The most recent version of the WWE Championship belt
(August 2, 2007 – present)
|Date won||May 18, 2008|
|Promotion||WWE for Extreme|
|Date introduced||April 29, 1963|
|Past design(s)|| |
The World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Championship is a professional wrestling world heavyweight championship in WWE for Extreme (WWEFE). It is the world title of the RAW brand and one of threeo in WWE, complementing the World Heavyweight Championship of the SmackDown! brand and the ECW Championship of the ECW brand. It was established under the then WWWF in 1963. After RAW and SmackDown! became distinct brands under WWE, the championship has moved between both brands on different occasions, mainly as a result of the WWE Draft. The championship is generally contested in professional wrestling matches, in which participants execute scripted finishes rather than contend in direct competition.
The WWE Championship was introduced in 1963 with Buddy Rogers becoming the inaugural champion on April 29. However, its origin is attributed to events that began in the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), a promotion with various subsidiaries. In the 1950s, Capitol Wrestling Corporation (CWC) was a subsidiary to 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, the world title of the NWA and its subsidiaries, until January 24, when Lou Thesz defeated Rogers for the championship. Following a 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 as having spun off from the NWA title when the recognition was 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 by the 1990s.
In 1991, World Championship Wrestling (WCW), another subsidiary to the NWA, established the WCW World Heavyweight Championship to complement 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 was unified with the WWF Championship, at Vengeance 2001 in December. At the event, Chris Jericho defeated The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin to win the WCW Championship and WWF Championship respectively. Consequently, Chris Jericho was named the final WCW Champion and the subsequent Undisputed Champion as the WWF Championship became the Undisputed Championship in professional wrestling with no other prominent world heavyweight title to dispute the recognition.
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) and the championship became known as the WWE Undisputed Championship. 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 Championship, Eric Bischoff announced the creation of the World Heavyweight Championship, having spun off from the Undisputed title. Immediately afterward, the WWE Undisputed Championship returned to being the WWE Championship.
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 September 30, 2006, at Saturday Night's Main Event, WWE Champion Jeff Hardy was drafted to SmackDown! while the World Heavyweight Champion Scorpion was drafted to RAW, making the WWE Championship SmackDown! exclusive once again.
Custom belt designsEdit
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 (blue leather strap, later changed to original black strap at WrestleMania VII)
- "Stone Cold" Steve Austin ("Smokin' Skull" belt)
- John Cena (Spinner belt)- Current design
- Edge (Modified "Rated-R Superstar" Spinner belt)
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 was lost in the mail and never appeared on television. 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. On two occassions the Big Eagle design has been brought back during this period: Once by Triple H and then again later by Christian Cage. 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 "RAW" when John Cena was drafted to the Raw brand. When the title once again became SmackDown!'s primary championship after Jeff Hardy was drafted to the brand in 2006, the "RAW" plate was replaced with a duplicate of the opposite side plate that simply reads "WWE Champion."
- Main article: List of WWE Champions
The WWE Championship was the first World Championship introduced into WWE in 1963. The inaugural champion was Buddy Rogers. There have been 42 different official champions, with Triple H and The Rock both having the most reigns at seven each. The longest reigning champion was Bruno Sammartino who held the title for 2,803 days from May 17, 1963 to January 18, 1971. The shortest reigning champion was André the Giant who held the title for about 45 seconds. The youngest champion was Brock Lesnar who won at the age of 25. The oldest champion is Mr. McMahon who won at the age of 54. The current champion is Kayley Hale who is in her first reign.