|Date won:||April 8, 2013|
|Promotion:||World Wrestling Entertainment|
|Date created:||September 2, 2002|
|Most reigns:|| Edge|
|First champion(s):||Triple H|
The World Heavyweight Championship is one of the two top ranked championships of the WWE, which is currently found on SmackDown. It was introduced into the company when WWE Undisputed Champion Brock Lesnar signed exclusively with SmackDown!, Raw General Manager Eric Bischoff awarded number one contender Triple H with the old WCW World Heavyweight Championship and declared him World Champion. While WWE claims the title has a different lineage from other titles, the original World Heavyweight Championship, NWA World Heavyweight Championship, and WCW World Heavyweight Championship are often referred to when talking about its history. The title was RAW exclusive since CM Punk defeated then-World Heavyweight Champion Edge to bring back the title to the brand in the summer of 2008. At No Way Out 2009, Edge, a SmackDown Superstar, inserted himself into the RAW Elimination Chamber match and went on to win the contest, thus bringing the World Heavyweight Championship with him to SmackDown.
In August 2002, after Brock Lesnar won the WWE Undisputed Championship (the main championship in World Wrestling Entertainment, defended on the RAW and SmackDown! brands), he signed an exclusive contract to appear and defend the Undisputed Championship on the SmackDown! brand only, thus leaving the RAW brand without a major championship. Following Lesnar's actions, RAW General Manager Eric Bischoff introduced the World Heavyweight Championship and commissioned it to be the main title for the RAW brand. This new championship was represented by the Big Gold Belt, an iconic wrestling belt that previously represented the NWA Championship, and later the WCW Championship. He awarded the championship to Triple H citing the fact that he was "the last man to wear the belt," in reference to Triple H being the last person to physically hold the Big Gold Belt during his reign as Undisputed Champion while it was still represented by two belts. Months later, the Big Gold Belt was replaced with a new similar belt that features the WWE logo at the top of the front plate.
Following the introduction of the World Heavyweight Championship and the creation of a new separate set of tag-team belts for SmackDown!, the two sets of tag-team titles were renamed to mirror those of the top titles. The original WWE World Tag Team Championship for RAW simply became known as the World Tag Team Championship, while the new tag-team titles for SmackDown! became known as the WWE Tag Team Championship. When the two top titles switched shows, neither of the tag-team belts were renamed.
With the WWE 2005 Draft, the two top belts effectively switched shows, with WWE Champion John Cena, moving to RAW as the first pick in the draft and World Heavyweight Champion Batista moving to SmackDown!. In the four-week interim period between the first and last draft picks, RAW had both of the top belts while SmackDown! had neither, prompting SmackDown! General Manager Theodore Long to attempt to introduce a third top belt, the "SmackDown! Championship", only for it to be deemed unnecessary when Batista was drafted to SmackDown!.
Lineage and terminology
Officially, according to World Wrestling Entertainment's website, WWE's position regarding the history of the belt is that the World Heavyweight Championship is a new title and not the same championship as the WCW or NWA titles before it, and that the championship does not inherit the title history of the two belts. However, it has been made clear that it is the successor to both titles.
Despite this position, WWE announcers occasionally make allusions to the World Heavyweight Championship's history as far back as 1904, a reference to Georg Hackenschmidt's World Title reign, as well as that of the NWA and WCW titles.
For instance, on January 13, 2006, Batista was forced to drop the World Heavyweight Championship due to legitimate injury. In his speech, he included Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes in his short list of previous holders of the belt. However, while Flair and Rhodes are former WCW and NWA champions, Flair has never held WWE's World Heavyweight Championship and Rhodes has never won a singles title in WWE at all.
Then on December 6, 2006, WWE.com announced the temporary retirement of The Big Show. In the statement it said that The Big Show is the only wrestler to hold the WWE Championship, ECW Championship and World Heavyweight Championship.
Perhaps adding to the confusion is due to the fact that WWE often uses the term "world championship" or "world heavyweight champion" in general for all acknowledged World Championships rather than WWE's World Heavyweight Championship in particular. Ric Flair, for instance, is touted as a 16-time world champion, referring to him winning the respective World Titles in the NWA, WCW, and WWE. Similar title count amalgamations have been made for other wrestlers, including Hulk Hogan, Kurt Angle, and Triple H. In WWE's tribute to Triple H's ten reigns, he is listed as the first World Heavyweight Champion.
- World Wrestling Entertainment
- 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.