The WWE Championship is a professional wrestling championship in WWE, currently on the SmackDown brand. It is the first world title established in WWE, having been introduced in 1963 as the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) World Heavyweight Championship. The promotion was renamed World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in 1979 and ended its affiliation with the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) in 1983, with the title also renamed to reflect the changes. In 2001, it was unified with the World Championship (formerly the WCW World Heavyweight Championship) following the WWF's buyout of World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and became the Undisputed WWF Championship. In 2002, the WWF was renamed World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and split its roster into two brands, Raw and SmackDown. The title, now renamed WWE Championship, was then designated to the SmackDown brand, while WWE established an alternate world title known as the World Heavyweight Championship for the Raw brand. A third alternate world title, the ECW World Heavyweight Championship, was reactivated for the ECW brand in 2006. It was vacated and decommissioned when the ECW brand disbanded in 2010.
When WWE Champion Randy Orton defeated World Heavyweight Champion John Cena at the TLC pay-per-view on December 15, 2013, the World Heavyweight Championship was unified with the WWE Championship, resulting in the retiring of the former, and the renaming of the latter to the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. On June 27, 2016, the name was shortened back to the WWE Championship, before assuming the WWE World Championship name on July 26, 2016, when the brand extension returned. It became designated to the SmackDown brand, and WWE again established an alternate world title known as the WWE Universal Championship for the Raw brand. In December 2016, WWE again shortened the title's name back to WWE Championship.
The championship is generally contested in professional wrestling matches, in which participants execute scripted finishes rather than contend in direct competition. Some reigns were held by champions using a ring name, while others use their real name. The first champion was Buddy Rogers, who won the championship in 1963. The champion with the single longest reign is Bruno Sammartino with a reign of 2,803 days, while the record for longest combined reign is also held by Sammartino at 4,040. The current champion is Bray Wyatt, who is in his first reign. He won the title in an Elimination Chamber match at Elimination Chamber on February 12, 2017. Wyatt eliminated previous champion John Cena before last eliminating AJ Styles to win the title.
Overall, there have been 49 different official champions, with John Cena having the most reigns at thirteen. Seven men in history have held the championship for a continuous reign of one year (365 days) or more. They are Bruno Sammartino, Pedro Morales, Bob Backlund, Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, John Cena, and CM Punk.
As of March 15, 2017.
As of March 15, 2017.