In professional wrestling, championships are competed for in scripted storylines by a company or promotion's roster of contracted wrestlers.[1] WWE is a Stamford, Connecticut-based company primarily focused on professional wrestling. The promotion was founded in 1953 as the Capitol Wrestling Corporation (CWC).[2] In the company's 50-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, 28 have been retired and succeeded through replacement titles or title unifications. The first championship retirement occurred in 1961 with the Northeast version of the NWA World Tag Team Championship (created in 1957), with the most recent occurring in September 2022 with all four of NXT UK's championships being retired. 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 1958, 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 second overall 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, the Tag Team title was disbanded in 1967, the first championship to be retired by the promotion.[4] Ten years later, the company retired its first individually contested title, the WWWF United States Heavyweight Championship, also without a formal explanation.[7]

1970–1999

The WWWF formed a partnership 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 relanch 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 quietly retired without a formal announcement. 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.

Defunct championships

World championship recognition in bold.

Men

Singles championships

The World Heavyweight Championship (shown being worn by record seven-time champion Edge) served as a second world championship in WWE from 2002–2013
The ECW Championship (shown being held by one-time champion CM Punk) served as a third world championship in WWE from 2006–2010, primarily on the ECW brand
The World Tag Team Championship (shown being worn by two-time champion John Cena) was active from 1971 to 2010.
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 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.
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
WWF International Heavyweight Championship July 1959 Antonino Rocca October 31, 1985 Tatsumi Fujinami 26 The title was retired after NJPW and WWF ended their partnerships.[8]
WWWF United States Heavyweight Championship April 6, 1963 Bobo Brazil March 1, 1976 Bobo Brazil 13 The title was retired without a formal announcement.[7]
WWF Junior Heavyweight Championship September 1965 Paul DeGalles October 31, 1985 The Cobra 20 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 <5[a] Ted DiBiase created the title, although it was never officially sanctioned by WWF/WWE. The title was retired without a formal announcement[32]
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][33]
WWF Light Heavyweight Championship December 7, 1997[d] Taka Michinoku[b] 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 Hardcore Championship November 2, 1998 Mankind August 26, 2002 Rob Van Dam 4 The title was retired after it was unified into the WWE Intercontinental Championship.[34]
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 January 11, 1991[b] Ric Flair[c] December 9, 2001 Chris Jericho <1 The title was retired after it was unified into the WWF Championship.[20]
World Heavyweight Championship September 2, 2002 Triple H December 16, 2013 Randy Orton 11 The title was retired after it was unified into the WWE Championship.[35]
ECW Championship June 13, 2006[e] Rob Van Dam[c] February 16, 2010 Ezekiel Jackson 4 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.
NXT UK Heritage Cup September 10, 2020 A-Kid September 4, 2022 Noam Dar 2 The title was retired when the NXT UK brand went on hiatus, in preparation for the launch of the NXT Europe brand in 2023.

Tag team championships

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 Wildman Stevens and Wildman Fargo June 1961 Antonino Rocca and Miguel Pérez 4 The title was abandoned 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]
WWF International Tag Team Championship June 1, 1969 Toru Tanaka and Mitsu Arakawa
(Rising Suns)
October 31, 1985 Tatsumi Fujinami and Kengo Kimura 16 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

Championship Date of entry First champion
Date retired Final champion
Years active Notes
WWE Women's Championship September 18, 1956 The Fabulous Moolah September 19, 2010 Layla 54 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, which is now called the Raw Women's Championship.
WWE Divas Championship July 20, 2008 Michelle McCool April 3, 2016 Charlotte 8 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)
6 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 at Elimination Chamber 2019.[16]

See also

Footnotes

  1. ^ 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
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ 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.

References

  1. ^ "Live & Televised Entertainment". WWE Corporate. World Wrestling Entertainment. Archived from the original on 2013-11-22. Retrieved 2009-03-01.
  2. ^ a b "Antonio Rocca". World Wrestling Entertainment. Retrieved 2009-03-01. Before it was ever known as WWE, the World Wrestling Federation, or even the World Wide Wrestling Federation, Antonino Rocca was the top Superstar in the company.
  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.
  4. ^ a b c "WWWF United States Tag Team Title History". Wrestling Title Histories by Royal Duncan & Gary Will. Solie.org. Retrieved 2009-03-02.
  5. ^ "Vince McMahon". World Wrestling Entertainment. Retrieved 2009-03-02.
  6. ^ "Buddy Rogers' WWE Championship reign (April 1963 - May 17, 1963)". World Wrestling Entertainment. Archived from the original on August 28, 2005. Retrieved 2009-03-02.
  7. ^ a b Duncan, Royal; Gary Will (1994). "United States: 19th Century & Widely defended Titles - NWA, WWF, AWA, IWA, ECW, NWA". Wrestling Title Histories (3 ed.). Archeus Communications. p. 27. ISBN 0-9698161-1-1.
  8. ^ a b c "WWF/UWF International Championship reign history". Wrestling Title Histories by Gary Will and Royal Duncan. Solie.org. Retrieved 2009-03-08.
  9. ^ a b c d "WWF Light Heavyweight Championship reign history". Wrestling Title Histories by Gary Will and Royal Duncan. Solie.org. Retrieved 2009-03-08.
  10. ^ a b c "WWF International Tag Team Championship reign history". Wrestling Title Histories by Gary Will and Royal Duncan. Solie.org. Retrieved 2009-03-08.
  11. ^ "World Wrestling Federation Entertainment Drops The "F" To Emphasize the "E" for Entertainment". World Wrestling Entertainment. 2002-05-06. Archived from the original on 2009-01-19. Retrieved 2009-03-01.
  12. ^ a b "WWF Junior Heavyweight Championship". Wrestling Title Histories by Royal Duncan and Gary Will. Solie.org. Retrieved 2009-03-05.
  13. ^ a b c "WWF World Martial Arts Heavyweight Championship". Wrestling Title Histories by Gary Will and Royal Duncan. Solie.org. Retrieved 2009-03-08.
  14. ^ a b c "WWF North American Heavyweight Championship reign history". Wrestling Title Histories by Royal Duncan and Gary Will. Solie.org. Retrieved 2009-03-05.
  15. ^ a b c "WWF Canadian Championship reign history". Wrestling Title Histories by Royal Duncan and Gary Will. Solie.org. Retrieved 2009-03-05.
  16. ^ a b "WWF Women's Tag Team Championship reign history". Wrestling Title Histories by Gary Will and Royal Duncan. Solie.org. Retrieved 2009-03-08.
  17. ^ a b "WWF/UWA Intercontinental Tag Team Championship reign history". Wrestling Title Histories by Gary Will and Royal Duncan. Solie.org. Retrieved 2009-03-08.
  18. ^ Milner, John. "Ted DiBiase Biography". SLAM! Sports. Canadian Online Explorer. Retrieved 2009-03-08. If he couldn't win the WWE Championship and he couldn't buy the WWE Championship, Dibiase decided to purchase his own championship, introducing "the Million Dollar Belt" to the WWE. The title was never official and rarely did Dibiase even bother "defending" the title.
  19. ^ a b "WWE Entertainment, Inc. Acquires WCW from Turner Broadcasting". WWE Corporate. World Wrestling Entertainment. 2001-03-21. Archived from the original on 2005-04-08. Retrieved 2009-03-08.
  20. ^ a b c d "History of the WCW World Championship". World Wrestling Entertainment. Retrieved 2009-03-08.
  21. ^ a b c d "WCW World Tag Team Championship Title History (1991–2001)". Wrestling Title Histories by Royal Duncan & Gary Will. Solie's Title Histories. Retrieved 2009-03-08.
  22. ^ a b "WWE Cruiserweight Championship reign history". Wrestling Title Histories by Gary Will and Royal Duncan. Solie.org. Retrieved 2009-03-08.
  23. ^ "World Wrestling Federation Entertainment Drops The "F" To Emphasize the "E" for Entertainment". WWE Corporate. World Wrestling Entertainment. 2002-05-06. Archived from the original on 2009-01-19. Retrieved 2009-03-08.
  24. ^ a b "History of the WWE European Championship: Jeff Hardy". World Wrestling Entertainment. Archived from the original on 2008-07-24. Retrieved 2009-03-08.
  25. ^ "WWE Hardcore Championship reign history". Wrestling Title Histories by Gary Will and Royal Duncan. Solie.org. Retrieved 2009-03-08.
  26. ^ "History of the ECW Championship: Rob Van Dam". World Wrestling Entertainment. Retrieved 2010-09-09.
  27. ^ a b "History of the ECW Championship: Ezekiel Jackson". World Wrestling Entertainment. Retrieved 2010-09-09.
  28. ^ a b "History of the World Tag Team Championship". World Wrestling Entertainment. Retrieved 2010-09-20.
  29. ^ a b "History of the WWE Tag Team Championship". World Wrestling Entertainment. Retrieved 2010-09-20.
  30. ^ "History of the WWE Women's Championship". World Wrestling Entertainment. Retrieved 2010-09-21.
  31. ^ "History of the WWE Divas Championship". World Wrestling Entertainment. Retrieved 2010-09-21.
  32. ^ Keller, Wade (2010-11-15). "Keller's WWE Raw report 11/15: Special three-hour old school Raw with great angle at end, Jim Ross returns, Piper steps up, more". Pro Wrestling Torch. Retrieved 2010-11-16.
  33. ^ "The History of the WWE European Championship". World Wrestling Entertainment. Retrieved 2009-03-14.
  34. ^ "The History of the WWE Hardcore Championship". World Wrestling Entertainment. Retrieved 2010-02-16.
  35. ^ WWE Staff (March 21, 2011). "Retired championships". WWE.com. WWE. Archived from the original on January 9, 2016. Retrieved January 11, 2016.
  36. ^ "1/4 NXT 2.0 results: Moore's review of Tommaso Ciampa vs. Bron Breakker for the NXT Title, Walter, Fabian Aichner, and Marcel Barthel vs. Riddle and MSK, Mandy Rose vs. Raquel Gonzalez vs. Cora Jade for the NXT Women's Title, Carmelo Hayes vs. Roderick Strong in a title unification match, AJ Styles confronts Grayson Waller".
  37. ^ Raymond-Santo, Katie A. (2010-09-24). "Flawless mark on history". World Wrestling Entertainment. Retrieved 2010-09-26.
  38. ^ "Hall of Women's Champions". World Wrestling Entertainment. Retrieved 2010-09-26. Layla is the last-ever Women's Champion.
  39. ^ "All-new WWE Women's Championship introduced at WrestleMania". WWE. April 3, 2016. Retrieved April 3, 2016.

Further reading