|Date established||April 25, 1963|
|Current champion(s)||Bobby Lashley|
|Date won||March 1, 2021|
The WWE Championship is a world heavyweight championship created and promoted by the American professional wrestling promotion WWE, currently defended on their Raw brand division. It is one of WWE's three world titles, alongside the Universal Championship on SmackDown and the NXT Championship on NXT. The current champion is Bobby Lashley, who is in his first reign.
The original world championship of the promotion, it was established by the then-World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) on April 25, 1963, as the WWWF World Heavyweight Championship, after the promotion seceded from the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA). The inaugural champion was Buddy Rogers. Since its inception, the title has undergone many name changes due to company name changes and title unifications. It is the oldest championship currently active in WWE, and is presented as being the promotion's most prestigious title, with many matches for the title having headlined pay-per-view events – including WWE's flagship event WrestleMania. In professional wrestling in general, it is considered to be one of the most prestigious championships of all time.
From its inception until 2001, it was promoted as WWE's sole primary championship. An additional world title, the WCW Championship, was added after the then-World Wrestling Federation's purchase of World Championship Wrestling in early 2001. The titles were later unified as the Undisputed Championship. After the first brand split in 2002 and the promotion being renamed to WWE, the championship became exclusive to SmackDown, and the World Heavyweight Championship was created for Raw. ECW became a third brand in 2006, adding the ECW Championship. That title was deactivated in 2010, and the World Heavyweight Championship was unified into the WWE Championship in 2013. The championship was again the sole world title of WWE until the introduction of the Universal Championship with the 2016 brand split. During both brand splits, the WWE Championship has switched brands, usually as a result of the WWE Draft; in 2019, the title moved to Raw after then-champion Brock Lesnar quit SmackDown following the events of Crown Jewel.
The title was introduced in 1963 with Buddy Rogers becoming the first champion. However, its origin is attributed to events that began in the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), which had various territorial member promotions. In the 1950s, Capitol Wrestling Corporation (CWC) was a member of the NWA and by 1963, its executives held a controlling stake over NWA operations. During this time, Buddy Rogers held the NWA World Heavyweight Championship until January 24, when Lou Thesz defeated Rogers for the championship in a one fall match. Claiming the title can only be contested in a traditional two out of three falls match, the promotion disputed the title change, and thus seceded from the NWA and became the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF). The WWWF World Heavyweight Championship was then established and awarded to Buddy Rogers with the explanation that he won a fictional tournament in Rio de Janeiro, supposedly defeating Antonino Rocca in the finals. After several years, the WWWF became affiliated with the NWA once again, and "World" was dropped from the championship's name. In 1979, the WWWF was renamed World Wrestling Federation (WWF), and then after conclusively ending its affiliation with the NWA in 1983, the championship became known as the WWF World Heavyweight Championship. Although the full name appeared on the championship belts until 1998, the name was often abbreviated to WWF Championship, which became its official name in 1998.
Monday Night Wars and title unification
In 1991, World Championship Wrestling (WCW), a member of the NWA, established the WCW World Heavyweight Championship to replace the NWA's world title. In 1993, WCW seceded from the NWA and grew to become a rival promotion to the WWF. Both organizations grew into mainstream prominence and were eventually involved in a television ratings war, dubbed the Monday Night Wars. Near the end of the ratings war, WCW began a financial decline, which culminated in WWF purchasing WCW in March 2001. As a result of the purchase, the WWF acquired, among other assets, WCW's championships. Thus, there were two world titles in the WWF: the original WWF Championship and the WCW Championship, which was eventually renamed the "World Championship".
In December 2001, the two championships were unified at Vengeance. At the event, Stone Cold Steve Austin defeated Kurt Angle to retain the WWF Championship, while Chris Jericho defeated The Rock for the World Championship. After this, Jericho then defeated Austin, unifying the WWF and World Championships, and becoming the first Undisputed WWF Champion; the Undisputed championship retained the lineage of the WWF Championship and the World Championship was retired. Subsequently, the Big Eagle Belt (formerly representing the WWF Championship) and the Big Gold Belt (formerly representing the World Championship) were used in tandem to represent the Undisputed Championship. Jericho held the championship for four months until he lost it at WrestleMania X8 against Triple H, who was soon after presented with a single championship belt.
The Undisputed Championship continued up through the beginning of the first brand split, which saw wrestlers being drafted to the company's main television programs, Raw and SmackDown, each show representing the brand of the same name, with championships assigned to and authority figures appointed for each brand. The holder of the Undisputed Championship was the only male wrestler allowed to appear on both shows.
In May 2002, the WWF was renamed World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and the championships were renamed accordingly. At first, the championship remained unaffiliated with either brand as wrestlers from both brands could challenge the champion. Following the appointment of Eric Bischoff and Stephanie McMahon as General Managers of Raw and SmackDown, respectively, Stephanie McMahon convinced then-Undisputed Champion Brock Lesnar to become exclusive to the SmackDown brand, leaving the Raw brand without a world title. In response, on September 2, Bischoff disputed Lesnar's status as champion, stating Lesnar was refusing to defend his title against the designated No. 1 contender, Triple H, and awarded the latter with the newly created World Heavyweight Championship. Immediately afterwards, Lesnar's championship dropped the epithet "Undisputed" and became known as the WWE Championship.
Over the course of the first brand split, the WWE Championship was used as the world title of the SmackDown brand twice and of the Raw brand three times. In all but two cases, the WWE Championship switched brands as a result of the annual draft. In June 2006, WWE established ECW as a third brand, on which former Extreme Championship Wrestling stars and newer talent competed. When ECW's Rob Van Dam won the WWE Championship at ECW One Night Stand on June 11, 2006, the championship briefly became a world title of the ECW brand; the ECW World Heavyweight Championship was subsequently reactivated for the ECW brand upon Van Dam's title win. Van Dam held both titles until he lost the WWE Championship to Raw's Edge the following month. The ECW brand was disbanded in 2010, subsequently deactivating the ECW Championship. The first brand split ended in August 2011.
Just prior to the end of the first brand split, a storyline saw CM Punk vowing to leave the company with the WWE Championship when his contract expired on July 17, 2011, the date of the 2011 Money in the Bank pay-per-view. At the event, Punk succeeded in defeating the defending champion John Cena to win the title, and left the company with the physical championship belt. Subsequently, the championship was vacated and Rey Mysterio won an eight-man tournament by defeating The Miz in the finals to be crowned the new WWE Champion, only to subsequently lose it later that night to Cena, for the latter's record ninth reign. However, following Cena's win, Punk returned to WWE with his own championship belt, disputing Cena's claim to the title. The two WWE Champions wrestled each other at SummerSlam; Punk defeated Cena to solidify his claim on the title.
Title reunified and second brand split
Following the end of the first brand split in August 2011, both the WWE Champion and World Heavyweight Champion could appear on both Raw and SmackDown. In November 2013, the night after Survivor Series, then-World Heavyweight Champion John Cena made a challenge to then-WWE Champion Randy Orton to determine an undisputed WWE world champion. Orton defeated Cena in a TLC match at the TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs pay-per-view on December 15, 2013, to unify the titles. Subsequently, the unified championship was renamed WWE World Heavyweight Championship and retained the lineage of the WWE Championship; the World Heavyweight Championship was retired. Orton and subsequent champions held both championship belts until a single championship belt was given to then-champion Brock Lesnar in August 2014.
After Dean Ambrose became champion in June 2016, the title's name was reverted to WWE Championship. In light of the return of the brand split the following month, Ambrose was drafted to SmackDown. Ambrose then retained his title at Battleground on July 24 against Raw draftees Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns, making the title exclusive to SmackDown. On the July 25 episode of Raw, to address the lack of a world title for the brand, the WWE Universal Championship was created; Finn Bálor became the inaugural champion at SummerSlam. After the unveiling of the Universal title, the WWE Championship was renamed WWE World Championship, but reverted to WWE Championship in December 2016 during AJ Styles' first reign.
The title changed hands for the first time outside of North America when AJ Styles defeated Jinder Mahal to win his second WWE Championship in Manchester, England on the November 7, 2017, episode of SmackDown. This was also the first time in nearly 15 years that the championship changed hands on an episode of SmackDown; the last time was in 2003 when Brock Lesnar defeated Kurt Angle for the title.
At Crown Jewel on October 31, 2019, SmackDown wrestler "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt won the Universal Championship, thus transferring the title to SmackDown. Also at that event, after reigning WWE Champion Brock Lesnar had defeated Cain Velasquez to retain the title, he was attacked by Raw's Rey Mysterio, who Lesnar had attacked a few weeks prior. The following night on Friday Night SmackDown, Lesnar quit SmackDown and went to Raw to continue his feud with Mysterio, thus transferring the WWE Championship to Raw. In 2021, the NXT Championship, which had been established for NXT in 2012 (and was WWE's developmental territory until 2019), would be recognized as a concurrent third world title in the promotion.
With the first brand split, an annual draft was established in 2002. Each year (except 2003), the General Managers participated in a draft lottery in which select members of WWE's roster were assigned to a brand. The revived ECW became a third brand from 2006 to 2010. On August 29, 2011, WWE ended the brand extension and wrestlers (including all champions), were then free to appear on any program.
On July 19, 2016, SmackDown moved to Tuesdays and became a live show with its own set of wrestlers and writers, separate from Raw, thus reintroducing the brand split. The draft took place on the live premiere of SmackDown. On the July 18 episode of Raw, SmackDown Commissioner Shane McMahon named Daniel Bryan the SmackDown General Manager and Raw Commissioner Stephanie McMahon named Mick Foley the Raw General Manager.
The following is a list of dates indicating the transitions of the WWE Championship between the Raw, SmackDown, and ECW brands.
|Date of transition||Brand||Notes|
|August 26, 2002||SmackDown!||WWE Undisputed Champion Brock Lesnar signed with SmackDown!, making the title exclusive to the brand.|
The title was renamed to WWE Championship after the World Heavyweight Championship was established for Raw.
|June 6, 2005||Raw||WWE Champion John Cena was drafted to Raw during the 2005 WWE Draft Lottery.|
|June 11, 2006||ECW||Following WWE's planned revival of Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) as a third brand, Rob Van Dam was chosen by ECW Representative Paul Heyman to move to the new brand. At ECW One Night Stand, Van Dam cashed in his Money in the Bank contract and defeated John Cena to win the WWE Championship and bring the title to the ECW brand. The ECW World Heavyweight Championship was subsequently reactivated for ECW and awarded to Van Dam, who held both titles.|
|July 3, 2006||Raw||The WWE Championship was returned to Raw after Edge, a member of the Raw brand, defeated Rob Van Dam and John Cena to win the WWE Championship.|
|June 23, 2008||SmackDown||WWE Champion Triple H was drafted to SmackDown during the 2008 WWE Draft.|
|April 13, 2009||Raw||WWE Champion Triple H was drafted back to Raw during the 2009 WWE Draft.|
The ECW Championship, along with the brand, was deactivated in 2010.
|August 29, 2011||N/A||End of first brand split.|
The WWE Champion could appear on both Raw and SmackDown.
The WWE Championship and World Heavyweight Championship were unified in December 2013, subsequently retiring the World Heavyweight Championship.
|July 19, 2016||SmackDown||Reintroduction of the brand split.|
WWE Champion Dean Ambrose was drafted to SmackDown during the 2016 WWE Draft.
The WWE Universal Championship was created for Raw.
|November 1, 2019||Raw||WWE Champion Brock Lesnar quit SmackDown and transferred to Raw.|
Championship belt designs
When introduced in 1963, the original WWWF World Heavyweight Championship was represented by a United States championship belt that Buddy Rogers had defended sometime prior to becoming the inaugural WWWF world champion. The center plate of this belt was an outline of the continental United States and there were two shield-shaped side plates with grapplers on them; the plates were on a red leather strap. On the center plate, there was a circle flanked by grapplers, and the circle was designed to contain a photograph of the titleholder. Above the circle was a shield with an eagle atop it with stars on opposite sides of the shield. The caption "World's Champion" was added below the circle. This title belt was worn by the inaugural champion Buddy Rogers in 1963 and the second champion Bruno Sammartino. After Sammartino became champion, a new title belt on a blue strap was created. The enlarged center piece contained a crowned globe and two grapplers, and read "WWWF World Champion"; the two side plates commemorated Sammartino's title win. Sammartino wore this version for the duration of his seven-year reign. After defeating Sammartino in January 1971, Ivan Koloff held this version for three weeks before losing it to Pedro Morales.
During Morales's reign, the championship belt was updated several times. First in 1971, this design was on an indigo colored strap and contained three shield-shaped plates. Below the center plate, which read "World Heavyweight Champion" and had a cross at its center, a separate horizontal plate read "WWWF". This was replaced with another design in 1972. This version, on a red strap, read "WWWF Heavyweight Wrestling Champion" around the edges with an eagle at the center, while six side plates represented several countries. 1973 saw the introduction of another yet similar design; this one was on a black strap and contained two grapplers above a differently designed eagle. This version was subsequently held by Stan Stasiak, Bruno Sammartino, Superstar Billy Graham – who wore a red leather variation – and Bob Backlund. During the latter's reign, the promotion's name was shortened to World Wrestling Federation (WWF), but the physical championship belt still read "WWWF".
A new design was introduced in 1982, nicknamed the "Big Green Belt" due to its size and the color of its strap. It included eight (later ten) side plates dedicated to the previous champions. The center plate featured a wrestler holding up a championship belt with a globe behind him. This design, held by Bob Backlund, The Iron Sheik, and Hulk Hogan, was replaced first by the "Hogan '84" design in late 1984, then by the nearly identical "Hogan '85" design in early 1985. Both were called "Hogan" belts as they were only worn by Hulk Hogan. Both championship belts were similar in design to the NWA Television Championship at the time. They consisted of silver plates (although a gold plate was briefly used for the '85 belt) on a black strap, the center plate read "WWF" at the top. Below that was an eagle with two banners below it reading "World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion". The bottom read "Worldwide Wrestling" and above that was a name plate commemorating Hogan's title win, while the side plates noted previous champions. The difference between the '84 and the '85 designs were that the writing (except WWF) was in red on the '84, and black background was added on the '85 belt. The next year, the "Hogan '86" was introduced and was again only worn by Hogan. The center plate featured a globe in the center, along with Roman columns and olive branches. It read "World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion" and included the famous WWF block logo at the top, while four side plates had flags (two flags per side plate) representing the United States, Canada, Mexico, Japan, the United Kingdom, Australia, the Soviet Union, and Italy.
In 1988, just before ending his first championship reign, Hogan introduced another new design, the "Winged Eagle" championship belt, which became the primary design for the next decade with many wrestlers holding this version, and is considered the most popular design of the championship. Its nickname is derived from the eagle's wings seemingly coming off of the center plate, which included the block WWF logo and read "World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion". The championship belt also had four identical side plates. Apart from the usual black leather strap, The Ultimate Warrior wore white, light blue, yellow, and purple variations. Sgt. Slaughter continued to wear Warrior's purple strap. In 1998, after Stone Cold Steve Austin became champion, he was presented with a new design, often dubbed the "Big Eagle" or "Attitude Era" championship belt. The center plate was similar to the previous design, but became fully rounded, and the side plates were updated. When it was unveiled, it originally contained the block WWF logo and was on a blue strap, but was soon updated to the WWF scratch logo and on a black strap. In addition to the logo, it read "World Wrestling Federation Champion".
After Chris Jericho unified the WWF and WCW Championships into the Undisputed WWF Championship, the "Big Eagle" championship belt was used in tandem with the "Big Gold Belt", the former WCW Championship belt, until a single Undisputed Championship belt was introduced to champion Triple H on the April 1, 2002 episode of Raw. This new belt was designed by New York-based tattoo artist Keith Ciaramello. Taking inspiration from WCW, this design included a name plate, and like the previous two designs, it had an eagle atop the globe. It originally had the WWF scratch logo and read "World Wrestling Federation Champion"; after the promotion was renamed World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) in May 2002, both the scratch logo and wording were changed accordingly. The championship later became the WWE Championship in September 2002 when it became exclusive to SmackDown, while the Big Gold Belt was resurrected to represent the World Heavyweight Championship for Raw.
After John Cena won the WWE Championship in April 2005, he introduced his own custom belt, the "Spinner Belt", which had a gold and diamond bling-bling style reflecting his hip hop character at the time. Although originally a custom belt for Cena, it became the WWE Championship's primary design from April 12, 2005, until February 18, 2013. The scratch WWE logo, placed between an eagle on top and the word "Champ" and a name plate below, could be spun like spinner wheels or a turntable in keeping with the hip-hop theme. The inner side plates read "WWE Champion", though before 2008, one side plate indicated the brand the title was designated to. The spinning function was phased out in later years and the logo set in a fixed place, most notably during The Miz's reign (2010–2011) when the logo was turned upside down to look like an "M". The Rock commented negatively on the spinning function on the night the belt was retired.
On the February 18, 2013 episode of Raw, The Rock unveiled a new WWE Championship belt. The new title was partially designed by Orange County Choppers of American Chopper fame. The championship included a large cut-out of the scratch WWE logo (encrusted with diamonds) inside a large irregular heptagonal plate. The word "Champion" appeared underneath the logo in large letters. Gold divider bars separated the center plate from its two large side plates. The side plates featured a removable center section that could be customized with the champion's logo in lieu of a nameplate; the default side plates consisted of a red globe with the WWE logo on the globe underneath a crown. This championship belt was used in tandem with the Big Gold Belt to represent the renamed WWE World Heavyweight Championship after Randy Orton unified the WWE Championship and the World Heavyweight Championship on December 15, 2013.
On the August 18, 2014 episode of Raw, reigning champion Brock Lesnar, who had won the title the night before at SummerSlam, was presented with a single championship belt, retiring the Big Gold Belt in the process. The current belt has a slightly updated design from the belt introduced by The Rock in 2013 as a result of WWE changing their corporate logo which was originally used for the WWE Network. It includes a large center plate dominated by a cut out of the current WWE logo inside an irregular heptagon with the capital words "World Heavyweight Champion" along the bottom edges, in very small print. The belt retains the gold divider bars introduced in the previous design. The large side plates, like the previous design, include removable round center sections, allowing the holder's personal logo to be added to the championship belt; the default plates show gold and red world maps with the WWE logo over them but without the crown from the previous design. Customizable side plates have now become a prominent feature with the majority of WWE's championship belts.
After the 2016 brand split where the championship became exclusive to SmackDown, the similarly designed WWE Universal Championship was introduced for the Raw brand. The WWE World Heavyweight Championship was subsequently renamed WWE Championship (though it was called "WWE World Championship" between July and December 2016). While the physical belt has maintained the text "World Heavyweight Champion" below the logo, the digital pre-match graphics of the belt reflected the name changes until December 2016, after which, the graphic no longer included a name below the logo with the brief exception at Super ShowDown 2020 when "WWE World Champion" was added back below the logo in the graphic.
Custom championship belts have been created to honor certain reigning champions or match their characters. During Hogan's reign in 1986, he had a modified version of the Hogan '86 made, which included a picture of himself at the center. This was a short lived custom design as he reverted to the Hogan '86 version. A much larger version similar to the Hogan '86 championship belt was created for André the Giant before WrestleMania III, although he never wore it as champion.
A custom championship belt was used by Stone Cold Steve Austin during his second reign (1998), which included his "Smoking Skull" logo as well as rattle snakes. As an answer, The Rock also had a custom championship belt designed and constructed, including his trademark "Brahma Bull" logo, but due to creative reasons, it never appeared on television. The Spinner Belt, originally a customized belt for John Cena, remained the standard title belt from 2005 to 2013. During Edge's second reign (2006), he introduced his own variation, the "Rated R Spinner" design, replacing the WWE scratch logo with his "Rated R Superstar" logo. Edge was going to have a completely new custom belt designed, but due to time constraints, it did not get made. During his fourth reign (2018–2019) as part of his environmentalist heel gimmick, Daniel Bryan threw the standard title belt in a garbage can (bemoaning the fact it was made from leather) and introduced a new custom belt, dubbed the "Planet's Championship", featuring the same design as the standard belt, but made from "entirely sustainable materials" (such as the strap being made from hemp and the center and side plates carved from wood of a naturally fallen oak tree; the side plates also had his name instead of the WWE logo).
In October 2014, WWE presented the San Francisco Giants a replica of the current WWE Championship belt for winning the 2014 World Series. This began a tradition for WWE, and they have since created custom WWE Championship belts for winners in professional sports, with the side plates commemorating the achievement. They have also presented a custom belt to exceptionally notable people for their efforts in their profession. WWE had originally presented custom WWE Championships to winners in both male and female sports, but in 2018, they began presenting those in female sports with custom WWE Raw Women's Championship belts.
Since that original gift in 2014, WWE has presented a WWE Championship belt to winners of the World Series, Super Bowl, NBA Finals, FIFA Women's World Cup, College Football Playoff National Championship, Stanley Cup Finals, Australian Open, Premier League, Bundesliga, Indian Premier League, Liga MX, Argentine Primera División, Major League Baseball Home Run Derby, Formula One World Championship, UEFA Champions League, Overwatch League, Cricket World Cup, Men's US Open, and Canadian Football League Grey Cup. WWE also presented a title to London police officer Charlie Guenigault for his "exceptional bravery" during the 2017 London Bridge attack, and to the U.S. servicemen and women who have helped in hosting WWE Tribute to the Troops (since 2015) as well as for their continued service to the country. In 2020, WWE Championship belts were also presented to Christophe Agius and Philippe Chéreau, WWE announcers in France for 20 consecutive years presenting WWE on French television.
The WWE Championship was the first world championship introduced into the promotion in 1963. The inaugural champion was Buddy Rogers, and there have been 53 different official champions overall and 11 vacancies. The longest reigning champion is Bruno Sammartino, who held the title from May 17, 1963, to January 18, 1971, for a total of 2,803 days (7 years, 8 months, and 1 day); Sammartino also holds the record for longest combined reign at 4,040 days. André the Giant is the shortest reigning champion, officially holding the title for 1 minute, 48 seconds. The youngest champion is Brock Lesnar, who won the title at the age of 25, while the oldest champion is Mr. McMahon, who won it at the age of 54. John Cena holds the record for most reigns with 13.
Bobby Lashley is the current champion in his first reign. He won the title by defeating The Miz in a Lumberjack match on the March 1, 2021 episode of Raw in St. Petersburg, Florida. Lashley is only the third black wrestler to win the WWE Championship, after The Rock in 1998 and Kofi Kingston in 2019.
- List of current champions in WWE
- List of World Heavyweight Champions (WWE)
- List of WWE Champions
- World championships in WWE
- Nemer, Paul (September 2, 2002). "Full WWE Raw Results – 9/2/02". WrestleView. Retrieved November 24, 2009.
- "The 5 shortest WWE Title reigns in history". Retrieved June 26, 2016.
- "WWE Championship". WWE. Retrieved March 9, 2017.
- Chin, Mike (October 4, 2014). "The Magnificent Seven: The Top 7 Most Prestigious American Wrestling Championships of All Time". 411mania. Retrieved February 20, 2018.
- Carbery, John (August 22, 2017). "Who is the World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion?". Medium.com. Retrieved December 12, 2018.
- "Rogers' 1st reign". WWE. Retrieved November 9, 2014.
- "WWE Entertainment, Inc. acquires WCW from Turner Broadcasting". WWE Corporate. March 23, 2001. Archived from the original on April 8, 2005. Retrieved May 24, 2008.
- "WWE Raw Results". Online World of Wrestling. Retrieved November 10, 2015.
- "Monday Night Raw – November 19, 2001: That's One Heck Of A Reset". KB's Wrestling Reviews. July 29, 2012. Retrieved November 10, 2015.
- "WCW World Champion – Chris Jericho". WWE.com. Archived from the original on February 15, 2008.
- The complex history of WWE's era of unification. WWE.com (September 12, 2012). Retrieved on September 5, 2013.
- "WWWF/WWF/WWE World Heavyweight Title". Wrestling-titles.com. Retrieved March 18, 2007.
- Clayton, Corey (September 6, 2007). "World Heavyweight Championship turns five years old". World Wrestling Entertainment. Retrieved December 23, 2008.
- "The unification of the WWE Championship and WCW Championship". WWE.
- "WWE Entertainment To Make RAW and SMACKDOWN Distinct Television Brands".
- "Brock Lesnar Biography at SLAM! Sports". SLAM! Sports: Wrestling. Canadian Online Explorer. Retrieved December 21, 2008.
After the July 22nd episode of Raw, Lesnar defected to Stephanie McMahon's SmackDown. Lesnar decided to remain exclusively on SmackDown, forcing Eric Bischoff's Raw brand to create its own World Championship.
- "Vince Mcmahon Biography at SLAM! Sports". SLAM! Sports: Wrestling. Canadian Online Explorer. Retrieved December 21, 2008.
The entire WWE roster was broken up into two separate camps, yahoo, with some rivalry (especially between future General Managers Eric Bischoff and Stephanie McMahon) occurring.
- Nemer, Paul (September 2, 2002). "Full WWE RAW Results – 9/2/02". WrestleView. Retrieved December 20, 2008.
- "SmackDown results: Truth and Consequences". WWE. Retrieved July 30, 2011.
- "CALDWELL'S WWE TLC PPV RESULTS 12/15: Live, in-person coverage of Cena vs. Orton unification match from Houston".
- "Brock Lesnar receives the new WWE title belt on 'Monday Night Raw'". USA Today. Retrieved August 19, 2014.
- Johnson, Mike. "Future of top WWE championship already hinted at". PWInsider.com. Retrieved June 29, 2016.
- Benigno, Anthony. "Seth Rollins addressed 'The Roman Reigns Scandal'". WWE. Retrieved July 27, 2016.
- "WWE Championship". WWE. Archived from the original on June 29, 2016. Retrieved June 29, 2016.
- Caldwell, James. "7/24 WWE Battleground Results – Caldwell's Complete Report". Pro Wrestling Torch. Retrieved July 27, 2016.
- Hamlin, Jeff. "WWE Raw live results: title match set for SummerSlam & a new champion is crowned". Wrestling Observer. Retrieved July 27, 2016.
- "WWE SmackDown Live results, July 26, 2016". WWE. Retrieved July 27, 2016.
- "WWE World Championship". WWE. Archived from the original on July 27, 2016. Retrieved July 27, 2016.
- "WWE Championship". WWE. Archived from the original on December 14, 2016. Retrieved December 13, 2016.
- Powell, Jason. "11/7 Barnett's WWE Smackdown Live TV Review: Jinder Mahal vs. AJ Styles for the WWE Championship, The Usos vs. Shelton Benjamin and Chad Gable for the Smackdown Tag Titles, Becky Lynch vs. James Ellsworth". Pro Wrestling Dot Net. Retrieved November 7, 2017.
- Powell, Jason. "WWE Crown Jewel results: Powell's live review of Brock Lesnar vs. Cain Velasquez for the WWE Championship, Seth Rollins vs. Bray Wyatt in a Falls Count Anywhere match for the WWE Universal Championship, Braun Strowman vs. Tyson Fury, Lacey Evans vs. Natalya". Pro Wrestling Dot Net. Retrieved October 31, 2019.
- Powell, Jason (October 4, 2019). "10/04 WWE Friday Night Smackdown results: Powell's review of The Rock's return, Kofi Kingston vs. Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship, Kevin Owens vs. Shane McMahon in a career vs. career ladder match, Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair vs. Sasha Banks and Bayley". Pro Wrestling Dot Net. Retrieved October 4, 2019.
- Burdick, Michael (February 5, 2021). "SmackDown results, Feb. 5, 2021: Owens attacks Reigns as Edge's WrestleMania opponent remains a mystery". WWE. Retrieved February 16, 2021.
- Dee, Louie (June 7, 2007). "Draft History". World Wrestling Entertainment. Retrieved December 21, 2008.
- "WWE's destiny to be determined during SmackDown's LIVE premiere". WWE. June 20, 2016. Retrieved June 28, 2016.
- Fernandes, Steven (June 28, 2016). "WWE Championship name change official, Bellas and more news". Pro Wrestling Insider. Retrieved June 29, 2016.
- Nemer, Paul (September 2, 2002). "Full WWE RAW Results - 9/2/02". Wrestleview. Retrieved June 29, 2016.
- "2005 WWE Draft Lottery". WWE. June 13, 2005. Retrieved December 21, 2008.
- "KB's Wrestling Reviews".
- Zeigler, Zack (July 4, 2006). "Edge reclaims WWE Championship". WWE. Retrieved May 18, 2008.
- Caldwell, James (June 23, 2008). "CALDWELL'S WWE RAW REPORT 6/23: Ongoing "virtual time" coverage of live three-hour Draft Raw". Pro Wrestling Torch. Retrieved May 25, 2017.
- Sitterson, Aubrey (April 13, 2009). "Rough Draft". WWE. Retrieved April 20, 2009.
- Murphy, Ryan (March 16, 2013). "From The Garden to an attic: How the original WWE Title was lost for 50 years — and found". WWE.com. Retrieved May 19, 2017.
- Melok, Bobby; Powers, Kevin (February 15, 2013). "The history of the WWE Championship". WWE.com. Retrieved May 19, 2017.
- Murphy, Ryan. "Seven Rare Championships from the WWE Vault". WWE. Retrieved September 13, 2012.
- Ryan Murphy. (February 19, 2013) The making of the new WWE Title: How the WWE Championship was reinvented in 540 days. WWE.com. Retrieved on September 5, 2013.
- "WWE Raw Results". WWE.
- "Check Out – a Full Look at the New WWE Heavyweight Title". 411mania.com.
- "WWE Champions". WWE. Retrieved May 10, 2014.
- Tedesco, Mike (July 25, 2016). "WWE RAW Results – 7/25/16 (Live from Pittsburgh, fallout from Battleground, new era of RAW begins)". Wrestleview. Retrieved July 25, 2016.
- Monday Night Raw (Television production). Phoenix, Arizona: USA Network. June 20, 2016.
- SmackDown Live (Television production). Houston, Texas: USA Network. December 6, 2016.
- SmackDown Live (Television production). Buffalo, New York: USA Network. July 26, 2016.
- Battleground (Pay-per-view). Washington, D.C.: WWE Network. July 24, 2016.
- SummerSlam (Pay-per-view). Brooklyn, New York: WWE Network. August 21, 2016.
- SmackDown Live (Television production). Detroit, Michigan: USA Network. December 20, 2016.
- "7 Championship Secrets Finally Revealed". (July 2009). WWE Magazine, p. 37.
- Robinson, Jon. "Edge Interview". p. 2. Retrieved November 18, 2006.
- "Daniel Bryan's eco-friendly WWE Championship: photos". WWE.com. Retrieved January 30, 2019.
Bryan's title is made from 100 percent sustainable organic hemp and carved from a naturally fallen oak.
- "San Francisco Giants celebrate with the WWE World Heavyweight Championship". www.wwe.com. Retrieved May 31, 2017.
- "Daniel Bryan joins the San Francisco Giants World Series Parade: photos". www.wwe.com. Retrieved May 31, 2017.
- "Custom WWE World Championships in the sports world: photos". WWE.com. Retrieved November 29, 2019.
- Pappolla, Ryan (September 26, 2018). "Triple H sends custom title to WNBA Champions Seattle Storm". WWE. Retrieved September 26, 2018.
- Triple H [@TripleH] (November 2, 2015). "Congrats to the 2015 MLB World Series Champions the Kansas City Royals!" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Triple H [@TripleH] (November 3, 2016). "Congrats to the Chicago Cubs on a long-awaited (and well-deserved) World Series win. We got you something for the celebration... Enjoy It" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Triple H [@TripleH] (November 2, 2017). "Congrats to the Astros on an amazing World Series win. WWE looks forward to celebrating with Houston at Survivor Series. Bring this along!" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Laboon, Jeff (October 30, 2018). "Triple H sends custom WWE Championship to the 2018 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox". WWE. Retrieved November 28, 2019.
- Triple H [@TripleH] (October 31, 2019). "A back-and-forth World Series that crowned new MLB Champions for their very first time. Congratulations to the Washington Nationals on your historic win. Time to bring the celebration to DC!" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Triple H [@TripleH] (February 3, 2015). "WWE Title on its way to Gillette Stadium for Patriots parade! Congrats Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Super Bowl Champs" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Triple H [@TripleH] (February 7, 2016). "Congratulations to the Denver Broncos on winning Super Bowl 50! We have something coming your way shortly... Champs Are Here" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Triple H [@TripleH] (February 6, 2017). "A never-say-quit team, a football dynasty, and an amazing Super Bowl 51. Congrats Patriots, this title is coming to New England!!" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Triple H [@TripleH] (February 5, 2018). "To quote Zach Ertz, you're "the World Champions" .... so you need a World Title! Congratulations Eagles!" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Laboon, Jeff (February 4, 2019). "Triple H congratulates New England Patriots' Super Bowl LIII victory with custom WWE Championship". WWE. Retrieved November 28, 2019.
- Laboon, Jeff (June 17, 2015). "Golden State Warriors celebrate 2015 NBA Championship with WWE World Heavyweight Title". WWE. Retrieved June 9, 2018.
- Triple H [@TripleH] (June 20, 2016). "An unprecedented comeback and a long overdue NBA Championship... THAT is something to celebrate. Congrats Cavs!" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Triple H [@TripleH] (June 13, 2017). "The NBA Championship is back in the Bay...and Kevin Durant is going to have his hands full with all this gold. Congratulations Warriors!" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Laboon, Jeff (June 9, 2018). "Golden State Warriors celebrate 2018 NBA Championship with custom WWE Title". WWE. Retrieved June 9, 2018.
- Triple H [@TripleH] (June 14, 2019). "Congrats to Kyle Lowry, Kawhi Leonard and the entire Raptors organization on bringing their first NBA title to Toronto! Can't wait to celebrate with all of you at SummerSlam, August 11 Scotiabank Arena. Until then, enjoy this WWE Championship!" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Conway, Tim (October 12, 2020). "Triple H Sends WWE Championship Belt to LeBron James, Lakers After Finals Win". Bleacher Report. Retrieved October 12, 2020.
- WWE.com Staff (July 10, 2015). "Megan Rapinoe celebrates with the WWE World Heavyweight Championship". WWE. Retrieved May 31, 2017.
- Powers, Kevin (November 13, 2015). "Sheamus delivers WWE World Heavyweight Championship to Notre Dame Football". WWE. Retrieved May 31, 2017.
- Triple H [@TripleH] (June 13, 2016). "Congratulations to the Stanley Cup Champion Penguins! Can never go wrong w/ an HBK Line! Title Coming Your Way" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Triple H [@TripleH] (June 12, 2017). "Back-to-back NHL Champions...gonna need a bigger trophy case in Pittsburgh. Congratulations to the Penguins!" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Laboon, Jeff (June 8, 2018). "Washington Capitals celebrate 2018 Stanley Cup with custom WWE Championship". WWE. Retrieved June 8, 2018.
- Laboon, Jeff (June 13, 2019). "St. Louis Blues celebrate 2019 Stanley Cup with custom WWE Championship". WWE. Retrieved November 28, 2019.
- WWE.com Staff (January 28, 2017). "Triple H tweets out a WWE Championship with custom plates for Serena Williams". WWE. Retrieved November 28, 2019.
- Laboon, Jeff (May 20, 2017). "WWE sends custom title to Premier League Champions". WWE. Retrieved May 31, 2017.
- WWE.com Staff (May 6, 2018). "Triple H sends custom WWE Title to Premier League Champions Manchester City". WWE. Retrieved May 10, 2018.
- Triple H [@TripleH] (June 6, 2017). "From WWE to FC Bayern München: Five years at Bundesliga... ....ONE Champion! This is headed your way David Alaba & Franck Ribéry" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Triple H [@TripleH] (July 13, 2017). "Mumbai Indians and Rohit Sharma, as promised, the WWE Title is on its way... Congratulations!" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Triple H [@TripleH] (July 24, 2017). "Felicidades a las Chivas por la #12 Here is something to help with the Championship celebration..." (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- De La Pena, Arturo (June 25, 2017). "Triple H sends custom WWE Title to Argentinian Primera División League champions Boca Juniors". WWE.com. Retrieved June 26, 2017.
- New York Yankees [@Yankees] (August 15, 2017). "Champions deserve championship belts. WWE stars stopped by to award Aaron his belt for the HR Derby" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Triple H [@TripleH] (November 24, 2017). "From us at WWE to F1 Champion Lewis Hamilton, finish the season strong at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix...hope to see you when WWE comes to Abu Dhabi on December 7 & 8" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- WWE.com Staff (July 30, 2018). "Triple H sends custom WWE Title to Champions League winners Real Madrid". WWE. Retrieved August 20, 2018.
- Triple H [@TripleH] (September 13, 2018). "After an exceptional resurgence, history was captured at the Overwatch League's First Finals. Congrats London Spitfire and Cloud9! Jack Etienne, this custom title is coming to you!" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Triple H [@TripleH] (July 19, 2019). "An incredible tournament, an awe-inspiring final, and a team of worthy champions. Congratulations to England Cricket for winning the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2019! This custom WWE Championship is YOURS!" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Triple H [@TripleH] (September 9, 2019). "An incredible end to 4 HOURS and 50 MINUTES in the finals of the US Open. Congratulations to Rafael Nadal…this custom WWE Championship should help celebrate your 19th Grand Slam Title!" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- "Triple H Sends Custom Title to CFL Grey Cup Champions the Winnipeg Blue Bombers". Fox Sports. January 18, 2020.
- WWE.com Staff (June 20, 2017). "Triple H visits London police officer wounded in London Bridge attack". WWE.com. Retrieved June 26, 2017.
- Triple H [@TripleH] (December 8, 2015). "Honored to present a Troops WWE World Heavyweight Championship to Captains Stacey K. Wright and Scott Gray at US Navy" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Triple H [@TripleH] (December 13, 2016). "This Championship is in recognition of all you do for our country. Thank you Cmd. Sgt Troxell, Elaine Rogers & Maj. Gen. Becker" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Triple H [@TripleH] (December 5, 2017). "Thank you to Captain Roy Love, Commanding Officer of US Navy Base San Diego and his staff for hosting Tribute to the Troops and helping WWE honor our armed forces today and always" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Triple H [@TripleH] (December 4, 2018). "Thank You to Major General Felix Gedney, Colonel Henry Perry, and all the servicemen and women at Ft. Hood for allowing us to host Tribute to the Troops this morning and for your continued service to our country" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Mattias. "20 ans de Christophe Agius et Philippe Chéreau : la WWE leur offre une ceinture personnalisée". catch-newz.com (in French). Retrieved June 11, 2020.
- "Bruno Sammartino". WWE. Retrieved November 9, 2014.