History of the WWE / WWF Championship

In this 4-part series, I’ll be covering the history of sports entertainments most coveted prize, the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.

For the sake of clarity, the belt in question is the WWF/WWE version first established in 1963. It has been held by greats such as Hulk Hogan, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Bret “Hitman” Hart, The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Triple H…. you get the picture. I’ll be looking at the different iterations of the belt – designs, unifications, famous champions (and the not-so famous). In part one, we’ll be looking at the belt’s incarnation up until Hulk Hogan’s first reign in the 80’s.

First Champion & Early Years

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1963

So back in the day, wrestling was split into various territories divided up across the USA. The National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) were the governing body (yes, wrestling had a governing body) and had one true World Heavyweight Champion. Following a disputed result of a match between then-champion Buddy Rogers and Lou Thesz, Capitol Wrestling Corporation (an NWA territory owned and run by Vince McMahon Sr.) split from the NWA. The company was renamed the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) and Buddy Rogers won the title in a tournament held in Brazil. The first belt is shown on the right. A far cry from today’s version, the centre plate is shaped like the map of the USA and it depicts two grapplers squaring off with the words “World’s Champion” etched on the bottom.

Bruno Sammartino won the title three weeks later and went on to hold the strap for a record 2,803 days, one that still stands to this very day.

The title changed changes six times over the next 15 years. Pedro Morales had a 1000+ day reign, as did Sammartino when he held the belt for the second time in 1973. Bob Backlund defeated Billy Graham in 1978 and the company (and belt) was renamed to the World Wrestling Federation (WWF).

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1982

Backlund, the true American hero feuded with Iran’s Iron Sheik. The Sheik won the title via the dreaded Camel Clutch hold when Backlund’s manager threw in the towel (something we’ll revisit later on). Backlund never officially submitted but  The Sheik walked away with the “Big Green Belt”, pictured right.

The Rise of Hulkamania

The Iron Sheik was merely a transitional champion (a term used to describe someone who is temporarily holding the belt for someone else, or a technique used to pass the belt from one good guy to another without having them face off). Vince McMahon Jr had taken over the running of the company, and signed American Wrestling Association star Terry Bollea, better known as Hulk Hogan. The Hulkster had previously starred in Rocky III and McMahon chose him as his first mega-star in order to gain national notoriety.

1985
1985
1986
1986

Hogan won the belt in Madison Squared Garden in January 1984 and went on to hold it for over 1,400 days. The belt he carried had a green strap and a large round golden centre plate. The side plates were engraved with the names of previous holders and the dates they won the title. The design was changed twice during Hogan’s tenure. WWE enlisted the help of former wrestler Reggie Parks to design and produce their championship belts. The improvement in quality and design was clear to see.

That concludes part 1 of our history of the WWE championship. In part 2 I’ll look at WWE’s “Rock n’ Roll” era, Wrestlemania and the early 90’s.

Latest ‘Mania Card

The Wrestlemania card is starting to take shape and following this week’s RAW and Tuesday’s Smackdown, we’ve got the bulk of the card figured out.

Confirmed

Brock Lesnar (c) -V- Roman Reigns – WWE World Heavyweight Championship

Triple H V Sting 

Bray Wyatt V Undertaker

2nd Annual Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
(Confirmed participants: Ryback, Curtis Axel, The Miz, Fandango, Adam Rose)

Unconfirmed/Likely

Randy Orton V Seth Rollins

Bad News Barrett V Daniel Bryan V Dolph Ziggler V Luke Harper V R-Truth V Stardust V Dean Ambrose – Ladder match for the Intercontinental Championship

Rusev (c) V Cena – US Championship

The Bella Twins V AJ Lee & Paige

Smackdown! Spoilers for March 5th

We’ve got Smackdown! spoilers for this week’s episode, due to air Thursday in the States and Friday in the UK & Ireland.

This week’s edition was taped from the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.

The show kicks off with Dolph Ziggler cutting an in-ring promo. He talked about never getting his Intercontinental Title rematch and announced he will be part of the IC title ladder match at WrestleMania. Ziggler said something is missing from the match – Daniel Bryan. He tells Bryan to come out to the ring, but Bad News Barrett’s music hits.

BNB says the title and the ladder match are his. Ziggler can give the belt back to him, or he’ll take it back. Luke Harper snuck up on Ziggler and laid him out. Harper, Ziggler and Barrett brawled until Dean Ambrose joined the mix. R-Truth entered the ring and stole the IC title while the other 4 men fought.

– Backstage, R-Truth tried giving the IC title to Renee Young, but she told him to give it to Dean Ambrose.

– Tyson Kidd and Cesaro defeated Los Matadores.

– Ryback defeated Kane with a Meathook clothesline while Kane was distracted. Big Show was in Kane’s corner. After the match, Kane booked another match for Ryback.

– Big Show defeated Ryback when Kane interfered and set him up to get hit with the WMD.

– Bray Wyatt cuts a promo telling the Undertaker he’s waiting.

– A Sheamus vignette aired.

– The Bella Twins came out to the ring and talked about #GiveDivasAChance. Nikki said even though AJ Lee has been away and none of the other Divas are on her level, she’ll give AJ Lee a chance. AJ and Paige came out.

– AJ Lee defeated Brie Bella with the Black Widow. Nikki tried to interfere but Paige stopped her.

– Backstage, Daniel Bryan said the Intercontinental Title picture is heating up and the Ladder Match at WrestleMania could steal the show. He’ll looking forward to seeing who walks out as champion.

– New Day defeated The Miz and Damien Sandow. Sandow and Miz fought during the match, with Sandow getting in Miz’s face before walking out. New Day got the win with their finisher.

– Jack Swagger spoke to Renee about the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania and about his match with Rusev later in the evening. Swagger said he’s going to shut Rusev up.

– Backstage, Roman Reigns told Paul Heyman he agreed with something he said on RAW. He knows Lesnar will hurt him at WrestleMania, but he’s going to take everything Lesnar has and then take the WWE Championship with a Superman punch and a spear.

– Rusev defeated Jack Swagger with The Accolade. After the match, Curtis Axel cut an Axelmania promo on the big screen and told Rusev he’s coming for the US Title.

– Dolph Ziggler and Dean Ambrose defeated Luke Harper and Bad News Barrett. Ziggler took out Harper with a superkick and Zig Zag, but was knocked out by Barrett, who also took out Ambrose. BNB tried getting his title back from R-Truth at ringside, but Ambrose dove through the ropes and knocked him out. Truth tries leaving with the belt but runs into Luke Harper. Truth knocks Harper out and attempts escaping again, but Daniel Bryan comes out. Truth gave Bryan the belt, started a Yes! chant and bailed. Bryan celebrated with the belt, but was attacked by Stardust, who climbed ladder and posed with the belt to end the show.

Lesnar Attends UFC 184

Former UFC Heavyweight Champion and current WWE World Heavyweight Champion, Brock Lesnar stopped by UFC 184 in Los Angeles.

Brock, seen chatting to UFC president Dana White (pic: @Sholler_UFC) has certainly added more fuel to the fire with speculation rife lately regarding where he will end up next April. We covered Brock’s potential future in detail earlier this week.

Lesnar has pulled this stunt before. Back at UFC 164 in December 2013, it was leaked that Brock would be attending to discuss a potential UFC return. Lesnar wasn’t seen on screen, but shortly after it was revealed that Brock signed a new deal with the WWE and he went on to end the Undertaker’s infamous Wrestlemania streak 4 months later.

In all likelihood, the Beast will extend his WWE deal. It’s far too comfortable for him; with minimal travelling, minimal work and plenty of cash.

Brock Lesnar is playing “The Game”. In more ways than one.

Ladder Match Added to Wrestlemania

WWE confirmed earlier today that Bad News Barrett would defend his Intercontinental title in a ladder match at the Showcase of the Immortals.

So far there have been no participants announced to take part other than the champ himself.

It’s expected that this will be a multi-man ladder match featuring Dean Ambrose, R-Truth, Dolph Ziggler and perhaps even Daniel Bryan.

So far, the card is looking like this:

Brock Lesnar (c) -V- Roman Reigns – WWE World Heavyweight Championship

Rusev (c) V Cena – US Championship

Triple H V Sting

Bray Wyatt V Undertaker

Randy Orton V Seth Rollins

Bad News Barrett V ????? – Ladder match for the Intercontinental Championship

2nd Annual Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal
(Confirmed participants: Ryback, Curtis Axel, The Miz)

The Brock Lesnar Saga

Brock Lesnar is due to become one of the hottest free agents in four weeks time, with a host of organisations battling it out for his signature. His current employers, WWE, appear to have their hands tied by the Beast and developments this week have added further fuel to the fire.

Lesnar as UFC Heavyweight Champion in 2009
Lesnar as UFC Heavyweight Champion in 2009

The former NCAA, UFC and reigning WWE heavyweight champion has a dream deal with WWE since 2012. He appears on a limited number of shows (around 25-30 a year) and is rumoured to be on a generous salary. He’s allowed use his own apparel sponsors (the only one in WWE with permission to do so) and he is pushed as an undefeatable monster. He’s consistently featured in the main event since his return in 2012 and has come out on top in feuds against the likes of Triple H, the Big Show, the Undertaker, CM Punk and John Cena.

Lesnar has carried WWE’s premier title since Summerslam 2014. He’s scheduled face Roman Reigns at Wrestlemania 31 on March 30th.

It’s obvious where WWE are planning on going. Reigns is the next golden boy. The next superhero. The next John Cena. It’s all set-up for him to conquer the Conquerer and carry WWE into the next decade.

Crowd reaction to Reigns’ push has been luke warm at best. Reports have suggested that WWE are making one last push to re-sign Brock Lesnar, which could see him stay with the company on his current deal and have a 2/3 match program with Reigns.

Rumours from this weeks RAW suggest that negotiations haven’t gone well. Lesnar was advertised to appear on the show via numerous outlets, but the Beast was nowhere to be seen. Apparently, the Minnesota native and WWE chief Vince McMahon couldn’t come to terms, and Lesnar stormed off in a huff.

The world’s top MMA promotions (UFC & Bellator) must be licking their lips. Lesnar (5-3) is the UFC’s biggest draw of all time, selling 1.6 million Pay Per Views at UFC 100 and headlining against the likes of Frank Mir, Randy Couture, Shane Carwin, Cain Valasquez and Alastair Overeem. Dana White is a huge admirer of Lesnar’s (editor’s note: $$$) and is likely the favourite to land Lesnar’s signature. Potential match-ups include A third fight against Frank Mir or someone else in the top 6-10 fighters in the heavyweight division.

The question mark still remains regarding Brock’s talent in the Octagon. He suffered from a rehabilitating disease known as diverticulitis in 2010 & 2011. I believe Brock still has a lot to offer inside the cage.

Lesnar has remained quiet on all fronts – and why wouldn’t he? The longer this drags on, the more money he’ll end up with in his back pocket. Former WWE announcer Jim Ross suggested recently that life in the Octagon may not appeal to Lesnar given the long-term effects of taking “real” punches and the hazards and long-term effect of concussions.

It sure will be an interesting few weeks. Imagine a year ago saying Brock Lesnar and CM Punk would both be main-eventing UFC PPVs in 2015?

Almost as ridiculous as five years ago saying that an Irishman would be José Aldo’s biggest threat.

NXT – February 25th – Watch Here

We’ve got highlights of last night’s episode of NXT.

This week’s episode features:

The Lucha Dragons vs Tye Dillinger & Jason Jordan
Hideo Itami vs Bull Dempsey
Finn Balór vs The Brian Kendrick
Bayley vs Becky Lynch

You can watch the full show on the WWE Network.

Smackdown! Spoilers – February 26th

As most well know, Smackdown! is taped on a Tuesday night and aired on Thursdays in the USA, Fridays in the UK & Ireland.

We’ve got spoilers for this week’s show, so if you don’t want the show to be ruined, look away now!

Results

  • Daniel Bryan kicked off the show. He talked about Wrestlemania, then out came Wade Barrett to deliver some Bad News. Dean Ambrose followed and the good guys sent him running.
  • Dean Ambrose pinned The Miz. BNB came through the crowd to get his Intercontinental Championship back and he was successful.
  • Natalya beat Naomi.
  • Lana and Rusev cut a promo on John Cena.
  • Rusev defeated Swagger (again).
  • Daniel Bryan beat Bad News Barrett with the running knee. The IC title was not on the line. R-Truth was at ringside, but this time HE ended up stealing BNB’s belt.
  • R-Truth met Ambrose backstage and handed him the IC title.
  • Fandango picked up a win over Curtis Axel.
  • Bray Wyatt cut another promo on Undertaker.
  • Goldust defeated Adam Rose. Stardust was dressed as a rose-bud and attacked Goldy after the match.
  • Ryback, Erick Rowan and Ziggler defeated  The Authority (Rollins, Kane and Big Show). Ryback scored the pin fall over Seth Rollins.