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The current NWA World Heavyweight Championship belt
The National Wrestling Alliance (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 Georg Hackenschmidt's 1905 title and Frank Gotch's 1908 version. This effectively makes it the oldest surviving wrestling championship in the world. The title has been competed for in such well-known promotions as the Jim Crockett Promotion (JCP), World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW), Calgary Stampede (CS), Eastern Championship Wrestling (ECW), Titan Pro Wrestling (TPW), New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL), and the various NWA territories.
With many territorial promotions appearing across the United States, the NWA was formed in 1948 as an overall governing wrestling body. Like franchises, these territories had the option of NWA membership. The promotion owners had to recognize the NWA heavyweight, junior heavyweight, and light heavyweight champions as world champions while retaining their own ownership and top champion.
Every year, the NWA World Heavyweight Champion would travel to each territory and defend the title against the territories' top contender or champion. The purpose of the world champion was to make the top contender look good and still hold the title. The NWA board of directors, composed mostly of territory owners, decided when the title changed hands via a vote. By the late 1950s, however, the system began to break down. As Lou Thesz continued to hold the title, other popular wrestlers such as Verne Gagne became frustrated over the lack of change. There were also disputes over the number of appearances the champion would make in different regions.
On June 14, 1957 in Chicago, Lou Thesz defended the world title against Canadian wrestler Édouard Carpentier in a two out of three falls match. Thesz and Carpentier split the first two falls. In the third fall, Thesz was disqualified by referee Ed Whalen who raised Carpentier's hand in victory. The NWA later voided the title change based on the disqualification. Thesz defeated Carpentier by disqualification in a Montreal rematch on July 24. It had been planned that the NWA would present Thesz and Carpentier as rival champions in different cities following a similar pattern to the successful title dispute matches between Thesz and Leo Nomellini. Carpentier would also be able to make appearances in the US as champion while Thesz was on an overseas tour. However as a result of various disputes within the NWA, Carpentier's manager, wrestling promoter Eddie Quinn, left the organization in August making Carpentier unavailable to the NWA. The organization dealt with the situation by announcing 71 days after Carpentier's win in Chicago that it did not recognize Carpentier's win and had never recognized it. Quinn started promoting Carpentier as the true NWA world champion based on the match with Thesz. In 1958, Quinn started shopping Carpentier around to promoters interested in leaving the NWA. A victory over Carpentier could give a local champion a credible claim to the world championship of wrestling.
Verne Gagne, who had been trying to become NWA World Heavyweight Champion for some time, defeated Carpentier in Omaha, Nebraska on August 9, 1958. This was recognized as a title change by those NWA affiliate promotions that would later evolve into the American Wrestling Association (AWA) in 1960. This disputed version of the NWA World Heavyweight Title was later known as the World Heavyweight Championship (Omaha version). The title was unified with the AWA World Heavyweight Championship on September 7, 1963. The AWA title continued to exist until the AWA ceased operations in 1991.
The Boston NWA affiliate known as the Atlantic Athletic Commission arranged a match between Killer Kowalski and Carpentier in 1958. Kowalski's victory created what was after known as the ACC World Heavyweight Title and later the Big Time Wrestling (Boston) World title which was active until 1975, later reforming in the early 2000s.
The NAWA/WWA in Los Angeles recognized Carpentier as NWA champion in July 1959 as part of gradually splitting from the NWA. On June 12, 1961, Carpentier lost a match to Freddie Blassie which created the basis for the WWA World Heavyweight Championship (Los Angeles version). The title ceased to exist when the WWA returned to the NWA on October 1, 1968.
Return to Prominence
"Greatest Title on the Earth"
Main Article: List of NWA World Heavyweight Champions