|World Heavyweight Championship|
The World Heavyweight Championship belt design
(March 2003 – present)
|Date won||July 18, 2010|
|Promotion||WWE for Extreme|
|Date introduced||September 2, 2002|
The World Heavyweight 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 three in WWEFE, complementing the WWE Championship of the SmackDown! brand, as well as the ECW Championship of the ECW brand. 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. The championship is generally contested in professional wrestling matches.
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 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. On the November 19 2001 edition of RAW, the title was renamed by Vince McMahon as the World Title. Following this, the championship was unified with the WWF Championship, the WWF's world title, at Vengeance 2001 in December. At the event, the title was decommissioned with Chris Jericho becoming the holder of the championship 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. This results in allusions often being 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. Due to its relation to both titles, its lineage is connected with the earliest recognized world heavyweight 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 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 2006 WWE Draft, the WWE Champion Jeff Hardy was drafted to SmackDown!, returning the title to the SmackDown! brand.
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.
- Main article: List of World Heavyweight Champions
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, with five. Batista has the longest reign as champion, from April 3, 2005 to January 10, 2006, lasting 282 days. The youngest champion was Randy Orton winning the title at the age of 24. The oldest champion was Kurt Angle winning the title at the age of 38. The current champion, CM Punk won the title at the Judgement Day pay-per-view.