The strange cases of seven missing titles
What ever happened to the WWE Martial Arts Championship? What about the WCW Six-Man Tag Team Titles? WWE.com cracks open the files on cold cases involving championships that were established, defended and suddenly vanished without a trace.
Investigate our list of seven of the most notorious cases and see if you can piece together the clues to solve the strange cases of the missing titles.
WCW World Six-Man Tag Team Championship
In the 1970s through the 1980s, six-man tag team competition was so common in NWA that there was an entire division devoted to it, as well as a title to crown the organization’s best trio of wrestlers. The Six-Man Tag Team Titles were held by threesomes such as Ivan Koloff and The Powers of Pain and The Road Warriors and Dusty Rhodes before being retired in 1989. In 1991, WCW christened their own version of the Six-Man Tag Team Championship with Junkyard Dog, Ricky Morton and Tommy Rich being crowned as the first champions.
Throughout 1991, triads such as The Fabulous Freebirds and Big Josh, Dustin Rhodes and Tom Zenk would hold the titles ( WATCH) before Morton and Rich recaptured them with Terry Taylor as part of The York Foundation. One month after The York Foundation won the championship, the titles vanished and were never seen or heard of again. Six-Man tag team competition has never gone by the wayside, so where did the titles go? After a long history in NWA, why did the Six-Man Championships last less than a year in WCW?
WWE World Martial Arts Heavyweight Championship
When Japanese wrestling legend Antonio Inoki joined the WWE in 1978, the WWE Hall of Famer was presented with the World Martial Arts Heavyweight Championship. Inoki was known to battle opponents of all combat sports and even faced the great Muhammad Ali in 1976. This newly created title was contested only in matchups that resembled modern-day Mixed Martial Arts bouts and gave Inoki the opportunity to display his versatile skills. ( WATCH)
Although the Martial Arts Title was given to Inoki at Madison Square Garden, it was mostly defended in Japan in conjunction with New Japan Pro Wrestling. After WWE’s affiliation with NJPW ended in 1985, the title never returned to America. Eleven years after the title’s inception, Inoki lost the championship for the first time in a Tokyo bout against Shota Chochishvili, a judo master from the nation of Georgia. Chochishvili had won a gold medal for the Soviet Union in the 1972 Olympic Games, but despite his pedigree, he lost the title back to Inoki in Osaka only one month later. The Martial Arts Championship was never seen or defended again, and Inoki was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2010. Conspicuously missing from Inoki’s induction was the lost Martial Arts Title. Did he misplace it somewhere in Osaka?
WCW Women's Championship
In 1996, WWE Women’s Champion Madusa (Alundra Blayze) appeared on WCW Monday Nitro and controversially dropped her WWE Women’s Title into a trash can. This sparked a revival of WCW’s women’s division that would result in the creation of the Atlanta-based organization’s own Women’s Championship. At the end of a monthlong eight-woman tournament to decide the champion, Japanese star Akira Hokuto defeated Madusa at Starrcade 1996 to claim the title. ( WATCH)
The ladies clashed throughout the first half of 1997 before squaring off in a Title vs. Career Match at The Great American Bash. Hokuto was victorious, retaining the title and forcing Madusa into retirement. However, following the event, Hokuto left WCW and returned to Japan, taking the title with her. The championship would never be seen on WCW programming again, but Hokuto defended it in Japan, losing to Devil Masami. Since then, the trail has gone cold, the last known whereabouts of the WCW Title is currently Kawasaki, Japan.
NWA/WCW Western States Heritage Championship
Few know the bizarre and unique history of the short-lived Western States Heritage Championship, which was sanctioned by NWA and defended in WCW. The first champion, Barry Windham, defeated Black Bart in the finals of a tournament in Bill Watts’ Universal Wrestling Federation in 1987, but the title was defended in Jim Crockett Promotions thereafter.
In 1987, The Great American Bash was spread out over the course of three events throughout month of July. Barry Windham successfully defended the Western States Heritage Championship at each of the Bash events, defeating Rick Steiner, Big Bubba Rogers and Incubus.
The championship’s most well-known appearance was Barry Windham’s defense against Larry Zbyszko inside Long Island’s Nassau Coliseum at Bunkhouse Stampede 1988. The devious Zbyszko won the title thanks to his associate, Baby Doll. However, Zbyszko parted ways with the NWA one year later in favor of AWA, and the Western States Heritage Championship allegedly went with him. ( WATCH)
Rumor has it that when NWA/WCW Champion Ric Flair joined WWE in 1991, the Western States Heritage Championship made a brief appearance at Great American Bash 1991 temporarily representing the WCW Championship. However, this theory has since been disproven, and Larry Zbyszko is supposedly still in possession of the title. Well, as far as we know.
WWE Women's Tag Team Championship
To capitalize on the success of the blossoming Divas division during the “Rock ‘n’ Wrestling Connection” era of the 1980s ( FULL STORY), WWE created the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship. Reigning NWA Women’s Tag Team Champions Velvet McIntyre and Princess Victoria joined WWE in 1983, and because of their status as NWA champions, they were recognized as the first WWE Women’s Tag Champions. When Princess Victoria suffered a career ending neck injury, she was replaced as McIntyre’s partner by Desiree Petersen, who had been trained by WWE Hall of Famer The Fabulous Moolah.
In 1985, Peterson and McIntyre lost the titles to the most well-known tandem to hold these championships – The Glamour Girls of Leilani Kai and Judy Martin. The pair held the championships for several years before losing them to The Jumping Bomb Angels – Noriyo Tateno and Itsuki Yamazaki. This bout occurred at the first-ever Royal Rumble event in 1988, and the Women’s Tag Team Championship had arguably never been contested under brighter lights. ( WATCH) The Glamour Girls won back the titles later that year in Japan, but the championship then vanished, never to be revived.
WCW World Television Championship
Ricky Steamboat, Arn Anderson, Roddy Piper, Steve Austin, Booker T – these are just a handful of the competitors who have held the WCW Television Title. Considering the number of legends, WWE Hall of Famers and World Champions who had TV Title reigns, the importance and prestige of this championship cannot be understated. Tracing its lineage to the NWA Mid-Atlantic Television Championship, the TV Title became a staple of WCW programming throughout the 1990s. ( WATCH) In 1999, Scott Hall won the title at WCW Mayhem when reigning TV Champion Rick Steiner was too injured to compete. One week later, Hall claimed to not understand the point of the TV Title and Kevin Nash subsequently threw it in the trash.
However, the title's unceremonious dumpster dive would not be its end. On an episode of WCW Thunder in February 2000, "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan found the Television Championship in a dumpster, claiming it for himself. The WWE Hall of Famer would proudly defend his prize over the next two months, but the title would soon meet yet another abrupt end.
On April 10, 2000, in Denver, Eric Bischoff and Vince Russo "rebooted" WCW, vacating every title in the process. The WCW World, United States, Tag Team and Cruiserweight Titles were all up for grabs, but noticeably missing from WCW's new direction was the prestigious Television Championship. The title once held by some of the most popular and talented competitors seemingly vanished into thin air. Was it left in Colorado on that bizarre Monday evening over a decade ago?
WCW/WWE Cruiserweight Championship
During WCW's heyday, there were no competitors in sports-entertainment more exciting than the Cruiserweights. Luchadores such as Juventud Guerrera, Rey Mysterio and Psicosis joined Japanese wrestlers like Jushin "Thunder" Liger and future World Champions, namely Chris Jericho, in the hunt for the prestigious Cruiserweight Championship. ( WATCH) When WWE acquired WCW in 2001, the championship made its way to WWE, eventually replacing the WWE Light Heavyweight Championship. The title would be exclusive to SmackDown until 2007.
At The Great American Bash that year, Hornswoggle defeated six-time Cruiserweight Champion Chavo Guerrero for the title. But a few months later, SmackDown General Manager Vickie Guerrero stripped 'Swoggle of the title out of concern for his safety.
The historic and prestigious Cruiserweight Championship has not been seen since. Considering former WWE Champions Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio and legends such as Dean Malenko and Lance Storm all held the title, it's one of WWE's greatest unsolved championship mysteries. Does Vickie Guerrero still have it? Did it suffer the same mysterious fate as the WCW Television Title?