In professional wrestling, championships are competed for in scripted storylines by a promotion's roster of contracted wrestlers.[1] WWE is an American-based company and is the world's largest professional wrestling promotion. The company's origins begin in 1953 as the Capitol Wrestling Corporation (CWC), a Northeastern territory of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA). In 1963, CWC left the NWA to become the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF), which was renamed to World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in 1979 and then World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) in 2002 — since 2011, the company has promoted itself solely under the trade name of WWE.[2] In the company's 60-year history, over 40 different unique championships have been operated and contended for. These titles consisted of divisional, special stipulations, and weight-class championships. Of these titles, over 28 have been retired and succeeded through replacement titles or title unifications. The first championship retirement occurred in June 1961 with the Northeast version of the NWA World Tag Team Championship (created in February 1957). The most recent retirement occurred in June 2023 with the NXT Women's Tag Team Championship (created in March 2021). The following is a compilation of the company's former championships that were once active and contended for by its roster.

History

1953–1969

In 1953, Capitol Wrestling Corporation (CWC) became a member of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA). During this time, CWC wrestlers could compete for championships operated by the NWA.[3] In 1957, the CWC created the NWA United States Television Championship, its first overall men's singles championship, with Johnny Valentine being the inaugural holder of the championship. The following year, the CWC created the NWA United States Tag Team Championship, which inaugural champions Mark Lewin and Don Curtis won in April of that year.[4] In 1963, CWC ended its partnership with the NWA and established itself as the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF).[5] To reflect the changes, the WWWF introduced its world heavyweight championship (WWE's third overall male singles championship and the current WWE Championship),[6] while the WWWF acronym was added to the United States Tag Team title. Without a formal explanation by the WWWF, although newly crowned co-holder Bruno Sammartino was also the company's World Heavyweight champion at the time, the Tag Team title was disbanded in 1967, the first championship to be retired during the WWWF years.[4] Ten years later, the company retired its first individually contested WWWF-branded title, the WWWF United States Heavyweight Championship, also without a formal explanation.[7]

1970–1999

The WWWF/WWF formed partnerships with New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW), Universal Wrestling Federation (UWF), and Universal Wrestling Association (UWA) between the 1970s and 1980s, and as a result, created and lent titles to these promotions.[8][9][10] In 1979, the promotion renamed itself to the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and six years later ended its partnerships with NJPW and UWF.[2][11] This resulted in the retirement of one UWF and three NJPW lent titles: the WWF International Heavyweight Championship (UWF),[8] WWF Junior Heavyweight Championship,[12] WWF World Martial Arts Heavyweight Championship,[a][13] and WWF International Tag Team Championship (NJPW).[10] The company also ceased operations of three short-lived titles: the WWF North American Heavyweight Championship (1979–1981),[14] WWF Canadian Championship (1985–1986),[15] and WWF Women's Tag Team Championship (1983–1989).[16] Despite their names, the geographic-name-based titles were not restricted to wrestlers from that location.[14][15] During the 1990s, the WWF ended its relationship with the UWA; as a result, the WWF Intercontinental Tag Team Championship[17] was abandoned, while the WWF Light Heavyweight Championship (which UWA possessed) was reactivated in the United States for use by the WWF.[9] In 1996, the Million Dollar Championship, a title created by Ted DiBiase, was retired, although it was never sanctioned by the WWF, but was reintroduced briefly in 2010 by Ted DiBiase Jr., and again in 2021 as part of a storyline in NXT.[18]

2000–2015

In March 2001, the WWF acquired all assets of World Championship Wrestling (WCW), including its championships.[19] Of these titles, the WWF operated the WCW World Heavyweight,[20] World Tag Team,[21] and Cruiserweight championships.[22] In late 2001, the WWF discontinued the WCW World Heavyweight and Tag Team Championships (which were unified with WWF's world and tag team championships, respectively),[20][21] while the WWF Light Heavyweight Championship was retired in favor of the Cruiserweight, which would also be retired in 2007. In 2002, WWF was renamed to World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE),[23] and during this year, WWE discontinued the WWE Hardcore and European Championships after they were unified with the WWE Intercontinental Championship.[24][25]

WWE also acquired all assets of Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) in 2003, and implemented the ECW brand in 2006, along with the reactivated ECW World Heavyweight Championship;[26] however, when the brand closed in 2010, the title was retired after Ezekiel Jackson became the last champion on the final episode of the ECW on Syfy series.[27] The World Tag Team Championship, established in 1971, and WWE Tag Team Championship, introduced in 2002, were unified on April 9, 2009, maintaining separate title histories as the "Unified WWE Tag Team Championship". However, on August 16, 2010, the older title was retired in favor of keeping the newer title as the sole tag team championship contended for in WWE. The champions, The Hart Dynasty (David Hart Smith and Tyson Kidd) were awarded a new set of belts that represented the 2002 championship, and were thus recognized as the final holders of the original World Tag Team Championship.[28][29]

The original WWE Women's Championship, established in 1956, and the WWE Divas Championship, introduced in 2008, were unified on September 19, 2010, maintaining the title history of the Divas Championship. The older title was retired in favor of keeping the newer title as the sole championship contended for in WWE by the Divas. The self-professed co-Women's Champion Michelle McCool defeated Divas Champion Melina at Night of Champions to become the unified champion, thus making Layla the final holder of the Women's Championship.[30][31] On April 3, 2016, at WrestleMania 32, Divas Champion Charlotte was originally scheduled to defend her title in a triple-threat match. At the event, however, the Divas Championship was replaced with a new WWE Women's Championship, with the winner of the triple-threat match becoming the inaugural champion, thus Charlotte was the final holder of the Divas Championship.

The World Heavyweight Championship was established in 2002 as a second world championship in WWE during the time of the first brand extension. During this period, the World Heavyweight Championship would be the primary championship for either the Raw or SmackDown brand, with the WWE Championship on the other. The brand extension ended in 2011, allowing both championships to appear on both shows. On December 15, 2013, World Heavyweight Champion John Cena faced WWE Champion Randy Orton in a match at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs, where the World Heavyweight Championship was unified with the WWE Championship as Orton defeated Cena. At the event, it was announced that the unified titles would be called the "WWE World Heavyweight Championship", retaining the lineage of the WWE Championship. WWE officially recognized Orton as the final World Heavyweight Champion and retired the title.

2016–present

In 2016, WWE reintroduced the brand extension. Shortly after, the cruiserweight division was revived and a new WWE Cruiserweight Championship was established. This newer title did not carry the lineage of the original Cruiserweight Championship that was retired in 2007. The title was originally exclusive to the Raw brand before it became exclusive to the 205 Live brand in 2018. It then also became part of NXT after 205 Live merged under NXT in October 2019. It was subsequently renamed the NXT Cruiserweight Championship and was then extended to the NXT UK brand in January 2020. However, in January 2022, the championship was retired. At the New Year's Evil special episode of NXT 2.0 on January 4, 2022, the title was unified into the NXT North American Championship. North American Champion Carmelo Hayes defeated Cruiserweight Champion Roderick Strong, with Hayes recognized as the final Cruiserweight Champion and going forward as North American Champion.

In December 2016, WWE announced that they would be establishing a new United Kingdom-based brand and the first championship created for the brand was the WWE United Kingdom Championship. In June 2018, the brand was formally established as NXT UK, and the NXT UK Women's Championship and NXT UK Tag Team Championship were created at that time. In early 2020, the WWE United Kingdom Championship was renamed as the NXT United Kingdom Championship, and later that year, the NXT UK Heritage Cup was established. In August 2022, WWE announced that the NXT UK brand would be going on hiatus following the Worlds Collide event on September 4, 2022, and the brand would relaunch as NXT Europe in 2023. As such, all of NXT UK's championships were unified into their respective NXT championship counterparts, except for the NXT UK Heritage Cup, which was later transferred to NXT in 2023. The NXT United Kingdom Championship, NXT UK Women's Championship, and NXT UK Tag Team Championship were unified into the NXT Championship, NXT Women's Championship, and NXT Tag Team Championship, respectively, with Tyler Bate, Meiko Satomura, and the team of Brooks Jensen and Josh Briggs recognized as the final champions of each.

In May 2019, WWE introduced the WWE 24/7 Championship, a title similar to the company's former Hardcore Championship. The title had a "24/7" rule in which it could be defended anytime, anywhere, as long as a WWE referee was present. Due to this rule, it was available to all of WWE's brands and could be won by both men and women as well as non-WWE employees. After Nikki Cross won the championship on the November 7, 2022, episode of Raw, she discarded the title as trash backstage and two days later, the championship was listed as inactive on WWE.com.

In March 2021, WWE introduced the NXT Women's Tag Team Championship for the NXT brand following a controversy over the WWE Women's Tag Team Championship. Prior to this, the WWE Women's Tag Team Championship was available to Raw, SmackDown, and NXT, but ceased appearing on NXT after the brand established its own tag team championship. After two years, on the June 23, 2023, episode of SmackDown, the NXT Women's Tag Team Championship was unified into the WWE Women's Tag Team Championship, retiring the former with the latter becoming available to NXT again.[32]

Defunct championships

World championship recognition in bold.

Men

Singles championships

The original World Heavyweight Championship (shown being worn by record seven-time champion Edge) served as a second world championship in WWE from 2002 to 2013
The ECW Championship (shown being held by one-time champion CM Punk) served as a third world championship in WWE from 2006 to 2010, primarily on the ECW brand
The original WWE Cruiserweight Championship (shown being held by one-time champion Matt Hardy) was officially recognized as established in 1991 by WCW, brought to WWE in 2001 following its purchase of WCW, and remained active until 2007
The NXT Cruiserweight Championship (shown being held by two-time champion Neville when it was called the WWE Cruiserweight Championship) was active from 2016 to 2022.
Championship Date of entry First champion Date retired Final champion Years active Notes
NWA United States Television Championship 1957 or 1958 Johnny Valentine July 25, 1962 Johnny Valentine 5 or 6 The title was retired without a formal announcement.
WWF International Heavyweight Championship July 1959 Antonino Rocca October 31, 1985 Tatsumi Fujinami 26[a] The title was retired after NJPW and WWF ended their partnership.[8]
WWWF United States Heavyweight Championship April 20, 1960 Buddy Rogers March 1, 1976 Bobo Brazil 15 The title was retired without a formal announcement.[7]
WWF Junior Heavyweight Championship September 1965 Paul DeGalles October 31, 1985 The Cobra 20[b] The title was retired after NJPW and the WWF ended their partnership.[12]
WWF World Martial Arts Heavyweight Championship December 18, 1978 Antonio Inoki December 31, 1989 Antonio Inoki 11 The title was retired after NJPW and the WWF ended their partnership.[a][13]
WWF North American Heavyweight Championship February 13, 1979 Ted DiBiase March 20, 1981 Seiji Sakaguchi 2 The title was retired without a formal announcement.[14]
WWF Canadian Championship August 18, 1985 Dino Bravo January 22, 1986 Dino Bravo <1 Bravo was the only champion as a result of the WWF abandoning the title without a formal announcement.[15]
Million Dollar Championship February 15, 1989 Ted DiBiase August 23, 2021 Cameron Grimes 32[c] In storyline, "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase created the title and it was never officially sanctioned by WWF/WWE.
The title was retired without a formal announcement.[33]
WWE European Championship February 26, 1997 The British Bulldog July 22, 2002 Rob Van Dam 5 The title was retired after it was unified into the WWE Intercontinental Championship.[24][34]
WWF Light Heavyweight Championship December 7, 1997[d] Taka Michinoku[d] March 8, 2002 X-Pac 4 The title was replaced by the WCW Cruiserweight Championship (renamed WWF Cruiserweight Championship) without a formal announcement.[a][9]
WWE Cruiserweight Championship March 23, 2001[b] Shane Helms[c] September 28, 2007 Hornswoggle 7 The title was retired without a formal announcement by WWE. This is not the same title as the WWE Cruiserweight Championship introduced at the Cruiserweight Classic in 2016, later renamed the NXT Cruiserweight Championship.[22]
WCW Championship March 23, 2001[b] Booker T[c] December 9, 2001 Chris Jericho <1 The title was retired after it was unified into the WWF Championship.[20]
World Heavyweight Championship (original version) September 2, 2002 Triple H December 16, 2013 Randy Orton 11 The title was retired after it was unified into the WWE Championship.[35] This is not the same title as the World Heavyweight Championship introduced in 2023.
ECW Championship June 13, 2006[e] Rob Van Dam[e] February 16, 2010 Ezekiel Jackson 3 The title was retired on the final episode of ECW with the closure of the ECW brand.[27]
NXT Cruiserweight Championship September 14, 2016 T. J. Perkins January 4, 2022 Carmelo Hayes 5 The title was retired after it was unified into the NXT North American Championship.[36]
NXT United Kingdom Championship December 15, 2016 Tyler Bate September 4, 2022 Tyler Bate 5 The title was retired after it was unified into the NXT Championship.

Tag team championships

The World Tag Team Championship (shown being worn by two-time champion John Cena) was active from 1971 to 2010.
Championship Date of entry First champions
(Tag team name)
Date retired Final champions
(Tag team name)
Years active Notes
NWA World Tag Team Championship (Northeast version) February 26, 1957 Don Stevens and Jackie Fargo[f] June 1961 Antonino Rocca and Miguel Pérez 4 The title was retired without a formal announcement.
WWWF United States Tag Team Championship July 1958 Don Curtis and Mark Lewin July 29, 1967 Spiros Arion and Bruno Sammartino 9 The title was retired without a formal announcement.[4] (Sammartino was also WWWF World Heavyweight champion at the time).
WWF International Tag Team Championship June 1, 1969 Toru Tanaka and Mitsu Arakawa
(Rising Suns)
October 31, 1985 Tatsumi Fujinami and Kengo Kimura 16[g] The title was retired after NJPW and the WWF ended their partnership.[10]
World Tag Team Championship June 3, 1971 Luke Graham and Tarzan Tyler August 16, 2010[f] David Hart Smith and Tyson Kidd
(The Hart Dynasty)
39 The title was retired in favor of the WWE Tag Team Championship (now called the Raw Tag Team Championship) in April 2010, following a year of the two titles being defended together under the umbrella title of "Unified WWE Tag Team Championship".[28][29]
WWF Intercontinental Tag Team Championship January 7, 1991 Perro Aguayo and Gran Hamada July 1991 Perro Aguayo and Gran Hamada <1 Aguayo and Hamada were the only champions as a result of the WWF retiring the title without a formal announcement.[17]
WCW Tag Team Championship March 23, 2001[b] Sean O' Haire and Chuck Palumbo[c] November 18, 2001 Bubba Ray and D-Von Dudley
(Dudley Boyz)
<1 The title was retired after it was unified into the WWF Tag Team Championship.[21]
NXT UK Tag Team Championship June 18, 2018 James Drake and Zack Gibson September 4, 2022 Brooks Jensen and Josh Briggs 4 The title was retired after it was unified into the NXT Tag Team Championship.

Women

Singles championships

The original WWF/E Women's Championship (shown being held by record seven-time champion Trish Stratus) was active from 1956 to 2010, when it was unified with the WWE Divas Championship.
The WWE Divas Championship (shown being held by record three-time champion Eve Torres) was active from 2008 to 2016.
Championship Date of entry First champion
Date retired Final champion
Years active Notes
WWE Women's Championship (original version) September 18, 1956 The Fabulous Moolah September 19, 2010 Layla 54[h] The title was retired after it was unified into the WWE Divas Championship.[37][38]
This is not the same title as the WWE Women's Championship introduced at WrestleMania 32 in April 2016, which was called Raw Women's Championship from September 2016 to June 2023.
WWE Divas Championship June 6, 2008 Michelle McCool April 3, 2016 Charlotte 7 On the WrestleMania 32 pre-show, former WWE wrestler and WWE Hall of Famer Lita announced that the Divas Championship triple threat match with Charlotte, Becky Lynch, and Sasha Banks would instead be for the new WWE Women's Championship. The Divas Championship was subsequently retired.[39]
NXT UK Women's Championship June 18, 2018 Rhea Ripley September 4, 2022 Meiko Satomura 4 The title was retired after it was unified into the NXT Women's Championship.

Tag team championships

Championship Date of entry First champion(s)
(Tag team name)
Date retired Final champion(s)
(Tag team name)
Years active Notes
WWF Women's Tag Team Championship May 13, 1983 Velvet McIntyre and Princess Victoria February 14, 1989 Leilani Kai and Judy Martin
(The Glamour Girls)
5 The title was abandoned by the WWF without a formal announcement. This is not the same title as the WWE Women's Tag Team Championship introduced on the December 24, 2018, episode of Raw.[16]
NXT Women's Tag Team Championship March 10, 2021 Dakota Kai and Raquel González June 23, 2023 Alba Fyre and Isla Dawn 2 The title was retired after it was unified into the WWE Women's Tag Team Championship.

Unisex

Singles championships

Raven, who held the Hardcore Championship a record 27 times.
R-Truth, who had a record 54 reigns as 24/7 Champion.
Championship Date of entry First champion Date retired Final champion Years active Notes
WWE Hardcore Championship November 2, 1998 Mankind August 26, 2002 Rob Van Dam 2 The title was retired after it was unified into the WWE Intercontinental Championship.[40]
WWE 24/7 Championship May 20, 2019 Titus O'Neil November 9, 2022 Nikki Cross 3 After winning the title on the November 7, 2022, episode of Raw, Nikki Cross discarded the belt in a trash can backstage. Two days later, the title was listed as inactive on WWE.com.

Other championships previously used by WWE

Promotion Championship Last WWE champion(s) Reign Reference
Evolve Evolve Tag Team Championship[i] Chris Dickinson and Jaka September 23, 2017 – October 28, 2018 [41]
Georgia Championship Wrestling NWA National Heavyweight Championship[j] The Spoiler 1984 – 1985 [42]
NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship[k] Les Thornton 1984 – 1985 [43]
Insane Championship Wrestling ICW World Heavyweight Championship[l] Trent Seven February 5, 2017 – April 16, 2017 [44]
National Wrestling Alliance NWA World Heavyweight Championship[m] Dan Severn February 24, 1995 – March 14, 1999[n] [45]
NWA North American Championship[m] Barry Windham March 1, 1998 – March 2, 1998 [45]
NWA World Tag Team Championship[m] Bodacious Bart and Bombastic Bob
(The Midnight Express)
March 30, 1998 – August 14, 1998 [45]
Progress Wrestling Progress World Championship[i] Travis Banks September 10, 2017 – July 25, 2018 [46]
Progress Women's Championship[i] Toni Storm May 28, 2017 – May 20, 2018 [46]
Progress Tag Team Championship[i] James Drake and Zack Gibson
(Grizzled Young Veterans)
November 26, 2017 – February 11, 2018 [46]
Upstate Wrestling[o] NWA North American Heavyweight Championship
(Upstate version)[p]
Stan Stasiak June 24, 1974 – November 18, 1974 [47]
World Wide Wrestling Association[q] WWWA World Heavyweight Championship[r] Bruno Sammartino November 1963 [48]
WWWA World Tag Team Championship[s] Chris Tolos and John Tolos December 1963 [48]
World Wrestling Network WWN Championship[i] Austin Theory April 6, 2018 – June 23, 2018 [46]

See also

Footnotes

  1. ^ The title was deactivated from 1963 to 1982.
  2. ^ The title was deactivated from 1972 to 1978.
  3. ^ The title was deactivated from February 1992 to December 1995, from May 1996 to April 2010, from November 2010 to February 2021, and since August 2021.
  4. ^ Michinoku was the first champion to win the championship as part of the WWF but was not the first champion in the title's history.
  5. ^ Van Dam was the first champion to win the championship as part of WWE but was not the first champion in the title's history.
  6. ^ The team also defended the championship under the ring names "Wildman Stevens" and "Wildman Fargo".
  7. ^ The title was deactivated from 1972 to 1985.
  8. ^ The title was deactivated from 1990 to 1993 and again from 1995 to 1998.
  9. ^ a b c d e The championship was defended during WWE's 2018 WrestleMania Axxess events.
  10. ^ The championship was defended on WWF events in Georgia after the WWF's takeover of Georgia Championship Wrestling. The championship was referred to simply as the "National Heavyweight Championship" by the WWF, though some sources erroneously list it as the "WWF National Championship".[42]
  11. ^ The championship was defended on WWF events in Georgia after the WWF's takeover of Georgia Championship Wrestling. The championship was referred to as the "WWF Lt. Hvywt Championship" by the WWF.[43]
  12. ^ The championship was defended during WWE's 2017 WrestleMania Axxess events.
  13. ^ a b c Three championships from the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) were brought to the WWF to be defended as part of the 1997–1998 NWA invasion storyline.
  14. ^ During Dan Severn's reign, the NWA World Heavyweight Championship was brought to the WWF, along with other National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) championships, as part of the 1997–1998 NWA invasion storyline. The NWA World Heavyweight Championship was previously the WWF's world heavyweight championship from 1953–1963 and again from 1971–1983 during the WWF's membership in the NWA.
  15. ^ Upstate Wrestling was the WWWF's Buffalo, New York-based promotional partner.[47]
  16. ^ The championship was defended at WWWF house shows in Buffalo, New York throughout 1974. The championship was referred to as the "NWA North American Heavyweight Championship" by the WWWF, though some sources erroneously list it as the "WWF North American Heavyweight Championship".[47]
  17. ^ The World Wide Wrestling Association (WWWA) was a parallel promotion ran in conjunction with the-then World Wide Wrestling Federation by Vincent J. McMahon, Toots Mondt, and Ohio promoter Larry Atkins.[48]
  18. ^ The championship was defended on WWWF house shows in Ohio before being replaced by the WWWF World Heavyweight Championship.[48]
  19. ^ The championship was originally introduced as the WWWA American Tag Team Championship. The championship was defended on WWWF house shows in Ohio before being replaced by the WWWF World Tag Team Championship.[48]

References

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  3. ^ Hornbaker, Tim (2006). National Wrestling Alliance: The Untold Story of the Monopoly That Strangled Pro Wrestling. ECW Press. ISBN 978-1-55022-741-3. Retrieved 2009-03-02.
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  5. ^ "Vince McMahon". World Wrestling Entertainment. Retrieved 2009-03-02.
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  37. ^ Raymond-Santo, Katie A. (2010-09-24). "Flawless mark on history". World Wrestling Entertainment. Retrieved 2010-09-26.
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  48. ^ a b c d e "World Wide Wrestling Association (1963)". Wrestling-Titles. Retrieved February 3, 2024.

Further reading