The World Heavyweight Wrestling Championship was the first recognized professional wrestling world heavyweight championship created in 1905 to identify the best catch as catch can professional wrestler in the world. The first recognized World Heavyweight Champion was George Hackenschmidt, who officially won the championship on May 4, 1905 by defeating Tom Jenkins in New York City, New York, the championship remained active for the next 51 years with the last recognized reign beginning on November 9, 1956.
Several of the championship reigns are also recognized by the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) under the NWA World Heavyweight Championship's lineage. World Wrestling Entertainment's (WWE) current World Heavyweight Championship's lineage can also be traced back to it.
The WWE Championship's origin can be traced back to the NWA Championship after an incident in which the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) at the time left the NWA after refusing to recognize Lou Thesz as NWA Champion after he beat Buddy Rogers in a one fall match – The NWA World Title matches usually followed a best-of-three fall format – Vincent J. McMahon, the WWWF's owner created the WWWF Championship and awarded Rogers the belt proclaiming he won it in a (apocryphal) tournament in Brazil. The WWE's World Heavyweight Championship was subsequently created after then-WWE Champion Brock Lesnar became exclusive to the SmackDown Brand.
The now defunct American Wrestling Association World Championship Wrestling Extreme Championship Wrestling were also home to World Heavyweight Championships with origins that can also be traced back to the World Heavyweight Championship.
In WCW, the WCW World Heavyweight Championships origin is traced back to a match which took place on January 11, 1991 where Ric Flair defeated Sting for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, when WCW pulled out of the NWA in early 1991 Flair was recognized as the first WCW World Heavyweight Champion. The WCW International World Heavyweight Championship can be traced back to an incident in WCW's final split with the NWA in 1993, Flair's NWA World Heavyweight Championship reign was continued to be recognized with the WCW International World Heavyweight Championship.
In ECW, the ECW World Heavyweight Championship's origin is attributed to a tournament which was held to crown a new NWA World Heavyweight Champion in 1994 in NWA Eastern Championship Wrestling although its inaugural champion was Jimmy Snuka who won it two years prior. On August 27, 1994 Shane Douglas participated and won the tournament and discarded the NWA World Heavyweight Championship proclaiming himself the new Extreme Championship Wrestling World Heavyweight Champion despite having won the Championship five months prior, because of this event ECW withdrew from the NWA and renamed itself Extreme Championship Wrestling. The championship was also competed for on the ECW brand of WWE.
In AWA, the AWA World Heavyweight Championship was established in May 1960, after the AWA became a separate promotion from the National Wrestling Alliance, which had previously been a part of the NWA's Minneapolis-area presence. The first champion was Pat O'Connor, who was recognized as the first champion upon the AWA's secession from the NWA as O'Connor held the NWA World Heavyweight Championship as well, which he won on January 9, 1959. The creation of the AWA World Heavyweight Championship along with the NWA World Heavyweight Championship would pave the way for the creation of many other world championships in other wrestling promotions. American Wrestling Association and the title became inactive in 1990 and the organization officially closed down in 1991 with the title also being decommissioned.
Total Nonstop Action Wrestling's (TNA) World Heavyweight Championship (the TNA World Heavyweight Championship) can also be traced back to the World Heavyweight Championship. TNA formed in May 2002 and formed a partnership with the NWA, allowing TNA control of the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. On June 19, 2002 TNA crowned the first NWA World Heavyweight Champion under their banner, after Ken Shamrock won a Gauntlet for the Gold match at TNA's first Weekly Pay-per-view. On May 13, 2007 NWA severed ties with TNA after the then-current NWA World Heavyweight Champion Christian Cage after Christian Cage refused to defend the NWA World Heavyweight Championship against wrestlers from the NWA territories. The TNA World Heavyweight Championship was first won by Kurt Angle who won it at TNA Sacrifice by defeating Christian Cage and Sting.
Vacated - April 1, 1913
- Joe Stecher - July 5, 1915
- Earl Caddock - April 9, 1917
- Joe Stecher 2 - January 30, 1920
- Ed Lewis - December 13, 1920
- Stanislaus Zbyszko - May 6, 1921
- Ed Lewis 2 - March 3, 1922
- Wayne Munn - January 8, 1925
- Stanislaus Zbyszko 2 - April 15, 1925
- Joe Stecher 3 - May 30, 1925
- Ed Lewis 3 - February 21, 1928
- Gus Sonnenberg - January 4, 1929
- Ed Don George - December 10, 1930
- Ed Lewis 4 - April 13, 1931
- Danno O'Mahoney - July 30, 1935
- Dick Shikat - March 2, 1936
- Ali Baba - April 25, 1936
- Dave Levin - June 12, 1936
- Dean Detton - September 29, 1936
- Bronko Nagurski - June 29, 1937
- Jim Londos - November 18, 1938
Vacated — January 28, 1946
- Lou Thesz - May 21, 1952
- Whipper Billy Watson - March 15, 1956
- Lou Thesz 2 - November 9, 1956
Retired - July 24, 1957 - Lineage continued over to the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.