Turner buys WCWEdit
In 1988, media mogul Ted Turner purchased Jim Crockett Promotions from NWA member Jim Crockett. Crockett had been promoting shows under the title of Georgia Championship Wrestling (and later World Championship Wrestling) that aired on Turner's TBS superstation. In light of financial woes within the company, Turner purchased it in order to retain one of the highest rated shows on his network.
Ric Flair was declared the first WCW World Heavyweight Champion on January 11, 1991 after defeating Sting for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. Though WCW was (at that point) still a member of the NWA and the belt awarded to Flair was that of the recognized NWA World Champion, WCW considered it "their" world title as well, and the organization claimed the lineage of the NWA Championship. WCW and the NWA were two different organizations, even though they recognized the same World Champion.
Ric Flair controversyEdit
In July 1991, Ric Flair was fired from WCW after several creative disputes with Executive Vice President Jim Herd. Although Flair was stripped of the WCW title, he took the physical belt with him when he jumped to the rival World Wrestling Federation, since WCW had not returned his $25,000 deposit on the title belt. It was customary for the man designated to be NWA World Champion to put a $25,000 deposit on the title belt, which would be paid (plus interest) back when he lost the championship. Flair appeared with the belt on WWF television and declared himself "The Real World Heavyweight Champion". Flair was still recognized for a short time after his departure from WCW as the NWA World Champion, despite WCW's stripping him of recognition of their heavyweight championship, setting up a split between the titles.
WCW created a new title belt to represent the WCW World Heavyweight Championship, which was won by Lex Luger in July. Although Luger was the WCW World Champion, the NWA continued to recognize Flair as its champion until September, when he was stripped of it for signing with the WWF.
In 1992, the NWA authorized New Japan Pro Wrestling to use its annual G1 Climax heavyweight tournament to decide the new NWA champion. Masahiro Chono won the tournament and the belt, which in turn was defended on television for a year (although less so for Chono and his successor Great Muta, who defended the title rarely, as Japanese titles often are).
WCW secedes from the NWAEdit
In August 1993, after "Ravishing" Rick Rude's planned win of the NWA World Heavyweight Championship from Ric Flair was revealed by the results of WCW's "Disney tapings" the NWA objected to this break of kayfabe and WCW's refusal to allow the NWA World champion to defend the title in other NWA member promotions. WCW elected to leave the NWA in September. Since WCW owned the physical "Big Gold Belt" that had represented the NWA title since 1986, WCW allowed Rude to retain the physical belt and continued to be defended on WCW events as the "World Heavyweight Championship". In order to better serve its purpose, WCW created a fictitious subsidiary known as "WCW International" that represented World Championship Wrestling in its overseas affairs. As per the explanation, WCW International was run by the separate WCW International Board of Directors.
This new championship, along with the proper WCW World Title, were both regarded as top belts and were defended as such. No mention was made of the belt's previous tie to the NWA.
Rude lost the WCW International title to Hiroshi Hase in a match by New Japan Pro Wrestling in early 1994, but won the belt back the following week. Hase's short reign was thus more reminiscent of Giant Baba's NWA title reigns in the 1970s than the reigns of Chono and Muta in 1992/93.
Sting eventually won the WCW International Title from Rick Rude, only to lose it back to Rude at a New Japan Pro Wrestling event titled Wrestling Dontaku 1994. Rude was stripped of the title for cheating during the match and WCW officials were going to award it to Sting. Sting refused and said he wanted to win the belt in the ring against Big Van Vader, whom Rick Rude was originally slated to defend the Championship against at that same event before being struck with an injury. Sting defeated Vader at WCW Slamboree 1994 to win the then vacant title. At that point Ric Flair had possession of the proper WCW world title and it was decided that the two titles would be unified. Sting and Flair then faced off at Clash of the Champions XXVII with Flair winning the match and unifying the two championships, with the Big Gold Belt being used as the new unified championship.
- Ric Flair - July 18, 1993 - WCW Beach Blast 1993
- Rick Rude - September 19, 1993 - WCW Fall Brawl 1993
- Hiroshi Hase - March 16, 1994 - Live Event
- Rick Rude 2 - March 24, 1994 - Live Event
- Sting - April 17, 1994 - WCW Spring Stampede 1994
- Rick Rude 3 - May 1, 1994 - Wrestling Dontaku 1994
Vacated — May 1, 1994
- Sting 2 - May 22, 1994 - WCW Slamboree 1994
- Ric Flair 2 - June 23, 1994 - Clash of the Champions XXVII
Deactivated — June 23, 1994 - Unified with Ric Flair's WCW World Heavyweight Championship.