Part 2: History of the WWF / WWE Championship

Welcome to part 2 of our feature covering the history of the most coveted prize in sports entertainment: the WWE Championship. 

In part 1, we looked at the formation of the title and covered the early days including the reigns of Bruno Sammartino, Bob Backlund and Hulk Hogan. In Part 2, we’ll cover the late 80s and early 90s, a golden age for WWE and wrestling as a whole. 

Hulk Hogan’s first reign spanned over four years. “Hulkamania” was pop-culture and WWE capitalised on a very evident boom period for pro-wrestling. WWE held it’s first Wrestlemania in 1985, a massive gamble for Vince McMahon, and boy did it pay off. While the main event didn’t feature a defence of the title, it further enhanced the popularity of the champion who teamed with Mr. T to take on Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff.

The Irresistible Force Meets the Immovable Object

Hogan’s most memorable feud of his 4-year reign was without argument, Andre the Giant. The big man had been never been pinned or submitted in a WWE ring. He and Hogan had been pals up to now, but Bobby “the Brain” Heenan used his manipulative powers to turn Andre to the dark side. The Giant was unsuccessful in his attempts to pry the title away from Hogan, with the Hulkster picking up the victory after an impressive body slam in front of over 90,000 fans in the Silver Dome.

1988 - 1998
1988 – 1998

In 1988, WWE debuted a new championship belt, again designed and crafted by Reggie Parks. The main plate featured an eagle surrounding a small globe, it truly is a beautiful belt and one of the most recognised even to this very day. It’s affectionately known as “The Winged Eagle” – but don’t all eagles have wings?

Andre was not to be denied. He claimed the title from Hogan on an episode of The Main Event in dubious fashion. The Million Dollar Man had bribed Andre to win the belt on his behalf, and after some shenanigans with a cloned referee (in reality it was twin brothers Dave & Earl Hebner), Andre became champion and handed it over to Ted DiBiase.

President Jack Tunney was none too pleased. He immediately stripped DiBiase of the title and set up a tournament to crown a new champion at Wrestlemania IV. Hall of Fame 2015 inductee “Macho Man” Randy Savage defeated Ted DiBiase in the finals, with a little help from his Mega Powers team-mate, Hulk Hogan.

Hogan and Savage teamed for the best part of the next year. With the lovely Miss Elizabeth by their side, nothing could stop them. That being said, jealousy can drive a man crazy. Savage turned on Hogan when he suspected his wife and best friend were getting it on behind his back. A showdown at Wrestlemania 5 was on the horizon. Hogan ended Savage’s year long reign to begin his second tenure with the gold.

The Ultimate Challenge

The title didn’t change hands until Wrestlemania the following year. The 1991 Royal Rumble featured a momentary clash between Intercontinental Champion, the Ultimate Warrior and WWF Champion Hulk Hogan. The brief face-off sent fans into a frenzy. It was a no brainer for the match-makers  and on-screen president Jack Tunney booked the “Ultimate Challenge” – Hogan Vs Warrior – Title Vs Title.

Dream match, huh? I challenge anyone to watch the match itself with the sound off. It was your typical old-school main event featuring two powerhouses. It was one of the first matches I watched when I got the WWE Network. But by god, I shall not be watching it again. The Warrior walked away with both titles becoming the first man to hold the Intercontinental and WWF championships simultaneously.The Ultimate Warrior’s run with the belt was lacklustre. He had feuds against Haku, Mr Perfect and Rick Rude but Hogan was still seen as the company’s number 1 guy. Sgt Slaughter ended Warrior’s 10 month reign at the Royal Rumble, with Hogan defeating the USA turncoat at Wrestlemania VI two months later.

In comparison to years gone by, 1991 featured a then-record four title changes in a calendar year. Undertaker debuted in 1990 and 12 months on defeated Hogan with the help of a Ric Flair steel chair. The Hulkster won the title back 6 days later but Jack Tunney again got involved and deemed the title vacant as “The Nature Boy” had interfered in both of the previous two matches.

“With a tear… in my eye…!”

Hulk Hogan
Hogan had four reigns from 1984 to 1994

Funny now that I mention Ric Flair. He threw a spanner in the works when he signed for the WWF and brought his NWA World Heavyweight Championship with him. Flair dubbed himself the “Real World’s Champion” and carried the opposition’s strap on WWF television. Following a copyright suit, Flair handed back the title to his former employers but it wasn’t long before he wore gold yet again. Tunney put the vacant WWF title up for grabs at the 1992 Royal Rumble. Flair outlasted 30 other superstars (literally) and survived for over an hour before eliminating Sid Justice and walking away with the undisputed WWE title. Flair’s tenure in the WWF was short-lived at just 18 months. He traded the title back and forth with Randy Savage before eventually losing it on an episode of Primetime Wrestling to Bret “Hitman” Hart.

Rise of the Hitman

The Hitman’s first of five reigns ended at Wrestlemania IX in a controversial defeat to Yokozuna. At the end of the match, Hulk Hogan challenged Yokozuna to an immediate match and ended the shortest reign in history in under 5 minutes. Hogan left the WWF later that year, dropping the strap back to Yokozuna. Hogan eventually ended up in WCW and Yokozuna carried the title up until Wrestlemania X. Bret Hart won the title in the main event at Madison Square Garden, becoming the catalyst for a new era for the WWF – one without their biggest ever star Hulk Hogan.

Be sure to tune in for Part 3 where I’ll be covering the mid-late 90s and the infamous “Attitude Era”. 

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

original_wwe_title_main
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).

Wwf_82_big-green.png
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.

UFC 184 Payouts & Bonuses

UFC 184 took place last Saturday night with Ronda Rousey beating Cat Zingano in the main event to retain her Bantamweight title. Rousey picked up $130,000 – which isnt bad for 14 seconds worth of work! Zingano took home $100,000 for her part in the loss. Although Rousey’s pay seems unusually low, she will receive an undisclosed amount from PPV sales as well as an extra $50,000 for performance of the night.

The others to receive the bonus were Jake Ellenberger, who choked out veteran Josh Koscheck; Tim Means, who scored a first round TKO victory over Dhiego Lima; and Tony Ferguson, who submitted Gleison Tibau.

Each received $50,000.

A complete list of the UFC 184 salaries, according to the CSAC, can be seen below. As always, these figures do not represent a fighter’s total earnings, as sponsorship money, pay-per-view income, and discretionary post-fight bonuses are not publicly disclosed.

Main Card (Pay-per-view)
Ronda Rousey ($65,000 to show + $65,000 for the win = $130,000) def. Cat Zingano ($100,000)
Holly Holm ($25,000 + $25,000 = $50,000) def. Raquel Pennington ($10,000)
Jake Ellenberger ($68,000 + $68,000 = $136,000) def. Josh Koscheck ($78,000)
Alan Jouban ($10,000 + $10,000 = $20,000) def. Richard Walsh ($8,000)
Tony Ferguson ($24,000 + $24,000 = $48,000) def. Gleison Tibau ($50,000)

Preliminary Card
Roan Carneiro ($12,000 + $12,000 = $24,000) def. Mark Munoz ($47,000)
Roman Salazar ($8,000) vs. Norifumi Yamamoto ($15,000) ruled a no contest
Tim Means ($17,000 + $17,000 = $34,000) def. Dhiego Lima ($10,000)
Derrick Lewis ($15,000 + $15,000 = $30,000) def. Ruan Potts ($10,000)

Preliminary Card
Valmir Lazaro ($8,000 + $8,000 = $16,000) def. James Krause ($15,000)
Masio Fullen ($8,000 + $8,000 = $16,000) def. Alexander Torres ($8,000

Rousey Finishes Zingano in 12.83 Seconds [VIDEO]

UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey needed only 12.83 seconds to submit “Alpha” Cat Zingano at UFC 184 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Rousey (now 11-0) picked up yet another victory via modified arm-bar/arm-lock, bringing her submission finish total to 9. It .was Zingano’s first ever professional defeat

The result of this fight is sure to set up a long-awaited superfight between “Rowdy” and Invicta Featherweight Champion Cris Cyborg. Cyborg will have a difficult time cutting weight to 135 lbs as Ronda has clearly stated in the past that she is unwilling to move up in weight to make the fight happen.

Joe Rogan spoke to Ronda and Cat in the Octagon after the fight.

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.

Anderson Silva will admit to using PED’s to heal broken leg

While UFC 184 was taking place, a report was published that states that Anderson Silva will admit to have taken PED’s to help heal his broken leg. Silva tested positive for drostanolone and androstane after defeating Nick Diaz at UFC 183. The Spider has always denied taking PED’s but the UFC have today reported that:

The Nevada State Athletic Commission disciplinary hearing for former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva does not have a set date in March, but according to a story published by Brazilian website UOL on Saturday, the MMA icon and his team are preparing his defense, with Silva reportedly planning to admit to using several banned substances.

The report makes clear that Silva will insist that his use of performance enhancing drugs wasn’t to gain an advantage on his opponent, but rather as an aid in his recovery from the broken leg suffered in his December 2013 loss to Chris Weidman. Lawyers will also argue that the amount of the substances found in his system were minimal, thus giving him no advantage over his January 31 opponent, Nick Diaz.

This is truly a sad ending to one of MMA’s most glittering careers. The return of the Spider at UFC 183 was supposed to be one of the more positive stories of the year but everything in the aftermath of the fight has been anything but that. It’s highly doubtful that we’ll ever see Silva in the Octagon again – which is an incredibly sad thought for this writer.

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.