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The World Heavyweight Championship was one of the two top ranked championships of the WWE, which was 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!.
After the WWE 2008 Draft, the WWE Champion Triple H was drafted to SmackDown, returning the WWE Championship to the SmackDown brand. On June 30, 2008, CM Punk used his Money in the Bank contract for a World Heavyweight Championship match against the World Heavyweight Champion Edge. This was done after Punk was drafted to Raw from the ECW brand. Punk defeated Edge to win the World Heavyweight Championship, moving the title to the Raw brand. The title remained on Raw until February 15, 2009 at No Way Out, when Edge won an Elimination Chamber match for the World Heavyweight Championship. However, with Edge being a member of the SmackDown brand at the time, the title was moved to SmackDown. On April 5 at WrestleMania XXV, the title returned to Raw after John Cena, a member of the Raw brand, defeated Edge and The Big Show in a Triple Threat match to win the World Heavyweight Championship. However, less than a month later at Backlash, Edge defeated Cena, bringing the title back to SmackDown. When Jack Swagger, who was at the time a member of the Raw roster, cashed in his Money in the Bank contract and defeated World Heavyweight Champion Chris Jericho on the April 2, 2010 episode of SmackDown, the belt remained exclusive to the SmackDown brand, and Swagger was transferred to the SmackDown roster.
On August 29, 2011, the brand extension was effectively ended, and all WWE programming became "Supershows" featuring the entire roster. With that, the World Heavyweight title (along with every other championship in WWE) became available for all wrestlers to compete for, and was defended on all shows.
On December 15, 2013, WWE Champion Randy Orton defeated World Heavyweight Champion John Cena at the TLC PPV in a TLC match to unify the titles. With that Orton was recognized the final World Heavyweight Champion, and the next day title was officially retired by WWE. The championship belt was still in use as a component of the newly renamed WWE World Heavyweight Championship until it was retired on the August 18, 2014 edition of RAW.
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.
The inaugural champion was Triple H, and there have been 25 different official champions overall. The longest reigning champion was Batista who held the title from April 3, 2005 to January 13, 2006 for a total of 282 days. Triple H holds the record for longest combined reigns at 617 days. The shortest reigning champion was Big Show who officially held the title for 45 seconds. The youngest champion was Randy Orton, who won the title of the age of 24. The oldest champion is The Undertaker who won at the age of 44. Edge has held the title the most times with seven championship reigns.
Randy Orton was the final champion in his fourth reign. He defeated John Cena in a TLC match at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs 2013 on December 15, 2013 in Houston, Texas to unify the WWE and World Heavyweight Championships.
- 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.