WWE: Looking at the Defunct Championships You've Probably Never Heard Of

Ryan Dilbert@@ryandilbertWWE Lead WriterApril 24, 2012

WWE: Looking at the Defunct Championships You've Probably Never Heard Of

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    For every prestigious WWE championship that wrestlers are proud to hoist above their head in victory, there is a forgotten, worthless title belt.

    Not every title can have a proud history.

    Dropped into the darkness of obscurity, there are a number of title belts that didn't last more than a year, that stuttered from the get-go, that don't make it onto the resumes of legends.

    Wrestlers risk their bodies and careers in Money in the Bank ladder matches for a chance at the WWE championship, to add their name to a list of Hall of Famers and icons. 

    What would they be willing to do for the WWF Canadian championship or the World Martial Arts heavyweight championship?

World Martial Arts Heavyweight Championship

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    1978-1989

    Vince McMahon Sr. smartly wanted Japanese icon Antonio Inoki to be a part of WWE. 

    Up until 1985, New Japan Pro Wrestling, where Inoki spent a significant chunk of his career, had a working relationship with WWE. 

    McMahon created the World Martial Arts heavyweight championship and awarded it to Inoki.

    It was to be defended in both promotions, in the U.S. and Japan in shoot wrestling fights. 

    The out-of-the-box concept, just as the Lion's Den matches years later, didn't take off as expected. It survived for over 10 years but isn't a significant part of either promotion's history.

    There was little fanfare around the title and very few title changes.    

    Shota Chochishvilli, an Olympic medalist in Judo, defeated Inoki in '89, only to lose the title back to him just a month later. 

    Officially this is where the title's history ends, but NJPW created the Greatest 18 championship in 1990, which used the Martial Arts heavyweight championship belt. 

    Riki Choshu and the Great Muta are only the champions of that incarnation of the belt.  Muta only held it a month before abandoning it. 

    NJPW put it to rest for good.   

Junior Heavyweight Championship

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    1967-1985

    NJPW and WWE's ties also led to the creation of the WWF junior heavyweight championship, a cruiserweight-type title ahead of its time.

    Smaller great wrestlers like Black Tiger, Tiger Mask and Dynamite Kid held this title.

    The initial history of the belt is fuzzy. 

    From '65 to '72, Johnny DeFazio and Jackie Nichols may or may not have traded the belts with each other several times. The championship may or may not have been inactive for parts of the late '60s.

    The historical records about the belt at this time are few and far between.

    Carlos Jose Estrada was the first junior heavyweight champion after DeFazio's retirement in '72 made the title vacant. Estrada only held it for three days.

    The title was then defended in the U.S., Japan and Mexico with future legends like Dynamite and Tiger Mask winning and losing it. 

    Like the Cruiserweight title and similar belts, it allowed for smaller, quicker wrestlers to showcase their abilities without having to resort to David-and-Goliath battles every week.

    WWE and NJPW went their separate ways in '85, turning the junior heavyweight title into a relic. 

United States Tag Team Championship

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    1958-1967

    The predecessor to both the World tag team championship and WWE tag team championship, the United States tag titles boasts some impressive names on its list of former champs.

    Hall of Famers Killer Kowalski and Gorilla Monsoon held the titles briefly in 1963.

    The Fabulous Kangaroos, as well as Johnny Valentine and Buddy Rogers, were U.S. tag champs as well.

    The titles began as the NWA United States tag team championship (Northeast version) with Mark Lewin and Don Curtis becoming inaugural champions by defeating Hans Schmidt and Dick the Bruiser.

    The belts didn't stay around a single team's waists for long.

    In 1960 alone, the titles changed hands nine times.

    The belts were replaced in '67, one of many WWE tag titles to bite the dust.

Intercontinental Tag Team Championship

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    1991

    Being that the tag team division is often where the mid-card performers first spread their wings, it's an odd choice to create a championship designed to be secondary to the tag titles. 

    WWE came to that realization soon after the creation of the Intercontinental tag team championship. 

    Perro Aguayo and Gran Hamada were the first and only holders of those titles.    

    WWE intended to partner with the Japanese shoot-style promotion UWF and have the titles be a bridge between the two promotions and the two audiences.

    The two promotions' relationship did not last, and neither did the championship.  

International Heavyweight Championship

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    1959-1985

    With the great Antonino Rocca as its first champion, the International heavyweight championship could have been an important, prestigious title.

    Things didn't work out that way.

    After Rocca won the title in ’59, it didn’t get defended much at all and went dormant in the early ‘60s. 

    Tony Parisi won the International heavyweight championship in 1982 when WWE tried to revive it. 

    This was another time when WWE tried to create a championship that multiple promotions would recognize and showcase. 

    The inventor of the Dragon Sleeper and Dragon Suplex, Tatsumi Fujinami is the most notable champion other than Rocca in its short history. 

    Gino Brito held it for two months in '82, Riki Choshu for four. 

    With WWE and UWF parting ways, the International heavyweight championship's history ended. 

International Tag Team Championship

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    1969-1985

    Seeing that in today's WWE, the tag titles are rarely defended and placed near the bottom of the title hierarchy, it's curious to see how often WWE has tried in the past to have multiple concurrent tag team championships.

    The International tag team championship was first one in Japan by the Rising Suns

    Tony Marino, who had a Batman gimmick, and Bruno Sammartino won them next. Victor Rivera quickly replaced Sammartino, who was busy being world champ and all. 

    The titles had some compelling names hold the belt over the next few years, chiefly Tarzan Tyler and Johnny DeFazio. 

    At the end of 1971, the titles were vacated and remained inactive until 1985. 

    This was due to the WWWF-affiliated Pittsburgh promotion closing down. 

    The reincarnation of the international tag team titles came with the help of NJPW. This was to be another cross-promotion belt.

    Tatsumi Fujinami and Kengo Kimura won it this time by defeating Adrian Adonis and Dick Murdoch.

    Unfortunately for Fujinami and Kimura, the titles would be abandoned less than six months later.  

North American Heavyweight Championship

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    1979-1981

    In '79, before Ted DiBiase Sr. rocked one of the greatest gimmicks in wrestling history, he was a talented mid-card worker fresh out of Mid-South Wrestling.

    Vince McMahon Sr. awarded DiBiase the newly-created North American heavyweight championship.

    Three months later, Hall of Famer Pat Patterson clocked DiBiase with a pair of brass knuckles and stole the last title he would hold until the million dollar championship. 

    Patterson would go on to win the South American heavyweight championship in a tournament in Brazil that never happened, a la Zack Ryder with the Internet championship.

    The purpose of this storyline tourney win was to unify the North and South American titles to create the Intercontinental championship.

    Inexplicably, even with the creation of the IC title, the North American version stuck around.  Seiji Sakaguchi defeated Patterson in November of '79. 

    The championship very quietly went away in 1981.

Women’s Tag Team Championship

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    1983-1989

    With the current women's division so thin on talent, it's hard to imagine WWE believing it had enough quality female wrestlers to form enough tag teams to justify a women's tag team championship.

    WWE's women's roster in the '80s was the best it's ever been.

    The Fabulous Moolah, even in the twilight of her career, was a great wrestler. Wendi Richter and Sherri Martel challenged her for the women's championship.

    Talented women like Velvet McIntyre and Leilani Kai deserved air time they'd likely not get without this additional title. 

    Still, there weren't enough quality teams to justify the tag titles. 

    In its first five years of existence, only three teams held the belts. 

    McIntyre first teamed with Princess Victoria to win the NWA women's world tag team titles. 

    After WWE's withdrawal from the NWA in 1983, McIntyre and Victoria held the belts for about seven months before Victoria severely injured her neck, forcing her into retirement.

    Desiree Petersen, a Dane with feathered hair, took her place and the new pair held the titles for than 600 days until the Glamour Girls (Leilani Kai and Judy Martin) supposedly defeated them.

    A match is purported to have taken place in '85 in Egypt, but likely never happened.

    The fact that the title changed hands without an audience speaks to the WWE's lack of confidence in these women. 

    The Glamour Girls and the high-flying Jumping Bomb Angels traded the titles back and forth until the championship was abandoned in '89.

Canadian Championship

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    1985-1986

    The list of former WWF Canadian champions is a short one. There's Dino Bravo and that's it.                     

    WWE bought out Montreal's Lutte International promotion in 1985 and felt it needed to maintain a presence in that area. 

    It awarded "Canada's Strongest Man," Dino Bravo, a new title to be defended primarily in Canadian cities. 

    In Montreal, Bravo had developed a strong fanbase. The thought was that WWE could appease the Canadians' love for Bravo without taking the actual important title off Hulk Hogan.

    Just one year later, WWE scrapped the whole idea. 

    The title faded away with no mention of it again.