|WWE World Heavyweight Championship|
|Current champion(s)||Roman Reigns|
|Date won||April 3, 2016|
|Date established||April 25, 1963|
The WWE World Heavyweight Championship is a world heavyweight championship within the professional wrestling promotion WWE. Established by the then-World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) in 1963 as the WWWF World Heavyweight Championship, it is the oldest championship recognized by the promotion, and is presented as being the most prestigious.
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. 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), a member of 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 (which had become known simply as the "World Championship") was unified with the WWF Championship at Vengeance 2001. At the event, Chris Jericho defeated The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin to win the WCW Championship and WWF Championship respectively. Jericho, recognised by WWE as the final WCW 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 recognised these belts as representing separate championships until the introduction of a single belt by Triple H in 2002.
Undisputed ChampionshipEditIn 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 WCW Championship, and Stone Cold Steve Austin holding the WWF Championship. It was announced that the PPV following Survivor Series of that year would be a vengeance that would carry the slogan "One Undisputed Champion". It was announced that there would be three matches to unify the WCW 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 Championship. Austin would win against Angle, thus retaining the WWF Championship, and Jericho would beat The Rock to become the new WCW Champion. Following his win, Jericho would face Austin and won, thus unifying the WWF and WCW Championships. Jericho would hold the championship for four months until he would lose it at WrestleMania X8 against Triple H. Ric Flair awarded the WWF Undisputed Championship 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 2002 against Hulk Hogan. Many would hold it afterwords, superstars such as The Undertaker were drafted to Monday Night Raw 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 brand designation of the Undisputed title, Eric Bischoff announced the creation of the World Heavyweight Championship, spun off from the Undisputed title. Immediately afterward, the WWE Undisputed Championship became known as the WWE Championship.
On December 15, 2013 at the TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs pay-per-view, WWE Champion Randy Orton defeated World Heavyweight Champion John Cena in a TLC match to unify the titles. With that the WWE Championship was renamed WWE World Heavyweight Championship. The unified championship retained the lineage of the WWE Championship.
The WWE Championship was the first world championship introduced into WWE in 1963. The inaugural champion was Buddy Rogers, and there have been 44 different official champions overall. 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). Bruno Sammartino also holds the record for longest combined reign at 4,040 days. The shortest reigning champion was André the Giant who officially held the title for 30 seconds. The youngest champion is Brock Lesnar, who won the title at the age of 25. The oldest champion is Mr. McMahon who won it at the age of 54. John Cena has held the title the most times with 16 championship reigns.