The 90’s ended with The Big Show as the WWE World Heavyweight Champion. As we move into the 2000’s there wouldn’t be quite as many title changes but the wrestlers at the top would start to pile up their number of title reigns. It started early in 2000 when Triple H won the WWE World Title for the third time.
Triple H went on a pretty hot streak. First Triple H retired Mick Foley by defeating him in a Hell in the Cell match. Then Triple H became the first heel to win at Wrestlemania when he defeated the Rock. The Rock would eventually win the WWE World Heavyweight Title for a fourth time, only to lose it back to Triple H who won it for a fourth time. Then The Rock would win the title yet again for a fifth time, tying him with Hulk Hogan and Bret Hart for the most World Heavyweight Title reigns.
Late in 2000 Kurt Angle surprised everybody by defeating the Rock at No Mercy. Even though Kurt Angle was the champion he seemed to be the underdog in each of his next three PPV wins. The first was at the Survivor Series where he beat The Undertaker. The following month he defeated five other wrestlers in a Hell in the Cell and at the Royal Rumble he defeated Triple H. Kurt Angle’s reign would finally end at No Way Out when The Rock won his sixth WWE World Heavyweight Title.
The Rock and Steve Austin once again faced off at Wrestlemania. Steve Austin shocked everybody by turning heel and aligning himself with his long time rival Vince McMahon. The following summer plans changed several times. The Rock was gone shooting a movie so Steve Austin and Triple H were going to team up and dominate the WWE. They first defeated Kane and the Undertaker and then began a feud with Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho. During a tag match between the two Triple H was injured and was sidelined. The feud then became a three-way feud between Steve Austin, Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho. When Chris Benoit also went down with an injury the Steve Austin and Chris Jericho feud was dropped and Steve Austin feuded with Kurt Angle instead. Kurt Angle would win the title from Steve Austin but like so many times before Steve Austin would win the title back just one month later.
Around this time the WWE had purchased WCW and both the WWE World Title and the WCW World Title were being defended in the WWE. At the end of 2001 it was decided to unify the titles in a tournament. Chris Jericho went on defeat Steve Austin in the first round to win the WCW title and then The Rock in the second round to unify the titles.
Every time Chris Jericho got a push it seemed like somehow Triple H always had a hand in it ending and this was no different. Chris Jericho feuded with Triple H leading up to Wrestlemania when to nobody’s surprise Triple H won the WWE World Heavyweight Title for the fifth time.
In early 2002 Vince McMahon decided to bring back the original three members of the nWo. Hulk Hogan would break away from the other two and pursue the WWE World Heavyweight Title once again. Hulk Hogan would win the title and then lose his title to a familiar face, the Undertaker. The Rock would then win the WWE World Title for a record seventh time when he defeated The Undertaker and Kurt Angle in a three way match.
In 2002 Brock Lesnar made his debut in the WWE and quickly rose through the ranks. During the brand split Brock Lesnar was drafted to the Raw brand and feuded with the Hardy Boyz. Brock Lesnar then rolled through the King of the Ring Tournament, destroyed Hulk Hogan and then won the WWE World Heavyweight Title from The Rock. Brock Lesnar was the youngest wrestler to ever win the World Heavyweight Title.
Brock Lesnar then defected to the Smackdown brand where he feuded with Big Show. Brock Lesnar’s manager, Paul Heyman, turned against Brock Lesnar and helped the Big Show win the WWE World Heavyweight Title at Survivor Series. Paul Heyman switched wrestlers again and helped Kurt Angle win the WWE World Heavyweight Title for a third time. At Wrestlemania XIX, Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar battled in a much-anticipated match between the two. It was the first time in WWE history that two amateur wrestlers of their caliber wrestled. Brock Lesnar would win the WWE World Heavyweight Title for a second time but Kurt Angle would win it back several months later in a three-way match with Brock Lesnar and the Big Show. The rivalry between Brock Lesnar and Kurt Angle finally ended with an Iron Man Match, which Brock Lesnar won five falls to four.
At the 2003 Survivor Series a team led by Brock Lesnar took on a team led by Kurt Angle. Among Kurt’s team was Chris Benoit who eliminated Brock Lesnar by making him tap out. That began a feud between Chris Benoit and Brock Lesnar that went from Survivor Series through the Royal Rumble. Chris Benoit won the Royal Rumble, which guaranteed him a shot at any title he wants. Instead of finishing his feud with Brock Lesnar, Chris Benoit went to Raw to fight for that title. Smackdown needed a new number one contender so they held another Royal Rumble on Smackdown. Eddie Guerrero was the last man standing in the Royal Rumble, and then went on to No Way Out to win the WWE World Heavyweight Title from Brock Lesnar.
Eddie Guerrero went on a roll successfully defending the WWE World Title against Kurt Angle, the Big Show and Rey Mysterio. So it was to everyone’s surprise when Bradshaw, a mid carder his entire life, was repackaged into JBL and defeated Eddie Guerrero for the title.
Many people thought that JBL would just be a transitional champion but JBL actually held the title for several months although almost all of his wins were by cheating. In fact JBL’s title reign lasted nine months, the longest title reign in a decade. JBL’s reign would finally fall to John Cena.
John Cena became a very popular wrestler in the WWE and the WWE felt he was being wasted on Smackdown, which they considered the B show. So during the 2005 Lottery Draft the two brands switched World Champions, John Cena went to Raw and Batista went to Smackdown.
A few days before John Cena came to Raw there was a Ladder Match between six wrestlers called the Money in the Bank Match. The winner of the match then got a title shot that they could use at any time during the year. Edge would overcome the other five wrestlers to be the first Money in the Bank winner. Edge would hold on to his title shot for nine months and would finally cash in at New Year’s Revolution. John Cena had just competed in a six man Elimination Chamber and was exhausted and Edge cashed in the title right then and took advantage of Cena’s condition and pinned him to become the WWF World Heavyweight Champion.
Edge’s victory was a nice change for the Raw program. Edge was somebody new to the World Title scene and was over as a heel. The night after Edge won the WWE World Heavyweight Title was the highest rated episode of Monday Night Raw in years. Unfortunately Edge would lose the title back to John Cena just three weeks later.
At Wrestlemania 22 a second Money in the Bank match was held and this time Rob Van Dam was victorious. Unlike Edge a year before Rob Van Dam didn’t use his title shot in an under-handed way but actually confronted John Cena and told him when and where he wanted his title shot, at ECW’s yearly PPV One Night Stand. At One Night Stand Rob Van Dam hit the Five Star Frog Splash on John Cena and won the WWE World Heavyweight Title in his own building.
Not long after Rob Van Dam won the WWE World Title he and Sabu were pulled over by some police officers for speeding. While searching Rob Van Dam and Sabu the officers found drugs on them. The whole situation was a black eye on the WWE and WWE decided that Rob Van Dam should not be their World Heavyweight Champion. Rob Van Dam was then put in a triple threat match with Edge and John Cena. Edge would win the match up but the two would renew their rivalry and John Cena would once again re-capture the WWE World Heavyweight Title.