Undisputed: Famous Unification Matches in Pro Wrestling History
In the history of pro wrestling when a promotion wanted to get rid of a title, or create a new title, sometimes they'd have that champion face off against a champion of same or similar stature.
These matches are of course called unification matches. Two champions walk in (or four, if it's for tag team titles) and one walks out with two belts. Then that champion would either continue to defend them separately, or one of them is dropped and he/she continues to defend the other.
Here are some of the best, the most famous or even infamous title-for-title unification matches there have been.
Nikita Koloff (NWA TV Champion) vs Terry Taylor (UWF TV Champion) Starrcade 1987
Back in 1987, WWE Hall of Famer Bill Watt's sold his promotion the Universal Wrestling Federation (formally Mid South) to Jim Crockett Promotions. So at Starrcade 1987, they decided to have a unification match to decide the Undisputed TV Champion.
Nikita was the fan favorite and ended up winning the title, which was then dropped from existence.
The UWF footage is currently one of the major pieces of wrestling footage history that the WWE doesn't own.
All Japan Pro Wrestling Triple Crown Unification 1989
Three titles were running around in Japan in the 1970s and '80s: the NWA United National Heavyweight Title, the PWF (Pacific Wrestling Federation) Heavyweight Title and the NWA International Heavyweight Title.
So All Japan Pro Wrestling decided to unify them in a tournament.
Jumbo Tsuruta would defeat Stan Hansen in the finals to unify all the titles. Today it's still a unified title with the same three belts being defended at once and is the top title of All Japan.
American wrestlers you probably know who have won this title are the likes of Vader, Stan Hansen, Fabulous Freebird member Terry Gordy and Dr. Death Steve Williams.
The video is of one of the various matches Mitsuharu Misawa faced Kenta Kobashi, and it's for the AJPW Triple Crown title.
If you've never seen Japanese Pro Wrestling, or Puroresu as it's called, you'll be amazed on how stiff and insane it is.
In 1996, New Japan Pro Wrestling held a tournament to unify eight junior heavyweights (also known as cruiserweights or light heavyweights). This tournament was known as the J-Crown tournament.
The J-Crown was made up of the: British Commonwealth Junior Heavyweight Championship, IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship, NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship, NWA World Welterweight Championship, UWA World Junior Light Heavyweight Championship, WAR International Junior Heavyweight Championship and WWA World Junior Light Heavyweight Championship.
Even the WWF Light Heavyweight Championship, which was used in Mexico before the WWF introduced it to TV in 1997.
The Great Sasuke was the first champion winning in the final round against Ultimo Dragon.
But Ultimo Dragon would win it from him and do him one better by beating Dean Malenko for the WCW Cruiserweight Championship, and end up carrying nine belts at once. And yes, he technically had both WCW and WWF titles at the same time before the Invasion angle unification matches.
The J-Crown ended in 1997 with the belts going back to their respective promotions.
Jerry Lawler (AWA Champion) vs Kerry Von Erich (WCCW Champion)
Super Clash III. It has become pretty much an infamous show. Most regular WWE fans nowadays know of it from watching the AWA and WCCW DVDs that WWE produced, but it's sure something worth knowing about.
The event was a PPV that ultimately failed due to every other wrestling fan pretty much only caring about the WWF and NWA/WCW.
The match was bloody as hell due to Kerry bleeding, but Lawler ended up winning due to the match being stopped because of Kerry's loss of blood.
The new unified title would become the USWA Unified World Heavyweight Title. Even though the AWA would strip Lawler of the AWA title, and WCCW would eventually close, along with AWA in 1991.
The USWA title would be confined to Memphis before that company's ultimate demise as well.
WCW Title Unification: Sting vs. Ric Flair at Clash of the Champions XXVII
This is going to be a bit complicated to explain, so do your best to follow if you can.
When WCW was created after Ted Turner bought Jim Crockett Promotions in 1988, they still used the NWA World Heavyweight Championship with the famous Big Gold Belt representing it as their top title.
Ric Flair would lose the NWA title (still Big Gold Belt) to Sting in 1990. Flair would win it back. This title win is recognized by WWE as the first WCW title reign.
During 1991, Flair would lose the NWA title to Tatsumi Fujinami in Japan. Japan recognized the WCW and NWA titles as separate, while WCW didn't. Crazy huh?
Flair would eventually beat Fujinami in May 1991.
One of the most historic and famous events happened later that year when Flair left WCW for the WWF and brought the Big Gold Belt with him. WCW stripped Flair of the WCW (and effectively the NWA title).
They crowned a new WCW champion when Lex Luger beat Barry Windham in a cage, despite the "We want Flair" chants.
WCW created a new WCW title belt, which Luger held. Eventually a new NWA champion was crowned as well when Masahiro Chono beat Rick Rude for the title in Japan. The title belt to represent the NWA title was now the Big Gold Belt that I assume WCW got back from Flair.
So WCW at the same time had two world champions, 10 years before WWE would.
Chono would lose the NWA title (still Big Gold Belt) to The Great Muta in Japan during another WCW/NJPW event.
The Great Muta would then drop it to Barry Windham in 1993. Now, during this time, Ric Flair had returned to WCW. Flair would then win the NWA title from Windham.
In September of 1993, WCW would leave the NWA. Flair was still the NWA champion holding the Big Gold Belt, but NWA stripped him of that title which led to them having a tournament in 1994 in a company called Eastern Championship Wrestling with Shane Douglas winning the title and the physical belt being the famous '70s and early '80s Dome Globe design. We all know what happened after that.
From that point on, the NWA title was an Indy title, until TNA made it their top title. Currently the NWA title is back to an Indy title.
However, WCW still recognized Flair as a champion. But Flair would lose the Big Gold Belt to Rick Rude, and the title was actually for a time just called The Big Gold Belt.
The title was then renamed the WCW International World Heavyweight Championship going off of a fictitious section of WCW called WCW International.
Rude would ultimately lose that International title to Sting after a couple of other reigns.
Ric Flair in December of 1993 would beat Big Van Vader for the WCW Title at Starrcade.
In June of 1994, Hulk Hogan signed with WCW.
So, WCW decided to have one World Championship to give to Hulk Hogan.
Sting defending the WCW International World Heavyweight Championship, being the Big Gold Belt, faced Ric Flair who was the WCW Champion at Clash of the Champions XXVII, where six years earlier they met at the first Clash in their famous 45-minute draw for the NWA Title.
Ric Flair would win the match, and unify both titles. Then the WCW Championship would be represented by the Big Gold Belt.
Flair would then drop the title to Hulk Hogan in Hogan's first match in WCW. The rest is history.
Hopefully this wasn't too confusing.
(The Big Gold Belt has actually represented four different championships now: the NWA Championship, the WCW Championship, the WCW International Championship and now currently the World Heavyweight Championship in the WWE with the WWE logo stamped on the very top.
WWF Invasion Unifications: WWF Light Heavyweight/WCW Cruiswerweight
Vince McMahon bought WCW in 2001. Then the idea came about of WCW wrestlers whose contracts he had just purchased would invade the WWF to try and take over.
More wrestlers from another company meant more championships to go around.
In 2001, there were actually 10 titles running around (the women's title wasn't seen again until Survivor Series 2001 after Chyna left the company earlier in the year) with WCW bringing over four of them.
The first championship unification took place in July on Raw between WWF light heavyweight champion X Pac and WCW cruiserweight champion Billy Kidman.
X-Pac would win, but only be a unified champion for one week as he lost the Light Heavyweight Title to Tajiri on the next Raw.
WWF Invasion Unifications: WWF Light Heavyweight/WCW Cruiswerweight 2
After Tajiri beat X-Pac for the WWF Light Heavyweight Title on Raw, they'd have a rematch to unify the titles again, this time at SummerSlam 2001.
X-Pac would win and continue to be the WWF light heavyweight champion until the title's deactivation, while he'd drop the WCW Cruiserweight Title in October, which was adopted by the WWF after Survivor Series 2001 and became the WWE Cruiserweight Championship until that title's deactivation in 2001.
Very interesting on how the WWE would get rid of their own title in favor of WCW's.
But this wasn't the only unification match to take place at SummerSlam 2001.
WWF Invasion Unifications: WWF/WCW Tag Team Titles
You'd think Diamond Dallas Page, one of WCW's biggest stars that actually crossed over to the WWF during the invasion would have great things happen to him, right? Nope. He ended up being Undertaker's wife of the time Sarah's stalker.
So during the feud with Undertaker, DDP and his friend Kanyon (who was the WCW United States champion at the time) won the WWF Tag Team Titles.
Undertaker and Kane, the Brothers of Destruction, would win the WCW Tag Team Titles.
They then had a unification match at SummerSlam 2001 inside a Steel Cage.
Was this one of the most competitive matches of all time? By far, no. It was a glorified squash match.
Taker and Kane won decisively and became the first team to hold both the WWF and WCW Tag Team Titles. Each title was defended separately, which they lost at different times.
The titles would be unified one final time at Survivor Series 2001.
WWF Invasion Unifcations: WWF/WCW Tag Team Titles 2
Dudley Boyz were the WWF tag team champions, the Hardy Boyz were the WCW tag team champions.
The Dudleyz win and unify both titles.
Not much more to say besides saying Stacy Keibler looks great.
Due to the WWF team winning the winner-take-all match, WCW ended and the WCW Tag Titles were deactivated and the Dudleyz continued being the WWF tag champions.
WWF Invasion Unifications: WWF Intercontinental Title/WCW United States Title
Test was a part of the Alliance of WCW/ECW and the WWF Intercontinental champion while Edge was a part of the WWF and the WCW United States champion.
Edge would win the Intercontinental title, and just like the WCW Tag Team Title, the WCW U.S. Title became defunct after the winner-take-all match, until it was revived with a new title design in 2003 for a SmackDown exclusive championship.
The Undisputed WWF/E Championship
After Survivor Series 2001 The Rock was still the WCW champion, and the title was renamed the "World Championship" since they didn't get rid of it right after the event.
Stone Cold Steve Austin was still the WWF champion.
It was then decided to have them unify the titles to make the first Undisputed World Champion.
But it was expanded to four men in a small tournament with Austin defending the WWF Title against Kurt Angle in the first match, and The Rock defending the World Title/WCW Title against Christ Jericho in the second.
Austin defeated Angle, and Jericho defeated The Rock. Then right after Jericho beat The Rock, Austin came out and they had their match.
A lot of high jinks ensued, but Chris Jericho would get the one-two-three and both titles and became the first Undisputed WWF Champion.
Now, if you look at it, Chris Jericho was really the Undisputed Champion of the World. There was no other top U.S. promotion going against the WWF/WWE, seeing as TNA wasn't created until mid-2002—same for ROH—and the NWA title was still an Indy title being defended in front of 20 people.
Plus, the Japanese and Mexican promotions never would defend their top titles other than in their own countries, so Jericho was the de facto Undisputed Champion of the World.
The End of the European and Hardcore Championships
In 2002, the WWE decided to get rid of two of its mid-card titles, the European title and the Hardcore title.
First, Rob Van Dam as the Intercontinental champion defeated the European champion Jeff Hardy in a billed Unification ladder match, even though Jeff didn't come out wearing the belt, nor was it suspended above the ring. The winner would be the IC champion and the Euro title was to be dropped anyway.
Then, RVD faced Tommy Dreamer in a match only billed as for the Intercontinental Championship, with the commentators saying the Hardcore title was to be dropped after the match. So the match wasn't even said to be "a unification match/title for title match for the Hardcore and Intercontinental Championships" even though Tommy came to the ring with the belt.
RVD would win that match too, and two titles were then ended.
However, WWE would do something fans hated in October 2002 at No Mercy.
World Heavyweight Title/Intercontinental Title Match: Triple H vs. Kane
As I said in the last slide, WWE would do something the fans hated, not only did the buildup to this match have the famous Katie Vick angle and segment, but the WWE decided to get rid of the Intercontinental Championship that was with the company since 1979.
Kane was the Intercontinental Champion and Triple H was the world heavyweight champion. Raw GM Eric Bischoff said "one show, one champion" and this match happened.
Triple H would win and technically have the Intercontinental title for a fifth time, even though you never see him with the belt, and the title was deactivated until Judgment Day in May of 2003 when a bigger design of the belt was brought in and Christian would win a battle royal to be the new champion.
The Unified WWE Tag Team Championship
WrestleMania 25 took place in 2009. At the time, both Raw and SmackDown had their own tag team championship. So WWE decided to unify the titles.
The Miz and John Morrison were the world tag team champions, the tag titles that the WWE historically had since the 1970s, while Primo and Carlito Colon were the WWE tag team champions, which was created in 2002.
A unification match at WrestleMania? Well that sure is deserving of being on the PPV right? Wrong.
They ended up putting this match as a dark match before the show. But they decided to use match time for a Kid Rock performance that could have easily gone to this match.
The titles were unified and defended as one title, but each belt kept its own history and identity until the middle of 2010 when champions the Hart Dynasty would be awarded new belts (which I like to call the "This Is Sparta Tag Team Titles").
Yet they'd be recognized as the WWE tag team champions, and keep the lineage of the 2002 belts, dropping the tag titles they famously had since the 1970s.
Who cares about the title that had the likes of the Wild Samoans, Legion of Doom, Hart Foundation, Demolition, Hardyz, Edge and Christian, and so many other great teams have, when you can have the title with the lineage of Rico and Charlie Haas, Deuce and Domino, and Paul London and Billy Kidman?
The same type of thing happens with the latest unification match in the WWE...
WWE Women's Championshp/Divas Championship Unifcation
From 2008 to 2010, WWE had two female titles, one for Raw and one for SmackDown.
Well, at Night of Champions 2010, they unified the titles.
Michelle McTaker (McCool), representing Laycool who called themselves co-champions and having the women's title, beat Melina the Divas champion.
But just like Tag Team Titles, WWE dropped the historic title, which actually dates back to the 1950s with the Fabulous Moolah being the NWA women's champion, for the title that was created in 2008 represented by a pretty pink butterfly title belt.
Other Unification Matches Done Elsewhere
There are many other title unification matches throughout recent history, and here are some descriptions of them:
ECW champion Taz would beat the FTW champion Sabu, which was a title Taz created but was not recognized as a real title by ECW and the FTW title was dropped.
Jeff Jarrett the NWA champion during the time when TNA used the NWA Title as its top championship, beat WWA (World Wrestling All-Stars) champion Sting to unify the titles. WWA was a promotion from Australia where a bunch of former WCW and ECW guys went in 2001, with the company eventually folding in 2003.
Bryan Danielson, now Daniel Bryan in WWE, as the ROH world champion beat Nigel McGuinness, now Desmond Wolfe in TNA, the ROH Pure champion in England to unify both titles with the Pure title being dropped.
The IWGP Third Belt Heavyweight Championship (Third Belt meaning third design for the belt) unified with the IWGP Heavyweight Championship of New Japan Pro Wrestling when Shinsuke Nakamura (IWGP) beat Kurt Angle (Third Belt title holder).
The Third Belt was recognized as the real IWGP Champion by the IGF, Inoki Genome Federation (which was headed by Antonio Inoki) after controversy over Brock Lesnar's IWGP title reign.
Kurt Angle would beat Lesnar for the IWGP title, sending Lesnar into an MMA career, with Angle defending that version of the IWGP title against Samoa Joe in TNA in their "all titles on the line match" at Hard Justice 2007.
But in the end, the IWGP title was unified and went back with New Japan.
Undisputed WWE Championship: CM Punk vs. John Cena
Unlike the first "Undisputed WWF/WWE Championship," this is more like in boxing or MMA when it is indeed an undisputed championship match, but with one guy being an interim champion and the other being the regular champion.
Basically John Cena is the interim champion and CM Punk is the regular champion.
Hopefully this match at SummerSlam 2011 will be great.