|Date established April 25, 1992|
First champion(s) Jimmy Snuka
Most reigns The Sandman (5)
|Date retired February 16, 2010|
Final champion(s) Ezekiel Jackson
|Promotion ECW (1992–2001) WWE (2006–2010)|
The ECW World Heavyweight Championship was a professional wrestling world heavyweight championship originally used in Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) and later, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). It was the original world title of the Extreme Championship Wrestling promotion, spun off from the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. It was established under Extreme Championship Wrestling in 1994, but was originally introduced in 1992 by the promotion's precursor, Eastern Championship Wrestling. The inaugural champion was Jimmy Snuka.
The title was deactivated in 2001 when ECW went out of business. ECW was then purchased by WWE two years later during the summer of 2003. In 2006, WWE reactivated the championship as the world title of their newly established ECW brand. It was a third concurrently active world championship in the promotion, complementing the WWE Championship and World Heavyweight Championship of the other two brands, Raw and SmackDown. The ECW Championship briefly appeared as the only world title featured on the Raw brand in 2008 as a result of that year's draft. When WWE disbanded the ECW brand in 2010, the championship was subsequently retired with Ezekiel Jackson as the final champion.
The ECW World Heavyweight Championship was introduced originally in 1992 as the NWA-ECW Heavyweight Championship with Jimmy Snuka becoming the inaugural champion on April 25. However, its origin is attributed to events that began in the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), an organization with many member promotions. In the early 1990s, Eastern Championship Wrestling (ECW) was a member of the NWA and by 1994, the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, the world title of the NWA, was vacant. Consequently, a tournament was organized to crown a new NWA World Heavyweight Champion and on August 27, NWA-ECW Heavyweight Champion Shane Douglas defeated 2 Cold Scorpio in the finals to win the title. However, Douglas immediately relinquished the NWA World Heavyweight Championship and instead proclaimed himself the new ECW World Heavyweight Champion. ECW subsequently seceded from the NWA and became Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW). The ECW World Heavyweight Championship was thus established, spun off from the NWA title. It remained active until April 11, 2001 when ECW closed and World Wrestling Entertainment subsequently purchased its assets.
By 2005, WWE began reintroducing ECW through content from the ECW video library and a series of books, which included the release of The Rise and Fall of ECW documentary. With heightened and rejuvenated interest in the ECW franchise, WWE organized ECW One Night Stand on June 12, a reunion event that featured ECW alumni. Due to the financial and critical success of the production, WWE produced the second ECW One Night Stand on June 11, 2006, which served as the premiere event in the relaunch of the ECW franchise as a third WWE brand, complementary to Raw and SmackDown. On June 13, Paul Heyman, former ECW owner and newly appointed figurehead for the ECW brand, recommissioned the ECW World Heavyweight Championship to be the brand's world title and awarded it to Rob Van Dam as a result of winning the WWE Championship at One Night Stand 2006. Heyman had originally stated that either the WWE Championship or the World Heavyweight Championship would "become" the ECW World Heavyweight Championship if a competitor designated to the ECW brand became WWE Champion or World Heavyweight Champion at the event. However, Rob Van Dam later declared that he would hold both titles simultaneously instead. The title became known as the ECW World Championship in June 2006, and later simply as the ECW Championship in August 2007.
Following the events of the WWE brand extension, an annual WWE draft was established, in which select members of the WWE roster are reassigned to a different brand. ECW was revived as a third brand in 2006 to rival Raw and SmackDown and continued to operate until February 16, 2010, rendering the title inactive once again.
Championship belt designs
Soon after its recommissioning, the ECW World Heavyweight Championship belt design was updated to a design similar to the belt used prior to ECW's original closure in 2001, which featured a black leather strap with a snakeskin pattern on the rear, snaps to wrap around the waist of the wrestler who wore it, and five pieces made of gold. In the middle of the strap was a large center piece, which featured a design of a blue globe in the center, and to the left and right of the globe were a pair of baseball bats wrapped in barbed wire. At the top of the piece, a purple ECW logo and the words "World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion" were engraved with the words "Heavyweight Wrestling" in red, which gave the text a blood-like appearance. In addition, the entire piece was engraved with a pattern similar to that of a steel cage. Along the strap, on both ends, were four smaller pieces which featured a design similar to that of the center piece. The new belt as of June 20, 2006 was differentiated by a full black strap with barbed wire tooling, red ECW logos, and the innards of the steel cage pattern outlined in black.
On July 22, 2008, ECW General Manager Theodore Long introduced a new belt design for the ECW Championship belt. This design features a large black leather strap with five platinum pieces. The large center piece features a design of a phoenix over a globe in the center with its wings expanded and rays of light emitting from it. At the top of the piece, the WWE logo and the words "World Wrestling Entertainment" are engraved with "ECW" in large letters engraved prominently over the phoenix. A nameplate, which has the name of the champion etched, is located below it and at the bottom of the piece, the word "Champion" is engraved. Additionally, the entire piece is bordered by a jagged saw-like pattern. Along the strap, on both ends, are four small biker cross-shape pieces which feature a design similar to that of the center piece.
Overall, there have been 49 ECW World Heavyweight Championship reigns shared among 32 individuals. The inaugural champion was Jimmy Snuka, who won the title by defeating Salvatore Bellomo in April 1992. The Sandman holds the most reigns as champion, with five. Shane Douglas, in his fourth reign, had the longest reign in the title's history which lasted 406 days, while Ezekiel Jackson, in his first (and only, due to his defeating of Christian on the television finale of ECW) reign, had the shortest as the title was retired immediately. Jackson is recognized as the final ECW Champion, but holds the shortest reign at 3 minutes. Christian's second reign was the longest under WWE with 205 days.