Throughout history it has gone by many different names. For a long time it was called the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. Then there was a period when the lettering changed and it was considered the WCW World Heavyweight championship. Since WCW was acquired by WWE, it’s merely been known as the World Heavyweight Championship. Wrestling fans may know it much more simply as “the big gold belt.” We’ve seen it around the waists of such legendary stars as Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Triple H, Undertaker, Ron Simmons, Jack Brisco, and countless others. There are plenty of other title belts that can be won like the WWE Championship, United States title, or even the coveted and precious Intercontinental Championship…but nothing says you’re a true leader and at the top of your game like being the World Heavyweight Champion.
History is certainly on the side of the World Heavyweight Championship as it is the longest running title in all of professional wrestling. It may have gone through some name changes over the years and jumped from promotion to promotion, but it has essentially always meant the same thing. The person holding the belt is he who is presently above all others while they are merely looking up at him. Our documentary starts with the origins of wrestling even back to the early days of the Bible including Jacob, David, and God. As time went on, wrestling got more organized and men like Frank Gotch came into prominence. Gotch is an American wrestling legend and known for popularizing the professional sport to the United States. Time would move on to other men like Ed “The Strangler” Lewis who is also a legend in his own right. Lewis was said to have had over 6,600 matches while only ever losing 33 of them. I’d say that right there makes him a champion.
Our big gold belt has been in existence for a very long time, but it became most well known originally in the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA). Superstars in the early heyday of professional wrestling traded the belt between themselves in matches that can only be seen as “epic” in today’s day and age. Dory Funk Jr., Lou Thesz, Buddy Rogers, Pat O’Connor, Jack Brisco, Gene Kiniski, Dusty Rhodes, and Harley Race are just a few of those that battled it out for the very coveted title belt. As time went on, the NWA had merged with World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and still had their letters attached to the title that all superstars wished to someday hold. New names like Sting, Vader, and the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair began to enter the ring and go after what they all felt was rightfully theirs. Ted Turner had control over all that was NWA, but it became time for him to make everything more of his own so ties were broken with the NWA and the World Heavyweight Title became sole property of WCW.
WCW had some truly classic moments involving the title, but there are also many forgettable moments spread throughout as well. It is very hard for any wrestling fan to forget the embarrassments that saw Vince Russo and David Arquette win the title and receive the label of World Heavyweight Champion. And even though the nWo was an incredible angle and time period for WCW; seeing those three letters spray painted on the belt kind of bugged me. It’s a good thing though that situations like the Ricky Steamboat/Ric Flair feud, Ron Simmons becoming the first black champion ever, and Ric Flair having the most title reigns ever are around to help us at least get past such debacles. The big gold belt had arrived in WWE on another occasion before WCW was bought out by Vince McMahon and that was thanks to Ric Flair defecting and bringing it with him. Controversy sort of surrounds that historic time period though for the belt since it is debatable as to which version’s (WCW’s new or WWE’s defected) path to follow. Eventually things would be straightened up, WCW went under, and the prestigious title found a new semi-permanent home in WWE.
When WCW ran amuck through WWE thanks to Shane McMahon, things got shaken up a bit and there were too many champions running around. Eventually an Undisputed Champion was to be crowned and a new belt was created putting the big gold one in mothballs for a while. Once a split occurred making RAW and SmackDown their own brands, one show was left without a champion or a title. In stepped Eric Bischoff who brought the belt back into circulation awarding it to Triple H and bring its lineage back into the picture. Since that point there have been numerous battles for it and seen the likes of Undertaker, John Cena, Jeff Hardy, CM Punk, and many others hold onto it. This is a fantastic documentary that cannot be done justice just with my words or summary because it delves deep into the annals of wrestling showing everything that has made it what it is today. Perhaps the true icon of professional wrestling is the World Heavyweight Championship belt, or “big gold belt,” because it signifies being at the top of your game. It stands for being the greatest in the business. It means that you are…on top of the world.
Disc One – NWA
~ Chicago, IL June 1961: 2 Out Of 3 Falls for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship – Pat O’Connor Vs. Buddy Rogers
~ Championship Wrestling From Florida February 11, 1969: NWA World Heavyweight Championship Match – Gene Kiniski Vs. Dory Funk Jr.
~ Championship Wrestling From Florida December 10, 1975: NWA World Heavyweight Championship Match – Jack Brisco Vs. Terry Funk
~ Championship Wrestling From Florida August 21, 1979: NWA World Heavyweight Championship Match – Harley Race Vs. Dusty Rhodes
~ AWA SuperClash September 28, 1985: NWA World Heavyweight Championship Match – “Nature Boy” Ric Flair Vs. Magnum T.A.
~ The Great American Bash July 7, 1990: NWA World Heavyweight Championship Match – “Nature Boy” Ric Flair Vs. Sting
Disc Two – WCW
~ Clash Of The Champions XIV January 30, 1991: WCW World Heavyweight Championship Match – “Nature Boy” Ric Flair Vs. Scott Steiner
~ The Great American Bash July 14, 1991: WCW World Heavyweight Championship Match – Lex Luger Vs. Barry Windham
~ Baltimore, MD August 2, 1992: WCW World Heavyweight Championship Match – Vader Vs. Ron Simmons
~ WCW Saturday Night October 22, 1994: Human Cage Match for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship – Vader Vs. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat
~ Halloween Havoc October 23, 1994: Career Vs. Career Steel Cage Match for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship – Hulk Hogan Vs. “Nature Boy” Ric Flair
~ SuperBrawl VIII February 22, 1998: WCW World Heavyweight Championship Match – Sting Vs. Hollywood Hulk Hogan
~ Nitro July 6, 1998: WCW World Heavyweight Championship Match – Hollywood Hulk Hogan Vs. Goldberg
~ Bash At The Beach July 9, 2000: WCW World Heavyweight Championship Match – Jeff Jarrett Vs. Booker T
~ No Mercy October 21, 2001: WCW World Heavyweight Championship Match – The Rock Vs. Chris Jericho
Disc Three – WWE
~ Unforgiven September 22, 2002: World Heavyweight Championship Match – Triple H Vs. Rob Van Dam
~ Taboo Tuesday October 19, 2004: World Heavyweight Championship Match – Triple H Vs. Shawn Michaels
~ No Way Out February 19, 2006: World Heavyweight Championship Match – Kurt Angle Vs. Undertaker
~ SmackDown April 7, 2006: World Heavyweight Championship Match – Rey Mysterio Vs. Randy Orton
~ Armageddon December 16, 2007: Triple Threat Match for the World Heavyweight Championship – Batista Vs. Undertaker Vs. Edge
~ Survivor Series November 23, 2008: World Heavyweight Championship Match – John Cena Vs. Chris Jericho
~ Extreme Rules June 7, 2009: Ladder Match for the World Heavyweight Championship – Jeff Hardy Vs. Edge
The event is shown in 1.33:1 Full Screen format and it is amazing just how much the WWE can do with footage no matter how old it is. Everything looks great and even the clips from the sixties and seventies don’t look nearly as old as they truly are.
The event is heard in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and it also is phenomenal. No matter what time or era, everything can be heard loud and clear.
WWE has released some great collections before, but this is by far one of the best. The documentary portion gives the true history of the World Heavyweight Championship in great detail without missing a single beat. The collection of matches makes this set even better because ninety percent of them are all classics and complete gems that you’ll definitely want to watch many times. Sure there are some pieces of crap spread throughout discs two and three, but most of them are awesome. Even just about all the choices from the WWE’s tenure with the big gold belt are excellent. No special features here so that is all that takes away anything from the overall rating, but it’s not like we need anymore then the main feature alone provides. Grab this set because old and new fans alike will love seeing what some of the best in the professional wrestling world put it all on the line for the ultimate prize…the World Heavyweight Title.
WWE Home Video presents The History Of The World Heavyweight Championship. Featuring: Hulk Hogan, Booker T, Sting, Ric Flair, Edge, Triple H, The Rock, Chris Jericho, Buddy Rogers, Harley Race, Dusty Rhodes, Ron Simmons, and many more. Running time: 540 minutes on 3 discs. Rating: PG. Released on DVD: December 1, 2009. Available at Amazon.com