The NWA World Heavyweight Championship is a professional wrestling world heavyweight championship in the National Wrestling Alliance. Its lineage has been traced from the first World Heavyweight Championship (Catch as Catch Can version; 1905-1957), which traces its lineage to George Hackenschmidt's 1905 title which Frank Gotch won from him in 1908. This effectively makes it the oldest surviving wrestling championship in the world.

Title History

† Unofficial title changes not recognized by the NWA.

# Wrestler Times Date Days held Location Event Notes
1 Orville Brown 1 1948|1|5 692 Des Moines, IA House show In July 1948, the National Wrestling Alliance is founded and Brown is recognized as the first official NWA World champion. His reign length is calculated from the date he defeated Sonny Myers to first claim the world championship, as opposed to the date afterward when the company was formed.
2 Lou Thesz 1 1949|11|27 1941 Awarded when Brown suffers career-ending injuries in an automobile accident on November 1, 1949. The title is also unified with the World Heavyweight Championship (National Wrestling Association). Thesz became the Undisputed Championship of all of wrestling by winning the Los Angeles Olympic Auditorium World Heavyweight Title, the remaining major World Championship at the time other than the NWA World Title, on May 21, 1952.
Leo Nomellini 1 1955|3|22 115 San Francisco, CA House show Defeated Thesz by countout in the second fall and disqualification in the third fall. California Athletic Commission recognized the title change by disqualification, but both wrestlers continue to claim the title.
Lou Thesz 2 1955|7|15 244 Toronto, ON House show Defeated Nomellini in a rematch.
3 Whipper Billy Watson 1 1956|03|15 239 Toronto, ON House show
4 Lou Thesz 2(3) 1956|11|9 217

St. Louis, MO

House show
Édouard Carpentier 1 1957|6|14 40 Chicago, IL House show Carpentier was awarded the title by disqualification when Thesz could not continue the match due to a back injury. In some territories, Thesz continued to be recognized as NWA champion while, in others, Carpentier was billed as the champion.
Lou Thesz 4 1957|7|24 113 Montreal, Quebec House show Lou Thesz won a rematch against Carpentier by disqualification. The NWA initially continued to recognize Carpentier as the champion, but voids any recognition of Carpentier as champion when he withdrew the claim for the title when Montreal promoter Eddie Quinn quit the NWA in August 1958. Some territories such as Boston (AAC), Nebraska and Los Angeles (NAWA/WWA) continued to recognize Carpentier as NWA World Champion. The AAC recognized Killer Kowalski as World Heavyweight Champion when he defeated Carpentier in Boston. Nebraska later recognized Verne Gagne as World Champion when he defeated Carpentier in Omaha. The NAWA/WWA recognized Freddie Blassie as World Champion when he defeated Carpentier in 1961.
5 Dick Hutton 1 1957|11|14 421 Toronto, ON House show
6 Pat O'Connor 1 1959|1|9 903 St. Louis, MO House show The AWA, under Verne Gagne, seceded from the NWA and declared O'Connor their first World Champion in May 1960. This was considered a compromise gesture by the AWA given that Gagne held Édouard Carpentier's disputed version of the title. O'Conner was given 90 days to defend the AWA title against number one contender Gagne and when he did not, the title was awarded to Gagne.
7 Buddy Rogers 1 1961|6|30

145 until Kowalski
414 until Brazil
573 until Thesz

Chicago, IL House show On August 2, 1962, Bruno Sammartino defeated Rogers in Toronto, but refused to accept the title because Rogers had wrestled with an injury.
Killer Kowalski 1 1961|11|22 425 Montreal, Quebec, Canada House show Kowalski defeated Rogers on November 21 after Rogers broke his ankle in the first fall, but was only recognized as champion in some states. Rogers defeated Kowalski on January 21, 1963 in New York, but Kowalski claimed the match wasn't for the title.
Bobo Brazil 1 1962|8|18 73 Newark, NJ House show Brazil refused the title because of a groin injury that Rogers had claimed to have. However, on September 6, 1962, Brazil is declared champion because a doctor had determined that Rogers hadn't suffered an injury. This title change isn't recognized by the NWA, nor is the change with Kowalski. The NWA considers Rogers' reign to last until Thesz, while conversely, the WWWF did not recognize that.
Buddy Rogers 2 1962|10|30
(defeat of Brazil)
(defeat of Kowalski)

(Brazil to Thesz reign)
(Kowalski to Thesz reign)

Toledo, OH
(vs Brazil)
New York
(vs Kowalski)
House show In spite of the lack of official title change, Rogers is considered champion in relation to his dispute with Brazil and Kowalski. The seconds reigns are unofficial and not included in official numbering. The alternate second reign length of Rogers (which, if Kowalski's 1961 title claim is legitimate, would nullify Brazil's 1962 claim) is only considered if one accepts that Rogers' defeat of Kowalski in 1963 was for the title, otherwise Kowalski would be considered the final NWA champion.
8 Lou Thesz 3(5) 1963|1|24 1079 Toronto, ON House show Promoters in the northeast United States refuse to recognize Rogers' one-fall loss to Thesz, thus breaking away from the NWA to form a new promotion, the World Wide Wrestling Federation. Rogers is declared the first WWWF World Heavyweight Champion 3 months later, on April 25.
9 Gene Kiniski 1 1966|1|7 1131 St. Louis, MO House show
10 Dory Funk 1 1969|2|11 1563 Tampa, FL House show
11 Harley Race 1 1973|5|24 57 Kansas City, MO House show
12 Jack Brisco 1 1973|7|20 500 Houston, TX House show
13 Giant Baba 1 1974|12|2 7 Kagoshima, Japan House show
14 Jack Brisco 2 1974|12|9 366 Toyohashi, Japan House show
15 Terry Funk 1 1975|12|10 424 Miami, FL House show
16 Harley Race 2 1977|2|6 926 Toronto, ON House show
17 Dusty Rhodes 1 1979|8|21 5 Tampa, FL House show
18 Harley Race 3 1979|8|26 66 Orlando, FL House show
19 Giant Baba 2 1979|10|31 7 Nagoya, Japan House show
20 Harley Race 4 1979|11|7 302 Amagasaki, Japan House show
21 Giant Baba 3 1980|9|4 5 Saga, Japan House show
22 Harley Race 5 1980|9|9 230 Otsu, Japan House show
23 Tommy Rich 1 1981|4|27 4 Augusta, GA House show
24 Harley Race 6 1981|5|1 51 Gainesville, GA House show
25 Dusty Rhodes 2 1981|6|21 88 Atlanta, GA House show
26 Ric Flair 1 1981|9|17 476 Kansas City, MO House show On February 9, 1983 in Miami, The Midnight Rider (Dusty Rhodes under a mask due to being under suspension in Florida) defeated Flair for the title but returned it when NWA President Bob Geigel asked Rider to unmask or return the belt as NWA rules then forbade masked wrestlers from holding it.
Jack Veneno 1 1982|8|29 0 Santo Domingo Rep. Dom. House show Jack Veneno defeated Flair in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic but as he refused to defend the title outside his native country the title was returned to Flair on August 29, 1982.
Carlos Colón 1 1983|1|6 17 San Juan, PR House show This title change isn't recognized by the NWA. Colon's WWC World Heavyweight Championship was also on the line.
Ric Flair 1 1983|1|23 138 Miami, FL House show This title change isn't recognized by the NWA. Victor Jovica defeated Flair on February 8, 1983 in Couva, Trinidad but the decision was reversed three days later because Jovica's feet were on the rope during the pin.
27 Harley Race 7 1983|6|10 167 St. Louis, MO House show
28 Ric Flair 2 1983|11|24 118 Greensboro, NC Starrcade (1983) This was a Steel Cage match. Former champion Gene Kiniski (above) was special referee.
Harley Race 8 1984|03|20 3 Wellington, New Zealand House show
Ric Flair 2(3)† 1984|03|23 44 Kallang, Singapore House show
29 Kerry Von Erich 1 1984|05|6 18 Irving, TX Parade of Champions 1
30 Ric Flair 3(4) 1984|05|24 793 Yokosuka, Japan House show

List of Combined Reigns


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