The WWE World Heavyweight Championship is the second of two major championships in the WWE, after the WWE Championship. It was first awarded to Triple H by Eric Bischoff on the September 2, 2002 episode of Monday Night Raw, one week after newly-crowned Undisputed Champion Brock Lesnar signed an exclusive deal to the WWE's Smackdown! brand. As Triple H was the #1 contender for Lesnar's title, it was only fitting that he be awarded the new premiere championship for Monday Night Raw.
The championship belt resembles, and in fact, was once represented by the Big Gold Belt, which was the recognized championship of WCW from 1994 until 2002. The WCW World Heavyweight Championship was re-named the "World Title" by Vince McMahon on November 17, 2001, following the official end of the WCW Invasion storyline. The newly-christened belt was unified with the WWF Championship on December 9, 2001, by Chris Jericho, and became one-half of the WWF Undisputed Championship, until Triple H won the Undisputed title from Jericho, and he was awarded a new, single belt to designate the Undisputed Championship. Triple H lost the title to Hulk Hogan, who lost it to the Undertaker, who lost it to The Rock who lost it to Brock Lesnar, and then Lesnar signed an exclusive contract with Smackdown. Raw couldn't be without a champion, and so Bischoff revealed the Big Gold Belt, and awarded a the championship to Triple H, who was the number one contender on Raw to the WWE Undisputed title.
As of 2009, WWE officially recognizes the World Heavyweight Championship as continuing the legacy of the WCW World Heavyweight Championship.
Mark Henry was the reigning champion entering October 2011, having defeated Randy Orton at WWE Night of Champions two weeks earlier. Henry held the belt until WWE TLC 2011, where he was defeated by the Big Show. However, moments after Big Show won the title, Daniel Bryan cashed in his Money in the Bank Briefcase, and became the World Champion.