become a rival promotion to the WWF. Both groups became popular with the general public, and then were involved in a television ratings war, dubbed the Monday Night Wars. Near the end of the ratings war, WCW began a financial decline, which ended in March 2001 with the WWF's purchase of WCW. With this purchase, WWF now owned 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 World Championship was unified with the WWF World Championship, at Vengeance 2001 in December. At the event, Chris Jericho defeated The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin to win the WCW World Championship and WWF World Championship respectively. Consequently, Chris Jericho was named the final WCW World Champion and the subsequent Undisputed WWF World Champion as the WWF Championship became the Undisputed World Championship in professional wrestling.
Undisputed World Championship and Return to Regular World Title Status
By 2002, the WWF roster had doubled in size due to the overabundance of contracted workers from the original WWF, as well as those who had come across from WCW and ECW. As a result of the increase, the WWF divided the roster through its two main television programs, Raw and SmackDown!, assigning championships and appointing figureheads to each brand. This expansion became known as the Brand Extension. In May 2002, the WWF was renamed to World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and the championship became known as the WWE Undisputed World Championship. Following these changes, the WWE Undisputed Championship remained unaffiliated with either brand as competitors from both brands could challenge the WWE Undisputed World Champion. Following the appointment of Eric Bischoff and Stephanie McMahon as General Managers of the Raw and SmackDown brands respectively, Stephanie McMahon contracted then-WWE Undisputed World Champion Brock Lesnar to the SmackDown brand, leaving the Raw brand without a world title. On September 2, after disputing the brand designation of the Undisputed Championship, Eric Bischoff announced the creation of the World Heavyweight Championship, spun off from the Undisputed Championship. Immediately afterward, the WWE Undisputed World Championship returned to being known as the WWE World Championship or just the WWE Championship. In 2011, There were two WWE Champions, John Cena and CM Punk, on August 1st edition of Raw the Chief operating officer Triple H, announced a match to determine who will be the WWE Champion between John Cena and CM Punk. At Summerslam CM Punk defeated John Cena to be the only WWE Champion. However, that same night Alberto Del Rio cashed in his Money in the Bank and become the new WWE Champion.
On December 15, 2013, Randy Orton beat John Cena for the World Heavyweight Championship at TLC: Tables, Ladders, & Chairs. He was already WWE Champion when he won the championship and unified the World Heavyweight Championship with the WWE Championship to make the "WWE World Heavyweight Championship". The World Heavyweight Championship was then retired the next day.
Following the events of the WWE Brand Extension, an annual WWE Draft was established, in which select members of the WWE roster are reassigned to a different brand. After three years on the SmackDown brand, the WWE Championship switched brands during the 2005 WWE Draft Lottery, in which the WWE Champion John Cena was drafted to Raw while the World Heavyweight Champion Batista was drafted to SmackDown. On June 11, 2006, Rob Van Dam used his Money in the Bank contract at ECW One Night Stand for a WWE Championship match against the WWE Champion John Cena. The holder of the contract is guaranteed a WWE, World Heavyweight, or ECW Championship match at anytime of their choosing. Rob Van Dam defeated John Cena to win the WWE Championship, moving the title to the ECW brand, a WWE brand established from purchased assets of the Extreme Championship Wrestling promotion. On July 3, Edge defeated John Cena and Rob Van Dam in a Triple Threat Match to win the WWE Championship. However, with Edge being a member of the Raw brand at the time, the title returned to Raw due to the circumstances. After the 2008 WWE Draft the WWE Champion Triple H was drafted to SmackDown, moving the WWE Championship to the SmackDown brand. The following year, the title returned to Raw after Triple H was drafted back to the brand during the 2009 WWE Draft, and remained exclusive to the Raw brand since. When SmackDown's Batista won the title from Raw's John Cena at Elimination Chamber, it remained exclusive to Raw while Batista was transferred to the Raw roster.
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 championship, and legitimately left the company with the physical title 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 both an ambiguity and a dispute in WWE over the presence of two WWE Championships. On the July 29, 2011 episode of SmackDown new WWE COO Triple H announced that CM Punk's claim to the WWE Championship was legitimate, meaning "there were two WWE champions." At the subsequent SummerSlam pay-per-view, Punk defeated Cena to solidify his claim on the title, only to lose the title moments later to Alberto Del Rio, who opportunistically cashed in his Money in the Bank contract after Kevin Nash attacked. On August 29, 2011, all WWE TV programming became so-called "Supershows" that feature wrestlers from both Raw and SmackDown. This means that the WWE Championship can now be defended at any WWE event.
Custom belt designs
Special custom belts have been created to match the gimmicks of some champions:
- "Superstar" Billy Graham (red leather strap)
- The Ultimate Warrior (white, blue, and purple leather straps)
- Sgt. Slaughter (purple leather strap, changed to original black strap after defeating The Ultimate Warrior)
- "Stone Cold" Steve Austin ("Smoking Skull" belt)
- John Cena (Spinner belt with free-motion "spinner" WWE logo in the center)
- Edge (Modified "Rated-R Superstar" spinner belt)
- The Miz (Modified "M" belt, created by rotating the WWE logo by 180 degrees, hence simulating the letter "M")
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, but it was lost and thus, never appeared on television. Similarly, 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.
The "Spinner" belt's design has become the WWE Championship's primary design since April 11, 2005, although, since No Mercy 2007, the centerpiece no longer spins. 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. Furthermore, the belt also features a silver tip on the end of the leather strap.
- "WWE Champion Randy Orton def. World Heavyweight Champion John Cena (Tables, Ladders & Chairs Match)". WWE. http://www.wwe.com/shows/wwetlc/2013/john-cena-randy-orton-26166358. Retrieved 2013-12-16.
- "Retired championships". WWE. http://www.wwe.com/classics/titlehistory/retired-championships. Retrieved 2013-12-19.
- "Brock Lesnar def. WWE World Heavyweight Champion John Cena". WWE. http://www.wwe.com/shows/summerslam/2014/john-cena-brock-lesnar-26505313. Retrieved 2014-08-18.