Pro Wrestling Illustrated has announced that they will no longer recognize the TNA World Heavyweight Championship. The announcement from publisher Stu Saks in the August 2015 issue is as follows:
"There's only one world, so there can only be one world champion." Though I can't recall the origin of that quote, I was always impressed with its simple profundity. And I always agreed with its sentiment: Under ideal circumstances, there would be just one world champion in professional wrestling. For the half-century or so that this company has been publishing wrestling magzazines, those ideal circumstances never existed. Until now. Effective immediately, PWI will recognize only one world title- the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
This is not necessarily an indictment of TNA, the only other company whose title has received world title status from PWI over the past eight years. The decision is all about WWE and its continued dominance of the industry. In all candor, it's a decision that is long overdue. Historically speaking, there was a time when it would have been improper NOT to recognize multiple world title claimants. Before the McMahonification of pro wrestling, when the business was broken up into numerous regional territories governed largely by the WWF, NWA, and the AWA, there was every reason to recognize the champions of each of those companies on an equal plane. Both the NWA and AWA predates the existence of WWE's forerunner, the WWWF, and covered more geographic territory.
Throughout the 60's, 70's, and 80's, our magazines supported the world title claims of all three companies. As the WWF underwent its aggressive expansion program in the mid-1980's, it became clear that the business was becoming a two horse race, with the AWA fading and the NWA's title lineage being co-opted by WCW under the ownership of first Jim Crocket and then Ted Turner.
We reluctantly stripped the dying AWA of world title status at the end of 1990 and did not recognize another world title until ECW received its national TV deal in 1999.That turned out to be a mistake, as the original ECW lasted less than two more years. It would be another five years before PWI would recognize another world title claim, that being the NWA again, this time under the auspices of TNA in 2006. The world title distinction continued when TNA dissolved its relationship with the NWA a year later.
Is TNA's reduced national audience with Destination America as its national TV carrier the reason for our change in policy? The answer is an emphatic "probably not!" Had TNA not received any national TV deal after its split with Spike, we probably would have downgraded the title, but that was not the case. TNA exists as a reduced yet viable national company, but to its credit, it continues to expand its presence internationally. However, the continued growth of Ring of Honor on the Sinclair network and the emergence of Lucha Underground on the El Rey Network make them part of the discussion as well. Then there's the matter of New Japan Pro Wrestling, who's IWGP heavyweight belt was, for the second straight year, selected by the "PWI Poll" panel as the most important in the sport, aside from WWE.
Even TNA loyalists would concede that New Japan is the number two wrestling company in the world. It's time to acknowledge that all these companies combined do not measure up to the size, influence, and significance of the WWE World title...from this point hence, the only world title we'll recognize.