NWA World Heavyweight Championship
The NWA World Heavyweight Championship is a professional wrestling world heavyweight championship in the National Wrestling Alliance. Although formally established in 1948, its lineage has been traditionally traced backwards to the first World Heavyweight Championship, which traces its lineage to the title first awarded to Georg Hackenschmidt in 1905, which he subsequently lost to Frank Gotch in 1908. This effectively makes it the oldest surviving wrestling championship in the world. The title has been competed for in such well-known promotions as the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF, now WWE), New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), World Championship Wrestling (WCW), Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), Ring of Honor (ROH), and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA), now known as Impact Wrestling.
|NWA World Heavyweight Championship|
The current NWA World Heavyweight Championship belt.
|Date established||July 14, 1948|
|Current champion(s)||Nick Aldis|
|Date won||December 9, 2017|
With many territorial promotions appearing across the United States, the NWA was formed in 1948 as an overall governing wrestling body. Like franchises, these territories had the option of NWA membership. The promotion owners had to recognize the NWA heavyweight, junior heavyweight, and light heavyweight champions as world champions while retaining their own ownership and top champion. Ric Flair holds the record for the most reigns with nine.
Early history (1948 – 1960)Edit
Every year, the NWA World Heavyweight Champion would travel to each territory and defend the title against the territories' top contender or champion. The purpose of the world champion was to make the top contender look good and still hold the title. The NWA board of directors, composed mostly of territory owners, decided when the title changed hands via a vote. By the late 1950s, however, the system began to break down. As Lou Thesz continued to hold the title, other popular wrestlers such as Verne Gagne became frustrated over the lack of change. There were also disputes over the number of appearances the champion would make in different regions.
On June 14, 1957 in Chicago, Lou Thesz defended the world title against Canadian wrestler Édouard Carpentier in a two out of three falls match. Thesz and Carpentier split the first two falls. In the third fall, Thesz was disqualified by referee Ed Whalen who raised Carpentier's hand in victory. The NWA later voided the title change based on the disqualification. Thesz defeated Carpentier by disqualification in a Montreal rematch on July 24. It had been planned that the NWA would present Thesz and Carpentier as rival champions in different cities following a similar pattern to the successful title dispute matches between Thesz and Leo Nomellini. Carpentier would also be able to make appearances in the US as champion while Thesz was on an overseas tour. However, as a result of various disputes within the NWA, Carpentier's manager, wrestling promoter Eddie Quinn, left the organization in August making Carpentier unavailable to the NWA. The organization dealt with the situation by announcing 71 days after Carpentier's win in Chicago that it did not recognize Carpentier's win and had never recognized it. Quinn started promoting Carpentier as the true NWA world champion based on the match with Thesz. In 1958, Quinn started shopping Carpentier around to promoters interested in leaving the NWA. A victory over Carpentier could give a local champion a credible claim to the world championship of wrestling.
Verne Gagne, who had been trying to become NWA World Heavyweight Champion for some time, defeated Carpentier in Omaha, Nebraska on August 9, 1958. This was recognized as a title change by those NWA affiliate promotions that would later evolve into the American Wrestling Association (AWA) in 1960. This disputed version of the NWA World Heavyweight Title was later known as the World Heavyweight Championship (Omaha version). The title was unified with the AWA World Heavyweight Championship on September 7, 1963. The AWA title continued to exist until the AWA ceased operations in 1991.
The Boston NWA affiliate known as the Atlantic Athletic Commission arranged a match between Killer Kowalski and Carpentier in 1958. Kowalski's victory created what was after known as the ACC World Heavyweight Title and later the Big Time Wrestling (Boston) World title which was active until 1975, later reforming in the early 2000s.
The NAWA/WWA in Los Angeles recognized Carpentier as NWA champion in July 1959 as part of gradually splitting from the NWA. On June 12, 1961, Carpentier lost a match to Freddie Blassie which created the basis for the WWA World Heavyweight Championship (Los Angeles version). The title ceased to exist when the WWA returned to the NWA on October 1, 1968.
World Wide Wrestling Federation (1960s – 1963)Edit
The World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF), which later evolved into World Wrestling Entertainment, was the major wrestling promotion in the northeast United States in the early 1960s. Vincent J. McMahon's Capitol Wrestling Corporation, the precursor to the WWWF, seceded from the National Wrestling Alliance for a variety of reasons including the selection of the NWA World Heavyweight Champion and the number of dates wrestled by the champion in the promotion. Ostensibly, the dispute was over "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers losing the NWA World Heavyweight Championship to Lou Thesz in one fall instead of a best-of-three — the format in which NWA World Heavyweight Championship matches were traditionally decided at the time. Capitol Wrestling Corporation executives held majority control over the NWA while in NWA board of directors at the time. Following Lou Thesz's World Heavyweight Championship win, Capitol Wrestling Corporation seceded from the National Wrestling Alliance and became the World Wide Wrestling Federation. "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers was then recognized as the first WWWF World Heavyweight Champion.
Jim Crockett Promotions / World Championship Wrestling (1981 – 1993)Edit
When Ric Flair won the NWA World title in 1981, he traveled to other NWA territories and defended the belt. He would drop the belt and regain it, as the NWA board of directors decided. On more than one occasion, Flair lost and regained the belt without the official sanctioning of the NWA. In most cases (such as the case of Jack Veneno), these "switches" are ignored. However, as of 1998, the NWA recognized the Flair-Race switches that had occurred in March 1984 in New Zealand and Singapore.
As the 1980s drew to a close, Jim Crockett Promotions (the main NWA territory) made a failed bid to go national and almost filed for bankruptcy in an attempt to compete with the WWF. Turner Broadcasting purchased the company, because it was a high rated program on the WTBS cable station. Completing the deal in November 1988, Turner began changing the company to World Championship Wrestling (WCW). WCW stayed in the NWA, but Turner slowly phased out the NWA name. The NWA organization existed only on paper at this point; on television it was portrayed that the NWA World Heavyweight Championship simply became the WCW World Heavyweight Championship by late 1990.
Due to a falling out with WCW Executive Vice-President Jim Herd, Flair was fired from WCW on July 1, 1991 while still being recognized as the NWA World Heavyweight Champion. Flair took the NWA belt with him, because WCW and Herd had not returned the $25,000 bond Flair had paid on the belt. A match was held for the vacated WCW World Heavyweight Championship within two weeks of the departure, but no mention was made of the NWA title. Flair was stripped of the NWA World Heavyweight Championship by the NWA board of directors shortly after he signed with the WWF in September 1991; a board had to be reconstituted, as most members had gone out of business or been bought out by JCP/WCW. Flair displayed the "Big Gold Belt" on WWF television, calling himself the "Real World's Heavyweight Champion." After winning the WWF Championship, the "Real World's Heavyweight Champion" angle was dropped. WCW, which had subsequently filed a lawsuit against the WWF to prevent them from using the Big Gold Belt on television, eventually dropped the action. The belt was returned to WCW.
During Flair's departure from WCW, the company had made a new WCW World title belt. After a year hiatus, the NWA board authorized WCW and New Japan Pro Wrestling to hold a tournament to decide a new NWA World Champion using the Big Gold Belt, now owned by WCW. Turner's company still maintained its WCW World Championship, thus having two World Heavyweight titles present in the same promotion. The tournament was won by Japanese wrestler Masahiro Chono. From 1992 to 1993, the NWA belt was defended in Japan and on WCW television. Flair returned to WCW and regained the belt from Barry Windham in July 1993; that same year, WCW recognized the Ric Flair-Tatsumi Fujinami NWA title changes in 1991. Disputes between WCW management and the NWA Board reached the breaking point in the summer of 1993 over a variety of issues, not the least of which was a storyline by WCW to have the title switched to Rick Rude.
On September 1, 1993, WCW withdrew their membership from the NWA but kept the title belt which they owned. A court battle decided that WCW could not continue to use the letters NWA to describe or promote the belt, but it did possess a right to the physical title belt and its historical lineage by a goodwill agreement between prior boards of directors and WCW (and its prior incarnation Jim Crockett Promotions). Per this ruling, the title belt dropped the recognition as being the NWA World Heavyweight title but continued to be billed as the World Heavyweight Championship by WCW. Soon after, the Big Gold Belt was defended without any company affiliation, even being referred to as the Big Gold Belt for a short time, until it became known as the WCW International World Heavyweight Championship. This title was recognized as the championship of a fictitious entity known as "WCW International", which served as a replacement for the NWA Board, until the title was unified with the main WCW title.
Despite losing WCW as its flagship program, the NWA picked up new members and remained in existence as a legal entity. After nearly a year, the organization scheduled a tournament to crown a new champion, and brought back the "Domed Globe" belt from the '70s to early '80s to represent this new champion.
Eastern/Extreme Championship Wrestling (1993 - 1994)Edit
After WCW withdrew from the NWA, their Eastern Championship Wrestling (ECW) territory became the most televised wrestling show still within the NWA. As such, the NWA decided to hold the tournament for the vacated NWA World Heavyweight Championship through ECW. The tournament was held at the ECW Arena in August 1994 and won by ECW Heavyweight Champion Shane Douglas. (At the time, the ECW title was considered a regional title). Douglas appeared proud to become NWA World Heavyweight Champion, until he turned and threw the belt down and started slandering the NWA, then picked up the ECW Heavyweight title belt and proclaimed himself ECW World Heavyweight Champion. Almost immediately thereafter ECW withdrew from the NWA and became Extreme Championship Wrestling. In the 2005, ECW documentary Forever Hardcore, Douglas claimed that part of the reason that he decided to toss down the NWA belt was because of derogatory and slanderous comments that then-NWA head Dennis Coralluzzo had allegedly been making regarding his professionalism.
Smoky Mountain Wrestling and United States Wrestling Association (1994 – 1995)Edit
Despite this blow to the organization, the NWA held another tournament in November 1994; in Cherry Hill, New Jersey hosted by promoter Dennis Coralluzzo and Smoky Mountain Wrestling. This tournament was won by Chris Candido and the title soon was recognized and defended in such independent promotions as Smoky Mountain Wrestling and the United States Wrestling Association. Holding the belt for a few months, he dropped the belt to Ultimate Fighting Championship's (UFC) Dan Severn in February 1995. Severn held the belt continuously for four years, but only made sporadic defenses due to his UFC commitments. Although Severn had attempted to go the "traveling champion" route done by former champions Thesz, Dory Funk, Jr., Harley Race, and Terry Funk, the competition level was relatively minor due to the lack of strong territories.
World Wrestling Federation (1998)Edit
In 1998, UFC hall of famer Dan Severn became part of Jim Cornette's NWA faction in the WWF. Trying to get back in the national spotlight, the NWA made a deal with Vincent K. McMahon to appear on WWF television. Part of Cornette's NWA stable was NWA North American Champion Jeff Jarrett, winning the vacant title by defeating Barry Windham on Monday Night Raw. The NWA's deal with the WWF never accomplished its intended purpose and McMahon ended it. The NWA belt went back to being defended on the independent circuit and remaining NWA territories.
Independent circuit (1999 – 2002)Edit
In 1999, Severn lost the title to former Olympic judoka Naoya Ogawa, and the title picture became slightly more competitive. The champions nonetheless remained wrestlers from independents, regardless of whether they were from North America (Severn, Mike Rapada, Sabu), Asia (Ogawa, Shinya Hashimoto), or Europe (Gary Steele). The situation continued until early 2002, when Severn was able to regain the title from Hashimoto in Japan, albeit with controversy.
Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (2002 - 2007)Edit
In 2002, Jeff and Jerry Jarrett formed NWA:Total Nonstop Action (NWA:TNA). The Jarretts worked out a licensing deal with the NWA and affiliated their promotion with the NWA World Heavyweight and Tag Team titles. While working out a cable deal, the Jarretts put NWA:TNA on weekly pay-per-view. The NWA World Heavyweight Champion at the time, Dan Severn, was unable to appear on the inaugural TNA card, and he was stripped of the NWA title. Ken Shamrock was then declared the new NWA World Heavyweight Champion after winning a Gauntlet for the Gold battle royal. In 2004, NWA:TNA withdrew from the NWA, but retained the rights to use the NWA World Heavyweight and Tag Team titles on their shows while being obliged to adhere to rulings of the NWA board of directors. The agreement ended on May 13, 2007 with the TNA creating its own championships.
"Reclaiming the Glory" (2007)Edit
On May 22, 2007, the NWA announced through a statement on their official website, and through a video posted on YouTube, a tournament, entitled Reclaiming the Glory, to fill the title vacancy left after the end of the NWA's relationship with TNA Wrestling. Sixteen men competed for the championship, with Adam Pearce finally winning the belt by defeating Brent Albright on September 1, 2007 in Bayamón, Puerto Rico. Pearce was active in defending the championship, but suffered from the same problems that had plagued the "new" NWA in the past. A lack of stable promotions within the NWA made it difficult to have a traveling champion, so most of Pearce's defenses took place in the NWA Pro promotion owned by David Marquez and John Rivera. Pearce's main foe in early defenses was Sean "X-Pac" Waltman, and the two wrestled numerous times over the title. Later, Pearce resumed his feud with Albright, with both men exchanging the Number One Contendership.
Ring of Honor (2008)Edit
On June 7, 2008 at the Ring of Honor (ROH) pay per view, Pearce revealed the NWA World Heavyweight Championship at the conclusion of his match, making it officially recognized in Ring of Honor. Following the event it was announced that on June 27, Ring of Honor World Champion, Nigel McGuinness would take on NWA World Heavyweight Champion, Pearce title for title at "Battle For Supremacy" in Dayton, Ohio. The match ended in a disqualification when the NWA rule of throwing an opponent over the top rope was enforced, therefore both men retained their respective titles, causing the crowd in Dayton to chant "Dusty Finish".
Brent Albright defeated Adam Pearce in New York, New York at the ROH Death Before Dishonor VI event on August 2, 2008 to win the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. This was the first time that the title changed hands in New York City. Then on September 20, 2008, Pearce began his second reign as champion by defeating Albright at the Ring of Honor "Glory By Honor VII" event in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He would lose the title one month later to Blue Demon, Jr. in Mexico City.
Pearce and Cabana (2010 – 2012)Edit
On March 14, 2010, Pearce ended Blue Demon Jr.'s 505-day reign as champion by emerging victorious over him and Phill Shatter in a match in Charlotte, North Carolina. Pearce held the title for nearly a full year before Colt Cabana defeated him at a taping of Championship Wrestling From Hollywood on March 6, 2011. Cabana held the title for forty-eight days himself until The Sheik beat him in Jacksonville, Florida at an NWA Pro Wrestling Fusion event.
On July 11, 2011, the NWA announced that it was stripping The Sheik of the world championship for refusing to make a title defense against Pearce. The defense, which Sheik claimed he was never told about, was to take place during the Ohio State Fair on July 31. Instead, a four-way match was signed that put Pearce, the #1 contender, against the NWA National Heavyweight Champion Chance Prophet, the NWA North American Champion Shaun Tempers, and Jimmy Rave for the vacant title. Pearce won and became champion for a fourth time. Once again, he lost the belt to Cabana, who defeated him at another Championship Wrestling From Hollywood taping on April 8, 2012.
Shortly thereafter Cabana and Pearce began facing each other in a series of matches that was dubbed the "Seven Levels of Hate" best of seven series. The fourth match of the series was a two-out-of-three falls contest held on July 21, 2012, in Kansas City, Missouri. The NWA sanctioned the match as a world championship match and Pearce emerged victorious to become a five-time world champion.
With both wrestlers even at three victories, the final match of the series was scheduled for October 27, 2012 in Melbourne, Australia at an NWA Warzone Wrestling event. Pearce wanted the NWA to sanction the match as a world title match, as they had done earlier. The NWA, however, refused to do this and did not want Pearce and Cabana to go forward with the match. They did anyway, with Cabana winning the match. Pearce and Cabana both broke kayfabe after the match, with Pearce saying that Cabana was the rightful champion and Cabana saying that he did not want the title as it was about the past and he was about the future. Pearce declared he did not want the title either and left it in the ring as the two exited the arena.
There have been four belt designs used to represent the NWA World Heavyweight championship, along with one custom-designed belt, used by Dan Severn. The current belt representing the NWA World Heavyweight championship was first used from 1973 to 1986, and has been used again since 1994. The belt is commonly referred to as “the 10 Pounds of Gold” or the “Domed Globe” in reference to the protruding globe on the center plate.
The belt was originally made by an unidentified jeweler in Mexico in 1973. The belt was introduced at an NWA show on July 20, 1973, having been first presented to Harley Race by then-NWA President Sam Muchnick. Race would lose the title later that night to Jack Briscoe. The belt originally had a red suede/velvet strap along with a nameplate (the first world championship belt to incorporate this). The nameplate was only used once, by Jack Briscoe, before it was removed from the design. The red leather strap was replaced with a black laced leather strap soon into Briscoe's reign due to the material lacking durability. The second side plate on the left side of the belt features a modified version of the older Canadian Red Ensign rather than the official Canadian flag, the Maple Leaf, which had been adopted in 1965.
The original Domed Globe belt was retired in 1986 in favor of the Crumrine-designed “Big Gold Belt”. When WCW withdrew from the NWA in 1993, the Domed Globe was brought back to represent the NWA World Heavyweight title in 1994 with WCW retaining the Big Gold Belt to be used for the newly created WCW World Heavyweight Championship. Ric Flair retained possession of the original Domed Globe belt. It is currently located at WWE's Connecticut headquarters and was on display at WWE WrestleMania 28 Axxess and WrestleMania 33 Axxess.
The NWA currently recognizes 92 individual World Heavyweight Championship reigns. Ric Flair holds the record with nine championships. Lou Thesz holds the record for most cumulative days as champion, with his three reigns totaling 3,749 days. Thesz's first reign is the longest in the history of the title, as he held the title for 1,941 days. The shortest reign belongs to Shane Douglas, who won the title in a tournament at an August 27, 1994 NWA Eastern Championship Wrestling event; immediately after winning the tournament Douglas, who was the reigning Eastern Championship Wrestling Heavyweight Champion, refused the NWA World Heavyweight Championship and threw the belt down, declaring his ECW title to be a world championship in an action that split Eastern Championship Wrestling from the NWA and brought about the existence of what became the original Extreme Championship Wrestling.
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