Spotlight on the World Heavyweight Championship

September 2nd, 2002 holds a special spot in the hearts of WWE fans, as that’s when they were introduced to the World Heavyweight Championship, represented by the iconic Big Gold Belt. Raw General Manager Eric Bischoff awarded the championship to Triple H on the grounds of he was the last man to wear that championship belt (Triple H had held the belt when it was one of two belts that represented the Undisputed WWF Championship, along with the Globe Belt). The championship was created due to the WWE Undisputed Championship becoming exclusive to SmackDown when Brock Lesnar was drafted to the Blue Brand.

With this championship run, the Reign of Terror would begin, with Triple H being the top guy throughout this time. The championship would stay on Raw until June of 2005, when the champion Batista was drafted to SmackDown, with WWE Champion John Cena being sent to Raw at the beginning of the draft. Batista would go on to hold the championship until January 10th, 2006, relinquishing the title due to injury, ending the longest reign. Kurt Angle would win it the same night in a 20 man Battle Royal (this episode would air on January 14th). This would be Angles final championship prior to leaving WWE later that year.

The championship would stay on SmackDown until 2008 with the likes of Rey Mysterio, Undertaker, Edge, CM Punk and The Great Khali holding it. At Unforgiven 2008, the World Heavyweight Championship went back to Raw when Chris Jericho won it during the Championship Scramble, replacing Champion CM Punk, who was taken out by Legacy.

6 months later, the championship would go back and forth between the brands, starting with John Cena winning the championship at WrestleMania 25 and taking it to SmackDown, Edge winning the championship 21 days later at Backlash, taking the championship back to Raw, then Jeff Hardy winning the championship and making the championship SmackDown exclusive again at Extreme Rules 2009. CM Punk would win the championship that same night after the later match between Edge and Hardy by successfully cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase.

Hardy would go on to win the championship at the next PPV, Night of Champions, and Punk would win it back at SummerSlam. The World Heavyweight Championship would remain on SmackDown until August 29th, 2011, during Randy Orton’s 3rd reign, when the WWE Brand Split came to an end. This reign of Randy Orton would last 35 days before he would lose it to Mark Henry at Night of Champions 2011. This would be Mark Henry’s first World Championship run of his career, and it would last 92 days, before Big Show would defeat him in a Chairs Match at TLC 2011, in a reign that would last only a few minutes, as Daniel Bryan would successfully cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase.

The World Heavyweight Championship would only be around for only 2 more years as John Cena would defend the championship against WWE Champion Randy Orton in a TLC title unification match at the TLC PPV on December 18th, 2013, in which Randy Orton would win. Randy Orton would be recognised as the final champion, as the World Heavyweight Championship would be retired upon unification, and the WWE Championship would be known as the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.

On April 24th, 2023, WWE would announce that they were bringing back the World Heavyweight Championship, but in name only. This championship would have its own lineage and history. A tournament was held featuring 12 wrestlers, 6 from Raw and 6 from Smackdown.

Each brand held 2 Triple Threat matches with the winners of each Triple Threat advancing to the semi finals, with the winner of those 2 matches facing off at Night of Champions in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on May 27th, 2023. The two finalists were Seth “Freakin’” Rollins and AJ Styles, which Seth would win.

This championship was Raw exclusive as Undisputed WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns was was drafted to SmackDown and making his championship SmackDown exclusive. During the entirety of the championship’s has been dubbed the workhorse championship. At present, Seth Rollins has been the sole champion.

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