North/South American Heavyweight Championships (WWF)
While the lineage of the modern WWE United States Championship can be traced back in time through WCW to the NWA and Harley Race’s inaugural reign in 1975, the WWE also had their own little-known incarnation of the strap that pre-dates the NWA’s star spangled gold.
The WWWF’s version of the United States Championship lasted from 1963 to 1976 and was the perennial secondary championship of Vince Sr’s promotion. However, after the cessation of the championship in ‘76, the WWF sought to introduce a new ancillary belt to the New York territory in the form of the WWF North American Heavyweight Championship.
Born on February 13th, 1979, the WWE’s new version of the national championship was first held by a straight-laced Ted DiBiase in his pre-“Million Dollar Man” years. The title was short-lived and would last just two years as an active championship before being abandoned; however, its existence is infinitely important in terms of consequential championship creation.
As a means of justifying the introduction of the newly-created WWF Intercontinental Championship back in September of ‘79, then-reigning North American Heavyweight Champion, Pat Patterson, was said to have won a tournament in Rio de Janeiro for the South American Heavyweight Championship; thus unifying it with the North American Title to create the Intercontinental Championship we know and love today.
While the North American Title is a little known belt in itself, the South American Championship is virtually unheard of...and with good reason - the championship never actually existed. Coincidentally, the tournament in Rio also never happened and the whole story of events was completely fabricated by the McMahons in a beautiful example of kayfabe in a pre-internet world.
Despite the creation of the IC Title and the supposed “unification” of the North and South American Championships, records state that the North American Championship would bizarrely go on to exist simultaneously with the Intercontinental Title until 1981; with Patterson dropping the North American belt to Seiji Sakaguchi in November of ‘79, who would hold the belt until its termination.
Nevertheless, the history books still cite Patterson’s “victory” in Rio as the inception of the Intercontinental Championship; only substantiating the fictional existence of the South American Heavyweight Championship. Meanwhile, the illustrious run that the Intercontinental Championship has gone on to have as a title further validates the impact of the North American Heavyweight crown and it’s significant influence on modern day WWE.
Occasional wrestler, full-time gym rat and lifelong lover of the grapple game. Would probably buy you a shot of Jack at the bar in exchange for witty banter...and preferably more Jack.
@MartynGrant88 for more wrestling-related musings and weight room wisecracks!