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Championship reigns are determined by matches, in which a set number of wrestlers fight in kayfabe rivalries. These rivalries are known as a feud. The bookers cast them as heel characters (bad guys) and face characters (good guys).
Professional wrestling's championship belts are modeled after the championship belts in boxing. They are made of elaborately designed plates of gold or other precious metals, usually bearing the name of the title and the wrestling promotion, on a leather strap. The color and designs vary with each title and promotion.
Since 2002, all major World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) titles have included a nameplate with the current titleholder on the bottom of the main faceplate. This is in the style of the NWA Championship of the 1980s (nicknamed the "Big Gold Belt"), which later became the primary title belt of World Championship Wrestling, which included a nameplate. When the WWE and WCW titles were unified to become the WWE Undisputed Championship, the new belt included a nameplate which has since been added to the design of new WWE championship belts.
Professional wrestling championships are often split up into various different classifications, each of which designate varying levels of importance to the belts.
The most common types of championships are regional championships. Most national promotions will hold claim to a World Heavyweight Championship or something of the same global status, which always holds the premier position within the promotion. These promotions will also sometimes have other titles of national or international importance as secondary championships.
Examples of Major Heavyweight titles include:
- WWE Championship
- World Heavyweight Championship (WWE)
- ECW World Heavyweight Championship
- ROH World Championship
- TNA World Heavyweight Championship
- NWA World Heavyweight Championship
- IWGP Heavyweight Championship
- WCW World Heavyweight Championship
- WCW International World Heavyweight Championship
- AWA World Heavyweight Championship
Examples of National and International titles include:
- WWE Intercontinental Championship
- WWE United States Championship
- WWE European Championship
- NWA North American Heavyweight Championship
Smaller promotions often opt not to claim a world title due to their scope being limited to a specific area. In these promotions, a national title, state title, or even more sectioned regional title will be considered the top prize in the promotion.
Examples of State and Regional titles include:
Regional designations are also used to apply to other types of titles.
Weight class championshipsEdit
Another common classification of championships are by weight classes. Typically promotions prefer to have a heavyweight title as their top prize, with other designators such as cruiserweight, middleweight, or light-heavyweight titles. Despite having different weight limits from their boxing counterparts, these titles are considered to be equal standing with their boxing classes. Promotions often utilize one sub-heavyweight classification, while others sometimes may have more. In the rise of British wrestling, Mountevans' committee (a governing body that instilled rules from professional wrestling) created seven formal weight divisions:
- Lightweight (154 pound limit)
- Welterweight (165)
- Middleweight (176)
- Heavy middleweight (187)
- Light heavyweight (198)
- Mid-heavyweight (209)
- Heavyweight (220)
Calling for champions to be crowned at each weight.
Examples of other Weight Class championships include:
- WWE Cruiserweight Championship (under 220)
- WWF Light Heavyweight Championship (under 215)
- CZW World Junior Heavyweight Championship (under 220)
Note that weight class championships are largely defunct in mainstream wrestling now (although you will occasionally see them on the independent circuit) due to the WWE Cruiserweight Championship being retired and the cruiserweight division as a whole being made obsolete by the X-Division of TNA Wrestling.
Gender occasionally plays a role in the classifications of championship belts. For gender-specific titles, the classification "Men's" or "Women's" is often included at the beginning of the championship's name. Due to professional wrestling generally being a sport dominated by men, only women's titles are given official gender classifications. Generally, only men are allowed to win the championships without a gender specification, though Chyna winning the WWE Intercontinental Championship in 1999 against Jeff Jarrett is a notable exception. In promotions featuring only a single gender (such as Women of Wrestling or SHIMMER), gender classifications are often thrown out the window as well.
Entertainer and comedian Andy Kaufman once parlayed gender classifications to his advantage, turning inter-gender competitions into a unique wrestling side-show. Kaufman declared himself the "Inter-Gender Champion of the World", and offered $1,000 to any woman who could pin him. None were successful during the run of the gimmick, though in other promotions such as WCW and WWE, women have successfully pinned men, most notably in a few isolated championship matches.
Examples of gender championships include:
- WWE Women's Championship
- WWE Divas Championship
- TNA Women's Knockout Championship
- NWA Women's Championship
- Shimmer Championship
- WCW Women's Championship
Gimmick match classifications sometime come into prominence in the creation of title belts. In these classifications, special skill in a certain type of match or a certain style of wrestling is the signature of the division, and the champion is considered to be the most skilled wrestler at that specific style.
Gimmick championships often take very differing forms. A common variation is the Hardcore Championship, which throws rules out the window in favor of a weapons-filled and often bloody competition. Another common variation is the Television Championship, which involves more frequent title defenses as well as the stipulations that the belt can only change hands on television (as opposed to pay-per-view or unbroadcast "house" shows) within a 15-minute time limit.
Style championships also take very different forms. A Pure Wrestling Championship focuses on mat-based and technical wrestling, while the X Division title in Total Nonstop Action Wrestling promotes a faster-paced, high-flying style (although there are no specific rules for the X-Division matches themselves, so theoretically, any "style" can win the title). The cruiser weight title is often considered to be a style championship due to the X Division like pace and style of its competitors.
Examples of Gimmick and Style championships include:
- WWE Hardcore Championship
- WCW Television Championship
- ECW Television Championship
- ROH Television Championship
- ROH Pure Championship
- TNA X Division Championship
- TNA Legends Championship
- WCW Hardcore Championship
Tag team championshipsEdit
Tag Team championships are yet another different form of wrestling title. Some consider it to be a style championship, but tag team championships are unique in their ability to include multiple wrestlers on teams competing for multiple belts. The most common form of tag team championships are in 2-on-2 format, which is often implicitly understood. Other tag team championships include 3-on-3 and 4-on-4 formats, which are often explicitly stated within the championship name to distinguish them from the 2-on-2 championships.
Examples of Tag Team Championships include:
- World Tag Team Championship (WWE)
- WWE Tag Team Championship
- ROH World Tag Team Championship
- TNA World Tag Team Championship
- NWA World Tag Team Championship
- IWGP Tag Team Championship
- WCW World Tag Team Championship
- ECW World Tag Team Championship
- AWA World Tag Team Championship
Tag Team Championships are also often combined with regional modifiers, gimmick modifiers, gender modifiers, and weight class modifiers to further distinguish them. In such cases, the world tag team championships are often given higher priority, while the other championships are seen as secondary tag team titles.
Examples of Modified Tag Team Championships include:
- NWA North American Tag Team Championship
- NWA United States Tag Team Championship
- WCW United States Tag Team Championship
- TNA Knockout Tag Team Championship
- WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Championship
The concept of championships, and their central role in wrestling, allow for the potential for angles. One such angle is an unsanctioned championship title. These are claimed by a wrestler and defended in sanctioned matches, but are not recognized as legitimate titles by the promotion.
Examples of unsanctioned championships include:
- Ted DiBiase's Million Dollar Championship in the WWF
- Taz's "Fuck The World" Heavyweight Championship in ECW
- Sports Entertainment Extreme's Australian Heavyweight Championship in TNA
- Ric Flair brought the Big Gold Belt with him when he first entered the WWF and claimed to be the "real world champion"
- On the Ring of Honor show Transform, Larry Sweeney named Chris Hero and Sara Del Rey the ROH World Inter-Gender Tag Team Champions
- James Storm's Beer Drinking Championship in TNA
- In late 2008, Booker T introduced the TNA Legends Championship and named himself the champion. This is a rare example of an unsanctioned championship later becoming sanctioned.
- The CZW Ultraviolent Underground Championship in Combat Zone Wrestling.
A wrestler may also win a sanctioned championship and "rename" it for the duration of his or her reign. Examples of this include:
- Lance Storm renamed his three titles in WCW:
- World Cruiserweight as 100 Kilos and Under
- United States Heavyweight as Canadian Heavyweight
- Hardcore as the Saskatchewan Hardcore International Title
Also, a wrestler may win a sanctioned championship and redesign the belt itself. Some (such as Ric Flair's Big Gold Belt and John Cena's Spinner Belt) later became the official belts, others (such as Stone Cold Steve Austin's Smoking Skull Belt) are gone with the title reign.