AWA World Heavyweight Championship
The AWA World Heavyweight Championship was a professional wrestling world heavyweight championship and the highest ranked championship in the defunct American Wrestling Association (AWA). All AWA trademarks, including the AWA World Heavyweight Championship, are now owned by WWE. The championship was generally contested in professional wrestling matches, in which participants execute worked finishes rather than contend in direct competition.
|AWA World Heavyweight Championship|
|Date established||May 18, 1960|
|Date retired||December 12, 1990|
The AWA World Heavyweight Championship was established in May 1960, after the AWA became a separate promotion from the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA); the AWA had previously been a part of the NWA as its Minneapolis, Minnesota-area territory. The first champion was Pat O'Connor, who was recognized as the first champion upon the AWA's secession from the NWA as O'Connor held the NWA World Heavyweight Championship as well, which he won on January 9, 1959. The creation of the AWA World Heavyweight Championship along with the NWA World Heavyweight Championship would pave the way for the creation of many other world championships in other wrestling promotions. The AWA and the title became inactive in late 1990 and the organization officially closed down in August 1991 with the title also being decommissioned. The championship is featured in the video games WWE '13 as a downloadable title and as an unlockable title in WWE 2K14 and the seventh generation versions of WWE 2K15, WWE 2K16, and WWE 2K17.
In 1996, Dale Gagner and his associate Jonnie Stewart, former AWA employees, began using the AWA name in the state of Minnesota and formed a promotion known as AWA Superstars of Wrestling, infringing on the AWA name. The promotion also created their own version of the AWA World Heavyweight Championship. In April 2007, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) filed a lawsuit against Dale Gagner citing trademark infringement, as WWE owned all American Wrestling Association properties due to their purchase after the AWA's closure, including the AWA World Heavyweight Championship. In October 2008, the court ruled in favor of WWE. The court ruling prohibits Gagner from exploiting or trading on the AWA name or any other derivatives.
|No.||Overall reign number|
|Reign||Reign number for the specific champion|
|Days||Number of days held|
|†||Championship change is unrecognized by the promotion|
|No.||Champion||Championship change||Reign statistics||Notes||Ref.|
|1||Pat O'Connor||May 18, 1960||N/A||N/A||1||90||O'Connor held the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, which he won on January 9, 1959, in St. Louis, Missouri; recognized as the first AWA World Champion in May 1960, but was given 90 days to defend the title against Verne Gagne or be stripped of the title.|||
|2||Verne Gagne||August 16, 1960||N/A||N/A||1||329||Gagne was awarded the championship after Pat O'Connor failed to defend the title.|||
|3||Gene Kiniski||July 11, 1961||Live event||Minneapolis, MN||1||28|||
|4||Verne Gagne||August 8, 1961||Live event||Minneapolis, MN||2||154|||
|5||Mr. M||January 9, 1962||Live event||Minneapolis, MN||1||224|||
|6||Verne Gagne||August 21, 1962||Live event||Minneapolis, MN||3||322|||
|7||The Crusher||July 9, 1963||Live event||Minneapolis, MN||1||11||The Crusher also won Omaha version of World Heavyweight Championship from Verne Gagne on February 15, 1963, in Omaha, Nebraska.|||
|8||Verne Gagne||July 20, 1963||Live event||Minneapolis, MN||4||7||Gagne won both the AWA Championship and the Omaha Championship.|||
|9||Fritz Von Erich||July 27, 1963||Live event||Omaha, NE||1||12||Von Erich won both the AWA Championship and the Omaha Championship.|||
|10||Verne Gagne||August 8, 1963||Live event||Amarillo, TX||5||100||Fritz Von Erich's Omaha Championship was not at stake. On September 7, 1963, Gagne defeated Von Erich in Omaha in a title unification match and the AWA World Heavyweight Championship becomes the surviving title.|||
|11||The Crusher||November 16, 1963||Live event||Saint Paul, MN||2||28|||
|12||Verne Gagne||December 14, 1963||Live event||Minneapolis, MN||6||140|||
|13||Mad Dog Vachon||May 2, 1964||Live event||Omaha, NE||1||14|||
|14||Verne Gagne||May 16, 1964||Live event||Omaha, NE||7||157|||
|15||Mad Dog Vachon||October 20, 1964||Live event||Minneapolis, MN||2||207|||
|16||Mighty Igor Vodic||May 15, 1965||Live event||Omaha, NE||1||7|||
|17||Mad Dog Vachon||May 22, 1965||Live event||Omaha, NE||3||91|||
|18||The Crusher||August 21, 1965||Live event||Saint Paul, MN||3||83|||
|19||Mad Dog Vachon||November 12, 1965||Live event||Denver, CO||4||365 (57)†|||
|†||Mr. Wrestling||January 8, 1966||Live event||Omaha, NE||1†||6|||
|†||Mad Dog Vachon||January 14, 1966||Live event||Omaha, NE||5†||302||AWA president Stanley Blackburn reviews the match from January 8, 1966, and declares it "no contest" on January 14, 1966, since Mr. Wrestling's legs are on the rope while pinning Vachon during the final fall. Vachon later defeats Mr. Wrestling decisively for the title.|||
|20||Dick the Bruiser||November 12, 1966||Live event||Omaha, NE||1||7|||
|21||Mad Dog Vachon||November 19, 1966||Live event||Omaha, NE||5||99|||
|22||Verne Gagne||February 26, 1967||Live event||Saint Paul, MN||8||538|||
|23||Dr. X||August 17, 1968||Live event||Bloomington, MN||1||14|||
|24||Verne Gagne||August 31, 1968||Live event||Minneapolis, MN||9||2625|||
|25||Nick Bockwinkel||November 8, 1975||Live event||Saint Paul, MN||1||1714|||
|26||Verne Gagne||July 18, 1980||Live event||Chicago, IL||10||305||Gagne retired from active wrestling while still the champion.|||
|27||Nick Bockwinkel||May 19, 1981||N/A||N/A||2||467 (334)†||Bockwinkel was awarded the championship when Verne Gagne retired from professional wrestling.|||
|†||Hulk Hogan||April 18, 1982||Live event||Saint Paul, MN||1†||6||Hogan defeated Nick Bockwinkel, with both parties using a foreign object during the match, and is declared by the referee as champion.|||
|†||Nick Bockwinkel||April 24, 1982||—||—||3†||127||Bockwinkel was awarded the championship back by AWA president Stanley Blackburn due to the involvement of a foreign object during the match.|||
|28||Otto Wanz||August 29, 1982||Live event||Saint Paul, MN||1||41|||
|29||Nick Bockwinkel||October 9, 1982||Live event||Chicago, IL||3||501||The championship is held up on December 27, 1982 after a match with Jerry Lawler; it was given back to Bockwinkel after defeating Lawler in a rematch on January 10, 1983. Bockwinkel is retroactively recognized as having continued been champion during the period the title was held up.|||
|30||Jumbo Tsuruta||February 22, 1984||Live event||Tokyo, Japan||1||81|||
|31||Rick Martel||May 13, 1984||Live event||Saint Paul, MN||1||595||Martel wrestled NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair to a double countout on October 2, 1985, in Tokyo, Japan.|||
|32||Stan Hansen||December 29, 1985||Live event||East Rutherford, NJ||1||181||Hansen took the championship belt and defended it on All Japan Pro Wrestling's cards in July 1986.|||
|33||Nick Bockwinkel||June 28, 1986||Live event||Denver, CO||4||308||Bockwinkel was awarded the championship when Stan Hansen left the AWA.|||
|34||Curt Hennig||May 2, 1987||SuperClash 2||Daly City, CA||1||373||The championship was held up immediately after the match due to controversy over interference by Larry Zbyszko on Hennig's behalf, but the title is returned to Hennig days later after the AWA Championship Committee rules that there was no evidence of interference. On February 16, 1988, the title was again held up, this time due to a no-contest between Hennig and The Grappler in Portland, Oregon. Hennig would regain the title on March 5 in Portland, thanks to his replacement The Assassin defeating The Grappler in a decision match. AWA did not recognize this, which makes Hennig a one-time champion.|||
|35||Jerry Lawler||May 9, 1988||Live event||Memphis, TN||1||256||Jackie Fargo was the special guest referee after getting more votes in a national telephone poll than Hennig's father, Larry "The Axe" Hennig. CWA (Memphis) owner Jerry Jarrett announced weeks before the match that Lawler promised to retire if he lost. Lawler later defeated Kerry Von Erich on December 13, 1988, in Chicago to win the WCCW World Heavyweight Championship, and become the first Unified AWA World Heavyweight Champion.|||
|—||Vacated||January 20, 1989||—||—||—||—||Jerry Lawler was stripped of the championship after the Continental Wrestling Association (CWA) split from the AWA.|||
|36||Larry Zbyszko||February 7, 1989||Live event||Saint Paul, MN||1||368||Zbyszko won a battle royal, last eliminating Tom Zenk to win the vacant championship.|||
|37||Mr. Saito||February 10, 1990||Super Fight in Tokyo Dome||Tokyo, Japan||1||57|||
|38||Larry Zbyszko||April 8, 1990||SuperClash 4||Saint Paul, MN||2||248|||
|—||Vacated||December 12, 1990||—||—||—||—||The championship was stripped when Larry Zbyszko left the inactive AWA for World Championship Wrestling (WCW). Official kayfabe reason was that Zbyszko refused to defend the title on a tour of Japan.|
|—||Deactivated||January 12, 1991||—||—||—||—||The championship was deactivated when AWA closed in January 12 1991.|||
|3||Mad Dog Vachon||5||776|
|17||Fritz Von Erich||1||12|
|18||Dick the Bruiser||1||7|
|Mighty Igor Vodic||1||7|
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