For so many of us, WCW was an integral and important part of pro wrestling history. During the Monday Night Wars, the promotion had the edge, myself included. So many of the wrestlers we loved were wrestling in that company at the time. It’s been over 20 years since the company was sold to Vince McMahon, but the memories and championship wins and losses are still etched in our minds. In this piece, we’ve decided to honor that legacy…in naming the 10 greatest WCW World Heavyweight Champions of all time.
The WCW World Heavyweight Championship in WCW existed in a form since 1991 and ran all the way until 2001, at which point, it was taken up by WWE after the purchase of WCW was made by Vince McMahon and the WWE (then WWF).
The Big Gold Belt, as it was known, was held by some epic men and wrestlers, and it was derived from the NWA World Heavyweight Championship of course. If you remember, WCW, or rather as it was known while under the National Wrestling Alliance, NWA World Championship Wrestling, was bought up by Turner Broadcasting in 1988. They essentially broke off from the NWA at this point, just as WWF did as well.
For the first few years, they continued to use the NWA World Heavyweight Championship title belt, but WCW needed a world heavyweight championship of their very own, so…the rest is of course history, as they say.
But just who is the greatest to ever hoist the Big Gold Belt while it was contested in WCW from 1991 to 2001? Read on and find out, dear readers.
I guess it’s safe to assume that these won’t necessarily be listed in any particular order, each reign important and illustrious in my eyes, and in the eyes of most.
What can be said about The Icon, that hasn’t already been said? The man’s career utterly speaks for itself. He’s wrestled in so many of the major promotions, it’s not even funny.
Legendary, iconic, and his legacy is imprinted on the minds of any serious pro wrestling fan. He belongs on this list…his name etched in gold. He won the Big Gold Belt a total of 6 times in WCW. His list of championships and accolades goes way beyond that, though.
The first-ever. A wee bit of controversy follows his name at the start of that championship’s time in the limelight, as it was his vacating of the former NWA title that WCW was using as of 1988, that led to the creation of WCW’s very own title. He left WCW quite at odds with Executive VP at WCW at the time, Jim Herd. He went to the WWF and took the belt with him. So essentially, he never did lose the title.
Of course, he’d return and hold it many more times…the newly introduced title that was. He held this particular belt 7 times in WCW.
Talk about history-making runs. Ron Simmons in WCW probably has the most important etch in the markings of time; especially considering the annals of pro wrestling history. He was the very first black man to hold the title, and his run with the belt was just as historic. He went on to form the Nation of Domination in WWE and of course had an impeccable run with JBL in the APA. He held the WCW championship a single time.
No list would be complete without this man. Unfortunately, he has made some terrible personal decisions in his life, but personal issues aside, he is an integral part of the industry, and he put himself over a heck of a lot in his time in the squared circle, but he also helped many on his way there.
It has been argued that in the end, whoever he put over was in turn for himself, but his legacy cannot be erased. As I said, it has been marred, but he was an important part of WWE, WCW, and of course this belt’s history. He held this belt 6 times.
This legend is no longer with us, but memories come up a lot in professional wrestling, and this man is responsible for so many epic wrestling memories in the squared circle and around it.
He left WWE when they were having what they called a “youth movement” in the early nineties, but in WCW he proved that he still had a lot of steam left in the tank, all the while they were trying to push him into retirement. He held the championship 4 times.
Often overlooked, but there was a time when WWE planned on making him the next Hulk Hogan after he left to join WCW. That didn’t work out exactly, but Luger was one of the first shots fired during the Monday Night Wars, he premiered with WCW a single day after he was with WWE at the Mall of America in Minneapolis, Minnesota on September 4th, 1995 on the very first Nitro. He had been at a house show with WWE the night before. He held the belt 2 times.
Not necessarily the greatest technical wrestler of all time, no. But he is undeniably one of the industry’s greatest stars. He didn’t have the time to properly learn the business, the WCW machine pushing him through the system way too fast, and although he had a very good career, his overall career did suffer.
He didn’t wrestle very long. In fact, his active full-time career only amounts to 4 full years. Of course, his sporadic appearances with WWE over the last few years count…it was never on a full-time basis.
Still, it’s great to see him. He is set to face Bobby Lashley in a grudge match at Crown Jewel this week in Saudi Arabia. He held the WCW World Heavyweight Championship only a single time despite his popularity and fictional winning streak.
This legendary talent held the belt in WCW 4 times. He had quite the run-over in WCW and caught my eye early on. I was always a fan…his 7 out of 7 series of matches with Chris Benoit have stayed etched in my mind.
He subsequently went on to have an impeccable feud with Steve Austin in WWE that I loved, and his run as King Booker was extraordinarily successful. I also loved his run in TNA, dare I say it.
If none of these were in any particular order thus far, this one most definitely is placed at number one for a reason. Bret Hart is and was: “the best there is, the best there was, the best there ever will be,” in my eyes and in the eyes of many.
After his highly publicized and controversial exit from WWF thanks to the Montréal Screw Job, he entered WCW a different man. But when he finally held this title in his hands, it was a moment to rejoice, as he had reached the pinnacle of McMahon’s competitor’s promotion, and in some way, it was a win for Bret…a win after everything he had been through after the events at the Survivor Series in Montréal back in 1997. And it was a win for his fans that still weren’t over what went down.
His career with WCW went south pretty fast sadly, and it was pretty much out of his hands, as he had a series of injuries, including a concussion suffered at the inexperienced hands of the then still novice Bill Goldberg…a concussion that Bret believes led to his stroke a few years later. Bret Hart held the WCW World Heavyweight Championship twice.