WWE World Heavyweight Championship (2014 – Present)
The WWE Championship is a world heavyweight championship created and promoted by the American professional wrestling promotion WWE on the SmackDown brand. It is one of two world titles for WWE’s main roster, alongside the WWE Universal Championship that was created for the Raw brand as a result of the 2016 WWE draft. The current champion is Kofi Kingston, who is in his first reign.
The original world championship of the promotion, it was established by the then-World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) on April 25, 1963, as the WWWF World Heavyweight Championship, following the promotion seceding from the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA). The inaugural champion was Buddy Rogers. Since its inception, the title has undergone many name changes due to company name changes and title unifications. It is the oldest championship currently active in the WWE and is presented as being the promotion’s most prestigious title, with many matches for the title having headlined pay-per-view events – including WWE’s flagship event WrestleMania. In professional wrestling in general, it is considered by many to be one of the most prestigious championships of all time.
From its inception until 2001, it was promoted as WWE’s sole primary championship. An additional world title, the WCW Championship, was added after the then-World Wrestling Federation’s purchase of World Championship Wrestling in early 2001. The titles were later unified as the Undisputed Championship. After the first brand extension in 2002 and the promotion of becoming the WWE, the championship became exclusive to SmackDown, and the World Heavyweight Championship was created for Raw. ECW became the third brand in 2006, adding the ECW World Heavyweight Championship. Over the course of the first brand extension, the WWE Championship switched between brands, usually as a result of the annual draft. The ECW Championship was deactivated in 2010, and the World Heavyweight Championship was unified with the WWE Championship in 2013. The championship was again the sole world title of WWE’s main roster until the reintroduction of the brand extension in 2016.