In 1991, World Championship Wrestling (WCW), another subsidiary to the NWA, established the WCW World Heavyweight Championship to complement the NWA's world title. WCW then seceded from the NWA and grew to become a rival promotion to the WWF. Both organizations grew into mainstream prominence and were eventually involved in a television ratings war, dubbed the Monday Night Wars. Near the end of the ratings war, WCW began a financial decline, which culminated in March 2001 with the WWF's purchase of WCW. As a result of the purchase, the WWF acquired the video library of WCW, select talent contracts, and championships, among other assets. The slew of former WCW talent joining the WWF roster began "The Invasion" which effectively phased out the WCW name. Following this, the WCW Championship was unified with the WWF Championship, at Vengeance 2001 in December. At the event, Chris Jericho defeated The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin to win the WCW Championship and WWF Championship respectively. Consequently, Chris Jericho was named the final WCW Champion and the subsequent Undisputed WWF Champion as the WWF Championship became the Undisputed Championship in professional wrestling.
By 2002, the WWF roster had doubled in size due to the overabundance of contracted workers from the original WWF, as well as those who had come across from WCW and ECW. As a result of the increase, the WWF divided the roster through its two main television programs, Raw and SmackDown!, assigning championships and appointing figureheads to each brand. This expansion became known as the Brand Extension. In May 2002, the WWF was renamed to World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and the championship became known as the WWE Undisputed Championship. Following these changes, the WWE Undisputed Championship remained unaffiliated with either brand as competitors from both brands could challenge the WWE Undisputed Champion. Following the appointment of Eric Bischoff and Stephanie McMahon as General Managers of the Raw and SmackDown brands respectively, Stephanie McMahon contracted then-WWE Undisputed Champion Brock Lesnar to the SmackDown brand, leaving the Raw brand without a world title. On September 2, after disputing the brand designation of the Undisputed title, Eric Bischoff announced the creation of the World Heavyweight Championship, spun off from the Undisputed title. Immediately afterward, the WWE Undisputed Championship returned to being the WWE Championship.
Following the events of the WWE Brand Extension, an annual WWE Draft was established, in which select members of the WWE roster are reassigned to a different brand. After three years on the SmackDown brand, the WWE Championship switched brands during the 2005 WWE Draft Lottery, in which the WWE Champion John Cena was drafted to Raw while the World Heavyweight Champion Batista was drafted to SmackDown. On June 11, 2006, Rob Van Dam used his Money in the Bank contract at ECW One Night Stand for a WWE Championship match against the WWE Champion John Cena. The holder of the contract is guaranteed a WWE, World Heavyweight, or ECW Championship match at anytime of their choosing. Rob van dam defeated John Cena to win the WWE Championship, moving the title to the ECW brand, a WWE brand established from purchased assets of the Extreme Championship Wrestling promotion. On July 3, Edge defeated John Cena and Rob Van Dam in a Triple Threat Match to win the WWE Championship. However, with Edge being a member of the Raw brand at the time, the title returned to Raw due to the circumstances. After the 2008 WWE Draft the WWE Champion Triple H was drafted to SmackDown, moving the WWE Championship to the SmackDown brand. The following year, the title returned to Raw after Triple H was drafted back to the brand during the 2009 WWE Draft, and remained exclusive to the Raw brand since. When SmackDown's Batista won the title from Raw's John Cena at Elimination Chamber, it remained exclusive to Raw while Batista was transferred to the Raw roster.
In July 2011, CM Punk was involved in a storyline, where he vowed to leave WWE with the WWE Championship when his contract expired on July 17, the date of the Money in the Bank pay-per-view. At the event, Punk succeeded in defeating the defending champion, Jim Logan to win the championship, and (kayfabe) "left the company" with the physical title belt. With the championship seemingly vacated by Vince McMahon the following night on Raw, Rey Mysterio won an 8-man Championship Tournament by defeating The Miz in the finals on the July 25 episode of Raw to be crowned the new WWE Champion, only to subsequently lose it later that night to Logan, for the latter's record ninth reign. However, following Logan's win, Punk returned to WWE with his own title belt, thereby creating an ambiguity in WWE over the presence of two WWE Championships. On the July 29, 2011 episode of SmackDown new WWE COO Triple H announced announced that CM Punk's claim to the WWE Championship was legitimate, meaning "there were two WWE champions."
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