HistoryProfessional wrestling portrays the structure of s. Participants compete for a championship, and must defend it after winning it. These titles are represented physically by a that is worn or carried by the champion(s). In the case of team wrestling, there is a belt for each member of the team. Almost all professional wrestling promotions have one major title, and some have more. Championships are designated by divisions of weight, height, gender, wrestling style, and other qualifications. Typically, each promotion only recognizes the "legitimacy" of their own titles, although does happen. When one promotion absorbs or purchases another, the titles from the defunct promotion may continue to be defended in the new promotion or be decommissioned, usually through . , the in a company will place the title on the most accomplished performer, or those the bookers believe will generate interest in terms of event attendance and viewership. Lower ranked titles may also be used on the performers who show potential, thus allowing them greater exposure to the audience. However, other circumstances may also determine the use of a championship. A combination of a championship's lineage, the caliber of performers as champion, and the frequency and manner of title changes, dictates the audience's perception of the title's quality, significance, and reputation. A wrestler's championship accomplishments can be central to their career, becoming a measure of their performance ability and power. The most accomplished or decorated wrestlers tend to be revered as legends. American wrestler has had multiple reigns spanning over three decades. Japanese wrestler once .
Championship belt stylesProfessional wrestling's championship belts are modeled similarly to the championship belts in , and other s such as . They are made of elaborately designed plates of or other s, usually bearing the name of the title and the wrestling promotion, and is on a leather strap. The color and designs vary with each title and promotion. A wrestler may win a sanctioned championship and redesign the belt itself. Some (such as 's Spinner Belt) later became the official belt design. Others (such as 's Smoking Skull Belt, 's Rated-R Spinner, 's eco-friendly belt, and 's Universal title with his face on it) were not used after their respective title reign. While rare, there are cases of championships being represented with items other than belts, such as championship trophies, medals, crowns, etc. An example of this is WWE's , which is represented with a trophy.
Injured championsThe fate of a title depends on the champion's condition and the importance of the title to the promotion (e.g. held the , despite being sidelined with an injury, because the Cruiserweight Championship was not a major championship). The champion may be forced to vacate his or her title if the injury becomes too severe and the championship is too important. In May 2015, vacated the due to a major concussion and a year before, he had to vacate the world title due to neck surgery. In November 2015, vacated the due to a knee injury that required surgery. However, a champion may keep their title despite a severe injury and despite the championship being quite important. In 1998, kept the while sidelined. In 2005, kept the while sidelined with a herniated disk for four months. In 2012, kept the while undergoing and recovering from knee surgery. In 2015, kept the while recovering from a knee infection. Before the 1980s when title matches were rare, some champions could keep their titles even when injured; kept his from April to June 1976 despite being injured by a botched body slam from . In , this situation still occurs, but in , it is becoming increasingly rare as champions are needed to be present in regular tours even when titles are not defended.
ClassificationsProfessional wrestling championships are often split up into various different classifications, each of which designate varying levels of importance to the belts.
World championshipsThe World heavyweight championship (also just world championship) is the name given to the championship that is presented as being the most of those contested within a promotion. The wrestler holding a championship with this name is most commonly referred to as the "world heavyweight champion" or "world champion" (though some promotions may use synonymous/alternate terms, such as the of or the , the world title of WWE's brand). Since pro-wrestling is scripted, there is no promotion or group of people that recognize one official world title of the industry (the closest was the during the during the mid to late 20th century). Instead, each promotion can promote their top title as a World Title, with some of them promoting title matches around the world to claim the designation. Some promotions may even recognize multiple world championships, such as is the case with WWE, as due to the large size of its roster, the promotion splits its roster into what they call brands where talent exclusively perform and their three main brands (, SmackDown, and ) each have their own world championship. The first recognized world heavyweight championship was the , created in 1905, and the inaugural champion was . The lineage of many prominent contemporary world championships can be traced back to the World Heavyweight Wrestling Championship, with the NWA Worlds Heavyweight Championship considered its direct successor, with many world championships having been spun of from the NWA's title.
Location-specific championshipsA very common championship variation. The championship usually specifies the location on where the promotion is based, an example being WWE's . Sometimes it may specify a specific state or territory, such as the . It is also common to be a smaller division of the world, an example being the , or the . It is very common for these variations to be the second most prestigious championship in a promotion, but exceptions have existed, like the now defunct , which served as the company's tertiary singles championship, and the , which many NWA territories created versions of and promoted as their most prestigious championship whenever the NWA World Heavyweight Champion was not around.
Weight class championshipsAnother common classification of championships are by es. Given the scripted nature of professional wrestling matches, weight classes are not always strictly adhered to. Typically, promotions prefer to have a heavyweight title as their top prize, with other designations, such as , , or titles. Promotions often have one sub-heavyweight classification, while others sometimes may have more. Mountevans' committee (a governing body that instilled rules for professional wrestling in the UK) created seven formal weight divisions: * Lightweight () * Welterweight () * Middleweight () * Heavy middleweight () * Light heavyweight () * Mid-heavyweight () * Heavyweight (above ) Classifying championships into weight classes is also common practice in the promotions of . Lucha libre has a detailed weight class system patterned after boxing. Each weight class has an official upper limit, but examples of wrestlers who are technically too heavy to hold their title can be found. The following weight classes exist in lucha libre, as defined by the "Comisión de Box y Lucha Libre Mexico D.F." (the Mexico City Boxing and Wrestling Commission), the main regulatory body in Mexico: * Flyweight () * Bantamweight () * Featherweight () * Lightweight () * Super Lightweight () * Welterweight () * Super Welterweight () * Middleweight () * Super Middleweight/Junior Light Heavyweight () * Light Heavyweight () * Junior Heavyweight/Cruiserweight () * Heavyweight () (Minimum)
Gender championshipsGender occasionally plays a role in the classifications of championship belts. Due to professional wrestling being a male dominated sport, only women's titles are given official gender classifications. Generally, only men are allowed to win the championships without a gender specification, though defeating to win the in 1999 and defeating to win the in 2020 are notable exceptions. In promotions featuring only a single gender (such as or ), gender classifications are often unnecessary as well. Titles specifically designated for women may fall into any of the other categories listed here (e.g. women's world titles or women's tag team titles). once used gender classifications to his advantage, turning inter-gender competitions into a unique wrestling side-show. Kaufman declared himself the "Inter-Gender Champion of the World", and offered $1,000 to any woman who could pin him. None were successful during the run of the gimmick; though in other promotions such as and , women have successfully pinned men, most notably in a few isolated championship matches. On rare occasions, a male wrestler will compete in championship matches for championships generally contested exclusively in the women's division. Such examples include becoming the only male to capture the in 2000, and winning one half of the in 2012.
Gimmick/style championshipsclassifications sometimes factor into the creation of title belts. In these classifications, special skills in a certain type of match or a certain style of wrestling is the signature of the division, and the champion is considered to be the most skilled wrestler at that specific style. Gimmick championships often take very differing forms. A common variation is the "hardcore championship", a title often defended in weapons-filled and bloody competitions with fewer rules (count outs and disqualifications are not usually allowed). An example of a hardcore championship is the , which was active from 1998 to 2002. In 2019, the WWE introduced the , which can be defended anytime, anywhere, as long as a WWE referee is present (it is also open to anyone, regardless of gender or WWE employment status). This championship is used more in comedy segments than normal matches. The hardcore championship was defended under nearly identical rules for most of its existence. In recent years, style-based championships have centered around what is known as "scientific" or technical wrestling. Examples of this include the (which is specifically contested under "British Round Rules") in 's brand, and the in (which is contested under "Pure Wrestling Rules"). A variation that was prominent in the 1980s and 1990s and is somewhat making a return in the 2020s is a "television championship" or "iron man championship", which involves more frequent title defenses as well as the stipulations that the belt can only change hands on television (as opposed to non-televised s) with title matches having a short, TV-friendly time limit, usually 10 or 15 minutes. These titles were originally introduced during a time when weekly TV shows were seen as a vehicle to promote the money-making live shows, where major title defenses took place. Television titles provided a championship that would be defended on the weekly television shows. Examples of a television championship include the (named after the of AEW's broadcast ') and the . Past TV titles include the , the , and the . A modern take on the traditional TV title is the , which was created in 2021 and will be defended exclusively on 's online platforms. In 2021, AEW introduced the first TV title specifically for female wrestlers, the , named for of ''Dynamite'' beginning on January 6, 2022 (which is when the finals of the tournament to crown the inaugural champion will take place).
Tag team championshipsTag team championships are yet another different form of wrestling title. Some consider it to be a style championship, but tag team championships are unique in their ability to include multiple wrestlers on teams competing for multiple belts. The most common form of tag team championships are in 2-on-2 format, which is often implicitly understood. Other tag team championships include 3-on-3 and 4-on-4 formats, which are often explicitly stated within the championship name to distinguish them from the 2-on-2 championships. Some teams may invoke what is called the , in which a stable of three or more wrestlers are all officially recognized as champion, allowing any pairing of the stable's members to defend the championship. This rule is most commonly applied to the standard 2-on-2 tag team championship, though it has also been applied to the other variants. Tag team championships are also often combined with regional modifiers, gimmick modifiers, gender modifiers, and weight class modifiers to further distinguish them. In such cases, the primary title is usually called the , with the other championships seen as secondary titles. Examples of 2-on-2 tag team championships: * * * * Examples of 3-on-3 tag team championships: * * * Examples of 4-on-4 tag team championships: * *
Unsanctioned championshipsThe concept of championships, and their central role in wrestling, allows for the potential for . One such angle is an unsanctioned championship title. These are claimed by a wrestler and defended in sanctioned matches, but are not recognized as legitimate titles by the promotion. Examples of unsanctioned championships include: * 's in and * 's in * 's in
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