The Impact Wrestling World Heavyweight Championship is a professional wrestling world heavyweight championship owned by Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA). It is currently the highest ranked championship in TNA and is primarily defended in TNA's heavyweight division. It was unveiled on May 14, 2007 at the taping of TNA's primary television program, TNA Impact!; this episode of Impact! did not air until May 17, 2007. The inaugural champion was Kurt Angle.
Like most professional wrestling championships, the title is won via the result of a scripted match. Before the was created, TNA held control over the NWA World Heavyweight Championship due to an agreement between TNA and the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), the organization which owned the NWA Championship. In 2007, the agreement between TNA and the NWA ended, leading to the creation of the . There have been a total of thirty reigns among sixteen different wrestlers.
The Total Nonstop Action Wrestling promotion formed in May 2002. Later that same year TNA was granted control over the NWA World Heavyweight and World Tag Team Championships by the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) governing body; subsequently becoming an official NWA territory as NWA–TNA. On June 19, 2002, NWA–TNA held its first show; a weekly pay-per-view (PPV) event. The main event of the telecast was a twenty-man Gauntlet for the Gold match in which twenty men trying to throw each other over the top rope and down to the floor in order to eliminate them, until there were two men left who wrestle a standard match to become the first ever TNA-era NWA World Heavyweight Champion. Ken Shamrock defeated Malice to win the vacant championship with Ricky Steamboat as Special Guest Referee at the event.
The NWA World Heavyweight and World Tag Team Championships were contested for in TNA until the morning of May 13, 2007. On that day, NWA's Executive Director Robert Trobich announced that the NWA were ending their five–year agreement with TNA, which had allowed them full control over both titles. Trobich went on to state that effective that morning, then-NWA World Heavyweight Champion Christian Cage and the Team 3D pairing of Brother Ray and Brother Devon, then-NWA World Tag Team Champions, were stripped of their respective championships. The alleged motivation behind these actions was because Cage refused to defend the NWA World Heavyweight Championship against wrestlers from NWA territories. That same day, TNA were scheduled to produce their Sacrifice 2007 PPV event, in which both Cage and Team 3D were to defend their respective championships. On the card, Cage was scheduled to defend the NWA World Heavyweight Championship against Kurt Angle and Sting in a match involving three competitors, also known as a Three Way match.
That night before, the onscreen graphic used to refer to the champions and their respective championships credited both Cage and Team 3D as still being NWA Champions. However, the ring announcers for the encounters proclaimed the matches as being strictly for the "World Heavyweight Championship" or the "World Tag Team Championship". Angle defeated Cage and Sting to win the "World Heavyweight Championship".
TNA held a set of tapings for the next two episodes of TNA Impact! on May 14, with the episodes set to air on tape delay on May 17 and May 24, 2007. At the first taping, Angle came to the ring with the new belt and announced that he was the "new TNA World Heavyweight Champion". TNA commentator Mike Tenay announced when Angle made his way to the ring that Management Director Jim Cornette, TNA's on-screen authority figure at the time, "made the decision that due to TNA's growing worldwide exposure, the company needed to have its own TNA title belts"; thereby not acknowledging the NWA ending their agreement with TNA and giving a storyline explanation as to why the championship was created. Later on during the broadcast, Cornette stripped Angle of the due to a controversial finish to the match at Sacrifice. Cornette then announced the championship would be contested for at TNA's Slammiversary PPV event on June 17, 2007 in a King of the Mountain match—a match which involves five participants racing to gain a pinfall or submission to become eligible to hang a championship belt to win. On May 15, 2007 Jeremy Borash unveiled the belt on that day's edition of TNA's online podcast TNA Today.
The five participants for the King of the Mountain match were determined in a series of standard wrestling matches that took place on Impact! leading up to the event; a small single-elimination tournament. Angle defeated Rhino in the first bout to gain entry on the May 17 episode of Impact!. On May 24 episode of Impact!, Samoa Joe defeated Sting to become the second participant. The third qualification match was held on the May 31 episode of Impact! between A.J. Styles and Tomko, which Styles won. The next bout pitted Chris Harris against James Storm on the June 7 episode Impact!, which ended in a double disqualification; neither man advanced to the King of the Mountain match. The final qualification match was won by Christian Cage over Abyss on the June 14 episode of Impact!. Angle ended up winning the King of the Mountain match at Slammiversary over Joe, Cage, Styles, and Harris, who was a mystery participant chosen by Cornette, to become the "undisputed TNA World Heavyweight Champion".
During the championship's five-year history, it has had five designs. The original belt, unveiled in May 2007, had on its center plate an imprint of an eagle with its wings extended. The word "World" was placed above the eagle's head on a ribbon. The ribbon was wrapped around the bird's wings and body. Five stars were engraved on the ribbon when it passed over each of the bird's wings and the word "Champion" as it passed over the bird's talons. The words "Heavyweight Wrestling" were printed across the bird's chest. At the top of the center plate, was TNA's logo. Four smaller side plates had an imprint of a globe centered with TNA's logo at the top and bottom of each. At each end of the belt was a small plate that covered the belt snaps with TNA's logo engraved on each.
At the November 8, 2010, tapings of the November 11 edition of Impact!, TNA introduced a new design for the belt, which the champion Jeff Hardy dubbed the "Immortal championship". The new design was consisted of a purple strap with a silver center plate depicting a masked head (designed to resemble Hardy's face with face paint), the TNA logo on the forehead and blue lines along the mask. There are four irregular dodecagonal side plates on the belt, shaped like stars with rounded edges on two of the sides of these plates.
The Immortal belt was replaced by the third design of the belt at the March 14, 2011, tapings of the March 17 edition of Impact!, introduced by the reigning champion at the time, Sting. The new design features seven gold plates over a black leather strap. The largest plate is the center plate with faux diamonds aligned along its multiple rounded edges. Over the center plate is a large TNA Wrestling logo and below it the words "Heavyweight Champion" are engraved. On each side of the center plate is a group of three smaller plates, one with a TNA logo engraved while the other two feature separate corresponding halves of a globe.
On the October 18, 2012, episode of Impact Wrestling, then-new TNA World Heavyweight Champion Jeff Hardy introduced the fifth design of the title belt, a modified version of his custom "Immortal" belt, this time with a black strap and an omega symbol on it (a reference to his OMEGA promotion). Unlike the Immortal days, he continued carrying the standard belt along with his custom belt. Both versions of the "Immortal" belt were designed by Hardy himself.
The inaugural champion was Kurt Angle, who won the championship by defeating Christian Cage and Sting in a Three Way match on May 13, 2007 at TNA's Sacrifice event. At 256 days, Bobby Roode's first reign is the longest in the title's history. Angle's first reign holds the record for shortest reign in the title's history at 1 day. Angle holds the record for the most reigns at six, and is the current champion. He defeated former champion Lashley during the Impact Wrestling tapings on January 31, 2015 in London, England (will air March 20).
- Total Nonstop Action Wrestling
- Champion history - History of the wrestlers who have held the belt.
- Title matches - Matches in which the title was defended.
- Champion gallery - A gallery of all champions.
- TNA World Title Series