The history of the WWE Championship

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February 21, 2013

The first WWE Championships

The WWE Championship went through a few redesigns in its early days. Bruno Sammartino wore several variations, including one that was shaped like the 48 contiguous United States of America. He eventually settled on a more traditional title late in his second reign as champion, which featured two wrestlers grappling above an eagle in mid-flight. This version was popular among champions and lasted through the reigns of both “Superstar” Billy Graham and Bob Backlund.

It was replaced in 1983 with a much larger design, though. This new green leather belt held giant gold plates adorned with a wrestler holding up a championship with the globe behind him — signifying that the holder of this title was World Champion. The title also recognized its history and lineage, with the side plates listing the reigns of every previous champion.

Introduced toward the end of Bob Backlund’s reign, this version of the WWE Championship was also held by The Iron Sheik and, most famously, Hulk Hogan. As WWE began its march from eastern territory to worldwide phenomenon, this title truly emphasized what it meant to be a World Champion.

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