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The World Heavyweight Championship is a professional wrestling world championship in World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). The title is currently assigned to WWE's Raw program and brand. The title was established in 2002 after the Raw and SmackDown programs became different brands under WWE, and as a result became the highest ranked championship on Raw. As a part of different storylines, the title switched WWE programs on two occasions; in 2005, the title was moved to the SmackDown brand, though, it was moved back to Raw in 2008.
The first recognized champion was Triple H, who was awarded the title by Eric Bischoff, the Raw General manager at this time. Triple H has also won the championship the most record times, with 5. Batista's first reign as champion resulted in the longest reign in the title's history, extending 282 days. As of October 2008, the champion is Chris Jericho, who won the title at Unforgiven.
The World Heavyweight Championship remained on the Raw brand until June 6 2005 as a result of the 2005 WWE Draft Lottery. The WWE Champion, John Cena, was drafted to the Raw brand with the WWE Championship, which left the two main world titles in WWE on that brand. This prompted SmackDown General Manager, Theodore Long, to attempt to introduce a third world title called the "SmackDown Championship". However this was deemed unnecessary when the World Heavyweight Champion, Batista, was drafted to the SmackDown brand with the World Heavyweight Championship on June 30 2005. The title remained on the SmackDown brand until June 30 2008, when Money in the Bank contract holder, CM Punk, who was a Raw superstar, cashed in his contract, and defeated the champion, Edge, who was a SmackDown superstar. As a result, the title was reinstated to the Raw brand.
WWE uses the terms "world championship" or "world heavyweight championship" in general for all acknowledged world titles rather than just this World Heavyweight Championship in particular. As a result, the World Heavyweight Championship's name can occasionally cause some confusion and create an allusion to previous titles even though it is made clear that Triple H is the first holder of this World Heavyweight Championship. In a speech, he noted Ric Flair as being a previous world heavyweight champion. However, while Ric Flair is a 16-time world heavyweight champion as recognized by WWE, he has not won this World Heavyweight Championship in particular. The reference was to him previously winning the NWA World Heavyweight, WCW, and WWE Championships a combined total of sixteen times.