Five years ago, John Cena and Randy Orton competed in a TLC Match with both WWE and World Heavyweight Championships being on the line. The two world titles were unified, as we were heading into the Network Era. A second world title would be revived on Raw when the Brand Split returned in mid-2016, but it was the introduction of the brand new Universal Championship. The World Heavyweight Championship remains retired, last seen on the shoulder of Brock Lesnar.
The big gold belt was extremely prestigious in the 1980s and 1990s, as the top prize in NWA and WCW. It made it's way to the WWE in 2002, introduced on Raw during the original brand split. Triple H was the first World Heavyweight Champion under it's latest lineage, monopolising the Raw main event scene for over two years. The likes of Batista, Edge and The Undertaker all got turns to hold the big gold belt in the years to come, primarily on Smackdown.
However, the last few years of its existence saw the world title turn into a glorified mid-card belt. Champions like CM Punk (in 2008), Jack Swagger and Daniel Bryan (in 2011) dealt heavy blows to the prestige of this once great championship. It was put to rest at TLC 2013 when Randy Orton defeated John Cena to carry both world titles. But there were some really memorable reigns with the World Heavyweight Championship during its eleven years of existence in the WWE.
Here are the five greatest World Heavyweight Championship reigns in WWE history.
Honourable mention: Sheamus (2012)
#5 The Undertaker (2009-10)
The Undertaker last won the WWE Championship in 2002, before the introduction of the big gold belt, as WWE was transitioning from the old ways into the new. Since then, he won the World Heavyweight Championship thrice, with his third reign being the best one. Despite an underwhelming start, with the Deadman beating CM Punk in an average Hell in a Cell match, the reign grew better and better. 'Taker defended the title in back-to-back multi-man matches featuring the likes of Punk, Batista, Rey Mysterio and tag team champions Chris Jericho and the Big Show.
Separate feuds with Batista and Rey Mysterio ensued, with a pretty eventful Smackdown main event scene, heading into 2010. After a great big man vs little man match against Mysterio at Royal Rumble, the Undertaker defended the title inside the Elimination Chamber. After getting some horrible burns during his entrance, the Deadman fought through and was in the final two alongside Chris Jericho. His reign ended on a shocking note when a desperate Shawn Michaels emerged from under the ring to hit him with the Sweet Chin Music, setting up the legendary Streak vs Career match for WrestleMania 26.
This was an effective world title run to cap off the Undertaker's full-time career as a wrestler, with the Deadman going on to wrestle only a couple of matches per year from thereon.