Thursday, February 14, 2019

The World Heavyweight Championship: Too valuable to stay retired

On the November 25, 2013 edition of "RAW", Triple H announced that a WWE Championship and World Heavyweight Title match would take place at the WWE TLC PPV that year. Both belts hung above the ring and John Cena and Randy Orton faced each other in a, "Tables, Ladders and Chairs", match. In the match's climax, Randy Orton won both titles and unified them, retiring the World Heavyweight Title/Big Gold Belt in the process. Make no mistake- from a financial standpoint, the WWE Championship (as well the WWE Universal Championship) is the most valuable title in the pro-wrestling industry. Being WWE Champion gives a talent the distinction of being the face of the biggest drawing pro-wrestling company in the world. However, retiring the World Heavyweight Title effectively phased out one of the most prestigious titles in pro-wrestling history, and I highly doubt that we have seen the last of it.

For starters, let's look at the lineage of the World Heavyweight Title, which started in 1905 (then known as the World Heavyweight Wrestling Championship), making it the oldest title in the pro-wrestling industry. The industry was very different during this period. While today the pro-wrestling industry focuses mainly on giving fans the best shows possible, during that time it was focused mainly on in-ring competition. And for that reason, George Hackenschmidt became the first holder of the World Heavyweight Title. Whether or not he had the ability to work a crowd was irrelevant, because during that era, the wrestling skills of the talents in the ring were all that mattered. Hackenschmidt was the first pure wrestler to become a world champion, and he is a former champion who is a part of the World Heavyweight Championship lineage.

Following George Hackenschmidt in the lineage of the World Heavyweight Championship is Frank Gotch, a talent who revolutionized the pro-wrestling industry in the 1900s and 1910s, just as Hulk Hogan did in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1949, Lou Thesz was given the NWA World Heavyweight Title, and then merged the World Heavyweight Wrestling Wrestling Title into it (which he won in 1952). The NWA World Heavyweight Title is the only title that was ultimately defended in WWE, WCW, TNA, and ECW. Also it has the distinction of having legends a part of its legacy such as Dory Funk Jr., Dusty Rhodes, Harley Race, Jack Brisco, Kerry Von Erich, Ricky Steamboat, and Terry Funk. In 1991, the NWA World Heavyweight Title began to be referred to as the WCW World Heavyweight Title in WCW. In 1992, Ron Simmons became WCW World Heavyweight Champion. He is currently a member of the WWE Hall of Fame.

2002 was the year that title became known as the World Heavyweight Championship, which was subsequently held by current WWE Hall of Famers Booker T, Mark Henry, and The Great Khali.

It's understandable that WWE takes pride in their titles and want them to be the only world titles represented in their company. However, the World Heavyweight Title is also respected and has importance and a relevant legacy behind it. I believe that it is only a matter of time before it makes its appearance again.

Updated in May 2021