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The World Heavyweight Championship is a professional wrestling world heavyweight championship in World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). It is the world title of the SmackDown brand and one of three in WWE, complementing the WWE Championship and ECW Championship. It was established under the Raw brand in 2002, after Raw and SmackDown became distinct brands under WWE, and has moved between both brands on different occasions, mainly as a result of the WWE Draft. It is one of a number of world titles represented by the historic Big Gold Belt. World Heavyweight Championship reigns are determined by professional wrestling matches, in which competitors are involved in scripted rivalries. These narratives create feud between the various competitors, which cast them as villains and heroes.



The World Heavyweight Championship was introduced in 2002 with Triple H becoming the inaugural champion on September 2. However, its origin is attributed to events that began in the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), a promotion with various subsidiaries. In the early 1990s, World Championship Wrestling (WCW) was a subsidiary to the NWA. During this time, WCW used the NWA World Heavyweight Championship as its world title. The WCW World Heavyweight Championship was soon established when the recognition was awarded to then-NWA World Heavyweight Champion, Ric Flair, in 1991. In 1993, WCW seceded from the NWA and grew to become a rival promotion to the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), itself a former subsidiary to the NWA. 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 was unified with the WWF Championship, the WWF's world title, at Vengeance 2001 in December. At the event, the WCW title was decommissioned with Chris Jericho becoming the final WCW Champion and the subsequent WWF Champion after defeating The Rock and Steve Austin respectively. The WWF Championship became the Undisputed Championship in professional wrestling with no other prominent world title to dispute the recognition until September 2002 when this World Heavyweight Championship spun-off from the WWE Undisputed Championship as the successor to the WCW and NWA titles.


By 2002, the WWF roster had doubled in size due to the overabundance of contracted workers. 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). Following these changes, the WWE Undisputed Championship remained unaffiliated with either brand as competitors from both brands could challenge the WWE Undisputed 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 Champion, Brock Lesnar, to the SmackDown brand, leaving the Raw brand without a world title. On September 2, after disputing the status of the Undisputed title, Eric Bischoff announced the creation of the World Heavyweight Championship. Bischoff awarded the title to Triple H due to previously being Lesnar's scheduled opponent. Immediately afterwards, the WWE Undisputed Championship returned to being the WWE Championship.

Since its creation, the championship's history and reigns are often confused with other titles primarily because the championship does not bear the name of its designated organization. Attributing to this is the common usage of the terms "world championship" or "world heavyweight championship" in general for all acknowledged world titles. As a result, allusions are often made to other titles including those of WCW and the NWA, amalgamating the history of this championship with the history of the belt that represents it. As affirmed by WWE, the World Heavyweight Championship is not a continuation of the WCW or NWA World Heavyweight Championship, but rather a successor to both titles after indirectly having spun-off from the WCW Championship, by way of the WWE Undisputed Championship, just as the WCW Championship spun-off from and succeeded the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.

Brand designation

Following the events of the WWE Brand Extension, an annual WWE Draft was established, in which select members of the WWE Roster were reassigned to a different brand. After three years on the Raw brand, the World Heavyweight 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. After the 2008 WWE Draft, the WWE Champion Triple H was drafted to SmackDown, returning the title to the SmackDown brand. On June 30, 2008, CM Punk used his Money in the Bank contract for a World Heavyweight Championship match against the World Heavyweight Champion Edge. The holder of the contract is guaranteed a WWE, World Heavyweight, or ECW Championship match at anytime of their choosing. This was done after Punk was drafted to Raw from the ECW brand, a WWE brand established in 2006 from purchased assets of the Extreme Championship Wrestling promotion. Punk defeated Edge to win the World Heavyweight Championship, moving the title to the Raw brand. On February 15, 2009 at No Way Out, Edge won an Elimination Chamber match for the World Heavyweight Championship. However, with Edge being a member of the SmackDown brand at the time, the title was moved to SmackDown due to the circumstance. On April 5 at WrestleMania XXV, the title returned to Raw after John Cena, a member of the Raw brand, defeated Edge and The Big Show in a Triple Threat match to win the World Heavyweight Championship. However, less than a month later at Backlash, Edge defeated Cena, bringing the title back to SmackDown.

Belt design

The World Heavyweight Championship belt is designed after the Big Gold Belt, an iconic championship belt that had previously represented the WCW and NWA World Heavyweight Championships. It features a black leather strap with buckles to wrap around the waist of the wrestler who wears it, and three pieces made of gold. In the middle of the strap is a large center piece, which features a design of a crown on top of a globe in the center. At the top of the piece, the WWE logo and the words "World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion" are engraved, while a nameplate, which has the name of the champion etched, is located at the bottom of the piece. In addition, the entire piece is engraved with a unique fleuron pattern that is surrounded by red diamonds. Along the strap, on both ends, are two smaller side pieces which follows the same fleuron design pattern as seen in the center piece.


The inaugural champion was Triple H, with the title being awarded by Eric Bischoff in September 2002. He also holds the most reigns as champion along with Edge, with five. Batista has the longest reign as champion with his first reign, from April 3, 2005 to January 10, 2006, lasting 282 days. Jeff Hardy has the shortest reign, on the night of June 7, 2009, at approximately two minutes. As of , The Undertaker is the current champion in his third reign. He defeated CM Punk on October 4, 2009 in a Hell in a Cell match at WWE's Hell in a Cell pay-per-view event in Newark, New Jerseymarker, Overall, there have been 34 World Heavyweight Championship reigns and 16 total Champions.


  1. WCW World Champion - Chris Jericho at

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