The WCW World Heavyweight Championship was the premiere championship for World Championship Wrestling. Whomever held this belt was considered by many to be the best wrestler in the world. Many would argue that, for a period, the WCW Champions were of a higher caliber than the WWF Champions!
When Ted Turner bought Georgia Championship Wrestling and re-named it World Championship Wrestling in 1988, WCW was a part of the National Wrestling Alliance. As such, WCW recognized the NWA champion as their World Heavyweight Champion. When WCW seceded from the NWA in 1991, they established their own champion, but continued to claim that their championship -- usually represented by the Big Gold Belt -- retained the legacy of the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.
In 1996, after Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall formed the nWo, Hogan defeated The Giant for the championship. To further prove how dastardly the nWo were, Hogan tagged 'NWO' on the championship belt. The announcers acted like this was SRS BZNS. When Lex Luger defeated Hogan the next year, he cleaned up the nWo spraypaint. Five days later, Hogan won the title back, and the belt was re-tagged. The belt was cleaned up again after Sting defeated Hogan at Starrcade 1997, and then re-tagged when Randy Savage defeated Sting at Spring Stampede 1998. It was finally cleaned up for good when Goldberg defeated Hogan on a July 1998 episode of WCW Monday Nitro.
And then, in January 1999, when the two nWo factions re-joined, and Hogan had defeated Nash with the Finger Poke of Doom, he re-tagged the Big Gold Belt as nWo property, this time in Wolfpac-red. It was cleaned up for the last time when Ric Flair defeated Hogan in a First Blood Steel Cage match at WCW Uncensored 1999. But after that match, the belt was all covered in blood, so it had to be cleaned up anyways.