In these crazy, topsy-turvy days of multiple World Titles in the WWF, I've decided to look back to the history of the World Championship of Wrestling and see how we got to where we were. Enjoy!
Freeway420 (Ryan Pike) With information from The Great Hisa's Pro Wrestling Title Histories (www.wrestling-titles.com)
The World Championship began (in effect) as the Catch-As-Catch-Can Heavyweight Title, set up in 1881 and first held by Joe Acton. The legendary Ed "Strangler" Lewis won the title in 1887 and unified it with the American Greco-Roman Title in 1893, and that title became the.American Heavyweight Title. European Greco-Roman Champ George Hackenschmidt beat widely-praised (yet unofficial) American Champion Tom Jenkins on May 5, 1905 to become the first-ever World Heavyweight Champion. The title was respected and undisputed until 1929, when the National Boxing Association's Wrestling section withdrew their recognition of champion Gus Sonnenberg. This created the NBA World Heavyweight Title, which Dick Shikat won. Further, "Strangler" Lewis lost the American Wrestling Association's recognition when he lost by DQ against Henri Delgade in Montreal, losing the AWA's recognition in Montreal & Boston, but not in Ohio. Lewis did gain more recognition, though, winning the New York State Athletic Commission World Heavyweight Title in 1932.
Danno O'Mahoney reunified the title in 1935, winning the NBA, AWA & NYSAC Titles. He lost the titles to Dick Shikat in 1936 (although Boston's AWA still called him "champ"). David Levin beat Ali Baba by DQ in late 1936, but the NBA retained their recognition of Baba as champion.
By 1946, the title picture was fuzzy. The World Championship was disputed! The National Wrestling Association (formerly the National Boxing Association's wrestling wing) recognized Bill Longston. The American Wrestling Assocation recognized Frank Sexton, who became the Maryland version of World Heavyweight Champ in January of 1946. The Midwest Wrestling Association had Orville Brown. The Los Angeles version of the World Belt was vacant. This all changed in 1948, when the National Wrestling Alliance was founded, and wrestling was changed forever.
Orville Brown (the MWA Champ) was named as the NWA's first Heavyweight Champion. Brown was injured in a car accident, and his title was given to Lou Thesz in 1949. Thesz, already the National Wrestling Association, later won the AWA & Los Angeles versions of the championship, reunifying the titles and becoming Undisputed Champion. It was all wine & roses, until individual promoters began disputing the NWA's title holders. On June 14, 1957 in Chicago, Lou Thesz lost to Eduoard Carpantier by DQ when he left due to a back injury. The NWA created the precident that a title cannot change hands on a DQ, and kept Thesz as champ. NWA chapters in Omaha & Boston immediately disputed, and the World Wrestling Assocation named Carpantier their champion. The Undisputed Title was no more!
The next-best thing, though, was the NWA World Heavyweight Title. The NWA kept Thesz as champ, and they chugged along quite nicely and without incident until January 24, 1963, when NWA Champion Buddy Rogers lost to Lou Thesz in one fall (title matches back then were usually best-of-three falls). The northeast promoters (including Vince McMahon Sr.) wouldn't recognize the change and broke off to form the World Wide Wrestling Federation, and made Rogers their World Heavyweight Champion. Thesz stayed NWA Champion, and they kept going along until 1991, when a pesky northeast promoter named Vince McMahon signed away the NWA's Champion, Ric Flair, for his WWF. The title was stripped by the NWA board and Masahiro Chono became NWA Champ after a tournament. WCW receded from the NWA in 1993, ending another Flair title reign and causing the whole WCW International World Title fiasco.
The what? Well, the WCW recognised Flair as NWA Champion and Vader as WCW Champion. After they receded from the NWA, they couldn't just IGNORE Flair's championship status, could they? So, they created their OWN NWA Title, the WCW International World Title, tended to by the ficticious International Board of Governors/Directors, I forget which one. The title flopped miserably, and the new title was shortly unified with the WCW Championship (which Flair also held). More trouble continued for the NWA as Eastern Championship Wrestling changed their name to Extreme Championship Wrestling and pulled out of the NWA during a World Title Tournament in 1994. Since then, though the smaller titles run by smaller promotions either folded or were bought out by bigger companies (WWF). Soon, only NWA, ECW, WCW & WWF remained.
In 2001, the WWF bought WCW. ECW lost their TV deal and went under in April. Owner Paul Heyman got a job in the WWF, effectively folding the ECW into the WWF. The WCW World Heavyweight Title was brought over to the WWF, for the first time having one promotion with two champions. In November, the WWF began referring to the WCW Championship as the World Championship (as WCW was defeated at the Survivor Series PPV). And in December, the World Championship was unified with the WWF Championship, creating the Undisputed Championship. Months later, the title was re-disputed, splitting into the WWE and World Championships. Now, only these titles and the NWA Championship (which is severly lacking in prestige now with champions like Ron Killings and Ken Shamrock [nothing against them, but they're not Ric Flair or Dusty Rhodes]) remain on the national scene. Maybe someday the NWA will give up and unify with the WWF. Or maybe another national promotion will spring up. Either way, it's good to look back on the history of the World Championships and remember how good the past was, and the potential the future still holds.
NOTE: My opinion is that YES, the WWE Title is the most prestigeous (although in one form or another, it and the NWA title date back to 1880).
Thanks for reading, all. Feedback is welcome.
TITLES Catch-As-Catch-Can Heavyweight....1881-1893 American Greco-Roman..............1880-1893 European Greco-Roman..............1894-1905 American Heavyweight..............1893-1908 Undisputed World Heavyweight......1905-1957 NBA/NWA World Heavyweight.........1929-1949 AWA World Heavyweight [Boston]....1928-1964 NYSAC World Heavyweight...........1928-1935 MWA World Heavyweight.............1931-1948 NWA World Heavyweight.............1948-NOW WWA World Heavyweight.............1957-1968 WWWF/WWF/WWE World Heavyweight....1963-NOW WCW Inter'l World Heavyweight.....1993-1994 WCW World Heavyweight.............1991-2001 ECW World Heavyweight.............1992-2001 World Heavyweight.................2002-NOW