AWA_World_Championship.jpg
The American Wrestling Association (AWA) World Heavyweight Championship was the highest ranked championship in the now defunct American Wrestling Association. It is regarded as one of the most prestigious championships in professional wrestling history.

The AWA World Heavyweight Championship was established in May 1960, after the AWA became a separate promotion from the National Wrestling Alliance, which had previously been a part of as the NWA's Minneapolis, Minnesota-area presence. The first champion was Pat O'Connor, who was recognized as the first champion upon the AWA's secession from the NWA as O'Connor held the NWA World Heavyweight Championship as well, which he won on January 9, 1959. With the introduction of the championship, which had world title status for its entire existence until the promotion folded in January 1991, the NWA World Championship lost its status as the only World Championship of pro wrestling. The creation of a second world title would pave the way for the creation of many other world championships in other wrestling promotions.
The title was supposedly revived in 1996 in Dale Gagner's independent promotion AWA Superstars of Wrestling, who relicensed the AWA name. However, World Wrestling Entertainment has sued Gagner for the use of the AWA name, citing trademark infringement, as the WWE owns the AWA tape library, trademarks, and logos. AWA Superstars of Wrestling has claimed lineage for their world title to the classic AWA title and control over the title history, but because there is no connection to the original organizations or individuals involved therein, no continuity in title reigns or even physical belts, and questionable legal use of the AWA name, the claims made by AWA Superstars of Wrestling are in historical dispute and in legal jeopardy.

Title Linage
Wrestler:
Times:
Date:
Notes:
Pat O'Connor
1
May 1960
Held NWA World Heavyweight Championship, won on January 9, 1959 in St. Louis, Missouri; recognized as the first AWA World Champion, but was given 90 days to defend the title against Verne Gagne or be stripped of the title.
Verne Gagne
1
August 16, 1960
Awarded after O'Connor failed to defend the title.
Gene Kiniski
1
July 11, 1961

Verne Gagne
2
August 8, 1961

Mr. M
1
January 9, 1962

Verne Gagne
3
August 21, 1962

The Crusher
1
July 9, 1963
Also won Omaha version of World Heavyweight Championship from Fritz Von Erich on February 15, 1963 in Omaha, Nebraska.
Verne Gagne
4
July 20, 1963
Wins both the AWA title and the Omaha title.
Fritz Von Erich
1
July 27, 1963
Wins both the AWA title and the Omaha title.
Verne Gagne
5
August 8, 1963
Wins AWA title only; also wins Omaha title from Fritz Von Erich on September 7, 1963 in Omaha, Nebraska to unify the titles.
The Crusher
2
November 28, 1963

Verne Gagne
6
December 14, 1963

Maurice Vachon
1
May 2, 1964

Verne Gagne
7
May 15, 1964

Maurice Vachon
2
October 20, 1964

Mighty Igor Vodic
1
May 15, 1965

Maurice Vachon
3
May 22, 1965

The Crusher
3
August 21, 1965

Maurice Vachon
4
November 12, 1965

Dick The Bruiser
1
November 12, 1966

Maurice Vachon
5
November 19, 1966

Verne Gagne
8
February 26, 1967

Dr. X (Dick Beyer)
1
August 17, 1968

Verne Gagne
9
August 31, 1968

Nick Bockwinkel
1
November 8, 1975

Verne Gagne
10
July 18, 1980
Gagne retired from active wrestling while still the champion.
Nick Bockwinkel
2
May 19, 1981
Awarded the title when Gagne retired.
Hulk Hogan
#
April 18, 1982
Hogan's victory was overturned by NWA President Stanley Blackburn on April 24, 1982 as a result of the use of a foreign object by Hogan on Bockwinkel in the course of the bout, with Hogan's reign unrecognized.
Nick Bockwinkel
2
April 24, 1982
Returned to Bockwinkel by AWA president Stanley Blackburn due to the involvement of a foreign object in the match. Since Hogan was never recognized as a champion, Bockwinkel was recognized as 2 time champion, not 3 times
Otto Wanz
1
August 29, 1982

Nick Bockwinkel
3
October 9, 1982

Hulk Hogan
#
April 24, 1983
Hogan's victory was overturned by AWA President Stanley Blackburn immediately following the bout, with Hogan's reign unrecognized.
Nick Bockwinkel
3
April 24, 1983
After the match Blackburn came down to the ring and tried to have Hogan disqualified for having thrown Bockwinkel over the top rope, but since this was a no disqualification match, Blackburn simply stripped Hogan of the belt and again returned it to Bockwinkel. Understandably upset at the way he had been treated, Hogan left the AWA shortly thereafter. Neither of the Hogan's wins were officially recognized by the AWA.
Jumbo Tsuruta
1
February 22, 1984

Rick Martel
1
May 13, 1984

Stan Hansen
1
December 29, 1985

Nick Bockwinkel
4
June 28, 1986
Awarded when Hansen left the AWA.
Curt Hennig
1
May 2, 1987
Title held up immediately after the match due to controversy over interference by Larry Zbyszko on Hennig's behalf, but the title is returned to Hennig days later after the AWA Championship Committee rules that there was no evidence of interference. Title won at SuperClash.
Jerry Lawler
1
May 9, 1988
Lawler defeated Kerry Von Erich on December 13, 1988 in Chicago, Illinois to win the World Class Heavyweight Championship, and become the first Unified World Heavyweight Champion. He was nevertheless stripped of the AWA title on January 20, 1989 after the Continental Wrestling Association split with the AWA.
Larry Zbyszko
1
February 7, 1989
Zbyszko won the vacant title by winning a battle royal, last eliminating Tom Zenk.
Masa Saito
1
February 10, 1990

Larry Zbyszko
2
April 8, 1990
Title was stripped on December 12, 1990 when Zbyszko left the inactive AWA for WCW. The AWA closed in 1991.
†Title changes not officially recognized by the American Wrestling Association.