Wrestling 201: Retired WWE Championships, Part 2
Welcome back to Wrestling 201 and our look at World Wrestling Entertainment’s retired championships. If you missed our last article in the series, you can find it here. If you’re up to speed with this series, then get ready to cover the last six retired championships that were part of World Wrestling Entertainment.
WWE Hardcore Championship
- Inaugural Champion: Mankind (November 1998)
- Final Champion: Rob Van Dam (August 2002)
- Longest Reign: Big Boss Man (97 Days)
When you think about the about the Hardcore title, what is it that comes to your mind? Despite being active for less than four years, the title was involved in several memorable and infamous angles. Thanks to this the history of the Hardcore Title is a fascinating one, thanks to the controversies that seemed to follow the title, especially in its earlier days.
Originally introduced by Mr. McMahon as a means to manipulate Mankind, the title allowed the Hardcore Legend his own championship that he could defend in a no disqualification environment. Mankind would eventually lose the title, and it would end up being passed around a small group of individuals, primarily former ECW guys until it hit its first controversy, the Kennel from Hell match, which is a story for another day.
Soon after the Kennel from Hell, we would see the introduction of the 24/7 rule thanks to the late Crash Holly. After the introduction of the 24/7 rule, the hardcore division descended into absolute chaos, and it was glorious. The 24/7 rule allows the Hardcore Championship to be defended anywhere and at any time, as long as a referee is present. This led to the title being allowed to switch hands multiple times over the course of a Raw, SmackDown or Pay-per-view, and even saw numerous new champions at house shows, an incredibly rare occurrence for a regular title.
The Hardcore title would be one of the few championships in WWE history that, while primarily held by men, would also be held by several women and even some non-wrestlers, including the likes of Terri Runnels (who has the shortest title reign at 9 seconds), Molly Holly, Pat Patterson, Gerald Briscoe, and even one of The Godfather’s Hos.
I could go on and on about the Hardcore title due to the nature of the lauded championship. With 240 title reigns in less than four years, the Hardcore title is a championship that I could talk about for hours and still not even scratch the surface of the title’s history. The hardcore title is something I’ve always wanted to see WWE bring back, especially in the current reality era. Could you imagine WWE breaking into the live broadcasting on the WWE Network because of a match for the title being started? How about having to keep tabs on WWE’s YouTube or social media accounts to see if the title had changed hands, hell, maybe we could even get a title change on Total Divas or something. The Hardcore title has a lot of potential, but in the current PG environment, it’s hard to say how well the title could do without the traditionally violent hardcore matches.
WWF International Tag Team Championship
- Inaugural Champions: Rising Suns (Toru Tanaka & Mitsu Arakawa) (June 1969)
- Final Champions: Tatsumi Fujinami & Kengo Kimura (May 1985)
- Longest Reign: The Mongols (Bepo & Geto Mongol) (368 Days)
The WWF International Tag Team Championship was another title that was around for incredible short amount of time with only six reigns over a little more than two years. The title was then deactivated and revived for a tournament in 1985 before being retired once again due to the partnership between WWE and New Japan coming to an end.
Ultimately, I couldn’t find out a lot about the history of the title. Sadly, many of these older titles, especially the international ones, have little information available on the internet. The most interesting fact I could find regarding the WWF International Tag Team Championship was that it was succeeded, at least in New Japan Pro Wrestling, by the IWGP Tag Team Championships, which are the current tag team titles used by New Japan and seen on shows like Ring of Honor.
WWF Junior Heavyweight Championship
- Inaugural Champion: Paul DeGalles (September 1965)
- Final Champion: Wild Pegasus (Chris Benoît) (April 1994)
- Longest Reign: Tatsumi Fujinami (617 Days)
Another championship that was brought about by partnership between WWF and New Japan, and another that has little information available online. The Junior Championship was used sparingly over the course of twenty years, with the longest reign belonging to WWF Hall of Famer Tatsumi Fujinami.
After being deactivated in the fall of 1985, the title would make one final return in 1994 as the trophy for the first Super J-Cup, which would be won by Wild Pegasus, who is better known as Chris Benoit. Much like its Tag Team counterpart, the WWF Junior Heavyweight Championship would be replaced on the Japan side by the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship.
WWF North American Heavyweight Championship
- Inaugural Champion: Ted DiBiase (February 1979)
- Final Champion: Seiji Sakaguchi (November 1979)
- Longest Reign: Seiji Sakaguchi (532 Days)
The 1960s and 1970s seemed to be a time where the WWE wanted to introduce, and ultimately deactivate, a whole host of championships. The North American Heavyweight Championship was another product of this end and, much like many of its contemporaries, it was a short-lived title with only three champions.
The championship would briefly become the Intercontinental Championship after Pat Patterson won the title from DiBiase and unified it with his fictitious South American Heavyweight Championship. The North American Championship would appear once more when Patterson would drop it to Seiji Sakaguchi in Japan in November of 1979. Sakaguchi would hold the title until April of 1981 when WWE would abandon the championship.
WWWF United States Heavyweight Championship
- Inaugural Champion: Bobo Brazil (April 1963)
- Final Champion: Bobo Brazil (February 1976)
- Longest Reign: Bobo Brazil (1,837 Days)
The World Wide Wrestling Federation’s original second tier championship, the United States Heavyweight Championship would be active for thirteen years, from April 1963 until February 1976. Even with its thirteen-year tenure, the championship only had thirteen reigns, with more than half of those belonging to Bobo Brazil.
Brazil held the title seven times with a combined total of 4,072 days, nearly ten times that of The Sheik, who had two reigns with a total of 450 days. The United States Heavyweight Championship could be seen as Brazil’s title in many ways, and his reigns with the title were instrumental in breaking down racial barriers in professional wrestling and cemented his place in WWE’s Hall of Fame when he was inducted in 1994.
WWF World Martial Arts Heavyweight Championship
- Inaugural Champion: Antonio Inoki (December 1978)
- Final Champion: Antonio Inoki (May 1989)
- Longest Reign: Antonio Inoki (3,780 Days)
The WWF World Martial Arts Heavyweight Championship was another championship created as part of the working relationship between the World Wrestling Federation and New Japan Pro Wrestling. Vince McMahon awarded the title to Antonio Inoki in December of 1978. Matches for the title were contested in shoot wrestling fights from 1978 to 1989.
Inoki dominated the title and, despite only two reigns with the championship, held it for 4,000 days. The only other champion, Shota Chochishvili, held the title for a mere 31 days. The title and its NJPW counterpart, the Greatest 18 Championship, were ultimately retired in favor of the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.
This ends our look at the retired championships of World Wrestling Entertainment. Doing the research for this article was incredibly informative, and I was able to learn a lot about former champions and titles that were once part of WWE. Join us on the next edition of Wrestling 201 when we’ll be looking at one of the most dominant wrestling families of the last generation, the Samoan Dynasty.