Abandoned: The History of the WCW International Heavyweight Championship
Throughout history, professional wrestling has seen many championships.
In WWE, there are six major titles. Not many know that the company has had a total of at least 19 different titles, 13 of which have been abandoned for one reason or another.
The other two major companies owned by WWE are WCW and ECW, which have at least 15 abandoned and forgotten titles between them.
For as long as it takes, I will be concentrating on these forgotten titles.
Each slide will feature the champion, who they defeated, where and when they won it, the length of their title reign, any special circumstances that happened during their reign and a bit of commentary.
Belts with a lengthy history will get their own articles and may be broken up into two depending on the length.
For this edition of Abandoned I present the WCW International Heavyweight Championship.
The title was established in July 1993 as a World Championship when World Championship Wrestling started to withdraw from the National Wrestling Alliance.
Two months later when the withdrawal was complete, the title was named the International Championship and the Big Gold Belt was used.
The title would be abandoned two years later after having seen eight champions.
This title technically has lineage with the original World Heavyweight Championship from 1905, which became the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in 1948.
That lineage will not be included here as they will be a part of another series when I’m finished up with this one.
Let’s get started!
Where: Biloxi, MS
When: July 18, 1993
Title Reign: 63 days
When World Championship Wrestling began to withdraw from the National Wrestling Alliance, Ric Flair was the NWA world heavyweight champion.
The Nature Boy elected to stay with WCW so the NWA dropped his recognition as champion.
Despite also having the WCW World Championship, WCW recognized Ric Flair as the “world heavyweight champion.”
Ric Flair has been in the business for 40 years and is one of the biggest stars in the history of professional wrestling.
He has wrestled for the NWA, WCW and WWF, accumulating an all-time record of 16 World Championships that still stands to this day.
Defeated: Rick Rude
Where: Houston, TX
When: Sept. 19, 1993
Title Reign: 178 days
When WCW’s withdrawal from the NWA was completed in September 1993, the title became known as the Big Gold Belt for a short time.
Since WCW owned the rights to the belt itself, they kept it and left the NWA with no World Championship.
The NWA soon went back to using the old design that’s still used to this day.
The title was then renamed the WCW International Heavyweight Championship when the imaginary WCW International subsidiary was created.
Despite not really existing, WCW International was created so that the title had a purpose and also served in representing WCW overseas.
Rick Rude was certainly one of the best to never win a real World Championship.
After getting his big break in the WWF winning the Intercontinental Championship, he moved on to WCW and would win this title along with the United States Championship.
Defeated: Rick Rude
Where: Tokyo, Japan
When: March 16, 1994
Title Reign: eight days
Hiroshi Hase has wrestled throughout Japan since his debut in 1986.
He got his start in Puerto Rico’s WWC as well as Stampede Wrestling.
He spent most of his career in New Japan Pro Wrestling, which is where he won this title, but ended his career in All Japan Pro Wrestling when he retired in 2006.
Defeated: Hiroshi Hase
Where: Kyoto, Japan
When: March 24, 1994
Title Reign: 24 days
Rick Rude would retire from professional wrestling later this year but would return two years later in ECW.
A year later he made his way back to WWF as a member of D-Generation X.
He left later that year, though, after the Montreal Screwjob.
Defeated: Rick Rude
Where: Rosemont, IL
When: April 17, 1994
Title Reign: 14 days
The Icon Sting got his big break in the NWA before moving on to WCW where he became a star.
While in WCW he won every title there was to win including the World Championship six times.
He is known as one of the most loyal wrestlers in the history of the business as he never crossed over to WWF during the Monday Night Wars despite being pursued by Vince McMahon.
Where: Fukuoka, Japan
When: May 1, 1994
Title Reign: 21 days
To win the title, Rick Rude hit Sting with the belt.
On May 22nd WCW tried to award the title back to Sting but he wouldn’t accept it.
The title was held-up until a new champion was decided that night in a match between Sting and Vader.
Rick Rude left WWF for WCW once again and appeared on both WWF Raw and WCW Monday Nitro on November 17, 1997.
He became a member of the nWo but would be taken off of television a year later. While training for a return to the ring, Rick Rude would pass away on April 20, 1999.
Where: Philadelphia, PA
When: May 22, 1994
Title Reign: 32 days
When Sting defeated Vader he became the new WCW International heavyweight champion.
When WWF bought and shut down WCW in 2001, Sting elected not to sign with WWF much like many other WCW stars did.
Sting would resurface on a national scale in 2003 when he returned to NWA affiliate TNA Wrestling.
While there he won the NWA World Championship once and later the TNA World Championship four times after the company withdrew from the NWA.
Sting is technically a 12-time world champion but some fans don’t count his 4 reigns as TNA champion and only consider him an eight-time champion.
Sting is still with TNA as an authority figure in charge of Impact Wrestling.
Where: Charleston, SC
When: June 23, 1994
Title Reign: a few minutes
At Clash of the Champions XXVII, Ric Flair defeated Sting to retain the WCW World Championship and also win the WCW International Championship.
The two titles were then unified and the WCW International Heavyweight Championship was abandoned.
Along with his 16 World Championships, Flair has also won many titles in the three major companies.
After being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2008, he would retire after losing a match to Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XXIV.
You can now see Ric Flair in TNA Wrestling.
Statistics and Final Thoughts
Most Reigns: Rick Rude (3)
Longest Single Reign: Rick Rude (178 days)
Longest Combined Reign: Rick Rude (223 days)
Shortest Reign: Ric Flair (a few minutes)
The WCW International Heavyweight Championship was a second world title used in WCW.
At the time, the Big Gold Belt was used as the NWA World Championship and since WCW had ownership over the physical belt it’s speculated that WCW made this second world title as a way to stick it to the NWA.
With WCW using the belt, the NWA was without a world title for a year.
When WCW got the use out of the title they wanted, they unified it with their legitimate World Championship and scrapped it.
Despite scrapping the title WCW kept the physical belt.
The Big Gold Belt lived on as the WCW World Heavyweight Championship and still lives on today as the World Heavyweight Championship on WWE SmackDown.
Not many people know the history behind the Big Gold Belt with its lineage to the original and NWA World Championships. That, readers, is a story for another series, though.
While the belt lives on, the WCW International Heavyweight Championship is gone and forgotten.
Thanks for reading!
There are only four titles left in the series but they will be split into parts due to the fact that they have seen over 100 champions each.
Come back on Sunday for part 1 of the WCW Television Championship!
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