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NWA World Heavyweight Championship

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Title: NWA World Heavyweight Championship  
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Subject: Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum, Harley Race, Lou Thesz, National Wrestling Alliance, Dusty Rhodes (wrestler)
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NWA World Heavyweight Championship

NWA World Heavyweight Championship
The current NWA World Heavyweight Championship belt
Current champion(s) Jax Dane
Date won August 29, 2015
Date established January 5, 1948
Promotion National Wrestling Alliance

The National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) World Heavyweight Championship is a Frank Gotch's 1908 version. This effectively makes it the oldest surviving wrestling championship in the world. The title has been competed for in such well-known promotions as the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF, now WWE), New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), World Championship Wrestling (WCW), Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA).

With many territorial promotions appearing across the United States, the NWA was formed in 1948 as an overall governing wrestling body. Like franchises, these territories had the option of NWA membership. The promotion owners had to recognize the NWA heavyweight, junior heavyweight, and light heavyweight champions as world champions while retaining their own ownership and top champion. Ric Flair holds the record for the most reigns with nine.


  • History 1
    • Early history 1.1
    • World Wide Wrestling Federation 1.2
    • World Championship Wrestling 1.3
    • Eastern/Extreme Championship Wrestling 1.4
    • Smoky Mountain Wrestling and United States Wrestling Association 1.5
    • World Wrestling Federation 1.6
    • Independent circuit 1.7
    • Total Nonstop Action Wrestling 1.8
    • "Reclaiming the Glory" 1.9
      • Ring of Honor 1.9.1
      • Pearce and Cabana 1.9.2
  • Reigns 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


Early history

The belt used to represent the NWA World Heavyweight Championship (established 1948) recognized by the National Wrestling Alliance (being held aloft by Adam Pearce). The flag of Australia and Canadian Red Ensign can be seen on the belt's strap

Every year, the NWA World Heavyweight Champion would travel to each territory and defend the title against the territories' top contender or champion. The purpose of the world champion was to make the top contender look good and still hold the title. The NWA board of directors, composed mostly of territory owners, decided when the title changed hands via a vote. By the late 1950s, however, the system began to break down. As Lou Thesz continued to hold the title, other popular wrestlers such as Verne Gagne became frustrated over the lack of change. There were also disputes over the number of appearances the champion would make in different regions.

On June 14, 1957 in Chicago, Lou Thesz defended the world title against Canadian wrestler had never recognized it. Quinn started promoting Carpentier as the true NWA world champion based on the match with Thesz. In 1958, Quinn started shopping Carpentier around to promoters interested in leaving the NWA. A victory over Carpentier could give a local champion a credible claim to the world championship of wrestling. Verne Gagne, who had been trying to become NWA World Heavyweight Champion for some time, defeated Carpentier in Omaha, Nebraska on August 9, 1958. This was recognized as a title change by those NWA affiliate promotions that would later evolve into the American Wrestling Association (AWA) in 1960. This disputed version of the NWA World Heavyweight Title was later known as the World Heavyweight Championship (Omaha version). The title was unified with the AWA World Heavyweight Championship on September 7, 1963. The AWA title continued to exist until the AWA ceased operations in 1991. The Boston NWA affiliate known as the Atlantic Athletic Commission arranged a match between Killer Kowalski and Carpentier in 1958. Kowalski's victory created what was after known as the ACC World Heavyweight Title and later the Big Time Wrestling (Boston) World title which was active until 1975, later reforming in the early 2000s.

The NAWA/WWA in Los Angeles recognized Carpentier as NWA champion in July 1959 as part of gradually splitting from the NWA. On June 12, 1961, Carpentier lost a match to Freddie Blassie which created the basis for the WWA World Heavyweight Championship (Los Angeles version). The title ceased to exist when the WWA returned to the NWA on October 1, 1968.

World Wide Wrestling Federation

Diagram showing the evolution of the NWA world heavyweight championships into the WWF/WWE and WCW championships

The World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF), which later evolved into World Wrestling Entertainment, was the major wrestling promotion in the northeast United States in the early 1960s. Vincent J. McMahon's Capitol Wrestling Corporation, the precursor to the WWWF, seceded from the National Wrestling Alliance for a variety of reasons including the selection of the NWA World Heavyweight Champion and the number of dates wrestled by the champion in the promotion. Ostensibly, the dispute was over "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers losing the NWA World Heavyweight Championship to Lou Thesz in one fall instead of a best-of-three — the format in which NWA World Heavyweight Championship matches were traditionally decided at the time. Capitol Wrestling Corporation executives held majority control over the NWA while in NWA board of directors at the time. Following Lou Thesz's World Heavyweight Championship win, Capitol Wrestling Corporation seceded from the National Wrestling Alliance and became the World Wide Wrestling Federation. "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers was then recognized as the first WWWF World Heavyweight Champion.

World Championship Wrestling

When Ric Flair won the NWA World title in 1981, he traveled to other NWA territories and defended the belt. He would drop the belt and regain it, as the NWA board of directors decided. On more than one occasion, Flair lost and regained the belt without the official sanctioning of the NWA. In most cases (such as the case of Jack Veneno), these "switches" are ignored. However, as of 1998, the NWA recognized the Flair-Race switches that had occurred in March 1984 in New Zealand and Singapore.

As the 1980s drew to a close, WCW World Heavyweight Championship.

Due to a falling out with WCW Executive Vice-President Jim Herd, Flair was fired from WCW in 1991 while still being recognized as the NWA Champion. Flair took the NWA belt with him, because WCW and Herd had not returned the $25,000 bond Flair had paid on the belt. A match was held for the vacated WCW World Heavyweight Championship within two weeks of the departure, but no mention was made of the NWA title. Flair was stripped of the NWA World Heavyweight Championship by the NWA board of directors shortly after he signed with the WWF in September 1991; a board had to be reconstituted, as most members had gone out of business or been bought out by JCP/WCW. Flair displayed the "Big Gold Belt" on WWF television, calling himself the "Real World's Heavyweight Champion." After winning the WWF Championship, the "Real World's Heavyweight Champion" angle was dropped. WCW, which had subsequently filed a lawsuit against the WWF to prevent them from using the Big Gold Belt on television, eventually dropped the action. The belt was returned to WCW.

Ric Flair in Seoul, South Korea

During Flair's departure from WCW, the company had made a new WCW World title belt. After a year hiatus, the NWA board authorized WCW and New Japan Pro Wrestling to hold a tournament to decide a new NWA World Champion using the Big Gold Belt, now owned by WCW. Turner's company still maintained its WCW World Championship, thus having two World Heavyweight titles present in the same promotion. The tournament was won by Japanese wrestler Masahiro Chono. From 1992 to 1993, the NWA belt was defended in Japan and on WCW television. Flair returned to WCW and regained the belt from Barry Windham in July 1993; that same year, WCW recognized the Ric Flair-Tatsumi Fujinami NWA title changes in 1991. Disputes between WCW management and the NWA Board reached the breaking point in the summer of 1993 over a variety of issues, not the least of which was a storyline by WCW to have the title switched to Rick Rude.

On September 1, 1993, WCW withdrew their membership from the NWA but kept the title belt which they owned. A court battle decided that WCW could not continue to use the letters NWA to describe or promote the belt, but it did possess a right to the physical title belt and its historical lineage by a goodwill agreement between prior boards of directors and WCW (and its prior incarnation Jim Crockett Promotions). Per this ruling, the title belt dropped the recognition as being the NWA World Heavyweight title but continued to be billed as the World Heavyweight Championship by WCW. Soon after, the Big Gold Belt was defended without any company affiliation, even being referred to as the Big Gold Belt for a short time, until it became known as the WCW International World Heavyweight Championship. This title was recognized as the championship of a fictitious entity known as "WCW International", which served as a replacement for the NWA Board, until the title was unified with the main WCW title.

Despite losing WCW as its flagship program, the NWA picked up new members and remained in existence as a legal entity. After nearly a year, the organization scheduled a tournament to crown a new champion, and brought back the "Domed Globe" belt from the '70s to early '80s to represent this new champion.

Eastern/Extreme Championship Wrestling

After WCW withdrew from the NWA, their Eastern Championship Wrestling (ECW) territory became the most televised wrestling show still within the NWA. As such, the NWA decided to hold the tournament for the vacated NWA World Heavyweight Championship through ECW. The tournament was held at the ECW Arena in August 1994 and won by ECW Heavyweight Champion Shane Douglas. (At the time, the ECW title was considered a regional title). Douglas appeared proud to become NWA World Heavyweight Champion, until he turned and threw the belt down and started slandering the NWA, then picked up the ECW Heavyweight title and proclaimed himself ECW World Heavyweight Champion. Almost immediately thereafter ECW withdrew from the NWA and became Extreme Championship Wrestling. In the 2005, ECW documentary Forever Hardcore, Douglas claimed that part of the reason that he decided to toss down the NWA title was because of derogatory and slanderous comments that then-NWA head Dennis Coralluzzo had allegedly been making regarding his professionalism.

Smoky Mountain Wrestling and United States Wrestling Association

Despite this blow to the organization, the NWA held another tournament in November 1994; in Cherry Hill, New Jersey hosted by promoter Dennis Coralluzzo and Smoky Mountain Wrestling. This tournament was won by Chris Candido and the title soon was recognized and defended in such independent promotions as Smoky Mountain Wrestling and the United States Wrestling Association. Holding the belt for a few months, he dropped the belt to Ultimate Fighting Championship's (UFC) Dan Severn in February 1995. Severn held the belt continuously for four years, but only made sporadic defenses due to his UFC commitments. Although Severn had attempted to go the "traveling champion" route done by former champions Thesz, Dory Funk, Jr., Harley Race, and Terry Funk, the competition level was relatively minor due to the lack of strong territories.

World Wrestling Federation

In 1998, Dan Severn became part of Jim Cornette's NWA faction in the WWF. Trying to get back in the national spotlight, the NWA made a deal with Vincent K. McMahon to appear on WWF television. Part of Cornette's NWA stable was NWA North American Champion Jeff Jarrett, winning the vacant title by defeating Barry Windham on Monday Night Raw. The NWA's deal with the WWF never accomplished its intended purpose and McMahon ended it. The NWA belt went back to being defended on the independent circuit and remaining NWA territories.

Independent circuit

In 1999, Severn lost the title to former Olympic judoka Naoya Ogawa, and the title picture became slightly more competitive. The champions nonetheless remained wrestlers from independents, regardless of whether they were from North America (Severn, Mike Rapada, Sabu), Asia (Ogawa, Shinya Hashimoto), or Europe (Gary Steele). The situation continued until early 2002, when Severn was able to regain the title from Hashimoto in Japan, albeit with controversy.

Total Nonstop Action Wrestling

In 2002, Jeff and Jerry Jarrett formed NWA:Total Nonstop Action (NWA:TNA). The Jarretts worked out a licensing deal with the NWA and affiliated their promotion with the NWA World Heavyweight and Tag Team titles. While working out a cable deal, the Jarretts put NWA:TNA on weekly pay-per-view. Due to booking conflict with a mixed martial arts card, the NWA World Heavyweight Champion at the time, Dan Severn, was unable to appear on the inaugural TNA card, and he was stripped of the NWA title. Ken Shamrock was then declared the new NWA World Heavyweight Champion after winning a Gauntlet for the Gold battle royal. In 2004, NWA:TNA withdrew from the NWA, but retained the rights to use the NWA World Heavyweight and Tag Team titles on their shows while being obliged to adhere to rulings of the NWA board of directors. The agreement ended on May 13, 2007 with the TNA creating its own Championship Titles.

"Reclaiming the Glory"

On May 22, 2007, the NWA announced through a statement on their official website, and through a video posted on YouTube, a tournament, entitled Reclaiming the Glory, to fill the title vacancy left after the end of the NWA's relationship with TNA Wrestling. Sixteen men competed for the championship, with Adam Pearce finally winning the belt by defeating Brent Albright on September 1, 2007 in Bayamón, Puerto Rico. Pearce was active in defending the championship, but suffered from the same problems that had plagued the "new" NWA in the past. A lack of stable promotions within the NWA made it difficult to have a traveling champion, so most of Pearce's defenses took place in the NWA Pro promotion owned by David Marquez and John Rivera. Pearce's main foe in early defenses was Sean "X-Pac" Waltman, and the two wrestled numerous times over the title. Later, Pearce resumed his feud with Albright, which is yet ongoing today with both men exchanging the Number One Contendership.

Ring of Honor

Blue Demon Jr. with the championship belt

On June 7, 2008 at the Ring of Honor (ROH) pay per view, Pearce revealed the NWA World Heavyweight Championship at the conclusion of his match, making it officially recognized in Ring of Honor. Following the event it was announced that on June 27, Ring of Honor World Champion, Nigel McGuinness would take on NWA World Heavyweight Champion, Pearce title for title at "Battle For Supremacy" in Dayton, Ohio. The match ended in a disqualification when the NWA rule of throwing an opponent over the top rope was enforced, therefore both men retained their respective titles, causing the crowd in Dayton to chant "Dusty Finish" .

Brent Albright defeated Adam Pearce in New York, New York at the ROH Death Before Dishonor VI event on August 2, 2008 to win the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. This was the first time that the title changed hands in New York City. Then on September 20, 2008, Pearce began his second reign as champion by defeating Albright at the Ring of Honor "Glory by Honor VII" event in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He would lose the title one month later to Blue Demon, Jr. in Mexico City.

Pearce and Cabana

On March 14, 2010, Pearce ended Blue Demon Jr.'s 505-day reign as champion by emerging victorious over him and Phill Shatter in a match in Charlotte, North Carolina. Pearce held the title for nearly a full year before Colt Cabana defeated him at a taping of Championship Wrestling From Hollywood on March 6, 2011. Cabana held the title for forty-eight days himself until The Sheik beat him in Jacksonville, Florida at an NWA Pro Wrestling Fusion event.

On July 11, 2011, the NWA announced that it was stripping The Sheik of the world championship for refusing to make a title defense against Pearce. The defense, which Sheik claimed he was never told about, was to take place during the Ohio State Fair on July 31. Instead, a four-way match was signed that put Pearce, the #1 contender, against the NWA National Heavyweight Champion Chance Prophet, the NWA North American Champion Shaun Tempers, and Jimmy Rave for the vacant title. Pearce won and became champion for a fourth time. Once again, he lost the belt to Cabana, who defeated him at another Championship Wrestling From Hollywood taping on April 8, 2012.

Shortly thereafter Cabana and Pearce began facing each other in a series of matches that was dubbed the "Seven Levels of Hate" best of seven series. The fourth match of the series was a two-out-of-three falls contest held on July 21, 2012, in Kansas City, Missouri. The NWA sanctioned the match as a world championship match and Pearce emerged victorious to become a five-time world champion.

With both wrestlers even at three victories, the final match of the series was scheduled for October 27, 2012 in Melbourne, Australia at an NWA Warzone Wrestling event. Pearce wanted the NWA to sanction the match as a world title match, as they had done earlier. The NWA, however, refused to do this and did not want Pearce and Cabana to go forward with the match. They did anyway, with Cabana winning the match. Pearce and Cabana both broke kayfabe after the match, with Pearce saying that Cabana was the rightful champion and Cabana saying that he did not want the title as it was about the past and he was about the future. Pearce declared he did not want the title either and left it in the ring as the two exited the arena.


The NWA currently recognizes 91 individual World Heavyweight Championship reigns. Ric Flair holds the record with nine championships. Lou Thesz holds the record for most cumulative days as champion, with his three reigns totaling 3,749 days. Thesz's first reign is the longest in the history of the title, as he held the title for 1,941 days. The shortest reign belongs to Shane Douglas, who won the title in a tournament at an August 27, 1994 NWA Eastern Championship Wrestling event; immediately after winning the tournament Douglas, who was the reigning Eastern Championship Wrestling Heavyweight Champion, refused the NWA World Heavyweight Championship and threw the belt down, declaring his ECW title to be a world championship in an action that split Eastern Championship Wrestling from the NWA and brought about the existence of what became the original Extreme Championship Wrestling.

Jax Dane is the current champion in his first reign. He defeated the former champion Hiroyoshi Tenzan on August 29, 2015, at a Branded Outlaw Wrestling show in San Antonio, Texas.[1]

See also


  1. ^ "NWA news: New NWA World Hvt. champion determined in Texas". Pro Wrestling Torch. 2015-08-29. Retrieved 2015-08-30. 

External links

  • Official NWA World Heavyweight Title History
  • - NWA World Heavyweight Title History
  • The NWA's official video announcement of the tournament and pairings
  • Solie's Vintage Wrestling- Title Histories- NWA World Heavyweight Title
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